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.
Can Laffey Win?
Last November I selected Steven Laffey as Not One Dime's official candidate of the 2006 elections in his attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee. At the time, the task of beating Chafee seemed Herculean. Now, however, it looks like Laffey may have overtaken Chafee and garnered a commanding lead heading into the primary on September 12th:
U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee may lose his seat to challenger Steve Laffey, according to a new statewide Republican primary voter poll released today by the Bureau of Government Research and Services at Rhode Island College.
The survey was conducted August 28-30, 2006, at Rhode Island College by Victor L. Profughi, director of the Bureau of Government Research and Services. It is based on a statewide random sample of 363 likely Republican primary voters in Rhode Island. The sample was proportioned among the state’s geographic regions to reflect the likely voter contribution from each portion of the state. Overall, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.
If the September 12 primary were held today, 51 percent say they will vote for Steve Laffey, 34 percent support Senator Chafee, and 15 percent are undecided. A BGRS survey of Republican voters conducted in June had Laffey at 39 percent and Chafee at 36 percent. Chafee’s base is virtually unchanged since the June survey, while the number of Laffey supporters has grown 12 percentage points.
It appears from the changes between polls that Chafee hit his high-water mark early, and that he no longer has the confidence of mainstream Rhode Island Republicans. When an incumbent can't top 50%, we know he has serious problems. When his opponent tops 50%, it generally means he's through.
The demographics tell the story. Chafee only holds a lead in the urban area of Providence (13 points) and the East Bay (4 points). Laffey leads everywhere else in the state, even in Providence's suburbs, and that by over 20 points. He leads Chafee among men by 26 points, and among women by 9, although he does not have a majority of the latter. This comes from a small sample -- 363 likely voters does not seem impressive -- but it does give a clear indication that Chafee's in deep trouble for his re-election bid.
Laffey could well be on his way to knocking off one of the least Republican Republicans in Congress. Will he have enough juice to win the seat in the general election? Rhode Island College doesn't answer that question in its polling. Rasmussen's poll in July had Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse beating both Republicans, but that may soon change if Laffey can keep building momentum.
Frist Confirms S.2590 Will Come To Floor
Earlier today, I contacted Bill Frist's office to ask for an unqualified statement that would clearly state his intent to bring the Coburn/Obama bill, creating an Internet-based searchable database for the federal budget, to the Senate floor for a vote regardless of holds. Fifteen minutes ago, Senator Frist posted this to his blog:
I’m very encouraged to see that all one hundred Senators have now answered the blogosphere’s inquiries on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Now is the time to act. In September, I will bring S. 2590 to the floor of the Senate for the vote it deserves.
Frist had to take care to keep from unduly antagonizing Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens, the two Senators that acknowledged their holds on the legislation. This statement makes clear that Frist will bring this bill to an up-or-down vote regardless of any attempted obstructionism, but he will still try to clear all of the objections in order to have unanimous consent for the vote -- which will avoid a complicated set of manuevers that would take days of effort to overcome.
An Unhealthy Fixation
I have often written about the fixation that the Left has on George Bush as a type of illness, which some name Bush Derangement Syndrome. This fixation leads some to blame Bush for all of the world's ills and to consider him more dangerous than terrorists, a nuclear-armed Iran, and just about anything else. It's this kind of thinking that led British filmmakers to create a fantasy-docudrama in which Bush gets assassinated in Chicago (via Hot Air and Michelle Malkin):
This is the dramatic moment when President George Bush is gunned down by a sniper after a public address at a hotel, in a gripping new docudrama soon to be aired on TV.
Set around October 2007, President Bush is assassinated as he leaves the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago.
Death of a President, shot in the style of a retrospective documentary, looks at the effect the assassination of Bush has on America in light of its 'War on Terror'.
The 90 minutes feature explores who could have planned the murder, with a Syrian-born man wrongly put in the frame.
I like a good political potboiler as much as the next guy, although the last really good entry in that category may have been No Way Out, or perhaps The Package, both of which featured the great Gene Hackman and the latter of which explores a similar theme as this movie. The Package centers on an assassination in modern time that is meant to recall the Kennedy assassination, right down to the use of a patsy in an office building nearby.
Filmmakers usually have the good taste not to use real-life people as characters in their movies when the plot involves killing them. It's not just a good-taste issue, either. Films that tie themselves to particular politicians almost immediately date their films, ensuring that it will be seen as an anachronism within just a few years. The Package makes that mistake by using a Gorbachev look-alike, but since it was a Cold War film anyway, it would have faced the same fate regardless.
