Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
Mexico appears to have flouted NAFTA rules by applying a protectionist tariff to American milk in response to a slump in the market for Jalisco dairymen:
Mexico today announced a 30 percent import tariff on U-S milk. Mexico seeks to help protect some local producers who reportedly face surpluses in the domestic market.
The Mexican Economy Department suggested the measure could be temporary, but said it will also limit milk import quotas for the private sector.
Several dairy organizations in the western state of Jalisco have been having problems since the beginning of the year selling their production.
I support NAFTA, but the American government had better find out why Mexico has cut our dairies out of the market as it tries to subsidize their own farmers. This is exactly the kind of measure that NAFTA was supposed to prevent. The entire point for the US was to gain access to open markets for its goods, while Mexico gained benefit from manufacturing jobs created by the elimination of tariffs on their goods coming back across the border. If Mexico feels free to impose tariffs on anything at its whim, then what good is NAFTA?
The Bush administration needs to address this quickly. After pushing CAFTA through a reluctant Congress earlier, Republicans need to make sure that they demonstrate that the US will not take kindly to being abused by our trading partners. (Hat tip: CQ reader Space Needle Boy)
Bush Likes Blogs
Matt Drudge reported earlier today that the White House has carefully noted the rise of the political blogosphere, as reported by Bill Sammon in his new book Strategery. According to Drudge, Sammon quotes the president as "fascinated" by the rise of the new media and its challenge to the Exempt Media:
President Bush, for the first time, is hailing the rise of the alternative media and the decline of the mainstream media, which he now says “conspired” to harm him with forged documents.
“I find it interesting that the old way of gathering the news is slowly but surely losing market share,” Bush said in an exclusive interview for the new book STRATEGERY. “It’s interesting to watch these media conglomerates try to deal with the realities of a new kind of world.”
Daniel Glover at Beltway Blogroll notes that at least in the section quoted by Drudge, Bush never actually speaks specifically about blogs. Karl Rove, however, points directly at the Rathergate fiasco at CBS as the seminal event for political blogs as major influences on public opinion:
Rove considers Memogate a watershed in the rise of the alternative media.
“The whole incident in the fall of 2004 showed really the power of the 'blogosphere',” he said in his West Wing office.
“Because in essence you had now, an army of self-appointed experts looking over the shoulder of the mainstream media and bringing to bear enormously sophisticated skills,” he added.
Glover has a source that informs him that the President does have an active interest in the blogosphere and is pursuing greater knowledge. Meanwhile, CQ readers know that Karl Rove not only has a keen eye for the blogosphere but also checks in at CQ on a regular basis. I think most of the starboard side of the blogosphere will be buying Sammon's book to see if any blogs get a mention.
No Wonder They're So Bummed Out
Power Line's Paul Mirengoff notes an essay by Phillip Longman in the magazine Foreign Policy that predicts a conservative evolution in the West, thanks to birth rates that decline more the farther one moves to the left of the political spectrum. Longman forecasts that if the population in the West declines dramatically, the remainder will adopt an old-fashioned cultural model of patriarchy as conservatives reproduce at higher rates:
With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population—at least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and his many modern acolytes.
Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next—from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East. ...
Declining birthrates also change national temperament. In the United States, for example, the percentage of women born in the late 1930s who remained childless was near 10 percent. By comparison, nearly 20 percent of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having had children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of their parents.
This matches to the theory espoused by James Taranto at OpinionJournal about the political effect of abortion. In short, he postulates that the mothers who abort their children will trend significantly towards the left politically, and they will leave a shrinking legacy on which to pass their political views. The same effect occurs, Longman argues, by the willful or circumstantial refusal to procreate that apparently occurs more frequently with liberals. Longman also notes that in the US, the states that supported George Bush have a 12% higher fertility rate than those that supported John Kerry.
The article is fascinating, but it does also recall an earlier survey that showed conservatives as happier than liberals. Pew Research reported that 45% of all Republicans described themselves as happy, while only 30% of Democrats did so, and that these results have been consistent since 1972. Is it possible that the reason why conservatives are happier is because they're procreating more than liberals? If so, it would be a rather delicious irony.
