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.
Iran Invaded Iraq
Iran sent troops across the Iraqi border three miles towards Haj Oman nine days ago, where Kurdish opposition bases itself for its efforts to unseat the mullahcracy in Teheran:
Teheran has attacked an anti-Iranian Kurdish group based in Iraq, it emerged yesterday, raising fears that instability there could spill over into the rest of the region.
Iraq's defence ministry said more than 180 artillery shells were fired and Iranian troops crossed three miles into Iraqi territory before withdrawing.
The incursion, which occurred on April 21, came after Iranian claims that a number of attacks had been conducted against Iranian army and Revolutionary Guard posts in recent weeks.
They are accused of operating from bases around Haj Oman, which was the centre of the Iranian attack. Four peopile were said to have been wounded.
Interesting. Apparently Iran does not want to make friends with Iraq as much as they want to stir up trouble. The Iraqi population recalls the war between the two nations all too well, and an Iranian attack on their people for any reason will tend to solidify their distrust of the radical mullahcracy. If the Iraqis believe that Iran presents that great of a threat, it will do more for Iraqi unity than anything else in the past three years. The mullahs may have done the US a favor.
What could the Iranians be thinking? The Pejak cannot be anything more than a nuisance at this point; they have no financing thanks to their connections to the PKK. All they have are small arms and ethnic relations with a minority inside Persian Iran. The West would find it pleasing if the Pejak could build influence inside Iran in order to destabilize the rule of the mullahs, but it seemed a rather remote possibility until Iran decided to invade Iraq over their provocatoins.
The Iranians are playing a dangerous game, and not just with the Iraqis. One has to wonder why the Iranians seem so determined to provoke a military reaction from the US. It looks like they want an excuse to launch an attack on Israel without appearing to be the aggressor. They may want to provoke an attack by Israel itself in order to launch its desired war on the Jewish state. Expect the Iranians to keep increasing their provocations.
I've been noticing a problem with my computer ever since I switched to Microsoft Outlook as my mail client after multiple meltdowns with Mozilla Thunderbird. Even though I have 504 MB of RAM, the program thrashes the hell out of my hard drive and sometimes locks everything up until I close it down -- which takes several minutes when it happens. Tonight I turned off the Microsoft Word option for e-mail editing, and it seems better for the moment.
Has anyone else experienced any problems with this? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
Kadima Gets A Majority, Announces Jerusalem Wall
The new Israeli political party founded by Ariel Sharon before his stroke cemented its parliamentary majority and announced its plans to erect a security barrier around Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert and his Cabinet agreed on the route for the wall, separating thousands of Palestinians from their jobs and paying Hamas back for their support of the terror attack in Tel Aviv:
Israel modified the route of its West Bank separation barrier on Sunday, moving forward with Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to quickly define the country's final borders as his Kadima Party secured a parliamentary majority.
The Israeli Cabinet voted to reroute an area near the major settlement of Ariel deep in the West Bank and approved putting temporary fencing around areas of Jerusalem abutting the West Bank. The moves will put thousands of Palestinians on the "Palestinian" side of the enclosure, officials said. ...
"We must make a supreme effort to complete the security barrier wherever possible," Olmert told the ministers. "The decisions we take today will allow us to complete the construction of the fence very quickly in critical areas, and therefore improve our ability to thwart attempted attacks."
Israel began construction of the barrier four years ago, saying it needed to keep suicide bombers out of the country. Olmert says the barrier will serve as the basis for Israel's final border with the West Bank, which Israel won from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.
Olmert, whose Kadima Party won March 28 elections, says he hopes to reach an agreed settlement with the Palestinians but will move forward unilaterally if he concludes there is no negotiating partner on the other side.
Kadima reached an agreement with Shas to form a majority government, which will complicate this decision. Shas opposes any withdrawal from the West Bank, one of the predicates for establishing the final position of the wall. Shas apparently didn't have much to say about that issue today, but it will likely not remain silent if the Olmert government begins to pull settlers out of the West Bank.
Beyond that, Olmert will probably find his plan for Jerusalem very popular among the Israelis as a whole. The gap in their security barrier has been the focus of speculation on how the latest bomber made entry into Israel. With the success of the barrier in other areas, Israelis have to wonder why it took so long for their government to get it finished.
It also puts Hamas in a bind. When most Palestinian government employees have stopped receiving paychecks thanks to their diplomatic incompetence, their support for the terror attack will throw more of their people out of work. So far, Hamas has not given Palestinians any reason to believe that they can govern capably, and it doesn't appear that their track record has any chance of changing in the near future.