In this case, the filmmakers use Bush as their character for one reason only: to engage fellow BDS victims. They want to pander to an audience that appreciates an assassination fantasy when it involves George Bush. They don't really want to see him assassinated, at least for the overwhelming percentage, but they don't mind imagining a world without him.
This should really offend Americans of all political stripes. If someone made a docudrama about the assassination of a real Democrat such as Harry Reid or John Kerry, I would find it equally offensive. We live in a world where too many people cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, and creating fiction about the ill and good effects of political assassinations of real leaders not only has no artistry to it, it has no point to it. Either the film would have to have a message that assassinating Bush is a good thing, which would be despicable, or that assassinating Bush would be a bad thing, hardly an earthshaking conclusion.
Peter Dale, the head of the television network which will air this film, believes it to be a "thought-provoking critique" of American society. I'd say it's an indictment of the lack of taste and judgment in the entertainment industry.
Heavy, Man (Updated!)
Ever since the Iranians opened their new heavy-water production plant in Khondab, analysts have assumed that the mullahcracy intended to turn the facility into a Middle Eastern Los Alamos, where weapons-grade fissile material can be produced for nuclear weapons. However, Teheran's nuclear chief Mohammad Sa'idi tells the Iranian News Channel (IRINN) that the West has misunderstood Iran's intentions. It turns out that Khondab is meant to be the Middle Eastern Lourdes:
Interviewer: You just said that in some cases, heavy water can even be used for drinking.
Mohammad Sa'idi: Yes.
Interviewer: Could you elaborate on this?
Mohammad Sa'idi: One of the products of heavy water is depleted deuterium. As you know, in an environment with depleted deuterium, the reception of cancer cells and of the AIDS viruses is disrupted. Since this reception is disrupted, the cells are gradually expelled from the body. Obviously, one glass of depleted deuterium will not expel or cure the cancer or eliminate the AIDS. We are talking about a certain period of time. In many countries that deal with these diseases, patients use this kind of water instead of regular water, and consume it daily in order to heal their diseases.
In other words, the issue of heavy water has to do with matters of life and death, in many cases. One of the reasons that led us to produce heavy water was to use it for agricultural... medical purposes, and especially for industrial purposes in our country.
The Iranans continue to outfox themselves with this kind of ridiculous argument. Some experiments have been tried using heavy water to develop treatments of cancer, but they go back twenty years and apparently produced insignificant results. AIDS, being a viral infection, would hardly respond to drinking heavy water. If the Iranians really do treat cancer and AIDS patients using this strategy, it would only be for the purpose of recruiting for suicide missions.
Iran could make an argument -- and does -- that the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows for the development of peaceful nuclear energy, and that the West has no basis on which to stop their uranium-enrichment program. That argument puts the onus on the West to prove that they have other intentions for the nuclear cycle, which the West has attempted to do on several occasions. This kind of foolish argument only makes it more obvious that the Iranians have something else in mind besides producing miracle cures from water. The Iranians aren't scientific idiots and pretending to be only makes their deception clearer.
UPDATE: The above graphic comes from CaNN, which has a number of excellent photoshops. Check them out!!
UPDATE II: I forgot to give a hat-tip on that logo to Michael Ledeen, who spotted it first. Also, heavy water is not radioactive, as a number of e-mailers pointed out and Steven den Beste notes in the comments
Spellings: No Child Left Behind Just Needs Tweaking
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings spoke with reporters over coffee to mark the start of the new school year and to provide her perspective on the federal efforts to manage education. The hallmark policy of the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind, has accomplished what it set out to do, Spellings said, and just needs minor course corrections:
"I like to talk about No Child Left Behind as Ivory soap. It's 99.9 percent pure," Spellings told reporters over coffee. "There's not much needed in the way of changes. . . . As much grist as there was for the mill five years ago on various fronts . . . we've come a long way in a short time in a big system affecting 50 million kids."
In a casual meeting at the agency, and with no particular agenda, Spellings said she believes NCLB -- a law that requires annual student assessments -- simply needs tweaking, and she emphasized that it is time to take it to the next level of development. Critics have long complained that the compliance requirements for NCLB puts too much stress on state resources and educators, many of whom say they must teach to the test at the expense of other learning.
