Gray Lady Of Two Minds On Africa

The New York Times takes on Africa in its op-ed pages today, offering not only a house editorial but an opposing opinion piece that dashes a bit of cold water on the Times’ idealistic approach. The unsigned editorial offers praise for the work already done by the Bush administration on Africa, but insists that more money and effort needs to be forthcoming from the G-8 in order to rescue the continent:

An unusual and mutually reinforcing set of possibilities is converging around this week’s summit meeting of the world’s richest countries in Scotland. If Mr. Bush is truly the compassionate conservative he says he is, he will not let the moment pass with the United States continuing to contribute far less than its share to the international effort to include Africa in the prosperity of the 21st century. …
But so far there has been a discouraging gap between Mr. Bush’s generous declarations and the money Washington has actually made available to Africa. The White House has failed to push the Republican-controlled Congress to fully finance Mr. Bush’s aid programs and failed to spur its own aid appointees to get the money flowing to where it is most urgently needed.
At this point, America’s total worldwide spending on all forms of foreign aid still amounts to only a relatively stingy 0.16 percent of this country’s gross national income, one of the lowest proportions in the developed world. Most European countries represented at this week’s summit meeting are already giving substantially higher percentages of their smaller national incomes. Many have promised to double those percentages between now and 2010. Mr. Bush needs to commit Washington to a substantially faster rate of increase to make America once again a leader in global development.

The Times uses the official government aid figures without noting the substantial private contributions towards African relief raised by NGOs. Other nations tax their citizens at much higher rates and eat up the disposable income which Americans use for purposes such as private donations. That reflects the American preference for self-directed use of funds, while Europeans prefer to use government as the conduit.
As Larry Elder demomstrated ably in Capitalism magazine in January, Americans contributed 35% of all foreign aid in 2004, once private donations get factored into the equation. Private donations to foreign aid equal 2.2% of our GDP — and that doesn’t count the volunteer hours served, nor does it include our infrastructure assistance to relief efforts, such as the use of our military to deliver the aid to the needy. The 0.16% figure is so incorrect as to be deliberately misleading, especially when admitting — as the Times does — that the Bush administration has steadily increased the amount going towards Africa.
However, money isn’t really the problem, nor is more of it the primary solution, as William Easterly writes opposite the editorial:

It’s great that so many are finally noticing the tragedy of Africa. But sadly, historical evidence says that the solutions offered by big plans are not so easy. From 1960 to 2003, we spent $568 billion (in today’s dollars) to end poverty in Africa. Yet these efforts still did not lift Africa from misery and stagnation.
Why don’t big plans work? Because they miss the critical elements of feedback and accountability. If consumers like a product, its maker prospers; if they don’t, the company goes out of business. If voters complain about public services to their local politician, the politician either fixes the problem or gets voted out of office. It doesn’t always work, but it works well enough for rich people to get potato chips and paved roads.
For the poor, Professor Sachs and the United Nations Millennium Project propose everything from nitrogen-fixing leguminous trees to replenish the soil, to rainwater harvesting, to battery-charging stations, for, by my count, 449 interventions. Poor Africans have no market or democratic mechanisms to let planners in New York know which of the 449 interventions they need, whether they are satisfied with the results, or whether the goods ever arrived at all.

After $568 billion has gone down the tubes in Africa — an mind-boggling amount — clearly that solution has been tried and found wanting. Money may be needed, but very obviously the conditions on the ground keep it from the uses that would rescue the continent from itself. Pushing more money into the existing political systems there only serves to keep despots in power and criminals in control of the aid we send. It is Oil-For-Food, only on a much grander scale.
That’s one of the reasons that Sir Bob Geldof’s Live 8 approach seemed different. Yes, they want more money and debt forgiveness, but for the first time, a populist group seemed to understand the need to condition the aid on political reform. The G8 will have to force Africa to reform itself, and unfortunately, there are only two ways to leverage that: money or force. Therefore, we have to prepare to spend some money in order to get the political reform African nations need to bootstrap themselves into self-sufficiency and out of the abject poverty into which their strongmen have consigned them.
Instead of looking at this as aid, perhaps it’s better to look at it as financial incentives — and we need to be tough about releasing the funds for it. No democracy, no money. Let those nations who truly reform benefit, and the pressure on others from the example will work its magic on their more recalcitrant neighbors. We may find that much less money will actually be needed to make that work, in the long run.

