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March 20, 2004

Gun Control Still Failing in UK - Murder Rates Skyrocketing

The London Telegraph runs a story in its Sunday edition that reports murder rates skyrocketing in London, primarily fueled by firearms, even though guns have been banned in the UK:

The murder rate in London has doubled in 12 months to reach one of its highest levels ever, according to the most recent Home Office statistics, which have been leaked to the Telegraph.

In the final three months of last year there were 61 murders in the capital, compared with just 31 in the same quarter, the previous year. The figure is the highest total for the last three months of any year, according to the Metropolitan Police's published figures. In the final three months of 2000, for example, there were only 40 murders, while in the same period of 2001 and 2002 there were 43 and 31 respectively.

Police blame drive-by shootings between gangs fighting turf wars over drug sales, as well as so-called "honour killings". But the real story is that the UK's ban on gun ownership has had an opposite effect than expected. Instead of gun crime decreasing as guns are taken out of the hands of the general public, gun crime is instead exploding as guns remain exclusively in the hands of the criminals. While you may or may not be able to argue that the crime rate would be lower if guns were legalized, no one can argue that banning guns lowers gun crime or prevents deaths from guns. London's example exposes that argument as a complete canard.

UPDATE FOR THE ANTAGONIST: Going back to my post of December 2, 2003, The Fraser Institute in Canada also concluded that gun-control laws in various Commonwealth countries had been "expensive failures":

In England and Wales:

Both Conservative and Labour governments have introduced restrictive firearms laws over the past 20 years; all handguns were banned in 1997.

Yet in the 1990s alone, the homicide rate jumped 50 percent, going from 10 per million in 1990 to 15 per million in 2000. While not yet as high as the US, in 2002 gun crime in England and Wales increased by 35 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year that gun crime has increased.

In Australia:

While violent crime is decreasing in the United States, it is increasing in Australia. Over the past six years, the overall rate of violent crime in Australia has been on the rise -- for example, armed robberies have jumped 166 percent nationwide.

The confiscation and destruction of legally owned firearms has cost Australian taxpayers at least $500 million. The cost of the police services bureaucracy, including the costly infrastructure of the gun registration system, has increased by $200 million since 1997.

In Canada:

Over the past decade, the rate of violent crime in Canada has increased while in the United States the violent crime rate has plummeted. The homicide rate is dropping faster in the US than in Canada.

The Canadian experiment with firearm registration is becoming a farce says Mauser. The effort to register all firearms, which was originally claimed to cost only $2 million, has now been estimated by the Auditor General to top $1 billion. The final costs are unknown but, if the costs of enforcement are included, the total could easily reach $3 billion.

In order to really parse the data, you will need to download the complete study, which is available here in PDF format.

Some of the charts are in the Extended Entry section for those who want to take a look.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

Nabokov Plagiarized 'Lolita'

According to new German scholarship, Vladimir Nabokov plagiarized the most famous -- and notorious -- of his works, the controversial novel Lolita:

A novella, published in 1916 by Heinz von Eschwege, describes a girl called Lolita who obsesses and then seduces the narrator. The narrator, who is lodging in her house while on holiday, is distraught when the girl dies at the end of the story - astoundingly similar to Nabokov's book, published in 1956, claims Michael Maar, a literary scholar.

"The name is the same, the title, the fact that it is written in the first person," he told the Telegraph. "There is a close description of first seeing Lolita, looking into her eyes and seeing she was more than a girl, more than a child. The narrators are lodgers and both have passionate affairs and then Lolita dies."

Furthermore, both Nabokov and von Eschwege lived in the same area of Berlin for 15 years, creating the opportunity for Nabokov to have read the novella years prior to writing his own, full-length novel with a similar plot and details. Maar minimizes the damage this will do to Nabokov's reputation, saying that the original 18-page novella had nowhere near the artistry of Nabokov's novel, but plagiarism is plagiarism. It won't help Nabokov's reputation that von Eschwege was also a Nazi journalist:

Von Eschwege, who wrote under the name Heinz von Lichberg, became a well known journalist in the Third Reich, not least for his commentary on national radio of Adolf Hitler's torch-lit procession to the Reichstag after becoming chancellor in 1933.

So Nabokov stole the central idea, subplots, and character names for his novel about a middle-aged man having an affair with a schoolgirl from an ex-Nazi writer. Somehow, I think that the literary world may still re-evaluate Vladimir Nabokov, Maar's protest notwithstanding.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:50 PM | TrackBack

Jack Straw to Spain: No Guts, No Glory

In another article in today's London Telegraph, Jack Straw lays a smackdown on Spain equal to that of Michael Howard, noting that the Brits are "made of sterner stuff":

Mr Straw said the reason why many Spaniards changed their vote to the anti-war Socialists in last weekend's election was unclear.

Were there to be a terrorist attack here, he said, the British electorate would not be "blackmailed" by al-Qa'eda. "They are made of sterner stuff than that."

Translation, as provided by the ever-excellent Strange Women Lying in Ponds: "Mr. Straw says that the Brits have more cojones than you."

Mr. Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, also had some harsh words for the previous American administration, noting that intelligence had been gathered at the time of the first World Trade Center attack that al-Qaeda had been involved and were planning on continuing their campaign against America and the West. Straw insists that had the Americans decided at that time to pursue al-Qaeda instead of just the individuals involved in the bombing, 9/11 could have been avoided -- to say nothing of Madrid, or the USS Cole in 2000, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, and the two simultaneous American embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

"What the international community should have done is to heed the earlier warnings about the nature of al-Qa'eda and taken earlier action to deal with it and the failing state which was harbouring it, which was Aghanistan," he says.

"Because if we had have done we might have avoided September 11 and everything that has followed that."

Straw is, of course, entirely correct. Had the American public been given the information on al-Qaeda at that time, and had we not been fed a diet of BS about the end of history and all the money we'd save in the "peace dividend" at the end of the Cold War, the Clinton administration would have been able to nip Osama in the bud. In fact, he probably would have been what Tony Blair has become since: a leftist who united his country in its defense, who receives rhetorical support from even his political opponents, since the Democrats would hardly be sniping as they've done to Bush the past two years, and the Republicans would have given much more support than they did to Clinton's adventures in the Balkans. Had Clinton not chosen the law-enforcement approach, we'd be debating Al Gore's re-election now, and Hillary might be Vice President.

Brant at SWLiP wonders whether the Europeans would have been willing to go into Afghanistan in the mid-90s, and it's a very good question. I think that Clinton could have convinced most of them, although I bet Russia would have balked. They would not have been thrilled to see American forces marching into Afghanistan (which is right on their doorstep) just after the collapse of Soviet power. What I don't think they would have had the will to do would be to actually depose the Taliban; they would have targeted only the camps themselves, which would have proved fruitless while al-Qaeda retained political cover from Mullah Omar and his gang.

Clinton would never have risked his presidency on any foreign adventure that carried any risk of significant American casualties, and so he convinced himself that WTC 1 was simply a crime that required arrests and trials because it was the path of least resistance. It's no coincidence that this mythical "plan to defeat al-Qaeda" that the Clintonites claim they handed to Bush on a silver platter was never drafted in reality during their own administration; Clinton simply would never have implemented it. Even Sandy Berger, Clinton's national-security advisor, scoffed at the notion that such a strategy was ever drafted: "There was no war plan that we turned over to the Bush administration during the transition. And the reports of that are just incorrect."

It comes down to a problem similar to what we saw in Spain this past week: lack of political will to do the right thing. It's what comes of electing leaders that base their decisions not on a firm set of principles but by sticking a moistened finger in the air to see which way the wind blows.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:25 PM | TrackBack

Can the Dems Dump Kerry?

With the very bad month that John Kerry has had so far, some people are questioning whether Kerry can actually survive to the the convention to be nominated. It's a question we were asked on our radio show last week, and one which we summarily dismissed. I still think it to be extremely unlikely, as it would be very damaging to the Democrats to dump someone who received a majority of primary votes.

But is it possible?

To answer this, I spent some time this morning going through the controlling documents of the Democratic convention and nominating process (Acrobat reader and No-Doz required). It's not as unequivocal as I had previously thought, at least not in the regulations. I had believed that there was a hard first-ballot requirement for pledged delegates to cast their vote for their candidate, in the same manner as the Electoral College, but the language in the "Call for the Democratic National Convention" is purposely vague. Article VIII, section F.3.c states (page 16):

All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.

That means that the individual delegate retains the ability to interpret what those "sentiments" might be, and to decide whether those "sentiments" considered would be those that existed at the time of the primary, or those that exist at the time of the convention. You could make an intellectual argument that the "sentiments" of the voters had radically changed in the past four months (being in July), after seeing stumbles and pratfalls from their putative nominee, and that voting for another candidate would accurately reflect their new sentiments.

So therefore my answer on the air last week was inaccurate -- Kerry could fail on the first ballot if enough delegates decided that their conscience would allow them to vote for someone else. But will they? Unlikely, for both structural and political reasons.

First, they have to vote for a qualified nominee, which means that their choices are limited to those who have already been in the race -- and all of those people got beat in the primaries. Only Kerry managed to win more than one state. In order to get someone else (say, Hillary) in the nominating process, a petition must be submitted prior to the actual balloting begins and have between 300 and 600 delegate signatures, who haven't signed another nominating petition, and which can include no more than 50 from a single delegation (state). The logistics of such an effort aren't impossible to manage, but will certainly be difficult.

Even if you work through the structural issues (which exist to specifically prevent a coup like this), it would be nothing short of a disaster politically. If Kerry fights it -- and seeing what we have of his character thus far, it would be likely that he would -- the convention would be presented with a candidate that was chosen by the people and one anointed by party leadership. If Kerry lost to the selected candidate, a good portion of the party will view it as they did Florida in 2000. Democratic voters will either flee to Nader, especially likely on the far-left fringe of the party, or will simply stay home out of frustration. If Kerry beat back the challenge, he would be so weakened by the battle that the expected convention momentum would likely be reversed, and he would be forced to battle from an even bigger hole than he faces at the moment.

In either case, the resultant discord and cynicism would be felt all the way down the ticket in each state, where Democrats hope to retake control of Congress and state houses. Anything that depresses voter turnout to any extent will kill those hopes and may lead to even larger Republican gains, setting the party back for years. On the other hand, it would also result in the expulsion of the party leadership that allowed it to happen -- and getting rid of Terry McAuliffe and the Clinton influence on the party may be worth all the pain, but I doubt that most Democrats would see it that way.

In the end, although it remains a technical possibility, the Democrats won't dump Kerry. You can expect him to sit atop the ticket in November, garnering the 40% of people who will vote for him just because of the (D) following his name. Just don't expect a whole lot more voters than that to support him, if the last two weeks are any indication of how Kerry campaigns through the rest of the season.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:26 AM | TrackBack

Tory Leader Strongly Supports Blair on Terror

Today's Telegraph notes the strong bipartisan support for the UK's approach on the war on terror. Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, had been suspected of trying to exploit Tony Blair's vulnerability on Iraq for political gain, but in a speech to News Corporation executives in Cancun, Howard not only fully supported Blair but also blasted the Spanish Socialists for "moral cowardice":

Michael Howard accused the new Spanish government of "moral cowardice" in the face of Islamist terrorism last night as he vowed to match Tony Blair's tough line against the threat of al-Qa'eda. ... "Countries cannot insulate themselves from terrorist attack by opting out of the war on terror," he said. "We cannot buy ourselves immunity by changing our foreign policy. Apart from the moral cowardice of that position, it can never work in practice."

In a speech to executives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in Cancun, Mr Howard sought to underline his support for Mr Blair in the "war on terror".

It has been suggested in the US that the fallout from the lack of WMDs would damage Blair in the UK and that the war on terror would suffer as a result -- and that the blame for all of that lay on George Bush's White House doorstep. While Blair may indeed have political troubles over the WMD question, as Bush has, what's apparent is that the strategic alliance between the US and the UK on terror is not only strong, it's also bipartisan, at least on the UK side. Howard even took on Spain for Blair, although I doubt that helping Blair was Howard's primary motivation.