Movie Review: United 93 ** Spoilers **
Most CQ readers know that I love films, and I often see provocative movies for the purpose of evaluating them. Munich was one such film that I probably would not have bothered to see otherwise, at least not in the theaters. Oddly, I felt the same trepidation with United 93, but for completely different reasons. I had no real fear that the movie had been politically skewed; I just wasn't eager to relive the attacks of 9/11. Nevertheless, this afternoon the First Mate and I both attended the matinee at our local theater, and while we both were glad to have seen it, we also won't see it again soon.
Paul Greengrass, who wrote and directed the film, should be commended for his brilliant documentary style and his decision to avoid using well-known actors. People may recognize one or two of the cast from other films, especially David Rasche, who once played the lead in the television series "Sledge Hammer!" However, the use of relative unknowns heightens the gritty, realistic style employed by Greengrass in both the cinematography and direction. Conversations appear natural in control centers, airports, and in the plane itself prior to the hijacking. This natural style underscores the shock of what begins to unfold almost immediately in the movie.
The movie opens with a black screen and the sound of prayers in Arabic. The first scene shows the United 93 cell completing their ablutions, shaving themselves, reviewing the Qu'ran, and embracing each other before leaving for their mission. This provides a shock for the audience, and a reminder of the nature of the attackers. I could hear the audience fall quiet immediately; the effect is startling and powerful. It immediately brings the viewer back to 9/11, a bright and clear day across an entire nation that had no idea what was about to hit it.
United 93, some will remember, was the last flight to take off on September 11th. Airport delays held the plane on the ground for a half-hour, during which time air traffic control centers started noticing strange events. American 11 stopped responding, but not before a controller heard "something not American" over the radio. While ATC supervisors pulled the tape, other centers began noting events outside of the routine. As the film goes along, the tension builds in the control centers and in the military control center that planned a military exercise off the Atlantic coast, but soon found itself frustrated by the reports of hijackings and confusion about which flights had been hijacked.
All the while, we keep coming back to United 93 and its passengers and crew. Even while we see the Twin Towers explode, United 93 continues in its bubble, blithely unaware of the danger it faces until it hits. The tension builds only for the four al-Qaeda terrorists, who await a propitious moment to launch their attack. When it comes, it gets bloody; the film pulls no punches in this regard. The two pilots are stabbed to death on screen, and the flight attendant who attempted to comply with the hijackers gets her throat slit while the two terrorists on the flight deck offer prayers for their efforts. We see one passenger get stabbed during the initial attack, and more follows.
One of the difficult issues in reconstructing a historical event where all witnesses to it have died is to make it believable and to fit the facts, a challenge which Greengrass masters. He avoids heroic speeches and flawless heroes. Everyone aboard that flight could have been someone who has sat next to me on any other flight. Some passengers cried, some got irate, and some of both quickly surmised that they would not survive if they did nothing to stop the hijackers.
A criticism I have seen about this film has been the amount of time spent on other venues than United 93 (although I consciously tried to avoid reading any critiques before seeing the movie). I disagree; I think that the wider focus on the frustration, anger, and anxiety in the control centers helps the movie in two distinct ways. First, it allows the audience to remember the context of United 93 in the course of 9/11, making the timing easier to understand. More importantly, when the passengers finally rally and start to plan the attack, the amount of time left in which to do something comes as a shock to everyone. Rasche, who plays civilian pilot and passenger Donald Greene, tells the group that the plane is flying too low to allow the hijackers much more time, and that the counterattack had to separate them from the controls immediately. Any attempt to dive would not allow enough time to pull up.
That time frame could not be overcome, although the movie shows the passengers reaching the cockpit and engaging the terrorists on the flight deck. The last images of United 93 come from the cockpit window, where the Pennsylvania countryside spins ever close to the plane, until the screen suddenly goes black.
Brilliant. Brilliant, and yet almost unbearably sad.
I believe that everyone should see this film, but not because of any political point of view. In fact, the film steers away from engaging politics at all, not even regarding the Islamist nature of the attacks, and that's as it should be. No one depicted in this movie really knew of that aspect of 9/11 during the attack, or what it meant. The only reference to what would follow is a statement by the FAA operations manager Ben Sliney (playing himself) ordering all planes in the US to be grounded and all international traffic turned away because "we're at war with someone out there". No other reference is made to anything happening after 12:06 ET on 9/11.