Would A Little More Hate Make Things Right?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune runs an opinion piece by Mark Fitzgerald today bemoaning the loss of confidence for the media in today’s market. He notes the recent Pew polling that shows that less than half of Americans believe that the press protects American democracy. Fitzgerald also laments the case of Diana Griego Erwin, the latest example of Exempt Media columnists that simply made up sources to create stories which matched her preconceived notions of how the world should work — in this case, dozens of times — with all those editorial layers about which we hear endlessly allowing it to continue for years.
Fitzgerald wonders how the press can recover from these debacles to once again capture the confidence of the American public. His answer — to bash Bush even more:

How did we in the press fall from defender of democracy to an institution the public sees as either too arrogant or too accommodating, too much a scold or too silly to be taken seriously?
Part of it is a national mood beyond the media’s control. In some ways this is the nation divided Blue and Red that Fox News or Air America portray. But Americans have also taken an unexpected turn away from news of politics and terrorism in the years since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. In its place is an intense, almost hysterical, focus these days on celebrity — think Brangelina or TomKat — and even on curious non-stories like the Runaway Bride.
But the press itself bears the largest responsibility for its present low estate. With their audiences shrinking, the news media are desperately chasing after readers and viewers with the light news they think will sell — and abdicating the central mission of a free press to hold authority accountable.

First off, you have to love this effort. It’s the public’s fault, because after 9/11 suddenly we all became less interested in the news. Was that your experience? Did you spend the weeks after 9/11 desperately trying to turn off Fox News, MS-NBC, and other news channels?
But more than that, Fitzgerald points to the central problem with the press, the reason why people have learned to mistrust it. The central mission of a free press isn’t to “hold authority accountable” — it’s to report the truth. If the truth holds authority accountable, then so be it, but to say that the press should automatically take opposition to all authority reveals a bias and a desire for foregone conclusions, the same impulse that got the best of Erwin. Fitzgerald makes clear where that bias should lead:

“It is a newspaper’s duty to print news, and raise hell,” Wilburt Storey thundered when he ran the Chicago Tribune during the Civil War. A century and a half later, there’s another war under another Republican administration, but there hasn’t been much hell raised by the press lately — and Americans are disturbed by it.
In the Pew survey, 40 percent of the respondents said the news media were “too critical” of America — but 38 percent also opined that the media were “too easy” on President Bush. Americans outside the Beltway see how this White House sets a daily news agenda, and how few journalists seem to have the courage or the enterprise to defy it.

Fitzgerald leaves a bit more out of this Pew poll than he includes. The people claiming that the press is too easy on Bush are primarily Democrats — which should come as no surprise. 47% of all respondents, though, say that press criticism of the military weakens the country’s defenses, a statistic that Fitzgerald conveniently leaves out. 72% believe that the press consistently favors one political party over the other. And three-quarters of all respondents think that the press is much more concerned about pandering to its audience rather than keeping them informed.
Fitzgerald hearkens back to Watergate and My Lai in his call for greater press efforts to get the Bush administration:

For instance, this administration came to Washington determined to conduct the public’s business behind closed doors with unprecedented levels of secrecy — and it has pulled it off without much challenge from the media. It is striking how a press that so cherishes the mythology of Woodward and Bernstein uncovering the mysteries of Watergate rarely mentions that the White House 30 years later is a far more secretive place. …
Small voices can still have an outsize impact. While big media have deployed an army of reporters and cameramen covering Iraq from the ground and from Washington, it was a journalist working alone and outside the pack, Seymour Hersh, who uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib military prison.

