Harper Hits The Road But Passes On The Parade

Stephen Harper has started out on his summer-long effort to connect with the Canadian electorate, starting off by opening the annual Dragon Boat festival in Toronto. He engaged in banter with the friendly crowd, asking for a rescue if he jumped into the lake to cool off, but his choice of apparel — a business suit, sans tie — looked a bit out of place and uncomfortable, an unfortunate allegory to his last few weeks in the Commons:

Tory Leader Stephen Harper continued his image makeover tour Saturday after an embarrassing week that saw his party ambushed on a budget bill it had promised to defeat.
Mr. Harper helped launch Toronto’s International Dragon Boat Race Festival by cracking jokes about a quick rescue if he were to leap into Lake Ontario to escape the stifling heat. …
The embattled leader, who plans to hit the barbeque and festival circuit this summer in an effort to lighten his staid image, wore a suit but left the tie at home and unbuttoned the collar of his dress shirt. He was all smiles throughout the appearance and and admitted he maybe should have dressed down for the sweltering heat.
Mr. Harper was warmly received by the crowd on Centre Island in Toronto’s harbour and briefly manned a barrel-sized drum leading the dramatic dancing parade that opened the festival.

Harper came under some criticism for skipping the Toronto Gay Pride parade, an understandable scheduling decision given Harper’s opposition to the upcoming gender-neutral marriage bill that now is widely expected to pass. He showed that while he wants to get out and give people reasons to open up to the Tories and vote for them, it won’t be by pretending to be who he’s not — a rather apt analogy to the Gay Pride festivities, if one considers it for a moment. Harper did so without denigrating or even referencing it, a wise choice on his part.
However, less wise was his answer to reporters immediately after the race of the shenanigans that accompanied last week’s vote in the Commons on C-48, in which Harper had held out hope for a confidence vote that could topple the Liberals. He attacked the other parties as “unprincipled” and denied that his leadership had any role in his defeat. He then made this statement, which will probably come back to haunt him in his tour:

“Canadians are going to be concerned to see the government having a deal with the socialists and the separatists,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the kind of coalition the public voted for.”

Given that Harper himself aligned with the “separatists” of Bloc Quebecois for most of the past two months, that seems like a rather cynical and self-serving excuse. Harper gave that opening to NDP Jack Layton, who quipped that Canadians expected their MPs to be in their seats, ready to vote. Harper should think about being magnanimous at this point, as these recriminatory statements will only serve to create barriers later on and reinforce the notion that the Tories represent a negative force in Canadian politics. He needs to present the positive image of change and reform, and remind Canada why it needs both and why the Liberals cannot deliver either.
Polling shows that Canadians have a trust issue with Harper. As I suggested earlier, Harper would be well served to research and adopt the self-effacing and open style of Ronald Reagan and learn to react more graciously in defeat. Voters will not trust a politician who cannot truthfully acknowledge setbacks and who make a habit of dodging responsibility for them. It’s early in his summer campaign, so he has time to learn, but he should start now.

The Dreams Of Palestinian Women

Manuela Dviri of the Telegraph follows up on the story of Wafa Samir al-Biss, the young Palestinian woman who tried to repay the Israelis for their generosity in providing her medical assistance for her burn scars by becoming a suicide bomber for Fatah. Dviri interviewed Biss about her attempt to kill Israelis and the motivation for suicide bombing:

The girl had big, brown eyes and her black hair was tied in a ponytail, but it was the strangeness of her gait that attracted the attention of the security officials at the Erez crossing, the main transit point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
When a soldier asked her to remove her long, dark cloak, she turned to face him. All her movements were taped by the military surveillance camera at the checkpoint: calmly, deliberately, she took off her clothing, item by item, until she looked like any normal young woman in T-shirt and jeans. It was then that she tried to set off the belt containing 20lb of explosives hidden beneath her trousers. To her horror, she did not succeed. Desperate, she clawed at her face, screaming. She was still alive, she realised. She had failed her martyrdom mission.
That afternoon, on June 21, the 21-year-old, Wafa Samir al-Biss, was brought before the press by Israeli intelligence. Her neck and hands were covered with scars caused by a kitchen gas explosion six months earlier. The ugly scars – which had been treated in a hospital in Israel – had probably helped turn her into the perfect would-be huriia (virgin), the ideal martyr, since they would make it difficult for her to find a suitable husband.

