No, Seriously, We Had Our Fingers Crossed The Whole Time

You’ll never guess what Iran did this morning:

Iran reiterated Tuesday it was only prepared to freeze its uranium enrichment activities for a few months and would not, as the EU and Washington want, permanently mothball facilities which could make atomic bombs.
The comments, made by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, were a further blow to European Union efforts to persuade Tehran to scrap enrichment for good and were likely to fuel U.S. concerns that Iran secretly plans to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran, which insists its nuclear program is solely for electricity generation, Monday escaped possible U.N. sanctions after agreeing to suspend all activities which could be used to make bomb-grade material.

What? Iran reversed itself? Why, that’s unprecedented! It hasn’t happened since as far back as last week.
What exactly have the EU-3 negotiators accomplished in this silly waltz with the Iranian mullahcracy? They had Iran sign off on an agreement which the mullahs immediately discredited, then re-endorsed, after which they asked for an exemption from it. Once denied that, they threated to pull out of the agreement before re-re-endorsing it … temporarily.
What a brilliant strategy on the part of the Europeans. It’s lifetime employment for the diplomats involved.
We need to put an end to the gameplaying that the EU-3 apparently enjoy. The US noted yesterday that any Security Council nation can refer suspected violations of the non-proliferation treaty to the UNSC for sanctions and further action. It’s far past time to do so and bypass the incompetency of the current Western negotiators.

The Man O’Reilly Should Be Honoring

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times chronicles the aftermath of the election for the most notable of Kerry’s Band of Brothers — the one who openly campaigned against him. Mary Laney reports that Stephen Gardner now finds himself broke and unemployed as a result of speaking out against a man he finds “dangerous”:

“They said I had a political agenda. I had no and have no political agenda whatsoever. I saw John Kerry on television saying he was running for the Democratic nomination for president, and I knew I couldn’t ever see him as commander in chief — not after what I saw in Vietnam, not after the lies I heard him tell about what he says he did and what he says others did.”
Gardner explains he was sitting at home in Clover, S.C., when he first saw Kerry on television. It was before the primary races. For 35 years, Gardner says, he hadn’t talked about his tour of duty in Vietnam. But when he saw Kerry talking about running, he says he got up, called the newspaper in town, called radio stations and “talked to anyone I could about why this man should never be president.” Eventually he got a call from Adm. Roy Huffman, who had been in charge of the coastal division in Vietnam, reunited with other swift boat veterans, and the rest is, as they say, history.

That’s not all that’s history, either. Once Gardner starting making himself heard, the Kerry campaign swung into action. John Hurley, part of Kerry’s veteran-outreach program, warned him that the campaign would “look into his finances” if he persisted. Douglas Brinkley interviewed him, falsely claiming to be fact-checking the next edition of Tour of Duty when in fact Brinkley used the interview to write a hit piece about him in Time magazine. All of this attention got him laid off by Millenium Information Services, via e-mail, twenty-four hours after Time published the article.
Now broke and unemployed, Gardner remains defiant about his efforts to tell what he saw as the truth about his former commanding officer:

“I’m broke. I’ve been hurt every way I can be hurt. I have no money in the bank but am doing little bits here and there to pay the bills,” he said. …
And, even though Gardner is broke and jobless for speaking out, the husband and father of three says he’d do it all over again. He says it wasn’t for politics. It was for America.

Bill O’Reilly should be talking about how exercising his freedom of political speech allowed the Kerry campaign to ruin Stephen Gardner instead of issuing blanket smears in defending Dan Rather. We need to find a way to give Stephen Gardner some support, either by finding him a job or helping him sue his former employer for damages, or both. We cannot allow yet another Vietnam veteran get screwed for serving his country. (via Power Line)

O’Reilly Spins For Rather

Bill O’Reilly issues a scathing editorial on all those who dared to criticize Dan Rather over the forgeries used in the 60 Minutes story on George Bush’s Air National Guard service. According to O’Reilly, Rather’s torment at the hands of critics using (gasp!) the First Amendment to speak out against him shows that the American system of innocent until proven guilty has been utterly discarded.
What a load of horse puckey.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

The presumption of innocence relates to criminal proceedings, Bill, not media criticism. Criticism doesn’t equate to legal action, and the cure is either countercriticism — which CBS News and Rather apologists delivered in spades — or admitting the obvious: the documents were forgeries and CBS screwed up. To this date, Rather has only done the former.