Both Howard and Blair exemplify what can be the nobility of political service -- doing what's best for your country despite the petty, momentary gain that could be had by focusing on partisan cheap shots instead. Too bad certain party leaders on this side of the pond won't take a lesson from this example.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 8:44 AM | TrackBack

AP, Broadsheets Spin Battles Into "Arrests"

The AP is at it again, this time with more than one American broadsheet as enablers. While Pakistani soldiers are fighting and dying to capture or kill the hundreds of al-Qaeda soldiers protecting a high-value target in Waziristan, the AP treats the entire operation like a drug raid in Minneapolis (bold type is my emphasis):

Pakistan's military has arrested more than 100 suspects in a five-day assault on militants holed up in mud fortresses along the border where al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al Zawahri is believed trapped, a commander said today.

Those detained included foreigners and the local Pashtun tribesmen who have been sheltering them, said Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, who is in charge of the sweep. Hussain said 400 to 500 militants are believed to still be fighting from within the heavily fortified compounds in the tribal South Waziristan region, using mortars, AK-47s, rockets and hand-grenades in a face-off with troops.

Maybe it's just me, but a confrontation between a regular army unit and a heavily armed band of fighters using mortars, rockets, and hand-grenades sounds more like a battle than an INS raid, doesn't it? That would make suspects more like prisoners and their status captured rather than arrested.

Matthew Pennington's report appears in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Washington Post. The New York Times tries to cut it both ways, using "arrests" in the headline but "captured" in the body of the story. Only the Los Angeles Times unmistakably depicts a military operation and not the serving of arrest warrants, although it avoids mentioning the captured AQ fighters altogether.

Words have meaning, and the effort of Pennington and the AP to recast these battles as "arrests" give the impression that the war is nothing more than a law-enforcement action with bigger guns. That does a tremendous disservice to the Pakistani soldiers in Waziristan who are fighting and dying to crush the the remnants of al-Qaeda and to bring their leadership to account, dead or alive, for their acts of war. It demeans the efforts and sacrifices of American and other Coalition armed forces who face death in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all around the Persian Gulf.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 8:12 AM | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Tarzana Joe: Poet Laureate for the Presidential Election

As is customary, Hugh Hewitt had Tarzana Joe close out his Friday show with a poem, and what a poem it was. Both the First Mate and I were laughing out loud during the entire poem, as we thought it perfectly captured the Kerry mystique. Here is the Tarzana Joe original:

Meet the Candidate

I'm an average man with a master plan
I'm a warrior, like Attila
And I'll lead the songs of the cheering throngs
From my humble Tuscan villa.

I'm the People's Choice with a noble voice
That will never stam-- or stutter
I don't like to boast but if I eat toast
Well, you know, it won't melt butter.

Yes, I stand tall and will never fall
And can never be defeated
Unless (boo, hoo) I get run into
By some "expletive deleted".

Any fool can see my philosophy
Is transparent as a tissue
I stand by my quotes, you can track my votes
On both sides of every issue.

I can think of ten strong foreign men
And I think you all should heed them
It's just a shame I can't name their names
But they're begging me to lead them

It's been just that way since my natal day
When the stars shone round about me
It's unclear to me how the framers
Got this nation built without me

When the SupremeCourtees
Spoke of obscenities
They said, "When you see 'em, You'll know 'em"
I'm John Forbes Kerry
And I've approved this poem.

Visit Tarzana Joe and tell him how outstanding this poem is, and make sure you take a long tour through his excellent site.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 8:39 PM | TrackBack

Kerry's Theme Song: Call Me Irresponsible

Call me irresponsible,
Call me unreliable,
Throw in undependable too ...
Do my foolish alibis bore you?

John Kerry may have to adopt this as his new campaign theme song, now that ABC News has captured yet another John Kerry flip-flop on videotape:

In an interview several weeks before he voted against $87 billion in funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seemed to argue that such a vote would be reckless, irresponsible, and tantamount to abandoning U.S. troops. ...

Asked if he would vote against the $87 billion if his amendment did not pass, Kerry said, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible."

Kerry argued that his amendment offered a way to do it properly, "but I don't think anyone in the Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to be able to defend themselves. We're not going to cut and run and not do the job."

Of course, the new George Bush ads feature John Kerry's tortured explanation of his voting record on the funding for the troops in Iraq: "I actually did vote for the 87 billion before I voted against it." And vote against it he did, even though a few weeks earlier, he denounced any such vote as reckless and irresponsible. The Kerry campaign's response that his 'nay' was a "protest vote" is unlikely to counteract the damage that Kerry's own words are doing to him this month.

In fact, ABC News political director Mark Halperin probably predicts the long-term outlook of this presidential campaign when he says, "John Kerry has years and years of public statements including recent ones that the Republicans seem to have more thoroughly catalogued and at-the-ready than the Kerry campaign does." Either the Democrats have once again underestimated George Bush, or wildly overestimated Kerry's "electability," the very quality that convinced primary voters to dump Howard Dean and embrace Kerry.

What really happened was that when the vote was taken on the funding package, Kerry saw that the primary winds were blowing radically anti-war, and he was desperate to prove his street creds with the MoveOn contingent that was making the most noise. It was part of a strategy Kerry employed to co-opt Dean's message and Dean's support as Dean himself imploded under the weight of his own words. He shifted his position, as he has whenever he sensed advantages in doing so, and now he finds himself trapped by his own big mouth yet again.

John Kerry is about to be beat like a drum all the way to November, and the only ones who don't know it now are the Ted Rall contingent. I doubt that Kerry will withdraw, but unless he develops a sudden case of laryngitis that lasts a year or so, he'll continue to write Republican ads all by himself.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:23 PM | TrackBack

First Mate Update

Just to keep you all up to date, the First Mate came home from the hospital this afternoon, and is resting comfortably ... in fact, she's asleep right now, which makes me happy. I'm working from home this afternoon (while doing some posting as well, as you can see) so that I can keep an eye on her.

Thanks to everyone who sent their kind regards!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:17 PM | TrackBack

AP Attacks Kerry on Defense Spending, Temperature in Hell Reportedly Dropping

The John Kerry Week From Hell continues this afternoon with an additional slam from an unlikely source. The AP's John Solomon analyzes Kerry's proposed $43B defense-spending cuts from 1994 and opens another wound in Kerry's flank:

When John Kerry offered a surprise plan to trim $43 billion in spending a decade ago, he encountered some harsh resistance: The cuts would threaten national security. U.S. fighter pilots would be endangered. And the battle against terrorism would be hampered, opponents charged.

And that's just what Kerry's fellow Democrats had to say.

Solomon details the response from prominent Democrats in the Senate at the time, and they were hardly complimentary to the future Presidential candidate:

"We are putting blindfolds over our pilots' eyes," Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a decorated World War II veteran, said of the impact of Kerry's proposed intelligence cuts...

"The amendment offered by the senator from Massachusetts would reduce the fiscal year 1994 budget for national defense by nearly $4 billion," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., then the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman. "We have already cut defense spending drastically. ... Cutting another $4 billion is simply unwise and insupportable." ...

Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., then the Intelligence Committee chairman, took Kerry to task at the time for reducing intelligence spending by $6 billion over six years, saying it would leave Americans vulnerable while facing problems such as the war in Bosnia, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

"It makes no sense for us to close our eyes and ears to developments around the world," he said, wondering aloud why Kerry didn't raise the idea of his cuts with the committee first.

It seems that Kerry, in his usual high-handed manner, unveiled this proposal in the Senate instead of in committee as is the custom, and also without consulting his colleagues on either side of the aisle. Not surprisingly, Kerry's proposal went screaming to defeat, 75-20. The bill, Amendment 1452 for the Senate dated 2/9/94, rescinded the following funds, in millions:

Selective Service: $15 million and program termination
Trident Missile system: $1130 million and program termination
Follow-On Early Warning System: $100 million and program termination
Ballistic Missile Defense: $900 million
Armed Forces recruiting: $33 million
Titan IV missile system: $350 million
National Foreign Intelligence Program and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities (DoD): $1000 million and a five-year freeze at the new spending level
Space Station Freedom: $900 million and program termination
Nuclear weapons research and testing: $900 million and a cap of 4,000 nuclear warheads regardless of treaties.
Forced reductions in the Navy's P-3 Antisubmarine program

It doesn't sound like Kerry was terribly concerned with the defense of the US, providing a striking departure even from Democrats like Robert Byrd. He didn't know what he was talking about then, although he certainly had no problem grandstanding, and it appears he hasn't learned much since. (References and other discussion can be found at Citizen Smash, as well.)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 3:58 PM | TrackBack

Mickey Kaus Discerns a Kerry "Crumple"

Mickey Kaus, in his kausfiles entry for today, also notes the descent of Kerry's numbers, now even in the Rasmussen poll which shows Bush ahead of Kerry head-to-head outside of the margin of error:

... it's different when the drop is comes at the same time as a) a candidate whom no large group is enthusiastic about and b) whom Democratic voters in a truncated and unconstitutionally inhibited* primary process haven't bothered to find out much about c) is first exposed to the general electorate. Then the voters may simply be discovering they don't like him! By July 26 it could be clear to everyone except about 3,000 delegates to the Democratic convention that Kerry is not cutting it against Bush ...

Mickey earlier (3/16) linked back to my post on the CBS/NYT poll and how it showed that the numbers had slid precipitously for Kerry; against Bush and Nader, Kerry trailed Bush by eight points. Mickey and I agree: the "front-loaded" Democratic primaries have forced a bad candidate onto the Democrats, perhaps one of the worst campaigners in the field this year. He's unlikable, he's careless in his speech, he's truth-deficient, and he owns one of the most extreme voting records in the Senate.

Short of his voluntary withdrawal, though, they're stuck with him.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 2:20 PM | TrackBack

Kerry Waters Down Denial, Acknowledges Presence at "Assassination" Meeting

John Kerry's campaign has backed off their earlier denials that Kerry was not present for the VVAW meeting in Kansas City, November 1971, where the "Phoenix Project" was brought to debate and a vote:

Senator Kerry of Massachusetts yesterday retreated from his earlier steadfast denials that he attended a meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which a plan to assassinate U.S. Senators was debated. The reversal came as new evidence, including reports from FBI informants, emerged that contradicted Mr. Kerrys previous statements about the gathering, which was held in Kansas City, Mo. in November 1971.

John Kerry had no personal recollection of this meeting 33 years ago, a Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, said in a statement e-mailed last night from Idaho, where Mr. Kerry is on vacation.

The historian Gerald Nicosia, who happens to be a Kerry supporter, released the minutes of the VVAW meeting, as well as FBI surveillance documents he received under a Freedom of Information request while researching a book on anti-war activism. Nicosia says that the evidence of Kerry's appearance and participation in the debate is "incontrovertible". This puts to lie Kerry's earlier contention that he was nowhere near Kansas City in November 1971 and that he had resigned from the VVAW in July of that year.

The Phoenix Project, as I earlier related, was the brainchild of Scott Camil, who had found several volunteers for the mission to assassinate public figures who supported the war, including Senators John Tower, Strom Thurmond, and John Stennis. Camil brought the proposal to the 11/71 VVAW meeting for a vote, and VVAW leadership knew about it; they changed the meeting venue twice on the spur of the moment in a futile attempt to avoid being monitored by the FBI.

While it's true that John Kerry spoke against this plot and later resigned because of it, it's equally true that he warned no one about the existence of the plot or the plotters. What's false has been Kerry's story ever since, and for good reason -- someone who sits in league with putative assassins plotting their crimes and fails to notify authorities implicitly legitimizes the use of violence for political and electoral ends. It should be a disqualification for public office; I for one don't want a Senator who thought, during his political career (he ran for Congress in 1970), that such a debate was a legitimate political discussion.

Kerry needs to explain himself and his participation in the 11/71 VVAW meeting. Non-denials from David Wade won't cut it.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 1:33 PM | TrackBack

Kerry: Sourpuss?