The reason we all should see this film, at least once, is for the passengers of United 93. Alone, frightened, and under the knife, they stood up and fought back. They died trying to beat the terrorists and made clear that we would not go quietly. We owe them for their sacrifice and the lives they undoubtedly saved in their desperate attempt to regain control of United 93. That, I am absolutely certain, is something which will unite most Americans regardless of how we feel about what came afterwards.
Addendum: Someone needs to scold the normally excellent folks at IMDB. One of the categories in which they've placed this film is "Fantasy".
UPDATE: I had hoped that this movie (and this review) could escape partisan cheap shots, but according to my referral log, it's not the case. Let me explain what "spoilers" mean for the neuron-challenged. At IMDB, where I have posted a number of reviews over the years, it is considered bad form to reveal any particularly important point about a movie, and not just the ending. People add "** SPOILERS**" to note that the review contains these items, so that people who want to avoid knowing them do not read the review. (Sometimes they're also in the body of the post, which I didn't do here.) Since I note that the film shows the passengers stabbing one of the hijackers and actually reaching the cockpit and fighting for the controls, I thought I'd be polite and add that tag. Also, the opening sequence is so striking that hearing about it beforehand might take away some of its power, but that was a more minor characterization.
Most readers with any sense of perspective would have realized this, but I forgot that certain sites which specialize in namecalling over actual argument would need this spelled out for them.
The Sugar Ray Strategy In Reverse
When an enemy changes strategy to play to your strength, it indicates either desperation or unbridled folly -- both of which augurs nothing but good news. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi now will indulge this desperation or folly in fighting the Americans. The leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has decided to abandon suicide missions in favor of military operations, according to the London Times, due to a lack of volunteers for the former:
THE leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is attempting to set up his own mini-army and move away from individual suicide attacks to a more organised resistance movement, according to US intelligence sources.
Faced with a shortage of foreign fighters willing to undertake suicide missions, Zarqawi wants to turn his group into a more traditional force mounting co-ordinated guerrilla raids on coalition targets.
Al-Qaeda is sending training and planning experts to help to set up the force and infiltrate members into Iraq with the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the sources said.
This reminds me of the two boxing matches between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in the 1980s. In the first fight, Leonard announced that he would abandon his traditional fluid boxing style to fight toe-to-toe against the slugger Duran, who was also heavier and slower than Leonard. No one thought Sugar Ray was serious until the fight, when he proved that he meant exactly what he said. Leonard lost, narrowly but clearly, as he and Duran fought one of the classic boxing matches of all time.
In the rematch, Leonard learned his lesson and fought his own fight, using all of his skills. Duran could not keep up with Leonard, who moved brilliantly and pounded Duran with his trademark flurries. Duran memorably and dishonorably quit halfway through the fight as Leonard humiliated him.
Zarqawi now wants to try this in reverse, and the results will not get pretty. As a terrorist mastermind, he's proven himself less than adequate. He has alienated even those in Iraq who share his goals of Islamist domination. Now he wants to create an army and play general against the most powerful armed force in world history. He has crapped out using his own strengths against the Americans, and now he wants to play directly into American strength in a stand-up fight. He may think that this will frighten the US military and its leadership, but right now I'd bet dollars to donuts they're either (a) laughing themselves silly, (b) high-fiving all around Centcom for having forced Zarqawi into this desperation tactic, or (c) both.
He'd be better off adopting Roberto Duran's strategy in the second fight. A 'no mas' at this juncture would save him a lot of humiliation and what's left of his following.
Teheran Tries To Turn Back Time
Iran attempted to shift the non-proliferation process into reverse yesterday by proposing that the UNSC drop its review of the IAEA dossier on their uranium enrichment program, even while they insisted the program would continue. The US didn't bite on the Iranian time-machine gambit, and even Russia got blunt in their demand to an end to Teheran's enrichment activities:
Iran said on Saturday it would allow United Nations inspectors to resume snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, but only if the dispute again went before the U.N. nuclear monitor.
The White House rejected the offer, which apparently came as Iran sought to avoid a full-blown U.N. Security Council debate over sanctions.
"Today's statement does not change our position that the Iranian government must give up its nuclear ambitions, nor does it affect our decision to move forward to the United Nations Security Council," White House spokesman Blaine Rethmeier said.
Russia, which has steadfastly opposed possible sanctions against Iran, joined the international chorus in telling Iran it must stop nuclear enrichment. ...
Iran gave no ground on the enrichment program but offered to reopen it to IAEA inspectors were the Security Council to drop the matter.
"If the issue is returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency, we will be ready to allow intrusive inspections," Mohammed Saeedi, Iran's deputy nuclear chief, told state-run television.
