Just an FYI — the trackbacks apparently have been blocked by the hosting service for CQ. This happens occasionally as the circumstances arise. I’ve asked them to look into the problem. In the meantime, feel free to post a link in the comments to your post on the related topic. I’ll update this post as the situation develops.
UPDATE: Trackbacks are re-enabled, but Hosting Matters says I need to upgrade to MT 3.2 to avoid the spam attacks. That’s why they disabled my TB system in the first place, and they may have to again if it continues. I’ll work on the upgrade ASAP.
One of the Brits kidnapped in Iraq this weekend is a family friend of a local blogger, Ben at Hammerswing75:
Mr. Kember is a good friend of my parents and a longtime member of my Granny’s church, Harrow Baptist. I remember seeing him a few years ago when I was stopped by in England to visit my Gran. We were at the church and he came over for some conversation. “I remember when you were this tall”, putting his hand down by his knees. He is an extremely nice man who went out of his way to be friendly. His wife Pat, who possesses an equally wonderful character, must be in absolute shock.
My parents have asked for my prayers. There will be many. I, in turn, am asking for yours. I hope that there will be many.
Let’s take a moment and pray for the hostages, and pray for those who serve the people of Iraq that they remain safe tonight as well.
The Canadian Parliament approved a historic no-confidence motion against the Liberal executive in Ottawa this afternoon, dissolving the government and forcing elections weeks after the Gomery Inquiry issued its first comprehensive report on the Liberal corruption in the Sponsorship Program:
The short-lived 38th Parliament met its demise on Monday night, setting the stage for one of the longest election campaigns in two decades, as the Liberal government was defeated in a no-confidence vote at the hands of all three opposition parties and the country was launched into official election mode.
The Liberals lost the vote in the House of Commons 133 to 171, beginning a series of events that will propel voters toward the ballot boxes, likely on Jan. 23.
I’m listening to the aftermath on CPAC, where the Liberal apologist wants to tell Canada that Adscam involved “a few Liberals”, but that “no one believes that it involved the party as a whole”. That apparently will be the line that the Liberals take in this election, along with a scolding tone about all of the great work that the Commons could be doing instead of holding another election seventeen months after the last one.
Well, that’s why elections get held — so that the Liberals can make that argument now that the country knows about the extent of the corruption. If they want to offer up the notion that just a few Liberals involved themselves in the money-laundering and featherbedding that went on in Adscam, I expect that the Tories and BQ will quote extensively from the Gomery report to remind voters of the extent of the corruption, including all of the money that flowed back into the Liberal Party through the government contracts given to cronies of Jean Chretien.
More to come …
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for the link. I noticed earlier today that the CBC website didn’t even have a headline on their front page about the upcoming no-confidence motion, but now they have the ubiquitous Really Cool Graphic:
I wonder if that’s the title for their coverage, or the name of a boring waterfall in Ottawa. The CBC doesn’t offer a lot more about the vote, but they do have Paul Martin calling the Tories “Neo-Conservatives”. What does that mean — that Stephen Harper wants to invade Iraq to establish seeds of democracy in the Middle East? Or perhaps Martin thinks it just sounds scary. If that’s an example of how Martin will campaign over the next six to eight weeks, the Liberals may want to rethink the leadership while they still have a chance.
The BBC has just caught up with the political events north of the border. The British news service just noticed that a no-confidence motion will get a vote late this afternoon or early this evening — after having been tabled on Thursday:
Canada’s Prime Minister, Paul Martin, faces a no-confidence motion in parliament which his minority Liberal government is widely tipped to lose.
It is expected that an election would then be called in early 2006.
Monday’s no-confidence motion was introduced by three opposition parties last week, after Mr Martin rejected an ultimatum demanding a poll in February.
The motion claims the Liberal party – which Mr Martin has led since 2003 – no longer has the moral authority to lead.
The government has been dogged by allegations of irregularities over contracts awarded by a previous Liberal administration.
Mr Martin is not implicated in the scandal, but the opposition says his government is tainted and should be forced out of office.
A couple of points to consider, on my lunch break at Culver’s where they offer free wi-fi access (and pretty darned good chili and cole slaw): first, it’s stretching the point to say that Martin hasn’t been implicated in Adscam. He didn’t get directly tied to the money laundering, but the Sponsorship Programme scandal occurred while he served as Finance Minister. Since millions of dollars disappeared while he had responsibility for the Canadian federal budget, he certainly has ties to the scandal; he might just not have to face criminal charges. Maybe.
