November 4, 2006
I haven't remarked much on the Ted Haggard story for a couple of reasons. First, all we had so far was a series of allegations and some dispute over their truthfulness, all of which got resolved this evening when the New Life Church fired Haggard this evening. The second reason is because Haggard is such a marginal figure that the attention he's received seems like overkill.
I'm not an Evangelical, so perhaps I missed something about Haggard, but he has almost completely avoided my radar screen. The New Life Church only has 14,000 members, about the same size as my local Catholic parish, and it seems absurd to think that the pastor of a moderate-sized church, even in Evangelical circles, has much political clout. I met Haggard in 2005 at Justice Sunday II, and I interviewed him briefly at the event. It impressed me so little that I didn't even remember it until I saw his picture.
For what it's worth, Haggard's activities do strike me as hypocritical. My live blog from Justice Sunday II repeatedly mentions my discomfort with the focus on homosexual activity, although I can't recall clearly whether Haggard participated in that. (Justice Sunday III did not make that mistake.) Regardless, his participation in homosexual activities while decrying them from the pulpit is the essence of hypocrisy, and he deserves whatever criticism he gets for that. I'd add that the ridiculous statement that he put out earlier claiming that he bought methamphetamine from the gay prostitute but didn't actually use it reminds me of a Presidential candidate who admitted to smoking pot but declining to inhale.
However, the attention Haggard's fall has received is nothing short of breathtaking. Some pundits act as though Haggard was a political figure that outshone Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Lou Sheldon put together, and that his disgrace somehow reflects on Republicans across the nation. Haggard didn't get star billing at JSII, and didn't even get invited to JSIII, and most of us had never heard of him before. While Haggard certainly had influence on his congregation, I doubt that Haggard had much impact beyond that, and even his contribution to JSII only rated two sentences in my lengthy live blog of the event.
It seems that some people want to exploit the personal disgrace of a minor figure within the Christian community for cheap political gain. Hypocrisy, it seems, is not limited to the pulpit in this case.
UPDATE: Monkei points out that Haggard also served as president of the National Evangelical Association. Like Monkei, I guess I should get around more, because I've never heard of them, either.
UPDATE II: One commenter has challenged my accusation of hypocrisy, but they have it incorrect. I didn't call Haggard a hypocrite for sinning, nor did I ever call his entire church hypocritical. Haggard is a hypocrite if he spoke out against gays and gay relationships while at the same time engaging in one himself. That doesn't make New Life Church hypocritical, any more than having a small percentage of priests molesting children makes the Catholic Church hyporcritical.
Also, another commenter (Dave?) goes on about how Time Magazine says Haggard was the most influential evangelical minister, and talks about his meetings with George Bush. Well, I just did a Lexis/Nexis search on Bush and Ted Haggard for the first nine months of the year, and I got only 41 hits from its vast repository of all American media outlets -- and most of those are in reference to Colorado's "one man, one woman" statute. It sounds very much like Haggard got invited to some White House prayer breakfasts, but other than that was a non-factor outside Colorado. Like I said earlier, I'm a rather close follower of Bush administration news, and I didn't recognize the name at all - and I had actually met the man.
NARN Scoop: The New Wetterling Ad
The Northern Alliance has managed to find the audio of Patty Wetterling's new last-minute desperation ad in a hermetically sealed jar on International ANSWER's doorstep, and it's a doozy. It sounds like Wetterling has decided to continue her strategy of, well, relativist honesty in the campaign to the bitter end. Take a listen to the audio from the radio show, as my radio partner Mitch introduces the ad. Follow along with the transcript:
Glorious American Federation of Teachers say
You must to vote for Patty Wetterling!
Do not listen to running-dog capitalist lies! Bachann will raise your taxes 100%
Free all sex offenders and given them YOUR teaching jobs!
Glorious hero of teacher labor Nancy Pelosi orders you, from her undisclosed location, to vote for greater glory of Minnesota!
Vote for Patty Wetterling!
I am Patty Wetterling, and I order you to approve this commercial!
Yes, this is parody. We had a little fun at Wetterling's expense, something she richly deserves for the dishonest campaign she has run for Minnesota's 6th Congressional district. The voice-over was provided by Irina Malanina, our talented young producer for the early Patriot broadcasts on Saturday, and a recent immigrant from Ukraine.
Republican Surge In Senate?
We seem to be seeing a late-breaking trend towards Republicans, according to Rasmussen. Their daily review of races show momentum shifting back towards the GOP in some key contests:
Tennessee: Bob Corker pulling away from Harold Ford
Missouri: Dead heat between Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill; both have had slight leads in the last few polls
Virginia: James Webb has dropped his five-point lead over George Allen, and it's now a dead heat
Maryland: Michael Steele has pulled into a tie with Benjamin Cardin, despite the heavy Democratic Party registration advantage
Montana: Conrad Burns has come back from double-digit deficits to tie Jon Tester
These races will come down to voter turnout efforts. Republicans have claimed the momentum in these races, and an enthusiastic effort to get voters to the polls will get them elected. Control of the Senate remains in our hands -- but we have to get to work now.
Northern Alliance Radio On The Air Today
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. Today is Meet The Republican Candidates Day on the NARN, as well as our final exhortations to vote. We will be talking with several candidates during the day today, for local as well as more prominent races.
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. Meanwhile, don't forget to sign up for your 30 minutes of calls to help energize Republican voters:
The Republican Party has a great way for the blogging community to get involved and to help get voters to the polls. We need people to man the phones and encourage voters to cast their ballots, and now readers can work from home to do it. Simply click here or on the logo above to volunteer, and the Republican Party will assign you a short list of people to call. It shouldn't cost you any more than 30 minutes to complete your calls, and you can use your free cell phone minutes on the weekend, so it won't cost you any money at all.
Let me give you the short, blog-version of the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. If November 8th arrives and we have lost control of the House or Senate, or both, and you didn't spend that 30 minutes doing your best to keep Republicans in office, how will you feel? Will it be more important to secure the majorities, or to watch the Vikings blow another game on television?
In the end, elections do not get won or lost by stump speeches alone -- they hinge on broad-based efforts to extend those personal invitations to vote. Get your list and start extending your invitations. This is the time to be counted.
Jack Carter Tries To Exploit Gold Star Mother, Backfires
Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter, has tried to unseat Republican incumbent John Ensign for the Senate seat this election, and has made a poor show of it. He currently trails Ensign by double digits -- Rasmussen has him down 12 points -- and so has started to feel the sting of desperation. That would explain his campaign's disrespectful attempt to use a Gold Star mother as a campaign prop, an effort that appalled Eleanor Dachtler (via CQ reader Alex M):
Hoping to generate attention for his boss late in an underdog campaign, an aide to Democrat Jack Carter solicited the mother of an Iraq war casualty to appear alongside the Senate candidate at a rally or news conference last week.
But if it was looking for a willing ally, the Carter camp evidently picked the wrong mother.
Eleanor Dachtler of Las Vegas said she was insulted by the overture, which was made in a blind letter that began: "I hope I have reached the right Eleanor Dachtler and that you are the mother of Nick Anderson. If not, please disregard this letter."
The letter asked if Dachtler would appear with Carter at an event where the candidate would be criticizing the Iraq policy of President Bush and Republican incumbent John Ensign.
Dachtler's participation could help draw media coverage, she was told. Carter is trailing Ensign by double digits in the most recent Review-Journal poll, conducted last week.
"I read the letter, and I thought, 'This guy is a (expletive),'" said Dachtler, whose 18-year old son, Nicholas, was killed on Nov. 12, 2004, in the Anbar province.
Well, it looks like we won't have another generation of Carters to afflict us. I guess Cindy Sheehan was already booked trying to help elect her pal Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Why We Got The 'Soprano State' Back To The Table
Josh Meyer reports that the US forced North Korea back to the six-party talks through a three-year effort to cut Kim Jong-Il off from the monetary supply he needs to maintain power, a long and consistent effort that succeeded because the Bush administration refused to take the advice of its critics. The White House kept shutting more and more doors until Kim had only one left to open (via QandO):
For three years, the Bush administration has waged a campaign to choke off North Korea's access to the world's financial system, where U.S. officials say the nation launders money from criminal enterprises to fuel its trade in missile technology and its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
That effort has started to pay off.
U.S. pressure forced Macao this year to freeze North Korean assets in one of its banks, then foiled North Korea's panicky attempts to find friendly bankers in Vietnam, Mongolia, Singapore and Europe. And after North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test, China ordered some of its major banks to cease financial transactions with the country.
The cash crunch appears to have played a key role in North Korea's decision Tuesday to return to six-nation talks over its nuclear ambitions. North Korean officials said that as part of the talks, they wanted to raise the issue of lifting financial sanctions.
"They're not coming back because they want to give up nuclear weapons," said David L. Asher, the U.S. State Department's point man on North Korea until last year. "They are feeling the financial pressure and the cutoff from the international financial system, so they are trying to make nice."
The strategy got a big boost from China in the last few weeks after Kim tested his missiles and then conducted a nuclear-weapons test near Kilju. Beijing, embarrassed by their failure to influence Kim over the last few months, abruptly shut off access to their banking system, throwing Pyongyang into a panic. They returned to the multilateral talks in order to get access to global financial systems, without which Kim cannot maintain power.
In fact, the Bush administration has a clear idea about Kim's grip on the state apparatus in North Korea. They call it a "Soprano state" because Kim runs it as a criminal enterprise. He engages in explicit criminal activity -- counterfeiting and drug running -- in order to gain hard currency to spread around to those who prop him up as dictator. It is this insight which allowed the Bush administration to hone in on Kim's weakness: cash.
Bush's critics have accused him of obstinacy and unreasonable antagonism in his dealings with Kim, but that hasn't been the case at all. In order to gain something from a negotiation, one has to know what one's opponent needs. Kim doesn't really concern himself with the starvation of his people, so food aid has gained us nothing. Trade means almost as little, because North Korea doesn't export much in any case -- just a few agricultural items, most of which get sold in China, South Korea, and Japan until recently. Kim needs to keep the flow of cash and luxury items for his capos to keep them from finally turning on him and giving him the Julius Caesar treatment -- and US efforts to cut that off have had the intended effect.
Kim came back to the table to save his own skin, and now we have the basis of real negotiation. This is something that Jimmy Carter and Madeline Albright never deduced, despite all of their dangerous blathering and can-kicking on this national security issue. Kim knows he has to cut a deal to survive, probably literally. Unlike its critics, the Bush administration refrained from panicking when Kim rattled his saber out of desperation, and when Kim realized that Bush wouldn't blink, he caved.
Gold Star Families Travel To Iraq In Support Of The Mission
The group Move America Forward sponsored a visit to Iraq by families of servicemen who lost their lives during the war there as a demonstration of support for the mission. Twelve parents traveled through Iraq in an effort to bolster support for the war:
To demonstrate their contention that things are better in Iraq than what has been portrayed in many news accounts, the delegation is intentionally traveling to Iraqi provinces that have largely been free of the violence that has erupted in Baghdad and the surrounding Sunni triangle.
“Shouldn’t the American people be told about the good things happening in Iraq? Isn’t it legitimate news for example to be told of the success enjoyed by the people of northern Iraq who have established democratic institutions in communities that are almost entirely free of violence?” Morgan asked.
The group includes seven Gold Star Family members including Joseph Williams (his son Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Williams died in combat near Nasiriyah, Iraq), John Holley (his son Army Spc. Matthew J. Holley died in combat operations in Taji, Iraq), Mike Anderson (his son Marine Corps Cpl Michael D. Anderson, Jr. was killed by small arms fire while protecting his fellow Marines from enemy action in the Anbar Province of Iraq), Todd & Debra Bastian (Debra’s son, Air Force Capt. Derek Argel, died in the crash of an Iraqi air force aircraft during a training mission in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala), and Jan & Joseph Johnson (their son Army Spc. Justin W. Johnson was killed when his patrol vehicle hit an IED - improvised explosive device - in Sadr City, Iraq).
They have some harsh comments for John Kerry as well. It's a must-read.
Security Alert -- NYT Firewall Breach!
Tom Maguire and Mickey Kaus have raised the alert that the firewall that keeps Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, and Paul Krugman from afflicting Internet users will come down for several days, putting news readers in dire jeopardy of brain damage. The shields drop on November 6th and stay down for a week:
The New York Times announced today that it will invite all online visitors to experience TimesSelect content free of charge for one week. From November 6-12, every visitor to NYTimes.com will have access to TimesSelect columns, blogs, video and other online exclusives that are normally available only to TimesSelect members. TimesSelect Free Access Week is presented exclusively by Philips as part of its "Sense and Simplicity" national marketing campaign.
"TimesSelect Free Access Week makes one of the Web's richest resources available to all," said Vivian Schiller, senior vice president, general manager, NYTimes.com. "From the influential opinion of our award-winning Op-Ed columnists, such as Maureen Dowd and Nicholas. D. Kristof, to online-only columnists, such as Maira Kalman and Judith Warner, TimesSelect provides a world of viewpoints that encourage dialogue on today's most pressing matters."
Translation: the Gray Lady can't sell TimesSelect, and they've realized it. At the time, I noted that the Times had settled on a business model that basically paid Internet visitors $50 not to read Dowd, Krugman, et al. I even suggested the motto, "TimesSelect: It's There for your Protection." Not only do they now have to do a one-week loss leader, they had to get Phillips Electronics to underwrite it.