John Kerry can't even vacation without making an ass out of himself, according to the New York Times and ABC's The Note. While playing on the slopes and chatting with members of the media, Kerry got knocked off his feet snowboarding after getting tangled up with a member of his Secret Service security detail. While most people would choose to make a joke out of such an incident, Kerry reminded the nation that he's never the one at fault for anything:

His next trip down, a reporter and a camera crew were allowed to follow along on skis just in time to see Mr. Kerry taken out by one of the Secret Service men, who had inadvertently moved into his path, sending him into the snow.

When asked about the mishap a moment later, he said sharply, "I don't fall down," then used an expletive to describe the agent who "knocked me over."

From a more personal point of view, here's The Note's Ed O'Keefe:

As Senator John Kerry carved his Burton snowboard down a green rated Upper College run, another skier interrupted his stride, colliding with the presumptive Democratic nominee at 9,010 feet.

The slope-cade of two Ski Patrollers, several Secret Service agents, two journalists, one camera and one Kerry aide suddenly came to a halt. The Massachusetts Senator lay on the ground, removed his Smith sunglasses, and surveyed the damage.

Assured that the ABC News camera accompanying the entourage had not captured Kerry's fall, the Senator glared at your sloping Noter and assured, "I don't fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me."

I don't fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me. A common proverb instructs that one can get the best measure of a man by how he treats those whose stations are below his. In one response, Kerry confirms his character as a patrician, full-of-himself snob who can never admit to one misstep, instead blaming those around him for any errors he commits.

Think of how George Bush (41 or 43), Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or even Joe Lieberman would have reacted to such an incident. There would have been a self-deprecating joke, a suggestion of an official pardon for the agent, perhaps (with Reagan or Bush 43), a folksy anecdote about brushing one's self off after a fall and going back to try again. Instead, Kerry snaps at reporters, claims he's perfect, blames his subordinate for his fall, and then makes a show of going back down the mountain, "a look of intensity on his face, his lanky frame bent low to the ground."

Does this mean anything about policy? No. But it tells you something about character, and Kerry's revealed an ugly side of himself here that all the ads in the world won't cover up. (via Hugh Hewitt)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

Arabs Blame Powell for Arab Terrorism

In a surreal moment earlier today, Arab journalists walked out of a Baghdad press conference with Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest the death of two Iraqi reporters and the lack of security in Iraq:

One Arab journalist stood up as soon as Powell walked into the room at the Baghdad convention center and read a statement saying that after one year of "U.S. occupation," Americans cannot provide security in Iraq.

"We demand an open investigation in front of the mass media," the Arab journalist said. "We also demand that security be guaranteed to journalists" working in Iraq, he said.

Seconds later, more than 20 journalists walked out of the room.

Thus continueth the process by which those who try to provide security are continually blamed for the actions of those who defy it. Does it strike anyone else as ridiculous to blame the policeman for the burglar, especially when it's the burglar's own people doing the complaining? Memo to al-Arabiyah: If you want better security in Iraq, why not get on the air and tell Arabs to please quit coming into Iraq and blowing people up?

Sheesh.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:43 AM | TrackBack

Even DFL Standardbearer Hates New Ads

Yesterday, I posted about the new DFL ads targeting Tim Pawlenty on the early release of sexual offenders, a problem that has been decades in the making and on which the DFL has proposed no solutions on their own. The new ads are so stupid, even uberliberal Doug Grow initially thought that they were satires of political advertisement before DFL officials said, "No, we're serious."

Now, former DFL gubernatorial candidate and current state Senator John Marty has called for the ads to be pulled from the air and an apology issued to Minnesotans, invoking a bogeyman from the Democrats' past:

"I am ashamed to see my party produce a mean-spirited attack ad that is no better than the infamous Willie Horton ad," Sen. John Marty, Roseville, wrote to state DFL Chair Mike Erlandson. "Political consultants may think such an ad is clever. I think it is sick." ...

"It cheapens the political debate on a complex issue, and it will undoubtedly encourage others to respond in kind," he wrote. "This ad should be pulled immediately. I believe Minnesotans deserve an apology."

Erlandson and the DFL are sticking to their guns. They will continue airing the ads at least through the weekend, although a plea on their website for donations to continue the ad campaign has disappeared, indicating that DFL leadership are now in face-saving mode. They spent a lot of DFL money for this, most of which was provided by Attorney General Mike Hatch (he gave the DFL $41,000), who is so desperate to be governor here that he's probably already hired an interior designer for the mansion.

Hatch's desperate longing for Pawlenty's job has pushed the DFL into a logically untenable situation. The problem that creates the early-release issues is the current sentencing guidelines for felonies in Minnesota, and not just for sexual felonies. Minnesota doesn't even guarantee a life sentence for first-degree murder; thirty-year sentences are more common, on those rare occasions that charges don't get bargained down to second-degree murder or manslaughter. In the one cause celebre, Alfonso Rodriguez, the sentence given for his third rape and second kidnapping was 23 years, when it should have been life without parole. In almost any other state, that would have been an option, but not here.

Why? Because reform-minded DFLers have controlled the legislature for decades, and LWOP sentences don't fit in with their philosophy. Instead, the constitutionally suspect and exponentially more expensive civil-commitment process had to be tacked on a few years ago to keep predators like Rodriguez off the street. Rodriguez slipped through, based on evaluations made in the last administration, but neither governor oversaw each sex-offender release decision, and to imply they did is simply a lie.

And as I wrote yesterday, the DFL has control of the state Senate. If they want to make the system tougher on sex offenders, all they have to do is introduce legislation to change sentencing rules. Senator Marty and most of the DFL, and for that matter most Minnesotans, know this. Minnesotans won't be fooled by Mike Hatch's personal Pawlenty vendetta, and they will express their displeasure with finger-pointing, do-nothing DFLers like Hatch in November. All Erlandson's done is to produce an advertisement for continued Republican administration of Minnesota by demonstrating that the DFL is run by unserious people.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:26 AM | TrackBack

A Severe Case of Cluelessness

You can lead a horse's ass to enlightenment, but you can't make him think. [Who said that? I did! -- Ed] A couple who had just gone to see Mel Gibson's powerful and controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, felt so moved by their experience that they debated the nature of God and the Trinity on the way home from the cinema.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, when they decided to re-enact a couple of the scenes from the movie in order to resolve their debate, the police were called in:

Davidson, 34, and her husband, Sean Davidson, 33, were charged with simple battery on March 11 after the two called police on each other. They were released on $1,000 bail.

According to a police report, Melissa Davidson suffered injuries on her arm and face, while her husband had a scissors stab wound on his hand and his shirt was ripped off. He also allegedly punched a hole in a wall. ...

"It was the dumbest thing we've ever done," she said.

No kidding. After watching POTC, I would expect a lot of quiet reflection, perhaps some discussion of the theological, historical, and cultural significance of the experience of Christ and of the film itself. At the very least (if your discussion involved JB Doubtless), you'd talk about how attractive Monica Belluci is when she doesn't have dirt all over her face. Call me crazy, but in my mind, smacking your wife in the face and stabbing your husband in the hand runs somewhat counter to the message of the film and the Gospels.

The arresting officer told the press, "I think they missed the point." Yeah.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:49 AM | TrackBack

Assassination Attempt on Taiwan President, VP

CNN reports that the president and VP of Taiwan were both wounded in an assassination attempt during a motorcade campaign appearance just before midnight CT:

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu have been rushed to hospital after an assassination attempt while campaigning for Saturday's election.

Chen was shot in the stomach at 1:45 p.m. (0545 GMT) Friday but his condition was not critical, the Presidential Office said. Lu's leg was grazed by a bullet.

The office said both Chen and Lu were in a stable condition and that the president had urged calm.

So far, there is no word on suspects, and the Taiwan authorities have made no arrests.

Initially, no one knew Chen had been shot; the Chinese traditionally celebrate with firecrackers, and the sounds of the gunshots must have been lost in all the other noise. (Taiwan's security forces should reconsider the wisdom of allowing that particular tradition to continue.) Television cameras captured the bullet strike on Chen, showing blood on his windbreaker as he stood in the back of the Jeep in shock, somewhat like the moment Ronald Reagan was hit by John Hinkley's bullet.

Later pictures showed a bullet hole in the windshield, meaning that whoever shot Chen did so from the street level while the car drove towards the shooter. In a way, this is comforting. No professional assassin would choose a shot that went through a windshield or any other barrier; the potential for bullet deflection would make the odds of success unnecessarily longer. That would seem to rule out Red China as a suspect, at least directly. Like most assassinations, the suspect will likely be a disgruntled, unsuccessful loner or a member of a lunatic-fringe group.

In any case, the attack occurred just before elections (which sound all too familiar), but both sides have said that the elections should go on, even though they've both suspended their campaigns. President Chen, who is expected to fully recover, has called for calm in the aftermath of the shooting. China, as you might imagine, will watch the situation carefully to exploit any opportunity that arises to, ahem, "provide security" if Taiwan shows any sign of meltdown in the aftermath of the assassination attempt.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:35 AM | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Pakistanis Have "High-Value" AQ Target Surrounded

CNN reports that the Pakistani Army has surrounded a "high-value" al-Qaeda target being protected by 200 or more AQ fighters, and quotes sources that the target may be #2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri:

Pakistani forces have surrounded what may be a "high-value" al Qaeda target in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf told CNN.

"We feel that there may be a high-value target," Musharraf told CNN. "I can't say who."

Two Pakistani government sources told CNN that intelligence indicates the surrounded figure is Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two leader.

This is the second significant engagement for the Pakistanis this week; Monday's action resulted in 24 AQ fighters dead and another 18 captured. Presumably, the interrogation of those prisoners had some influence on today's battle.

More later ... (via Citizen Smash)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 1:55 PM | TrackBack

Justice Kennedy Endorses Judicial Disregard of Congress

In an era where a sitting state Supreme Court justice had to be impeached from office because he refused to remove a three-ton monument to the Ten Commandments -- a decision with which I heartily agreed -- SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy's remarks yesterday seem jarringly at odds with respect for the law:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy yesterday praised federal judges who are willing to buck sentencing rules that were enacted for what the justice suggested were political motives. ... "I do think federal judges who depart downward are courageous," Kennedy told the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the court's budget. Judges should not have to "follow, blindly, these unjust guidelines," he said. ...

"The mandatory minimums enacted by the Congress are in my view unfair, unjust, unwise," Kennedy said. When determining sentencing guidelines, "there are two different philosophies. One was the tough-on-crime argument, the other was well, everybody should be treated the same," Kennedy said. "Every time they compromised, it was for higher sentences . . . this is wrong."

I have no issue with Justice Kennedy's opinion, or of his giving said opinion, against these sentencing guidelines. However, when he praises federal judges who unilaterally disregard laws passed by Congress absent a ruling on their constitutionality (which isn't an issue for sentencing rules and guidelines), then he encourages law-breaking, just as Justice Roy Moore demonstrated when he refused to abide by a higher court ruling on his monument. What difference is there? Either you follow the law or you don't.

Furthermore, by making these remarks, Justice Kennedy has now signaled to federal judges that they will have at least one vote on the Supreme Court that will support them on appeal. This strikes me as extremely inappropriate. The federal appellate courts have forgotten that they do not write law, nor do those courts represent a quality control for Congress and the Executive; their only proper check on those branches is to determine whether laws are constitutional, not whether they are effective, desirable, or necessary. Having a sitting SCOTUS justice egg their judicial activism on will further damage our balance of government and continue the decline from a representative government to a star-chamber, judicial autocracy.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:35 PM | TrackBack

McCain Torpedos Bush Again

The degradation of Senator John McCain continues, as earlier today he spoke out to defend John Kerry's record on national security and scolded both candidates for running a "bitter, partisan campaign":

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he did not believe Democratic candidate John Kerry, a friend and Senate colleague, was weak on defense or would compromise national security if elected president. ...