Homeward Bound -- First Mate Update
The hospital finally released the First Mate earlier today after dialyzing her this morning. She's feeling pretty good, and the change of scenery has done wonders for her spirits. Right now we're watching a History Channel presentation on the Titanic and an updated theory of the collision that sank her (I TiVo'd it this weekend for the FM). She starts her regimen of dialysis tomorrow and will go three times a week. She's not exactly looking forward to this, but she's happy to be feeling better.
She and I thank all of you for your prayers and kind thoughts; I received supportive messages from everyone across the entire spectrum. The readers at CQ make this the special place that it is, and I'm humbled by your kindness and your thoughtful and earnest debate.
The New Totalitarian Threat
Agora translates a self-titled "Manifesto" against the latest in a series of global threats to freedom and liberty: radical Islamism. The manifesto has twelve signatories, including such leading lights (and targets for Islamists) as Salman Rushdie, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Irshad Manji, and more. The declaration deserves the widest possible publication:
Together facing the new totalitarianism
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.
We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.
We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.
We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.
We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Salman Rushdie knows firsthand what Islamism has done to free expression. His inclusion in this effort by Charlie Hebdo in France shows a unity that others in the media would do well to emulate.
UPDATE: Jyllands-Posten reprinted this, but it originated with the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. I've made the correction, and also corrected the blog attribution to respect the anonymity of the blogger ... for obvious reasons.
Exempt Media Math
Apparently the Washington Post and CBS have their difficulties with mathematics these days. Earlier today, the Post reported that the death toll in Iraq from reprisals following the destruction of the Askariya shrine in Samarra had topped 1,300. Later today, most news organizations agree with Iraqi and American officials that the Post's numbers were greatly exaggerated, as Editor and Publisher reports:
Sectarian violence that followed last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis in the past few days, many times the figure previously reported by the U.S. media and the military, The Washington Post reported early Tuesday.
Later, however, Iraq Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called such high death totals "inaccurate and exaggerated," without mentioning the Post.
In comparison, The New York Times reported Monday that the recent violence "brought the country to the brink of civil war and left at least 200 dead." Others had produced similar figures.
On Tuesday, the Times increased that number to "379 dead and 458 wounded, the nation's Council of Ministers said today. At least 246 people in Baghdad alone were killed, the top two city morgue officials said." ...
The Associated Press carried this on Tuesday: "The Post cited figures from the Baghdad central morgue, but an official there told The Associated Press that as of Sunday night they had received only 249 bodies tied to the violence. The Post figure appeared high based on police and hospital reports from the major population centers at the time of the attacks."
The Los Angeles Times, after noting the different figures today, added another, from Haidar Safar, a Ministry of Health official in charge of compiling data from hospitals and morgues across the country. He said 519 Iraqis have died from violence across the country since the blast occurred.
A Knight Ridder report from Baghdad late Tuesday stated that an American military official in Baghdad said U.S.-led coalition forces had been able to confirm only 220 such deaths since last Wednesday’s bombing.
No one argues that any of these numbers represent good news, but the report of 1300 deaths (which I used in a previous post) makes all of these counts pale in comparison. The methodology used by the Post appears somewhat suspect; their reporters counted dead bodies in a Baghdad morgue and assumed all of the deaths that appeared violent came from sectarian vendettas following the bombing. However, the morgue itself says that it has seen nowhere near the number of bodies claimed by the Post.
How many people have died in the violence this week? Too many, of course, and until today's 68 bombing deaths, it had appeared that the violence had burned itself out. The cycle of retribution has limited itself to Baghdad, where the most radical of both sects concentrate in a relatively small area. It looks as though the Post simply got their astronomical number wrong, which detracts from the reporting and undermines its credibility. They need to demand better methodology from their reporters and, frankly, better editing in their offices.