In effect, Teheran wanted the UNSC to ignore its defiance of the world body while it continues to publicly defy them more. One has to admire the chutzpah of such an offer; it basically asks everyone to sit back and allow Iran to continue doing whatever it wants, but to feel really good about it. As far as intrusive inspections go, that amounts to little more than a temporary inconvenience for the Iranians; they will have to admit IAEA investigators into the declared facilities to show them that they continue to do exactly what they say they will do -- which is to keep enriching uranium, in defiance of the IAEA and UNSC. That will only last until Teheran tires of it again, which will prompt the entire merry-go-round to begin again.
Even Russia appears to be losing patience with the Iranians. Moscow's foreign minister warned his Iranian counterpart that Russia expects Iran to cease all enrichment programs and to comply with the IAEA and UNSC resolutions and rules on the matter. In response, Iran announced that they would continue with enrichment and the world had better get used to a new nuclear power (peaceful, of course!) in Southwest Asia.
Russia and China have the most to lose diplomatically from Iranian defiance. They need a credible UNSC to guard against American economic, military, and diplomatic hegemony in the same manner that France tried to use it in 2003. If the West finally decides that the UNSC has no will or ability to enforce its own resolutions (again), if the Iranians play Russia and China against the West long enough to develop a nuclear weapon, then the UNSC is dead and so is its parent organization. Russia and China will bear the blame for this development and lose the one diplomatic tool that has -- until recently -- contained American diplomacy and military forces.
If Iran continues to make such a public spectacle of its defiance, Russia may have to cave on sanctions, and China would likely follow. If that doesn't happen soon, however, the West may complete the collapse of the UN and render it into the dustbin of history. After all, if the UN serves as an obstruction to the defense of its member nations, then it has no purpose at all.
Bush Plays It For Laughs While Colbert Bombs
George Bush attended the White House Correspondents Dinner tonight, an annual event that encourages all parties to engage in some self-deprecating humor and relax in each other's company for an evening. Fox News showed Bush's speech live, and he decided to have a Bush impersonator join him at the podium. Using a tag-team approach, the ersatz Bush provided the plain-language translation and some interior dialogue to accompany the real Bush's cliche-heavy foil of a speech. The two skewered Bush's public-speaking flaws, as well as Dick Cheney:
FAKE BUSH: Speaking of suspects, where's the Great White Hunter?
BUSH: Vice President Dick Cheney regrets he could not be here tonight.
BUSH: Dick Cheney is a fine man. He has a good heart -- er, he is a fine man.
BUSH: I love America. It's full of Americans!
BUSH: This ruggedly good looking man next to me is Steve Bridges. He is a talented man. In fact, he did all of my debates with Senator Kerry.
The gathered correspondents loved it, laughing frequently at the two Bushes. Ironically, the pair was followed by a more well-known comedian, Steve Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report. Initially Fox News pulled away for a couple of minutes of useless analysis, but the anchor of the broadcast took viewers back to the presentation because, in her words, Steve Colbert "never fails to make us laugh." Fox then broadcast three of the most laugh-free minutes of comedy seen on national television since Chevy Chase fancied himself as the new Johnny Carson. Colbert barely garnered even polite laughter for his banal and obvious schtick, and eventually Fox returned to its obviously embarrassed anchor.
Now that was funny.
UPDATE: The AP report is here. Colbert, by the way, was the featured act.
UPDATE II: Welcome to Hot Air readers! There were two problems with Colbert's act. The first is that it wasn't funny, and the second was that it didn't keep with the spirit of the evening. The Correspondents Dinner prides itself on making the evening a safe venue for all, and the humor is supposed to stay self-deprecating. Attacking one's opponents in this forum is considered bad manners. Colbert has no grasp of his audience or the event, and he paid the price for it. And that price was painful indeed.
Joe Gandelman, however, disagrees and blames the audience for not appreciating Colbert.
UPDATE III: Joe links to Bloggledybook who absolutely nails the pretentious whinery of believing that Colbert had courage in "speaking truthiness to power", as one of Joe's commenters put it. And kudos again to Joe for once again giving us the best of commentary on both sides of an issue. TMV is a must-read for that reason.
CQ: Gadfly Of The Year
I found out this morning that the local alternative newspaper City Pages has named me its Best Gadfly for 2005. Atomizer from Fraters Libertas mentioned to me in the studio while we're waiting for our turn at the microphones for today's Northern Alliance show. Since I had not received any notification, I completely missed that when I had perused the site earlier this week.