Biss told Dviri that she had not decided to kill herself over her scarring, but that martyrdom had long been a dream of hers. “I believe in death,” she tells Dviri, in an admission that perfectly encapsulates the entire problem with the Palestinians in charge of the territories. Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad — these groups have never offered anything else other than death for decades. When one scans the political landscape of the Palestinian Authority, no one argues for life; one only finds varying degrees of support for terrorists and militias that teach nothing but hate and death to their children.
That’s why a young woman like Biss dreams of killing children rather than bearing them. She told Dviri that her attempt to blow herself up was intended to kill twenty or fifty Jews, even babies at the hospital which the attack targeted. In almost the same breath, she asks if the Israelis will have mercy on her because she still hasn’t killed anyone. It’s this dislocation from reality, the disconnect between their obscenity of indiscriminate bloodthirstiness and their expectation of mercy from their enemies that also gives the best representation of the difference between the two societies, and why the notion of statehood for the Palestinians holds out little hope of creating a peace between them.
Dviri then extends her interview to other women who tried to become martyrs and failed, held at the same facility that Wafa Biss will no doubt spend a significant portion of her life. When Dviri interviewed a would-be bomber named Kahira, the conversation suddenly turned uncomfortably personal. Kahira actually did conduct a successful attack, one that did not kill her but did kill a pregnant Israeli and her husband, and wounded 80 others:

Kahira was given three life sentences and another 80 years. She looked pale, sad, anguished. I asked her if the dead tormented her during the night. “No,” she said. “Anyway, the actual attacker would have blown himself up even without me. I didn’t kill anyone myself, physically.”
Who do your children live with? “With my mother-in-law, my husband is in jail, too.”
Aren’t you sorry you ruined their lives as well as your own? “I did it to defend them. I’m not sorry, we’re at war. But perhaps I wouldn’t do it again. It was an impulse,” Kahira answered balefully. …
What did you do? “I helped the attacker to get into Jerusalem. I gave him some flowers to hold in his hands.”
When? “I don’t remember the exact date, only that it was Mother’s Day. That’s why I prepared him some flowers.”
Then it was February, I told her.
“How can you remember it so well?” she asked.
Because my son was killed on Mother’s Day, I said, and I watched as she grew pale and seemed to stagger.
No, it wasn’t you, I explained. He was killed in 1998, while your attack was in 2002. But we certainly have an anniversary in common.
At this, Kahira gave me a look that I’ll never be able to describe. She didn’t utter another word.

Incredibly and to her credit, Dviri ends with the statement that neither side should be punished as a group for the acts of their extremists. However, Dviri doesn’t have the courage to acknowledge that the difference between the two sides is that the Palestinians have allowed their extremists to take charge for decades, and now have no other voices to lead them away from their culture of death.

Training To Work With The Majority

Tony Blair surprised Democrats today by arranging to have his eldest son Euan take an internship with a leading Congressman in the US — House Rules Committee chair and Republican, David Dreier:

Euan Blair is to spend three months unpaid with the Republican majority on the House of Representatives Committee on Rules, the Sunday Telegraph revealed.
He will reportedly be under the wing of Californian lawmaker David Dreier, the committee’s chairman and a member of the lower House of Representatives for the Republican Party of US
President George W. Bush.

Blair obviously wants to prepare Euan for a life in politics, and apparently in particular wants him to have plenty of experience with Britain’s most strategic ally. The choice of Dreier and the Rules Committee could be read in many different ways, but it’s safe to say that the choice is deliberate, as the Democrats would have happily taken Euan under their wing. This has already ruffled feathers across the aisle, where they assumed that Blair’s close relationship with George Bush had more to do with necessity and personality than politics.
Democrats and Labour share much more philosophically than do Labour and Republicans, of course. But what Democrats don’t do is win elections — and as a result, they don’t run anything in Washington at the moment. Blair’s choice for Euan, the Rules Committee, demonstrates that aspect of the choice he made. The Rules Committee is one of the most partisan and contentious arenas in the House, where power politics reaches its zenith. Blair must believe that the Republicans have more to teach young Euan than do their Democratic opponents about leadership and success in that arena.
Perhaps the Democrats should ask themselves why that is — and then take another look at Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as their party leadership.