"We need to take a look at our data across the whole spectrum and we ought to say -- for people who say, 'Wah, wah, we can't have spelling bees because we have to focus on math and reading' -- let's measure the spelling," she said. "Let's ask ourselves not how many are barely getting over the bar, but how many are acing the test. . . . Now that we have the infrastructure in place, we can ask ourselves a fuller range of questions about kids and how they are doing."
My perspective on education is that it should be left to local school districts and the states as a last resort. Part of the reason that we have so much trouble with literacy in our schools today is because of national movements that changed schools five decades or so ago, using untried teaching methods in math and reading that replaced proven strategies that had created a fine system of public schools over a century. Increasing federalization only means that the same kinds of impulses that transformed public schools from places of learning to self-esteem workshops will continue to impact our children and grandchildren.
However, at least NCLB has the right idea, even though it represents another poorly-funded federal mandate that drives conservatives batty. Objective testing of skills should continue, but even that would not be necessary if our schools did not rely on social promotion. Teachers flunked students who weren't ready for the next grade level before schools started worring about socialization ahead of education. The plethora of high-school students who cannot read or write above a grade-school level demonstrates the damage that these policies have created, especially considering the amount of teacher involvement it takes to handle the low-performing students. That takes away from the students who are ready to improve themselves to their grade level and beyond. Most high schools now have to offer at least three tracks of coursework: remedial, normal, and advanced placement. Remedial education tracks exist at the high-school level because of a failure to address the problems in grade school.
We have increased education spending by over 130% in the Bush administration. For that kind of money, Spellings and Bush had better hope that Johnny can read, write, and earn some of that money back.
Revisiting Katrina, Revisiting Truth
A year ago, many of us watched in horror while New Orleans disappeared under the raging flood waters released from the levees containing Lake Pontchartrain. At the time, we all assumed that the hurricane brought down the walls and that the federal government failed because of their lack of foresight in that regard. Over the past year, however, we have learned much more about the levees of the Big Easy, and Kevin Aylward argues in today's Washington Examiner that Katrina may have saved tens of thousands of lives:
In the year since Katrina, we’ve learned that the storm was a Category 1 by the time she hit New Orleans. We’ve also learned that the primary levee breach — the one that caused 70 percent of the flooding in the city — was not caused by the storm surge but by poor engineering.
After months of dissembling and obfuscation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the designers of the levee system — the Corps was forced to admit what all the outside experts were saying; critical engineering mistakes caused the walls that were supposed to protect the city to collapse before they were overtopped by the storm surge. And on the east side of the city, the flooding was largely caused by a shipping channel the Corps dug three decades earlier. ...
All this leads to the even more shocking conclusion that Hurricane Katrina probably saved 50,000 lives.
That levee was doomed. While Katrina was the last straw, it was destined to fail. Studies done before the storm indicated that if a major hurricane overwhelmed the city’s levees, as many as 100,000 people would die as a result.
If the levee had failed without warning, there would have been no evacuation, no preparation, no state/federal support, no Coast Guardsmen in helicopters etc. If you think Katrina was bad with governmental preparations, consider an event half that size without it.
The same bad reporting that happened when the eyes of the nation were fixed on New Orleans -- do you recall news reports of cannibalism, roving bands of rapists, hundreds of homicides, toxic flood waters that would kill on contact -- persisted in the weeks afterwards. The news agencies seemed so intent on scoring points off of the Bush administration that they neglected to research the real problems in New Orleans: the lack of any coordinated local response, the refusal of Louisiana to authorize military intervention, and the real reason for the levee failure.
Incredibly, the evidence was available almost from the start. A video taken by firefighters at the start of the collapse showed the water levels behind the levees as far below what had been assumed, and far below water levels in the past. This led investigators to look further into symptoms of an engineering failure -- and they discovered that residents had warned for months about seepage under the levees, a sign that the walls had already begun to catastrophically fail.
The media showed little interest in pursuing the truth, as documented by many in the blogosphere, including myself. They still seem more attracted to political football than honest reporting on the anniversary of the disaster, a disaster that would have happened without Katrina, with a much greater loss of life. Kevin does a good job in reminding all of us of the media's failure to properly inform the public of the nature of New Orleans' destruction.
UPDATE: It's Wizbang Day at the Examiner. Lorie Byrd writes about the political benefits of embracing blogs:
As much as the Internet and blogs have changed journalism and politics, many candidates have yet to fully utilize the new medium. That, however, is quickly changing. With every election comes the realization by more candidates that engaging the blogosphere is smart politics.
It's always smart politics to listen to your constituents, and more than ever, they include bloggers and their readers.