The Post isn't alone today, either. CBS released a poll showing the George Bush has tanked in public opinion, dropping to a miniscule 34% coming into the midterm primary season. This would worry most politicians, but the CBS poll has a major sampling problem, as reported at The Corner and just about everywhere else in the blogosphere.
First, the poll samples adults in general, not voters or likely voters. That's not fatal, but it does tend to skew the data and make it less reliable as a predictor of voter action. However, what makes it completely unacceptable is the wide disparity between Republicans and Democrats in the sample. Even when weighted by CBS to correct for a 13-point Democratic advantage in the sample, the gap remains at nine points, and Republicans still wind up with less representation than independents. That nine-point gap skews the end results and makes this poll representative of ... New York, Massachussetts, and California, but not the rest of the nation.
In contrast, the more reliable tracking poll at Rasmussen shows that Bush's numbers have held steady at the mediocre level of the mid-40s. Today's result shows a 43% approval rating, down six points from its two-week peak. That seems a bit more realistic than CBS' numbers.
CBS has an explanation of its polling process at its blog, Public Eye, and the Anchoress has a long list of blog links debating the topic. Vaughn Ververs writes a calm and rational defense of the methodology, but in the end cannot explain two aspects of their sampling -- the huge disparity in the raw numbers between Republicans and everyone else, and the weighting that winds up with almost the same disparity as before.
If this is the best math that the Exempt Media can muster, our educational system needs a lot more focus on basics.
Catholics For Sin! (Updated And Bumped)
EJ Dionne kicks on the Wayback Machine to pick up an argument started during John Kerry's presidential run, pushed up to today thanks to Catholics in Congress trying to emulate Kerry. A coalition of 55 Catholic representatives, all Democrats, plan to issue a paper this week explaining why the politics of abortion should be irrelevant to their standing in the Church. Dionne praises this as a strengthening of the underlying secular nature of our government. He starts off, as did Kerry, by quoting John Kennedy:
When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he said some things about Catholic bishops that might, in today's climate, be condemned as insolence toward church authority.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act," Kennedy told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960. "I do not speak for my church on public matters -- and the church does not speak for me."
After reviewing the statement's preamble, signed by pro-choice and pro-life Democrats alike, Dionne argues that this resolves a dilemma faced by Catholic voters who would gladly vote as liberals if it weren't for their local priests:
For Catholics with moderate or liberal leanings, the argument from some bishops that they could vote only for staunch foes of abortion posed a wretched dilemma. It seemed to demand that such voters cast their ballots for conservative or right-wing candidates with whom they might disagree on every other question -- social justice, war and peace, or the death penalty. All are areas where liberals are often closer to the church's view. "Our faith does and should affect how we deal with issues," DeLauro said. "But we're rebelling against the idea of a one-issue church."
The problems with this argument multiply with every pass through the text. Dionne is, as always, earnest about his subject, but he and the signatories of this statement are flat wrong. And while Dionne is earnest, these politicians who run as Catholics in order to garner votes show a hypocrisy that, unfortunately, surprises no one.
Let's start by deconstructing the argument that Dionne makes in the above paragraph. One can argue what policies best serve social justice; Democrats believe that government programs do this, and in some cases they may be right, while the GOP argues that providing a better economy and less intrusiveness does this, and in some cases they may be right. Neither party runs on the notion of "social injustice", and I credit both with honest but differing philosophies on how to create the greatest possible public good.
On war and the death penalty, Dionne argues this as if the Catholic Church bans both -- but in fact it doesn't at all. The Church argues against the death penalty as a practice, but its catechism allows it (para 2267). It also allows for just war, a concept conceived and formed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. In fact, it almost argues it as an imperative under the conditions set forth in the catechism in paragraph 2309, among others.
On abortion, however, the Catholic Church has been crystal clear and absolute for 2,000 years, as paragraph 2270 states (emphasis mine):
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. ... Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
This "formal cooperation" goes to the heart of being a pro-choice Catholic in office. Merely proclaiming to be pro-choice does not put a Catholic in opposition to the catechism, although it's hardly recommended. Actively voting to legalize abortion or voting against legislation such as the partial-birth abortion ban does put one in opposition to 2270. As the text itself notes, the Church considers that a "grave offense", one that unless repented and forgiven in confession, mandates the withholding of the Eucharist. That is de facto excommunication, as the bishops noted.