No, it was the Army that uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib, not Hersh. Hersh sensationalized them, but the Army had already begun its investigation long before Hersh wrote about the scandal. What Hersh did was to claim that a night shift of undisciplined idiots somehow indicted the entire American military effort, and a willing press that has decided its primary mission is to embarrass and torpedo the Bush administration followed suit.
Mostly, however, the appearance of this column in the Strib makes for amusing reading. No major daily in the US has a better track record of hysterical anti-Bush rhetoric from its editorial board than the Twin Cities’ primary daily. Whether it reverses itself on issues like filibusters, or gives its blessing to Gitmo-Nazi analogies, the Strib has served at the vanguard of Bush hatred. As a result, not only have people lost confidence in the newspaper, they’re cancelling it in droves. In the past month, the Strib has started to deliver papers to homes that don’t subscribe in an attempt to bolster its readership numbers for advertisers. I used to see a freebie once every couple of months, usually a Sunday paper, which served as a reminder of the value of home delivery. In the last month, I have received delivery at least three times a week; last week, it was almost every day.
Do you sense desperation? I certainly do.
Fitzgerald may simply be arguing for the hair of the dog that bit the press in order to alleviate its hangover, but it’s bad advice. If the media wants to win our confidence, it needs to stop advocating for its own politics and start reporting the truth. Quit using single anonymous sourcing to spread rumors and gossip, do complete research, and treat all sides fairly. That will go a long way to creating the trust that the press has abused in the 30 years since Watergate.

CU Escapes The Peter Principle

After generating months of controversy from his remarks about 9/11 victims being “little Eichmanns” to disputes over his alleged Native American heritage and claims that he falsified key parts of his curriculum vitae, Ward Churchill has embarrassed University of Colorado innumerable times. However, it hasn’t kept CU from giving Churchill a merit increase for his performance (via LGF):

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill was awarded a 2.28 percent merit pay increase this week for work performed in 2004, a little less than his department’s average recommended salary increase for professors.
A statement released by CU said pay increases for Boulder campus faculty are approved by interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano and based on reviews and recommendations by committees at the department, school or college, and administrative levels.
Churchill’s increase was finalized Thursday. The average recommended increase for ethnic studies department faculty was 3.21 percent, according to the CU statement.
“In 2004, Professor Churchill taught a higher number of courses than required, received A’s and A-pluses on his student evaluations, completed numerous publications and served as administrative chair of the department,” the statement said.

Let me get this straight. An employee of CU currently under investigation for employment fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication still remains eligible for annual merit increases? In the private sector, one would have to wait for the end of the investigation before anyone would dare put that request through to Human Resources. Since CU runs on state money, that means that Colorado taxpayers not only continue to fund Churchill’s lunacies — but now they have to pay more for them as well.
Obviously tenure doesn’t explain the entire problem with Churchill’s continued employment in academia.
UPDATE: Okay, okay, University of Colorado. I got ya, Momo.

Living It Up In The Nation’s Capital

So this is what the Center of Democracy looks like!
The First Mate and I landed in DC this afternoon, arriving at Ronald Reagan Airport around 4:30 pm. After the normal confusion of deplaning, we quickly collected our luggage and got our rental car, a Mazda compact that surprisingly handled all of our baggage. Due to a fundamental misjudgment of local geography, I booked our room in Gaithersburg, about 40 minutes outside of the sites we want to see, but the hotel is comfortable and affordable. The drive took so long that I had almost convinced myself that I had gotten lost, but the correct off-ramp appeared and we found ourselves checked in, exhausted.
We ate at a lovely steak place called Sir Walter Raleigh’s in Gaithersburg. It featured a generous salad bar and a casual atmosphere, and the 12-ounce sirloin I ordered came cooked to perfection. The only flaw in the entire dinner was when we found out that this establishment will close down at the end of the month. I didn’t ask why, but it can’t be the food or the service. In fact, due to their impending shutdown, the waiter gave us a 25% discount on the meal — fortunately after I collected cash from my mother and my sister to put the entire meal on my credit card. (Trust me, they’ll get it back this week.)
I see that Dafydd has already written a few excellent posts, and I know you will see even more from him this week. I will also post updates on my travels here in DC as well as keep up with the breaking news, mostly in the early mornings and later evenings. Tuesday will bring a special book review and an interview with the author, so keep an eye out that morning for what I think will be a fascinating series of posts.
Keep checking in for more updates!