Asked on NBC's "Today" if he thought Kerry was weak on defense, McCain said: "No, I do not believe that he is, quote, weak on defense. He's responsible for his voting record, as we are all responsible for our records, and he'll have to explain it. But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don't agree with him on some issues, clearly. But I decry this negativism that's going on on both sides. The American people don't need it."

Later on during the interview, McCain endorsed Bush but warned that a divisive campaign would lead to low voter turnout in November. Well, it may do that for people who think that an election should be nothing more than a feel-good popularity contest, somewhat akin to an episode of "American Idol" without Simon Cowell. Unfortunately, John Kerry's abysmal voting record on matters of defense and intelligence are very germane to the presidential election --- certainly more so than his four-month tour of duty in Vietnam, or whether anyone can remember seeing George Bush in Alabama in 1972, on which the Democrats seem to be basing Kerry's campaign.

Why is McCain flacking for John Kerry? I suspected he wanted to undermine Bush last week when he needlessly stoked the notion that he would consider being Kerry's running mate, if asked. Now I think it's demonstrably true. Republicans are trying to focus their campaign on Kerry's record, and one of their own leaders is out in front of Kerry, shielding him from the scrutiny.

McCain apparently will work to get a dangerous waffler like Kerry elected in order to exact some petty revenge for Bush's victory in the 2000 primaries. Unfortunately, his efforts are sure to garner a lot of media attention and will do the intended damage to Bush's campaign, instead of focusing on McCain's shortcomings as a team player and his self-involvement.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

Cheney Gets Serious, Shows Kerry Isn't

In dueling campaign appearances, John Kerry experienced his first blast of Dick Cheney, as the eloquent and wry Vice President made his first foray into this year's re-election effort. Cheney wasted no time going after Kerry, painting him as a waffler who would prove dangerous as President:

"At least this much is clear: Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today in Iraq," Cheney said, in an aggressive defense of Bush's record as a war president. "In fact, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in Kuwait." ...

In a rejoinder that began a half-hour after Kerry finished, Cheney mocked the Massachusetts senator's disparaging comments about nations that have joined the United States. By calling the Iraq alliance "window dressing" and a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed," as Kerry has done, Cheney said the Democrat was "ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom."

"Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Senator Kerry describe Great Britain -- coerced or bribed?" Cheney taunted.

"If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Senator Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition," he said. "He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect."

That last sentence will be the one that resonates most with voters, I believe. Kerry comes from a mindset that American aims were evil and so those who opposed America were reflexively good, such as the North Vietnamese, Communism, Palestinians (such as that "statesman", Yasser Arafat), and European Socialism. Therefore, any action which directly served American interests were to be opposed, while American resources were freely spent on issues that should have only been the provenance of other nations. Interestingly enough, John Kerry spoke as the Balkans erupted into flames once again, and he was joined by the architect of American entanglement in that region, Madeline Albright, in what could in a literary sense be called foreshadowing.

In his speech, Kerry blasted the Bush administration for not spending enough money on the military, recounting a case where a soldier got body armor as a present from his new wife:

"I can tell you right now, in a Kerry administration no one will be getting body armor as a gift from a loved one," the senator said. "It will come from the armed forces of the United States of America, which is where it should come from."

He also outlined his plans for adding 40,000 more active-duty troops to the Army in a new "bill of rights" for military families. He plans to pay for this by cutting weapons programs, which is a song we've heard from Kerry before. For some reason, even though he's been in the Senate for 19 years, he hasn't seen fit to actually propose legislation along these lines until now. What he has done is to vote for or propose cutting these defense systems over that time:

1984 In campaigns for the Senate, vowed to cancel the B-1 bomber, B-2 stealth bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter, F-15 fighter, and the AV-8B Harrier.

1984 Campaigned against key missile systems: Patriot, Aegis and Trident.

1985 to 1994 Voted 38 times to cut defense budget.

1990 to 1996 Voted 12 times against pay increases for military personnel.

1993 Introduced plan to cut number of submarines, light infantry units, fighter wings, and to terminate the Navy mine-hunting ship program.

1994 Voted to gut intelligence budget by $6 billion over four years.

1995 Tried again to slash intelligence budget, introducing bill to cut $300 million per year though 2000.

2002 Initially voted against creation of the Homeland Security Department, siding with labor unions upset about plans to hire private security workers. Later, voted to back it.

2003 Voted against $87 billion needed to fund troops in Iraq though this year.

2003 Skipped vote on $29 billion homeland security funding.

Military families aren't fooled this easily, and Kerry's legislative record clearly stands for a bill of goods on defense, not a bill of rights.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:22 AM | TrackBack

Minnesota DFL Reeks of Desperation -- And Stupidity

In all of my running around yesterday, I managed to miss this story, but it shouldn't go without comment. Yesterday, Minnesota Democrats (called DFL up here) unveiled an ad attacking Governor Tim Pawlenty over the issue of sex offenders, accusing him of doing nothing to stop their release from prison. They got the ads on the air just in time, too -- considering that the gubernatorial election is only 32 months away:

Accompanied by menacing music, the 30-second spot zeroes in on Pawlenty's face as a narrator says, "These eyes just watched as administrative bungling and the wrong budget priorities let rapists and sexual predators back on our streets."

It goes on to accuse the Republican governor of distracting the public from that issue by "playing death penalty politics" in his proposal to restore capital punishment for particularly heinous murders.

Pawlenty lashed back at several public appearances Tuesday, calling the ad bizarre and hypocritical. "They are using a paid political attack ad to accuse me of playing politics," he said.

Many people see the hand of DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch behind the attack, the only statewide DFL officeholder and one who has pursued every excuse for criminal investigations of Pawlenty that he could. Easily the most political Attorney General in my experience, Hatch recently contributed $41,000 to the DFL. The ads cost the party $50,000:

Republicans noted that Hatch, considered a likely DFL challenger for governor in 2006, had never given as much to the party before his well-publicized battles in 2003 with Pawlenty over the Rodriguez case and several ethics controversies.

"It's fair to ask whether Mike Hatch is funneling money to the DFL Party for the sole purpose of attacking Governor Pawlenty," said Randy Wanke, state GOP spokesman. "This attack goes down the same road that Hatch took last summer [on sex offender release policies and budget cuts], and everybody knows Hatch has designs on the governor's office."

It's hard to decide where to begin in deconstructing this attack and laying out exactly how stupid it really is. First of all, the case that got everyone's blood boiling was the Alfonso Rodriguez release and subsequent kidnaping of Dru Sjodin. As I've extensively blogged, the state failed in its duty to civilly commit Rodriguez, who was a classic case for indefinite confinement. The only problem was that Rodriguez was approved for release under the last administration, and as much as I dislike Jesse Ventura, I don't think Jesse personally performed or approved the evaluation.

Second, the laws that allowed Rodriguez and others to even be eligible for release after multiple third-degree sexual offenses and serious felonies like kidnaping weren't written by Pawlenty; they were written by state legislatures that for decades were controlled by one party, and it wasn't the Republicans. State sentencing laws, as developed by the touchy-feely DFL over that period, are so lax that it's rare for even a first-degree murder conviction to result in a flat life sentence. The emphasis on rehabilitation in sentencing almost always allows convicts an early release option.

Third, if the DFL was so upset about the law, sentencing guidelines, and the allocation of funds, then they should be introducing legislation in the state Senate, where they still have a majority. These ads do nothing except point out that the DFL would much rather score political points off of Pawlenty than do anything useful, including the issue of sexual offenders. They are a testament to a party whose intellectual capacity has declined so badly that instead of putting an effort into crafting solutions, all they can do is advertise in 30-second sound bites.

How bad is it? Don't take my word for it -- because when even ultraliberal Doug Grow thinks the DFL has lost its grip on reality, then you know they're in the deep weeds:

I said it was desperate. There are huge issues in the state. The governor's refusal to budge on taxes. Job losses. School districts wanting. The higher ed system wanting. Transportation wanting. Health care in disarray. A bus strike.

Given all of this, the DFL is trying to politicize the issue of sexual predators? ...

Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said the ad sends a powerful message.

The message?

"The DFL is seriously lacking in strategic intelligence," Jacobs said. "This is Exhibit G." ...

Many more DFL ads like this, and [Republicans] won't have to buy ads at all.

Grow unleashes his satirical bite well on the DFL, who richly deserve it. The DFL couldn't do a better job of making themselves the opposition party statewide if they had planned it that way. The have-nothing, do-nothing DFLers, led by their Machiavellian Pied Piper, Mike Hatch, are all about to be led merrily out of power, singing and dancing the entire way, if this ad is an indication of how they plan to contest the 2004 and 2006 elections.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:49 AM | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

The Balkan Quagmire Arises Again

While MoveOn.org and its political mouthpieces like Howard Dean have been loudly proclaiming the Bush-led liberation of Iraq a quagmire, the real quagmire in the Balkans may be exploding yet again, as it has a number of times over the last ten or twelve years:

Ethnic Albanians rose against the Serb minority across Kosovo yesterday in co-ordinated attacks on them in the worst bloodletting in the province since the 1999 war. A French peacekeeper was one of at least 11 people killed in grenade attacks and gun battles. About 250 were injured as the five-year peace in Kosovo was shattered.

The trouble started in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, where thousands of Albanians armed with heavy automatic weapons and hand grenades clashed with Serbs.

The explosion of ethnic violence apparently was provoked by reports that two ethnic Albanian children had drowned in the Ibar River after being pursued to their deaths by a Serb gang. The river is the dividing line between the town's Serb and Albanian populations.

There's also this from the AP:

Melees broke out in every major city in the province as well as several enclaves where Serbs have eked out a sheltered existence since the war ended. Serb homes, churches and cars were set on fire as ethnic Albanians rampaged in revenge.

Most of the casualties occurred where the violence erupted the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica as the two sides threw rocks and charged at each other and then opened fire with guns.

The breakdown in order illustrated the failure of U.N. and NATO (news - web sites) efforts to snuff out ethnic hatreds and set the U.N.-run province on the path of reconciliation.

Five years after our good friends, the French, convinced us to bomb Serbia to free the Kosovars -- and without UN approval in the face of Russian opposition -- we find out that the civil wars in the Balkans are far from over. This means that the US and NATO will be forced to continue their military presence in the area as little more than standing targets, a trip wire with little mandate to take any action at all except in self-defense. American intervention in this area of ancient hatreds goes back to 1995, when we were supposed to set the table for peace and then withdraw in favor of an all-European force.

So far, we're still there.

The Balkans are still Europe's dirty little secret. While they decried our liberation of Iraq without UNSC approval, the Europeans had no trouble endorsing the remote-control war against Slobodan Milosevic as long as it was conducted in the stupidest way possible. Instead of actually defining Milosevic's Serbia as the problem and taking direct and coordinated military action against his regime, NATO instead deployed troops in defensive positions in civilian areas and dared Milosevic to attack them. Milosevic was smarter and crueler; he bypassed NATO's troops and attacked the civilians instead in order to achieve "ethnic cleansing" and create a Greater Serbia.

The Balkans provide an excellent example of the futility of "peacekeeping" as a short-term strategy in resolving centuries-old conflicts. 20,000 NATO troops still stand guard in Kosovo, and more in Bosnia, to keep the Serbs separated from ethnic Kosovars, Albanians, and Bosnians. While they're all standing around, the underlying causes of the conflicts are being ignored, and it has nothing to do with poverty or a lack of democracy: they hate each other. Forty years of Tito's dictatorship couldn't undo it, and it was utterly predictable that the European notion of stationing troops under orders not to act would do absolutely nothing, either.

Contast this with Iraq and Afghanistan, where the casualties have been orders of magnitude less and where development of democratic institutions give hope that the various parties involved will develop the processes necessary to get along and govern themselves, and this in less than a year for Iraq and just over two for Afghanistan. There's a lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is that quagmires occur from a lack of will to reach solutions. Decisive action is almost always better than half-measures designed to offend the least amount of people, because the latter usually results in the highest amount of dead people.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

Teens Get Too Much Sex and Violence

Two stories from today's Star Tribune give the impression that all of America is slowly turning into Sodom and Gomorrah, or even worse, Los Angeles. The one comfort we oldsters can take is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this week's installments of Teenagers Gone Wild, we have our first story, where school authorities had to end a Sadie Hawkins dance a wee bit early. From Bend, OR:

Administrators at Bend High School sent students home when the dancing became too dirty at a school event. The Sadie Hawkins dance was cut off at 10 p.m. after students persisted in dirty dancing after repeated warnings from administrators. ...