There aren't many "grave offenses" in the catechism outside of the Big Ten, and the Church considers this part of the "Thou shalt not murder" commandment. It is, in point of fact, a basic tenet of the faith.
Signing this document attempts to tell the Church that the faith must change one of its basic tenets in order to serve the political careers of a handful of people that already do not accept its teachings. The Church will not and should not become a smorgasbord of philosophy, allowing its members to dictate which parts of the catechism it accepts and which it discards. Any organized religion stands for truth in its own way, and this is part of the basic Catholic truth that members must accept to be Catholic.
And here's the real point -- Catholicism is not mandatory.
Members of a faith join or remain because they believe in the truth of the teachings and tenets of the sect. If they disagree with the basic tenets, they should leave and find a sect in which they do believe. The Catholic Church may not have the right to tell people how to vote -- but they certainly have the right to tell people about the truth as they see it and to bar those who openly disagree with their teachings. There exists no right to access to the Eucharist except as the Church defines it. And those who commit grave offenses in the eyes of the Church have put themselves in a position of being denied access to communion.
The bishops have been forced into the position of threatening excommunication expressly because of stunts like this new statement. Their job is to make clear what the Church teaches, and since the politicians involved have made their alignment with Catholicism part of their political campaigns, the bishops have to draw a line and protect the catechism by pointing out the hypocrisy involved -- and holding those who defy it accountable.
If these people want to be pro-choice and vote for abortion, that's their right. It's also the right of the Church to apply the consequences of those decisions.
UPDATE: Esmense claims that the Church was silent on abortion until the 17th century, but this is absolutely incorrect. Catholic writers have opined on this topic, and consistently argued in opposition, since the early days of the Christian church:
The early Church Fathers agreed. Fortunately, abortion, like all sins, is forgivable; and forgiveness is as close as the nearest confessional.
"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).
The Letter of Barnabas
"The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born" (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]).
The Apocalypse of Peter
"And near that place I saw another strait place . . . and there sat women. . . . And over against them many children who were born to them out of due time sat crying. And there came forth from them rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes. And these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion" (The Apocalypse of Peter 25 [A.D. 137]).
"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?
. . . [W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it" (A Plea for the Christians 35 [A.D. 177]).
"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).
"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.
"There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . .
"[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive" (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).
"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid., 27).
"The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]" (ibid., 37).
There are plenty of other references as well. As I wrote earlier, this teaching goes back to the origin of Christianity. This also demonstrates that abortion has been a longstanding human controversy and not just something that popped up lately.
Did The Germans Aid The War Effort?
The Guardian (UK) reports that a classified US military report states categorically that German intelligence provided the Coalition with vital information on Saddam Hussein's plans for the defense of Baghdad. This has long been rumored to be true, and the additional evidence has the Germans backpedaling at home:
Germany's government faced renewed pressure to order an inquiry yesterday after fresh evidence emerged that Germany supplied military intelligence to the United States in the run-up to the Iraq war.
A classified US military study states categorically that the Germans provided details about Saddam Hussein's plans for the defence of Baghdad. Since the spy issue first arose last month, the Berlin government has been repeatedly forced on the defensive. It issued a denial yesterday.
A copy of the US study was obtained by Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent of the New York Times, who has co-written Cobra 11: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, to be published by Pantheon in America and Atlantic Books in Britain next month. A New York Times report yesterday was based on the book.
The study, which reconstructs Saddam's military strategy, was prepared in 2005 by the US Joint Forces Command. It says that two German agents based in Baghdad gained access a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to a sketch, covered in clear plastic, showing the proposed defensive lines for Baghdad, and that a German intelligence officer based in Qatar handed it to US intelligence. The sketch is identified as a plan presented at a meeting of Saddam and his senior commanders in December 2002.