Dafydd: If It’s Rove…

…Then he’s off the hook legally.
Again, a caution: I’m neither a lawyer, nor a law-school grad, nor a law-school admittee, nor even a wanna-be lawyer. (I was in the Navy once, so you can call me a sea lawyer.) I am, however, reasonably literate; so I will presume to give legal advice, secure in the knowledge that I have, in fact, nothing to lose!
As Himself noted in Creepy Liar Strikes Again, Lawrence “Creepy Liar” O’Donnell now implies (without much credibility, and without explicitly making the claim) that the original leaker of Valerie Plame’s name to Robert Novak was Karl Rove. O’Donnell says that e-mails from Time, Inc. between reporter Matthew Cooper and his editors at Time Magazine will prove this, though he does not claim to have actually seen the e-mail himself.
So far as I can tell, O’Donnell, who is a producer of the NBC series the West Wing and also MSNBC’s “senior political analyst” — though I’m not sure why, as his political credentials are rather scant — has never had any association with Time Magazine, nor does it appear that he is on the e-mail list now. So I can only assume he got his information from the Newsweek article “the Rove Factor?” by Michael Isikoff.
Isikoff claims that two attorneys “who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House” claim that Karl Rove is “one of Cooper’s sources.” What this means isn’t clear: if Cooper called Rove to ask him whether Bush wants to find out who leaked the name, and if Rove said yes, then Rove would be one of his sources.
In fact, even Isikoff himself admits he has no idea what Rove did or did not say to Matthew Cooper:

Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article. It is unclear, however, what passed between Cooper and Rove….
But according to Luskin, Rove’s lawyer, Rove spoke to Cooper three or four days before Novak’s column appeared. Luskin told NEWSWEEK that Rove “never knowingly disclosed classified information” and that “he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.” Luskin declined, however, to discuss any other details. He did say that Rove himself had testified before the grand jury “two or three times” and signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him. “He has answered every question that has been put to him about his conversations with Cooper and anybody else,” Luskin said.

So it certainly is by no means clear that Rove was actually the leaker who told Novak (or Cooper) that Plame was the CIA agent who sent her hubby on the little trip to Niger. If he were, then Cooper would have been free (due to the waiver) to tell the world.
It is noteworthy that not even Lawrence O’Donnell claims that Rove was the one who outed Plame: even he says only that “Karl Rove was Matt Cooper’s source” but doesn’t elaborate — source for what? We already knew Rove spoke to Cooper, which means we already knew he was one of Cooper’s sources.
But let’s play a little thoughtgame: suppose it turned out that Karl Rove was actually the person who outed Ms. Plame. Would Rove be “prosecuted,” as a couple of people on the right and a few million people on the left insist? Well… not likely. The reason is the way the law itself is written.
The applicable section of the U.S. Code is “Section 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources.” There are three classes of leaker covered by this law.
Section (c) refers to persons engaged in “a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents.” Consider this the “Philip Agee” subsection, and it clearly does not apply to Rove.
Sections (a) and (b) differ slightly. The first applies to “whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent,” while the second applies to “whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified information, learns the identify of a covert agent.”
Note that bit about having “authorized access to classified information” that discloses the name of a covert agent. Here is the rub: the disclosure occurred in or before July 2003… and at that time, Karl Rove was the Special Advisor to the President. This was a political position; he was Bush’s chief political advisor. But in this position, it is extremely unlikely that Rove had any authorized access to CIA personnel files whatsoever, since those are extremely highly restricted (for reasons that should be obvious), and Rove did not have any kind of a national-security or defense position.
Which means that even if it were to eventuate that Rove was the guy who leaked the Plame name, he would almost certainly not be a “covered person” as far as Section 421 is concerned: however he might have found out about her CIA employment, it would have to have been by means other than “authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent.”
This would not stop Bush from firing Rove, if he so chose; but it would stop any sort of prosecution — whether the leaker was Rove or someone else who likewise had no authorized access. Which is probably why nobody has been indicted: likely, the leaker, whoever he was, learned about Plame on the D.C. cocktail circuit, where evidently it was common knowledge.
So however desperately much the Left wants to see Rove “frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs,” as Joseph Wilson, ambassador and yet another creepy liar, put it, it simply is not going to happen.