"There's no other way to dance besides being up against the other person,'' said Mat Baker, 17, a senior. "It's just the way people dance these days.'' McDermott said the school had heard complaints from parents and the community. In the week before the dance, the school warned students that "grinding'' would not be permitted.

Dirty dancing? Dudes, that is so 1987! And for a flashback to the fifties, Captain's Quarters takes you right here to New Ulm, MN, where small-town teenagers decided to recreate a time-honored American ritual -- the rumble:

Brown County authorities broke up a planned fight between two high schools that attracted roughly 60 students near Lake Hanska in south-central Minnesota, authorities said Tuesday.

The Friday night fight was to be held between students from Sleepy Eye and New Ulm Cathedral high schools, as well as other young people, the sheriff's department said.

Also involved were the Surfers and the Cruisers, the Sharks and the Jets, and the Democratic Underground and the Young Republicans. The article doesn't mention the motive behind the rumble, but to be honest, a crowd of 60 sounds like a pretty pathetic turnout. Maybe I just went to a larger school, but you could get 60 people to show up for a loud argument; for a fight, anything less than a couple hundred participants and onlookers (well, okay, mostly onlookers) was considered a social embarassment. Come to think of it, the fighting usually turned out to be less than Mike Tyson-quality, too. The toughest fight I ever actually saw in school happened between two girls in high school, and they were best friends, too. Seriously.

All of this leads me to conclude that this generation is in deep trouble ... apparently, they have no imagination or originality. They may be the first generation to bore the previous one.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:21 PM | TrackBack

The First Mate Update

Just got back from visiting the First Mate at the hospital -- a shame she's inside, as today was one of the nicest days we've had in a while -- and she's doing a bit better than before. Her fever is almost completely gone and the infection looks like it's slowly going away. However, the doctors had to remove the dialysis shunt, which means they have to install a new one tomorrow. If that goes well, and her dialysis afterwards works properly, she may go home tomorrow afternoon or evening. She's tired and bored and still not feeling very well, but she's champing at the bit to come home. If you eat the food at the hospital, like I have the past few nights, you'd be anxious to be elsewhere, too.

Thanks to everyone who's sent thoughtful and encouraging notes. I've been sharing them with the First Mate and she sends her appreciation, too.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:17 PM | TrackBack

Caption Contest Winners!

The replay officials have consulted and have determined the winner, after a long game delay! Humorist and author Steve Filippini has picked the winner of this week's contest, who will receive a copy of Steve's new book, Fix It Or Pull It, a memoir of Steve's experiences as an alarm technician in the field.

Captain's Award (Super Bowl) -- Jim S:

"Senator Kerry uses a football to demonstrate for reporters the Vulcan Mind Meld technique he used on several foreign leaders to determine that they supported him over President Bush."

Congratulations, Jim!

You Have The Conn #1 (AFC Champ) -- spd rdr:

"Tick..tick.. tick.. tick.."

You Have The Conn #2 (NFC Champ) -- Pile On:

"Ok, Gephardt, you run toward Iowa street then fade south and stay there, Dean go hard left and then off deep, Kucinich you go short, very short, Edwards, you aren't going anywhere, just stay in the pocket with me and try and make me look good, got it? On three,...break."

You Have The Conn #3 (Wild Card) -- Bradley:

"There's these team owners, and they tell me that I've got to beat Bush. I can't tell you who they are, but let's just say that it is the bottom of the ninth and we have 4 fouls."

Report To Sick Bay (On The Double) -- J_Crater:

"Gee ... now I know what Max Cleland was thinking just before ..."

Congratulations to everyone who contributed, and as always, the comments on this post will remain open for debate on the intelligence and taste of the judges as well as late entries for glory. I hope Jim enjoys Steve's book, and for everyone else, if you want a good laugh, make sure you pick up a copy for yourselves.

This Friday, Linda from Auterrific will be the guest judge, so make sure you visit her and start the apple-polishing as soon as possible!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:08 AM | TrackBack

Clintons Climb Aboard the Bandwagon

For those who still insist that the Kerry campaign is nothing more than a Trojan horse for a Hillary Clinton rescue in July, this news shows that Kerry is consolidating his support, even with the Clintons:

Former President Bill Clinton and a cast of other Democratic heavyweights began an Internet-based drive on Tuesday to raise $10 million for Senator John Kerry in the next 10 days. ...

"We're not going to yield an inch to the Republican attack machine when it comes to defining what this campaign is all about," Mr. Clinton wrote on Tuesday in his e-mail message to supporters. "It's our chance to give John Kerry the kind of immediate, dramatic support he needs to stand toe to toe with the president."

And it's not just Bill:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota and the strategist James Carville are joining Mr. Clinton in the drive.

So far, the e-mail campaign raised $600,000 - not bad for its first six hours.

There has been a lot of speculation about the legitimacy of Kerry's bid, not least because he's dropped more than ten points since he all but locked up the nomination on March 2nd. One of our callers on the radio mentioned it as a possibility last Saturday. Unfortunately for the Democrats, this year they front-loaded the primaries, intending on giving the eventual nominee a running start at the fall campaign. Instead, the abbreviated process rushed them into focusing on one candidate -- and they wound up with an extremist and a poor long-term campaigner as the nominee. No sooner did he mathematically clinch it than he began to shoot from the lip about foreign leaders' endorsements and calling his opponents crooks and liars, inflicting unnecessary and perhaps mortal wounds on his campaign.

However, Kerry does have the delegates now to clinch the nomination. Those delegates are required to vote for Kerry on the first ballot at the convention, and that first ballot will win him the nomination. The only way Kerry wouldn't get nominated would be if he withdrew -- or the rules were changed prior to that first ballot, which would tear the Democrats apart. Rather than riding in on a white horse to save the Democrats, machinations like that on behalf of Hillary would confirm everyone's worst fears about the imperialism of the Clintons and would not only lose them the White House, but could split the party so badly that the election night could be a disaster all the way down the ticket.

No, Kerry is their nominee, and the Clintons will support him publicly with all due effort, especially after Kerry confirmed his support of scorched-earth DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton man at the trough. If they go down in November, it will be with all hands on board.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:39 AM | TrackBack

Watcher's Council List Posted! (And Contest Update)

The weekly Watcher's Council list of outstanding blog entries has been posted -- and once again, Captain's Quarters has been selected as one of the entries, this time for The Invisible Poll. Be sure to read some of the other oustanding entries on the list as well. The Watcher of Weasels, the permanent host of the contest, is also an outstanding blog; be sure to read some of Watcher's own fine posts while you're there.

The judging in the Caption Contest has been going slow -- too many great entries, and just one guy to go through all of them! We'll have an announcement this morning on the winner.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:06 AM | TrackBack

Dean Acknowledges Al-Qaeda/Iraq Connection

... or at least that's what can be taken from Howard Dean's comments during a conference call defending his former adversary in the primaries, John Kerry. Dean made these remarks:

"The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend."

After thinking about the implications of blaming George Bush for a bombing that killed 200 people, the ever-classy Dean later issued a "clarification", a uniquely Democratic mechanism in which a candidate retracts their stupidity while trying to make it sound like genius:

"Let me be clear, there is no justification for terrorism. Today I was simply repeating what those who have claimed responsibility for the bombings in Spain said was the reason they carried out that despicable act."

Dean also offered the excuse that he was merely repeating what was said on al-Qaeda's tape, which sounds an awful lot like the time he simply repeated an "interesting theory" on NPR -- that George Bush was warned by the Saudis about 9/11. Dean's record of statements like these remind us why, for the first time in memory, the candidate with the biggest organization and largest funds failed to win a single primary. (He won Vermont, his home state, after he dropped out.)

But let's get back to his original statement, because Dean and Kerry seem to acknowledge the AQ statement as truth: Spain was bombed because of her participation in overthrowing Saddam. If this is so -- and it certainly seems to be -- it demonstrates a link between AQ and Saddam. Otherwise, bin Laden would be laughing in his Afghani/Pakistani cave at the folly of the Coalition and planning his next moves elsewhere. If focusing on Iraq never disrupted any AQ operations, what cause would they have to attack Spain, other than the reconquest of al-Andalus?

Dean's acknowledgement of the connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq will probably result in a further "clarification" in the near future. In the meantime, Kerry's campaign finally acknowledges that the war on terror is just that -- a war:

"It's clear that what happened in Spain is a painful reminder that the war on terror is far from over," [campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter] said, "and the nation would be better off if this administration took the time to rebuild our alliances rather than engaging in political attacks."

Two thoughts: one, the more that John Kerry keeps reminding people that the war isn't over, the more they'll want to keep Bush in office, since Kerry keeps talking about the same law-enforcement strategies that led to 9/11; and two, working on alliances would be a lot easier if the Kerry campaign would quit signaling to other countries that he would give them a better deal.

As far as "engaging in political attacks," that's pretty rich (pun intended) from the candidate who just called the Bush administration the "most crooked, you know, lying group." What happened to "Bring It ON!!", Senator?

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:49 AM | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

AP Votes For Law-Enforcement Approach

I was skimming the AP news wire when I saw this headline:

"Pakistan Kills Two Dozen Terror Suspects"

Thinking that the Pakistanis had summarily executed captured prisoners, which would give the war effort a black eye internationally, I naturally clicked onto the story. What I discovered demonstrated the bias of the headline writers at the AP, at least:

Paramilitary troops stormed a fortress-like compound with mortars and machine-gun fire Tuesday, killing 24 suspects in a fierce crackdown on al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives in the rugged tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, the army spokesman said.

The operation which left at least eight Pakistani troops dead and 15 wounded was a stunning message delivered just one day after the military president promised to rid the territory of foreign terrorists. There have been several anti-terror operations in the semiautonomous tribal belt in recent months, but none so bloody.

The Pakistani Army had not executed terror "suspects" -- they had engaged in a battle with terrorists, holed up in a defensive redoubt, and lost eight of their own in the assault. The AP doesn't know the difference between an arrest and a war, apparently. The story, at least, emphasizes the military nature of the operation:

About 700 paramilitary forces began the operation early Tuesday in Kaloosha, a village about six miles west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. A Kaloosha resident, Qasim Khan, said paramilitary troops exchanged fire with people inside the mud-brick compound, which had several low-flung buildings in it and was surrounded by a high wall and several lookout towers. The fortress-like design is common in the lawless tribal belt.

It was unclear who was inside, but it was believed to belong to one of seven tribesmen from the Yargul Khel clan accused of harboring al-Qaida and Taliban suspects. The seven have refused to surrender to authorities.

The good news is that Pakistan continues to demonstrate their commitment to eradicating the traces of al-Qaeda along their border with Afghanistan. Each of these perimeter-defense positions ultimately protect Osama's inner circle, and the fall of each one brings us one step closer to bin Laden himself.

Too bad the AP couldn't bring itself to write that in a more accurate headline.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:40 PM | TrackBack

Captain's Caption Contest #3!

Despite what you read about him in the papers, John Kerry is rumored to be quite a sport -- in fact, Captain's Quarters has a picture of Kerry in his element, obviously a master at the game:

Yes, Kerry is a true New England Patriot ... make sure you note that the Captain put that in writing, too. Why don't you put your caption on this photograph in the comments section? The contest is open until Tuesday at 6 pm CT, and enter as often as you like.

This week, we actually have a prize besides the admiration of your friends and the envy of your enemies! My best friend, Steve Filippini, has recently self-published a memoir of his days in the field as an alarm technician (which I informally helped edit), Fix It Or Pull It, which is now in the On My Desk section. (It's also available at Barnes & Noble.) Steve has donated a copy of his book to the winner, and so he gets to pick the winning entry.