What has TimesSelect done for the paper and its columnists? It made them much less relevant. Instead of having their columns dissected, criticized, and lionized by various bloggers and other pundits, they got ignored in favor of other columnists whose articles readers could easily access. This dynamic afflicted the vapid and the veritable alike in their stable of writers, and their declining influence has to have eroded the Times' market edge for opinion writers. This freebie is intended to convince people that their $50 buys them something unique, but the market has already proven that false.
And who came up with the timing on this offer? We're in the middle of a highly contested midterm election, and one would think that the folks at the Times might have some interesting things to say about it. (I know, I know ... work with me for a moment.) Wouldn't it make more sense to open the firewall for a week before the election, say from October 23-29, or October 30-November 6? I suspect that starting on November 7, political commentary will get significantly less attention than it has for the last couple of months. The marketing geniuses at the Times (and Phillips) apparently didn't consider that point.
At any rate, CQ readers have been warned. Beware of the TimesSelect pages and their stultifying effects next week. The mind you save may be your own.
Pot, Meet Kettle
When a lawyer attacks a reporter as a "whore", one has to wonder for whom to root in the conflict, or whether to just grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show. However, when the lawyer is running for Governor and the insult comes in response to a political gaffe made by his running mate, it becomes more concerning to the state's voters, who might at some time need to criticize the candidate if he wins office:
Hatch’s anger overflowed during a Thursday morning telephone interview.
A Forum Communications reporter asked Hatch about Dutcher’s knowledge of ethanol and why she wasn’t available to discuss the issue. Hatch abruptly ended the interview with: “You’re nothing more than a Republican whore. Goodbye.” He then hung up.
Television crews following the Duluth native Thursday reported other sharp comments when reporters pressed him for response to Dutcher’s comments.
Mike Hatch has a reputation in Minnesota as a nasty, unlikeable man who has a fixation on becoming Governor. This is, I believe, his third official run at the office, although it's the first time he's convinced Democrats (DFL here) to actually nominate him. He has routinely run the Attorney General's office as a partisan attack platform during Tim Pawlenty's first term as Governor, which makes this slur even more humorous than it otherwise would be.
Hatch let the mask slip this week, and Minnesotans got a reminder of his brittle personality. Calling a reporter a "whore" for asking about a major gaffe -- ethanol and E85 are a big deal here, regardless of how one views them -- demonstrates Hatch's inability to handle criticism in a mature and professional manner. Rather than answer the question, or avoid it by saying that it didn't have any probative value for voters, Hatch called the reporter an ugly word and hung up on him. (Hatch is lucky that the reporter is a man -- he would never live the insult down if the reporter had been a woman.)
Hatch claims that he called the reporter a "hack", but either way, the incident demonstrates that a Hatch administration would return us to the Jesse Ventura days of open warfare with the press. Minnesotans still recall the circus in Saint Paul during Ventura's strange reign as Governor, where media passes actually got labeled "media jackals" and openly mocking them at official events. While his attacks on journalists at first found some sympathy -- after all, we often criticize the local media, especially the Star Tribune -- it became apparent very quickly that he used the attacks to keep criticism of his incompetent bungling to a minimum.
It looks like Hatch will be cut from Ventura's cloth in that regard. If our elected officials cannot abide probing questions about issues of policy without throwing temper tantrums, then they do not belong in office. Minnesotans understood that after Ventura managed to get himself elected in 1998, and by the time his term was up, we had had enough of his antics. This incident should warn Minnesotans that the DFL wants to re-establish the imperial Governorship four years after Pawlenty restored openness and professionalism to the capital.
Where's The Plan?
George Bush has hit his stride on the campaign trail, pushing hard to protect the Republican majorities in Congress. He has tried talking up the economy and the war on terror, but he also has not shied from the Iraq war. In fact, in campaign stops, he has advised voters to demand a plan from the Democrats who have criticized the war:
President Bush yesterday said Republicans nationwide are running on a strong record of accomplishment as he ridiculed Democrats seeking to take control of the House and Senate, asking: "What's your plan?"
"The truth is, the Democrats can't answer that question. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second-guessing is not a strategy. We have a plan for victory," the president said to cheers from 5,000 supporters packed into the Springfield Exposition Center. ...
The president has honed his campaign rally speech into a laundry list of Republican successes and dire warnings about a Democratic majority, but yesterday he added a new twist when he painted Democrats as dangerously unfit to battle terrorism and win the war in Iraq.
"Oh, some of the leading Democrats in Washington argue we should pull out right now. Then you got other voices saying we should withdraw on a specific date, even though the job hasn't been completed. You actually had a member of the House recommend moving troops to an island 5,000 miles away as part of their plan. Nineteen House Democrats introduced legislation that would cut off funds for our troops in Iraq," he said.
"The Democrats have taken a calculated gamble. They believe that the only way they can win this election is to criticize us and offer no specific plan of their own," the president said.
The Democratic Party spokesperson, Stacie Paxton, proved Bush's point with her response. She rejected the allegation that the Democrats lack a coherent strategy for Iraq, but then offered the "new direction" theme. She did, however, mention "phased redeployments" and "benchmarks", but explained neither.
Democrats have rightly targeted Iraq in their campaigning; it's a political weakness for Republicans, and the electorate has become increasingly restive about the money and time that has been spent on Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The situation in Baghdad and Anbar does not appear to be improving, and after three years, that has a lot of people wanting new ideas. Unfortunately, the Democrats haven't offered any, at least none for victory, and that's what Bush is emphasizing.
"Phased redeployment" means withdrawal and retreat, and everyone knows that, especially our enemy. When General Walker called his retreat from Chosin an "advance to the rear", no one was fooled then, and no one is fooled now by fancy terms for defeat. Leaving the field to one's enemies is defeat, no matter how one paints it. If that's the plan Democrats have -- to declare defeat -- then they do have a "new direction": reverse.
Democrats had an opportunity to plan for victory. If the Bush administration and Donald Rumsfeld don't have the right strategy and tactics for victory, then tell us the better plan. What strategy and tactics do Democrats have that will win in Iraq? They haven't answered, because they have no answer. They want to cut and run, and they want this election to hinge on that choice for Iraq. If Americans want to vote for defeat, they have that opportunity on Tuesday.
Kerry's Big Dig
John Kerry has made himself the gift that keeps on giving. After supposedly botching a joke about President Bush and telling a college audience that a lack of education and hard work would get them "stuck in Iraq", he took criticism from Republicans and some Demicrats for two days. He finally apologized for both screwing up the joke and the fact that no one understood his genius, and the controversy finally started to recede. However, Kerry -- who has never learned the First Rule Of Holes -- decided to keep right on digging yesterday by posting a Seattle newspaper's editorial on his campaign web site that says he was right in either interpretation:
Republicans evidenced their election desperation by braying about an offhand comment that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., made at a California college rally.
"Education" Kerry said "-- if you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Was Kerry making fun of the president, or warning students against the pitfalls awaiting the undereducated in general?
It doesn't matter. Kerry was right either way.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer then contradicts itself by claiming that Kerry didn't call the troops "stupid", which is true; he implied that they were lazy and uneducated, which is technically not identical. If the P-I believes that Kerry was "right either way", and was warning students about the consequences of a poor education, then they're saying that lazy and uneducated people end up in the military. In fact, they say it outright:
Although there are plenty of well-educated people in our armed forces -- Kerry was one of them -- military service has long been an opportunity employer for those with less education and fewer skills than they need to work in the private sector. Indeed, the military sells itself as a place to garner skills and to help pay for higher education.
And wars, including this one, are often fought by those less privileged -- albeit no less smart -- than the sons and daughters of those who lead us into them.
Actually, this proves what happens when people lack a real education, one in which research and fact-finding have been subsumed to the advancement of cliches and unsupported assumptions. The military, as the Heritage Foundation pointed out in its extensive research, has a higher proportion of educated people than the general civilian population, especially in the officer corps. The P-I editorial board obviously doesn't do its homework either, which makes this a laughable entry in the debate.
But all this is separate from the political decision to put this on the Kerry website after insisting that he didn't intend on casting aspersions on the intellectual capacity of the troops. If he really didn't mean to call them lazy and uneducated, then why did he go out of his way to host an editorial on his site that does exactly that?
UPDATE: Here's another priceless picture, courtesy of Blackfive (h/t CQ reader Stoo):
November 3, 2006
So I Guess The FMSO Documents Are Legit
Over the past year or so, I have provided CQ readers with a number of translations from key Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that have been translated by either the FMSO or by Joseph Shahda of the Free Republic website. I even engaged two interpreters to verify one particularly explosive memo last April, after Shahda published his own translation. That memo dealt with IIS plans to get volunteers for suicide missions to 'strike American interests".
One particular criticism that appeared with each new translation was that the documents were never proven genuine, although no one could explain the logic behind the US government hiding these documents in Iraqi Arabic among an avalanche of mundanity, only to shove it onto a shelf for years until Congress authorized their release to the Internet. Now we find another verification of their authenticity, this time from the New York Times, which reports today that the documents constitute a national-security threat:
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”
Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
This is apparently the Times' November surprise, but it's a surprising one indeed. The Times has just authenticated the entire collection of memos, some of which give very detailed accounts of Iraqi ties to terrorist organizations. Just this past Monday, I posted a memo which showed that the Saddam regime actively coordinated with Palestinian terrorists in the PFLP as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. On September 20th, I reposted a translation of an IIS memo written four days after 9/11 that worried the US would discover Iraq's ties to Osama bin Laden.
It doesn't end there with the Times, either. In a revelation buried far beneath the jump, the Times acknowledges that the UN also believed Saddam to be nearing development of nuclear weapons:
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990’s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq. But unlike those on the Web site, the papers given to the Security Council had been extensively edited, to remove sensitive information on unconventional arms.
That appears to indicate that by invading in 2003, we followed the best intelligence of the UN inspectors to head off the development of an Iraqi nuke. This intelligence put Saddam far ahead of Iran in the nuclear pursuit, and made it much more urgent to take some definitive action against Saddam before he could build and deploy it. And bear in mind that this intelligence came from the UN, and not from the United States. The inspectors themselves developed it, and they meant to keep it secret. The FMSO site blew their cover, and they're very unhappy about it.
What other highlights has the Times now authenticated? We have plenty:
* 2001 IIS memo directing its agents to test mass grave sites in southern Iraq for radiation, and to use "trusted news agencies" to leak rumors about the lack of credibility of Coalition reporting on the subject. They specify CNN.
* The Blessed July operation, in which Saddam's sons planned a series of assassinations in London, Iran, and southern Iraq
* Saddam's early contacts with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda from 1994-7
* UNMOVIC knew of a renewed effort to make ricin from castor beans in 2002, but never reported it
* The continued development of delivery mechanisms for biological and chemical weapons by the notorious "Dr. Germ" in 2002
Actually, we have much, much more. All of these documents underscore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and show that his regime continued their work on banned weapons programs. We have made this case over and over again, but some people refused to believe the documents were genuine. Now we have no less of an authority than the New York Times to verify that the IIS documentation is not only genuine, but presents a powerful argument for the military action to remove Saddam from power.
The Times wanted readers to cluck their tongues at the Bush administration for releasing the documents, although Congress actually did that. However, the net result should be a complete re-evaluation of the threat Saddam posed by critics of the war. Let's see if the Times figures this out for themselves.
UPDATE: More at Stop the ACLU and QandO. And Michelle Malkin has a great take on this -- the paper that blew a series of highly classified national-security programs wants to point fingers about the status of these documents?
UPDATE II: Bump to top. And The Anchoress has dreamed up a hilarious dialogue at the NYT -- don't miss it.
UPDATE III: Yes, I understand the difference between 1991 and 2002. What the critics of this post seem to miss is this:
1. Saddam still had all of the relevant documentation to restart his nuclear program, so the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC teams obviously did not "destroy all vestiges" of Iraq's nuclear program. After all, the documentation is what the Times proclaimed as a dangerous breach that would allow Iran to build a bomb.
2. If the FMSO documents on the website are dangerous to publish because they might assist Iran in designing a nuclear weapon, then obviously they were dangerous sitting in Saddam's files. Missing that particular point seems willfully dense at best.
3. Saddam had unexpurgated copies of the IAEA report in his files -- the ones that the UN inspectors are so unhappy about being hosted at the FMSO site. I wonder how that happened?
4. Since the rest of the FMSO documents came from the same locations as the ones that the NYT proclaims as authentic and dangerous, that means that the rest of these documents are authentic as well. That's the primary point of this post -- because when one looks through the documents, it becomes clear that Saddam had many connections to terrorism, and had active WMD programs right through 2002.
A Chat About Iraq
CQ reader Roger B says that the New York Times headline on its November surprise should really read, "BUSH DIDN'T LIE: Keller, Kerry, Moore, Dean Resign." I've bumped my post to just below this one so that readers can consider the effect that the revelation of the UN's inspector assessment of Saddam's nuclear program will have on the Iraq debate. Speaking of debate, I joined Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine and its Hit & Run blog and Judd Legum of Think Progress for a chat on that very topic last night, pre-NYT:
asap: All right ... we're talking Iraq tonight. Apparently just like everyone else.
asap: Should a timeline be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, or should withdrawal be contingent on the accomplishment of certain specified goals?
Edward Morrissey: Withdrawal means one of two things: the mission is over and it was accomplished, or the mission is over and it failed. If we want to accomplish the mission, then we need the latter and not the former. If we want to admit defeat, then we need the former and not the latter.
Judd Legum: I think we should have a timeline for withdrawal ... this is the only way to succeed in Iraq... Our presence there is fueling the violence, to some extent, and more than our presence is the perception that we are never going to leave... if you look at the successes that have occurred in Iraq -- election, constitution -- these have occurred on a timetable... but even more than the Iraqis we need to do it for our own security ... we aren't able to focus on the threat from terrorism, which is a global problem.