Democratic Purity Campaign Hits Black Incumbents As Well
The Washington Times reports that the campaign to unseat the solidly liberal Joe Lieberman from the Senate for his opposition to the war is no isolated incident, nor are representatives of the Democrats' most loyal constituency immune from the purity purge. Black incumbents in the house have also been targeted in primary campaigns for insufficient party loyalty and supposedly conservative sympathies, none of which has to do with the war:
The trend of incumbent Democratic lawmakers facing primary challenges from the left is not sparing black lawmakers, despite their generally being among the party's more liberal representatives and blacks being the party's most loyal constituency.
Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, is facing a strong primary challenge from Prince George's County lawyer Donna Edwards, who says he is too conservative to represent his predominantly black constituency. The most unlikely Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, faced similar charges from his opponent Philip Jackson in the primary. "Our opponent in the primary attempted to use that strategy against Mr. Rush in relation to his vote for the energy bill last year," said a staffer for Mr. Rush.
Mr. Rush is a former Black Panther and recognized as one of the most liberal members of Congress yet he and Mr. Wynn were both attacked by their opponents for supporting the energy bill, a choice both men said they made after they successfully worked out a deal in committee to increase federal low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) by $3 billion.
"My general view is that the Democratic Party used to be the big tent party where everyone is allowed to express their views; now it is being taken over by these bloggers and purists who can only see one way of thinking," Mr. Wynn said. "We can think for ourselves and not for somebody else's idea of what a liberal is supposed to be."
Primary challenges make sense when a party senses that their incumbent has neglected to support the party too often and a new candidate will provide a substantial difference in voting. That's why Lincoln Chafee makes such a good target for moderate Republican Steven Laffey; Chafee votes more closely to the Democrats than the Republicans, and in two of the three previous sessions, wound up inside the Democratic voting bloc according to Poole analyses. Except for the caucusing votes that allow the GOP to control the Senate, Chafee's loss would not affect the Republican legislative agenda much at all.
It's hard to say the same about Lieberman, Wynn, and Rush for the Democrats. The Left risks little with the Ned Lamont challenge, thanks to one of the worst GOP candidates for major office in the country, Alan Schlesinger, but the pattern that has emerged is one of a demand to vote 100% on party lines. Wynn notes that his 88% record hasn't kept the Left from staging an expensive primary battle that only undermines the Democratic attempt to hold his seat. And when a former Black Panther isn't leftist enough for party activists, then someone has a very unrealistic threshold for approval.
That 12% difference between purity and Wynn seems a rather cheap prize for all the effort and conflict the primary battle has created. The targeting of the two men also disproves the notion that the Left's purity streak is strictly an anti-war reaction to Bush and Iraq, too. They want strict adherence to the party agenda, at least as they interpret it, and will expel anyone who refuses to toe the line, regardless of the issue. Wynn voted to eliminate the death tax and the Terri Schiavo bill, and now faces an Inquisition for it, including public opposition from Danny Glover and Gloria Steinem.
In this case, the coordinated effort against Wynn may play into the hands of Michael Steele, the black Republican running for Paul Sarbanes' Senate seat this fall. By fragmenting the African-American vote in a solidly Democratic district, blacks in Maryland may rightly wonder whether their loyalty has any value in the present Democratic Party, and whether the party has become so radical that the GOP might make a better choice for them.
The fight for purity may give activists a sense of mission, but the victory of the extremists may wind up kneecapping the Democrats in the midterms. Money that would normally be used in the general election will have to be spent in the primaries, and while the Democrats may hold the seats targeted by puritans, the effort may starve the competitive races. Republicans should also take note of this dynamic and learn a lesson from the damage that party purges can create.
George Bush signaled yesterday that he will continue to fight for his judicial nominations. He sent the Senate the names of five judges previously nominated for appellate court positions, including at least one whom the Democrats had threatened to filibuster:
Bucking opposition in the Senate, President Bush on Wednesday nominated five people for the U.S. Court of Appeals, including one whom Democrats have threatened to block with a filibuster.
News that Bush had decided to nominate the conservative jurists came before Bush spoke at a fundraiser for Bob Corker, who faces a tough Senate race against Democratic nominee Harold Ford Jr.
"I need a U.S. senator who understands that we need people on the bench who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate," Bush said.
A White House statement said Bush was nominating Terrence Boyle of North Carolina and William James Haynes II of Virginia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Michael Brunson Wallace of Mississippi for the 5th Circuit, and William Gerry Myers III of Idaho and Norman Randy Smith of Idaho for the 9th Circuit.
