October 28, 2006
Just A Little Sweeter
Earlier today, I received a package in the mail from the White House. In recognition of the efforts made by the various bloggers to get the Coburn-Obama federal spending database legislation passed, the White House offered to send us official copies of the signed bill once the government had printed them. The offer took me a little by surprise, as I was unaware that could be done. I ordered two copies.
Figuring to frame them, I went to Michael's and shopped for the materials. Actually, I first asked about a custom framing solution, but when the estimate came to around $350, I thought it sounded like the kind of government programs we hoped to stop with this legislation. Instead, I found a way to do it myself and bought a frame and some backing paper.
While we measured the printed bill -- it comes on 10 x 15 sheets, so it's not easy to frame -- I took a look at the actual text on the two sheets. The bill had George Bush's signature (a printed version, of course) as well as the signatures of the leaders of the two chambers of Congress. Denny Hastert provided the signature from the House, but can you guess who signed for the Senate?
Victory tastes sweet indeed.
Northern Alliance Radio On The Air
Mitch and I will be on the air between 1-3 pm CT this afternoon for the Northern Alliance Radio Network on AM 1280 The Patriot. We'll be covering the elections, including Wetterling/Bachmann and the latest from their debates as well as the Michael Steele ad in response to the Michael J Fox efforts on behalf of Benjamin Cardin.
And, in the second hour -- Michael Barone!
CQ readers outside of the Twin Cities can listen to the show on our Internet stream at the station's web site (linked above), and you can join the conversation by calling 651-289-4488.
UPDATE: Fixed bad link -- thanks to CQ reader Stoo.
The South Koreans have noticed unusual activity at a suspected North Korean nuclear site, and speculation has started that Pyongyang may be preparing another test. If so, it may push Beijing to action that they have only recently considered:
South Korean and U.S. officials are monitoring the construction of a new building and other activities at a suspected North Korean nuclear site, trying to determine if the communist country is planning a second test detonation, news reports said Saturday.
South Korea is keeping a close watch on the movement of trucks and soldiers at the Punggye-ri site in the North Korea's remote northeast, Yonhap news agency reported, citing several unidentified military officials. One official, however, said a second test was "not believed to be imminent."
"We are closely monitoring to see if these are preparations for a second nuclear test," another official was quoted as saying.
South Korea has also detected a new building being erected at the site, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, citing unidentified government officials.
Beijing went out on a limb just a few days ago, assuring the UN and the world that Kim Jong-Il had no intentions of conducting another nuclear test. They put what's left of their prestige on the line with that assertion, and a failure will create an untenable tension between themselves and Pyongyang. It would be a demonstration of their impotence in their own back yard, and with the economic battles they face in the region, they cannot afford to lose face twice in the same month.
For the rest of us, the first test was the most significant. It proved two things: North Korea has nukes, and they're badly built. Testing more of them would only mean they have less of them to use elsewhere. Another failure would embarrass them more than Beijing, and it would remove even more of the presumed deterrent. Still, they need to conduct a test at some point in time to demonstrate some success, and they may assume sooner is better than later.
If Kim does touch off another nuke, South Korea will have to get serious about sanctions as well. They took the first step this week, barring travel to some North Korean officials, but they still have their business deals in operation. A second test would bring enormous pressure to cut off any cross-border economic engagement. The US and Japan would insist, in very strong terms, on compliance with the UN resolutions.
The situation is certainly explosive in more ways than one ...
The Anchoress Clarifies
Earlier this week, The Anchoress wrote two provocative and intelligent posts here at CQ (lucky me!), including one that criticized Rush Limbaugh on a particular point for the Michael J. Fox brouhaha. She has clarified her remarks but stands her ground in this new post. Be sure to read it all.
Michael Steele Corrects The Record
Michael Steele has produced a devastating advertisement in response to the ads flooding Maryland on behalf of Benjamin Cardin featuring Michael J. Fox. Fox claims to support Cardin because Steele opposes stem-cell research. However, Steele actually supports stem cell research, while Cardin voted against the kind of legislation Fox wants to pass. Steele found a spokesperson who will make the hypocrisy clear for Maryland voters -- his sister:
I’m Dr. Monica Turner. Congressman Ben Cardin is attacking Michael Steele with deceptive, tasteless ads. He is using the victim of a terrible disease to frighten people all for his own political gain.
Mr. Cardin should be ashamed.
Here’s something you should know about Michael Steele. He does support stem cell research, and he cares deeply for those who suffer from disease. How do I know? I’m Michael Steele’s little sister. I have MS, and I know he cares about me.
Dr. Turner's ad devastates this flimsy campaign by Cardin and Fox to torpedo Republicans. My own position actually comes closer to Cardin's vote than Steele's position, but Steele has been honest about it. Cardin has not, and his use of Fox amounts to rank hypocrisy.
That hasn't stopped otherwise rational people from trying to carry Cardin's water. The normally exemplary Morton Kondracke put his foot in it during Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday, implying that Steele didn't love his sister (via CQ reader Stoo):
MK: Look, Michael J. Fox, you know, Republicans are saying that Michael J. Fox was used. Michael J. Fox is not used. He’s doing this on his own, and voluntarily. And he knows what he’s getting into. And he did say, more clearly in his Maryland ad than he did in Missouri, that he’s talking about the most promising kind of stem cell research. And believe me, I know a lot of scientists. And they all say that embryonic stem cells are far more potentially useful in fighting disease than adult stem cells. You know, if adult stem cells were truly pluripotent, that is could be turned into any kind of organ in the human body, why would anybody even bother with embryonic stem cells? I mean, it’s not…the scientists of the world are not anxious to go destroy embryos. That’s not what they’re about. They’re trying to cure diseases.
HH: Morton, but again, that’s the debate I don’t want…I want to have a political conversation. What do you think of this little sister ad, this accomplished doctor with MS, the surprise element of it, running in Maryland? I think this devastates Cardin.
MK: I think it’s a very effective ad. If Michael Steele were really so interested in having his sister cured, he would be in favor of all kinds of stem cell research.
Kondracke apparently didn't realize that Steele in fact does support this kind of research, as long as it doesn't destroy the embryo. It shows the effectiveness of the disinformation campaign that the Democrats have staged against Steele.
Isn't This What We Want In The Senate?
Rick Santorum is facing the fight of his life to win re-election to the US Senate, against Bob Casey, Jr, his Democratic challenger. He has struggled to get himself back into position to compete against Casey after starting off twenty points behind. Recently, Casey delivered a horrendous performance in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has helped put some wind behind Santorum's sails; Casey gave an incoherent dissertation on terrorism that had jaws dropping across Pennsylvania and the nation. I've put the passage in the extended entry, and the most disturbing part of it is that the Inquirer endorsed Casey anyway.
Instead, Santorum has been focused on national security and terrorism in a way that reveals Casey as the pretender he is. His new stump speech, which borrows its title from Winston Churchill (deliberately, I'm sure), is called "A Gathering Storm", and it lays out the challenge in front of us in stark terms:
How many Americans realize that Iran declared war on us 27 years ago - in 1979 - and has been killing Americans ever since?
Most everybody has heard by now that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth. But that's only the beginning of his mission. He continued with a rhetorical question: "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?" He answered himself: "But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."
He is only the latest in a series of Iranian leaders who have vowed death to us and visited death upon us. Our troops in Iraq are killed by Iranian weapons paid for with Iranian money, smuggled into Iraq by Iranian logistics, and utilized by Iranian-trained terrorists. A couple of years ago you needed a security clearance to know this. Today it is common knowledge. Iran is the centerpiece of the assault against us and the other countries in the civilized world, which is why I fought so hard for passage of the Iran Freedom and Support Act.
I fought for it, and, after years of opposition from the Democrats, some of my own colleagues, the State Department and even the White House, it is now law.
I fought for it because I do not want my children to suffer through devastating attacks on American soil, and to risk their own lives in the battle against those who brazenly tell us they are planning to destroy what they call Anglo-Saxon civilization - and we call freedom.
This is an unpopular war. I have been ridiculed by the media and my opponents for defining the enemy Islamic fascism - they say words don't matter. But words do matter because words are what define the enemy we confront. Words are needed for Americans to comprehend what motivates the deeds that the enemy is planning, so we can effectively defeat them. And defeat them we must.
It's a tough, uncompromising speech, one that clearly states Santorum's position on the war on terror -- he wants to win it before it gets us all killed. Contrast those words with Casey's dodges in the extended entry, where he plays a rather sad version of "Who's On First?", and the choice for Pennsyvanians will be clear.
Interviewer: Let me ask you to shift gears to the anti-terrorism initiatives. Last night in the debate, I think you said that you'd support warrant- less wiretapping. How does that square with your suspicion about this White House? Why would you be willing to let them do that without judicial oversight? And on the Military Commissions Act, would that have been something you would have supported? In general, your outlook on anti terrorism initiatives.
Casey : Yeah, I think going backwards the, with regard to the detainees and interrogation, look, we've had people like John McCain, and you could give other examples as well, but people who have looked at this for a long time who have been very serious about making sure that we are very tough in our interrogation, that we get as much information as possible from those we detain and interrogate and also John McCain, showing the kind of independence that Rick Santorum never seems to show, took on the administration and I think they, based upon their experience, I think they got it right and I think I would have support that. Secondly, on the question of wiretaps, my position all along has been we've got to do everything possible and give every tool that government agencies need, intelligence, law enforcement, give them the tools they need to fight this war on terror. And I think we, in terms of wire tapping, whether its terrorists, known terrorists, or suspected terrorists, we've gotta give this government all the tools it can. And I think what we've seen in the past is the system that has been setup when its operated according to the law, and when the administration goes and puts a wiretap in place and then comes back later and gets a warrant after the fact, the system that has been setup is a pretty solid system, but they often don't comply with it. You can support having a lot of tough wiretapping, but also support the kind of tough oversight of the administration, which I think has been lacking. And I think we can have the two in balance at right.
Interviewer: Well, it might have been misreported this morning, but it certainly seemed to me as if you were endorsing the NSA program which is warrant less wiretapping without court oversight.
Casey : Well, I think, look, my position all along has been you've got to have the ability to wiretap known or suspected terrorists, and I am going to make sure that everything I do in this area is focused on anti terrorism and making sure that we are being as tough as possible to ferret out any kind of plot or and kind of terrorist activity.
Interviewer: Bob, it's real simple, and it seems to me you are dancing around it. Either you believe that the President or his designees need to go to the FISA court and provide some probable cause for the wiretapping, or you don't. They say they don't. They say they can do it on their own say so and there's no oversight of whether the person they're wiretapping is actually credibly a terrorist suspect or not. That's the issue. Do they have to go through the FISA court or not? Nobody's debating that we need to wiretap suspected terrorists.
Casey : You know very well that Senator Specter has worked very hard on this to try to get this right and I think with bi-partisan cooperation, working with people like Senator Specter, as I know I can, that we can get this right. I don't, I don't, I don't see what the...
Interviewer: It's a real simple question. Do they need to go through the FISA Court as the FISA law has said since 1973 or don't they? They say they don't. We say they do. What do you say?
Casey : I think it's worked well.
Interviewer: What has worked well?
Casey : I think it's worked well when you use that system and you use it in the context of making sure that we are doing everything possible to, to...
Interviewer: So, are you saying that the president has been breaking the law since 2002, or whenever the NSA program started?
Casey : I'm saying that people like Senator Specter have a lot of questions about whether or not the law was broken. I don't think anyone has made a determination about that. I think that's pretty clear.
George Allen Interview, Part II
Bumping both posts to to Saturday -- and welcome Instapundit readers.
This is the second part of my interview with Senator George Allen. In yesterday's installment, Senator Allen talked about economic policy, immigration, and taxes. He concludes by discussing his race and the messages that Republicans must communicate in these midterm elections.
CQ: Energy policy and national security have become inseparable since 9/11. You have offered an energy-reform policy to reduce dependence on foreign oil. How would that work, and what how does your opponent differ on energy policy? How soon can we achieve self-sufficiency for energy under both plans?
GA: I absolutely agree that energy independence and protecting our homeland go hand-in-hand. We must declare an end to our strategic dependence on oil from the Middle East and from any other foreign source that has the potential to jeopardize our national security and economic vitality. When I recently spoke on the Senate floor about my energy proposal, I spoke of the need for a new declaration of independence for the United States, and I believe that we can set aside partisan differences to make this reality.
My proposal includes five crucial elements: First, the strategic use our global economic power and international relationships to remove the oil-based leverage that hostile states now enjoy. Second, the accelerated exploration and development of domestic energy supplies – including American oil, American natural gas, American clean coal, and American nuclear power. Third, the accelerated research, development, and deployment of every economically viable alternative and renewable source of energy. Fourth, a bold new national commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship, investing in the next generation of leading-edge, creative scientists, researchers, and engineers of advanced technology. Fifth, an unequivocal declaration of our national security commitment to energy independence.
To be honest, I’m not sure what my opponent’s plan is for energy security. All I have ever heard him say is that we need a windfall profits tax on oil companies. He clearly isn’t a student of history as President Carter tried this with disastrous effects.
CQ: You have had your share of electoral campaigns. In this one, you have had to deal with unproven allegations of decades-old racist comments and the questioning of your ancestry. Do you ever recall a campaign as nasty as this one? What damage do you believe this does to the electoral process?
GA:One of the most unfortunate aspects has been that we have been diverted for talking about the issues Virginians care about. Campaigns are supposed to be about a robust discussion of the issues so that voters can make educated and informed choices. I have said that I brought some of this on myself, but much of this is baseless allegations. It seems that those who are scared about running on issues try to change the subject because they know that if this election is decided on issues, we’ll win.
CQ: Continuing on that point, what responsibility does the media have in covering the personal attacks? What responsibility do the candidates have in controlling the message during the campaign? In your estimation, has your opponent deliberately contributed to the personal attacks, and if so, why?
GA: It is actually ironic – the media says on one hand that the candidates need to be talking about the issues and then on the other hand, they run story after story about baseless allegations and character attacks. While it’s frustrating, throughout it all we’ve been talking about the issues that I know Virginians care about. Virginians know me. They know my positive record of over two decades of service to Virginia. That’s what we are talking about. The media can say what they want, but I am taking my message directly to Virginians. That’s the main reason that I have twice bought 2-minute segments of airtime statewide. So that Virginians can hear directly from me without having to use newspapers or nightly news stories as filters.
CQ: Republicans have heard an avalanche of bad news regarding the GOP's chances in these midterms. What message do you have for Republicans in the final days of this campaign?
GA: The positive message that I am taking around Virginia is aimed at anyone who pays taxes, works for a living, or cares about their families. It’s a message of trusting free people and free enterprise versus big government solutions and plans. Specifically, I am talking about three missions for Virginia. First and foremost, protect our freedoms – that means supporting our troops in the War on Terror, securing our borders, and making America less dependent on foreign sources of energy sources. Second, make America a land of opportunity for all – lower taxes, less litigation, less regulation, more personalized healthcare options, and improved educational opportunities, especially in the areas of science, engineering, and technology. Third, preserve our foundational values – part of this is ensuring that unelected federal judges who are appointed for life do not disregard the will, the desire, and the hope of the American people.
CQ thanks Senator Allen for joining us, and we hope to hear from him again soon. You can support Senator Allen in his re-election campaign at this site.
George Allen Interview, Part I
Bump to Saturday.
I had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with Senator George Allen, currently in a tough fight for re-election in Virginia. Senator Allen answers some extensive questions about the midterm elections, energy policy, the economy, and the media coverage of the Virginia race. The second half of the interview will get posted tomorrow morning.
I appreciate the opportunity to answer questions here on Captain’s Quarters, one of the best of the best in the blogosphere!
CQ: Republican leaders have spoken about the threat of Democratic control of the House in order to ensure a strong turnout from the GOP base. In your estimation, what are the biggest problems that would create for a Republican-controlled Senate and the White House?
GA: I am concerned that a number of the positive policies we’ve been working on will be threatened – tax relief for families and small businesses, measures to keep our homeland safe, and reasonable tort reforms just to name a few. If we don’t make these tax relief provisions permanent, they start expiring in 2008.
CQ: Let's extend the question. If Democrats manage to control both chambers of Congress, how much damage would that do to the war effort and the Bush administration? What specifically could the Democrats do with thin majorities in the House and Senate?
GA: I think that it is more what we won’t be able to do. We won’t pass a comprehensive, reasonable energy plan. Tax relief won’t be made permanent. We won’t be able to confirm judges who are committed to the rule of law and a restrained judiciary. And healthcare options that give families more control and lower health care costs – like expanded Health Savings Accounts and small business health plans – won’t become a reality.
CQ: One of the stronger issues for the Republicans should be the economy and its robust growth over the last three years. Have Republicans done enough to get this message out, and what points do they need to hammer home?