The paper made it clear that they're not exactly fans of this site, which does not surprise me, but they demonstrated their openmindedness in their selection:
According to the American Heritage dictionary, a gadfly is one of three things: "A persistent irritating critic; someone who acts as a provocative stimulus; or one of an array of various flies that bite or annoy livestock and other animals." So far as we know, Morrissey does not harass cattle. On the other two counts, though, he meets the definition to a T. Captain's Quarters, the political blog Morrissey has operated since 2003, can be a tiring read. It is chock full of predictable right-of-center talking points and, like most political blogs, is stained by its tone of chronic indignation. But if nothing else, Captain Ed—as he calls himself—is one persistent fellow. And per the definition, he certainly is willing to act as "a provocative stimulus." Just ask Paul Martin, the former prime minister of Canada whose long-ruling Liberal Party was ousted in the January elections. Martin's defeat, it is widely acknowledged, came in part due to Morrissey's tireless blogging on the subject of a kickback scandal involving Montreal ad firms with government contracts. How, you ask, could a middle-aged call-center manager from Eagan out-compete the Canadian media on such a matter? To understand that, you need to recognize the peculiarities of press restrictions in Canada, where media outlets were barred from reporting on the continuing investigation. Supplied with a steady stream of information from a Canadian citizen who attended the court hearings in Ottawa, Captain Ed faced no such constraints. Not long after he began publishing the particulars, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were soon visiting Morrissey's blog for updates. Why did Morrissey feel compelled to weigh in on clean government issues in Canada? Because he's a gadfly, that's why. And an effective one at that.
Thank you, and please note that I am dropping my chronic tone of indignation in this post.
Northern Alliance Radio Network Today
The Northern Alliance Radio Network returns to the air today at 11 am CT, with Brian and Chad from Fraters Libertas joining John from Power Line in the first half. Starting at 1 pm CT, I'll join Mitch Berg from Shot In The Dark and King Banaian from SCSU Scholars to discuss the stories of the week. King will bring his expertise in economics to the questions surrounding the oil markets this week and will interview a guest on that topic. We will also touch on the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and definitely debate the McCain statement that he would trade away our First Amendment rights for "clean" government.
Tune in at AM 1280 The Patriot, either on air or on its Internet stream, and call us at 651-289-4488 to join the conversation!
McCain: Trade The First Amendment For Clean Government
Mark Tapscott has a clip of John McCain's appearance on the Don Imus Show that demonstrates the truly frightening prospect of having the Senator from Arizona occupy the White House. McCain told Imus that he would trade the First Amendment for "clean government":
"He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform....I know that money corrupts....I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government."
Senator McCain apparently has no love for the First Amendment, nor any understanding of why it occupies the primary position in the Bill of Rights. The right to free speech recognizes the inherent and natural right to speak one's mind and to argue for one's political beliefs. Free speech costs nothing and it requires nothing other than a lack of government interference. The right to speak out informs all of the other natural rights recognized in the Constitution; without it, none of the others make sense, including the right to religious expression, property rights, the right to bear arms. None of these make sense if the government can control your political speech and determine about what its citizens can protest and when they can do it.
Furthermore, the entire reason the founders saw fit to recognize this natural right in the primary position was to guard against corruption and totalitarianism in the federal government. They had just broken free of a particularly ill-tempered monarch who actively sought to oppress dissent regarding British policies in the colonies. The crafters of the Constitution understood that the only barrier to its new government's potential for creating another tyranny would be the free and unfettered poltical speech that would point out such corruption and abuse of power.
The founders would have laughed at McCain's notion that one could trade free political speech for 'clean' government. They knew that the only manner in which to keep the government clean was to enable its citizens to speak out against abuses. Trading free speech for any kind of government only enables the villains of power to accumulate and abuse it all the more.
Senator John McCain has many fine qualities, but an understanding of free speech is not among them. He would trade our primary birthright for a mess of bureaucracy and trust it to operate in our interests while limiting our ability to criticize it. That path leads to autocracy, corruption, and ruin.
The Washington Post has uncovered an even seedier level of corruption surrounding disgraced former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and the defense contractors that made him a millionaire. According to sources within a federal investigation, money wasn't the only thing the contractors stuffed into the Duke's pants, and Cunningham may not have been alone:
Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a California defense contractor arranged for a Washington area limousine company to provide prostitutes to convicted former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) and possibly other lawmakers, sources familiar with the probe said yesterday.
In recent weeks, investigators have focused on possible dealings between Christopher D. Baker, president of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc., and Brent R. Wilkes, a San Diego businessman who is under investigation for bribing Cunningham in return for millions of dollars in federal contracts, said one source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. ...