Bush has been tenacious on judicial appointments. His renomination of judges filibustered in his first term led to the eventual rise of the Gang of 14, led by John McCain, that forced the White House to abandon at least one of its nominees (Henry Saad) to put an end to knee-jerk filibustering on the part of Senate Democrats. With McCain trying to curry favor among conservatives, the White House may have decided to make hay while the sun shines.
It also provides another reminder for conservatives to put aside their diffidence of late and turn out for the mid-term elections. The messaging here is not subtle, and Bush made it explicit in his appearance. He wants a safe Republican majority in the Senate in order to put his stamp on the judiciary, a traditional privilege of the Presidency until the Reagan administration and the nomination of Robert Bork. Harry Reid reacted predictably, calling the renominations "extremely divisive", although Reid must have dreaded the thought of going through another election cycle with a recent history of obstructionism.
In our interview with Bill Frist yesterday, the Senate Majority Leader said that he was prepared for a fight on judicial nominations. Frist said that "[f]ilibusters are a good tool for legislation, but not for nominations. Someone took the rule and bent it for their political advantage, and I broke it. They may try it again, and I’ll break it again." That sounds like a man expecting a fight, and this time McCain may find it more difficult to undercut him. He wants to convince conservatives to trust him, and abandoning conservative judges isn't the way to do it.
In any event, judicial nominations certainly are a legitimate political interest in the midterm elections, particularly since the Democrats have made their confirmation into such a partisan trial. Voters have a right to consider how a shift in power in the Senate will affect the judges Bush can appoint to the bench; six years of Democratic obstructionism has legitimized it. Whether it can draw back disaffected conservatives remains to be seen.
You've Got Pink Slips
Radio Shack laid off 400 workers from its labor force yesterday. Perhaps taking their role as a technology company too seriously, they notified the workers of their termination by e-mail:
RadioShack Corp. notified about 400 workers by e-mail that they were being dismissed immediately as part of planned job cuts.
Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters got messages Tuesday morning saying: “The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.” ...
Derrick D'Souza, a management professor at the University of North Texas, said he had never heard of such a large number of terminated employees being notified electronically. He said it could be seen as dehumanizing to employees. “If I put myself in their shoes, I'd say, 'Didn't they have a few minutes to tell me?”' Prof. D'Souza said.
Consumers may want to rethink their loyalty to Radio Shack after this decision. If this is how they treat their employees, imagine what Radio Shack thinks of their customers.
It's an inexcusable business decision. Managers who lack the fortitude to communicate terminations directly should not serve in that capacity. I can tell you from long experience how upsetting a termination can be for the manager involved, but in well over a decade of management, I have never once been tempted to do it by mail, e-mail, or semaphore. Even the worst employees deserve to have their manager take the time to sit down with them and explain the decision to terminate employment.
I doubt this will get very wide press coverage, or even generate much comment or criticism in today's business climate. The professionals I know as my peers would be embarrassed to be associated with such a heartless and cruel method of downsizing for any reason, but shame appears to be waning as a quality in direct proportion to the waxing of mindless impersonality.
Abbas: End The Rocket Attacks
Two days after the official spokesman of the Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority castigated terrorists for turning Gaza into a chaotic nightmare, PA president Mahmoud Abbas demanded an end to provocations against Israel:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has launched a scathing attack on armed groups that are firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, saying Wednesday they were responsible for bringing death and destruction to the Palestinians.
Addressing thousands of demonstrators outside his office in Ramallah, Abbas said, "So far we have about 250 martyrs in the Gaza Strip and thousands of wounded people and destroyed houses. Why? What are the reasons for this? Let's start searching for the reason for all this."
Abbas was referring to the number of Palestinians who have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in June. His comments, which were interpreted as criticism of Hamas and its government, came hours before Abbas headed to the Strip for talks with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on forming a national-unity government.
Abbas described the rockets that are being fired into Israel as "pipes" that provided Israel with an excuse to carry out military operations in the Gaza Strip. "Our people don't deserve these tragedies," he said. "If these pipes provide an excuse, it's time to stop using them."
Individual responsibility appears to be quite a fad these days in the territories. Ghazi Hamad raised eyebrows by blaming his fellow Palestinians rather than the Israelis for the poverty and deprivations of Gaza in particular, and the territories in general. Hamad went further than Abbas, but both have turned their rhetorical guns on the men who wield the literal guns, and rockets, and suicide bombs that have forced the Israelis into war in Gaza.