GA: The message really is positive, and I’m talking about it everywhere I go as I travel all around the Commonwealth. In Virginia alone, since the second round of tax cuts were passed in 2003, Virginia has produced 215,925 more jobs – and 6.6 million new jobs nationwide. While there are some parts of Virginia that have been hit hard by international competition, the overall unemployment rate is at 3.2-percent. The average family of four making $40,000 is paying over $2,000 LESS in taxes. That’s money that families can save, spend, or invest. This is why I get especially concerned when I hear Democrats talking about the tax relief measures being “on the chopping block” as Rep. Rangel said. That is bad news for Virginians and all taxpayers.
CQ: The GOP hails the Bush tax cuts as the key to the economic boom over the past three years, but they have not been made permanent. How much risk is there for their repeal after the midterms if the Democrats take over the House and/or the Senate?
GA: This is one of the agenda items about which I am most concerned. The tax relief that the Republican Congress passed have not only benefited families – the average family of four is saving over $2,000 – but it has spurred the economic growth that we see today. Not making the tax cuts permanent would be detrimental to this growth and harmful to taxpayers. Democrats have made it clear that every tax cut should be on the table for possible elimination.
This is extremely frightening and that is why we have made this issue a centerpiece of our campaign. Virginia’s families and small business owners care about this issue because it affects their everyday lives. My opponent has repeatedly said that we need more revenue – that means only one thing – higher taxes. On the contrary, I believe that the federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
CQ: Congress appeared gridlocked on immigration this last session until the Secure Fence Act passed somewhat unexpectedly. What led to the breakthrough, and will Congress stop with the border barrier? What differences are there between yourself and James Webb on immigration policy?
GA: I was very pleased that Congress passed the “Secure Fence Act” right before recess with overwhelming support because Members of Congress realized that this is a priority for Americans coast to coast and that it should not be held hostage to political posturing. I have always said that border security is my top priority – a country that cannot secure its own borders cannot control its own destiny. I voted against the Senate immigration bill because it did not adequately address our border security needs and because it also included amnesty. I firmly believe that rewarding illegal behavior will only encourage more illegal behavior. While I don’t support amnesty, my opponent has said that he believes that there a great many illegal immigrants who should be granted amnesty. This is a big difference between the two of us.
Tomorrow, Senator Allen talks about his new energy policy proposals, and the messages he has for Republicans in the final days of the midterm campaign season.
UPDATE: Part II can be found here.
I owe someone an apology. I'm not going to get into who and why, but he knows who he is, and he knows what it's about. I apologize for breaking a confidence; I should have avoided it.
October 27, 2006
You Only Get A Bigger Fire
I love politcs. I know that convention dictates that we all disparage politics, belittling the people who engage in it and questioning the sanity of those who closely follow it, but my three-year run as a blogger makes demurrals less than believable. Democracies run on politics, and I feel strongly that citizens need to engage the processes in order to achieve a truly representative government.
With all of this comes a wide range of behaviors in political campaigns. Some, such as Mark Kennedy's latest advertisement, demonstrate the honor that many politicians truly have in their efforts to provide leadership. Others, such as Patty Wetterling, remind us that some will sacrifice honesty for winning if necessary.
And then we have the George Allen - James Webb campaign for the Senate seat in Virginia, which I think may have set a record for mudslinging.
This contest started off badly and never really recovered. After the primaries, Allen made the "macaca" mistake and then took too long to apologize for it. Rather than let the incident speak for itself, the Webb campaign decided to start grilling Allen's schoolmates for any bad words Allen might have said. When that didn't stick, they went after his mother's heritage, forcing her to reveal family secrets publicly and humiliating her. It was a disgusting display, and many people on both sides of the political divide recognized the gutter-dwelling nature of Webb's campaign.
And rather than let that speak for itself, the Allen campaign decided to fight fire with fire -- and wound up burning everything. A little over a month ago, the Allen campaign collected a series of quotes from the novels of James Webb, including the one depicting a sexual assault on a young boy, and wanted to have someone release them in order to answer the tactics of the Webb campaign. As the Allen campaign states today, Webb had used his status as a best-selling author as a qualification of sorts for the office, asking voters to read his work. The Democrats have often used novels written by Scooter Libby and other Republicans for criticism. Had a Republican written that one passage, it would have made all three network news shows the same day it was discovered. All of that context matters, but only if one is interested in playing these games.
I was not. I politely declined to publish these excerpts. Others did, and that's their choice.
Was this fair game? Yes. Does it demonstrate the kind of politics in which I want to engage? Not even close.
I'm interested in issues and policy, not mindless vendettas, and that's what this race has become -- one vendetta after another. Both sides have engaged in it, and both sides need to stop and evaluate how they have represented themselves, their parties, and the State of Virginia. I don't think that works of fiction, especially scenes taken out of context, give any enlightenment to the policy position of the candidates. I've written fiction, and plan to do so again in the future. If I depict a brutal murder, does that make me a potential murderer? If I write about a rape, does that make me a potential rapist? I think not, and the notion that this is in any way relevant to the policies of import to Virginians insults the voters both candidates want to convince to support them. It's as relevant as whether Allen's mother may have Jewish heritage or which candidate said the N-word the most during their lifetimes: not at all.
I'm about policies and issues, not about candidate's mothers and the novels they write or read. I attempted to focus on that with Senator Allen yesterday and today, and I believe we succeeded. It can be done with honor and respect, and both candidates have the capability, but someone has to stop the silliness. I still believe in George Allen, and I hope that he shows the mettle to do so. For that matter, I hope Webb does as well.
Unfortunately, the silliness continued later today, as the DSCC took the opportunity to pull out fiction from people not even involved in the race in order to attempt to humiliate Republicans. Sad, sad, sad. Fighting fire with fire doesn't put out fires, gentlemen. To put out a fire, one has to get a big hose and lots of water to clean things up. Neither side seems willing to do so, and it's put a torch to Virginia's hopes for a debate on the issues that matter most to the state.
I still love politics, but I tell you, it has its moments ...
UPDATE II: Let me be clear about this -- I still support George Allen. I know the people at his campaign and they're good people who have allowed themselves to get stuck in a mudslinging war. In my opinion, they have been more sinned against than sinned, and they didn't start the poo-flinging. Going after a person's mother creates an emotional environment where bad decisions get made. I'm hoping that they all take a deep breath and stick to the winning issues that Senator Allen talked about in his interview. That's why I wrote this post, and I hope the Allen campaign understands it.
A Look At Keith Ellison's Legislative Record
We have highlighted MN-05 Congressional candidate Keith Ellison's ties to CAIR and the Nation of Islam during this election cycle, mostly because the Star Tribune has gone AWOL on their duty to inform their readers of Ellison's track record in politics. However, as Swiftee notes, Fifth District voters have plenty of reasons to vote against Ellison on the basis of his record in the Minnesota legislature. If voters want to make it tougher to get deadbeat dads to pay child support, make it easier to file false police reports, and allow drivers to have open containers of alcohol in their vehicles while driving, then Ellison's your man:
1. 2005-2006 Legislative Session he authored a bill that would remove the state's ability to crack down on people who are delinquent in paying child support. ... SEE HF 1288: Driver's license suspension for nonpayment of support repealed.
2. 2005-2006 Legislative Session he authored a bill that would decriminalize making false reports of police brutality. He authored a bill that would make it easier for people to attack the police due to diminished legal consequence. I betting that the Bloods & Crips really appreciated Keith's attention to their issues.
SEE HF 2951 False information relating to police misconduct criminal provision repealed.
3. 2003-2004 Legislative Session he authored a bill that would allow alcoholic drinks to be inside a moving vehicle. ...
SEE HF 2875 Driver's license; specified misdemeanor traffic offenses provided that do not constitute grounds for driver's license revocation or suspension.
Readers will note that these aren't votes taken out of context; these are bills Ellison introduced himself. I wonder why the Star Tribune didn't mention any of this in their coverage of the race in MN-05 (via Mitch Berg)
Signed In Broad Daylight
George Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, as promised, in a public ceremony at the White House yesterday morning. He cast his signature as one step of progress on the journey towards immigration reform:
President Bush signed into law on Thursday a bill providing for construction of 700 miles of added fencing along the Southwestern border, calling the legislation “an important step toward immigration reform.”
The new law is what most House Republicans wanted. But it is not what Senate Republicans or Mr. Bush originally envisioned, and at the signing, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president repeated his call for a far more extensive revamping of immigration law.
A broader measure, approved by the Senate last spring, would have not only enhanced border security but also provided for a guest worker program and the possibility of eventual citizenship for many illegal immigrants already in the country.
But that bill was successfully resisted by House Republicans, who feared a voter backlash against anything that smacked of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Those lawmakers portrayed the Senate bill as embracing just that, no matter what the measure’s backers, including Mr. Bush, said to the contrary.
Eventually the president realized that a broad approach was dead for this election year, and he bowed to political reality and embraced the House concept, at least for the time being. On Sept. 29, just before its members headed home to campaign, the Senate approved construction of 700 miles of fencing, which the House had approved that month.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hailed the innclusion of the SFA into law at his VOLPAC site:
Although I'm leaving the Senate in fulfillment of the pledge I made 12 years ago, I'll be fighting to ensure that every inch of the fence authorized today is funding fully and constructed promptly ... and so should my fellow conservatives throughout America. And I'll be fighting for better interior enforcement of our immigration laws. We simply must provide tamper proof, biometric identification cards that will enable employers to hire only legal workers. And we must authorize strict penalties for those employers who willingly defy our immigration laws.
Securing our borders is not an insurmountable problem. But it is a problem that House and Senate Democrat leadership - who voted against the Secure Fence Act - irresponsibly ignore.
The SFA has had a host of odd expectations assigned to it. People expected it to die in conference committee, and that made sense; the Senate wanted a comprehensive reform package and didn't want to give up the fence as leverage. After the bill languished this summer, Frist saw an opening for its passage in the Senate and seized it. Even after that, conservatives expected a pocket veto -- and when that didn't materialize, a private signing in order for the White House to de-emphasize its passage.
Perhaps immigration hard-liners can feel somewhat vindicated at this point. Twenty years after an amnesty that utterly failed to fix the problem, the border problem finally has received some attention. And while Bush still wants to address the issue of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, at least some progress has been made towards securing the border to solve the most pressing problem first: the illegal entry into the US.
Shalit For 1,000 Players To Be Named Later
The status of Gilad Shalit appears to be a little closer to resolution, according to sources speaking to London-based Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper. According to these sources, Hamas has dropped its demand for the immediate release of 1,000 Palestinians for Shalit under increasing pressure from Egypt:
Reportedly, the Hamas leadership has withdrawn its demand that concurrent with Shalit's release, Palestinian security prisoners would be immediately released by Israel.
Instead, Hamas is said to be willing to free Shalit, and wait two months for Israel to release some 1000 prisoners
Al-Hayat claimed that Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal was expected to hear Israel's response to the proposal when he travels from Damascus to Cairo next week to meet with head of Egyptian intelligence Omar Suleiman.
Israel had agreed in principle earlier to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners in order to get Shalit back. However, Mashaal reneged on the offer, embarrassing Egypt and prompting the Israelis to continue their military operations in Gaza. Egypt had put itself in position to win an important diplomatic victory and demonstrate its influence in the region, but instead looked impotent -- a status that dictators like Hosni Mubarak cannot long abide.
Their pressure appears to have paid dividends, but it remains to be seen whether Mashaal will honor this agreement. Mashaal has not seemed terribly motivated to help bring an end to the fighting in Gaza. Perhaps Palestinians might ask themselves why Mashaal wants Israel in Gaza and for the fighting to continue. Could it be that Mashaal sees opportunity for Hamas in military action and has no qualms about sacrificing Gazans in order to feed his political ambitions?
Israel, on the other hand, should reconsider this deal even with the two-month delay on prisoner releases. Paying ransom for its soldiers, especially in such lopsided terms, guarantees that Israel will have more of its soldiers abducted for more ransom. This pattern has repeated itself many times in Israel, and the Israelis have learned to play along with the terrorists, even when all they get back are the dead bodies of their troops. If Israel wants to see an end to this tactic, then Israel has to stop making it pay dividends.
Rightroots -- A Final Push
We have come down to the final ten days of the midterm campaign, and the fundraising for our Rightroots candidates has had amazing success. As of this morning, we have raised over a quarter-million dollars for the key races that could determine which party controls Congress. That money came in small to moderate donations from readers of CQ and other blogs, ordinary citizens like us who want to put their political contributions where they can have the most effect.
For the final ten days, we want to focus on the ten candidates that we feel have the best opportunity to win their races. We are asking for one final round of contributions for these Republican challengers:
Michele Bachmann (MN-06)
Mike Bouchard (MI-Sen)
Max Burns (GA-12)
John Gard (WI-08)
Thomas Kean (NJ-Sen)
Mike McGavick (WA-Sen)
David McSweeney (IL-08)
Ray Meier (NY-24)
Peter Roskam (IL-06)
Michael Steele (MD-Sen)
As some of the stories below show, we have entered the unchallenged hit-piece season in the election cycle. We need to make sure that these candidates have the funds available to continue getting their message out to the voters. The balance of power in Congress is in your hands. Please help us to help keep Republican leadership in charge of Congress.
Kean More Than Holding His Own
Thomas Kean, Jr has shown surprising strength against an incumbent Democrat in New Jersey, not normally known for its kindness to Republicans. He has tied Robert Menendez in the latest New York Times/CBS poll -- and that seems surprising in itself, considering the track record of CBS polls:
Thomas H. Kean Jr., the Republican challenger for United States Senate in New Jersey, has capitalized on his father’s reputation to offset voters’ qualms about his inexperience. Senator Robert Menendez has been buoyed by discontent with President Bush. The result in this heavily Democratic state is an extremely tight race, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
The poll suggests that Mr. Kean, a state senator, has done surprisingly well in a year when other Republicans are struggling even on friendlier turf not because of Mr. Kean himself, but because of his father, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, one of the state’s most popular politicians.
Mr. Kean’s commercials attacking Mr. Menendez as unethical and corrupt have also worked, with many voters saying that corruption is the first thing that springs to mind when asked about Mr. Menendez.
Mr. Menendez is widely considered the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent, as the Democrats try to win six seats to take control of the Senate, and 56 percent of his supporters said they would vote for him not because of his views or his character, but because of his party.
The poll has Menendez up by a point among likely voters, 40-39. When adding in leaners, the two tie at 43 each, with 11 unsure (the other three percent will vote for other candidates). Thirty-nine percent say they could still change their minds, almost half of all who chose one or the other.
As usual, though, the sample tells an interesting story. The gap between Democrats and Republicans seems rather wide in the sample. On page 15 of the analysis, we find that the sample consisted of 22% Republicans, but 35% each for Democrats and independents. Those numbers don't match up with the figures announced last May for party affiliation for the primary election. Out of 4,837,943 registered voters, 1137312 were Democrats, 878906 were Republicans, and 2820183 were unaffiliated or independent. The percentages in New Jersey are:
Obviously, the NYT/CBS sample doesn't come close to reflecting that breakdown. They've underpolled independents and overpolled both Democrats and Republicans, especially Democrats. They increased Democrats by 48% of their actual standing and Republicans by only 21%, while reducing independents by 40 percent.
Do you think that might have skewed the support more than slightly to Menendez by pumping up the effect of the Democrats polled in this sample? I'd say it's a good possibility. Kean looks like he may actually have a lead, if the sample had been properly taken. Menendez appears to be in bigger trouble than the NYT or CBS wants to admit.
Addendum: I notice that 59% of the respondents to this poll had an annual income of $50,000 or higher, and 73% better than $30,000 (around $15 per hour). What was that about the economy again?
Wetterling Campaign And DCCC 'Highly Deceptive'
Earlier this week, Patty Wetterling's campaign for the MN-06 Congressional seat and the national DCCC began airing an advertisement on local television that branded Michele Bachmann as soft on crime. Michele Bachmann. Michele friggin' Bachmann! I laughed out loud when I first saw it and wondered how anyone in their right mind could possibly think that a strong conservative like Michele would ever oppose jailing repeat sex offenders for life. The only way she might oppose that is if she had the opportunity to vote to shoot them into space.
Even the Star Tribune noticed this disconnect from reality. Eric Black, who really does do good work at the Strib, calls this advertising "highly deceptive":
A highly deceptive ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee takes one vote out of context to distort congressional candidate Michele Bachmann's record on crime.
The 30-second ad, which has been airing for about a week, invites voters to infer that Bachmann opposed longer sentences for repeat sex offenders when Bachmann actually voted for tougher sentences. ...
Earlier in the legislative session, the Republican-controlled House had passed a crime bill that, in many instances, included tougher anti-crime provisions than the version favored by the DFL-controlled Senate. Republican senators generally favored the House version.
As the crime provisions made their way through the Senate, Bachmann voted in favor of an amendment that would have provided for a life sentence for rapists on a first offense and included a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the worst sex offenders.
The amendment failed, on a mostly party-line vote. Bachmann's vote on that amendment, which is not mentioned in the DCCC ad, does more than anything else to make the ad misleading as a discussion of Bachmann's approach to punishing sex offenders.