Nick Gillespie: the first thing we need is a series of statements that define the mission in the first place. Are we there to create a democratic region? to have deposed tyranny in the form of Saddam? what? it's tempting to see the evident failure of the occupation as distinct from the military success of vanquishing Saddam. but in fact... the U.S. never really had a clear set of objectives in mind, which set up the occupation to fail.
Be sure to read the whole chat -- I've had a great time with Nick and Judd, and I think these have been moderated in an excellent fashion by our host, Otis Hart of the AP.
More Serious About Border Security?
The Washington Post reports that the US intends on screening every person who enters the country, regardless of method, in an attempt to identify potential terrorists. The new program will use the data to build terrorist profiles and will retain the data for decades:
The federal government disclosed details yesterday of a border-security program to screen all people who enter and leave the United States, create a terrorism risk profile of each individual and retain that information for up to 40 years.
The details, released in a notice published yesterday in the Federal Register, open a new window on the government's broad and often controversial data-collection effort directed at American and foreign travelers implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
While long known to scrutinize air travelers, the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to apply new technology to perform similar checks on people who enter or leave the country "by automobile or on foot," the notice said.
The department intends to use a program called the Automated Targeting System, originally designed to screen shipping cargo, to store and analyze such data.
"We have been doing risk assessments of cargo and passengers coming into and out of the U.S.," DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen said. "We have the authority and the ability to do it for passengers coming by land and sea."
More than five years after 9/11, one might have thought the DHS would already have done this. However, getting the resources in place took some time, and as the article shows, the enthusiasm for screening every person at the border is somewhat less than universal. Civil libertarians have objected to the new program, claiming that it treats "ordinary citizens" as terrorist suspects.
One of the primary tasks for the federal government, though, is the defense of the nation and the monitoring of the borders. It is entirely appropriate to conduct evaluations of people crossing the border in order to determine their potential for danger. In fact, it's one of the few police duties that finds its basis in the Constitution. The point is not to treat all entrants to the US as terror suspects, but rather to take ordinary security precautions -- precautions that we shrugged off before 9/11 to our peril.
The program looks somewhat like a data-mining system that uses a points system to flag individuals with enough indicators of trouble for further investigation. In this way, it bears similarities to the Israeli airport security program, which uses highly trained interrogators to speak at least briefly with each traveler. Only when enough indicators of untruthfulness pop up do they perform a full security search on the individual, and then only to keep them talking. The US wants to take that system a little further, in building a database of all reviews to determine from whom and where the highest scores come in order to profile better in the future. If this works properly, it should become a self-improving program with each new piece of information that gets added to the database.
There may be some question as to whether DHS has the resources to implement such a plan. The Post quotes Stephen Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations saying that Customs can barely keep up with their data now. If so, then Congress needs to allocate the proper funding for border security in order to allow DHS to do its job.
Saudi Justice: Whip The Victim
A Saudi Arabian court has passed sentence in a brutal rape in which attackers kidnapped a woman, pulled her into their car, and gang-raped her while one of the men used a mobile phone to videotape the attack. The verdict? Guilty -- for the woman, for the crime of being alone with men to whom she was not married:
A Saudi court has sentenced a gang rape victim to 90 lashes of the whip because she was alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married.
The sentence was passed at the end of a trial in which the al- Qateef high criminal court convicted four Saudis convicted of the rape, sentencing them to prison terms and a total of 2,230 lashes. ...
Saudi courts take marital status into account in sexual crimes. A male friend of the rape victim was also sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone with her in the car.
The court heard that the victim and her friend were followed by the assailants to their car, kidnapped and taken to a remote farm, where the raping occurred.
The victim and her friend, both kidnapped, got 90 lashes each. One of the perpetrators received a sentence of 80 lashes, which means that rape and kidnapping generate less punishment for the criminals than being a victim.
In all, the men received sentences between one to five years and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. The brutality of lashing aside, the amount of prison time assigned for kidnapping and rape is mind-bogglingly low. The Saudis execute people for drug trafficking, but rape a woman and the worst they can do is five years. Some rapists can escape with a year in prison. I wonder if they even bothered to confiscate the mobile phone.
Has She Heard Of Corn?
In the Upper Midwest, anyone who has pumped their own gas or has some vague knowledge of either agricultural or energy policy has heard of E85. A Google search on the term finds 3.5 million references to it on the Internet, and with gas tax policy a key issue in Minnesota, one would expect candidates for executive office here to at least recognize the term. Apparently all of this is a little too much to ask for Judi Dutcher, the empty suit selected by Democrat Mike Hatch as his running mate in his attempt to unseat Governor Tim Pawlenty:
The DFL lieutenant governor candidate got more attention Thursday than her gubernatorial partner Mike Hatch after a gaffe caught on tape earlier this week. She handed Democrats a self-inflicted wound when she admitted that she'd never heard of an ethanol fuel blend called E-85.
"It's like you've asked me the college quiz bowl question," Dutcher told a TV reporter this week in Alexandria. "What is E-85?"
On a campaign swing through southern Minnesota, Dutcher and Hatch tried to demonstrate that they are in tune with farm issues and spent much of the day fielding questions about her understanding of renewable fuels and other agricultural issues. ...
Everyone in farm country knows E-85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Farmers around the Midwest are betting that demand for petroleum alternatives will boost corn prices, and questions about ethanol subsidies are often the first thing politicians hear on rural stops. So Dutcher's gaffe — which hit the airwaves late Wednesday — was the topic of the day in the slugfest between Hatch and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Perhaps it isn't Dutcher's fault that she didn't recognize the term. In a lengthy position paper on Mike Hatch's website, he mentions E85 once, and never mentions the word ethanol. On the other hand, Tim Pawlenty notes that he has doubled the amount of ethanol in Minnesota's blend (from 10% to 20%) and ordered all state vehicles to run on E85. Pawlenty has also helped make Minnesota one of the top five producers of ethanol in the nation and the leader in the use of biofuels.
Hatch took an interesting tactic in responding to Dutcher's gaffe. He argued that Dutcher is irrelevant:
"He's not running against Judi Dutcher, he's running against me," Hatch retorted. "He ought to focus on me."
Well, Minnesotans might be very interested to know that Hatch selected a running mate with the thought in mind that she would not make any difference at all. The LG, after all, would run the state in the event that the governor could or would not be able to continue in office. Most Minnesotans expect the #2 to have the ability to take the wheel in short order, and to be able to tell what kind of fuel to put in the car, for that matter. If Hatch thinks that his choice for LG has no bearing on the race, perhaps that will tell Minnesotans a little about Hatch's judgment, too.
US To Lead UN Peacekeepers?
The US wants to put an American general in charge of United Nations peacekeeping efforts in the Ban Ki Moon administration, the Times of London reports. The French general currently leading the efforts will retire from the position when Kofi Annan steps down, and the Americans want to protect their investment:
The US is in a strong position to get the top peacekeeping job — currently held by a Frenchman — because of its decisive support in electing Ban Ki Moon, the South Korean Foreign Minister, as the next UN Secretary-General.
Mr Ban, who takes over on January 1, is setting up a transition team to select his top officials and is coming under heavy pressure from the big powers to appoint their favourites to key posts.
The Bush Administration is said to want to name a general to the UN post. “What they want is somebody who knows about peacekeeping and who is a good manager, and they think a general is a good manager,” one UN source said.
A US official confirmed yesterday that the Bush Administration was seeking the UN’s top peacekeeping post. The US only has 335 peacekeepers and 330 civilians serving with UN missions around the world, with the largest deployment being 239 police officers in Kosovo and 48 police officers in Haiti.
But Washington pays 26 per cent of the surging UN peacekeeping budget, which could rise from its current $5 billion a year (£2.6 billion) to $6 billion a year.
It seems a little strange that the US would want to assume responsibility for the disgraced UN peacekeeping missions, although they certainly need new management. Blue-helmeted forces have an atrocious track record in actually maintaining peace, and their exploitation of young girls for sex has been documented in several of their deployments. The management position would have to still work with the sovereign nations that control these troops, and while new leadership could clear out the UN personnel that took part in these embarrassments, it would have little influence over the behavior of the troops themselves.
Yet the US supposedly is so keen to get the position, we're willing to relinquish a key post at Turtle Bay to get it. Christopher Burnham will leave his post at the UN management department, a position that should be key to any future reforms of the organization. The US has apparently offered to trade that spot for command of peacekeeping forces. It means that the US may have given up on reforming the entire organization, or that we may have decided to focus on the part most critically in need of attention, now that Annan has left.
The Times thinks that this may be a way for the US to ease itself out of Iraq. They don't have any evidence or even a compelling argument for that theory, and it's hard to see how one relates to the other. If the UN has a problem with the US gaining control of peacekeeping forces because of Iraq, we'd more likely threaten to stop funding the missions rather than retreat from Iraq, at least for that reason. A more likely objection will be that the US might want to use the post in order to extend our intel capabilities, but that doesn't seem very plausible, either. Our funding alone gives us that kind of access, and we wouldn't have to take on the headaches of management in order to get better penetration. Management might make such an objective more complicated.
It's more likely that the Bush administration wants a higher-profile role at the UN. With the situation in Darfur deteriorating every day and the Annan regime unwilling to use the word "genocide" for fear of having to commit resources to it, the White House might want more leverage in order to get some action. They may also want to limit other activities of UN peacekeepers to free up those resources. Most of all, it would put an American in charge of the UNIFIL forces in Lebanon, a key theater where the US sees Syria and Iran as a major threat. An American general would more likely stiffen UNIFIL's rules of engagement than anyone from Europe. If so, it's not a bad idea, and even the more hard-line disengagement advocates might see some value in this move.
November 2, 2006
The Rest Of The Story On The Allen 'Assault'
Various left-wing bloggers voiced their outrage when blogger/activist Mike Stark got leveled after trying to push his way through to George Allen at a hotel this week. CNN video showed Stark trying to get around campaign staffers to shout at Allen about spitting on his first wife, a charge Allen's former spouse denied and called "baseless". The same staffers tossed Stark to the ground when he refused to back away, prompting accusations of goonery by Allen's campaign.
However, a series of photographs from the event by the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star shows that Allen's staff had good reason to worry about Stark. He assaulted one staffer in his attempt to get to Allen, something that the CNN cameras wouldn't have caught. Here's a slideshow of Stark's actions before the confrontation that everyone saw on the video (see update below).
Very obviously, Stark had become violent before the altercation we saw on CNN. The staffers afterwards closed ranks around Allen to keep Stark from committing violence against the Senator, and when he continued to push and shove, they physically removed him from the scene. The CNN video provided plenty of justification for the concerns of Allen's staff, and these pictures show that they acted rationally to Stark's irrational behavior.
Nor is that the only smear going on this week in America's dirtiest campaign. Dan Riehl notices a strange allegation by Frank Schaeffer in today's Dallas News. Schaeffer claims that Alen's campaign sent out a broadcast e-mail that called James Webb a "perverted pedophile", and he's leaving the Republican Party as a result.
Now, I have already written about what a mistake Novelgate was, but I've been on the Allen campaign's e-mail list since Day 1, and I never saw anything like this. Neither has Dan Riehl. Dan wonders whether someone sent a hoax e-mail to Schaeffer, or whether Schaeffer has decided to hoax everyone himself; I don't believe the latter could be true, so I'm inclined to believe the former. If someone who supports Allen and has signed up for their e-mail broadcasts has received this e-mail, let me know, but this looks like a last-minute attempt to manipulate voters.
Allen has made mistakes in this campaign, but the Democrats have been nothing short of vicious. They've attacked Allen's mother, they've tried to pry open his divorce records, and they've tried to imply that a couple of summonses for minor infractions amounted to a secret arrest record from 30 years ago. The Democrats have done everything in Virginia except talk about the issues, and that should inform Virginians of what their votes will endorse next Tuesday. I believe Virginians are too smart to support these kinds of electoral tactics, and they will make the right choice -- to return George Allen to the Senate and James Webb to the private sector.
UPDATE: If you came here expecting to see the slideshow, I had to take it down. The Free Lance-Star sent me an e-mail earlier today demanding that I stop using the photographs. Fair enough -- the pictures belong to them, and I didn't think they would object. Just follow the link and look at the first eight pictures in the string.
Panama Gets The Nod
The battle between Venezuela and Guatemala for the Latin American seat on the UN Security Council has finally ended. The winner is ... Panama?
Venezuela and Guatemala have withdrawn their rival bids for a UN Security Council seat from Latin America, diplomats have said.
They say the move opens the way for Panama to take the non-permanent seat.
Nearly 50 rounds of voting failed to resolve the contest between Guatemala and Venezuela. ...
"The two foreign ministers have agreed on two issues," said Ecuador's UN ambassador Diego Cordovez, who was a mediator during the talks.
"Both will withdraw their candidacy to the Security Council, and second, Panama will be the country that the three of us will present to the [Latin American] group" to represent the region, Mr Cordovez said.
Panama seems like a surprise. Some had speculated that Costa Rica might get the nod; Venezuela wanted Bolivia and its new leftist regime, but Guatemala refused. When word of negotiations leaked out, Venezuela denied that it would withdraw from the contest. Apparently, that changed after 47 ballots showed that Hugo Chavez would not get his UNSC seat from which to pester the Bush administration.
The Central American nation has remained on good terms with the United States and should be expected to remain open to American concerns. The Panamanians join a freshman class that does not look as though it will create more problems for the US at the UNSC. The new seats went to Italy, Belgium, South Africa, and Indonesia. The latter, with its increasingly questionable commitment to security, may pose some problems before long. None of them have the potential for the frequently dramatic and ridiculous antics of Hugo Chavez, and for that the US -- and the world -- should be grateful.