Creepy Liar Strikes Again

MS-NBC analyst Lawrence O’Donnell announced on last night’s McLaughlin Group that the person who outed Valerie Plame to Robert Novak was none other than Democratic bete noir, Karl Rove:

Now that Time Inc. has turned over documents to federal court, presumably revealing who its reporter, Matt Cooper, identified as his source in the Valerie Plame/CIA case, speculation runs rampant on the name of that source, and what might happen to him or her. Tonight, on the syndicated McLaughlin Group political talk show, Lawrence O’Donnell, senior MSNBC political analyst, claimed to know that name–and it is, according to him, top White House mastermind Karl Rove.
Here is the transcript of O’Donnell’s remarks:
“What we’re going to go to now in the next stage, when Matt Cooper’s e-mails, within Time Magazine, are handed over to the grand jury, the ultimate revelation, probably within the week of who his source is.
“And I know I’m going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of…for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time magazine’s going to do with the grand jury.”

Lawrence O’Donnell hardly qualifies as the most stable or reliable source for this kind of information. CQ readers will recall O’Donnell’s meltdown on the Joe Scarborough show during the final lap of the election. Paired up with John O’Neill of the Swiftvets, he couldn’t even allow O’Neill to talk, calling him names like “creepy liar” every time O’Neill tried to respond. (You can listen to it here.)
O’Donnell later explained that his close personal friendship with John Kerry wouldn’t allow him to extend any courtesy to O’Neill. I’d say that bias makes him a lousy source for this revelation as well, considering the animosity that Rove generated among Kerry’s inner circle during the last election. If it turns out to be Rove, we’ll know soon enough when Time makes the documents public. However, I doubt that O’Donnell has a clue as to what those documents really say and what they can prove.
Basically, when Lawrence O’Donnell says Good morning, I’d still check the windows for the current weather.

Brother, Can You Spare Your Personal Carbon Allowance?

The British government has started to research ways to ration energy use, not just for commercial ventures and government facilities but for each and every person in the UK. The Telegraph reports that Tony Blair’s ministers have started thinking about imposing a system of “personal carbon allowances” that residents can barter or trade as they see fit, but which would restrict access to all forms of energy for consumers:

Every individual in Britain could be issued with a “personal carbon allowance” – a form of energy rationing – within a decade, under proposals being considered seriously by the Government.
Ministers say that increasingly clear evidence that climate change is happening more quickly than expected has made it necessary to “think the unthinkable”. …
Under the scheme for “domestic tradeable quotas” (DTQs), or personal carbon allowances, presented to the Treasury this week, everyone – from the Queen to the poorest people living on state benefits – would have the same annual carbon allocation.
This would be contained electronically on a “ration card”, which could be the proposed ID card or a “carbon card” based on supermarket loyalty cards.
It would have to be handed over every time a form of non-renewable energy was purchased – at the filling station, or when buying tickets for a flight – for points to be deducted.
High users of energy would have to purchase points from low users, or from a central “carbon bank”, if they wanted to use more energy.

Rationing has never led to efficient use of resources, and imposing such a system will lead to massive amounts of cheating, black-market trades, and a further growth in crime that can only be addressed by expansion of police powers. Rather than creating competitive pressure in the open market by subsidizing renewable energy resources — an approach which has its own problems — Britain wants to choose an even dumber approach to solve a problem that hasn’t yet been proven to exist.
This is yet another example of the kinds of solutions developed when nanny-staters get put in charge. Imposing top-down rationing requires the abrogation of free-market principles, chiefly the suddenly-endangered notion of private property. High energy users already pay more for their energy, because they have to buy more of it from the private producers who sell it. This new system will create a high-level tax that will only put more of a drag on the British economy. That also will contribute to higher unemployment, which means more crime, more police needed, and so on.
Don’t be surprised when someone proposes a similar system for the Unites States. Let’s hope that American lawmakers have better sense than some of their British counterparts.