Later that same day, Bachmann and most Republican senators also voted for an unsuccessful amendment that would have criminalized operating meth labs close to children.
By the time the bill came up for final passage, the DFL majority had attached substantial spending provisions for health care, education and other functions unrelated to crime. Bachmann and all other Senate Republicans voted no. All Senate DFLers voted yes and the bill passed the Senate. The bill did not become law that year.
So let's recap. Bachmann and the Republicans wanted a crime bill that actually addressed ... crime. The DFL, however, wanted a crime bill that they could pork up with a lot of spending that had to do with everything but ... crime. When the spending bill came up for a vote, the Republicans rejected it, and for good reason.
The DCCC and the Wetterling campaign want voters to believe that this represents Bachmann's views on crime and punishment. Instead, it's a great example of how Democrats exploit crime and other legislation as an excuse to throw money at all sorts of welfare programs, while extorting votes by attaching them to legislation important to voters. Bachmann refused to cooperate with their blackmail, and this is their resultant smear campaign.
Wetterling and the DCCC are honest in only one aspect of this issue. It shows how they will operate when they have a majority in Congress. If conservatives still feel inclined to sit out the midterms, this is what that abstention will buy them.
Blogger Roundtable On The Economy
Once again this week, I was pleased to join Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine and its Hit & Run blog and Judd Legum of Think Progress for another Internet chat rountable hosted by the AP's Otis Hart. This time we debated the economy and its import to the upcoming elections. Here's a taste of the conversation:
asap: How do you balance the notion of free trade with the plight of American workers and the state of the environment?
Edward Morrissey: I don't know that I see a "plight" when unemployment is 4.6% and private industry compensation grows faster than the rate of inflation ...
Edward Morrissey: Free markets find more efficient use of resources, which tends to degrade the environment less, although not perfectly, obviously. Post-communist Eastern Europe is a great example of that.
Nick Gillespie: for starters, the state of the american environment has never been better. in every city, air quality is markedly better than it was 30 years ago. same for water, etc. the only thing worse is traffic congestion in many places.
Nick Gillespie: i think it's also clear that overall free trade benefits all workers (who are also consumers). most studies show that firms that outsourced jobs ended up growing their american work forces. they compete better and grow.
Judd Legum: BTW Nick. The reason the environment is better than ever is because of landmark legislation like the Clean Air Act.
Nick Gillespie: that's part of it, true. but it's also technology and wealth. wealthier people buy cleaner environments.
This may have been my favorite of the four chats we have finished so far -- we'll do one more next week, and that will bring us to the election. It's been tremendous fun, and that's because Nick, Judd, and Otis have been great partners in this enterprise. The debate has been civil, informative, and fact-based, qualities that often go missing in this silly season.
Democratic Smear Campaign In Minnesota's SD-51
Voters know that the final two weeks of an election season have arrived when the hit pieces start coming in the mail. My friend Pam Wolf in State Senate District 51 has spent her entire campaign focusing on the issues that matter to Anoka County voters -- like the imposition of taxes on their community to build a football stadium for the Vikings without their consent. Rather than debate actual issues, the Democratic Party (called the DFL in Minnesota) spent their time digging through Pam's divorce records and cobbled together a string of ludicrous charges onto a full-color flyer they have dropped all over SD-51. Pam details the charges in her rebuttal:
You may have seen some literature or a television ad from the DFL saying something to the effect that Pam Wolf doesn't pay her taxes. That's ridiculous.
I think that what the DFL is calling your attention to is this: I never thought I would be divorced, but when it happened, it was one of the most devastating events in the life of myself and my two sons. If you, or someone you know, have been through the process, you know that many of the issues surrounding a divorce can be very contentious and can take a very long time going through the court system. For us, taxes were one of those issues. But things have been resolved, no laws were broken, and no one is sitting in jail.
The real question is, who publicizes the most agonizing incidents in someone's life for their own political gain? Who would stoop so low as to dredge up a family's most painful memories and display them like a trophy? How low will they go?
The facts are:
· I have never refused to pay my taxes.
· I do not owe any taxes.
· There are no liens on my property.
· I have never been to tax court.
· I have never been charged with a tax crime.
· I have never evaded paying taxes.
· My taxes are withheld from my paycheck like everyone else.
· I pay my taxes!
I have spent the last 18 months talking with people about issues.
Our opponents are desperate. They face the serious prospect of losing the hold on an important senate seat. The DFL would not be fighting this hard if they were winning. They are even running TV commercials. Not cookie-cutter fill in the candidate spots but professionally produced TV commercials specifically targeting me.
We need legislators who will stay focused on fiscal responsibility, common sense education policies, and traditional family values.
Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to earning your vote in November.
Pam is an excellent candidate for the Minnesota legislature, and beyond that, she's just an excellent person. These kind of attacks don't just damage Pam, although I don't believe the DFL can lay a finger on her anyway. They degrade the political process here in Minnesota, and they discourage solid citizens like Pam from seeking to serve our state in public office. Pam has worked hard for 18 months to juggle her responsibilities as a teacher and a single mom, just to get torpedoed by this despicable ad.
Why do good people put up with this and continue to run for office? To make sure that the people who put out ads like this don't win. Support Pam Wolf ... it pisses off all the right people.
October 26, 2006
My Two Cents On Rush
The Anchoress filled in for me today, and admirably, in two excellent posts; if you haven't read them, then for goodness' sake, start scrolling immediately. On the latest of these, though, I have to take exception with one point, where I think she has inadvertently erred. She had this comment about Rush Limbaugh's commentary on Michael J. Fox:
Like Betsy Newmark, I basically think - from what I've read - that Limbaugh was very foolish in his initial response to the McCaskill ad by Fox. I'm not excusing his bloviating, but I do think I understand why Limbaugh lost it.
Several CQ readers objected to this characterization of Rush's commentary, and I think rightly so. The Anchoress relied on the media's reporting on his commentary, rather than the transcript. Here is what Rush said about Fox:
I must share this. I have gotten a plethora of e-mails from people saying Michael J. Fox has admitted in interviews that he goes off his medication for Parkinson's disease when he appears before Congress or other groups as a means of illustrating the ravages of the disease. So lest there be any misunderstanding, we talked about a half hour ago of the commercial that's running for Claire McCaskill featuring Michael J. Fox on what appears to be when he's off his meds. I have never seen him this way and I stated when I was commenting to you about it that he was either off his medication or acting. He is an actor after all, and started hearing from people, "Oh, no, I've seen him on TV this way, this is how the disease has affected him when he's not on his medications." Then the e-mails started coming in saying he's admitted not to taking them in certain circumstances so as to illustrate how the disease affects people. All of which I understand, and I'm not even critical of that. Parkinson's disease is hideous.
Let me just stress once again in what I said in closing this out, that I think this is exploitative in a way that's unbecoming either Claire McCaskill or Michael J. Fox, because in this commercial for Claire McCaskill he's using his illness in a way to mislead voters that there's a cure for Parkinson's disease if only Claire McCaskill gets elected, if only Jim Talent is defeated. And of course it's all about stem cell research, which is a huge ballot initiative in Missouri anyway. I'm sorry, Missoura. He pronounced it Missoura. There are two ways to pronounce my home state, Missouri and Missoura. And Missoura, in certain sectors is the preferred pronunciation. It is a way to relate to certain Missourans. We never say Missourans, we say Missourians. But it's a way to reach out, "I understand you, I know your state" and so forth. There's a lot of politics in the commercial. But Mr. Fox was allowing his illness to be used as a tactic to trying to secure the election of a Democrat senator who is going to somehow, her election is going to lead to the cure for Parkinson disease via stem cell research because her opponent, Jim Talent, opposes it, which is not true. He may oppose embryonic stem cell research, does not oppose adult stem cell research or even cord blood, I don't believe, research, umbilical cord research.
In fact, today Fox revealed that he had taken too much medication, not withheld it, and Rush apologized for his speculation. He had said that either Fox stopped taking his medication or acted out the symptoms for the commercial, and corrected the record. However, that did not come from idle speculation -- Fox admitted to doing exactly that for his appearance before Congress in his book, Lucky Man (page 247):
I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.
I don't even disagree with Fox's choice for his 1999 testimony. I think it probably provided a much-needed context for people unfamiliar with Parkinson's in younger sufferers, and Fox always had been an image of youthfulness. In fact, it was a courageous choice, and I'm sure very effective. However, with that in the open, speculation as to whether he has manipulated his symptoms for political purposes is fair game -- because he has done it in the past. If the First Mate testified to Congress to get them to publicly finance all kidney and pancreas transplants and juggled her medication to demonstrate the worst possible symptoms to make a bigger impression, speculation about her true status in other appearances would not be inappropriate in a political setting.
Rush had this to say to Katie Couric in advance of her interview with Fox today, when she asked him for a statement on the controversy:
I believe Democrats have a long history of using victims of various things as POLITICAL spokespeople because they believe they are untouchable, infallible. They are immune from criticism. But when anyone enters the POLITICAL arena of ideas they forfeit the right to be challenged on their participation and message.
I have not met Mr. Fox, do not know him. I have admired his work in film and TV and his appearances on Letterman were howlers. I have nothing personal against him. But I believe his implication that only Democrats want to cure disease(s) is irresponsible (as I believed about John Edwards assuring voters Christopher Reeve would walk if only John Kerry were elected). I think this is ultimately cruel and gives people who suffer these terrible afflictions false hope. ...
He is stumping for Democrats, in the political arena, and is therefore open to analysis and criticism as we all are. His suffering is NOT fair game and I am sorry if people drew that conclusion about my comments, but I believe this happens precisely because NO criticism of victims is ever allowed, at all, which as I say is the Democrat strategy in putting them forward.
Fox wants to get federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hEsc) research. The Anchoress covered the futility of this research thus far, so I won't belabor that point. It's true that further research might find a way to use hEsc for a stable therapeutic use, but it's also true that private funding has not appeared because of the lack of results from hEsc. Other stem-cell types have produced much more concrete results. I believe that Fox is genuine in his concern and truly sees an opportunity for federal funding if the Democrats control Congress, and he is working towards that end. His motives are honorable, even if I strongly disagree with his point of view -- and my wife suffers from diseases that hEsc advocates claim they will cure with this research, so I'm not exactly a disinterested observer, either.
However, if Fox wants to enter politics, then he had better understand that his rhetoric and actions will come under criticism, especially when he has manipulated his symptoms for political purposes in the past. Rush provides pointed commentary, but his comments about Fox did not cross the line or even approach it. Rather than talk about Fox's supposed victimhood at the hands of Rush Limbaugh, we should be talking about the issue of hEsc research and its lack of any productive and practical therapies -- but that wasn't really the point of Fox's ads anyway.
Note: Two points. First, CQ readers know that Rush has been a gracious friend to me in the past, so I do take some of this personally. Second, as I mentioned in the post, the First Mate has a number of illnesses, chiefly renal failure, rejected transplants, and total blindness, all of which hEsc advocates believe can eventually be cured through this research. The FM will be the first to tell you that she would reject any therapy that came from destroyed embryos; she finds the prospect ghastly. Earlier commenters asked whether a conservative would eschew therapy if it would save their life, and you have the answer from at least one.
Michael J. Fox on CBS and the goo of victimhood
Michael J. Fox is going to do a couple of minutes with Katie Couric this evening on the CBS Evening News. In considering what that will be like, I realize that 30-minute broadcast news shows are essentially pointless. In the space of a few minutes, Couric cannot be more penetrating than a prop knife, and between greetings, sympathetic murmurings and a background briefing to get viewers up to speed (and time to thwack the deserving Rush Limbaugh) there will be no time to ask a question that someone really needs to ask Mr. Fox:
If your ads are not meant merely to generally paint Republicans as heartless science-hating bastards content to see you suffer, why did you make an ad similar similar to the McCaskill one for the Maryland race, supporting Cardin...WHO DOES NOT SUPPORT ESCR?
I am sure Couric will not ask that question with the excuse that there is no time. Which begs the this question: aside from making money, what's the freaking point of a nightly news broadcast, if you can't ask a question that gets to the heart of a thing?
Like Betsy Newmark, I basically think - from what I've read - that Limbaugh was very foolish in his initial response to the McCaskill ad by Fox. I'm not excusing his bloviating, but I do think I understand why Limbaugh lost it. He saw, once again, a Democrat gambit that was built on establishing "absolute moral authority" on the suffering of an individual simply because that individual was advocating an agreeable position (ala, for example Cindy Sheehan). Just as, during the heyday of Cindy Sheehan's presidential stalking one never saw news stories profiling grieving mothers of dead soldiers who support the war, you will never see a Parkinson's Sufferer such as the Rev. Billy Graham, being asked his thoughts about Embryonic Stem Cell Research. No one ever asked Pope John Paul II about it, either. They wouldn't give the agreeable answers, you know.
It's very unlikely that the GOP would ever create an ad using - fer instance - Billy Graham, or Muhammed Ali - to rebut the Fox ad, but perhaps it should. Maybe the Rev. Graham should make such an ad and proclaim that he'd rather deal with the cards he has been handed than destroy human embryos - beings of identifiably human species - to get out of his situation. THAT would certainly enliven things, wouldn't it? Don't you think?
The Democrats would be filled with umbrage at the implied message within, that they are craven and selfish and faithless. PLEASE NOTE: I do not call Mr. Fox craven, selfish or faithless for wanting and hoping for a cure - I am merely positing a theory of how such an ad would be perceived.
Such an ad would provoke a response that would be ugly, ugly, ugly, for sure...but it might make the Democrats understand what it feels like to have their positions and beliefs so portrayed. It might, finally, put an end to the "scorched earth" crap that has ruled politics since...well...1992.
And it might finally blow an everlasting hole in the "sympathetic victim" political ploy - one clearly promulgated by the lawyers who have overrun politics. The "sympathetic victim" sways juries, so he will sway voters, too. It's time to stop it. I don't want public policy built on the emotionalism of our own tender sensibilities any more than I want a good but misguided, feisty email opponant to tell me he doesn't want to fight me any more because now that he has seen my childhood victimization he can't dislike me so much; "now you're more human to me," he says.
You know what I say? Screw that! If two years and almost 4,000 posts have not amply displayed my humanity - if I cannot be "fully human" to this guy until I am given some sort of credibility via victimhood, then it seems to me he (and his ilk) needs to consider that he has put entirely too much faith in defining people by convenient labels (Conservative! Liberal! Christianist! Victim!) rather than by the content and exposition of a persons character.
The sufferings or privileges of a person's past should have no bearing on whether or not you will deign to give them an ordinary measure of respect, and victimhood should never confer instant credibility (or unquestioning moral authority) on anyone, and I will not accept the empathetic and well-meaning gesture of my correspondant. I am still the exact same person I was last week, when he considered me more than worth a good tussle, and I will be damned if anyone is going to kid-glove and soft-focus me. Put up yer dukes, pally...you and me ain't done fighting by a long shot, and don't you dare freaking pity me and just roll over, or I'll hammer you senseless.
And that is precisely the issue with Michael J. Fox. He is misinforming a lot of people on a serious scientific issue, and he is hoping to sway their thinking based upon nothing but their sympathies. And he cannot be fought with because to fight with him is to be "mean" and unfeeling. So, we're supposed to just lay down and concede, deciding that "because we feel badly for Fox, everything he says is unassailable and only heartless bastards would dare to ask him straight questions."
If you want to enter an arena of ideas, you can't stuff your glove with "don't you feel bad for me" brass knuckles and then call it a fair match. You cannot sucker-punch your opponant by playing on a ref's sympathies. And I'm a little disappointed in Fox, that he is content to do so. And I'm disappointed in the rest of the people who are content to let him. Sorry, but to my way of thinking, emotionally surrendering to Michael J. Fox's ads simply because he's suffering is to show him - and our whole democratic process - tremendous disrespect.
And hey, I should know, right? You should listen to me, because I've suffered too...so I must know what I'm talking about.
Diagnoising Death through Demographics
As a long-time fan of Mark Steyn I looked forward to reading this interview with him out of Human Events, just as I have long-anticipated his book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.
One of Steyn's consistant themes over the past few years is a warning that Europe was not merely the sick patient of the West - that she was actively transitioning from life unto death, and death will bring no victory, only only backward momentum:
Basically the European nations are dying and the populations in them are turning into relatively hostile Muslim populations, not all of them terrorists, but all of them, almost all of those people not sympathetic to America and American interests. And I feel that the great assumption that we all have, that the present tense is somehow permanent, or that it’s like technological progress. You know, it’s like, cars don’t go backwards. You don’t suddenly have a Cadillac Escalade and you go out into the yard one morning and it’s turned into a Ford Model T and it’s got a rumble seat and all kinds of other stuff in it. You take the view that—we think that social progress is like technological progress, that it can never be reversed, but I think it can be reversed and I think a lot of the world is going to be re-primitivized in the decades ahead and America has to change.