Iran Torpedoes Shalit Deal
Iran bribed Hamas and Khaled Mashaal in order to convince them to renege on their agreement to release Gilad Shalit, the London Telegraph reports. Israel accused Teheran of paying Hamas and Mashaal 30 million pounds, and have filed an official complaint at the UN:
Israel has accused Iran of scuppering attempts to win the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal captured by Palestinian militants near Gaza, by paying the militant Palestinian Islamic group Hamas £30 million not to agree to a prisoner exchange.
Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, said Teheran paid Khaled Meshaal, the hard-line Hamas leader who lives as an exile in Damascus, to ruin any chance of a negotiated settlement to this summer's Gaza crisis. "The Iranians paid him £30 million in order to avert and sabotage an imminent release," the ambassador said in New York.
"I informed the Security Council of news that we received, that we have every reason to believe that the Iranian regime has bribed Khaled Meshaal. I believe that the Security Council is worried about this and I hope that these worries will be translated into action very swiftly." Negotiations brokered by Egypt's intelligence chief appeared to be moving towards a deal two months ago that would have seen Cpl Shalit exchanged for around 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, only to collapse suddenly.
Egypt certainly expected Hamas to honor the agreement that would have traded Shalit for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. They made their displeasure known publicly, an unusual step for Cairo when brokering agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. The collapse of the deal embarrassed Egypt, but their concerns lie with the deteriorating situation in Gaza. Hosni Mubarak wants Israel out of Gaza and the political situation to stabilize so that the border becomes less of a liability for Egypt.
Apparently, Iran wants something else entirely. The mullahcracy must see opportunity in the chaos -- an opportunity to spread the radical Islamism of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The 30 million pounds will buy a lot of weapons for Hamas, as well as more influence in the territories.
Unfortunately, the UN will not likely do much to address Israel's complaint. So far, the Security Council has shown great reluctance to stop Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons. It's not going to break a sweat over a kidnapped Israeli soldier.
Air America (Intellectually) Bankrupt
If anyone wants to know why Air America can't hack it financially, a read of Jackie Guerra's op-ed piece at ABC News will demonstrate the network's intellectual bankruptcy. Guerra, who hosts the "Workin' It" show on the network, repeats the debunked claim that minorities and the poor are overrepresented in the military:
Serving our country in the military is a great service, one which we all admire and revere, but it's more than that. It's also a job.
And it's a job that many Americans sign up for not only out of a sense of patriotic duty, but also because it often seems the best of few options.
As a Mexican-American from Los Angeles, I find it especially meaningful that Kerry's comments came at Pasadena City College, just a few miles from the high schools of East Los Angeles, where on many campuses, military recruiters outnumber guidance counselors 5-1.
At high schools like these across the country, inner-city and rural students, often from communities of color but almost always poor, do not have many options in George Bush's America.
The former star of WB's "First Time Out" -- which we know because Guerra tells us -- tries to hail John Kerry for his message supporting this contention even as she claims he didn't say it, which is bad enough. However, she is also dead wrong on the facts. If anything, the poor are underrepresented in today's military, as the Heritage Foundation's Tim Kane determined in his extensive analysis last year. Kane reviewed recruiting data for the years 2003-5 and found out that the military attracts mostly middle-class young men and women:
In summary, the additional years of recruit data (2004–2005) support the previous finding that U.S. military recruits are more similar than dissimilar to the American youth population. The slight differences are that wartime U.S. military enlistees are better educated, wealthier, and more rural on average than their civilian peers.
Recruits have a higher percentage of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distribution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population. ...
By assigning each recruit the median 1999 household income for his hometown ZIP code as determined from Census 2000, the mean income for 2004 recruits was $43,122 (in 1999 dollars). For 2005 recruits, it was $43,238 (in 1999 dollars). These are increases over the mean incomes for the 1999 cohort ($41,141) and 2003 cohort ($42,822). The national median published in Census 2000 was $41,994. This indicates that, on average, the 2004 and 2005 recruit populations come from even wealthier areas than their peers who enlisted in 1999 and 2003.
When comparing these wartime recruits (2003– 2005) to the resident population ages 18–24 (as recorded in Census 2000), areas with median household income levels between $35,000 and $79,999 were overrepresented, along with income categories between $85,000 and $94,999. (See Chart 2.) Though the mainstream media continue to portray the war in Iraq as unpopular, this evidence suggests that the United States is not sending the poor to die for the interests of the rich.
Guerra wants to pursue the tired stereotype of the military during the draft, a dynamic that disappeared along with compulsory service. During the Vietnam War, college deferments did create a disparity in induction, for an obvious reason: rich and upper-middle-class people could afford to send their young men to college. The disparity caused great resentment (which lingers to this day), and put pressure on the government to end the draft altogether.
As Kane reveals, the policy change made a huge difference in the composition of the military. It not only represents the best of America in terms of the honor and courage of its members, but also represents America demographically.
Guerra misses an important point about the economy with her mindless regurgitation of ancient leftists tropes, too -- the poor do have more choices. Unemployment has hit historic lows, and job creation has exploded over the last three years. She claims that people have few opportunities in "George Bush's America", but the truth is that in many areas, employers have a hard time filling positions for lack of applicants. And that fact can be seen in the underrepresentation of the poor in the military, because if the choices were really that limited and "militry recruiters outnumber guidance counselors by 5-1", we would see a lot more of the poor flooding into the military, and it just isn't happening.
Guerra's entire piece consists of fact-deficient allegations and baseless analysis, and the core of her argument is easily refuted by the specific data. Why does she then insist on denying reality in nationwide opinion pieces? Because that's apparently the Air America business plan -- which explains their financial bankruptcy.
Revisiting The Revolution
The Washington Examiner runs my new Blog Board column today on the transformation of American politics by Ronald Reagan. I touched on this a few days ago and extended my thoughts for the Examiner column:
After an economically and politically disastrous decade, Ronald Reagan won election and immediately began changing the paradigm.
He insisted that government created more problems than it solves and that the power of free markets would always outperform government agencies in creating economic opportunity. His policies transformed the American economy and began a massive growth cycle that has continued with only occasional lulls ever since.
During his time, Reagan received plenty of criticism for his view of government.
Now, however, it appears that the message has finally become accepted wisdom. CNN shows that a majority of Americans believe that government tries to do too much, even now, while only 37 percent believe it does not do enough. The liberal paradigm of Big Government solutions appears to have dissipated among the electorate.
The Reagan legacy will, I believe, only grow in wisdom and influence in the coming years.
November 1, 2006
I'm Sorry You Didn't Understand My Genius, Part 37B
John Kerry has issued an apology, a day after insisting he would never apologize for his joke about George Bush (if you can read his mind) or American troops (if you quote him accurately). Here's the statement in its entirety:
As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.
I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.
It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.
Well, at least he said something, but this is hardly an expression of regret. His statement wasn't misinterpreted; even he admits that he issued a "poorly stated joke", which means Kerry failed to either write it clearly or read it properly. It's the non-apology apology that politicians have accustomed themselves to making when they've thoroughly embarrassed their colleagues -- and Democrats today made their displeasure known.
As it is, I'm inclined to believe that he meant to slam Bush, but screwed up the words. However, the words as he delivered them communicated something completely different, and he still won't acknowledge his responsibility for his own failure. Other politicians would likely have received some benefit of the doubt, but Kerry's track record of criticism for military personnel under fire added to the perception that he was at it again, another point Kerry refuses to acknowledge.
He can't have it both ways. He can't argue that Republicans are intellectually inferior and then blame them for not reading his mind. He can't admit he botched the joke and then get mad when his words get interpreted in some manner other than he intended. Kerry's insistence that the entire episode was nothing more than a Republican smear campaign ignores that no one paid much attention to him in this election cycle, and that a grand conspiracy against Democrats this year would have been pretty unlikely to target a Senator who isn't running for re-election for another two years.
As it is, though, the story's over. It made for some interesting fireworks, but it won't do much to move the needle in either direction this year. The only benefit that will come from it is that we can all be spared the specter of another Kerry presidential run in 2008, a benefit that will be enjoyed by both political parties. Republicans will be better served getting back to the economy and national security, and let Kerry huff and puff his way back to oblivion. With only five campaigning days before the election, the GOP has little enough time to push its message.
BYOB -- Bring Your Own Burqa
Iran has offered a premium to travel agents to induce Americans to visit the mullahcracy that routinely calls our country the Great Satan. Every American delivered to Iran will gain agents $20 cash:
Iran will offer cash incentives to travel agencies to encourage Western tourists to visit the country, giving a premium for Americans, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The Islamic republic's political leadership has been trying to reach out to ordinary Americans to show that a standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions is with the Bush administration -- not U.S. citizens.
The latest initiative comes as the United Nations Security Council deliberates a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for its disputed nuclear program.
"Iran's tourism department will pay $20 per person to those who attract European or American tourists to the country," the agency on Tuesday quoted Mohammed Sharif Malakzadeh, deputy head of the department, as saying.
Visitors from other countries would earn travel agents $10 per tourist, Malakzadeh said.
What would Americans do in the Islamic Republic -- visit the Teheran embassy where Ahmadinejad and his cohorts kidnapped and held hostage dozens of Americans? Take a tour of the new nuclear power plants? Act as human shields?
This seems as silly as the notion of direct flights between Iran and the US. We do not want to engage Iran economically while they threaten Israel with destruction and develop nuclear weapons. We want them to stop both and end their support for Islamist terrorism. Until they start acting responsibly, direct flights and tourist trade should not exist. Americans inclined to visit a country that reviles us as demons and holds seminars on a world free of the same people whose tourist dollars they now crave should really have their heads examined.
Kerry's Schedule Starts To Lighten Up (Updated)
John Kerry may have some spare time to spend with the family. After his ridiculous comments on Monday and the equally ridiculous explanation on Tuesday, Iowa Congressional candidate Bruce Braley has asked Kerry to stay away from their scheduled campaign appearance this week:
A Democratic Congressional candidate from Iowa is canceling a campaign event later this week with Senator John Kerry.
Bruc[e] Braley says Kerry's recent comments about the Iraq war were inappropriate.
Braley is running against Republican Mike Whalen in Iowa's First District congressional race. It's a contest considered to be one of the most competitive House races in the country.
Will we see more of this? Kerry has scheduled events here in Minnesota for Tim Walz and a party-building event for the DFL (Minnesota's Democrats) today. Tonight he goes to Pennsylvania to campaign for Bob Casey, Jr, and the Braley campaign event was scheduled for tomorrow.
Will Walz withdraw his invitation to Kerry as well? Will Casey?
UPDATE: I'm still pretty torn on this controversy. Had Kerry simply come out yesterday and said, Whoops, my bad -- I left out a couple of key words from the punchline and left the wrong impression -- my apologies!, I think the entire story would have died immediately. However, in his typically tone-deaf manner, he decided to brand the entire incident a Republican smear, despite the fact that he had been quoted accurately.
Now he's left with the argument that he misquoted himself while trying to show off his supposed intellectual superiority over George Bush, and that it's all Bush's fault despite being Kerry's intellectual inferior. Really, no one could have scripted a more hilarious scenario, and the longer Kerry continues this line of defense/offense, the more ridiculous a figure he becomes. It demonstrates clearly that the "I was for the $87 billion before I was against it" gaffe was no fluke.
UPDATE II: Kerry won't be campaigning with Tim Walz or the DFL, either. The AP reports that Kerry has canceled all of his Minnesota visits:
U.S. Sen. John Kerry canceled a campaign visit here in the wake of a controversy over remarks he made about students and the war in Iraq, according to a spokeswoman for congressional candidate Tim Walz.
"He wants to make sure the campaign is about the issues we've been talking about the last two years," the spokeswoman, Meredith Salsbery, said of Kerry's decision. "It's important to him that we are able to do that."
Kerry was to appear at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Minnesota State, Mankato, with 1st Congressional District candidate Tim Walz. Walz will still appear at the event, Salsbery said. Walz is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn.
This seems out of character with Kerry's professed passion for fighting back against Republican smears. Perhaps other Democrats managed to talk some sense into Kerry overnight.
Why Nancy Pelosi Thinks Alcee Hastings Is Qualified
Over the last few weeks, I have pointed out that the man Nancy Pelosi wants to head the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats win control of the House, Alcee Hastings, got impeached and removed for corruption from the federal bench by a Democratic Congress twenty years ago. For a potential Speaker who likes to talk about "draining the swamp" of Republican corruption, giving a disgraced judge the gavel to a committee critical to national security seems not just strange but dangerous in a time of war. However, Ruth Marcus tells a story in her Washington Post column today that explains Pelosi's enthusiasm for Hastings:
The evidence against Hastings is circumstantial, but it's too much to explain away: a suspicious pattern of telephone calls between Hastings and Borders at key moments in the case; Borders's apparent insider knowledge of developments in the criminal case; Hastings's appearance at a Miami hotel, as promised by Borders as a signal that the judge had agreed to the payoff; a cryptic telephone conversation between the two men that appears to be a coded discussion of the bribe arrangement.
Consider: Hastings, a federal judge, gets word from Borders's lawyer that Borders has been arrested for conspiring to bribe him and that the FBI wants to interview him. Instead of calling the FBI agents whose names and numbers he's been given, Hastings leaves his hotel without checking out and heads to the airport outside Baltimore instead of National, where there's an earlier flight. At BWI, Hastings calls his girlfriend, has her call him back at a different pay phone, then asks her to leave the house to call him from a pay phone, then calls her back from a different pay phone. He doesn't speak to the FBI until they track him down at the girlfriend's house later that night.