The Cunningham investigation's latest twist came after Mitchell J. Wade, a defense contractor who has admitted bribing the former congressman, told prosecutors that Wilkes had an arrangement with Shirlington Limousine, which in turn had an arrangement with at least one escort service, one source said. Wade said limos would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and bring them to suites Wilkes maintained at the Watergate Hotel and the Westin Grand in Washington, the source said.
Cunningham resigned from Congress after pleading guilty last November to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from four co-conspirators, including Wilkes and Wade. The former lawmaker was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. Wade pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme in February and is cooperating with investigators. Wilkes has not been charged.
The allegations about prostitutes were reported this week by the Wall Street Journal. Asked yesterday about the allegations, Wilkes's attorney, Michael Lipman of San Diego, said: "My client denies any involvement in that conduct." Cunningham's lawyer, K. Lee Blalack II, declined to comment.
Why should this be shocking? After all, Cunningham prostituted his office for his own personal gain. One might even expect that the financial arrangements may have been mitigated from a sense of professional courtesy.
The investigation will focus on government contracts given to Shirlington and its president by the Department of Homeland Security. Baker has a criminal record for misdemeanors including drug charges and larceny, and managed to avoid conviction on felony charges for armed robbery. He has had problems with the IRS -- well, who hasn't? -- and filed for bankruptcy twice. Despite all of these background issues, Baker managed to win multi-million-dollar contracts with DHS for transportation services, the first time as the only bidder for the contract. In the past two years, it has received $25 million in contracts with DHS.
On the surface, and way below that, this looks like Shirlington secured its contracts through its longstanding support for Cunningham and his "entertainment", a relationship that goes all the way back to the early 1990s when Baker first launched his limousine service. Two possibilities exist if federal investigators can establish a connection between Cunningham and the awarding of the DHS contracts. Either Baker paid Cunningham off in hookers, or Baker blackmailed Cunningham with the knowledge of the Congressman's track record in personal entertainment.
Once again, we see in a petty and tawdry way why government spending on foolishness creates the opportunity for corruption. It's the trap that captures politicians of both parties and keeps lobbyists highly paid. It turns the entir federal government into a bunch of whores, and the irony in this story is that the actual prostitutes are probably the least blameworthy and most honest out of everyone involved.
Addendum: The Post's article is a late entry, TPM Muckraker reminds us. The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune have much more on this subject, including the scope of the investigation. The feds think that the Duke may have had Congressional company on his nights out with the ladies.
Brits Finally Start Checking On Galloway
British investigators have finally started checking into MP George Galloway and his role in the Oil for Food scandal at the United Nations. The London Times reports that their diplomats have approached Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein, to see if he will talk about Galloway's relationship with the Hussein regime:
BRITISH diplomats in Baghdad have asked Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, to help an investigation into allegations that George Galloway was given cash by Saddam Hussein under the Oil-for-Food programme.
The diplomats made the secret approach through Mr Aziz’s lawyer this week on behalf of Parliament’s so-called “sleaze buster”. The lawyer, Badie Izzat Arief, claimed that they offered to try and secure Mr Aziz immunity from prosecution on any charges arising from the Oil-for-Food scandal.
Embassy officials want to meet Mr Aziz, 70, in the US-run detention centre where he is held with other top members of Saddam’s regime to put a series of questions from Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Sir Philip is investigating claims that the MP for Bethnal Green & Bow took money under the UN Oil-for-Food programme — a charge that Mr Galloway strenuously denies and about which he has already successfully sued and won damages from one national newspaper.
Galloway won a lawsuit against the London Telegraph for publishing the documents uncovered by the Coalition forces that showed him receiving oil futures for his efforts to support Saddam and opposition to military action. In the UK, truth is not an absolute defense to libel, and the paper lost on the basis of the damage the documents caused to Galloway's reputation. Since then, more evidence has been found of Galloway's corruption, and in January the Brits hauled off "thousands" of documents on the scandal and its relation to British politicians. At the time, the Guardian (UK) reported that the British would consider opening an investigation; apparently it took them longer than expected, but they have done so.
Galloway's reaction reflected the strange, contradictory, and combative nature of the Saddam shill himself. He noted that Aziz had had heart attacks, strokes, and been denied medical treatments, implying that Aziz would make a less-than-credible witness due to his Coalition-imposed infirmities. In the very next breath, he then proclaimed confidence that Aziz would clear him of all charges. Perhaps only such a confused and handicapped witness could do so.