That smear came on the heels of the “Swift boat” attacks on John Kerry, an ordeal that may have cost him the election. While some of the Vietnam vets had valid points, more than a few of the accusations against Kerry were simply untrue.

We hear this a lot, but no one who makes that suggestion ever comes up with a single argument from the Swiftvets that was proven false, let alone “more than a few”. O’Reilly doesn’t back this up, either, making himself a hypocrite for at least the first time in this piece.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident – the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing.

Fair hearing? Rather used the broadcast medium of CBS to constantly defend himself, hardly a mismatch against Rather.

Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

Perhaps that’s because he told the nation that he personally vouched for the authenticity of the documents, Bill. Even today, after we’ve found out that CBS’s own experts warned them the documents could not be authenticated and every accredited expert in the field has thoroughly debunked them, Rather and CBS have yet to admit they’re forgeries. They only admit that they aren’t “thoroughly authenticated”. Issuing bulls**t statements like that and stonewalling the critics got Rather and CBS in the hot water they’re in.

It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do.

Rather is more than the anchor at CBS News, he’s also the managing editor. Isn’t he supposed to be responsible for what gets broadcast on CBS News? Or is that just a phony title, meant to build up his credibility through fraud?

But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed.

Oh, grow up. If Dan Rather can’t take criticism about how he performs his job, then he should have gotten out of the media business a long time ago. And to reiterate the point, Rather hasn’t been charged with a crime, he’s being criticized in the same manner that he and his cohorts at 60 Minutes have made careers off of doing to others. As has Bill O’Reilly, for that matter.

Let me ask you something: In the future, do you think potential public servants and social crusaders are going to risk being brutally attacked within this insane system?

Dan Rather is NOT a public servant. He has made a very lucrative career appearing in front of a camera and pretending to be a journalist. If free speech is an “insane system”, perhaps you’d like to tell us what you’d replace it with, Bill. Would we all need licenses to dare offer criticism of Dan Rather? Or do you believe we should all sit quietly and watch whatever CBS tells us without a hint of dissent?

Dan Rather did not get what he deserved in this case. He made a mistake, as we all do, but he is not a dishonest man. Unfair freedom of speech did him in. This is not your grandfather’s country anymore.

“Unfair freedom of speech” … I wonder how many of your victims would have said the same thing, Bill. George Bush could certainly make the same claim after the TANG story. If that’s your position, then Dan Rather should have been tried for his participation in the story and possibly jailed, or at least silenced by the government, for his role. Is that what you propose for America, Bill?
Get a grip and a clue, O’Reilly. If Dan can’t handle the criticism, then perhaps he shouldn’t have sat behind the big desk in the first place. If he hadn’t personally vetted the material as you say, then this “honest man” lied to the American public when he told us he personally vouched for its authenticity. He still can’t bring himself to admit that he lied and his producers knowingly aired a story based on documents that they had been warned were not authenticated. Only through the efforts of Rather’s critics did the truth finally come out.
That’s what should interest you, Bill — the truth. If your first priority is to Dan Rather instead of the truth, you’re in the wrong business and you should get out. Now.
UPDATE: Read Sissy’s succinct take on Bill O’Reilly, too. Winfield Myers has a longer exposition dismantling O’Reilly’s piece, and suggests a new phrase for this kind of mental breakdown — an O’Reilly Fracture. Read his post to get the definition. I like it!