Northern Alliance Radio Today

The Northern Alliance Radio Network will be on the air today at its usual time, noon to 3 pm CDT, to discuss the political and cultural issues of the week. Certainly, high up on our topic list will be the Iranian election, the Kelo decision, Karl Rove, Dick Durbin, and much, much more. In our second hour, we’ll interview Christina Hoff Summers, author of One Nation Under Therapy, which warns how our “helping” culture undermines self-reliance. And in our third hour, we will launch our first Un-Pledge Drive, where we encourage listeners to cancel their subscriptions to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune because of their increasingly delusional editorial board.
If you are in the Twin Cities, you can hear us on AM 1280 The Patriot, but if you live elsewhere, you can also listen to us on the station’s Internet stream from its website. Call in and join the conversation at 651-289-4488 — we love hearing from people outside the Twin Cities!

Roberts: Enough Is Enough On Bolton

Senator Pat Roberts, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair who has tried to act as an intermediary between the White House and the Senate Democrats on the confirmation of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN, pronounced that he’s had enough of Democratic obstructionism on the topic. The New York Times reports that Roberts now has urged Bush to cease negotiating on Bolton and give him a recess appointment instead:

The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that it would be a mistake for the White House to bend further to Democratic demands related to John R. Bolton’s handling of intelligence material.
In an interview, the chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, said he now expected that President Bush would grant a recess appointment to Mr. Bolton, whose nomination as ambassador to the United Nations has been blocked by Senate Democrats for more than a month. …
Mr. Roberts had sought until now to serve as an intermediary between the White House and Senate Democrats in the matter. But he said he believed that the administration had gone far enough, and that a recess appointment expiring in January 2007 and perhaps renominated after that, would be preferable to the potential security risks of providing Congress with wider access to names in the N.S.A. reports.

Those risks became clear during the debate over filibusters on judicial confirmations when the Minority Leader, Harry Reid, started basing accusations of unfitness from secret FBI files on Judge Henry Saad. After that cheap shot at Saad, who not only couldn’t use the file to exonerate himself but can’t even look in the file to see what Reid meant, the White House has become very skeptical about providing the Senate with any classified information it doesn’t explicitly need. Roberts’ committee has already seen this data, in any case, and has already told the Senate that it saw no issue with Bolton’s actions.
No one thinks that further concessions will change any votes on Capitol Hill. Giving in on the intercepts will then create more demands for even more information, extending Bolton’s filibuster even further. As the Democrats have demonstrated, they have decided to blockade most of Bush’s political nominees as an overall strategy to paint the GOP as radical and out of touch as its theme for the 2006 campaign. It’s a foolish and destructive strategy, as the 2004 campaign proved, but they’re sticking with it until they get grown-up leadership with enough imagination to come up with something better.
At any rate, Bush doesn’t need to play into it by feeding the failures in the Senate’s Democratic caucus. He should give Bolton the recess appointment that will end this particular circus, and the next filibuster that occurs — especially on one of his political appointments — should result in a broader Byrd option to eliminate the filibuster on all executive confirmations. If the Democrats can’t learn how to operate in the proper role of the minority instead of mindless obstructionism, then the GOP needs to start playing hardball. The quest for “comity” has been completely one-sided and should be abandoned.

Class-Action Fraud Alleged At Legal Firm

The rapid growth of class-action lawsuits has created a booming industry for the legal profession, one which promises big payouts for relatively little work as defendants tend get intimidated into settlements rather than go to court. Such lucrative opportunities eventually attracts those with lower ethical bars to cut corners and create shortcuts to greater amounts of money, and the feds believe they have found just that problem at one of the most prominent class-action legal firms in the country:

Federal prosecutors here have charged a retired Palm Springs, Calif., lawyer with taking kickbacks from a prominent New York law firm in exchange for serving as plaintiff in dozens of class-action and shareholder lawsuits that earned the firm $44 million over 20 years.
The indictment against 78-year-old Seymour M. Lazar, unsealed Thursday, stems from a years-long investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office into the practices of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, which before splitting into two firms last year had led the largest of the investor suits against bankrupt energy trader Enron Corp. …
Reports of the grand jury investigation of Milberg Weiss, some of whose partners have close ties to the Democratic Party, were aired in the news media in early 2002 just as one of its top lawyers, William Lerach, was taking the lead in the Enron litigation.
The charges against Lazar do not involve the Enron suits, however, but suits against Standard Oil, United Airlines, Denny’s and other corporations in which Lazar or his relatives acted as plaintiffs.