For as long as I have been reading Steyn, he has used demographics to powerfully make his point. He does so in this book as well, and the numbers are sobering. America Alone is a book you will want to read, and I urge you to. The world is going to look very, very different in another generation, and your children will be dealing with it. You need to anticipate it.
As if to whet your appetite, Brussels Journal has today a piece along the same lines, and just as sobering and demonstrative:
The German author Henryk M. Broder recently told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (12 October) that young Europeans who love freedom, better emigrate. Europe as we know it will no longer exist 20 years from now. Whilst sitting on a terrace in Berlin, Broder pointed to the other customers and the passers-by and said melancholically: “We are watching the world of yesterday.”
Europe is turning Muslim. As Broder is sixty years old he is not going to emigrate himself. “I am too old,” he said. However, he urged young people to get out and “move to Australia or New Zealand. That is the only option they have if they want to avoid the plagues that will turn the old continent uninhabitable.”
Many Germans and Dutch, apparently, did not wait for Broder’s advice. The number of emigrants leaving the Netherlands and Germany has already surpassed the number of immigrants moving in. [emphasis mine - anchoress] One does not have to be prophetic to predict, like Henryk Broder, that Europe is becoming Islamic. Just consider the demographics. The number of Muslims in contemporary Europe is estimated to be 50 million. It is expected to double in twenty years. By 2025, one third of all European children will be born to Muslim families. Today Mohammed is already the most popular name for new-born boys in Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other major European cities.
This article also addresses the inability and disinterest of secularist cultures (not, mind you secular governments, but the culture of the secular elite) to fight to keep what they have: In a recent op-ed piece in the Brussels newspaper De Standaard (23 October) the Dutch (gay and self-declared “humanist”) author Oscar Van den Boogaard refers to Broder’s interview. Van den Boogaard says that to him coping with the islamization of Europe is like “a process of mourning.” He is overwhelmed by a “feeling of sadness.” “I am not a warrior,” he says, “but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”
We are in for an interesting few decades. The last few weeks have seen releases of books like Damon Linker's The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, which sound the warning bell that American liberty is in danger from the Christian people - you know, the ones who built the Europe which now lies gasping and moribund under secularism. Linker and his ilk take the extreme view that Christians in America are the equivalent of the Taliban.
But in worrying about what they perceive to be a turn toward religious governance in America (which would not be a particularly good thing, btw, but which I am also quite sure Americans would never ascent to) the fearful secularists are missing an important truth that is going to be meaningful to our own survival: eventually it is going to come down to America and Islamic regimes. If America is going to effectively fight people who have sensibilities which are locked not only into the here-and-now, but into the supernatural side, as well...then we'd damn well better not lose touch with our own supernatural sensibilities, with our own disposition of faith.
The Brussels Journal piece ends thusly: “If faith collapses, civilization goes with it,” says [Tom] Bethell. That is the real cause of the closing of civilization in Europe. Islamization is simply the consequence. The very word Islam means “submission” and the secularists have submitted already. Many Europeans have already become Muslims, though they do not realize it or do not want to admit it.
People, particularly the hardline secularists, do not want to admit it but America is going to be forced to play things out on both a secular and supernatural stage, if she is going to stay alive, and not just alive but comprehensively American. Those, like Rosie O' Donnell, who would lump the Taliban and American Christians into the same boat do not realize that in doing so they are consigning themselves to Europe's fate. And Europe is dying. Europe will not fight.
*Crossposted at The Anchoress Online
Since the Captain is feeling punk today, I offered to throw a few pieces up on the board!
Is It Time For A Moon Shot On Energy?
On May 25th, 1961, President John Kennedy told the nation that America would go to the moon. The Soviet Union had beaten the US to space, launching its Sputnik satellite in 1957 and stunning Americans, who thought of the USSR as a backwards Asian nation. One month before this joint session of Congress, the Soviets beat us again, sending Yuri Gagarin into orbit in April as the first man in space and the first to orbit the earth. Alan Shepard only made it to suborbital space three weeks before this speech, a sterling achievement but a disappointment after Gagarin's mission. Kennedy faced an anxious Congress and made his bold statement:
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
Kennedy recognized the importance to economics, national security, and national morale of the space program. He foresaw that the mission would outlast his presidency, and that the benefits would far outlast the age. The pursuit of the technology that would put a man on the moon would have tremendous impact on technology on Earth -- and in all of these analyses, he proved himself remarkably prescient.
We no longer live in the more-or-less binary world of the Cold War. We have no technological battle against a single enemy. The government has mostly removed itself from large technological challenges, rightly leaving those mostly to the private sector as Amercicans see no specific public interest in its pursuit.
However, we have entered a new age, and we still rely on old technology, in one important aspect: energy. We live in a petroleum-based economy, where half of our oil has to be imported in order to provide the energy that fuels it. Significant portions of those imports come from Southwest Asia and Africa, where political instability continually drives prices up. Our money flows to regimes that fuel anti-Americanism, including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, our #3 and #4 source of oil imports. Our needs have kept us tied to oppressive regimes and inadvertently bolstered radical Islamism and terrorism.
Most Americans would agree that the US has to move away from dependency on foreign oil. In this election, both parties have made it part of their arguments. So far, though, we have seen little in specific policy to accomplish this.
So I ask CQ readers: is it time for a moon-shot on energy, and if so, what would it take?
Here are the parameters I've been contemplating. We have enough reserves in the ground to last a few decades at present levels of use. If we opened these reserves for exploration and drilling for a finite period -- say 15 years -- we could use that time to develop infrastructures of energy production and distribution that could replace our existing channels devoted to petroleum.
Nuclear energy -- We could replace most or all of our electricity generation with nuclear energy. This will eliminate much of our hydrocarbon use and allow for 100% American production. This opens up options for vehicles as well. One of the problems with electrical cars is that increased electrical production to support them would end up using as much oil as before. The distribution channels already exist for delivery; we would just replace the production facilities.
Hydrogen fuel cells -- This technology was actually used in the space program, and still is. The issues for implementation mainly revolve around distribution and safety. If we can make this reasonably safe for the space program, we should be able to make it safe for civilian use as well. This can be used to power vehicles and other independent technology. It is also a clean technology that doesn't pollute. However, its adaptation will take a huge dedication of resources over the short term to replace existing distribution systems for gasoline.
These are two examples of current thinking on alternate and domestically produced sources of energy. The key should be that any proposed energy source has to be clean (or at least close) and sourced domestically in its entirety.
If we want to achieve energy independence, we need to engage in a massive national effort to succeed. We can either drag that effort out over several decades, or we can use our technological advantages to make it happen with the next ten to fifteen years. Kennedy challenged this nation to go to the Moon, and we accomplished what seemed impossible in nine years. How much more important is energy independence for our economy and national security?
South Koreans Start Enforcing Sanctions
The South Koreans have begun to block entry to North Korean officials whose travel has been restricted by the UN sanctions, the first concrete steps of implementation seen by Seoul since the UNSC passed the resolution. They also committed to some efforts to implement the economic sanctions in coming days:
South Korea said Thursday it will ban the entry of North Korean officials who fall under a U.N. travel restriction — Seoul's first concrete move to enforce sanctions imposed after the North's nuclear test.
Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok also said Seoul will control transactions and remittances relating to inter-Korean trade and investment with the North Korean officials, Yonhap news agency reported. ...
Seoul's Thursday decision begin enforcing a part of the sanctions came a day after North Korea warned its neighbor against imposing the punishment and a day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gently prodded South Korea to show a strong commitment to the sanctions.
Seoul has always shown less enthusiasm for confrontation, preferring a much lighter touch with Kim Jong-Il. Their close proximity to the DPRK military and their missiles and rockets put the South Koreans in a very uncomfortable position. They want to see normalization and stability on the peninsula, not another war, and they see Kim as a man who will go to war without hesitation if his power is threatened too much.
They have chosen appeasement instead of confrontation, and it has not gotten them far. In fact, during the last twenty years of economic engagement and massive aid programs, Kim has become more dangerous than ever. People still starve in North Korea and the lights are still off at night despite the aid and economic development South Korea has brought to the North. Kim has made clear that he wants normalization on the peninsula, too -- he just wants to normalize it by taking over the entire peninsula.
This is a first step for Seoul in recognizing that appeasement hasn't worked, and that economic assistance has allowed Kim to prop up his personality cult in Pyongyang. The situation will not improve until Kim sees that his actions will result in his complete isolation, and Seoul has to be part of that effort.
A Muddle On Same-Sex Marriage
The big news yesterday came from the New Jersey Supreme Court, which gave an odd split decision on the subject of gender-neutral marriage. On one hand, the court ruled that gay couples have no expectation of the right to marry -- and on the other hand, they ordered the state legislature to provide them with a way to gain all of the incidentals to marriage. It almost guarantees another round of condemnations for judicial activism, and does little to clarify the issue in any significant way:
New Jersey’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples, but split over whether their unions must be called marriage or could be known by another name, handing that question to the Legislature.
In a decision filled with bold and sweeping pronouncements about equality, the New Jersey Supreme Court gave the Democratic-controlled Legislature 180 days to either expand existing laws or come up with new ones to provide gay couples benefits including tuition assistance, survivors’ benefits under workers’ compensation laws and spousal privilege in criminal trials.
Four justices said that lawmakers, not the court, should decide whether to call those arrangements a marriage, a civil union or something else, while three dissenters said the state Constitution demanded that gay couples, like their heterosexual counterparts, be allowed to wed.
The New Jersey court did not go as far as Massachusetts, which in 2003 became the first state to permit gay marriage. Instead, it could be considered the new Vermont, which created civil unions for gay couples in 2000, in the politically, legally and culturally charged world of same-sex marriage.
It had bold language, but not all that terribly bold, and it really skirts the real issue in favor of the superficialities of the relationships themselves. In fact, the court split not on the essentials of their principles but on their application. They unanimously ruled that New Jersey had to treat gays and straights equally, but only three of the seven said that meant official government recognition of the relationships as marriages. The other four decided that separate but equal applied better to gender-neutral relationships than race relations.
It's a strange decision, one that relies on some boilerplate preamble language to discover new rights for gay couples. They use Article I, paragraph 1 as the crutch to put together this new and unimagined right:
All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.
Nothing in this states in any way that New Jersey citizens have endorsed gay marriage. It doesn't even address the terms of "equal protection", although the court unanimously decided that it's there if you look hard enough. It's hard to understand how natural law can somehow be construed as to force government to officially sanction gender-neutral relationships, against the will of the people of the state.
What I find amazing is that courts cannot simply conclude that two adults should have the right to form contractual relationships, regardless of gender or the degree of sexual relationship. Gays rightly want to have the ability to determine issues such as hospital access, estate planning, tax partnerships, and so on -- the "incidentals of marriage", as the court puts it. The court ordered the legislature to recognize these relationships as either marriages or civil unions, but both are basically contractual relationships, and the government recognizes and enforces these routinely.
True libertarians would argue that government should stop sanctioning marriages altogether and just treat them at the contractual level. It's not necessary to go that far, however. All that needs be done is to formalize all of the government-recognized incidentals as building blocks of normal contracts. That would allow not just same-gender couples in sexual relationships to gain these incidentals, but also elderly siblings looking to avoid tax implications for estate planning, friends who wish to partner on health benefits, and so on. The government could limit people to one such contract at a time and insist on formal partnership dissolutions to mark their end. We could call them "personal partnerships" and add onto existing contract law to regulate them as necessary.
This way, government can still recognize the importance of heterosexual marriages as a particular kind of contract, while treating other contractual relationships with the same care. The other relationships gain the economic security they seek while not disturbing the traditional understanding of marriage. At the very least, this approach has the virtue of basing itself on long-understood laws and principles of legal partnerships, while various courts stretch preamble material into strange new laws never envisioned by their writers.
This issue really is simple. If two adults want to live together, nothing stops them from doing so, no matter the gender composition of the relationship. The government cannot stop adults from doing so, and has no real interest in doing so. What gays want is an active government sanction for the relationship, and that is a legitimate public policy interest for the people of New Jersey -- and the people should make that decision. As long as gay couples can contract as described above, no one faces any kind of discrimination for their relationships.
Like so much surrounding the issue of gay marriage, this decision has provided more hypocrisy than light. The court refused to legislate, but then ordered the legislature to pass a law on its behalf. That's judicial activism no matter whether the court refuses to acknowledge it.
October 25, 2006
Barone On Bush
One of my favorite analysts, Michael Barone, pens a must-read blog about his meeting with George Bush. The President has decided to go full tilt on defending the mission in Iraq, and Barone covers the effort:
First of all, Bush started off with a lengthy monologue, trying to put a historical perspective on where we are now. He clearly sees his primary mission as protecting the American people from the terrorists who want to do everything they can to hurt and destroy us and our civilization. He makes the point that we ought to listen to their words when they threaten to kill us–even though our first instinct is to flinch and turn away from threats that, if taken seriously, are extremely disturbing. Later he returned to this theme. The September 11 attacks made it clear, he said, that we're at war, and we're still at war. These terrorists want to kill us and destroy our civilization, and they will use any excuse that comes to mind–Israel, the Crusades, and if not the Crusades then the cartoons.
"If this country lets down its guard, it will be a fatal mistake."
He then argued that we have severely hurt the terrorists–but that as long as we see victory as the absence of strife, the terrorists can convince us that we're not winning by random killing.
Read all of it, and listen to the audio if you get the chance.
Note: Blogging may be limited tomorrow; I'm a bit under the weather and will skip my normal late-night prep work.
Have Yourself A Murderous Little Quds Day
Iran held its Quds Day celebrations on the last Friday of Ramadan, and last Friday it indulged itself in an orgy of hatred towards Israel and America, demanding the destruction of both. As Steven Stalinsky notes at the New York Sun, the only aspect of Quds Day more astonishing than the day-long hate festival was the utter lack of interest in it by the Western media:
It is disturbing when the entire leadership of one nation, along with hundreds of thousands of its citizens, comes out with celebrations and parades every year that call for the annihilation of another country.
It is more twisted that no world leaders or international bodies, including the United Nations, have denounced the activities surrounding Quds Day, an Iranian holiday introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini that is marked on the last Friday of Ramadan. ...
President Ahmadinejad gave a series of speeches leading up to and on Quds Day. At an Iftar address on October 14, he discussed his "connection with God" and said: "The president of America is like us. That is, he too is inspired ... but [his] inspiration is of the satanic kind. Satan gives inspiration to the president of America."
Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his Quds Day speech under a banner that read, "Israel must be wiped off the face of the world." He described the holiday as "a day for confrontation between the Islamic faith with the global arrogance." ...
A who's who of the Iranian leadership marched in the main Quds Day parade before crowds chanting "death to Israel" and "death to America." The marchers included a former Iranian president, Mohammed Khatemi, and a spokesman for the parliament presidency board, Mohsen Kouhkan, who predicted a quick "final and total defeat of America and the Zionist regime."
Mohammed Khatami often gets sympathetic press in the West as a "reformer" on the inside of the Iranian mullahcracy. The Bush administration reportedly tried to connect with Khatami on his recent visit to the US as a back channel for negotiations with Teheran in an attempt to get them to stop uranium enrichment. It's a mark of the nature of the regime when their reformers march to the rhythm of a chant of annihilation directed at the United States and Israel.
Nor was Khatami alone amongst "reformers" at the hate-in, nor the only former president. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also spoke at Quds Day in 2001, telling rapturous listeners that their jihad would lead to a conflict between forces of "colonialism" and martyrs, apparently leaving no doubt as to the victors in the coming war, and this was just weeks after 9/11. This year, Rafsanjani upheld Quds Day as an important factor for Muslim jihad, and emphasized that all 1.5 billion Muslims supported it.
Do you recall the massive coverage provided to this event, in which present and former heads of state held a national celebration calling for our destruction? Have CQ readers seen any journalists covering the massive rallies, complete with burning effigies of George Bush and Tony Blair and burning flags of the US and Israel? Did any TV network note that the winner of Iran's Quds Day engineering competition, Isfahan University, produced a design for a pilotless plane to replace suicide bombers in the glorious jihad?
I certainly don't recall hearing anything about this, and I'm a person inclined to follow several media outlets on a daily basis. Western media didn't have any interest in providing this information to its consumers, and one has to wonder why. In the middle of midterm elections, does the media want to keep us from considering this particular threat, and if so, why?
CAIR, Islamic Jihad, And Keith Ellison
Gary Gross at Let Freedom Ring follows in Scott Johnson's footsteps to show ties between CAIR and Islamist terrorism, and remind readers of ties between CAIR and Minnesota Congressional candidate Keith Ellison. The Muslim interest group bought significant television advertising here in Minnesota to explain away its ties to Hamas and its front group, the Holy Land Foundation, in order to remove the political poison from their relationship to Keith Ellison. Gary takes a look at the people who front for CAIR, specifically Ahmed Bedier:
Ahmed Bedier has acted as Sami Al-Arian’s spokesman. One Google search on the internet of both their names provides over 200 results…mostly news stories containing quotes from Bedier about Al-Arian and his legal troubles. He was even the motivating force in trying to get Al-Arian’s trial moved out of Tampa!