So that's why Pelosi wants him to lead Intelligence -- he has so much experience at clandestine work!
Marcus scolds Pelosi in her column for allowing Hastings to gain control of the key House panel for nothing more than venal political gain within her party. Marcus covered the trials of Hastings, and although the criminal trial resulted in an acquittal, she strongly believes that the judicial review panel and the Democratic-controlled House and Senate reached the correct conclusion. She reminds readers that the other figure in the case, William Borders, went to prison for the bribery scheme, and also refused to testify to Congress, earning him more time behind bars.
And why is Pelosi so dead set on Hastings? Marcus confirms what I wrote earlier; the Congressional Black Caucus will not support her for the speakership if she doesn't select Hastings. Jane Harman, the current ranking member of the committee, got that slot from Pelosi when the Minority Leader reinstated her seniority and passed over Sanford Bishop, another black representative. They want the same thing done now for Hastings in reverse, regardless of his past corruption, and Pelosi doesn't have the moral courage to refuse them.
The CBC's spokesperson told the Post that its first order of business is to protect its members. Apparently, that takes precedence over protecting America, and the CBC views Intel as just another means to divide spoils. They also insist that Hastings has the knowledge and the experience in intelligence work. If they're referring to his clandestine work, they certainly have a point.
This is what a Democratic majority will bring.
Bono And Bandmates Closet Conservatives?
U2's Bono has made a name for himself as an anti-poverty activist, traveling the world to get Western governments to reduce barriers to trade with poverty-stricken African nations and demanding large outlays of aid to these same nations. He has argued that the wealthiest nations have shared little of their largesse with those in need. Bono has actively worked with political players of all ideologies to get a bigger financial commitment to end world hunger.
It's somewhat ironic, as Timothy Noah points out in Slate, that Bono and his bandmates have decided to relocate their publishing business to avoid paying taxes:
A familiar paradox about leftist celebrities in the entertainment industry is that their embrace of progressivism almost never includes a wholehearted embrace of progressive taxation, i.e., the principle that the richer you get, the larger the percentage of your income you ought to pay in taxes. The latest example is U2's Bono, a committed and unusually sophisticated anti-poverty crusader who is taking surprisingly little heat for the decision by his band, U2, to relocate its music-publishing business from Ireland to the Netherlands in order to shelter its songwriting royalties from taxation. ...
"Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market … that's a justice issue," Bono said at a prayer breakfast attended by President Bush, Jordan's King Abdullah, and various members of Congress earlier this year. Preaching this sort of thing has made Bono a perennial candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued:Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents ... that's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents ... that's a justice issue.
And relocating your business offshore in order to avoid paying taxes to the Republic of Ireland, where poverty is higher than in almost any other developed nation? Bono's hypocrisy seems even more naked when you consider that Ireland is a tax haven for artists.
Well, it used to be a tax haven. Perhaps tired of having the highest poverty rate in the developed world, Ireland put a cap on tax-free income for artists at a reasonable level of $319,000. Within months, U2 had relocated to the Netherlands, which has a more favorable tax climate.
Conservatives at this point might say, "So what?" After all, we insist that lower taxes creates wealth by keeping the money in the hands of people who can create jobs and invest in new businesses. Creating new taxes, as Ireland did, will probably kill investments and lead to greater poverty, not less. All of this is true. However, Bono has made it his mission to get governments to spend the same tax dollars on aid that his band now wants to avoid paying -- more than just a minor bit of hypocrisy.
We're all for lower taxes, and we applaud people who find ways to legally structure their finances in order to minimize their tax burden. However, when these same people then transform into scolds of Western civilization for selfishness and demand that government confiscates more money in order to transfer wealth to corrupt and dictatorial states abroad, their credibility rightly suffers.
Bush Gets A Win On North Korea
The Bush administration found vindication yesterday when North Korea agreed to return to six-party talks without any concessions from the US. The news of Kim Jong-Il's capitulation came through China, whose influence undoubtedly led to the breakthrough:
North Korea agreed Tuesday to resume nuclear disarmament talks, a first sign of easing tensions since the country’s nuclear test this month. But the talks have dragged on inconclusively for three years, and the chances for rolling back the country’s now-proven nuclear capability remained uncertain.
China announced that six-nation talks would reconvene shortly after a hiatus of more than a year, and an American envoy in Beijing said they could take place in November or December.
The agreement was a procedural victory for Beijing, which scrambled to reopen a diplomatic channel even as it joined the United States and other international powers in supporting United Nations sanctions on North Korea after the Oct. 9 test.
But Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has participated in multiple rounds of talks over the past several years while he accelerated his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and some analysts suspect that he agreed to restart talks now to forestall tough enforcement of sanctions and to persuade China and South Korea to ease his government’s growing economic woes.
The New York Times tries throwing a lot of cold water on this diplomatic victory, but it's undeniable. Critics of the Bush administration had called for the US to lift sanctions on Pyongyang's banking activities after Kim started massively counterfeiting US currency, and to agree to bilateral talks.
The White House refused on both counts. Kim has pumped as much as a billion dollars in fake $100 bills into the world market in its desperate attempt to create hard-currency stocks for themselves, so we're unlikely to avert our eyes while he compounds the dilution of our money. And as to bilateral talks, none of the critics have answered Bush's question: what could North Korea request in bilateral talks that they could not in the six-party regional talks?
With Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, the Bush administration has a diplomatic and economic encirclement of Kim that actually could crush him. Without engaging the regional players, Kim would be able to taunt us without fear of consequences. After all, we don't trade with Kim now, and he knows we will not start a new war with him. He had no risk in bilateral talks. But that wasn't true with China and Russia, both of which keep Kim afloat, especially China. He went too far over the past few months, embarrassing Beijing and making them look impotent -- and the Chinese must have cracked the whip good the past two weeks, looking at the results.
The Bush administration still has a long road to travel with North Korea. The US needs to stay firm on verifiable disarmament, a concept not robustly pursued in the Agreed Framework, and that will require some intrusive inspections. If given with the appropriate incentives, the multilateral negotations could result in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It could also result in more game-playing by Kim, which is why verification plays such a critical role in the negotiations.
However, people need to recognize that we would not have any leverage at all had the Bush administration taken advice from its critics. Bush knew he needed sufficient leverage to get North Korean compliance, and he didn't see the point in making useless gestures to a tinpot dictator just to get a few decent headlines in the American press. It's called leadership, and Bush just provided a clear example.
Provocateur Ejected For Provoking
A man who bragged about becoming a provocateur now claims victimization when he fulfilled the promises he made on his website. Mike Stark, a liberal blogger and a law student, tried to rush George Allen and yelled a question about Allen purportedly spitting on his first wife. Hot Air posted the video last night, and the AP reports on his intentions:
Mike Stark, a liberal blogger and first-year University of Virginia law student, approached Allen at an event in Charlottesville, loudly asking, "Why did you spit at your first wife, George?" according to witnesses.
Three men, all wearing blue Allen lapel stickers, immediately grabbed Stark, dragged him backward and slung him to the carpet outside a hotel meeting room, according to video captured by WVIR-TV in Charlottesville.
Allen's campaign said in a news release that Stark "aggressively went after Senator Allen ... screaming that he answer inappropriate questions." ...
In a Monday posting on "Calling All Wingnuts," the blog Stark publishes, he hinted that he would attempt to provoke Allen before the TV cameras.
"Im also trying to `Roger and Me' George Allen whenever I can," Stark wrote, referring to director Michael Moore's 1989 documentary in which he repeatedly tried to confront former General Motors' chief executive Roger Smith about the company's downsizing.
Given American political history, someone who rushes up and onto the backs of campaign workers while yelling at a candidate is going to get screened off, and that's exactly what the men tried to do with Stark. He tried to push his way past them, and that's when they shoved him away, tackling him when he tried to push through them again, shouting at Allen all the while.
And what was so important? Stark wanted to know if Allen had ever spit on his first wife.
Oh, puh-leeeeeeze. Obviously, Stark has an excellent career ahead of him chasing ambulances and advertising for slip-and-fall con artists on late-night television. I guess the Left thinks that they need to defend the honor of Allen's ex-wife, and that the 22-year-old divorce somehow has relevance to the Senate campaign.
Allen's ex-wife does not agree:
Allen's former wife, Anne Waddell, issued a statement calling Stark's question "a baseless, cheap shot."
Waddell, who lives in California, said she and Allen divorced more than 22 years ago, and because it was a personal matter they sealed the divorce records.
Jon Henke has a few links to Stark's posts at Daily Kos at the AllenHQ blog. It seems very clear that Stark has nothing better to offer Virginians than childish taunts and personal attacks, just the kind of electoral tactics that Virginians have witnessed in abundance in this cycle. Stark wants to emulate Michael Moore, but at least in Roger and Me, Moore had a reasonable motivation; he wanted to confront Roger Smith about factory closures in Flint that put a lot of people out of work. Stark wants to know about marital spittle.
This would be a great parody of Leftist activism, if Stark hadn't actually done it. Virginians can look at this and determine which party they believe represents them best. If it's the Marital Spittle Party, then apparently James Webb is the candidate. Otherwise, Virginians may want to stick with George Allen and the Republicans.
October 31, 2006
The Fresca Smear
Only seven days remain of my campaign to garner enough write-in votes to win election as the Mayor of Eagan. My brutal schedule had me talking with a guy in Eagan about my candidacy just a couple of days ago, and then again today. I was busy lining up campaign appearances at the grocery store and my local Best Buy (in the DVD section), when I came across this post at IMAO:
I'm sorry to disappoint, but I have no evidence that Glenn Reynolds is gay. While it is a well known fact that Glenn Reynolds murders hobos, it has hardly ever been suggested that he has sex with them first (or afterwards). Also, while puppy smoothies are a well known aphrodisiac in the gay community, it's not as solid an indicator of gayness as seeing a guy drink Fresca.
Fresca? Why, I've enjoyed the grapefruit-enhanced taste of Fresca since I was a young lad! If this got out, it could doom my efforts to win election. I decided to do a little misdirection and throw my political opponents off track. I visited a kindergarten classroom earlier in the day and told the children that if they listened to their teachers and parents and cleaned up well after fingerpainting, they would succeed in life -- otherwise they'd end up as a Senator from Massachussetts. And Lord knows how embarrassing that can get.
Anyway, I think I dodged a real bullet with the Fresca issue, and it's a good thing, too. I planned to talk to a couple of people at the local Subway this weekend about my candidacy, and having to explain the Fresca in my hand would just slow my momentum. With any luck, I may roll up as many as fourteen write-in votes, after which I can enjoy a nice cold Fresca in celebration.
But don't say anything to anybody in the meantime.
UPDATE: My Canadian connections offer some advice; John from Newsbeat1 suggests that I get some electronic voting machines to help seal my victory. I'd try that, but the last time I did, they made me clean all the displays from where I wrote my name. With Fresca, actually.
UPDATE II: You think the folks at Fresca might send me a free case with all of these links?
Local TV Station Gives Wetterling A 'D' For Honesty
Patty Wetterling and the DCCC have continued to run advertisements on local TV that distort the record of Michele Bachmann to the point of complete lies. That judgment comes from local ABC affiliate KSTP-TV (video here), saying the ads are so deceptive that they bear special scrutiny. Earlier, the Star Tribune called the ads "highly deceptive" as well.
One wonders why Wetterling and the Democrats continue to to use such demonstrably false allegations against Bachmann. Painting her as soft on crime makes as much sense as painting Wetterling and the Democrats as tax-cutters -- but then again, they've tried that, too, and the Star Tribune called them on it as well. It looks a lot like desperation.
Trick Or Treat!
A nice surprise while I was manning the door this evening:
My son and daughter-in-law moved into the city earlier this year, and due to their schedules, I assumed we wouldn't see the Little Admiral tonight. Here she is in her Tinkerbell outfit, complete with wand. (I noticed that Tinkerbell/fairy outfits seem to be pretty popular this year, at least in our neighborhood.) She was pretty wound up when she first arrived, but settled down a little here. She helped me pass out the candy, but she's a lot more generous than I am; she handed it out six at a time, and we wound up running out as the last of the trick-or-treaters knocked on our door.
I'm glad the First Mate and I didn't miss her this Halloween, and I figured I'd share the moment with my friends here at CQ.
John Kerry Supports The Troops As Special-Education Cases (Updated!)
John Kerry has never hidden his contempt for the armed forces very well, not even when he served as an officer in the Navy. Yesterday the mask slipped a little bit, as John Ziegler at KFI notes on his website, and Allahpundit mirrors at Hot Air. At a political rally for California's Democratic challenger to Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor, Phil Angelides, Kerry told the Pasadena City College crowd to study hard and get an education -- or wind up like the losers in the military:
“You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Wow. Just wow. It's worth recalling that Kerry at one time aspired to command these same men and women from the White House, and claims to still want to lead them. How would these people react to taking orders from a Commander-in-Chief who believes them to be uneducated, lazy losers?
We'll see if Kerry's peers in the Democratic Party support Kerry's description of our fighting men and women. If Democrats that have had John Kerry campaign on their behalf refuse to address Kerry's remarks or openly supports their characterization, it will expose the hypocrisy and the contempt that the Left has for the military. All of the talk of "supporting the troops" will be revealed as lip service.