Kuchma Wants Elections

The French news agency AFP reports that outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has embraced the idea of re-running the last round of the elections in order to resolve the political crisis gripping Ukraine:

“If we really want to preserve peace and agreement, and really want to build a legitimate democratic society that we so often talk about… then let’s hold new elections,” the Interfax news agency quoted Kuchma as telling reporters on Monday.

If true, this represents a major victory for Viktor Yushchenko and the pro-Western opposition to Kuchma and his hand-picked successor, Viktor Yanukovych. Much depends on the conditions for a new election — whether the discredited Central Election Commission runs it again after the disastrous results from its last outing eight days ago. More international observers will be needed, and I suspect that more Western media will attend to the election anyway. Yuschenko and his Orange Movement appear to have gotten exactly what they want.
Don’t forget — King at SCSU Scholars continues to provide the best roundups and insight on the Ukrainian crisis this side of the Atlantic.

Miami Herald Unravels Florida Paranoia

CNN reports that the Miami Herald investigated the latest “stolen election” theories regarding Florida in 2004, specifically that fraud occurred in Democratic counties that wound up going for George Bush overwhelmingly over John Kerry. The Herald’s recount of ballots from these counties will disappoint the tinfoil-hat brigade on the Left that remain convinced that Kerry really won Florida:

A newspaper’s review of ballots cast in three north Florida counties where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans showed just what officials reported: The counties’ voters did on Election Day as they often do, voting for a Republican for president.
The Miami Herald review goes against Internet-fed rumors questioning whether there was a conspiracy against Sen. John Kerry in those counties. …
Reporters for the newspaper went over more than 17,000 optical scan ballots cast in three rural counties mentioned by doubters: Suwannee, Lafayette and Union. All three are overwhelmingly Democratic in registration, but chose President Bush.

No one has requested an official recount of the ballots in any Florida county, but the Herald got permission from the county registrars to review the ballots themselves. In all three counties, they found at most a couple of dozen ballots that had been discarded due to the optical-scan systems’ inability to read them, although the Herald felt that in some cases the voter intent could still be determined. The vote counts only changed a few votes in either direction, making clear that the results announced by Florida reflected the actual intent of the voters there.
Perhaps this will be enough to silence the Roswell faction of the Left regarding stolen elections, although I doubt that. It should, however, convince the rest of America that these people are delusional and somewhat dangerous to follow. They seem intent on undermining confidence in the electoral process either from a form of mental illness which makes them unable to recognize reality, or out of Machiavellian ambition to delegitimize American democracy. In either case, we need to make sure they remain marginalized.

College Diversity Programs Target The Symptom, Not The Disease

Today’s Washington Post editorial decries the sudden dropoff in enrollment for African-Americans at the University of Michigan after a long legal battle upheld the college’s affirmative-action programs. The Post tries to blame the publicity surrounding the lawsuit for the stark decline, but in the next breath notes that the falling enrollments belong to a national trend:

Post staff writer Michael Dobbs reports that numerous other large universities are reporting declining black enrollments; these include many campuses in the University of California system, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the private University of Pennsylvania. The University of Georgia experienced a 26 percent drop in African American freshmen this year, Ohio State University a 29 percent drop and the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois a 32 percent drop.