Al-Arian, one will recall, recently pled guilty to assisting terrorist organizations (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and accepted deportation rather than prison time. Nor is he the only CAIR figure with ties to Al-Arian; Nihad Awad also provided support for the Florida professor-cum-terrorist organizer. One wonders why Ellison continues to associate himself with these same people now that Al-Arian has been convicted of supporting terrorism. Read all of Gary's post.
Running On Honesty
Many pundits analyze the midterms as a referendum on the war in Iraq. They explain the poor polling for Republicans in a growing dissatisfaction with the progress shown on that front, and some Republicans have tried emphasizing other parts of the Republican platform to counter the trend. Not so here in Minnesota, where Mark Kennedy has decided to make sure his potential constituents know exactly where he stands:
As his fellow Republicans try to distance themselves from the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, Senate candidate Mark Kennedy is airing a TV ad in which he squarely states his support — "even though I know it may not be what you want to hear."
The 30-second ad, running statewide for at least a week, is Kennedy's latest attempt to catch up to Democratic front-runner Amy Klobuchar.
Looking into the camera, Kennedy acknowledges that "we've made some mistakes in Iraq" but says that "leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America."
Political observers said Tuesday that they not seen an ad like it. Just a day earlier, the White House acknowledged that President Bush was dropping his familiar "stay the course" phrase in talking about the war.
Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman with close ties to national GOP leadership, said he believed Kennedy's ad was unique.
It comes as no surprise to those who know Kennedy and have talked with him that he strongly supports the effort in Iraq. His honesty and forthrightness also come as no great shock. Kennedy has not won three terms in Congress by pretending to be something he is not. He doesn't lie, and he doesn't duck tough issues.
Is this smart? Probably not. Minnesota may be a battleground state, but the war isn't very popular here. Kennedy gives a good explanation of his position, but it won't convince many here who don't already support the effort in Iraq, and those people already support Kennedy's bid for the Senate. It may motivate more Republicans to turn out, but it won't carry the center, at least not on its own.
The only people who will be surprised by this are people who don't know Minnesotans. I'm a native Californian, and the culture is just a little different here. Minnesotans don't appreciate professional politicking in the way some of us in the blogosphere expect from professional politicians. The state that put power into the hands of Paul Wellstone, Norm Coleman, Jesse Ventura, Hubert Humphrey, and Tim Pawlenty has its own ideas about political values, and tapdancing doesn't usually win out over honesty.
So perhaps Kennedy made a mistake in talking straight about Iraq, and it might cost him a few independents, or even more than a few. I think that Kennedy himself will tell you that if he cannot speak honestly about his beliefs and his policies in order to win, then he'd prefer to lose and keep his honor. It gives Americans a rare opportunity to see character and honor in politics, and Minnesota yet another opportunity to endorse it.
China: North Korea Won't Test Again
China announced last night that Kim Jong-Il has no plans to conduct a second nuclear test, attempting to assuage fears in the global community of further provocations by the unpredictable dictator. The foreign ministry also clarified earlier reports of an apology from Kim, saying that Pyongyang had not apologized but wants to return to the six-party talks:
China gave its first full public account Tuesday of its recent diplomatic mission to North Korea. An official said leader Kim Jong Il did not apologize for the atomic explosion, but he did say there were no plans for a second nuclear test.
North Korea's reclusive leader expressed willingness to return to six-nation talks over his government's nuclear program if financial restrictions levied by the United States are first resolved, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met with Kim last week during a trip to Pyongyang with China's top nuclear envoy and vice foreign minister.
Tang was told during meetings with Kim and other officials that North Korea has no plans to carry out a second nuclear test, Liu said. "But if it faces pressure, North Korea reserves the right to take further actions," he added, citing Tang.
Liu said Kim did not apologize for his regime's nuclear test Oct. 9, as some South Korean media had reported. "These reports are certainly not accurate," he said.
The Chinese have put themselves far out on the limb with this statement. They had not thought Kim would test his nukes without their assent, but he did, and he embarrassed Beijing immensely. If he turns around and conducts another test after this announcement by China, their influence will appear completely illusory and their plans to project strength through the region will seem hopeless. If Kim tests again, then they will have to take action against Kim to save face.
They have certainly hedged their bet this time. Beijing repeated Kim's claim that the only thing keeping them from the multilateral talks are the sanctions imposed by the US on their access to the banking system. The Chinese obviously want an out if Kim proves recalcitrant. The US is not likely to give on this point; after all, the sanctions got imposed because Kim operated a massive counterfeiting operation and used the Macau bank in question as his fence. Beijing knows Washington will not allow Kim to continue this operation, and so have allowed Kim to establish this ridiculous condition on further talks.
Regardless, the statement will still stick to China, and they know it. Kim knows it as well. If he sets off another nuke, regardless of the pretense involved, he will have made the Chinese look like idiots -- and probably for the last time.
The conventional wisdom of these midterms casts George Bush as Kryptonite to Republicans in close races, with candidates practically stumbling over themselves to achieve maximum distance from the President. The New York Times reports that conventional wisdom seems to have misunderestimated Bush again, even in a slanted news piece that offers an analysis that it proves wrong after the jump:
President Bush cannot show up just anywhere in the waning days of this midterm campaign. But there is a certain class of Republicans who are somewhere between eager and willing to have him at their sides.
There are those facing ethical questions or struggling to recover from gaffes. There are those desperate for the cash Mr. Bush can bring in just by showing up for lunch. There are those who need the president to turn out a demoralized base. And there are those who, like Vern Buchanan, the Republican candidate for the House here, are a little bit of all three. ...
“The Democrats have made a lot of predictions.” Mr. Bush told cheering supporters who had gathered in a cavernous warehouse-turned-convention-hall, where tickets to hear him could be had as cheaply as $20. “Matter of fact, I think they may be measuring the drapes. If their electoral predictions are as reliable as their economic predictions, Nov. 7 is going to be a good day for the Republicans.”
The appearance, which Republican officials said raised $375,000, offers a hint of how White House strategists will use Mr. Bush in the final two weeks of the midterm campaign. With his public approval ratings hovering around 37 percent, Democrats making effective use of advertisements attacking the president and Republicans in many races distancing themselves from him, Mr. Bush is far more limited than he was four years ago in where he can appear. ...
White House strategists are sending Mr. Bush to Republican-leaning districts like Sarasota, where he can help energize the base and increase voter turnout. The president will also appear in swing districts where the Republican candidate has calculated that the last-minute infusion of cash he can bring in is worth more than any bad publicity surrounding the visit.
The basic premise of the TImes is that Bush will only go to where his presence can't do any more damage to electoral hopes of floundering Republicans. A president appearance, according to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, amounts to something of the last gasp for desperate candidates. It once again paints Bush as an enormous liability, a theme we saw in 2004 and one proven wrong by the results, where the GOP widened its Senate majority considerably. It also serves as an excuse to provide an omnibus scandal sheet of various accusations against Republicans around the nation, as the desperation theme gets tied to these allegations rather neatly.
Stolberg undermines her own thesis, although readers have to press several paragraphs into the piece to figure that out. First, Bush has raised a lot of money in the areas where he has campaigned; the Sarasota visit raised $375,000 for a Congressional campaign, a rather impressive showing; the average cost of an entire Congressional campaign hovers around $2 million as of 2004. Bush raised 20% of that in one showing. He has also campaigned for George Allen, who now leads James Webb, as well as incumbents likely to win re-election such as Richard Pombo in California -- hardly a place where a Republican albatross would show up.
Once again, Bush seems to have confounded political analysts. In 2002, pundits expressed surprise that Bush would risk his standing as President by campaigning in a midterm election the Republicans were sure to lose. He went full throttle on campaign mode for that election, and voters rewarded him with clear control of the Senate and a wider margin in the House. In 2004, analysts were certain that Bush would lose in the middle of an unpopular war and were proven wrong once again, although in their defense no one expected the Democrats to pick such a poor challenger as John Kerry.
Mike Bouchard will welcome the President to Michigan tomorrow in another race that has grown closer in recent days, with Bouchard only a few points out from unseating the Democratic incumbent. Sheriff Bouchard has no qualms about appearing with George Bush in a state known for its center-left politics. I suspect that he has decided not to take political advice from the New York Times.
Venezuela Surrenders On Security Council Seat
Hugo Chavez has signaled a retreat from Venezuela's efforts to gain a UN Security Council seat. Venezuela has offered to withdraw, as long as its rival Guatemala does the same and allows another country to assume the UNSC seat:
Venezuela says it will withdraw from a bitter contest to win a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council if its rival, Guatemala, does the same. Venezuela's foreign minister also said the US must end its "crude blackmail" of other nations in trying to secure a seat for its favoured candidate.
Neither Guatemala, which Venezuela says is a US proxy, nor Venezuela have polled enough votes yet to gain a seat.
Guatemala has reportedly rejected Bolivia as a compromise candidate. Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had offered to let Bolivia take his country's place in the race. Bolivia, like its ally, Venezuela, has strained relations with the US.
Well, this came a little more quickly than I would have expected. Chavez has some political problems at home, and probably feels that he has better things to do at the moment than to continue his nose-tweaking of the Bush administration. Chavez may also have decided that his speech at the UN caused too much political damage for Venezuela to win the seat, and further efforts only amplify the embarrassment.
Chavez still wants to control that seat, if possible. He wants Latin America to choose Bolivia, whose government closely aligns itself with Chavez' neo-Castroism. So far, Latin America has no desire to allow Chavez to play kingmaker, especially since he seems rather unstable and threatened at home politically.
Which nation can win the two-thirds support necessary to get the UNSC seat? Costa Rica appears to be the next popular choice, but who knows? The US won't go with Chavez' puppet in Bolivia, and Guatemala will probably agree to withdraw to get Venezuela out of the race. Maybe the Costa Ricans can do what Mexico did in 1979 and end the competition quietly.
UPDATE: The New York Times also concludes that Chavez' UN rant cost Venezuela the Security Council seat:
Now it appears that Mr. Chávez’s histrionic performance — styled to win him support from the United States’ many detractors at the United Nations — may have cost his country the seat on the Security Council that he has conducted a global campaign to win.
Developing nations make up a vast majority of the 192 countries in the General Assembly and generally warm to rants against Washington. But they also value the United Nations as a place where their voices can be heard in a dignified setting, and both supporters and detractors here say Mr. Chávez may have miscalculated in turning it into his bully pulpit.
Delegates said they also feared that the performance demonstrated the kind of behavior Venezuela might bring to the orderly confines of the Council chamber.
When a head of state alienates the UN General Assembly for being too anti-American, he has really crossed a line. It's like The Vatican's College of Cardinals rejected a papal candidate for being a little too Catholic.
October 24, 2006
CQ On The Air Tonight
I have the privilege and the pleasure of appearing once again on Rob Breckenridge's The World Tonight on CHQR radio in Calgary. I'll appear at 9:35 pm CT, and we'll be discussing the border fence and the midterm elections. If you don't live in Calgary, you can listen to the show on the Internet stream on the station's website at the above link. Rob has an excellent radio show, and I've thoroughly enjoyed all of my appearances.
Meet The Democratic Leadership, Part III
Jane Harman serves on the House Intelligence Committee as the ranking Democrat on the critical national-security panel. As such, her seniority should get her the chair in the event of a Democratic majority after the midterms. However, personal and political conflicts with fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi will likely get her and her experience passed over in favor of a disgraced former federal judge:
Representative Jane Harman has gained national prominence as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, but even her supporters now concede that she is unlikely to become chairman if her party wins control of the House.
Standing in her way is another California lawmaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ speaker-in-waiting, who would have the power to pick the leader of each committee. The relationship between the two has soured in recent years over political rivalries and policy disputes, and Congressional officials on both sides of the divide say Ms. Pelosi would most likely look elsewhere to fill the Intelligence Committee’s top job. ...
Ms. Harman, a moderate from Southern California, has been one of the party’s most outspoken voices on national security matters since the Sept. 11 attacks. But she has also drawn sharp criticism from more liberal Democrats, including Ms. Pelosi, who have privately said that she has not sufficiently used her position to attack the Bush administration for its prewar intelligence failures on Iraq and for its use of secret programs like the domestic eavesdropping carried out without warrants by the National Security Agency.
Two candidates whom Ms. Pelosi is said to be considering for Intelligence Committee chairman are Representatives Alcee L. Hastings of Florida and Silvestre Reyes of Texas, both of whom currently serve on the panel.
The selection of Mr. Hastings, who is black, would help Ms. Pelosi shore up support from the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. But he has a checkered past, having been impeached and removed from a federal judgeship in 1989 on a bribery charge. Some Democrats fear that installing him in so sensitive a position would only invite Republican charges of weak Democratic leadership on national security matters.
The New York Times has this wrong. Just considering Alcee Hastings, who got impeached by a Democratic Congress for bribery and malfeasance, to lead a key national-security committee will confirm Republican charges that Democrats don't take national security seriously. It also highlights the hypocrisy of their "culture of corruption" theme from earlier this year. They still talk about cleaning corruption out of Congress -- and they propose to elevate a judge impeached for bribery to be part of the leadership that will accomplish that.
This shows that the Democrats put petty politics above national security. The only reason Harman has gotten the ouster is because she didn't participate enthusiastically enough in Bush Derangement Syndrome. Never mind that she focused on her national-security assignment ahead of partisan sniping, and never mind that she still criticized the Bush administration on a number of issues. She didn't get strident enough for Nancy Pelosi -- and so she needs to go.
I don't carry any portfolio for Jane Harman, and would love to have California replace her with a Republican. However, she has built a reputation for nonpartisan efforts on national security and extensive experience in the field. Pelosi wants to dump all of that just to ingratiate herself with the Congressional Black Caucus after her timid request to William Jefferson to step down from his committee assignments after the feds found $90,000 in his freezer in a corruption scandal. To apologize for challenging corruption, she'll replace Harman with a corrupt former judge. And who's talking about a "culture of corruption"?
Meet The Proposed House Leadership, Part II
The New York Sun reviews the possible ascension of John Conyers to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and its potential for impeachment mischief. Despite demurrals from Nancy Pelosi, Conyers has continued to sharpen his pencils in preparation for an opportunity to bring charges against George Bush, and a Democratic majority would provide that opening:
John Conyers, a Democrat of Michigan, is now in line to become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to begin hearings and an investigation into whether the planning and selling of the Iraq war was a constitutional crime. Last week, the Washington Post first reported that if Ms. Pelosi, a Democrat of California, becomes House majority leader, she will keep the seniority system intact for selecting committee chairmen in Congress. An aide to Ms. Pelosi confirmed the report yesterday.
Mr. Conyers's office has released two reports in the last year outlining Mr. Bush's various constitutional transgressions in the war on terror. The first report, released in 2005, focused mostly on his handling of pre-war Iraq intelligence. The second, released this year, was dedicated to the Bush administration's violations of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act in authorizing the National Security Agency to listen in to some domestic phone calls without a court warrant.
Ten months ago, Mr. Conyers introduced legislation to form a "select committee to investigate the administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."
Members of Mr. Conyers's staff refused a request to answer questions on the record yesterday. A senior aide to Mr. Conyers was careful to say that his boss "has no plans to begin impeachment proceedings." But the aide added, "If evidence for impeachment is uncovered, it should be brought before the committee."
To say that the Democrats are sensitive to this issue would be an understatement. Conyers himself wrote a Washington Post editorial claiming that he didn't seek impeachment, and wouldn't explicitly aim for one if given the gavel of Judiciary. However, as the Sun notes, the Democrats still have not withdrawn Conyers' resolution to start a bipartisan panel to determine whether they can find grounds for impeachment, which would then be forwarded to Conyers' committee rather than the House Oversight Committee.
That sounds rather ambitious, and it sounds familiar. In the summer of 2005, Conyers held hearings in an unused Judiciary conference room with some of his fellow Democrats to hear testimony for Bush's impeachment. He attracted a number of supporters and some media coverage, although Dana Milbank apparently couldn't stop laughing at Conyers' lame attempt at dress-up:
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.
They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.
The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.
The laughter stopped when the hearing brought out the anti-Semitic loons, including Ray McGovern, who claimed that the entire war was intended to give Israel control of Southwest Asia.
Now Pelosi, Conyers, and the rest of the Democratic leadership want people to believe that Conyers has no interest in impeachment. Don't believe it for a minute. If Conyers can delude himself into staging that display sixteen months ago, imagine what he could do with subpoena power.
GOP Not Sharing The Wealth?
In a season where the balance of power remains at serious risk in the Senate, the Washington Times reports that some Republican Senators do not appear anxious to help protect their majority. Senators with large campaign warchests and who do not face the voters this year have made only nominal transfers to the NRSC, allowing the Democrats to gain a large advantage in the final days of the midterms:
Senate Republicans with enormous campaign war chests are refusing to transfer significant amounts of money to help fellow Republicans who are cash-strapped and face defeat in the final weeks of the campaign.