Also, to call the Adscam money-laundering and political kickback scheme “irregularities” equates somewhat to calling Watergate a dispute over fair use of recordings. The Gomery inquiry established real crimes, crimes that will require prosecution. The BBC penchant for understatement misrepresents the entire push for the no-confidence motion.
Lastly, I’m trying not to be too hard on the BBC. At least they finally noticed that a major world government will collapse today. The American media still hasn’t noticed it. I’ll be posting on this later today, when I get home and watch the vote. Somehow, I keep expecting Martin to pull another rabbit out of his hat and dodge the bullet. Perhaps he might prorogue Parliament before allowing the vote to take place …
The Washington Post carries an interesting argument from Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institute on the divergence of military and civilian opinion on the war in Iraq, a separation that he calls dangerous in the long run for American political discourse. O’Hanlon acknowledges that the support for the war in Iraq among military personnel goes far beyond the normal top-level cheeriness down to at least the mid-level officer corps, and wonders why that doesn’t translate to better civilian support:
In recent months a civil-military divide has emerged in the United States over the war in Iraq. Unlike much of the Iraq debate between Democrats and Republicans, it is over the present and the future rather than the past. Increasingly, civilians worry that the war is being lost, or at least not won. But the military appears as confident as ever of ultimate victory. This difference of opinion does not amount to a crisis in national resolve, and it will not radically affect our Iraq policy in the short term. But it is insidious and dangerous nonetheless. To the extent possible, the gap should be closed. …
The military’s enthusiasm about the course of the war may be natural among those four-star officers in leadership positions, for it has largely become their war. Their careers have become so intertwined with the campaign in Iraq that truly independent analysis may be difficult. But it is striking that most lower-ranking officers seem to share the irrepressible optimism of their superiors. In talking with at least 50 officers this year, I have met no more than a handful expressing any real doubt about the basic course of the war.
Contrast that with the rest of the country. The polls are clear; the American public is deeply worried and increasingly pessimistic. The numbers are not (yet) abysmal; 30 to 40 percent still seem bullish on trends in Iraq. But even among those who strongly support the Bush administration, doubts are emerging. Among defense and Middle East analysts, my own informal survey suggests at least as negative an overall outlook, with decidedly more pessimism than optimism. Even among centrists who supported the war or saw the case for it, optimism is now hard to find. Many expect things to get worse, even much worse, in the coming months and years.
O’Hanlon only barely mentions the root cause of this problem — a national media addicted to a narrative that embues every story with fatalism. The media has become addicted to body counts even though, historically speaking, they have remained low for a conflict of this scope and size. The national media continues to avoid reporting any positive developments from Iraq except those which cannot be ignored, like the national elections. In fact, the reason the successful elections seemed like such a big story was because they were seen as such an anomaly, not because they represented a conscious effort resulting from American plans to establish democracy in stages throughout the country.
When journalists embedded themselves in American units during the initial invasion in March – May 2003, the reports gave a much more balanced look at the military efforts in Iraq. However, the national media derided the efforts of “embeds” as out of context and government-controlled propaganda. Now the reporters choose to write their reports from the Green Zone in Baghdad, far away from the actual fighting going on and reporting instead on nothing more than the number of IEDs and body counts. Only a handful of embeds still exist, and they do not get the kind of national exposure that the 2003 invasion embeds received.
Until the media starts reporting honestly from Iraq, the divergence will continue to grow as civilians continue to operate from ignorance, while the military operates from a position not only of intelligence but from experience. The real danger presented will be the self-fulfillment of the Starship Troopers (movie, not book) paradigm, where the only people qualified to control the military are the military themselves — and the press will have created that atmosphere based on their short-sighted adherence to their anti-military and anti-Bush biases.
Short answer for O’Hanlon: Press, heal thyself.
The Canadian opposition wants an independent investigation into the Finance Ministry after a spike in trading for trusts occurred just as the government was expected to announce new policies governing trusts and their tax liabilities. The call for investigations came from both the Conservatives and the NDP:
As federal politicians prepare to hit the campaign trail, the Conservatives and NDP are calling for investigations of alleged insider trading arising from tax policy announcements by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.