If one recalls, the question of liberating Baghdad weighed heavily on the minds of military planners. America anticipated a block-by-block battle, putting the millions of Baghdadis at risk while potentially costing thousands of American lives. This was one of the points on which critics of the invasion predicted a disaster for the operation. Some publicly predicted that Baghdad would never fall to invading forces and that even if it did, it would resemble Berlin in May 1945 once the battle ended.
If the Germans assisted us in the effort to spare all of that, then their role in the war should be re-evaluated by Americans. However, the Germans apparently would prefer not to have their role re-evaluated at all, as their own people are furious with this alleged breach of their proclaimed neutrality. They question the honesty of former administration officials such as Joschka Fischer, who publicly stated that they would not provide any such assistance to the US and in fact had not done so. Fortunately for Angela Merkel, the new Chancellor, none of these allegations reflect on her new government, and she may be tempted to order an inquiry into the effort for political purposes.
One hopes that the furor will die down quickly. If the report turns out to be true, German intelligence saved the lives of both Iraqis and Americans in Baghdad, and helped to keep the city from the extensive damage that an all-out defense may have caused. If true, we should all be grateful for that outcome.
Saddam Signed The Death Orders
Prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein managed to move their case along in today's session, now that new court management has dealt with the disruptive tactics by the defense. Not that this shocks anyone, but the prosecution proved that Saddam himself ordered the deaths of 148 citizens of Dujail without trial as retribution for the assassination attempt on his life:
Prosecutors at Saddam Hussein's trial presented a document Tuesday they said was signed by the former leader approving the executions of more than 140 Shiites in southern Iraq after an assassination attempt in the 1980s. ...
The document was among several presented by chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi concerning the killings of Shiites from the town of Dujail in 1982.
A memo from the Revolutionary Court, dated June 14, 1984, announced that 148 suspects had been sentenced to death by hanging and listed their names. The prosecutor said the signature on the memo was that of the court's head, Awad al-Bandar, one of Saddam's co-defendants.
A document dated two days later was a presidential order approving all 148 death sentences. The paper was signed by Saddam, al-Moussawi said, displaying the document with the signature on a screen in the court room.
None of these people ever stood trial; none had the opportunity to challenge Saddam's death order. He simply wanted them dead and signed the order that gave him what he wanted. One hundred forty-eight men and women went to their deaths to slake Saddam's thirst for revenge. And this is just one incident from over twenty years ago.
Now that the former judge has been retired in favor of one that has much less patience with disruptions, the trial may actually prove beneficial to the Iraqis. Until now, Saddam has had free reign of the press, overshadowing the evidence and testimony provided at this trial, undoubtedly part of his strategy. Hermann Goering tried a similar tactic at Nuremberg, using his swagger and a surprising intellect to confound and frustrate the tribunal ... for a while. Georing eventually found himself drowned in a flood of meticulous Nazi paperwork and the witnesses that even the murderously efficient Gestapo could not entirely eliminate.
The Goering option now being closed, Saddam will have little influence over the course of this trial. His hunger strike failed when he got hungry, and his defense team returned when they discovered that the Iraqis would proceed without them. All that will be left will be Saddam's monstrous record of barbarity, and that will remind Iraqis what they can expect in return for an abandonment of democracy.
Iran Still Deceives: IAEA
The IAEA report on Iran states that the mullahcracy remains as deceptive as ever about its nuclear program despite the years of negotiations to resolve differences over its intent. They have stonewalled inspectors while ramping up development of its program, a finding that should get the attention of the UNSC next month:
Iran has accelerated its nuclear fuel enrichment activities and rejected demands of international inspectors to explain evidence that had raised suspicions of a nuclear weapons program, according to a report by a United Nations agency. That could make it easier for the United States and its European partners to seek punitive action in the Security Council. ...
The report laid out a long list of fresh examples in which it said Iran had stonewalled the agency, responding with incomplete and ambiguous answers and refusing repeated requests to turn over documents and information.