Yes, this is a shameless plug, but Steve's book is a riot -- and all true stories, as I can attest, since I was around for most of them. You'l love it, and the winner will especially love the price!

UPDATE 3/13: Bumping this to the top ... great entries so far!

BUMP 3/14: Keep 'em coming!

BUMP 3/15: One more day left!

BUMP 3/16: Only a few hours left to get your entry in!

UPDATE 3/16: Closing comments now. Looks like a close play -- we'll take up to the replay officials for a decision!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:00 PM | TrackBack

The Invisible Poll

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows George Bush suddenly ahead of John Kerry by eight percentage points in a three-way race, although it must be the quietest poll ever announced. In fact, the headline on the NY Times' story this morning sounds a lot bleaker than the final numbers indicate -- "Nation's Direction Prompts Voters' Concern, Poll Finds":

With Mr. Nader in the race, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Kerry by 46 percent to 38 percent, with Mr. Nader drawing 7 percent of the votes. In a sign of the polarized electorate Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are facing, three-quarters of supporters of each candidate asserted they would not change their mind before the election.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,206 adults, including 984 registered voters, was taken from last Wednesday through Sunday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The questioning was completed before the vote in Spain on Sunday that produced in the ouster of one of Mr. Bush's principal allies in the Iraq war, the party of Jos Mara Aznar. The vote followed a terrorist bombing there that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

Even without Nader, Bush leads Kerry, although only by three points. However, you have to get through eight paragraphs before you find out that Bush came out ahead in the poll! So the Times does a poll about the presidential race and determines that its lead for the story is the background demographics? Why am I skeptical that this would have been the lead had those numbers been reversed? CBS's coverage acknowledges Bush's advantage in the first paragraph, but fails to mention the difference Nader makes until you click to the second page.

Kerry's numbers have been dropping since the initial surge following his Super Tuesday victories on March 2nd. According to Real Clear Politics, Kerry has lost ten to twelve points over the past week alone, falling from 50% in a CNN/Gallup poll (which included Nader) to his level today. Kerry's propensity for shooting from the lip surely hasn't helped; his "most crooked" comment and his claim of endorsements from foreign leaders have contributed to an overall impression of dishonesty from the Massachussetts Senator. Not only that, but Nader's numbers have gone up, from 2% to 7% in the same time frame.

Interestingly, adding Edwards to the ticket doesn't put any steam behind Kerry, which surprises me. I expected that Edwards' campaigning skills and ability to connect with voters would do wonders for Kerry's patrician and condescending tone, but even a Kerry/Edwards ticket lags slightly behind Bush/Cheney -- and that's looking at a two-way race. Putting Gephardt on the ticket makes it worse, dropping Kerry six points behind in a two-way race, which is outside the margin of error.

Claims of desperation due to polling may have been a bit premature on the part of Republicans and pundits. It seems to me that the story of these polls is that the more people hear, see, and get to know John Kerry, the more they dislike him and transfer support to Ralph Nader, if not George Bush. The way that the New York Times and CBS packaged this poll also demonstrates their inability to keep their editorial bias out of their news reporting, and one wonders if even this poll actually reflects the true nature of the support Bush enjoys.

UPDATE: Power Line also notes the poll numbers, and comments that Bush's numbers still aren't over 50%. However, Clinton won two terms without getting 50% and it's still early in the process.

UPDATE II: Welcome to all Instapundit readers ... I also fixed a boneheaded mistake where I mentioned the Bush/Kerry ticket; obviously I meant Bush/Cheney. Thanks to Donald for pointing that out (in a much-appreciated humorous manner). For those of you visiting CQ for the first time, take a look around -- I hope you'll blogroll/bookmark me and come back often.

UPDATE III: I had no idea Mickey Kaus had linked back to this ... I should check my referrer stats more often! Welcome to all Kausfiles readers, and a big thanks to Mickey.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:17 AM | TrackBack

Pawlenty Helps Poor, Unions and NGOs Thwart Attempt

Love him or hate him, you have to tip your hat to the political skills and nerve of Minnesota's first-term Governor, Tim Pawlenty. During the first ten days of the bus strike, all of the media coverage has focused on the poor, the homeless, and the handicapped who have been left in the cold -- literally, with pictures -- by the lack of bus service. Yesterday, Pawlenty turned the tables on the unions by offering to use the $200K per day that the Transit District is saving during the strike to fund non-profit groups that offer ride services in assisting these poor unfortunates -- and the unions and Council of Nonprofits have had to take the position of opposing relief for them:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plan to provide rides for poor people stranded by the bus strike turned into a political hot potato that some social service agencies found too hot to handle Monday.

Even before the Metropolitan Council posted information offering up to $100,000 a week in transit grants on its Web site, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits advised its 1,400 member agencies not to participate.

The new program is being roundly criticized by labor leaders representing striking bus drivers as an attempt to "bust the union," and it could pose insurance and contract problems and pull the charities into the middle of the politically charged strike, said Jon Pratt, executive director of the social service umbrella group.

Suddenly, the strike is no longer about leaving old men with canes stranded on snow-covered streets, as the Strib painted it ten days ago. Now it's all about union power -- which finally puts us back to reality. Demonstrating that power, the union's president, Ron Lloyd, ran to uberpolitical state Attorney General Mike Hatch, who has waged war against Pawlenty ever since he was elected, to get Hatch to "look into the legality of diverting money from regular transit operations to the ride program." Hatch's spokesman replied that Hatch is "looking forward" to attempting to paint anything Pawlenty does as illegal -- even though all Pawlenty has done so far is to make a proposal to help the poor and disabled!

To confirm the new political terrain of the strike, the Strib's hack columnist Doug Grow weighs in with a screed against the other unions for failing to provide more support in the form of illegal wildcat strikes that would, presumably, cut off even more services to the poor and disadvantaged:

Once upon a time, unions stood together. In 1995, the Teamsters played an important role in ending a transit strike when they threatened illegal, wildcat strikes if Gov. Arne Carlson went through with his plans for an alternate transit plan.

What did the Teamsters of 2004 have to say about Pawlenty's plan for an alternate transit system?

One Teamsters leader managed to choke out this comment to Star Tribune reporter Laurie Blake in response to the governor's tactic: "We stand ready to help in any way we can to assist the governor and the Amalgamated Transit workers."

Guess that's the 21st-century version of "Solidarity Forever."

I have no real dog in this fight. I can see the need for metro transit service, especially for those who cannot drive, and to avoid the New York-style gridlock that will eventually encompass the downtown areas if taxis replace buses in that area. However, I also don't believe in sacred cows for government services; if public money is being spent, then a review of its necessity and its cost-to-benefit ratio should and must be undertaken on a regular basis. If its costs outweigh its benefits -- and union-inspired wage and benefit inflation certainly factors into that -- it's time to come up with another plan.

So far, Pawlenty has demonstrated the vision and the political skills to see beyond the impasse, and also has managed to outwit the unions at their own public-relations games. It may be time for the unions to realize that they're no longer dealing with Arne Carlson or a doofus ex-wrestler and to start negotiating on a realistic basis on health-care costs instead of posturing as defenders of the poor.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:33 AM | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Editorials

This morning, I read two editorials, one from the local Star-Tribune and the other from the Washington Post, the former demonstrating the Left's lack of coherence, logic, and vision on the war on terror, and the latter which gets it right.

The Strib manages to encapsulate the effort on the Left that I predicted last night -- to use the Madrid bombing as an excuse to retreat from the war and to blame the Bush administration for the bombing by insinuation:

But the Spanish -- along with most other peoples of the world -- never did believe that invading Iraq was a necessary or constructive action. Only 1 in 10 supported their government's decision to join with the United States and Britain in carrying out the invasion. Al-Qaida or someone operating in its name has now driven a large wedge into that seam of dissension. Full of rage, bitterness and grief following the train bombings, Spanish voters unceremoniously drove the ruling Popular Party from power. They blame the bombings on the party's decision to support the invasion of Iraq. ... The invasion of Iraq was an invasion of choice dressed up in the rhetoric of imperative; a year later, there have been no WMD discoveries, nor has evidence surfaced of ties between Iraq and Al-Qaida. What the Iraq war did do was divide the antiterror coalition.

The idea that Spanish opposition to the war in Iraq is what derailed the conservatives is a lie. Days before the bombing, polling showed that the Socialists were heading for a big defeat and the only story was how PM Aznar's handpicked successor would perform after Aznar's retirement. While the Iraq phase of the war was as unpopular as the editorial states -- a rare accurate moment for the Strib -- it had no affect on the election. Iraq had no affect on the election. What decided the election was the bombing. The Spanish got hit, and they folded.

As far as the "proof" of Iraqi ties to terrorism goes, the Strib manages to ignore the terrorist training camps, the Hussein payments to suicide bombers in the West Bank, providing sanctuary to Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, whose death made headlines this week. The Strib also ignores the massive intelligence revealed in the Feith memo last year by the Weekly Standard, a significant portion of which has been substantiated by captured IIS documentation, as well as Saddam's defiance of arms sanctions. It's typical Strib fare; they select that which supports their editorial stance and pretends the rest doesn't exist.

Besides, if al-Qaeda had no interest in Saddam's Iraq, why would al-Qaeda care if we invaded? Doesn't their intent on punishing Spain specifically for their participation in that phase of the war (and what else has Spain done?) demonstrate some level of involvement with the deposed Iraqi's apparatus?

The Washington Post, whose editorial board usually can be counted on to use logic instead of a hysterical, shrieking party line, doesn't disappoint in today's lead editorial:

Before the bombing, the Popular Party was favored to win comfortably; after the devastating attack, and an al Qaeda statement saying its intent was to punish Spain for its role in Iraq, the election was swept by the opposition -- and its leader immediately pledged to withdraw Spanish troops and cool relations with Washington. The rash response by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister-elect, will probably convince the extremists that their attempt to sway Spanish policy with mass murder succeeded brilliantly. ...

But the reaction of Spain, and Europe, to this massive and shocking attack on its soil is crucial -- as is its response to the continuing challenge in Iraq. The two are inextricably linked: Whatever the prewar situation, al Qaeda's tactics now have made explicit the connection between the continuing fight in Iraq and the overall war on terrorism [emph. mine -- Ed]. Mr. Zapatero said his first priority would be to fight terrorism. Yet rather than declare that the terrorists would not achieve their stated aim in slaughtering 200 Spanish civilians, he reiterated his intention to pull out from Iraq in less equivocal terms than before the election.

The Post goes on to warn that a round of surrenders on the part of Europe may wind up guaranteeing that whoever gets elected in November will have no choice but to pursue a truly unilateral fight on terrorism, whether that is Bush or Kerry. Europe, who demonstrated that they had learned nothing from the League of Nations debacle by their unwillingness to act after 12 years of Iraqi instransigence, are now demonstrating that they learned nothing from their capitulations to Hitler in the 1930s.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:48 AM | TrackBack

March 15, 2004

Ripples of Madrid Felt Down Under

The impact of the Madrid bombings are being felt all throughout the Coalition. Now Australia has gotten a case of the jitters, and the Aussie leftists are questioning John Howard's support of the US in the war on terror following an intelligence report stating that Australia is at risk because of their foreign policy:

A senior FBI counter-terrorism expert today confirmed that a terrorist attack on Australia was inevitable, and the nation was clearly more of a target because of its alliance to the US.

The assessment of the FBI's executive assistant director of counter terrorism John Pistole backs comments by Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty that, if Islamic extremists were behind the Madrid bombings, it was likely because of Spain's pro-US position on Iraq.

Howard stirred up a hornet's nest by denying the specific attraction of al-Qaeda to US allies in response to Keelty's initial assertion of terrorist risk. Howard's opposition have leapt onto reports that Howard's staff dressed down Kealty for saying essentially the same thing as Pistole and are going into attack mode:

Meanwhile, Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham said he was disturbed by reports that Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty was harangued by staff from the prime minister's office over his comments on terrorism. ... Mr Latham said the commissioner should be given the respect he deserves.