Live 8 Starts Slow, Picks Up Speed

The grassroots effort to convince the G-8 nations to rescue Africa got off to a shaky start this morning in Tokyo, the launching pad for the concert series designed to produce political pressure on the richest nations act now. Only 10,000 showed up for the debut concert in Tokyo:

he Live 8 global music marathon to raise awareness of African poverty began in Japan on Saturday, as Bjork and Good Charlotte joined local bands in a concert that failed to generate much interest in Asia’s only G-8 nation.
Added to the Live 8 list at the last minute, the concert in Japan drew only about 10,000 people, all of whom were selected in a lottery. The venue in this Tokyo suburb normally holds about 20,000.
Even so, organizers said that considering they had less than a month to prepare, it was a good showing.

The Tokyo venue came as a surprise; last night, I and several other bloggers participated in a conference call with Live 8 organizers that featured Dr. Benjamin Chavis, who now heads up the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and represents the genre in Live 8 leadership. Tokyo, as far as I can recall, did not receive any mention. London was mentioned several times as the kickoff for the tour.
As impressed as I was by Bob Geldof, and there is no doubting that he and Bono make impressive cases for Live 8, yesterday’s call left me with some doubts as to the depth of the team at the second level. Dr. Chavis makes a good spokesmen for the effort, but he doesn’t have the grasp of detail and of the politics involved in creating the across-the-board support required to get African aid levels to where they want. Omitting Tokyo is only one of the details we didn’t hear. When Geldof spoke to bloggers, he presented Live 8 in very practical terms, both politically and economically. Dr. Chavis’ talk sounded much more facile, more slogans and gimmicks than red meat.
Still, I believe that we need to find a way to stabilize the African continent, if for no other reason than to eliminate the influence that Islamists have exercised through gang warfare in places like Somalia. That requires political reform on Africa’s part, because no one, including me, wants to see another $400 billion sinkhole for Western aid like Nigeria again. In the end, if we want to see a self-sufficient and democratic Africa, which is in everyone’s best interest, we need to find an effective manner to assist them to get there. Sir Bob Geldof, I think, has the right concepts. But the Devil is in the details, and we’re hearing less of them, not more, as we go along.
Visit the Live 8 website for more updates. If you watch the concerts live, they have an arrangement for text messages from cell phones to display over the stages at the various events. The web site will give directions on how callers can show their support, live for all to see, while the concerts go on.

Democrats Go On Offensive, In All Senses Of The Word

The Democrats wasted no time coming out on the offensive against George Bush and the upcoming Supreme Court nomination. Senators from the minority caucus isseud warnings yesterday that they fully intend to continue their obstructionist tactics unless Bush meets with them in person to get their prior approval on any candidate:

Capitol Hill braced yesterday for the first Supreme Court confirmation fight in nearly 11 years, and Democrats warned President Bush to consult them “face-to-face” before offering a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. …
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and a member of the committee, told reporters it would be “a shame” if Mr. Bush makes his nomination “without real face-to-face, back-and-forth consultation.” Democrats argue that this is the correct meaning of the Senate’s constitutional “advice and consent” role.

No it isn’t, and no Senate has ever demanded such a process from a President in American history. The Democrats have continued twisting the words of the Constitution and the precedent of over 200 years in an effort to simulate power that the electorate has denied them. In our history, advice and consent came out of the confirmation process within the Senate, not from some pre-approval standard that Schumer and the rest of the Democratic caucus now demands. These demands just provide the latest excuse that the Democrats will offer to claim any nominee as an “extraordinary circumstance” and attempt a filibuster.
In order to be successful in that endeavor, the Democrats have to properly set the stage. Yesterday, they launched their masters of hyperbole to do just that. Ted Kennedy and the abortion-rights lobby didn’t even wait for the ink to dry on Justice O’Connor’s resignation:

“If the president abuses his power and nominates someone who threatens to roll back the rights and freedoms of the American people, then the American people will insist that we oppose that nominee — and we intend to do so,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, said.