Abbas wants to form a unity government with Hamas in order to end an economic embargo on the Palestinians. That's what makes this speech remarkable; he addressed it to a group of demonstrators who demanded back pay after the embargo hit government employees. Normally Arab politicians would attack the United States, Britain, and Israel as the source of their woes. Instead, Abbas criticized the armed militias that fight each other when Israel fails to present a better target for their hatred.
This might demonstrate that Israel's new response to acts of war have brought dividends. Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist groups got surprised by the full-scale war that Olmert fought, even if he did fight it with less vigor than he should. The real losses and consequences of their provocations have brought a momentary clarity to some Palestinian leaders, who finally have publicly questioned the actions of the terrorists and the detriment of their alliance with them. It isn't a renunciation, but the first step to solving a problem is its recognition -- and it appears that Abbas and Hamad might be ready to take the Palestinians past that first step.
Of course, that doesn't stop UN chief Kofi Annan from trying to stop the real progress by insisting that Israel stop responding to acts of war waged against their civilian citizens. Annan demanded that Israel stop hitting back because Israel is more effective than the Palestinians:
Annan said after the meeting that the IDF had killed more than 200 Palestinians since the end of June, adding that this "must stop immediately." He said he fully agreed with Abbas that "the end of occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel is the key to resolving all the problems of the region. We have to implement all Security Council resolutions and that includes, of course, Resolutions 242 and 338."
It would help, however, if the PA honored the agreements it has already signed with Israel and publicly recognize its right to exist. It would also help if the Palestinians stopped shooting rockets into Israel, something they have done ever since the Israelis left Gaza. Annan appears to have absorbed none of this, and undermines the nascent impulses of Hamad and Abbas to accept responsibility for Palestinian actions. The 200 deaths wouldn't have happened if the Gaza Palestinians had spent their time creating law and order and a functional government rather than fire missiles at Israeli civilians and shoot at each other.
Annan, as always, works for the peace of annihilation.
Just A Note To E-mailers
I believe that self-promotion has a key role in the success of a blog. E-mailing other bloggers when one has a particularly good post, or one that complements a post at another's blog, makes good sense and is always welcome. However, when a blogger sends out multiple mass e-mails a day heralding every post and update, it clogs my inbox and makes it impossible for me to actually respond to anything good they may have to offer.
E-mailers who do that end up in my spam killfile, because I've learned not to ask them to stop. That usually generates a query as to why I suddenly hate conservative thought or an apology that somehow fails to end the mass e-mails. I'd rather hear from CQ readers on what they think is important rather than get added to listservs for which I never registered.
Yes, I've been buried in these messages recently, and it's almost as irritating as the rash of stock tips that some idiot spammers think will sell shares in their pet ventures. Sorry for the cranky post, but I can't keep up with e-mail as it is, and it just reached a breaking point tonight. I'll be perkier tomorrow.
Movie Review: Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West
During last weekend's appearances at the Minnesota State Fair, I met Vince Muzik of Minnesotans Against Terrorism, who told me of a new feature-length documentary MAT had assisted in producing. He agreed to send me a copy of the film on DVD for an opportunity to preview it ahead of its Minneapolis premiere next week, and we watched it tonight.
Based on Vince's casual introduction of it at the fair, I didn't know what to expect from Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West, the film produced by Wayne Kopping and Raphael Shore. It actually is quite an impressive production. Obsession, according to IMDB, had its release last year and has won several film festival awards, notably the Best Feature Film at the Liberty Film Festival and awards in Houston and Newport Beach festivals as well. Kopping's previous effort, Relentless: The Struggle For Peace In The Middle East, provided a critical look at the Oslo accords, but Kopping opts for a much broader view in Obsession.
The film takes care to differentiate between mainstream Islam and radical Islamism, and it does so for a reason. Several of the commentators featured in the film, notably former jihadist Walid Shoebat, Nonie Darwish, Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, and others are in fact moderate Muslims. They argue that mainstream Islam has to stand up and put an end to the perversion of Islamism, and only that will stop the genocides waiting to happen. It's a theme that returns over and over again. In fact, the movie begins and ends with the famous quotation from the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke about how the triumph of evil only requires that good men do nothing. Muslims such as Brigitte Gabriel make this point explicitly, especially at the end.