The Tories said Sunday they are writing to the Ontario Securities Commission to demand an inquiry, while the New Democrats want the matter turned over to the RCMP.
At issue are events last Wednesday, when there was a spike in trading in income trust units amid speculation that Mr. Goodale was going to change the tax rules that applied to them.
In fact, he left the trust rules unchanged. But he did announce new guidelines that will reduce personal income taxes on corporate dividends, a move intended to level the financial playing field between corporations and trusts.
Some commentators, including noted forensic accountant Al Rosen, have suggested the intensive trading in trust units that preceded Mr. Goodale’s announcement may be an indication that advance word on the new policy leaked to some investors.
Anyone who has read the Gomery report would not expect to find such an intricate way of paying off potential Liberal supporters. After all, Adscam consisted of taking government contracts and awarding them to political and financial cronies in return for kickbacks, featherbedding on behalf of the party, and all sorts of illegal behavior. Insider trading would not only continue the payouts, but it would be harder to trace and harder to prove.
The longer the Liberals remain in power, the more opportunity they have to warp more of the public institutions for their private profit. Tonight’s no-confidence motion gives Canadians the chance for at least a temporary respite.
The AP reports that the Guardian Council’s fair-haired boy, newly-“elected” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has created dissension among the ruling elite of Iran. His purges and radical foreign policy has disturbed even the conservatives of the Iranian parliament, who have now denied him his choices for the important position of oil minister three times as a signal to stop operating as a loose cannon. It does not appear that Ahmadinejad will get the message:
Iranian moderates say the president has harmed his country by isolating it internationally, and now Ahmadinejad’s friends are lining up against him. He suffered a humiliating defeat last week when his choice for oil minister was rejected for a third time, an unprecedented failure for an Iranian president.
While parliament is dominated by Ahmadinejad’s conservative allies, the president’s isolationist stance and his failure to consult on Cabinet appointments have annoyed lawmakers. They warn they will not approve any future nominee unless Ahmadinejad first consults parliament.
Pragmatists within the ruling establishment worry that Ahmadinejad’s radical agenda has sidelined a cadre of experienced men at home and isolated the country abroad.
Earlier this month, the government announced that 40 ambassadors and senior diplomats, including supporters of better ties with the West, would be fired. Also let go were pragmatists who handled Iran’s nuclear negotiations with Europe under Ahmadinejad’s reformist predecessor, Mohammad Khatami….
In the works, but still not made public, is a deeper shake-up of the establishment in which Ahmadinejad is replacing hundreds of governors and senior officials at various ministries with young, inexperienced Islamic hard-liners who oppose good relations with the West. The changes include putting fundamentalists in key posts at security agencies.
The trend towards fundamentalism will prove worrisome to outside observers, but what should worry Iranian fundamentalists is a trend towards incompetence that Ahmadinejad appears to be establishing. In a country with as much unrest as Iran already has, replacing people who have basic competence in their positions with political hacks mouthing the correct slogans back to Ahmadinejad will only stoke impatience with the current political scheme. Moderates who once believed in an Islamic republic will shortly fall away from even tepid support of the Iranian regime. In response, the security apparatus, under the control of inexperienced hardliners, will overreact and start indiscriminate retaliations for all sorts of real and imagined slights, making the problem of alienation exponentially worse.
Ahmadinejad may prove to provide little more than a recipe for a civil war, or perhaps a lower-intensity civil meltdown. His selection by the Guardian Council may well be their greatest mistake, but it’s one that they have thus far refused to recognize. Ruling cleric Ayatollah Ali Khameini continues to back him, and his senior advisors refuse to acknowledge that Ahmadinejad needs to change his style. Advisor Madhi Kalhor urged Iranians and the international community to accept Ahmadinejad’s “revolutionary management style” that produces policy changes in 24 hours instead of the years of diplomatic and political work other governments put into policymaking.
Now that should make everyone feel better …
The trial of Saddam Hussein continued this morning, as most of his trials have gone thus far — with an opening tirade from the deposed genocidal tyrant to get the trial off to a start. Saddam complained about not having a pen, being guarded by foreigners, and a broken elevator as his latest contribution to his trial for mass murder, continuing to demonstrate that he still doesn’t quite grasp the stakes involved:
He was similarly argumentative on Monday, complaining about the fact that he had to climb four floors to the courtroom because the elevator was broken.