The stinginess alarms some of the Republican Party's top campaign strategists, especially because it is in such stark contrast to the millions of dollars that Democrats have transferred to their candidates in need.
Control of the Senate will come down to a half-dozen close races next month, and both sides agree that money will likely determine the outcome of each. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has nearly twice as much money on hand as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for that final sprint to Election Day.
According to the latest figures available, the DSCC has $23 million and the NRSC has $12 million. Much of that difference stems from the disparity in late giving from sitting senators.
It's difficult to understand the reluctance. If the Democrats win control of the chamber, these Republicans will lose committtee chairs and see themselves marginalized. It seems to be in their personal interest to do whatever is necessary to get resources to Republican candidates to help them win, let alone in their policy interests.
However, some Republican Senators do not agree. Richard Shelby has over $11 million in his coffers for his re-election bid in 2010, but Shelby has only transferred $15,000. He can't be worried about a challenge to his seat four years from now -- he won his last election with 68% of the vote, and Alabama hardly seems to be turning purple. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has $9.5 million and leads all her proposed challengers by 20 points, but all she's transferred is $115,000. Her spokesman, however, says she's donated more than $1.5 million through her PAC.
In contrast, Democratic Senators have shown more support for their party. Hillary Clinton has transferred more than $2 million from her own re-election campain this year to the DSCC. Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and John Kerry -- who got pilloried for hanging onto $15 million from his presidential campaign in 2004 -- have all sent more than a million dollars to the committee. Apparently, these Senators understand the stakes a little better than their counterparts across the aisle, and they have put their party in position to conduct a last-minute ad blitz to lift their candidates in tight races.
Time is running out. If the Republicans in the Senate want to hang onto their majority, they need to start investing in their candidates.
It's The Economy, Stupid MSM
Investor's Business Daily took the mainstream media to task over its coverage of the economy in its editorial yesterday, making the case that media outlets have a political bias against Republicans. Despite an economic boom that has created 6.6 million jobs, increased federal tax revenues, and tamed inflation while generating strong growth, the media has relentlessly focused its coverage on negative, anecdotal stories (via Newsbeat1):
You are v-e-r-y tired. . . . You will believe everything I say. . . . Just keep your eye on President Bush's sinking polls. . . . Pay no attention to that low jobless rate . . . or the shrinking budget deficit . . . or the record Dow.
That, it seems, is the spell that's again been cast over a strangely receptive public as the Nov. 7 election nears. Despite an economic boom that's nothing short of amazing, especially given the obstacles it's had to overcome, many Americans still think we're on the verge of recession. Or at least that's what some polls say.
Why the disconnect? We keep scratching our heads. Beyond the grumbling over gas prices and some concern about what lies ahead in the war on terror, the only thing we can come up with is the unremittingly negative coverage the economy gets in the mainstream media.
You'd think that after a while people would put two and two together — that if things are pretty good for them and most people they know, the economy itself must be pretty good, despite what they read in the papers or hear on TV.
How do we know there's a disconnect? Because we see it in our own polling. When we ask Americans about their own financial situations, they're upbeat. When we ask what they think of the economy in general, the response is much less bullish.
And why is that? IBD says it reflects the media coverage of the economy, a trend they see going all the way back to the 1992 election. In that contest, in which James Carville coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid," the media failed to report that the recession of 1990-1 -- touched off in part by a tax increase -- had ended and that the economy had begun to expand. IBD notes that 90% of the economic coverage in October 1992 were negative, but that decreased to 14% in November ... after the election had concluded, and Bill Clinton won.
In 2000, however, the media completely missed the economic slowdown that eventually turned into a recession in the first quarter of 2001. George Bush pointed it out in his campaign, but it received scant media coverage. In 2004, however, the opposite happened: the media mostly missed the 2003 recovery, fueled by the Bush tax cuts. Remember the "jobless recovery"? Recall how the media echoed the John Kerry campaign that the recovery was an illusion that would burst shortly after the 2004 election? Two years later, it's created over 6 million jobs and generated enough revenue, even with the tax cuts, to cut the projected deficit in half. (Imagine where it would be if we could quit spending money.)
Have the media learned anything? Apparently not. Despite 36 straight months of expansion, an unemployment rate of 4.6%, and inflation at an annual projected rate of 2.4%, the media still can't bring themselves to report on a Republican economy honestly. Business & Media Institute found that TV networks gave twice as much airtime to negative stories as positive ones (62% - 31%). Bad news was twice as likely to get full-length treatment as well. The people interviewed by the network were three times more likely to relate negative anecdotes. To no one's surprise, CBS took the lead in negative coverage, committing 80% of its economic coverage to bad news in the middle of a huge economic expansion.
No industry can be that incompetent by accident. There has been a deliberate attempt to deceive people through anecdotal coverage in a period where all of the economic indicators have shown remarkable and broad growth. IBD warns its readers that the TV networks, at the least, have conducted a propaganda operation, one with a years-old pedigree, and that investors should disregard the economic "journalism" of their news divisions. Voters would be well advised to heed that warning as well.
Famine Returns To North Korea
In a real sense, Kim Jong-Il may have nuked his food supply heading into winter on the Korean peninsula. The sanctions that Pyongyang provoked have cut deeply into the crucial aid that would have kept his subjects from starvation:
North Korean food shortages have grown worse after its recent nuclear test led donors to withdraw aid, the UN says.
The UN official monitoring human rights in North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn, said the food shortage was critical.
North Korea is already short of food and this year floods have damaged the harvest, making matters even worse.
President Kim Jong-Il's nuclear test has led to international condemnation of the secretive regime and sanctions against its nuclear programme.
Put simply, Western nations don't plan on bailing Kim out of another famine, especially when everyone knows that any food aid will first go to the military. Had Kim not tested his nukes and his Taepodong-2 missiles this year, aid would have flowed to Kim's regime as an incentive to continue his negotiations. In this case, it demonstrates that the best weapons sometimes are the ones that sit on the shelf; his tests have removed their deterrence value, and the West now has to react to the new reality.
Kim may face more problems than food supply. The Chinese have made their anger towards their client very plain, which caused Kim to backtrack somewhat on an announced second nuclear test. The Chinese may still provide some food aid just to keep Korean refugees from flooding into China, but without Japan and the US providing assistance, the situation in North Korea could quickly destabilize. Kim survived three coup attempts in the 90s during the last famine, but that was when he could count on Chinese support, and that has changed significantly.
Keep an eye on Pyongyang. The DPRK Army tried twice to remove Kim, and if they get hungry enough, they may try it again.
Allen On Porkbusting, Webb Absent
If anyone thinks that Washington hasn't at least heard the outcry over pork-barrel spending, George Allen's post at Redstate will provide enough evidence for even the most hardened cynic. Running for re-election in a tight campaign, Allen understands that the key to victory is to convince fiscal conservatives that he has joined the reform effort, and he outlines his case:
Porkbusters represents citizens demanding accountability from their government. That is grassroots activism at its very best, and I share their goal.
Congress doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. Toward that end, I have supported a “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,” including:
* The Line Item Veto: Senator Talent and I have taken the lead on legislation proposing a Constitutional amendment to give the President the authority that 43 State governors presently possess, and which I had as Governor of Virginia – the line-item veto – which would hold the President and Congress accountable for non-essential wasteful government spending.
* The Balanced Budget Amendment: I have also introduced a constitutional balanced budget amendment which ensures both fiscal responsibility and helps to restrain the federal government to its constitutionally limited mandates, leaving more powers and freedoms to the States and to the people.
* The Paycheck Penalty: This legislation that I introduced would withhold the salaries of members of Congress if they do not pass appropriations bills on time. This helps to avoid omnibus spending packages that become great vehicles for wasteful spending
* Supermajority Vote: I support requiring a supermajority vote to increase spending beyond the rate of inflation.
Allen sponsored the Coburn-Obama bill creating a searchable Internet database for the federal budget, and hes' sponsoring another bill (Stop Over Spending Act of 2006) which will enact the items on his list above. The effort intends to show Virginians that Allen wants to separate himself from the free spenders that have run Congress for the past six years.
Will it work? James Webb doesn't directly mention federal spending on his Issues page for his website. He does, however, talk briefly -- very briefly -- about "infrastructure":
The crumbling infrastructure of the country is the direct result of failed leadership at the national level. Jim has often observed that hurricane Katrina did not destroy New Orleans; rather, the damage was the direct result of 15 years of poor leadership and arrogance that prevented necessary improvements to the levee system. This same incompetence threatens Americans of all social and economic backgrounds.
That sounds like Webb wants to spend a lot of money on projects, although his site is maddeningly vague about what he has in mind. It seems that Webb wants to repeat the mistakes of New Orleans, for instance. He rightly observes that the hurricane did not cause the flooding that destroyed most of the city, but a levee system that failed under conditions that should have been within its tolerance. However, it didn't fail from a lack of funding; in fact, the levees got upgraded not long ago, and it was the upgraded section that failed. Louisiana received quite a bit of federal funding to prepare for that disaster, too, but no one seems to know where that money went.
Readers will not find anything about fiscal responsibility on Webb's issues pages. They will find the basis of a lot of public projects, which usually means higher taxes and more waste. For instance, Webb tells Virginians that their transportation system needs an overhaul -- and that he's going to get the federal government to foot the bill. He also gives a vague shout-out to single-payor fans by saying that he will push for legislation to provide health care to all Americans, although he gives no specifics on how to do that. At the end, he then tells Virginians that legislators should be beholden to no one except their constituents, right after he uses generalities to propose vast new federal spending that will attract lobbyists like moths to a flame.
One Virginian at least sounds serious about fiscal responsibility, and it isn't Webb.
The Niqab Dismissal
A Michigan judge threw out a lawsuit brought by a Muslim woman because she refused to show her face while testifying. Paul Paruk may have started another round of legal battles over the niqab, which only exposes the eyes, by ruling that witnesses must show their faces in court in order to allow a determination of their veracity:
Ginnah Muhammad, 42, wore a niqab – a scarf and veil covering the head and face that leaves only the eyes visible – for a court hearing in Hamtramck, near Detroit. She was contesting a $2,750 (£1,470) charge from a car hire company for damage to a vehicle she said was caused by thieves.
Paul Paruk, the district judge, told her that he needed to be able to see her face to gauge whether she was telling the truth.
He advised her that if she did not remove the veil while testifying the case would be dismissed. She refused to take it off.
"I just feel so sad," Ms Muhammad told the Detroit Free Press. "I feel that the court is there for justice for us. I didn't feel like the court recognised me as a person that needed justice. I just feel I can't trust the court."
Mr Paruk said he told Ms Muhammad to remove the veil because it was his job to determine "the veracity of somebody's claim". He added: "Part of that, you need to identify the witness and you need to look at the witness and watch how they testify."
This sounds similar to the Florida case of Sultaana Freeman, the convert to Islam who wouldn't remove her hijab to get her driver's license photograph. Denied the license, she sued, with the assistance of the Florida chapter of the ACLU, and lost in court. As far as I know, that case still has not concluded, although the Florida ACLU site hasn't updated this story since 2004. Their Michigan counterparts will likely take up this cause. CAIR already has made a statement on the decision, claiming that Paruk violated Muhammad's civil rights and demanding greater sensitivity towards Muslims in the courtroom.
Yesterday, I reminded people of the importance of assimilation when outsiders come into a culture. Muslims come here by choice, and they do not need to do so if they cannot accommodate our laws and traditions. Facing one's accusers in court is one of the bedrocks of our civil legal system, even more so in tort cases. Muhammad brought this lawsuit, hoping to leverage the system for her financial benefit. Now she and CAIR want the American system of justice to deny the right to a fair trial while doing so, in effect setting up a separate system of justice for Muslims in the US.
That cannot happen, and Judge Paruk made the right decision in his courtroom. Muhammad should have respected American legal tradition and removed her niqab if she wanted to file the lawsuit. Otherwise, she should have dropped the matter entirely. We are not required to make every religious dictate from every form of belief superior to our own traditions and laws, and those who demand that kind of treatment should live where their beliefs fit into the traditions of the community.
Multiculturalism sounds great in theory, but in practice it gets expensive and destructive. We need to stop setting the expectation that we will accommodate all differences. When people come to the US to live, they need to understand the rules and comprehend that we will not make hundreds of millions of people bear the burden of accommodation. We need to demand assimilation for legal, language, and cultural differences. When we choose to make excuses and bend for one group, it becomes a never-ending cycle of silliness where each group demands its own submission from those who have assimilated already.
A Groundpimple Of Support!
Yesterday I wrote about my effort to win the mayoralty of Eagan, MN, by staging a write-in campaign, starting with my and the First Mate's absentee ballots. Well, this idea has really caught on, folks. I can reveal here that my campaign has picked up steam. I got another Eagan resident to commit to casting his vote for me.
At this pace, I'll have twelve votes when Eagan residents go to the polls. Twelve! I'm already planning my triumphant march to City Hall. I might just drive over, though. It's easier on the back.
You've heard of the Dean Scream? Of Joe-mentum? Now we've got ... Ed-ertia!
UPDATE: Start up the bandwagon -- I've received my first endorsement. I've cornered the crucial martini-swilling bloc vote ... nothing can stop us now, except sobriety and common sense!
October 23, 2006
James Webb, Meet Al Gore
During the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore's assertion that he had created the Internet inspired a cavlacade of criticism that continues to this day. Gore, who did help foster the growth of the Internet but could hardly claim to have created it, gained a reputation as a braggart and an egotist. Politicians used to bloviating about their accomplishments took notice and more care in ensuring that the facts supported their statements.
Apparently James Webb did not get that memo. He recently claimed credit on his campaign website for proposing and leading the "fight" to include an African-American soldier in the Vietnam War soldier's memorial:
In 1982 he first proposed, then led the fight for, including an African American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall.
Today, one of the men who truly can claim to have "led the fight" makes clear that Webb has greatly exaggerated his role in the memorial's design. Writing in the Washington Times, Milton Copulos clarifies the process that led to the creation of the memorial, its figures, and its placement:
It was the sculptor, Frederick Hart, who chose to include an African American figure, not Mr. Webb or anyone else. Moreover, there was no "fight" over placing an African American image on the Mall. Rather there was a brief dispute between Mr. Webb and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) Chairman Jack Wheeler about the number of figures in the sculpture. I was able to resolve the dispute with a call to the VVMF's President and founder, Jan Scruggs who immediately overruled Mr. Wheeler. So if anyone other than Mr. Hart deserves credit, it was our erstwhile opponent, Mr. Scruggs who was the hero of the piece.
But it is not just in regard to the inclusion of an African American in the statue that Mr. Webb has misstated his role. ...
The first person to raise the questions about the memorial was Tom Carhart, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran. His testimony at an October 13, 1981 Fine Arts Commission hearing was the first public expression of veterans' concerns regarding the design.
Initially, Mr. Carhart's effort seemed doomed. He had no particular political connections and was something of a political naif. But by luck, I encountered Mr. Carhart at a meeting on Capitol Hill where he raised the issue. I brought him back to my office at the Heritage Foundation and immediately obtained a carte blanche to help him. ...
It was two months before Mr. Webb finally joined the fight -- sort of. He published an editorial critical of the design in the Wall Street Journal on December 18th, carefully distancing himself from the conservative opposition -- us.
Copulos later had to get Interior Secretary James Watt -- a lightning rod for the Reagan administration -- to personally intervene to resolve the veterans' concerns over the project. Watt agreed to rescind his endorsement so that the process could be re-opened. However, VVMF rejected Carhart from the new selection panel, so Carhart suggested Webb in his stead.
Webb didn't have to fight to have an African-American figure included in the sculpture, because the sculptor planned on that inclusion all along. Webb deserves credit for working with the panel to get the memorial completed, but he didn't assume the kind of leadership role he credits for himself, nor did the project create the kind of controversy he describes. In this, he seems very similar to a Senator and Vice President who did some work to subsidize computer networking, but couldn't be content to accurately portray his role and instead tried grabbing for glory that didn't belong to him.
That kind of action is a kind of theft -- robbing the people who deserve the credit to build a persona based on falsehood. It's at least dishonest. Webb should save the resume-padding for his literary career and apologize to the men he slighted.
Secure Fence Act Signing Set For Thursday
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker Denny Hastert jointly announced that Congress has sent the Secure Fence Act to the White House for President Bush's signature. The two Congressional leaders issued the following statement:
“Today we are transmitting H.R. 6061, Secure Fence Act of 2006, to the President. This legislation is a key component to keeping America safe and stemming the tide of illegal immigration. The American people demand a secure border, and this Republican Congress has responded to the American people's demand for a secure border by increasing the physical barriers and infrastructure along the border, and by providing state of the art monitoring technology. We look forward to the President’s signature of this legislation.