Aziz, for his part, is not likely to cooperate. He has steadfastly refused to testify to Saddam's crimes, rejecting all arrangements for immunity for his cooperation. His lawyer tells reporters that Aziz's health is deteriorating, but the most interesting information to come from Aziz's counsel is that the British visit by investigators is their first since Aziz's surrender in April 2003. One has to wonder whether the British simply did not want to hear about backbencher complicity in Saddam's corruption if they have never bothered to ask about it.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid backed away from his demand that the immigration-reform bill currently before the Senate receive a direct vote with no amendments from Republicans, a condition that scuttled the compromise agreement before the Easter break. Reid told reporters yesterday that he would allow a certain number of amendments as long as they did not unduly burden the bill:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday he is willing to allow consideration of Republican amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill, a concession that removes a primary obstacle that killed the bill earlier this month.
"We're willing to work through these amendments," the Nevada Democrat told reporters yesterday. "If they want to have these votes, we'll have the votes."
Republicans said they welcomed Mr. Reid's change of heart, while Democrats cautioned that other obstacles remain.
"What part of 'yes' doesn't he understand," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who has offered several amendments that Democrats refused to allow to be considered. "That is exactly the position that I and others interested in immigration reform took three weeks ago. We could have had a bill voted out of the Senate three weeks ago today if he hadn't been the one who obstructed votes on amendments on the floor."
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said later that while his boss is flexible about amendments, he remains opposed to allowing the legislation to be bogged down by too many. Mr. Reid and Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee say they are still negotiating over precisely how many amendments will be considered.
The Democrats had previously thought that stalling on immigration hurt the Republicans more than themselves and that they had enough crossover support from John McCain and others that the GOP would be forced to accept their direction. However, after Reid suddenly imposed the no-amendments condition and McCain publicly upbraided him for it, Reid and his caucus found themselves painted as the deal-killers. Senate Democrats received most of the criticism for the failure to pass the Senate legislation before the recess, and now Reid has to deliver some cooperation in order to get himself off the hook.
Reid and Frist will negotiate the number of amendments and their scope in the coming days, probably in time for Monday's session. The one amendment offered by Cornyn as mentioned above will almost certainly receive a vote now, although the Democrats claims it "guts" the reform bill they crafted. It's difficult to see why denying citizenship to people who have been convicted of felonies or three misdemeanors while living here illegally offends Democrats to such an extent. Even legal immigrants who reside here face deportation if they get convicted of such crimes. Why should illegal aliens get preferential treatment?
The Democrats say that they will easily defeat such amendments, and that they do not represent the spirit of the legislation. If that were true, then Reid would have allowed the amendments to come to a vote three weeks ago, as Cornyn also noted. The truth is that amendments such as Cornyn's and another which mandates a physical barrier system at the southern border will likely pass with bipartisan support. These will make the Senate bill that much closer to the House legislation that awaits a conference committee, and it will strengthen the Republican position in that negotiation. That is the real cause for Reid's obstructionism, and his capitulation makes it much more likely that a truly meaningful reform package will emerge for Bush's signature.
As I have written many times before on this blog, border security is the primary goal of immigration reform; regardless of what we do with the people already here, we have to stop the flood of people crossing the southern border. After that, the question of earned citizenship becomes much less problematic, and the proposals offered have some rational benefits for assimilation and identification of the truly undesirable. However, any proposal that treats this group better than legal immigrants, such as noted by Cornyn's amendment, will be found unacceptable by fair Americans. This is one example where the amendment process serves a good purpose.
Hiltzik Loses Column Over Sock Puppetry
Last week, Patterico's Pontifications discovered that Los Angeles Times columnist and blogger Michael Hiltzik had created multiple personas for comments on Patterico's blog as well as Hiltzik's own. When Patterico posted the evidence of the phony personas, Hiltzik's newspaper suspended his blog while it investigated the behavior of its Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. Now the Times has announced that Hiltzik will lose his column for his violation of their ethics policy, although he will remain as a reporter with the paper:
The Times is discontinuing Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State column, which ran in the Business section, because the columnist violated the newspaper’s ethics guidelines. This follows the suspension last week of his blog on latimes.com, which also has been discontinued. Hiltzik has acknowledged using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper.
Hiltzik did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web. But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of The Times’ ethics guidelines: Staff members must not misrepresent themselves and must not conceal their affiliation with The Times. This rule applies equally to the newspaper and the Web world.