The Post correctly deduces the problem — a failing public-school system — but then continues to advocate the same tired diversity policies at the college level for a cure. The Post provides no evidence that discrimination exists at the college level at Michigan or anywhere else. In fact, they note that colleges compete heavily for qualified African-American applicants. So why propose further affirmative action for the problem?
The true cause of falling enrollments is a public-school system that locks children into failing institutions with no hope of upward or outward mobility. Middle-class parents of all ethnicities can move to the suburbs or exurbs, where fewer students and greater resources create a better environment for their children. Upper-class parents can afford to send their children to private schools, where teachers have to produce to remain employed. Other parents remain locked into urban school districts that attract few talented teachers and, because of idiotic state laws, cannot expel troublemakers except under the most critical of circumstances, forcing them to spend money on security that would be better spent on education. And without economic mobility, the children must go to these schools, whether they teach well or not.
School voucher programs would solve most of these problems, even if given limited application to failing school districts. In order to produce students who can succeed at the college level, schools must produce successful students in the primary grades first. Once in high school, the battle is all but over; if they have not learned the basics at that point, they likely will fail there, let alone apply to college.
University affirmative-action programs target the symptom and not the underlying disease, which is failing public-school systems in urban areas where African-American children overwhelmingly live. Until we decide to create competition at the primary level for these children through vouchers and private schools who must live or die on enrollments, the Michigans and UCs will continue to see minority enrollments fall precipitously, and we will condemn yet another generation to a life of failure and bitter disappointment.

Democrats Vulnerable In 2006: Washington Times

Amy Fagan analyzes the Democrats’ election chances in the 2006 Senate races and comes to much the same conclusion I did a week ago — that the worst of the Republican realignment may still be ahead of them:

Democratic senators in the states that President Bush won will face a tough road to re-election in 2006, Republicans say, with their sights set most eagerly on two Democrats named Nelson — Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida. …
In Nebraska, Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican, looks like Mr. Nelson’s probable challenger for 2006, and Mr. Bush is expected to campaign on his behalf. In Florida, Republicans will be gunning for Mr. Nelson and hope to recruit a big name such as term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush to challenge him.
“These two definitely are going to be watching their backs,” said David Mark, editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. “Particularly on judicial nominees, they’re going to be real careful on who they decide to block.”

In fact, Democrats have five red-state seats up for contention in the next cycle, while the GOP have only three: Rick Santorum (PA), Lincoln Chafee (RI), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Of the three, only Chafee is at risk, even with a long history supporting liberal causes. Voters may tend to keep him in office in order to maintain influence, since the GOP will remain the party in power, although that may give individual voters a bit too much credit. Pennsylvania went to Kerry by a thinner margin than Ohio went to Bush, and the incumbency gives him an advantage that only a major name could dent (perhaps Ed Rendell?).
More to the point, the Democrats have to defend states that went for Bush in much greater margin than the GOP states went to Kerry. The “Bush Factor” in these states, the margin separating Bush from Kerry, is very significant:
Bill Nelson, Florida – +5.0
Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico – +1.1
Ben Nelson, Nebraska – +33.5
Kent Conrad, North Dakota – +27.4
Robert Byrd, West Virginia – +12.7
The problem actually extends to all of 2006’s Senate races. The average Bush factor across the Democrat seats is -1.95, while the GOP has a 12.6 average. This means that the Democrats have much less support in all their races for the blue-state agenda, which forces them to take on a more conservative voting record for survival in 2006. As Fagan correctly analyzes, this means obstructionism is probably dead for judicial nominees for this session. Even if it’s tried, the most vulnerable Senators will not be able to sign on, making a filibuster all but impossible to sustain.
The next session of the Senate will have to be more compliant to the Bush Administration’s agenda and nominees. Expect to see a flurry of appointments right at the beginning of the term, possibly including at least one Supreme Court justice. If the Democrats have done their homework, they will be very ostentatious in approving the President’s selections. If not, they will help to elect a filibuster-proof majority for the GOP in 2006.

UN Warned To Outlaw Terrorism Or Risk Irrelevancy

The London Telegraph reports that a blue-ribbon panel of “wise men” appointed by Kofi Annan will deliver a report on Thursday warning the United Nations to outlaw terrorism and define it as any attacks intended to target civilians:

After decades of argument over whether one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, a group of international “wise men” will this week tell the United Nations to outlaw all terror attacks on civilians or risk losing its moral authority.
In a report to be unveiled on Thursday, seen in part by The Telegraph, a panel appointed to reform the UN said it must send “an unequivocal message that terrorism is never an acceptable tactic, even for the most defensible of causes”.