“Unfortunately, the House and Senate Democrat Leaders voted against the Secure Fence Act. The Democrat immigration plan would fail the American people, allow dangerous criminals into our country and would set our homeland security back to pre-9/11 levels.”
My source on the Hill tells me that the White House has scheduled the signing for Thursday morning, October 26th, in the Roosevelt Room, with full ceremony. Earlier rumors had the White House burying the bill's signing behind closed doors, but that obviously will not be the case. Expect the GOP to highlight this bill's enactment into law in the final two weeks of the midterm election campaign.
A Spoiler In Indiana?
Democratic plans to recapture control over the House may run into an unexpected buzzsaw in Indiana. Incumbent Democrat Julia Carlson has blown a 20-point lead and now trails Republican Eric Dickerson, according to a local poll (via Right Wing News):
The WTHR poll -- conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, and based on responses of 468 likely voters in the 7th Congressional District -- was startling, though, particularly in the wake of a poll of 400 likely voters, taken in September for WISH (Channel 8), that showed Carson with a lead of 20 percentage points. WTHR reported its poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Dickerson, a former auto dealer, has run his race largely on his own. He beat the Republican Party's endorsed candidate in the primary and has run his campaign with virtually no state or national support since.
"It's just another confirmation that our campaign is very, very serious and we do intend to win this race," Dickerson told WTHR.
The national party has done nothing for Dickerson, who has prided himself on the independence of his candidacy. However, the GOP may soon look to this race to help them keep control of the House, and the national media may discover this race rather soon. Keep an eye on Indiana.
Casting My Vote
As it happens, I will likely be out of town on Election Day this year, so for the second time in my life, I applied for absentee ballots for the midterm elections for both the First Mate and I. Yesterday we filled out the ballots and today I'll send them off in the mail.
I rather like the absentee ballot process. It gives me a little time to research the issues with the ballot in front of me, an opportunity I probably would not take otherwise. For the FM, it gives her the ability to take her time while I walk her through the voting process; even though the election officials allow me to assist her in the booth, she feels rushed and pressured with the amount of time it takes for me to read the ballot to her.
Both of us supported the Republican candidates on our ballot, and did so gladly. Tim Pawlenty deserves re-election; he has done a good job managing a return to fiscal responsibility in Minnesota, even if he did endorse public funding for professional sports stadiums. Mark Kennedy has represented Minnesota in Congress with a high degree of professionalism and honor for the past six years, and he will do the same as Senator in the next six. John Kline has also represented MN-02 with honor, and the former Marine colonel stands head and shoulders over Colleen Rowley and her Sheehan-supporting tactics, including picturing Kline in a Nazi uniform. Just in case anyone forgot:
I did cast one rather whimsical vote on this ballot; I voted for myself for Mayor of Eagan. My radio partner Mitch told me that he usually picks one race where he has no particular preference to make himself a write-in candidate, in order to later confirm that his ballot got counted for other races. The FM also cast a write-in vote for me in the same race, so I sense a grassroots groundswell for a new mayor here in Minnesota's eighth-largest city. I'll check after Election Day to see if any other Eagan residents decided to cast votes for Edward Morrissey, and I'll be sure to report on the results. I'm already preparing my concession speech.
Meanwhile, Mitch has decided to read the Star Tribune's endorsement slate for the upcoming elections. Start here and go back through his posts. One can hardly fail to see the Democratic bias in their editorial positions. On one hand, they endorse Colleen Rowley over the experienced and effective John Kline in my MN-02 despite her lack of experience, but because her outrage and fame as an FBI whistleblower "precisely the qualities that Washington needs" to change the direction in Congress. However, Obi Sium doesn't get the nod for MN-04 despite being a "thoroughly decent man with an inspiring affection for the values of his adopted country".
Be sure to read all of Mitch's posts on the Strib endorsements.
The French Intifada Continues
The AP continues its reporting on the slow-motion uprising in the Muslim ghettoes in France, where the police insist that violence against them has become organized by Islamist radicals. Calls that draw police and even fire department response wind up as ambushes, with rocks, baseball bats, and even teargas deployed against them:
On a routine call, three unwitting police officers fell into a trap. A car darted out to block their path, and dozens of hooded youths surged out of the darkness to attack them with stones, bats and tear gas before fleeing. One officer was hospitalized, and no arrests made.
The recent ambush was emblematic of what some officers say has become a near-perpetual and increasingly violent conflict between police and gangs in tough, largely immigrant French neighborhoods that were the scene of a three-week paroxysm of rioting last year.
One small police union claims officers are facing a "permanent intifada." Police injuries have risen in the year since the wave of violence.
National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted - and some now receive police escorts in such areas.
On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI television.
Even the larger police unions have started to rethink their previous denials of organized resistance in the banlieus. One union official talks about the escalation from individual and spontaneous rock-throwing to complicated ambushes, and calls them "an act of war". And with the anniversary of last year's riots about to arrive, the police believe that organizers want to re-enact and expand them.
These actions have had a distinct political effect in France and across Europe. The multiculturalism that Europeans practice has been sorely tested and now has subsided in place of a more practical understanding of the importance of shared culture. Jack Straw in the UK has called for an end to the veil for Muslim women, as France did in its schools earlier. Both nations, with significant and vocal Muslim minorities, have begun to demand assimilation from their transplants rather than understanding and accommodation from the natives. The National Front's slogan of "France, love it or leave it" has gained traction in mainstream French politics, with Nicolas Sarkozy remining unhappy residents that the screen door won't hit them on the way out of France.
This shows the limitations of multiculturalism. No one has a problem when people engage in their own cultural rituals and speak their own language; it becomes a problem when they force native populations to adopt them for themselves. Immigration should exist where people want to assimilate into the culture of the nation they adopt, and not where people arrive to set up enclaves of the Old Country and then demand that their hosts recognize their authority to do so. America's success with immigration came from the impulse of its immigrants to join in the American culture and the American dream, not because we started printing ballots in eighteen different languages to accommodate people who didn't want to learn English.
Separation breeds resentment, from both sides. Separatism creates borders, and borders presage wars when only one side recognizes them. The French banlieus may not have reached the warfare stage yet, but they keep coming closer and closer to it. The French will either have to find a way to break up the Muslim ghettoes, either by working harder for assimilation or by kicking a lot of people out of France.
Iraq: Don't Panic
The elected government in Iraq has hit the road, trying to keep its Western allies from panicking and retreating in reaction to a spike in violence over the past month. Deputy PM Barham Salih met with British ministers in an attempt to shore up Coalition resolve:
Salih, in London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British ministers, made clear his anxiety about the change in tone in London and Washington, where senior figures are questioning whether the current strategy in Iraq is viable.
"I'm obviously concerned about the debate both in the U.S. and Europe, I have to say, because there is too much of a pessimistic tone to this debate -- even I would say in certain circles a defeatist tone," he told BBC radio.
"We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq but we must not give in to panic."
Eighty-three American servicemen died this month, a high for 2006, and this summer's plan to pacify Baghdad has not had the success it promised at first. The violence has spread out to Anbar, where an agreement with the various tribes of the region may have some pacifying effect. All of this has contributed to moves in both London and Washington that signal a retreat may be in the offing. Tony Blair has started talking publicly about a deadline for withdrawal, and Washington has buzzed about the James Baker-led Iraq Study group and its possible recommendations.
Salih understands that this lack of resolve will likely be fatal, in both the political and literal senses, for his government. The Islamists and the Ba'athist remnants will see the Western recalculations as a moment of hope and opportunity for a violent overthrow of the popularly elected government. The Iraqis might not like having American and British troops keeping order to the extent they have, but they also understand that a pullout would likely mean the collapse of all popular control of Iraq. If that happens, the people who participated in the representative government will be, in the parlance, the first up against the wall.
We have a duty to ensure that this does not happen. If the current strategy has not worked, then we need to try another strategy -- but it can't be a bug-out, no matter whether one calls it a retreat or a "phased redeployment over the event horizon". Any such retreat will force Iraqis to rethink their allegiance to the government they elected, and that will cause the entire country to become a free-for-all that will produce leaders who most effectively use violence and terrorism to control the country. It will either produce a Taliban-like state, another Saddam, or a Somalia ... and all with tremendous oil revenues to fuel these wars.
A precipitate withdrawal will do exactly what our withdrawal in 1991 did; it will require us to spend billions of dollars every year to contain Iraq, this time to keep terrorists from escaping. The only long-term strategy for Iraq has to be victory.
The Depth Of The Democratic Bench
Yesterday's big political news came from Meet the Press, where Senator Barack Obama raised a few eyebrows with an admission of presidential ambitions. Obama, a first-term member of the upper chamber, contradicted earlier statements that indicated that he would not run in 2008 for the Democratic Party nomination:
Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who won instant celebrity after his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic national convention, said Sunday he might run for president in 2008.
"I don't want to be coy about this," Obama said on NBC's Meet the Press. "Given the responses that I've been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility." After initially ruling it out, he said, the door has opened "a bit."
The 2008 presidential race is wide open, and Obama has been urged by many Democrats, such as fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, to run this time rather than wait to gain more political experience. He said Sunday he has listened to those entreaties. ...
Obama's candidacy would shake up the field of prospective Democratic candidates, dominated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and recently abandoned by former Virginia governor Mark Warner. By keeping the option open, he could freeze the flow of money to other Democrats.
Perhaps it might, but that seems rather overwrought. After all, a number of Democrats have publicly flirted with a run in 2008, and the money still seems wide open. Few have explicitly withdrawn, and Obama's entry will not likely encourage any of the others to leave.
In fact, that may be the big problem for the Democrats. After all, their slate of presumed candidates have a very thin record in politics. Hillary Clinton has served one term in office anywhere, and she is widely considered the front-runner for the nomination. John Edwards served two-thirds of a term before launching his presidential campaign for 2004, eschewing re-election in 2006 to avoid having his constituents retire him involuntarily. Barack Obama has served all of two years of his first term in national office anywhere -- and he won that seat practically unopposed. Alan Keyes carpetbagged into Illinois to oppose him in one of the dumbest GOP decisions of 2004, and got outvoted 3-1.
That's the front line of the Democratic contingent. Following these rookies, we have John Kerry and Al Gore, both of whom lost elections that they should have had no trouble winning. Both of them think that 2008 is their year for a comeback, and the only evidence anyone can find to support that is that neither of them will have to face George Bush again. Kerry, at least, won his home state, but that will not motivate Democrats into endorsing a major case of deja vu in the next presidential election. Russ Feingold wants to transform a Senate career on the fringe into a national unity campaign. Mark Warner at least ran Virginia successfully, providing executive experience completely lacking in any of these candidates, and he's quit.
The Democratic bench looks mighty thin, and if Obama enters the race and dries up the cash, it won't get any better. The primaries will almost exclusively feature political lightweights, bureaucrats, and proven losers, without a serious statesman in the bunch. In the middle of a war, American voters will find little credibility in the candidates we have seen thus far on the stump.
Obama could develop into a serious contender later, after serving more than two years in office. He's intelligent, works well across the aisle, and plays well on television. He joined Tom Coburn to fight against pork, which will gain him some respect from fiscal conservatives. However, the Democrats may ruin him by pressing him into a race for which he has not properly prepared.
October 22, 2006
Anchoress raises anchor to depart...
Now that the good Captain and his First Mate have returned from their sojourn, I am going to take this opportunity to hoist anchor (is that the phrase) and detach my dingy from the Captain's accomodating vessel. Ed is back (he's probably watching football...) so, this extra pair of hands can stand down.
I want to take this opportunity to heartfully thank Ed for inviting me to guest-blog for him; it was both terrifying and fun. I don't think I embarrassed him too badly, but I am quite aware of my limitations and therefore admit that now he's returned the quality of the blog will rise like a fresh incoming tide, lifting all posts - which is good, because it will clear out my debris. [See my note below -- CE.]
The truth is, I have to go make a Brandy Alexander Pie for a friend who keeps asking for them and telling me they are for her poor elderly mother. I'm beginning to wonder about how true that is, though. Seems to me her mother would be quite pickled, by now. The recipe (with disclaimer) if you'd like to try it:
Brandy Alexander Pie
1 env. unflavored gelatin
1/2 c cold water
2/3 c sugar
1/2 tspn salt
3 eggs, seperated
1/4 c cognac. Don't be cheap, use the good stuff.
1/4 c creme de cacao
2 c heavy cream
1 tspn sugar
1 9" graham cracker crust
chocolate curls for garnish
Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water in a saucepan. Add 1/3 c of the sugar, the salt and the egg yolks. Stir to blend.
Heat over low flame while stirring until the gelatin dissolves and the mixture thickens. DO NOT BOIL.
Remove from heat and stir in the cognac and creme de cacao. Chill until mixture starts to set slightly.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar and fold into the thickened mixture
Whip 1 c cream into whipped cream and fold into the mixture. Turn it all into the crust and chill for several hours or overnight.
Before serving, whip second c of cream with tspn of sugar and use to garnish pie, then sprinkle with chocolate curls. WARNING: Do not drive or operate machinery after eating this thing. Also, have a defribulator nearby.
Note: I owe The Anchoress a big round of thanks, and maybe a big round of Guinness. She did a wonderful job of filling in for me -- don't let her modesty fool you. And she's right ... I am watching football and trying to get some rest after an intense Encounter weekend. I'll have more later!
Funniest Headline EVER!
I read this headline and almost died laughing:
Because clearly we've been living through an era of sweetness and light as far as politics and political theater are concerned. There have been no partisan snipings, no "scorched earth" policies over the past 6 years.
Of course, from what we're seeing elsewhere, another headline could be quickly written: Dem Losses Could Spark Limited Rioting.
You see, there are some paranoid types on the left who are predicting nothing less than a Bush Administration declaration of Marial Law. Sister Toldjah posts some gorgeous hysteria/paranoia from one Lyn Lear Davis, Beverly Hills Matron type:
When I asked Gore Vidal at dinner why the White House seemed so serene and at ease about the vote, he replied that, this time around, the Bush-Cheney henchmen could simply call on martial law. He glumly noted that we are so far down the road toward totalitarianism that, even if Democrats do win back the Congress, it would take at least two generations before the last six years of damage to the nation could be reversed. Gore frankly despaired that any amount of time could ever return the country to where and what it previously was. This prediction left me reaching for some Fernet Branca.
I doubt this woman realizes that she sounds like a perfect parody of the deluded, imaginative, name-dropping limo liberal. Too damn funny. But this is the best part. Lyn Lear Davis writes:
But whether it is hubris, loony tunes, or both, the White House’s freakish calm about the elections makes me as nervous as the hell we seem to be headed for. Therefore we should all be on alert. If for whatever reason we don’t win back Congress in November the only real answer will be to take to the streets.
Blue Crab Boulevard suspects any taking it to the streets will likely be done by the help.
The truth is, there are so many stories being floated by the press right now, "The Dems have it in the bag," "The deal isn't closed," "Voter fraud may be an issue," (yes, I believe that's quite true, and Gateway Pundit is the genius at keeping track of it, and not just in St. Louis. Voter fraud does seem to be a predominantly leftish proclivity) "Bush is eerily calm..." There are seeds of all sorts of ideas being planted in these final weeks before the election, so that no matter what actually sprouts up on election day (or post-election) each story harvested can claim to have been "predicted" by someone. Politics in the 21st century is pure insanity. In my morbid curiosity, I cannot look away.
Crossposted at The Anchoress Online.
NYT's Calame: Oops. Our Bad.
The New York Times' public editor, Byron Calame, initially supported the publication of the confidential national-security program that tracked terrorist financing through the Swift banking program. Now, at the end of his column and far past the "jump", Calame acknowledges that the Times made the wrong decision:
Since the job of public editor requires me to probe and question the published work and wisdom of Times journalists, there’s a special responsibility for me to acknowledge my own flawed assessments.
My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.
Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
The story here is that there was no story. Calame comes to this conclusion a little late, and in this case, it's not better late than never. First, Calame puts this mea culpa at the bottom of his column, after a discussion of advertising in the newspaper industry -- another decision that calls into question the editorial competence of the Paper of Record. Second, this comes months after the revelation of the program and the damage it did, both to national-security efforts and to the Bush administration. An "oops" by Calame hardly addresses either.
Reading his effort here, Calame makes it clear that the publication of this story amounted to either incompetence or malice; no other explanation works. The Times knew that no laws had been broken, nor did they ever find any evidence that program officials abused the information gathered. The Times used mutually exclusive arguments to answer their critics after its publication; on one hand, they trumpeted the program as a secret that could lead to abuse (which they never found), and on the other they argued that everyone knew about it, including the terrorists. It took Calame almost four months to discover this rather transparent contradiction.
Calame says that his intial support came from an impulse to protect journalism from the "vicious criticism" of the Bush administration. "Vicious"? I'd like Calame to define that. The administration rightly condemned the Times for risking their ability to track terrorist financing, but I don't recall the administration calling anyone "traitorous", for instance, although plenty of bloggers did. And what kind of ombudsman decides to defend his paper simply because all the right people got angry? That's a mighty thin line of argument, and Calame should be embarrassed to make that admission on the pages of his own paper.