The opening sequence of the film takes up more time than I think it needs, and it delays one of the film's most important themes from developing until almost midway through, which is the correlations between Islamism and Naziism. To this purpose, the film makes excellent use of Alfons Heck, an elderly German academic who once served as a high-ranking officer in the Hitler Youth. Heck points out that a worldy and sophisticated German people fell for the crudest kind of anti-Semitic propaganda -- so why should anyone expect the Arabs to resist their own government-produced propaganda? Indeed, Obsession fills itself with television clips gleaned from all over the Arab world, giving American viewers perhaps their first real taste of how pervasive the paranoia gets in Arab culture.
This connection with Naziism goes beyond the hordes of jihadis sporting salutes that look suspiciously like Sieg Heils. Obession also reviews the historical connections between Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whom Hitler embraced to the bemusement of his race-baiting followers. Heck recalls questioning why HItler allied with a non-Aryan group, and getting the answer that Nazis and Arabs wanted the same thing: the annihilation of the Jews. The Mufti later went to Bosnia and created an SS regiment of Muslims, one of the reasons that the Serbians -- who fought the Nazis -- felt betrayed by the West's alliance with the Bosnians in the 1990s.
Quite a few scholars and experts make appearances in this film, such as Prof. Robert Wistrich, Daniel Pipes, Salim Mansur, Khaled Abu Toameh, and Itamar Marcus. Other notables appear as well, although not by choice: Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Abu Hamza al-Masri, and an assortment of imams and jihadis. The film even outs one British Muslim who posed as a moderate by denouncing the 9/11 attacks, and then catches him using the second anniversary of the attacks to praise the 19 hijackers at a conference of Muslims.
Obsession is well worth the 75 minutes viewers invest. If you happen to be in Minneapolis, it can be seen at the Oak Street Cinema twice a night between September 8th and 15th. I do not know how Kopping intends on putting this into wider release, but I will try to get more information on it later.
Let's Form An Emergency Study Commission!
In a further sign that the UN Security Council has little resolve with which to confront Iran over its nuclear program, the British UN ambassador says the body will need another month to get a report from the IAEA in order to translate "NO!" from Iran's Farsi language:
The U.N. Security Council will need until mid-September before acting on its threat to punish Iran if Tehran's leaders flout a Thursday deadline to suspend uranium enrichment as is widely expected, Britain's U.N. ambassador said Tuesday.
Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry's prediction seemed to rule out the immediate threat of sanctions against Iran if it disregards the council's demands - spelled out in a resolution adopted this month - to suspend enrichment by Thursday. Iran has already said it would reject the deadline.
Jones-Parry said that before it can act, the Security Council will need to receive a report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran's compliance with the resolution.
"Once we've had the report from the agency, had a further chance to discuss that, capitals will have a clearer view of exactly how this should be carried forward, but I would expect activity here to resume toward the middle of September," Jones-Parry said.
Perhaps we're just that much smarter than the UNSC, but we understood what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant when he said that Iran would never agree to suspend its uranium-enrichment programs. We understood it when Ayatollah Ali Khameini said it. We understood it when Iranian nuclear negotiator Ari Larijani said it. If the UNSC needs further clarification, we can set it to music and have someone provide sign-language interpretation. It shouldn't take much effort to provide the latter; only one finger would be required.
It's precisely this kind of diplomatic obtuseness that frustrates those of us who get lectured on the benefits of working through the
League of United Nations. It doesn't take a study commission to understand all of the ramifications of Iranian intransigence. No means no, even in diplomacy, especially when repeated endlessly and celebrated in grand openings of heavy-water processing plants.
Daniel Freedman puts it more succinctly at It Shines For All -- "Read Ahmadinejad's lips: NO!" At this rate, the global community may find the testicular fortitude to confront Ahmadinejad in October ... of 2012.
Olmert And The Fixed Buffet
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shrugged off repeated calls by UN head Kofi Annan to lift the military blockade of Lebanon, telling reporters that he sees the cease-fire agreement as a "fixed buffet" and, presumably, not a smorgasbord:
Mr Annan said the blockade should be lifted to help Lebanon recover from the month-long conflict.
But Mr Olmert said only that Israel would pull out of the Lebanon once UN resolution 1701 was implemented.
"[The resolution] is not a buffet where you pick up one item and leave others," he said.
"So far as we're concerned we entirely accept this, this is a fixed buffet and everything will be implemented including the lifting of the blockade as part of an entire implementation of the different articles."
Mr Olmert said unless two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on 12 July were freed, the UN resolution "cannot be considered as fully implemented".