The specifics of Lazar’s involvement appear to be that he falsified information that made him or his family members a primary plaintiff in these well-known lawsuits that allowed the law firm to raise them to class-action status. Either that, or Lazar’s family must be the most unlucky consumers in American legal history. They may also be the most lucky plaintiffs, at least in recent American legal practice.
Until all of the indictments are unsealed, the specifics will remain somewhat murky. What remains clear is that our class-action processes still exist as slot machines for legal firms, gambles that pay off more often than not and undermine the financial security of millions of investors whose retirements depend on stability in the marketplace. We need a system that protects consumers but quits providing such wildly lucrative incentives for shakedown rackets and fraud. Perhaps this three-year grand jury investigation will at least press Congress to continue working on tort reform to strike a better balance between consumers and shareholders.

Hardliner ‘Wins’ Iranian Election

Little-known Teheran mayor and hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the run-off for the Iranian presidency in a development that indicates the Guardian Council has had enough of negotiating with the West and appeasing the burgeoning democracy movement in Iran:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who has invoked Iran’s 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States, won a runoff election Friday and was elected president of the Islamic republic in a landslide, the Interior Ministry announced early Saturday.
Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president who had won the first round of voting last week and was attempting to appeal to socially moderate and reform-minded voters. …
With 85 percent of votes counted, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran’s electoral process, said returns showed Ahmadinejad leading with 61.8 percent of the vote, to 35.7 for Rafsanjani. Officials said 47 percent of eligible voters turned out, down from 63 percent in the first round.

The lower turnout is significant. The reformers supposedly planned to turn out for Rafsanjani, the former president that tried to lay claim to the modernist vote, but the drop of sixteen points shows deep dissatisfaction with the first round of voting. In fact, Publius Pundit has more evidence that the second round has just as much fraud attached to the turnout report, and therefore the final counts, as was the case from the first round of voting. Even with the fraud, the Iranians still reported the lower number, which indicates that even the Council knows that their fraud won’t pass muster.
Obviously, then, the little-known Ahmaninejad was the Guardian Council’s choice all along. What does that tell us? It tells us that the GC feels that Iranian culture has drifted too far away from shari’a and the ideals of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. In fact, Ahmadinejad explicitly stated that the revolution wasn’t staged to bring freedom to the Iranian people. It’s not exactly the kind of rhetoric that one expects to hear from an electoral candidate.
If that’s what the GC wants to communicate, it made a big mistake. With the democracy movements flourishing but willing in some part to support a character like Rafsanjani against Ahmadinejad, it would have given the mullahs the opportunity to co-opt the movement, at least to some degree. Now, however, the mullahs have clearly told these people that they will never have any hope of access to the political system. What options do the students and other pro-democracy activists have now within the system? All this will do will convince the most active that any change will require action outside of the current Iranian political system.
The mullahs fear dissension more than anything else. Unfortunately for them, they have chosen the course that almost guarantees a revolution, and probably sooner rather than later.

Time To Send A Little Reassurance To The Troops

The Emperor Darth Misha at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler received an e-mail about a soldier in Iraq who questions our support for the troops and the mission based on the media reports that our men and women have been hearing. The Emperor is starting an e-mail campaign for bloggers and blog-readers to send messages to this soldier and his friends. Take a moment to send a supportive message to the troops through the auspices of Darth Misha as soon as you get an opportunity.