"If the head of our Australian Federal Police has got something to say about the safety and security of the country, we should listen," Mr Latham told the ABC. "We should all listen, and to have intervention calls haranguing him from the prime minister's office is totally inappropriate."

Unfortunately, as we know well, attack attempts are inevitable, and all of us are targets; all Madrid did was to remind us of the fact, and demonstrate that al-Qaeda can still pull off a relatively sophisticated attack. Ultimately, it will matter little whether a country is allied with the US on Iraq or any other aspect of the War on Terror. If left unchecked, every Western nation will eventually come under attack, because al-Qaeda's contempt for Western civilization is not limited to its expression in America.

Watching the various democracies tear each other to pieces in the media rather than closing ranks and presenting a united front has to be the sweetest victory for al-Qaeda since 9/11, though. It's precisely this reaction that they count on, both because the division makes it easier for them to operate and because it's a waste of time. Arguing that overt opposition to al-Qaeda doesn't move a country up the target list is almost as pointless as arguing that it does; neither position means a damn thing. Fight them or appease them, their aim is to build a worldwide Islamic ummah on our graves, people.

In the meantime, the political fallout will likely continue to be felt throughout the West as people confront the reality of the imminence of attack. The US will likely experience a massive attack attempt sometime this year, probably as close to the election as possible, and the same will be true with our allies and with those opposed as their election dates come near. As those dates approach, you can expect that opposition parties will exploit these feelings of vulnerability as much as possible, trying to convince voters that an aggressive approach to terrorism only creates more danger.

Until this weekend in Spain, I would never have believed that such an approach could work. However, Spain's election tells me that it can be all too successful, and the promotion of the common-sense Australian security report as a scare tactic tell me that the Left has already recognized this as their election strategy. (I suspect that John Kerry will make essentially the same argument this summer and fall, although I think that the unprovoked nature of 9/11 essentially negates the point here in the US.)

The anti-terror alliance may crumble, not from any more attacks, but from a lack of moral fortitude on the part of Western voters who have no stomach for the defense of their very freedom to cast a vote or to debate politics.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:48 PM | TrackBack

Violets Are Blue, Roses Are Red, You Were A Monster and Now You're Dead

US officials announced the death of senior al-Qaeda leader Kahlid Ali Hajj, also known as "The Poet", in a shootout in Saudi Arabia:

A senior al Qaeda leader -- described as the group's "chief of operations in the Arabian Peninsula" -- was killed in a shootout in Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials told CNN on Monday. A U.S. counterterrorism official called the death "very significant, and a major blow to al Qaeda."

The man was identified as Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir, also known as Kahlid Ali Hajj. He was also nicknamed "the poet," officials said. "This was a very significant senior al Qaeda figure in Saudi Arabia," the counterterrorism official said.

So much of this war goes on behind the scenes, it often appears that nothing is happening, leading to charges of complacency or distraction, especially in regard to Iraq. People tend to forget that the fighting continues on many fronts, some of them covert, and we won't hear about those battles until they are won or lost. We won one this time, thanks to the Saudis.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:50 PM | TrackBack

Andy Rooney Gets Letters

CBS's Andy Rooney stirred up quite a response from his critique of Mel Gibson, both as a person and as a filmmaker, without making the effort to see The Passion of the Christ:

The "60 Minutes" curmudgeon said Sunday he got 30,000 pieces of mail and e-mail in response to his February 22 commentary, in which he called "The Passion of the Christ" filmmaker Mel Gibson a "wacko." ... "I think the mail was a good indication of how bitterly divided our country is right now," Rooney said on his Sunday "60 Minutes" commentary. "I hope I'm not contributing to that -- even though I'm right and everyone else is wrong."

Rooney, simply put, is a lousy writer and commentator; talking about how "bitterly divided our country is" is a cliche that rapidly has become one of the tritest and least informative phrases in punditry. Paying any attention to what he says only encourages CBS to keep his knowledge-deficient rantings on the air. Imagine what the outcry would have been had someone shown the temerity to call Steven Spielberg a "wacko" for making Saving Private Ryan without having seen the film, and you get an idea of what biases are at play at CBS.

I originally responded to Rooney's rant in this post, titled "CBS Decries Exploitation? Oh, Please!"

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:53 PM | TrackBack

Goodbye To Love

Yesterday, while the First Mate and I relaxed in her hospital room, we watched a portion of a show on The Carpenters, the teenage sibling duo that turned into an entertainment phenomenon. The show took a look back at the extraordinary career of Richard and Karen Carpenter, two young artists that could easily have been mistaken for the kids next door -- and growing up about a decade behind the two, not far from their Downey, CA home, that connection was easy to make.

The Carpenters first broke onto the music scene in 1969 at the apex of the counterculture and seemed to represent everything that the radicals resented: sweet melodies, understated arrangements, and an almost relentless optimism in the face of widespread cynicism and hatred. While their music was wildly popular almost from the outset of their careers (although Richard Carpenter emphatically states that they were decidedly not an "overnight success"), The Carpenters always struggled with a bubble-gum image, with some considering them sellouts to the Establishment. Their music was sweet and light, ballads with an occasional country-music influence, such as with "Top Of The World". Of their entire catalog, their most enduring song is "Close to You", a timeless classic.

I was and am a big fan of the entire Carpenters catalog. However, my favorite Carpenters song is one that is paradoxically cynical and bitter in a manner that belies its initial arrangement and the sweetness of Karen Carpenter's voice: "Goodbye to Love," written by Richard Carpenter after an inspiration from a Bing Crosby movie. Its lyrics are still jarringly haunting when paired with Karen's voice:

I'll say goodbye to love

No one ever cared if I should live or die

Time and time again

the chance for love has passed me by

and all I know of love

is how to live without it

Most strikingly, Richard Carpenter hired a prominent session guitarist specifically to create a power riff in the middle of the song, using an overdriven amplifier to create a hard-rock sound that was as equally out of character for the duo as the bitter and defeatist lyrics. Even as the first solo fades out -- the song finishes with a second one -- Richard changes key briefly to inject a moment of hope ("There may come a time when I will see that I've been wrong") but slides back to the despair in a minor key again, completing the most contradictory and pessimistic song of The Carpenters' repertoire.

Richard later recounted the letters they received, angry at him for "selling out", but the guitarist (whose name I can't recall now) described this as the precursor to the power ballads that would come later, such as "More Than A Feeling" by Boston. He credits Richard as an innovator, and it's hard to disagree. It's also hard to dispute that The Carpenters were too easily dismissed and deserve a lot more respect than they are given for their contributions. Their image as the All-American Kids of pop music gets in the way of an honest evaluation of their catalog. Unfortunately, it probably also got in the way of Karen Carpenter's life, leading to her tragic death from the complications of anorexia nervosa.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed another songwriting innovator on Friday, Alan Bergman, whose career spans six decades and has written classics such as "Windmills of My Mind" along with his wife Marilyn. Bergman expressed hope that people will return to the standards, as recording artists like Tony Bennett experience a renaissance. Perhaps it won't be too much to ask that people reassess the contribution of Richard and Karen Carpenter as well.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

Mel Gibson Discovers Hollywood's Religion: Money

After the incredible success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, it's not a big surprise that the same Hollywood Establishment that has shunned Gibson and his movie are considering how to cash in on the audience he's discovered:

The movie's box-office success has been chewed over in studio staff meetings and at pricey watering holes all over Hollywood, echoed in interviews with numerous executives in the last week. In marketing departments the film is regarded as pure genius; its director, Mel Gibson, is credited with stoking a controversy that yanked the film from the margins of the culture to center stage, presenting it as a must-see.

There is little doubt at the studios that the movie will affect decision making in the short and the long term. Some predict, as one result, a wave of New Testament-themed movies or more religious films in general.

Actually, I think that the New York Times and marketing executives are overselling Gibson's PR skills. Gibson would have been happy not to have "stoked" those particular fires, especially in their long-term effects on his career and public image. But there's no doubting that Gibson's assessment of the marketplace was dead on: there is a huge market for well-made, faith-based cinema, one that a relentlessly secular Hollywood has been ignoring for many years.

Now, however, the blinders may be off, as longtime Hollywood insider Peter Guber amusingly notes, despite any reservations about the message involved:

Mr. Guber said that reaction to that movie's success was butting up against the feelings of many in Hollywood who dislike its widely criticized portrayal of Jewish responsibility in the death of Jesus.

"There's both discomfort, amazement and anger sometimes all at once," he said. "Greed and envy and anger and jealousy are all interesting bedfellows. They make for interesting conjugal visits in this town."

Recently, Hollywood has been scouring its shelf for anything that could capitalize on the momentum built up by Gibson's blockbuster. ABC released the miniseries Judas, which bombed in the ratings, last week, which just proves that the material has to be good in order to be successful. NBC has ordered a pilot called "Revelations," an X-Files Meets The Omen hybrid, complete with a sleuthing nun and a skeptical scientist who investigate events that may (or may not) be related to the New Testament's most challenging book to interpret. Will NBC do it justice? Doubtful, since the title already refers to the chapter incorrectly (it's Revelation, not the plural), and I suspect that we'll get a whole heapin' helpin' of sexual tension between the nun and the scientist.

TV entertainment is less expensive to produce than major film releases, though, and failure at the box office will be more of a concern on any theatrical film proposed. Some producers will shy away from the potential to offend its target audience if the film is produced poorly. For instance, the Fox Movie Channel recently re-ran The Story of Ruth, a campy rendition of the heroic Old Testament story, where the Hebrews were clean-shaven and the sets were a wonder of 1950s kitsch. Even the performances were synthetic.

And of course, this reflection on The Passion and all things religious will bring out the worst in hypocritical Hollywood, embodied in the article by producer Michael Nozik, who fears the faithful as a component of his audience:

"You can't deny when a movie makes that kind of money that the audience has spoken to the filmmaking community, but it's a frightening comment," said Michael Nozik, a producer of the forthcoming "Motorcycle Diaries," about Che Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary leader. Mr. Nozik is alarmed by the violence in "The Passion," he said, and dismayed by the "pot of anger" that has been stirred by accusations of anti-Semitism.

"I would not think of making a religious movie that speaks to this aspect of the audience," Mr. Nozik said. "I don't know how you speak to that audience as a filmmaker. But as a businessman you have to go, `God, there's something there.' "

Nozik is "alarmed by the violence in The Passion," and he's in the middle of making a film about the life and times of Che Guevara?? He's concerned about stirring the pot of anti-Semitism (and rightly so), but he manages to harbor this concern while celebrating a class-warfare icon, a man who more than anyone else other than Fidel Castro was responsible for enslaving the Cubans to brutal oppression for the past 45 years.

This is why Hollywood will continue to make religious films and television entertainment; they are way too hypocritical to pass up the money they can make in doing so.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:53 AM | TrackBack

Spain Bugs Out

In what can very accurately be termed the first surrender in the war on terror, the new Spanish government has explicitly stated that Spain will withdraw from the anti-terror Coalition and will immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq as soon as it takes office:

Pulling a major ally from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Spain's prime minister-elect will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq in the coming months, a Socialist Party spokesman said. ... "Today, the Spanish people have spoken, and they said they want a government of change," he said in a victory speech.

The surprise victor in national elections vowed that fighting terrorism would be his first priority as he sets about creating an administration "that will work for peace."

As if al-Qaeda is interested in "peace", unless by peace you mean the reconquest of Andalusia. Looks like they're off to a great start.

It's not too far off the mark to recall the action of the Belgians in the spring of 1940, who pulled their army out of the line of defense when they capitulated without warning their British and French allies, dealing a mortal blow to any hope of stopping the Nazi onslaught. I understand that they just took a severe blow, but when a strong nation is attacked on its own soil, especially by a numerically inferior enemy, it doesn't close up shop and sue for peace! Any nation that reacts in that craven manner deserves to remain isolated and left to slowly decay on its own.