He also objected to being escorted up the stairs by “foreign guards”.
In a series of heated exchanges with the chief judge he also complained about the fact that his guards had taken his pen away, rendering him unable to sign the necessary court papers:
“I will alert them to the problem,” Judge Amin said in response.
“Don’t alert them! Order them. You are an Iraqi, you are sovereign and they are invaders, foreigners and occupiers,” Saddam Hussein fired back.
The professionalism of the Iraqi court stands in stark contrast to the circus atmosphere provided by the defense. For instance, Ramsay Clark made yet another bungee appearance today for Saddam, flying in at the last minute to assure himself of some news coverage. Four other defense lawyers for other defendants simply didn’t show up, as if their invitations got lost in the mail.
What has gotten lost in all the coverage are the real victims of Dujail, who died by the score in revenge for an assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982. It may not qualify as the greatest of Saddam’s crimes, but these murders took place at his demand for the audacity of a few who wanted an end to his tyranny. The people he ordered killed had nothing to do with the assassination plot; they simply lived in the town where the attack took place. It’s a tactic taken by tyrants throughout the ages — making an example of towns like Dujail to frighten people into meek submission to brutal tyranny. In fact, it’s just another form of terrorism.
Even if the media has forgotten this, the Iraqi court has not. The media continues to cover this with a wink, telling its readers and listeners that the Iraqis and the Americans want to start with “minor” cases against Saddam Hussein. Dujail goes straight to the heart of how Saddam kept himself in power, and now shows the idiotic nature of those who would defend him. I believe that this case makes a perfect opening round for the trials of Saddam Hussein and his sick coterie of sycophants.
In need of some momentum in Congress for legislative traction, George Bush has finally decided to start addressing illegal immigration and the porous southern border of the United States. After seeing almost his entire legislative agenda stalled out between the Iraq war debates and two Supreme Court nominations, Bush needs to apply a push to get some successes from Congress early in the next session:
President Bush will make stops in Arizona and Texas this week to address an issue that has divided some members of his own Republican Party — illegal immigration. …
A senior administration official said that the president, in a speech on immigration, will focus on three areas: border security, enforcement and a temporary worker program.
The official said the president will talk about “additional resources and the use of technology to secure the border,” and will discuss it in terms of national security and the economy.
Not all of this will thrill the Republican base, which has gotten restless waiting for some solutions to the ongoing security issues presented at the border. The GOP doesn’t like the notion of Bush’s guest-worker program, but the open question of what to do with 10 million illegal aliens already inside the US requires some sort of reasonable answer. Roundup and massive deportation would probably require the armed forces to conduct the operations — in defiance of posse comitatus — and concentration camps to sort out the illegal from the legal. Neither will prove palatable for moderates in either party, no matter how much the taint of amnesty carries with a guest-worker program.
At least the issue will find its way back to the national debate, with some momentum to finally get legislative treatment next year.
The Cindy Sheehan Traveling Road Show appears to have lost its steam, according to multiple sources this weekend. The protest camp shut itself down outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, TX this afternoon after drawing less than 200 protestors over the holidays — probably fewer people than Bush invited to the ranch for Thanksgiving dinner. The protestors won’t return for Christmas but promise to come back at Easter:
Dozens of war protesters packed up their tents and left their campsite in a field near President Bush’s ranch Sunday, vowing to return during Easter for a third vigil if U.S. troops are still in Iraq.
The weeklong protest, which coincided with Bush’s Thanksgiving holiday visit to his ranch, drew about 200 people. It was a continuation of the August demonstration led by California mother Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq last year during combat.
Power Line has a picture of Sheehan waiting for people to come sign her book on Saturday. After the thousands that thronged to “Camp Casey” — which Sheehan has now leased from the Crawford farmer for all of 2006 for more of such spectacles — the turnout for the fall version of the protest shows that Sheehan has come to 14:59 of her allotment of fame. It looks like the media have outshown the protestors this time around.
Perhaps they’re hoping for a resurrection of Sheehan’s popularity at Easter, but hopefully by that time they may rethink the foolishness of her attempting to revive her martyr pose at that holiday. In the meantime, we can all be thankful that she can once again return to the fringe-left shadows whence she sprang this summer.