Olmert may have mentioned that the cease-fire's failures go beyond the two soldiers that Hezbollah has still not freed. UNSC Resolution 1701 calls for the implementation of UNSCR 1559, which directs Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah. Lebanon, so far, has refused, which puts them in direct violation of both resolutions. Israel has no responsibility to lift the blockade while the Fuad Siniora government refuses to even attempt to meet the requirements of 1701.
The UN hasn't demonstrated any inclination to effect the terms of the resolution, either. Annan has said that the UNIFIL mandate will not extend to disarming Hezbollah; in fact he assured the Shi'ites in southern Lebanon that the UNIFIL forces will not look for arms at all. More to the point, Annan has also stated that UNIFIL will not perform interdiction missions to keep arms from flowing into Lebanon and back to the Hezbollah terrorists who find themselves critically short on missiles and rockets after the war. Olmert has to apply the blockade in order to do the tasks in 1701 that Lebanon and the UN refuse to do.
Olmert may have botched the military mission in Lebanon, but he has done much better in protecting Israeli interests in the post-1701 environment. The Israeli insistence on full compliance with 1701 will be the only way that either the Israelis realize their goals in the sub-Litani region or expose the global community for the appeasers they obviously are. The blockade must continue until Siniora and Annan understand the concept of the "fixed buffet". If they want Israel to abide by 1701, then they cannot expect to get a pass on its full implementation. If they are unable to meet that standard, then neither should have insisted on the cease-fire at all.
California Adopts HillaryCare
The California Assembly passed a bill on a party-line vote yesterday that would eliminate private health care and force Californians into a single-payer state-run medical system. It now falls to Arnold Schwarzenegger to determine whether he will reverse his previous stand against state-run health care or adopt the Golden State version of HillaryCare (via CQ reader Kurt K):
The Democratic-controlled Legislature is on the verge of sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state-run universal health care system, testing him on an issue that voters rate as one of their top concerns in this election year.
On a largely party-line 43-30 vote, the Assembly approved a bill by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, that would eliminate private medical insurance plans and establish a statewide health insurance system that would provide coverage to all Californians. The state Senate has already approved the plan once and is expected this week to approve changes that the Assembly made to the bill.
Schwarzenegger has said he opposes a single-payer plan like the one Kuehl's bill would create, but the governor has not offered his own alternatives for fixing the state's health care system. As many as 7 million people are uninsured in the state, and spiraling costs have put pressure on business and consumers. ...
"I don't believe that government should be getting in there and should start running a health care system that is kind of done and worked on by government," Schwarzenegger said in July at a speech at the Commonwealth Club. "I think that what we should do is be a facilitator, to make the health care costs come down. The sad story in America is that our health care costs are too high, that everyone cannot afford health care."
Previous California legislation on workers-comp protection and workplace regulation helped start an exodus of corporate headquarters for better business environments. Creating a whole new bureaucracy for health management and putting rationing decisions in the hands of bureaucrats may start a new exodus of healthy people looking for less-intrusive and less-costly tax regimes. Despite the long wait times for anything but primary care issues in single-payer nations such as Canada and the UK -- the latter of which has to destroy organs for lack of doctors to transplant them -- California wants to add to its already top-heavy bureaucracies and add more budget-busting entitlements to a budget that resembles science fiction.
Hillary Clinton tried to foist the same system onto the entire country, and the nation reacted by ending forty years of Democratic domination in the House. Perhaps the same result could come from this irresponsible social engineering project. When people start to understand that they just created a DMV for health care, California voters may just revolt against the entrenched Democratic power structure. Even the Democratic nominee for goverrnor won't endorse the Kuehl bill. Phil Angelides wanted to push more health-care mandates onto the private sector instead, a bad idea but nowhere near as disastrous as this.
In a move typical of the myopic state legislature, the bill doesn't even address the costs that the new bureaucracy will create. The Assembly noted that it will take several years to implement the mandate -- which means that they're going to pass the buck to another group of legislators. Term limits keeps Assembly members from serving more than six years, which means damned few of the culprits will be around to account for the massive bill that will come. However, they have considered revenue streams for the new regime -- an additional 8 percent on the payroll tax that businesses pay and a 3 point hike on the state income tax. That will come before the sunset of the health-care plans that businesses and their employees buy, creating an overlap of costs -- and that assumes that the revenue stream will be enough to pay for the massive spending necessary for the state-run system.
People around the country may shrug this off, figuring that it's just California. However, don't be surprised to see utopians in your neighborhood heralding the coming Brave New World in the Golden State and agitating for the same system where you live.
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