The worst part is that the Spanish Socialists have guaranteed -- guaranteed -- that the British, the Poles, the Australians, and the Americans will all be attacked near their next general elections. They have validated everything that the Islamofascists have said about the Western democracies; one good blow and they'll run home. They will use that strategy as a blueprint and the timing will be the same every time. I don't think it will work here, as 9/11 stripped our illusions of "working for peace" with Islamofascists, hopefully forever. A new attack would tend to reinforce what Bush has been saying all along, and make a liar out of John Kerry, who's repeatedly claimed that the terrorist threat is "exaggerated". But it may work elsewhere, and al-Qaeda may well drive wedges between Western allies.

Way to go, Spaniards. On Thursday, I asked readers to pray for your nation. Today, I'll ask them to pray for your souls. When your children are grown and have children of their own, they'll hear about 3/11/04 and ask you, "What did you do to those bad men who killed so many innocent people?" All you will be able to say is, "We ran under our beds and hoped someone else would save us."

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:24 AM | TrackBack

March 14, 2004

New Afghan Offensive Gets Results

The Telegraph reports in tomorrow's edition that the new US offensive on al-Qaeda and Taliban holdouts in Afghanistan has already reaped rewards -- three top Taliban commanders have been taken out of the action as well as a dozen Taliban fighters, the latter in the most permanent way possible:

Three Taliban commanders have been arrested and 12 of the movement's fighters killed as the American military launched an operation in southern Afghanistan aimed at capturing militants, including Osama bin Laden. The leaders were captured in Zabul, a lawless province in the south where remnants of the ousted regime are fighting for control by bribing and intimidating the local population.

Spring is coming to the mountains of Afghanistan -- and so are the US armed forces.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:37 PM | TrackBack

Kerry: None of Our Business

John Kerry found out tonight that town meetings can be fraught with danger, a danger about which his newest bestest buddy Howard Dean should have warned him:

The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.

"I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."

Well, if it was none of our business, why did he bring it up in the first place? Kerry seems to open his mouth without thinking about things first; he's shot himself in the foot about half a dozen times this month already. At least he didn't yell at the guy, but scolding him about MYOB on an issue Kerry himself brought up looks pretty weak. (via Instapundit)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 8:48 PM | TrackBack

Power Line Says It All ...

... in two posts this afternoon. Rather than doing an analysis on my own and elliptically winding up at the same place, I'll just refer you to these two excellent pieces by the Rocket Man

First, my colleague dissects the news from Spain that shows the Socialists making enormous gains in today's elections, possibly winning a majority over the Conservatives, probably as a result of the Madrid bombings. Rocket Man expresses his disappointment in the Spaniard's failure to rise to the occasion, instead allowing al-Qaeda the victory they intended -- and wonders whether Americans may wind up doing the exact same thing:

News reports are conflicting; some exit polls show the Socialists winning, others show Aznar's Popular Party suffering major losses, but clinging to a slight majority. Whatever the result turns out to be, it seems that al Qaeda's goal of influencing the Spanish election in favor of the Socialist Party has been realized.

The election that al Qaeda really wants to influence, of course, is our election in November. Indeed, it is possible that the bombings in Spain may have been a dry run to see how Westerners would react to a major terrorist attack on the eve of an election. The only sensible conclusion that al Qaeda can have drawn from its Spanish experience is that it may well be able to deliver our election to John Kerry with a terrorist attack timed for the weekend before the election. I think it is safe to predict that the Islamofascists will make a major attempt at such an attack.

In the next post, Hindrocket makes a logical conclusion that so far has eluded many of the so-called analysts at work in our national media:

But wait! If al Qaeda had nothing to do with Saddam--couldn't stand him, never met him--then why are they so hot to punish Spain for participating in the coalition to overthrow him? Indeed, it seems noteworthy that the very same people, in many instances, who had sworn that Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda immediatly announced, when the Madrid bombings took place, that al Qaeda had sought revenge for Spain's participation in the Iraq war. How curious.

To which I can only add ... indeed [channeling Glenn Reynolds, of course].

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 4:15 PM | TrackBack

Powell: Don't Poke The Bear, Kerry

Today, on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell fired a warning shot across the bow of John Kerry and his campaign, ridiculing the gossip and mumbling that has become the hallmark of the most classless campaign in modern American history:

[John] Kerry, the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, said at a fund-raiser last week in Florida that he's heard from some world leaders who quietly back his candidacy and hope he defeats President Bush in November. [Colin] Powell expressed skepticism on "Fox News Sunday" when asked about Kerry's assertion.

"I don't know what foreign leaders Senator Kerry is talking about. It's an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names," Powell said. "If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about."

Later in the same interview, Powell also dismissed Kerry's suggestion that Powell and George Bush didn't agree on foreign policy and that Powell had been undercut by "hawks" in the Administration. When Powell appeared on another talk show, ABC's "This Week", Powell told George Stephanopolous that the notion that Bush had lost US allies over Afghanistan and Iraq was nothing but election-year jabbering:

"You know, it is a political year. We are seeing a campaign unfold," Powell said.

Kerry's whispering campaign about the status of Powell in the Bush administration is nothing but a subtle attempt to play a race card. Kerry, in much the same manner as his disastrous mutterings to the AFL-CIO fundraiser attendee where he called Bush "crooked", wants to give the impression that Powell is being exploited for his race and holds no real power in the Administration.

This is not the first time that has been alleged, and it's not only preposterous, it's insulting and racist in its own way. The notion that Powell, a former four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would allow himself to be exploited in such a manner insults the intelligence and moral fiber of the man. He did not rise to his level in life by playing Stepin Fetchit for anyone. He well knows that he could write his own ticket anywhere and at any time; he doesn't need George Bush to do it for him. If he felt that Bush's foreign policy didn't suit him, he'd be out of the State Department faster than John Kerry could kiss up to Jacques Chirac.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told CBS's Face the Nation that Bush had asked both himself and Powell not to become involved in the re-election campaign, preferring that they stay focused on their jobs and not allow politics to affect them any more than necessary. Unfortunately, John Kerry's insults require a response. If Kerry really wants the formidable Powell to go out on the campaign trail for George Bush, all he needs to do is keep talking the way he has. It's just one more way in which Kerry reveals himself to be a man of incompetence at strategy and long-term vision.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 3:48 PM | TrackBack

Hospiblogging Again

Unfortunately, the First Mate is a bit under the weather again -- her dialysis shunt site has gotten infected and she's back in the hospital again. We're hoping she won't have to be admitted, but mostly we're hoping that she's feeling better soon. I'll have an update later on today when I can get back home.

UPDATE: Thanks for the e-mails and the comments on this post. The First Mate's taking a bit of a nap, so I thought I'd sneak downstairs to post an update. The doctors admitted her to the hospital, so she'll be staying at least overnight. (I tried to convince her that this was just like a first-class B&B, but she's tasted the food and knows better.) She definitely has a serious infection around her shunt, but they're giving her antibiotics and the doctors are hopeful she won't have to have it replaced. The pain has gotten much better and she's able to rest a bit now, obviously. I'll post more as necessary.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 1:22 PM | TrackBack

Doug Grow Saves the Day

Just when you think there's nothing to write about the local news media, Doug Grow's column appears ... and the sun shines again. Grow performs the impressive feat of starting a biased and hack-worthy column, fisking himself in the middle, and still failing to grasp the situation by the end.

In this case, we have the situation of three families who made the mistake of leasing land from the state on what is now valuable property, if it was converted to private ownership. In fact, 1800 other leaseholders on Horseshoe Bay were allowed to do just that twenty years ago; they bought their leased parcels from Minnesota. Only six lots were held in reserve, and the families allowed to continue their leases, three of which eventually left. Now the DNR wants that land -- even though they don't have a plan for its use -- and the Legislature is about to extend the three families' leases instead of kicking them off land on which they've lived for decades.

Even though this effort is one of the few bipartisan initiatives in this session, Grow sees the evil hand of corruption in this decision and writes sneeringly of the Legislature and the three families involved:

It's nice to have friends in high places.

Very high places -- such as the Minnesota Legislature.

This generous body is on the verge of passing legislation that would benefit just three families who have cabins on lots, leased from the state, on Lake Superior's Horseshoe Bay. ... This little deal, which could cover the next half-century, is opposed by the Department of Natural Resources, which believes the three small lots on a beautiful bay should be turned back to the public.

The DNR decided on its own not to offer these families an opportunity to buy the land back in the 80s, not because they were a problem, but because they were there. They occupy 350 feet of Horseshoe Bay, while the DNR already controls 3,000 feet of shoreline on Horseshoe Bay anyway. But perhaps the DNR is just a better steward of this land?

The DNR does maintain a concrete boat landing on the bay and it installs a portable dock each summer. There's also a hiking trail, an outhouse and a picnic area on the public land of the bay.

The leaseholders, Burda said, probably do more maintenance -- such things as picking up trash around the boat landing and on a hiking trail -- than the state does. ... Holsten doesn't deny that the three families have been good stewards.

So we have three families who were locked out of a deal that the state gave 1854 other leaseholders, who have been better stewards of their land than the DNR has been of the state's, and who face expulsion in order to give the land to the DNR for some purpose that even the DNR doesn't know yet.

And Doug Grow supports that.

This little deal, which could cover the next half-century, is opposed by the Department of Natural Resources, which believes the three small lots on a beautiful bay should be turned back to the public.

How do three families have so much clout?

"They've got legislative friends willing to do this," said Mark Holsten, the DNR's deputy commissioner.

Indeed they do.

Oh, the poor, powerless DNR! Grow actually wants us to believe that the DNR is the little guy in this scenario, and those three families are part of the big, bad Establishment that's conspiring against them. Hogwash. Despite the plaintive quotes from Holsten that Grow uses liberally throughout his column, the DNR is in fact a powerful agency that dictates (and I mean dictates) the use and nature of all public lands in Minnesota.

Instead of speaking truth to power -- which would be that the DNR has enough public land on Horseshoe Bay to manage without adding more -- Grow would rather kick families off the land so that picnickers could eat there on the weekends instead. Remember this the next time Grow writes about the homeless, too. Maybe Nick Coleman needs more material.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 1:00 PM | TrackBack

UN Acknowledges Oil-For-Food Scandal, Finally

The UN has belatedly acknowledged the rampant corruption and abject failure of its administration of the Iraq oil-for-food program, finally agreeing to investigate more than six weeks after the list of payoffs from Saddam Hussein was published:

The United Nations has bowed to international pressure to investigate allegations of corruption surrounding its oil-for-food programme, under which Iraqi oil was sold on behalf of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The move follows claims that UN officials were caught up in a reward system set up by Saddam, which apparently granted proceeds from the sale of million of barrels of oil to friendly politicians, officials and businessmen around the world.

And why this sudden desire to set things straight? The new Iraqi government seems intent on finding where the money went, and have hired some big guns to hunt it down -- which may wind up embarassing more than the people currently on the lists:

Iraq's new governing council has hired the accountants KPMG and the international law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, to investigate claims that large sums of money - which should have been spent on food and medicine for ordinary Iraqis - were diverted through oil "vouchers" to line pockets abroad.

In a letter to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, an adviser to Iraq's interim governing council warns that the UN appeared to have "failed in its responsibility" to the Iraqi people and to the international community. "It will not come as a surprise if the Oil-for-Food Programme turns out to have been one of the world's most disgraceful scams, and an example of inadequate control, responsibility and transparency, providing an opportune vehicle for Saddam Hussein to operate under the UN aegis to continue his reign of terror and oppression," wrote Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British businessman and former chairman of the management committee at Price Waterhouse accountants, on March 3.

This new investigation may wind up being an attempt by the UN to shanghai the Iraqi/KMPG investigation. The new Iraqi government should resist the UN's involvement, or at least continue to investigate on their own, parallel course. They should remember that these people sold them out to Hussein for a few (million) barrels of oil. And those Americans who believe that the UN is the answer for all international issues should pay particular attention to where all the money went: France and Russia, the two countries who vetoed any attempt to hold Saddam accountable for his refusal to cooperate with 17 UNSC resolutions.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 8:42 AM | TrackBack


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