Over the past few days, some analysts have used this episode to portray the Web as a new frontier for newspapers, saying that it raises fresh and compelling ethical questions. Times editors don’t see it that way. The Web makes it easier to conceal one’s identity, and the tone of exchanges is often harsh. But the Web doesn’t change the rules for Times journalists.
After serving a suspension, Hiltzik will be reassigned.
I never had a high opinion of Hiltzik before the sock puppetry, and have an even lower opinion of him now. However, one has to wonder whether the Times went overboard with its reaction. As the editors state, Hiltzik didn't break any rules in his column or in his reporting for the newspaper, at least according to the editors. The violations occurred on the Golden State blog and at Patterico's Pontifications.
It seems to me that killing the blog and suspending Hiltzik would have been sufficient for the violations he committed. Don't get me wrong; I don't think Hiltzik wrote well enough or posed good enough arguments to warrant his own column anyway, as his silly and ignorant rantings over Hugh Hewitt's Sitemeter stats proved well enough. If the Times thought so, then they should have just deep-sixed the column for that reason and been honest about it. If they liked Hiltzik's work on the column, then they should have kept the punishment to the same venue in which the violations occurred.
The message the Times wants to send with this action doesn't appear very clear to me. Why go through all the hassle to kill his blog and his column, suspend him, and then have his work still appear in their newspaper? Cancelling his blog acknowledges that he has shot his credibility in this arena, and the suspension serves as a financial penalty for embarrassing his newspaper. But canceling his column demonstrates a lack of faith in Hiltzik's credibility as a columnist -- which must then also apply to his work as a reporter. The Times has kneecapped Hiltzik for any other assignment at the Times.
The Times had the right principles in mind when they addressed this situation; they held Hiltzik accountable for his sad and pathetic attempts to invent people who would agree with him. Either they went overboard in their attack on his print work, or they should have fired him outright, and to do the latter would have been completely dishonest. The true punishment for Hiltzik's foolishness is the knowledge that he made himself into a joke. The Times couldn't leave it at that and turned him into a tragedy instead.
IAEA: No Cooperation From Iran
The IAEA decided to bypass diplomatic niceties on the lack of cooperation coming from Iran on their commitments to nuclear non-proliferation in a new and disturbing report to the UN Security Council. The Washington Post reports that the international nuclear watchdog has highlighted new centrifuge development and "information gaps" that prevent the inspectors from knowing the full extent of nuclear research by the mullahcracy:
The United Nations' atomic monitoring agency reported Friday that Iran continues to expand its uranium enrichment technology and to hold back information that would allow inspectors to determine whether a covert military nuclear program exists.
The report by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran is conducting an enrichment program in defiance of U.N. Security Council demands to halt it. Agency inspectors who visited Iranian sites observed construction of additional centrifuges for expanding uranium enrichment operations, the report said.
Agency inspectors found no "undeclared nuclear material in Iran," the report said. But it added that because of information gaps, "including the role of the military in Iran's nuclear program, the agency is unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."
The report gives the United States and other Western countries ammunition to convene a debate in the U.N. Security Council next week on possible sanctions or other international pressures against Iran. Within minutes of the report becoming public late Friday afternoon Europe time, British officials urged such a debate.
George Bush told reporters that the US and the UK would bring the matter back to the Security Council, where both will press for economic sanctions as a response to Iranian defiance. Russia and China will likely oppose such a move, with both cautioning today against hasty action that would drive the Iranians from the NPT. That argument lost quite a bit of credibility when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Iran "won't give a damn" about the IAEA or the UNSC.
The report reflects the same defiance. The IAEA repeatedly notes where Iran refused to discuss the open issues of compliance, balked at providing the documentation for nuclear designs it knows Iran purchased from the AQ Khan network, and ignored deadlines for meeting the agency and UNSC resolutions. It generally points out that Iran has stonewalled inspectors in private just as much as they have insulted negotiators and made wild threats in public.
The case for further action is clear. Iran has openly defied the UNSC and the IAEA. US ambassador John Bolton told reporters that the next step will likely be to make the previous resolution mandatory, a step opposed by Russia and China in the first round, and to establish another short deadline for compliance. The two Iranian allies will probably bend on making the resolution mandatory, allowing them to procrastinate another few weeks. If the two oppose it, or if the next deadline comes with the same result and they oppose further action for enforcement, they will have given the US and its European allies the political opening the West needs to pursue their own solution to the Iranian problem. They will also have driven a stake through the heart of their policy of using the UN to diplomatically restrain the US.
Much rides on the next step. Too bad the main actor in this drama is a nutcase like Ahmadinejad.
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