Will Ned Lamont repudiate Kerry's words? Will Bob Casey, Jr dispute his mentor's characterization of our military as a junkyard for goldbricking idiots? Will Benjamin Cardin affirm that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines don't have what it takes to succeed in life? Here in Minnesota, does Amy Klobuchar agree with Kerry's analysis? (h/t: Michelle Malkin)
UPDATE AND BUMP: Do you want to support the troops? Then make your contribution to Soldier's Angels. They have a new effort called Project Valour that will be raising money from various bloggers. I have not had an opportunity to sign up for a particular team, but given the theme of this blog, I'll root for the Navy. Whichever team you choose, you will be helping our men and women who put their lives on the line for all of us ... even those who belittle and disrespect them.
UPDATE II: Okay, I've joined now, and here's the donation button:
UPDATE III: Okay, Kerry has managed to confuse the issue even more this afternoon while I was at work. On one hand, he claims that the entire issue got engineered by "right-wing nut jobs", led by a "doughy Rush Limbaugh". Later this afternoon, though, he claimed the problem was a "mangled joke" that was supposed to slame George Bush.
Well, no. Kerry can't have it both ways. Either it's a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy or he botched the joke, but he can't seriously push the blame onto Republicans if he screwed it up and didn't bother to correct the record until later. Quite frankly, I'd be willing to buy this version -- few politicians could really be this stupid -- except that he has been this stupid on a number of occasions. He called American soldiers rapists and murderers in his Senate testimony in 1971, and just last year accused them of terrorizing Iraqi families on midnight raids for no reason.
But then, that's our John Kerry. He insulted the troops before he lauded them, and he was the victim of a smear before he botched his own prepared speech. And that Secret Service son of a bitch tripped him on that ski slope, too. It's a revealing moment for Kerry and anyone/everyone who rises to defend him, but honestly, it's not going to change anyone's mind about Kerry. We already knew this about him, and his lame excuse-making after his paranoid rantings have always been par for the course with J. Forbes. I doubt this will keep candidates from taking his contributions and shunning him on the stump, even though his behavior in the last 24 hours should at least embarrass the candidates working with him at the midterms.
What Spooks Lorie Byrd?
Lorie Byrd talks about what frightens her in these midterm elections at The Examiner today:
The scariest political scenarios are similar to those in the movies because control over the outcome there is also in our hands. So instead of yelling, “Don’t go in there,” to characters on a movie screen, what I find myself wanting to yell each election season is, “Get out there and vote.”
Those on the right, not wanting to see “The Return of the Tax Monster” and those on the left wishing an end to the 12-year run of “The Creatures from the Red States” can do something about it.
Not only can citizens vote to keep their political nightmares from coming true, but they can still contribute money to candidates they would like to see win, as well as volunteer for their campaigns and volunteer to help their preferred political party “get out the vote” on Election Day.
It's not enough to boo from the cheap seats. If you want to avoid the scariest political scenarios, you have to get involved.
Keep an eye on NRO today for a symposium on the same topic.
UPDATE: NRO posted their Symposium of Spooky, including my contribution. I'm in some pretty spectacular company -- be sure to read the whole thing.
Another Success For Non-hEsc Research
British researchers have grown a new liver from umbilical-cord stem cells, a breakthrough of immense proportions that promises the potential of almost-instant organ transplantation:
British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.
The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.
Described as a 'Eureka moment' by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.
As it stands, the mini organ can be used to test new drugs, preventing disasters such as the recent 'Elephant Man' drug trial. Using lab-grown liver tissue would also reduce the number of animal experiments.
Within five years, pieces of artificial tissue could be used to repair livers damaged by injury, disease, alcohol abuse and paracetamol overdose.
And then, in just 15 years' time, entire liver transplants could take place using organs grown in a lab.
The "disaster" to which the Daily Mail refers involved six young people who had an unpredicted reaction to a new drug regime, one that almost killed them. The development of liver tissue from umbilical stem cells means that human drug and therapy trials may not require humans -- making the process that much safer and quicker, and helping to bring new treatments to market much sooner.
Of course, the main focus will be on transplantation. Liver transplants are notoriously tricky, even live donors; people donate a portion of their livers, betting that they can live a normal and healthy life with only a portion, which usually works out well. If scientists can grow enough liver tissue for these transplants, it will eliminate the need for live transplants, and perhaps most cadaver donors as well. Hopefully that will lead to other types of organ transplants, especially kidneys and pancreases.
Once again, we see that non-hEsc research produces results. We do not have to grind up our progeny in order to live longer and healthier lives. We should allow our resources to follow our successes, especially when we talk about federal funding. The Anchoress has more, as does The Corner.
Not Shying Away From National Security
Rick Santorum continues to rely on national-security issues as his main focal point for the home stretch to the midterm elections. Despite the advice of analysts, Santorum refuses to subjugate issues such as terrorism and Iran in favor of economic and social issues, declaring the war on terror and all its implications the most critical points of consideration for voters:
In an election season in which the Republican Party's leaders and pollsters are advising GOP candidates to emphasize the economy and avoid the Iraq war and national security, Pennsylvania's junior senator prefers to address hometown crowds by invoking the nearly unpronounceable name of the Iranian president.
When Senator Santorum is on the stump, he delivers "The Gathering Storm," a speech named after the first volume of Winston Churchill's history of World War II. In the speech, he lists recent threats and atrocities perpetrated by Islamist terrorists and orchestrated by Iran. He follows each threat and atrocity with the refrain, "This is evil." ...
While vulnerable Republican incumbents in Virginia, Ohio, and Montana are running advertisements attacking Democrats for raising taxes, Mr. Santorum is criticizing Mr. Casey for being too passive on national security. One recent Santorum ad features footage of a North Korean missile launch spliced with pictures of President Ahmadinejad of Iran, a nuclear mushroom cloud, and Chinese oil platforms near American shores. An announcer ends the 30-second montage by saying, "We just can't take a chance on Bob Casey." ...
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Santorum shrugged off his party's advice. "I think I have a better understanding of what is going on in the minds of people in Pennsylvania than pollsters based in Washington," the two-term senator said. "I run my campaign based on the important issues of the day."
"This stuff needs to be said and I need to say it," he added.
Santorum has a tough battle ahead of him. Most pollsters have him down by eleven or twelve points to Casey; Santorum says his internal polls show a seven-point gap. Neither represent very good news for an incumbent with the leadership role that Santorum has (#3 in the Senate). If anything indicated a warm-and-fuzzy message, those polls would do it.
However, like Mark Kennedy, Santorum prefers to emphasize the issues he thinks matter most in the long run. Economic policies can be adjusted, and social programs can get recalled. Losing focus on national security can get people killed, and as terrorists have proven, that may mean thousands of people at a time. Pennsylvania voters need to know those stakes, regardless of the political cost, and Santorum is determined to ensure they do.
Rick Santorum deserves election, especially faced off against a challenger of the caliber of Bob Casey, Jr. If Pennsylvanians agree, they need to work hard to get out the vote to return their Senator to his seat a week from today.
Germans And Israelis Have Trust Issues
The Israelis requested German troops as part of the scaled-up UNIFIL forces that would enforce the terms of Resolution 1701. Ehud Olmert went out of his way to request the troops from the Angela Merkel government, a remarkable development sixty years after the Holocaust. Germany, feeling vindicated after generations of effort to atone for the Nazi atrocities, sent their contingent to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, believing that a new age of trust was within its grasp.
Unfortunately, as Der Spiegel reports, it didn't quite work out that way:
It started so well. But now, questions surround Germany's mission to Lebanon. Not only have Israeli planes buzzed German ships, but the naval mission has fewer rights than at first promised. The German parliament is demanding answers.
One thing is certain, when Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung visits Israel and Lebanon the end of this week, there will be no shortage of things to talk about. He will want a more detailed explanation from Israeli politicians, for examples, as to why their fighter jets buzzed a German ship last Tuesday and why a German naval helicopter was approached by Israeli jets on Thursday night. And when Jung visits the Lebanese government, concern within Germany's parliament about Beirut's wish to limit the activities of the German-led UN flotilla off the coast will surely be on the agenda.
And the German naval mission -- which aims at preventing Hezbollah from receiving arms smuggled in by sea -- had gotten off to such a promising start: A large majority in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, supported the mission and Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke enthusiastically on Sept. 20 of the mission's "historic dimension." She said that "it was impossible to overstate the significance of how much Germany is now trusted," that Israel "explicitly requested" that German soldiers take part in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.
This trust, though, suddenly doesn't seem to go very far.
No one really knows what happened with the Israeli flyover, which the Germans insist included a couple of rounds from Israeli guns. The Israelis denied that it ever happened, and since then the situation has relaxed somewhat. Regardless, the German opposition has latched onto the incident as part of its argument against engagement in the UNIFIL force. The ship involved, the Alster, technically isn't part of the UNIFIL force but is a support ship for the German contingent in the UN force. The spy ship has provided needed intelligence to the Germans in Lebanon.
That, however, is another point of contention. The Germans claim now that the Lebanese will not allow them full range of options for their naval deployment. Merkel had promised that both the Lebanese and the Israelis would not place any restrictions on their movement. Now it seems that Merkel oversold the agreement with the Lebanese, which is demanding permission for German ships to navigate its ports. It's not just the Lebanese government making these decisions, either. Hezbollah has blocked Spanish troops from carrying out missions in the sub-Litani region; when they demanded support from the Lebanese Army, they declined to respond, forcing the Spaniards to retreat.
The Europeans apparently have begun to discover the futility of UNIFIL, a futility that many pointed out when the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 1701. It would have been better to form a new force, one that had UN-dictated terms of engagement and one that had the authority to enforce 1701. Instead, the Germans have found themselves between three entities which have never accepted the terms of 1701 and have no intention of abiding by it for very long. The Israelis did not get their soldiers back, and because the UNIFIL contingent has no real authority, no one can certify that Hezbollah has not begun to re-arm. Hezbollah wants their weapons for their next effort against the Israelis. The Lebanese government has sent its army to the sub-Litani region for the first time in decades, but it won't stop Hezbollah from re-establishing themselves in opposition to them.
The Germans will have to decide whether to continue its participation in this charade, seeing as how the three principals have long since given it up.
Back To One-Note Campaigning
After watching his remarkable primary victory dissolve into a pathetic also-ran campaign for the general election, Ned Lamont has decided to return to the one-note campaign that energized anti-war activists earlier. The endorsed Democratic candidate for Connecticut's Senate seat has decided to spend the last week of the campaign focused on the Iraq War:
Returning to the issue that won him the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in August, Ned Lamont has begun intensifying his attacks on Senator Joseph I. Lieberman over the Iraq war with television and Internet advertisements as well as campaign appearances, and aides said on Monday that the emphasis would continue through Election Day.
“We’re going back to our roots, so to speak,” said Tom D’Amore, a senior adviser to Mr. Lamont. “They don’t want to talk about that issue, and we don’t want it to go away. Not just because they don’t want to talk about it, but because it is the issue of our time and for future generations.”
The shift back to Iraq follows two months in which Mr. Lamont, seeking to rebut criticism that he is a one-issue candidate lacking the depth to replace Mr. Lieberman, worked to cultivate an image as a successful businessman with broad interest in domestic policy matters like education and health care. But that effort does not appear to have helped him in the polls, where Mr. Lieberman has remained solidly ahead.
Dan Gerstein, a spokesman for Mr. Lieberman, said of the shift: “They tried to broaden to other issues, but without any kind of agenda, no new ideas. And it failed.”
The failure has become rather brutally apparent. Lamont stands for nothing exceptional apart from his opposition to the Iraq War. While that gave Lamont an initial edge over incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, his demonstrable lack of substance on any other issue made it easy for Connecticut voters to tire of the millionaire's flyer. His attempts to expand his message only showed that he had none.
Lieberman, who lost the nomination by just a few points, now has an eight-point lead over Lamont. It had been higher, but the Republican, Alan Schlesinger, improved from microscopic support to 9%. Ironically, Lamont's supporters have been talking up the Republican, convinced that a surge for Schlesinger will steal support from Lieberman -- as if Lieberman didn't already have a long track record in Connecticut.
This was the only option left open to Lamont. Lieberman has a solid record in support of the Democratic agenda in the Senate, giving Lamont little to discuss except Iraq. His attempts to broaden his repertoire made him sound like nothing more than a Lieberman wannabe. The only surprise here is that it took Lamont this long to return to the only theme he has. Democrats have tried to tone down the anti-war rhetoric to avoid losing yet another election cycle they should win, and perhaps this impulse bled into Lamont's campaign as well. Whatever the reason, Lamont is clearly losing this election, so he has little to risk by returning to his limited message now.
Steele Steals Prince George's County
Michael Steele picked up an important endorsement yesterday; in fact, he picked up several of them, all Democrats, and all from the Democratic bastion of Prince George's County. The county executive and five of the county councilors joined more Democrats from the community in repudiating the Democratic Party's disregard for their county and their lack of African-American candidates:
A coalition of black Democratic political leaders from Prince George's County led by former county executive Wayne K. Curry endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele's bid for the U.S. Senate yesterday.
The support from Curry, five County Council members and others barely a week before Election Day reflects their continued disappointment that the Democratic Party has no African American candidates at the top of the ticket and a sense that the county is being ignored, officials said.
"They show us a pie, but we never get a slice," said Major F. Riddick Jr., a former aide to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and a former county executive candidate. "We are here today to say we've waited and we've waited and we're waiting no longer."
Steele, who as lieutenant governor is the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, said he was humbled by the support. "I said I did not want this [campaign] to be so much about party but about the people," he said. "And these people understand that."
Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. "This is going to go through the black community like a rocket," he said. "It's going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation."
While Benjamin Cardin's campaign continued to mumble about George Bush hand-picking Steele, these black politicians understand more that Cardin was hand-picked by the party establishment over the more well-known and potentially stronger Kweisi Mfume, the former NAACP leader and Congressman. His marginalization in the primary has come at a cost, and it's starting to become significant.