Excuse me, but how does nominating a justice equal an “abuse of power”? While the Constitution explicitly gives restrictions on those who seek elective office — mostly age restrictions — it gives no such prerequisites for a Supreme Court justice. In fact, one does not even have to be a lawyer to be nominated and confirmed to SCOTUS, although no one in this age would dream of trying to nominate a layman. (Captain Ed for SCOTUS!) Kennedy uses the phrase “abuse of power” to deliberately make it sound as if Bush will try something illegal in nominating someone to fill the opening.
However, if Kennedy gets hyperbolic, then the abortion-rights groups sound positively insane:

A group of liberal activists reserved a room across the hall from the Senate chamber yesterday to add their warnings, calling the abortion rights as upheld by Justice O’Connor the most fundamental American freedom.
“On Independence Day weekend — as we all celebrate the freedoms that make America so special — there is no freedom more fundamental to our rights than the ability for women to decide whether and when to parent,” said Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

So that’s why our Founding Fathers created the first representative, democratic republic — so that women could get abortions! Now I recall that every Fourth of July, we set off those fireworks and gave thanks that we escaped the evil tyranny of England, who had outlawed Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, the FEC restricts political speech and New London confiscates private property to give it away to rich developers, but thank God some generic Higher Power that we can celebrate our most fundamental freedom, one that is so fundamental that one cannot even find a mention of it in our Constitution.
Why would George Bush take advice from this gang of idiots? In fact, why does anyone?

Gitmo Papers Show Inmates Initiating Violence

AP reports that it has reports showing that inmates at Gitmo initiate violence against the guards at Camp X-Ray, and incidents of retaliation result in disciplinary action. Rather than the unfortunate victims of American oppression that Amnesty International has painted, the detainees actively attempt to provoke guards into confrontations, showing the dangerous nature of Gitmo’s inmates:

Military authorities have previously disclosed some incidents of guard retaliation at Guantanamo Bay, which resulted in mostly minor disciplinary proceedings. What emerges from 278 pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press is the degree of defiance by the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.
The prisoners banged on their cells to protest the heat. They doused guards with whatever liquid was handy from spit to urine. Sometimes they struck their jailers, one swinging a steel chair at a military police officer.
And the American MPs at times retaliated with force punches, pepper spray and a splash of cleaning fluid in the face, according to the newly released documents that detail military investigations and eyewitness accounts of alleged abuse.

This report confirms that abuse occurs at Gitmo, all right. It’s just that the abuse comes from the Islamist terrorists detained there who have nothing much to lose from lashing out. American servicemen make good targets for these detainees, since they have to act within military regulations regardless of how their prisoners behave. For instance, this incident resulted in a non-commissioned officer losing his stripes for coming to the aid of his fellow soldiers:

Some prisoners at the U.S. base in eastern Cuba have gone on the attack, as in April 2003 when a detainee got out of his cell during a search for contraband food and knocked out a guard’s tooth with a punch to the mouth and bit him before he was subdued by MPs. One soldier delivered two blows to the inmate’s head with a handheld radio, the documents show.
“Several guards were trying to hold down the detainee who was putting up heavy resistance,” recounted a translator who saw the incident. “The detainee was covered in blood as were some of the guards.”
The soldier who struck the inmate, and was dropped in rank to private first class as a result, described it as a close call. “The detainee was fighting as if he really wanted to hurt us. … We all saved each other’s lives in my opinion,” he wrote.

Of course, these servicemen know the rules that govern their actions and should be held accountable when they break the rules. If that report represents the incident fairly, however, it doesn’t sound very reasonable to expect the Americans to play by the Marquess de Queensbury rules, especially when a prisoner gets loose and tries to attack others. I find it hard to blame the guard who tried to knock out a terrorist bent on biting and punching his way out of the cellblock.
More seriously, a guard threw Pine-Sol into a detainee’s eyes after the Islamist threw spit at him. That certainly has no excuse, and the investigation recommended disciplinary action against him. The report does not give the final resolution of that case. In case after case, the AP found similar reaction. Whenever complaints of abuse have come to investigators, disciplinary action gets initiated when those allegations are found credible, such as the Pine-Sol incident that another MP reported to authorities.
Once again, while we see that American soldiers are indeed human and occasionally allow circumstances to get the best of them, Gitmo has maintained a remarkable sense of discipline and professionalism. When violations occur, the camp’s leadership takes action to punish those who commit them and keep others from repeating them. It sounds as if Camp X-Ray has a remarkable record in detention, one that many state and federal civil detention institutions in the US might envy. It completely belies the notion of Gitmo as an “American gulag,” and exposes those who make those allegations as ill-informed tools of Islamist propaganda.