It called it "regrettable and a matter of concern" that Iran has not been more forthcoming after three years of intensive agency verification. ... The documents make reference to a secretive entity in Iran called the Green Salt Project, and seem to suggest that the project established "administrative interconnections" between Iran's uranium processing, high explosives and missile warhead design. If accurate, the documents would be the first to tie what Iran says is its purely civilian nuclear program to military activities.
Iran has responded to this by claiming that Western intelligence, especially from the US, consists of forged documents. The mullahs had previously pledged to release more information on Green Salt for months, but now claim the entire project never existed.
The IAEA under Mohammed ElBaradei has tried to appease the Iranians as much as possible in this report. It draws no conclusions, irritating the Western nations, but instead sticks to the component findings and leaves all conclusions to the reader. They seem inescapable; the Iranians have not only restarted the centrifuge process, but also have announced plans to expand the number from the 20 at present to 3,000 by the end of the year, and eventually 50,000. The fuel it has produced shows evidence that their purification process is aimed at weapons-grade production by the unusually small amounts of plutonium-240 it contains (a pollutant for weapons).
This appears to remove all doubt that Iran intends on producing a nuclear device for its Shahab-3 missile platform.
Interestingly but unsurprisingly, ElBaradei apparently has accepted defeat on Iranian nuclearization, according to the Times. He has told IAEA member states that Iran will not accept a freeze and that the IAEA doesn't have many options to force them to do so, which the Times says "enraged" the US. It should shock no one. As Saddam proved, international organizations have little influence over the actions of dictators. Iran has seen what effect the UN and its subsidiary agencies had on Saddam for over a dozen years -- they issued proclamations and resolutions and did nothing to enforce them when Saddam committed violation after violation.
The Iranians don't need a dozen years. They may only need a dozen months. They know that time is on their side, and the reluctance of the UN and in the international community to take any real action will give them that window.
Exit The Bagman
Iraqi security forces have captured a senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Syrian financier that provided a significant portion of the money for the foreign insurgency:
Iraqi security forces announced on Monday the capture of a senior al-Qaida in Iraq figure, and the U.S. ambassador said the risk of civil war from last week's sectarian violence was over.
Violence throughout Iraq killed 36 people Monday, as fierce fighting broke out between Iraqi commandos and insurgents southeast of the capital. But sectarian clashes have declined sharply since the bloodletting that followed the destruction of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, and Baghdad residents returned to their jobs after three days of a government-imposed curfew. ...
The captured al-Qaida figure was identified as Abou al-Farouq, a Syrian who financed and coordinated groups working for Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, according to an Interior Ministry officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.
Acting on a tip from residents, members of the Interior Ministry's Wolf Brigade captured al-Farouq with five other followers of al-Zarqawi near Bakr, about 100 miles west of Baghdad, the ministry officer said.
The Defense Ministry said Iraqi security forces have killed 35 insurgents and arrested 487 in raids across the country since the bombing last Wednesday of the Samarra shrine.
The violence has decreased markedly but an estimated 1300 Iraqis died in the week following the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra. The attack by AQ forces at first threatened to send the country into a spiral of sectarian violence ultimately culminating in a civil war, but several developments have appeared to make that threat more remote. Sunni political groups have pledged to return to the bargaining table for establishing the first regular constitutional government in Iraq, and the government has pledged to rebuild the Askariya shrine -- a pledge that the US has also offered to fund.
Now the security forces have received significant cooperation in the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi. Tipsters informed their national forces to the presence of al-Farouq and his fellow AQ terrorists, preferring democracy to rule by terrorists. This bombing has apparently forced the Iraqis to see the fork in the road quite clearly: either they can pursue old sectarian hatreds and collapse into annihilation, or they can come together to defeat the foreign terrorists who want to exploit those hatreds for their own purposes. It looks like the Iraqis have made their choice.
Health News You Can Use
With all of the health scares that get hysterical coverage in the media these days, I thought I would point out a little good news, especially for us middle-aged guys. It turns out that chocolate is health food now:
Leave it to the Dutch to help demonstrate the health benefits of chocolate. A study of older men in The Netherlands, known for its luscious chocolate, indicated those who ate the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death.