These aren't just any politicians in Maryland. These people rose through the Democratic Party and won their offices with the party's support. They have benefitted to some significant degree from the party -- and yet their dissatisfaction at Benjamin Cardin and his selection as the nominee has led them to repudiate their party. It's a signal that the Democrat's most loyal constituency may rethink their decision to vote in lock step for a party that has ceased engaging them. Wayne Curry noted this when he said, "The party acts as though when they want our opinion they'll give it to us," promising an end to that dynamic.
In Maryland, Democrats comprise 56% of the electorate while Republicans only have 25% of voter registrations. This state is among the bluest in the nation in that sense, and yet they managed to elect a Republican governor four years ago. Prince George's County has just fired a warning shot across the bow of the Democrats, and it might have sunk Cardin's hopes for the Senate. Maryland voters, especially those in PCG, will notice this endorsement and reconsider their opinion of Michael Steele. The Democrats better hope that they can contain the damage to Maryland.
October 30, 2006
Have Conservatives Changed The Paradigm?
It would be the highest irony if the evidence of conservative evolution came on the occasion of a bruising midterm election, but two stories by the media today appears to indicate that conservatives have successfully changed the paradigm of politics over the last generation. A CNN poll indicates that a majority of Americans now believes that government tries to do too much, while the New York Times reports that Democrats have begun producing less liberal candidates in order to win seats in Congress. Both together show that the Reagan Revolution has continued to influence politics well past the end of his administration.
The CNN poll shows that the current polarization does not apply to the question of government's size:
A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem." ...
Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems.
Politics follow shifts in public opinion, and the Democratic Party has tried to steal a march on Reagan's party in the midterm elections:
In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.
One such candidate, Heath Shuler, was courted by Republicans to run for office in 2001. Mr. Shuler, 34, is a retired National Football League quarterback who is running in the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina. He is an evangelical Christian and holds fast to many conservative social views, like opposition to abortion rights.
“My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it’s going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts,” Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, co-chairman of a caucus of centrist House Democrats, said in an interview.
But if candidates like Mr. Shuler do help the Democrats gain majority control of Congress, it could come at a political price, which may include tensions in the party between its new centrists and its more liberal political base.
It shows the success of the Reagan message, and once again underscores the profound impact he had on American politics. His Western conservatism has resonated because it based itself on the truths that informed the founders of the nation: that government which governs least governs best. America does best when it allows individuals to live their lives free of government interference, when it respects private property, and when it keeps most political questions as close to local governments as possible. It's the marvel of the Constitution that it reveals all of these truths, and Reagan (and Barry Goldwater before him) understood how to communicate that exceptionality.
If the Republicans find themselves in trouble at the midterms, it may come in reaction to the extent that they have failed to grasp the Reagan message. The smaller-government message will still win elections, but the question may be for whom it wins those contests when the GOP fails to tend to its Reagan legacy. (via Heritage Foundation Policy Blog)
It's A Blog Party, And CQ's Invited
What are you doing for Election Night? Hopefully CQ readers will follow some of the coverage on CNN, because I'll be part of blogger coverage for CNN in the evening of Election Night. The Los Angeles Times reported the story this morning that CNN will invite about two dozen bloggers to a blog party, where they intend to check our reactions to breaking news on their main broadcast as well as provide continuous coverage through CNN Pipeline:
Who says the mainstream media don't respect the blogosphere?
CNN is trying to incorporate bloggers directly into its coverage of next week's midterm elections by inviting them to an "E-lection Nite Blog Party," an event aimed at corralling some of the top online opinion makers in one place to provide instant reaction as the results come in.
The cable news network plans to host more than two dozen bloggers from across the political spectrum — including sites like RedState and Daily Kos — at a Washington Internet lounge where they can monitor the election returns on a slew of flat-screen televisions. (Each blogger will get his or her own monitor, which can be tuned to any channel.) There will be free wireless access — and plenty of food and beverages, natch.
CNN Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton have been assigned to cover the gathering and provide regular updates on the air about the topics that are generating the most chatter.
"Bloggers are leading the conversation," said David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief. "You could argue that most of the political dialogue in this country is happening online, so if you don't incorporate that into your coverage, you're missing a major element."
I've been working with CNN for a few days on the arrangements, which have now been finalized. I'll be flying into DC on Tuesday afternoon, freshening up at a hotel, and then heading over to the restaurant where we will set up. The physical description of the workspace in the Times has more details than what I have heard, but it all sounds first-class. I'll be joining Lorie Byrd and Kevin Aylward at Wizbang, Betsy Newmark at her eponymous blog, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft, John Aravosis at Americablog, Patrick Hynes at Ankle Biting Pundits, and a number of others.
Needless to say, we'll all be live-blogging the event. I will also be calling into the Election Night coverage at AM 1280 The Patriot, which will go live after the end of the Hugh Hewitt show at 8 pm CT. Our show starts at 7 pm ET and will run until the outcome of the election is no longer in doubt, or until around 2 am ET, whichever comes first. I'm hoping that CQ readers will stick around regardless of the outcome and celebrate another example of democracy in action.
UPDATE: Hmmm. The CQ community seems to think poorly of my decision. I'll elaborate a little on my decision to join CNN's coverage.
First, CNN has its biases, but it has handled blog coverage fairly well. They have made it a staple of their daily reviews, and the two women organizing this effort (Abbi Tatton and Jackie Schechner) have done their best to cover the blogs in an even-handed way.
Second, I am not getting paid to appear on CNN. They are covering my expenses, but they have made no demands of positive coverage or even that I will watch CNN's coverage on this evening. They are covering my expenses, just as anyone who engaged me as a public speaker would do, and even then it's limited to a round-trip ticket and one night at a Marriott-brand hotel. I may have my price, but that and a free meal ain't it, if you know what I mean.
Third, if we fail to engage CNN and acknowledge when they attempt to be fair, then why should they bother? Abbi and Jackie have juggled invitations, acceptances, and declines in order to ensure that the blogging bunch will be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. They've tried their best to stage a balanced program for CNN viewers, at least as far as the bloggers go.
I understand that some people do not like CNN, and I respect it. However, we talk a lot about using our efforts to get CNN and other media outlets to recognize other points of view. I think we have to recognize their efforts to do so.
We Apologize For The Inconvenience
A series of technical breakdowns kept CQ off the air this morning, and I was not able to post much as a result -- and now I'm off to the day job. Hosting Matters got the problem resolved fairly quickly, but I have a narrow window in which to work, unfortunately.
It does give me an opportunity to open a thread for CQ readers, though. We're entering the last week of the mid-term campaign, and most of us are waiting for the big-time, last-minute smears to arise. Where and when do you think they will appear, and what effect do you think they'll have?
NOTE: I did have to make a change to the comments script tp avoid the spambots. If you have trouble posting a comment, reload the page and then try again. It does work now.
What Does Bob Casey Do As Treasurer?
Rick Santorum will hold a press conference later this morning to discuss the record of his opponent for the Senate, Bob Casey Jr, in his previous position as state Treasurer. Santorum will point out that Casey invested Pennsylvania pension funds in a series of companies that do business in Iran. Appearing with Santorum to discuss the role of state treasurers in investment decisions will be Sarah Steelman, Missouri State Treasurer.
Santorum bases his allegations on a series of investments by Pennsylania pension funds such as PSERS and SERS. The two funds have invested a total of $175 million in companies that do business with the mullahcracy. These investments seem rather focused on China, which brings up a raft of other questions about what Pennsylvania pensions support. This list is for SERS:
CHINA PETROLEUM AND CHEMICAL 4,086,635
CHIYODA CORP Y50 2,086,923
PETROCHINA CO 'H'CNY1 7,327,793
PTT PUB CO THB10 (ALIEN MKT) 3,687,533
ROYAL DUTCH SHELL A SHS 14,851,692
ROYAL DUTCH SHELL 'B' SHS 29,411,353
SIAM CEMENT CO THB1 (ALIEN 2,530,536
SINOPEC SHANGHAI PETROCHEMICAL 576,838
And for PSERS:
CHINA PETROLEUM & CHEM CORP 546,280
CHINA PETROLEUM & CHEMICAL 14,548,562
CHIYODA CO 129,611
CHIYODA CORP 86,860
PETROCHINA CO 23,095,275
PTT PUB CO THB10 (ALIEN MKT) 7,343,945
ROYAL DUTCH PETE CO 454,300
ROYAL DUTCH PETROL 46,842,797
SIAM CEMENT CO THB1 (ALIEN) 8,304,114
SIAM CEMENT CO THB1 (NVDR) 8,222,788
SINOPEC YIZHENG CHEM FIBRE 1,296,727
In May 2005 Steelman demanded an end to US investments in companies doing business with unfriendly nations. She made it a public crusade after discovering that Missouri had investments in Arab Bank, under investigation from the FBI regarding potential terrorist connections and at the time the subject of a lawsuit brought by the widow of a man shot to death in Gaza. John Linde Jr died in an ambush of an American diplmatic convoy that was supposed to interview Fulbright scholarship candidates, a terrorist act that even embarrassed Yasser Arafat. Her rhetoric reflected her amazement at finding this investment:
“This is like financial friendly fire on our troops and our citizens,” Steelman said. “It is an outrage for our retirement fund to hold more than $80,000 in investments in Arab Bank while it is under investigation for allegedly financing terrorists and is being sued for helping kill Missouri citizens. This must stop and stop now.”
In addition to Arab Bank, MOSERS also is directly invested in a number of foreign companies that are engaged in development and investments in Iran. American companies are prohibited by current U.S. policy from doing business in Iran.
In fact, Steelman discovered that Missouri did business with companies like Royal Dutch Petroleum, Siam Cement, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical, and Chiyoda -- the same companies in which Pennsylvania pensions still invest.
Santorum will point to a bill passed by the Pennsylvania House in 2003 (HR 263), a direction from the legislature to PSERS, SERS, and the State Treasury to identify those investments that had any connection to companies or nations doing business in Iran, as well as Libya, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and North Korea. It's clear that the legislature wanted Pennsylvania to redirect their investments away from such companies and projects. However, Casey apparently has done nothing to keep Pennsylvania funds from supporting companies that do business with the same nations that threaten us.
Keep an eye out for this press conference. The fallout should be interesting.
Checkbook Politics Still Drawing Interest
In 2002, Russ Feingold and John McCain convinced Congress and the American people to sell out the First Amendment in exchange for getting the big money out of politics. Accept these limitations on free speech, proponents of the BCRA asked, and we'll keep rich people from buying our elections. On that basis, it passed both houses and George Bush signed it into law.
So how has it worked? The First Amendment restrictions have worked rather well; people still cannot criticize incumbents in the final 60 days before an election, a development that would have shocked and angered the men who wrote and adopted the First Amendment as a check against professional politicians. However, the money keeps on rolling into politics, only now it goes outside the channels of accountability, as the Los Angeles Times reports:
Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines.
The groups, both liberal and conservative, air TV and radio spots, conduct polls, run phone banks, canvass door-to-door and stage get-out-the-vote rallies, with no oversight by the Federal Election Commission. Set up as tax-exempt "issue advocacy" committees, they cannot explicitly endorse candidates. But they can do everything short of telling voters how to mark their ballots.
Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees — known as 527s — have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda. ...
Named for a section of the IRS code, 527s have been around for years but became a political force in 2004 after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain--Feingold Bill — limited donations to political parties. Groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right and America Coming Together on the left contributed $600 million that year, with a heavy focus on the presidential race.
The midterms have generated lower contributions, but the process has become more sophisticated. In Colorado, three liberal millionaires have funded a 527 named Coloradans for Life, attacking the Republican incumbent for not being sufficiently pro-life, when the Democrat is more pro-choice than the Republican. The largest contributions to 527s this year come from unions, which amounts to $60 million of the $300 million collected thus far by the tax-free advocacy groups.
Who tops the list in individual checkbooks? Bob Perry, who financed the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, has contributed $5.5 million for conservative issues. He's matched by Jerry Perenchio, with another $5 million for similar purposes. George Soros and Peter Lewis fund liberal groups with donations of $3 million and $1.6 million respectively, and they're joined by John Hunting with another $1.6 million. The top two 527s both come from unions (SEIU, $23.2 million and AFSME, $16.3 million).
Ironically, the Times found all of these figures at Opensecrets.org, the web site devoted to full disclosure in politics. This represents the real reform of the campaign system in the US; disclosing whose money supports which politicians. If that money went directly to the candidates in question, we could draw direct lines between politicians and contributors. We could also hold the campaigns and political parties responsible for their campaign messages, rather than witness the slew of attack ads that come from left field, especially in the final weeks of the election cycle.
John McCain and Russ Feingold sold America a bill of goods. Restricting free speech did not free us from checkbook politics; in fact, it made the problem worse by allowing it to hide behind these so-called advocacy groups. We should be ashamed of buying such a scheme, almost as much as the men who sold it to us in the first place.
Palestinian Jihad Part Of Iraq Insurgency
A new document translated by Joseph Shahda indicates that the Saddam Hussein regime agreed to allow the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to stage suicide operations within Iraq in the opening days of the American invasion. Document CMPC-2003-015588 is a handwritten memo from the Foreign Ministry's Arabic Department recounting the meeting between PFLP officials and representatives of the Iraqi government. It also makes a reference to a neighboring country as having given permission for the PFLP to make these arrangements:
The Embassy of Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria. Interest Section of the Republic of Iraq
Secret and Confidential and Immediate
Foreign Ministry/ The Arabic Department
This mornining of 25/3/2003, Mr. Khlaed Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji the Deputy of the General Secretary of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (General Headquarters) visited our mission and met our Ambassador the chairman of the mission and the delegation indicated it solidarity and support to Iraq.