One would think that the UN would already have defined terrorism, but in fact the General Assembly has refused to pass a definition of terrorism — out of support for the Palestinians and other Islamist causes. They see legitimacy in killing civilians for the excuse of anti-colonialism and have stalled a bill which would define terrorism and expressly make it illegal.
The new report comes from an international panel of diplomats, including Brent Scowcroft, whose sympathies sometimes also lie with the Palestinians. One of the signatories is Amr Mousa, president of the Arab League, whose endorsement is expected to make ignoring the report difficult for the Arab states in the UN. The introduction of the report will create some political pressure, especially from the US, UK, and Russia to quickly adopt the convention on terror that has been held up for eight years.
Don’t bet on it getting any new life soon. Too many of the UN’s dictatorships and kleptocrats have too much invested in these terrorist causes as a distraction for the multitudes they oppress to allow such a measure to pass. Its failure, however, may finally wake Americans to the irrelevancy the UN has long become and of which the report specifically predicts. If the UN cannot even bring itself to recognize the greatest danger facing the civilization it supposedly represents, it only confirms its own uselessness.

40 Years Later, Germans Confront Their Immigrant Problem

Forty years after opening the floodgates to Turkish immigration — and allowing them to form their own subculture without either side working towards integration — the murder of Theo Van Gogh has finally prompted Germany to insist on assimilation from its Muslim population, the AP reports:

Fears that growing alienation between immigrants and majority Germans could lead to strife have prompted politicians including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to send a message to Muslims immigrants: Learn German, fit in, commit to democratic rules.
In Neukoelln, where 80 percent of elementary school students are not German, some civic leaders say the debate underscores something they have said for some time: Immigrants are not going to conform to mainstream German society over time.
“Pointing out the problem doesn’t make you a racist,” said Leopold Bongart, who has taught German language courses in Neukoelln since the 1970s.
“We told ourselves that the process in many ways would take care of itself. That hasn’t worked.”
Fears that growing alienation between immigrants and majority Germans could lead to strife have prompted politicians including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to send a message to Muslims immigrants: Learn German, fit in, commit to democratic rules.
In Neukoelln, where 80 percent of elementary school students are not German, some civic leaders say the debate underscores something they have said for some time: Immigrants are not going to conform to mainstream German society over time.
“Pointing out the problem doesn’t make you a racist,” said Leopold Bongart, who has taught German language courses in Neukoelln since the 1970s. “We told ourselves that the process in many ways would take care of itself. That hasn’t worked.”

Germans allowed themselves to believe that they could import millions of cheap workers without experiencing any social distortion from the culture shock. They allowed ghettos to form, and as the AP report details, a completely separate social structure unconnected from mainstream Germany grew out of this arrogance. Now they want the Muslims to integrate into German society, but 40 years of pushing them into the corner cannot be reversed overnight.

Ukraine May Impose Martial Law

Ukraine’s outgoing Kuchma executive may declare martial law in an attempt to end the massive rallies and protests springing from the electoral fraud of last weekend, the Ukrainian news service Ukrayinska Pravda announced:

Yushchenko warns of a possible attempt to break up the rallies and declare emergency law about 20:00.
Victor Yushchenko has warned that the authorities are considering declaring emergency law and moving to break up the rallies in Kiev.
“Already for two days there has been talk about introducing emergency law which would allow them to break up this demonstration and raze the tent city around 20:00” – Yushchenko said at the rally in Kiev’s Independence Square.

According to my friend and colleague King Banaian, this may already have come to pass. He’s posted links to Tulip Girl on the ground there, and Yuschenko’s news service reports further that police have gathered for unknown reasons at the local sports stadium.
This may quickly escalate into a Tiananmen Square-type confrontation. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail, but it looks like Yanukovych and Kuchma have determined that their position has become untenable outside the use of force.