The researchers say, however, it's too early to conclude it was chocolate that led to better health. The men who ate more cocoa products could have shared other qualities that made them healthier. Experts also point out that eating too much chocolate can make you fat a risk for both heart disease and high blood pressure.
"It's way too early to make recommendations about whether people should eat more cocoa or chocolate," said Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, who co-authored the study.
Still, the Dutch study, supported by grants from the Netherlands Prevention Foundation, appears to be the largest so far to document a health effect for cocoa beans. And it confirms findings of smaller, shorter-term studies that also linked chocolate with lower blood pressure.
Come to think of it, I'm feeling a bit stressed out. I think I'll find myself about a pound of Godiva.
Oh Lord, It's Hard To Be Humble
Hillary Clinton has a rather large ego, although that's hardly news to anyone paying attention to politics for the last fourteen years. She makes the mistake of assuming that people think about her as often as she thinks about herself -- and so now says she's convinced that Karl Rove is obsessed with her:
Reacting to a new book quoting Karl Rove as saying she will be the 2008 Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that President Bush's chief political strategist "spends a lot of time obsessing about me."
The former first lady also said she believed Rove, national GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman and other Republicans are using her to divert attention from Republican problems as the 2006 congressional elections approach.
"Karl Rove is a brilliant strategist. So, if I were thinking about this," she told WROW-AM radio in Albany, "I'd say, why are they spending so much time talking about me?"
Why would Karl Rove give Hillary any consideration? Well, let's see ... she's a Senator, she's running for re-election, her husband still has a grip on fundraising for the opposing party, and poll after poll shows her leading the pack for thr 2008 Democratic nomination. Under the circumstances, it would be rather silly for any political analyst not to strategize around the likelihood of her run for the ticket. Given Rove's track record of political skill, it would also be rather unlikely.
But then again, the Clintons always seem just a little paranoid, especially Hillary. Let's not forget the infamous Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy she hatched up to take the blame for allegations of infidelity and perjury -- allegations later proven correct when a particular blue dress later proved her wrong and her husband something of a cad. She still seems more than a little touchy and paranoid now, talking about "obsession" instead of just smart planning. One wonders if the junior Senator from New York really has the correct temperament for her current office, let alone a higher one.
Beware The Ides Of Marching
Freedom of speech and assembly are the closest we come to unfettered rights in the United States; we do not tolerate limits on either unless necessary for keeping the peace. However, one of the limitations accepted by almost everyone is a ban on overthrowing the elected government through force, both in action and in rhetoric. The rally being organized by the group United For Peace And Justice appears to approach that limitation, if it doesn't actually cross it entirely:
U.N. SOS - We need your help to end the reign of international criminals.
It is our duty and the duty of the United Nations to rescue the people of the world from the U.S. dictators. Murder for occupation and theft of land is illegal. Murder of journalists is criminal. Remove the traitors who have stolen the U.S. budget and used it to commit international crimes against humanity.
If we were being bombed and our journalists were being murdered here in the U.S. by a foreign country's military, we would hope that the people of that country would stop what they are doing and go to their president's office and demand that it was stopped. If we were the ones burying thousands and thousands of our family members and watching the destruction of the homes, schools, churches and offices that we had worked for decades to build, we would hope that someone, somewhere would care enough to do something for us. We must stop the criminals in our government NOW. There is no meeting with Congress that is going to change what they are doing. We must put the power of the people into action and stay there until they leave!
Inviting everyone to the White House for a protest rally to show that we do not accept the criminal government, illegal wars and the permanent occupation planned for Iraq and Afghanistan. For Nat Turner, For Martin and Coretta, For all the Torture and Assassination in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and many others - We will not allow the Slave Holders that Still Prevail in this Country to Rule us any longer. Imprisonment and torture based on race, religion, resources or region is no different than the slavery we sought to abolish years ago. The Administration is Criminal and if they will not step down, we must storm in, show them how many of us do not accept a criminal government. How can we stand by and watch them kill our brothers, sisters, journalists and friends for their dollars?