The Quality Of Debate: E-Mails Of The Week

I get e-mail from a lot of people, some of it supportive, and some of it critical. I find that most of it is well-written and open for dialogue, even those who disagree with me. Every once in a while, however, I’ll get a mouthbreather who thinks that tossing insults and a few F-bombs amounts to principled and intelligent debate. Normally, I don’t comment or reply to these; I calculate it as one of the costs of having a higher profile and simply keep them for my own amusement.
However, I just received two from one particular mouthbreather that I simply have to share with CQ readers. Today’s messages come from a Jeff Oliver, whose first e-mail came with the subject “rove”:

no room for comments eh? no room for argument. how typical.
you’re a yellow fucking coward.

Obviously, Jeff has some comprehension problems, because at the bottom of each post on my site, there’s a hyperlink on the word “Comment”. I don’t have instructions on my site, but most people instinctively understand that clicking on that link will allow visitors to leave comments, once they’ve logged in through Typepad. At the very least, one can read the comments that have already been posted. Since the number “91” appears next to the word “Comment”, most readers could guess that we have that many comments attached to the post.
But that’s not really the funny part. Within moments of receiving that e-mail, I received a second e-mail from Jeff Oliver with the subject “my bad” indicating that he had figured it out, or someone explained how blogs work — one or the other. I assumed that the e-mail would apologize for his insulting tone. Well …

I’m a goof. You do have comments!
So why aren’t you in Iraq you fucking yellow coward chickenhawk?

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff … If the armed forces took mildly diabetic 38-year-olds, I would have enlisted on 9/11. Trust me, they didn’t need me. However, since you’ve asked the question, when did you decide that America should be a military dictatorship? After all, what you’re arguing is that only military people should have any voice over how and when America goes to war, and that everyone else should shut up. Small wonder, then, that you don’t like CQ, since we support civilian control of the military through its elected representatives, and free civilian debate over all policy and means of implementation.
But Jeff, if you want to live in a military dictatorship, you should start looking around pretty quickly. They’re a dying breed, thanks to Anglo-American efforts the past three or four years. Civilian democracies are the future, pal.
If you have any more questions, be sure to leave them in the comments section. That’s the hyperlink that says … “Comments”, just to remind you.

US Acknowledges Torture, And Prosecution Of Those Committing It

The United States has submitted a report to the United Nations that acknowledges its personnel has committed isolated acts of torture on detainees, the French wire service AFP reports. Its unnamed source says that the American report was very forthright and involved a handful of cases which the US military intends on prosecuting as crimes:

Washington has for the first time acknowledged to the
United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.
“They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,” the Committee member told AFP. …
“They haven’t avoided anything in their answers, whether concerning prisoners in Iraq, in Afghanistan or Guantanamo, and other accusations of mistreatment and of torture,” the Committee member said.
“They said it was a question of isolated cases, that there was nothing systematic and that the guilty were in the process of being punished.”
The US report said that those involved were low-ranking members of the military and that their acts were not approved by their superiors, the member added.

While I suspect that the hysterical Gitmo=gulag crowd will jump all over this, it does serve to remind people that regardless of how intent we are on acting under the highest principles, it takes good management and a lot of discipline to keep interrogators and jailers from crossing the line. That was the lesson at Abu Ghraib, one that most people missed in their rush to smear the entire chain of command with the absurd notion that naked pyramids and leashes had been approved at the top levels of the Pentagon. Those involved in the Abu Ghraib abuses — which probably have been included in this report — belonged to a unit with poor discipline and excessive fraternization, both of which directly led to the abuses in that prison.
The report also shows the difference between America and (I can’t believe I even have to write this) Nazi Germany, the Soviet gulag, and the Khmer Rouge. Our policies and aims do not accept torture, and when it occurs, it is treated as a crime and punished appropriately. We also do not imprison people arbitrarily and have the appropriate process to determine their need for detention. The latter three examples ran prisons and camps for the express purpose of torturing and killing people strictly for their ethnicity, religion, or political speech, and succeeded in killing millions upon millions in doing so.
If Americans have tortured prisoners — and that means really tortured prisoners, not just left them in cold or hot rooms or humiliated them by having women rub themselves on them — then they should be tried and imprisoned for their crimes. The American military appears capable of investigating these problems and holding the guilty accountable. Perhaps that will quell the hysterics from declaring the US a fascist state … but somehow I doubt it.