Mr. Khaled Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji said that there is coordination going on with the organizations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations to escalate the suicide operations in the inside and that is timed with the resistance of the Iraqi people.
Mr. Khaled Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji informed us that the Front decided to send forces to Iraq to fight to the side of the Iraqi people and in the locations chosen by the Iraqi leadership, and preferably to be in cities. And the groups that will be sent are elite units and have experience in cities warfare and that thess forces will be made of 500 fighters and it will arrive Iraq in groups and as follow:
1. The first unit: It will be composed of 100 fighters and will arrive in three days with its complete machines and equipments, and each platoon from these platoons is made of an air defense anti-aircraft group and equipped with 23 mm Strella machine guns.
2. The second unit: it will be made of anti-tank with SPG-9 launchers and a military engineering group to plant improvised bombs that are remotely guided and car bombs and it include Suicide Martyrs groups and each platoon of these platoons has these weapons.
3. The third Unit: The fire support unit and made of multi rocket launchers 107 and include Suicide Martyrdom elements and fighting elements and also has a guiding unit.
The Front ask that these forces enter from the North of Abou Kamal area, and these forces do not need anything since it has enough weapons and ammunitions and it only need fuel.
The delegation said that they go the initial approval by the Syrian side to send these forces to Iraq.
It is noteworthy that the delegation expressed its amazement of the administration of the battle from all its political, media, military, and economic sides, and they are optimistic of the certainty of victory God willing.
Please let us know quickly and give us directions, with regards
Mohamad Rifaa’t Ali Al AA’NI
The Chairman of the Mission
Now the handwritten notes from Taha Yassin Ramadan Saddam Chief Deputy
To the Respected Mr. Foreign Minister
Yes we approve their coming with all appreciation to this position. And let the ambassador inform us about the time of arrival of each unit and the area of entry so we can send the vehicles to transport them.
Taha Yassin Ramadan
The mention of Syria seems significant. Syria has run Hamas for years, and Islamic Jihad at least in part. The PFLP gets support from Damascus, and they speak about using all three groups in Iraq to fight off the American invasion. It implies strongly that Syria partnered with Saddam Hussein at some level, which again begs the question about Saddam's missing weapons. Did Damascus partner with Saddam on those as well as on martyrdom operations and insurgent fighting?
In any case, it shows that the previous thinking on the entry of foreign insurgents was not entirely correct. Saddam didn't keep terrorists out of Iraq; in this case, he has a good enough relationship with the PFLP and through them Hamas and Islamic Jihad to call on them for action on his behalf. Supposedly these groups only have Palestinian interests in mind, but here they seem anxious to help rescue a secular Iraqi dictator. Saddam had plenty of connections to terrorists in the region, and it hardly surprises that he would rely on them in his hour of need. (h/t: Squiggler)
October 29, 2006
Just Another Pleasant Valley Sunday
I decided to take the day off and have a little fun with the First Mate and the Little Admiral this afternoon, and it stretched well into the evening. We drove 80 miles to a fun little place called Pleasant Valley Tree Farms, a pumpkin patch with plenty of old-fashioned fun for the younger set. My son was a bit amused when we told him of our plans -- he wondered why we had to drive 80 miles to find a place like this -- but it was well worth it.
As soon as we arrived, our four-year-old granddaughter started running all over the place, unable to decide which activity she wanted to do first. She played on the playground, rode John Deere tricycles for a while, took us through a cornfield maze (not the FM's favorite activity today), and dragged the Captain through the "Spooky Trail". We took a hayride through their Christmas tree farm, which was spectacular, and a nice woman across from us took this picture:
After spending the day at Pleasant Valley, on one of the nicest days of weather we've had in weeks, we drove back to Minneapolis and had dinner with my son and daughter-in-law at Loring Pasta Bar, one of the best restaurants in Dinkytown. (Don't ask.) We just got home a little while ago, and the FM is already asleep. I'll be right behind her, but I thought I'd share the day with CQ readers. A Pleasant Valley Sunday is exactly what I needed. I hope you had the same kind of day with your loved ones.
Strange Resignation Talk
Jules Crittendon, one of my favorite columnists, usually has a gimlet-eyed bead on the truth and excellent analysis, which is why he should be a must-read for anyone interested in national politics. Every once in a while, and less often than I do, Jules throws a shoe -- and today's the day. Jules demands Bush administration resignations in order to rescue the war in Iraq, and he wants them in the next week ... from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?
[T]he United States must remain committed to Iraq. We must quietly apply pressure on Iraqi leaders to take control of their country, to look beyond personal, partisan, sectarian objectives. We must increase the number of U.S. advisors attached to Iraqi army and police units. We must put enough troops in Iraq to destroy the Shiite militias, and hand bellicose Iran’s proxy forces another defeat, on top of their defeat in Lebanon this year. We must destroy al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency. Ruthlessly.
To accomplish this, President Bush must finally do what he failed to do five years ago: Increase the size of the U.S. military. We needed it then, as these wars were forced on us, and we need it now, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as a credible deterrent to threats from Iran, North Korea and eventually China.
Congress, whether Democratic or Republican, must provide funding to recruit, train and equip a larger army. Technology and special forces, tanks and infantrymen. But just as important, we need the national political will to continue to prosecute this war.
This means Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney must go. They must announce before this election decides which party will control Congress. On Jan. 1, heads high, with their president’s accolades, Cheney and Rumsfeld must walk out the door.
I understand the calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, even if I don't share the sentiment. Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, has the penultimate responsibility for the composition and use of American military assets and the success and failure of military actions. Many have concluded that we had enough troops to win the war against Saddam Hussein but didn't commit enough resources to win the peace. A lack of troops, the argument goes, allowed the rise of the militias and the general insecurity that has resulted since May 2003. It's certainly possible, although one has to wonder whether Congress would ever have agreed to station 250,000 to 300,000 American troops in Iraq after the invasion, the figures that seem to be the median suggested (Shinseki said 4-500,000, John Kerry said an additional 40,000 during his presidential run) Given the politics of 2003-6, that seems rather doubtful, even if the Secretary of Defense had been Joe Lieberman.
As a political appointee, Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the President, who has the ultimate responsibility for the success and failure of military action. If George Bush has lost confidence in Rumsfeld's ability to carry out his policies at the Pentagon, or if Bush decides that he needs to make a change for political purposes -- both of which Jules argues -- then it's appropriate for Bush to ask for his resignation. I don't think the change will do any good, because the Democrats are certainly not going to agree to allocate more funding for our operations in Iraq, and certainly not at a rate of double what we're spending now. They've made it clear that they want to defund the operation altogether, and kicking the SecDef under the bus isn't going to change their minds.
However, Dick Cheney isn't a political appointee. He was elected Vice President by the people of the United States, and Bush doesn't have the authority to demand his resignation. Cheney serves at the pleasure of the people, not the President, and many voters who cast their ballots for Bush in both elections did so with more enthusiasm for Cheney than the President. It's inappropriate, outside of some specific charge of personal malfeasance, to demand the resignation of the Vice President -- especially for the political purposes Jules describes here.
Jules wants Condoleezza Rice to take over for Dick Cheney. I think Rice would make an excellent Vice President ... which is why I suggested the move in 2003, when Cheney looked like more of a political liability than an asset. That was the appropriate time for a change in the office -- at the election, when the voters could decide whether to support a Vice President Rice. It would have put her in a good position to run for President in 2008, and it also would have given the administration an opportunity to use her considerable diplomatic skills on domestic policy and consensus building.
However, the Republicans kept Cheney on the ticket in 2004, and he won the election. Cheney should leave when his term expires, as the voters decided, not when someone needs another body to throw under the bus for political purposes. And in practical terms, the resignation of either or both just days before the election will not inspire new support for the Iraq project, but instead completely demoralize its supporters and provide momentum to the cut-and-run crowd as voters go to the polls. It's a bad idea, and it comes from someone whose long run of good ones far outweighs this momentary lapse.
The Condescension Of HAVA
George Will has another excellent column today, this time on the paternalistic and condescending nature of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Enacted in 2002 amid a panic induced by one close presidential election -- the second such election in 208 years, spread across 50 states -- HAVA took voting-infrastructure decisions away from the states and spent billions of dollars on the notion that the world's oldest representative democracy had citizens that were just too stupid to vote correctly:
For over two centuries before Congress passed HAVA, Americans voted. Really. Unlike today, those who were elected -- Clay, Webster, Lincoln and lesser lights -- often were more complex and sophisticated than the voting machinery.
Using pencils to make marks on paper and later using machines to punch holes in paper ballots, voters -- without federal help; imagine -- caused Congresses and presidents to come and go. States ran elections; some ran them better than others. Some ballots have been better designed than others, as have some voting machines. Most have been adequate. The gross defects of American voting practices were laws that established or permitted discrimination and other abuses. Tardily, but emphatically, those laws were changed and other abuses were halted.
Then came 2000 and Florida and the 36-day lawyers' scrum about George W. Bush's 537-vote margin of victory. In response to which, Congress passed HAVA, which in 2006 may produce fresh confirmation of the prudential axiom that the pursuit of the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Citizenship used to assume certain responsibilities. Citizens had the duty to inform themselves of the issues and the candidates before casting their votes, and they had the duty to understand the procedures in the voting booth before attempting to do so. When they failed to do either, citizens understood that any failure to have their choices recorded belonged to them and not the system that managed to record 98% of all other votes with no problem.
Then came Florida in 2000. Instead of sticking with both the law and the tradition of citizen responsibility, an army of activists descended on the state determined to rescue a handful of voters from their own incompetence. They professed to be able to determine voter intent by analyzing the tenacity of little chips of paper in clinging to the ballots -- chads which got further dislodged by the handling of the ballots. After this debacle proved fruitless, do-gooders decided to install systems that would prove foolproof.
Four years later, HAVA has turned a highly-successful voting infrastructure into a nightmare. Maryland voters may have to abandon the voting booth altogether and use absentee ballots to avoid the malfunctining electronic voting machines. Ohio found out that their electronic voting machine security codes have been exposed, meaning that someone could theoretically hack into the machines and change the votes. And in the aftermath of the Florida recounts, the geniuses that pushed these machines through HAVA never planned on paper receipts for recounts in close elections.
Not coincidentally, HAVA came from the same session of Congress (107th) that produced the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act. The BCRA also represented an effort to reform the political system by treating voters as incapable little children, despite 200 years of proof to the contrary. The BCRA continues to do damage to free political speech, although not as spectacularly as HAVA has done to the credibility of our elections. The 107th Congress may go down in history as one of the most damaging to our freedoms in modern history.
HAVA needs to be repealed, and the money withdrawn, except to those states who now have to junk their new and unreliable machines. States should make their own decisions and spend their own money on voting infrastructure. They cannot do as badly as the federal government has done with HAVA. My suggestion, which I have made repeatedly here at CQ, is to use the optical-scan ballots that voters complete by hand and have read before they leave the polling station. Voters then know that their ballots will be successfully counted, or they have the opportunity to fix them before they leave.
Beware reformers, and beware decisions made in a panic. HAVA and BCRA are two great examples of both.
A Coup In Palestine?
Can a president of a government conduct a coup? That question may soon find an answer in the Palestinian territories, as Mahmoud Abbas insists that he will dissolve the Hamas government in favor of an appointed technocracy. The threat comes as Hamas still refuses to form a national-unity government that will meet the requirements of Western nations for a restoral of badly-needed subsidies:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he will dissolve the Hamas-led government within two weeks if the Islamic group does not agree to form a governing coalition with his Fatah Party, Palestinian officials said.
Abbas told the European Union's top diplomat that he would replace the Cabinet with an apolitical panel of professionals, the officials said Friday.
The moderate Palestinian president has raised the idea before but promised not to force it on a reluctant Hamas. His new stand suggested a willingness to take a stronger line against Hamas in a bid to ease crippling Western sanctions designed to force the Islamic group to moderate its militantly anti-Israel ideology.
The Jerusalem Post's source comes from Javier Solana's EU office, which will no doubt raise some eyebrows among the Quartet. The EU has only reluctantly abided by the sanctions which have crippled the Palestinian economy, and they want to see a clear way to end them soon. A Palestinian technocracy that recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements would allow aid to flow immediately into Gaza and the West Bank, although with the former, the Israeli military action would complicate distribution unless Gilad Shalit is freed soon. The Europeans may be indulging in either some wishful thinking or an effort to push Abbas into action.
Assuming Abbas attempts a forced change in government, where does that leave the Palestinians? Hamas, after all, won a majority by convincing a majority of Palestinians to vote for them. The resultant economic catastrophe may have changed their minds, but we won't know that without another election. Given the track record of Abbas and Fatah, they're not terribly likely to give him a big endorsement, especially if he removed the representative government they elected.
On the other hand, we know that neither of the two organizations will ever work for peace and a two-state solution. Both Hamas and Fatah are too compromised with terrorism to be agents for peace, and the Palestinians desperately need a third choice. They have not produced one as yet, but a technocracy might give them the space to find it. However, and this is really the big problem, how would a technocracy secure its rule against Hamas and even Hamas and Fatah? They would have to solicit the protection of one or the other, since those two organizations have all the guns.
Given that Abbas would appoint this Cabinet, it would necessarily have to exist at Fatah's pleasure. The only way this would work would be to have Hamas agree to it. If Abbas wants to do this as a coup, it won't last a week.
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