We are calling on all citizens and governments in every country to stand with us. We are calling on all Member Nations of the U.N.; All Representatives and Justices in the World Court and International Criminal Courts; All Human Rights Advocates; All Soldiers and CIA agents and government officials who have been blackmailed or are in fear of the dictators to join us in ending this reign of corporate terror in our government. The World Criminal Courts need to incarcerate Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for admitted crimes and known crimes of international scope. The Political Cooperative will put a new, temporary government in place that is comprised of people from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and all the organizations that have finally made us aware of the truth of the savage practices and illegal policies of our government in assassinating our own officials as well as people throughout the world who oppose their criminal activity. We need all of you to save U.S. victims and global victims from their ongoing criminal activity. We are calling on the military, police, citizens and religious organizations to stand with us and help us to bring democracy back to the United States and by doing so, free the world from the wrath, occupation, theft, torture, blackmail and assassination by the Criminals in the United States Government. What they have done all over the world is much worse than what Saddam Hussein has done, so why are they not in jail too? They have admitted to international and national crimes, so why have they not been taken to Court too?
It doesn't take much to put up a website, of course, and this looks like the work of a nutcase in search of company in the asylum. However, given the political climate these days, I have no doubt that a number of people will actually appear on March 15th to "storm" the White House. It boasts a long list of member groups, and a number of those groups are listed on their steering committee roster. These are the groups that apparently are endorsing a call to overthrow the elected government of the United States:
* The Communist Party (no surprise there!)
* National Hip Hop Political Caucus
* Iraq Veterans Against The War
* September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows
* Teen Peace Project
* Not In Our Name
* Military Families Speak Out
* US Campaign To End The Israeli Occupation
* National Network On Cuba (again, no surprise)
* DC Anti-War Network
From now on, when people from these groups organize and demonstrate, we know what they support: an armed coup d'etat and the end of democracy in America. They want the UN to topple our government and to replace it with, one assumes, the rule of Kofi Annan and the rest of the world.
My prediction: members of every one of these groups will attend the March 15th rally, but it will only attract less than 5,000 people. It should make for a great photo-op for DC bloggers. Wish I could join the spectators ... (via Michelle Malkin)
Kissinger On Hamas
Henry Kissinger writes a lengthy op-ed today in the Washington Post about the effect that Hamas' election to power has had on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (Has Henry ever been accused of brevity?) He demonstrates his brilliance once again here, arguing that Hamas needs an Ariel Sharon, a man who will publicly break with long-held policies in order to grab a chance for peace, before Hamas can expect anyone to take them seriously:
The emergence of Hamas as the dominant faction in Palestine should not be treated as a radical departure. Hamas represents the mind-set that prevented the full recognition of Israel's legitimacy by the PLO for all these decades, kept Yasser Arafat from accepting partition of Palestine at Camp David in 2000, produced two intifadas and consistently supported terrorism. Far too much of the debate within the Palestinian camp has been over whether Israel should be destroyed immediately by permanent confrontation or in stages in which occasional negotiations serve as periodic armistices. The reaction of the PLO's Fatah to the Hamas electoral victory has been an attempt to outflank Hamas on the radical side. Only a small number of moderates have accepted genuine and permanent coexistence. ...
The advent of Hamas brings us to a point where the peace process must be brought into some conformity with conditions on the ground. The old game plan that Palestinian elections would produce a moderate secular partner cannot be implemented with Hamas in the near future. What would be needed from Hamas is an evolution comparable to Sharon's.
Read the whole essay. It points out yet again the folly of taking the Palestinians seriously as partners for peace, given their expressed desire to destroy Israel. Only until Hamas and the Palestinians accept the permanent status of Israel will they bring anything to the table. Until then, the two parties have no commonality of purpose and therefore no basis on which to negotiate.
Captain's Quarters features an authoritative blogroll, listing many websites that feature the top political thinking on the Internet. In order to make the list easier to navigate, it has been divided into a number of sections.
Click on the section title to expand the list.