Michelle Malkin responds to this lame excuse:
Every last bit of that "vicious" criticism was deserved. Stop making excuses. It's Bush hatred that led to the reckless publication of the story. It's journalistic hubris that prevents the rest of Calame's colleagues from admitting the truth.
Instead of acting as Chief Apologist, Calame should take his job a little more seriously in the future. The Times blew an important national-security program just to pump up its anti-Bush credentials, regardless of the fact that the program operated within the law and never abused the information it gathered. Calame dislikes the administration as much as the rest of the people at the New York Times, and in the guise of detached analysis endorsed the publication of a non-story in his zeal to undermine the White House using any means at their disposal. Everyone else knew that this story had no merit; it took the Times and its public editor four months to figure it out.
That should tell you everything you need to know about the New York Times.
UPDATE: Patterico credits Calame with honesty, but still thinks he should resign.
WaPo gives three veiled perspectives
Interestingly, the Washington Post is carrying three op-ed pieces today touching on women and Islam, Clothes Aren't the Issue, by Asra Q. Nomani, How I Came to Love the Veil by Yvonne Ridley and Coverings Uncovered by Farzaneh Milani.
In Nomani's piece, the veil is incidental to the rest of the article, which focuses on the problem of domestic violence within Islamic houses, and how that "permitted" violence can be extrapolated as permissable violence within the world:
Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, have recently focused on Muslim women's veils as an obstacle to integration in the West. But to me, it is 4:34 that poses the much deeper challenge of integration. How the Muslim world interprets this passage will reveal whether Islam can be compatible with life in the 21st century. As Hadayai Majeed, an African American Muslim who had opened a shelter in Atlanta to serve Muslim women, put it, "If it's okay for me to be a savage in my home, it's okay for me to be a savage in the world."
Not long after... Mahmoud Shalash, an imam from Lexington, Ky., stood at the pulpit of my mosque and offered marital advice to the 100 or so men sitting before him. He repeated the three-step plan, with "beat them" as his final suggestion. Upstairs, in the women's balcony, sat a Muslim friend who had recently left her husband, who she said had abused her; her spouse sat among the men in the main hall.
At the sermon's end, I approached Shalash. "This is America," I protested. "How can you tell men to beat their wives?"
"They should beat them lightly," he explained. "It's in the Koran."
Nomani also writes: As long as the beating of women is acceptable in Islam, the problem of suicide bombers, jihadists and others who espouse violence will not go away; to me, they form part of a continuum.
Interestingly, she ends her piece with some anecdotal evidence: should a woman make it clear to her husband that she would tolerate nothing so much as "a crack with a rolled-up newspaper," this whole question of wife-beating would disappear.
Which suggests that if target countries and civilizations were to make it clear that they will not tolerate terrorism...ah, well. You can finish that sentence.
Milani's piece looks at the ancient and recent history of the veil and points out that there have always been Islamic women who loved the veil, and who hated it.
The most interesting, passionate and defensive of these three pieces is Yvonne Ridley's How I Came to Love the Veil. Ridley's conversion to Islam came after briefly being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, during which time she promised her captives she would "study" Islam when set free:
Back home in London, I kept my word about studying Islam -- and was amazed by what I discovered. I'd been expecting Koran chapters on how to beat your wife and oppress your daughters; instead, I found passages promoting the liberation of women. Two-and-a-half years after my capture, I converted to Islam...
Having been on both sides of the veil, I can tell you that most Western male politicians and journalists who lament the oppression of women in the Islamic world have no idea what they are talking about.
Riley makes a heady defense for the veil and - in fine Western feminist fashion - she lashes out at the Western men who dare to critique the mandatory wearing of it She conveniently forgets to mention that Western men have been trained over decades - by women like herself - to find this Muslim garb objectionable. She also seems not to realize that one of the first Western voices raised against enforced coverage was a woman's voice, as Mavis Leno, wife of Jay Leno, worked for years to bring attention to the subjegation of Muslim women.
Her piece is a fascinating hodgepodge of past and present prejudices all jumbling about as Riley works to justify her conversion from a feminist standpoint. Whether intending to or not, she demonstrates the mystery of voluntary surrender and the Pauline paradox, "when I am weak, then I am strong." In this case, the paradox is the often true one that with (voluntary, I reiterate) subjugation comes freedom:
A careful reading of the Koran shows that just about everything that Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available to Muslim women 1,400 years ago. Women in Islam are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth, and a woman's gift for childbirth and child-rearing is regarded as a positive attribute.
Hmph. I think I could say precisely the same thing about Catholicism - in fact I have - but I somehow doubt a woman like Riley would concur with my assertions. I doubt very much that she would look at, for instance, a Catholic nun in a traditional habit and see a woman who has been freed from social conformities (no fretting over hair, clothing, boob size) and is thus able to be reckoned with simply as and for herself, as a woman in full, and yet this is what she now declares she finds under the veil:
I was a Western feminist for many years, but I've discovered that Muslim feminists are more radical than their secular counterparts. We hate those ghastly beauty pageants, and tried to stop laughing in 2003 when judges of the Miss Earth competition hailed the emergence of a bikini-clad Miss Afghanistan, Vida Samadzai, as a giant leap for women's liberation...
Some young Muslim feminists consider the hijab and the nikab political symbols, too, a way of rejecting Western excesses such as binge drinking, casual sex and drug use. What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt and the size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence? In Islam, superiority is achieved through piety -- not beauty, wealth, power, position or sex.
Under Islam, I am respected. It tells me that I have a right to an education and that it is my duty to seek out knowledge, regardless of whether I am single or married. Nowhere in the framework of Islam are we told that women must wash, clean or cook for men. As for how Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives -- it's simply not true. Critics of Islam will quote random Koranic verses or hadith, but usually out of context. If a man does raise a finger against his wife, he is not allowed to leave a mark on her body, which is the Koran's way of saying, "Don't beat your wife, stupid."
Clearly, as demonstrated in the other two featured op-eds, Riley's interpretation of that Koranic verse is not everyone's. Further, I would argue that under any religious system, not merely Islam, all of the things she is claiming for herself would be equally available to her. Riley probably doesn't realize this because very likely her previous religion was the religion of PC secularism, which is all about rhetoric and illusion. Having fully embraced its illusions, she can never again claim for herself a "Western" religion without losing her feminist face. Hence she has turned Eastward, and covered it.
In some ways, Riley certainly does make it sound attractive. I have spoken with nuns who wear traditional or near-traditional habits and they tell me they appreciate the freedom of the garb, that it unshackles them from concerns of hair-dressing and wardrobe fussing, leaving them free to do what they think of as their "proper" work, so I can appreciate Riley's sense of liberation under the veil. But some of what she has written here sounds like protesting too much.
It would not surprise me, though, to see other feminist women decide to take the veil of Islam in order to declare themselves liberated, partly because so many feminists, particularly radical feminists, are all about rejection of Western norms, extreme action and, yes, trendy thought. I've wondered for a year or more whether we might see a number of Western women go "undercover" because it seems glamorous, rebellious and edgy, and I wonder if this Sunday Hajib Edition of the Washington Post is not going to be the catalyst for such a trend. Perhaps.
And perhaps the feminist embrasure of head coverings and veils might be a boon and a saving adjustment to Islam...depending, I suppose, on just how tightly rolled is the newspaper.
UPDATE: Beth gives us some interesting background on Yvonne Riley.
Crossposted at The Anchoress Online
BBC Confesses To Being British
We in the blogosphere often take the mainstream media to task for their unannounced biases, charges which most editors and reporters strenuously deny. Admitting to bias would undermine the credibility of most news organizations, especially American outlets, after having built objectivity as the pinnacle of journalism. Apparently that quality does not hold the same significance in Britain, however, as their primary media source found in an impartiality summit" that The Beeb is anything but:
It was the day that a host of BBC executives and star presenters admitted what critics have been telling them for years: the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism.
A leaked account of an 'impartiality summit' called by BBC chairman Michael Grade, is certain to lead to a new row about the BBC and its reporting on key issues, especially concerning Muslims and the war on terror.
It reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC's 'diversity tsar', wants Muslim women newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.
At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians.
In something reminiscent of the infamous decision to censor South Park by the Comedy Channel/Viacom, the BBC said that if a comedian appeared on one of their programs and wanted to throw a copy of the Bible and the Koran into the trash, the BBC would allow the former and not the latter. Why? The news organization doesn't want to offend Muslims, but apparently has no problem offending Christians. Again, why? Because offending Muslims gets you killed, and offending Christians gets you plaudits. Not only does that reveal a bias against Christianity, it also shows a yellow streak at the BBC.
However, for those familiar with British news media, this isn't as egregious as it sounds. The British press make much less pretense at being objective than their American counterparts. Their broadsheets actively align themselves with political movements in a manner that few if any American newspapers dare. The Telegraph has a pro-Tory stance and explicitly writes from a conservative stance. The Guardian does the same with Labor and left-leaning liberalism. The Independent appears even more Leftist and presumalbly supports the Liberal Democrats. All of these do fine work, but in order to get the full picture of news, one has to read all three.
The BBC has put on a pretense of objectivity more than these broadsheets, in part because of the mandatory funding that British subjects must provide for the Beeb. Those who own televisions must pay a special annual "license fee" that supports the BBC, and this mechanism gives them more of a responsibility to remain objective and even-handed. That obviously hasn't worked, perhaps in part because of the media culture in the UK. As the Daily Mail makes clear, it's also the result of their hiring decisions and their institutional decisions on philosophy. They have declared themselves proponents of multiculturalism, which means that any news stories that tend to argue against it will not get played on the BBC -- and the Daily Mail provides a couple of examples. They do not like America, and its Washington correspondent has had to secretly work with sympathetic editors to tone down the outright hostilty of the Beeb to the US.
This revelation is still very significant. Imagine if PBS and NPR declared themselves openly as agents of the Democratic Party; the outcry would shatter the public funding for each. It's possible that the British might demand some extensive management and editorial changes now that the BBC has come out of the journalistic closet and declared themselves partisans. As a long-time reader of their wire service reports, such changes would certainly improve the product. We'll see if objectivity, especially in government-funded media outlets, suddenly becomes more than an empty talking point.
Guest Blog: Dafydd ab Hugh Responds
After my post yesterday about Star Trek, my former co-blogger Dafydd ab Hugh wrote a lengthy exposition on the question of whether Star Trek was fascist. Dafydd writes science fiction and has tremendous insight into the ST environment -- plus he's always willing to argue arcane points in depth, which is what we have in common. Here's his response, which he has graciously allowed me to post here. And no, this is not another attempt at work avoidance. -- CE
I rise to make a correction: the original series Star Trek did have money. They used the pseudo-sci-fi term "credits."
For example, in "the Trouble With Tribbles," Cyrano Jones negotiates with the bartender about how much each tribble will cost; Lt. Uhura and Ens. Chekov are at the bar, and Uhura falls in love with the things. So Pavel Chekov does the gallant thing and offers to buy her one. Hence, they do have a monetary system.
It wasn't until Star Trek: the Next Generation that they eliminated money. And then in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (or maybe later in Next Gen, I forget), they brought it back!
I should know: my favorite of my Trek books (and the least favorite among the fans, I think!), Balance of Power, centered around money: specifically, a friend of Wesley Crusher figures out a way to counterfeit gold-pressed latinum using a replicator -- which is supposed to be impossible. Then he and Wesley get kidnapped by Ferengis and brought to an auction held for the estate of a dead inventor, at which the Federation, the Cardassians, the Romulans, and the Ferengi are all frantically bidding against each other for a particularly powerful weapon.
You can buy a used copy from Amazon for one penny, a new copy for 80 cents, or (if you're truly nutty) a "collector's" edition, whatever that is, for $8.00. (I don't get a dime of royalties for any of these, so pick the cheapest one, if you have any interest at all.)
The problem with Trek isn't that it's utopian; it's not -- else there wouldn't be any conflict among humans, though there is. It's that the creators of the newer series, from Mike Pillar to Rick Berman to jumped-up office boy Brannon Braga, were groping for a depiction of a post-economic society... and they didn't have the cinematic chops to do it right.
It all stems from replicator and holodeck technology, which is why we didn't see it in the original series. Once you have those two, then you're truly post-economic: if you get your hands on a replicator, it is essentially Aladdin's magic ring: anything else you want can be replicated, from food to machinery to great works of art. In fact, by the specs, a replicator can even replicate another replicator!
Every economic (monetary) system is ultimately based upon managing scarcity; it's a form of economic triage, shunting short resources to where they're needed. Thus, when there is no longer any shortage of any material object, any traditional material-based economy will collapse: capitalist, socialist, or barter-based.
(The replicators, as presented in the Trek series, were actually magical: they never ran out of mass. They must have had near-perfect reclamation technology to go along with the replicators, else they would run out of mass; everything excreted would have to be run back through the replicators. Presumably, what the Enterprise crew really ate was recycled feces and urine... but magically recycled into canard à l'orange and osso buco.)
But what the writers and producers didn't understand at all, in the beginning, and only dimly grasped even later (when they reintroduced the Ferengi as Julius Streicher-like caricatures of Jews), is that money didn't create humans; humans created money. I don't mean that simply glibly: humans will always find some way to recreate economic activity (witness prisoners exchanging sex for cigarettes). It's impossible to separate commerce from people; even in the Garden of Eden, humans will find something they can sell.
Replicators remove all material objects from the realm of commerce by making them as plentiful as leaves on the ground. So, starting from the assumption that "humans will always find something to sell," what do we get?
The most obvious thing available for selling is service: any human can sell his own services. Even if machines take the place of laborers, a person can hire himself out as a valet or butler, for those people rich enough to afford an actual human servant. It would be a lucrative profession; even now, such servants are paid far more than they were in the 19th century, when the supply of cheap human labor was more plentiful.
But creativity is also marketable: your replicator can make chicken, but it can't make my brand new chicken recipe that I just now invented! I suspect that copyright would still exist; it arose in the first place because it was necessary; creators refused to release their works without it. So a fellow could make a darned good living, even in the Star Trek post-economic society, by licensing his recipes to the replicator company. In fact, different companies would compete with different "license packs" of various dishes created by well-known chefs.
Original art would still have value (exaggerated value in a society where everyone had ample leisure time). There would still be a market for new novels, movies (holoplays, if you prefer), music, and indeed, for anything that hadn't been created yet. And naturally, a replicator cannot make a machine that has never existed before; so inventors would be rolling in green, or whatever color the "money" of that era was.
Daredevils would have no problem making a living, assuming some rating agency could be found to assure that they were actually human beings (or at least living creatures not immune to death or injury). In fact, all circus or carnival type acts would be popular... anything that makes us hold our breath in delicious terror that the man on the flying trapeze might fall and kill himself before our horrified eyes.
Also, let is not forget what is commonly (but erroneously) called "the world's oldest profession." (The actual world's oldest profession is "food gatherer," and every human on earth was employed at it back in the old days, 100,000 years ago.) Even if somebody invents androids which are better at the mechanics of sex, most people will still prefer actual humans.
Which means, since we would still have economic energy, we would still need the units of that energy: money. A faint cognition of that inescapable fact finally penetrated the semi-simian brains of the proprietors of the newer Trek series; they introduced "gold-pressed latinum" (GPL) as the unit of currency. To get around the replicator problem, they limply declared -- without explanation -- that this substance was the only matter known that "could not be replicated." Thus, it was a commodity that had a fixed quantity -- the perfect thing to use for currency. Like gold today, it was easy to test for the quantity of GPL in a trinket or a bar, and it could not be counterfeited.
(In Balance of Power, I actually go into the mechanics of GPL and why it can't be replicated; then I had the counterfeiter figure out a way around it. But unlike the proprietors of Star Trek, I'm an actual science-fiction writer, used to thinking about the future.)
In any event, the Trek proprietors were trying to depict a post-economic society, but they failed miserably. And such a failed depiction of a post-economic society is easy to mistake for a failed depiction of a Fascist utopia.
But give them their due: they were still befuddled; but they were befuddled at a higher level, and about deeper questions!
Two points. One, I'm glad someone else recognized the assignment of just about every stereotype of Jews possible to the Ferengi, something that bothered me explicitly from the moment the characters were introduced -- hunched back, greedy, exaggerated noses and ears, and so on.
Two, I wrote a novel once that attempted to do "space opera" as a sort of anti-Trek, almost a Firefly but with the Alliance being the good guys, more or less. I actually explained the food replicator as Dafydd does above, where every single bit of mass had to go back into the cycle. It's the only way a ship could do lengthy patrols in space, even if one could travel significantly faster than the speed of light; no ship could carry rations that far. I speculated that anyone forced to use a food replicator after being told of its sources would probably lose a few pounds until they managed to overcome it.
Needless to say, that book never got published ...
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