Stabenow In Trouble? Maybe

The Democrats have salivated over the historic trend of midterms, hoping to gain enough seats in both chambers of Congress to wrest control away from the Republicans. However, a series of polls shows that their hopes in the Senate may come to naught as they may prove unable to hold the seats they already have. The latest to show weakness is Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, where anti-incumbent fervor and a lackluster record have threatened her first-term seat:

The fever among voters to throw incumbents out of office — furiously stoked by Democrats in Washington — might backfire in this state, where Republicans are riding a surge of voter discontent.
With Democrats holding both Senate seats and the governor’s mansion, Michigan is suffering the worst economy of any state in the nation. The state’s unemployment rate is nearly twice the national average of 4.7 percent, and the auto industry is losing jobs by the tens of thousands. A recent job fair offering factory work for $10 an hour with no benefits drew 4,000 applicants.
“They’re Democrats, but they want jobs,” John Katinsky said of his neighbors in this hard-hit town downriver from Detroit.
Much of the discontent is being directed at Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the first-term senator who is trying to fend off a challenge from Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “Only one state in America has lost jobs for three straight years and that’s Michigan,” Mr. Bouchard says. “That needs to change, and it’s going to change by starting with the leadership.”

The Washington Times reports that Bouchard has been buoyed by polling that shows Stabenow unable to breach the 50% mark, usually considered a sign that an incumbent seat is in play. Rasmussen, however, shows Stabenow with 51% at the end of August, which may have changed somewhat after the campaigns kicked into gear in gear. Real Clear Politics, now with its excellent interface and association with Time Magazine, shows more recent polling that still indicates that Bouchard has a long way to go.
If Bouchard — a Rightroots candidate — can make this a competitive race down the stretch, it will tax Democratic fundraising that they would prefer to use in takeaway races. It will add to the Democratic woes in New Jersey and Maryland, where Democratic seats are at serious risk of falling to the GOP. Michael Steele led in the SurveyUSA poll by a point, but the RCP aggregate shows him a few points back. Thomas Kean has done even better against incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez in the Garden State, where the RCP aggregate and most polling put him ahead but within the margin of error.
The Democrats cannot afford to lose any of these seats if they hope to win control of the upper chamber in November. If they cannot hold back the Republican challenges, they will have to put their efforts into defense in these states.
NOTE: Don’t forget to visit the Rightroots web site and contribute to the key races that can help the Republicans retain control of Congress. We’ve raised over $123,000 so far, and we need to keep pushing to get support to the races that count. Michael Steele, Mike Bouchard, and Thomas Kean are all on our spotlight list, so you can help them directly and immediately.

Did The Washington Post Miss Its Own Story Yesterday?

The Washington Post editorial board attempts to recap the mudslinging in the George Allen-James Webb race for Allen’s Senate seat, but while announcing that it considers allegations of decades-old use of racial epithets germane, it fails to account for all of the accusations in the contest. This seems rather odd, since the Post slams Allen for his alleged use of the N-word but never mentions the allegations reported yesterday about Webb’s use of it and purported race-based assaults on Watts residents. What’s odd about that? That story got reported … by the Washington Post:

DID REPUBLICAN Sen. George Allen use racial slurs years ago? Did his Democratic challenger, James Webb? Does it matter, in a race between two candidates with long public records and substantial differences on Iraq, health care, the economy and other critical issues?
Yes, it does matter. Mr. Allen said he does not recall having used what newspapers delicately call “the N-word.” But at least a half-dozen people, including ones with upstanding reputations and no evident political agendas, have now told journalists that he did. The stories they have recounted about Mr. Allen’s behavior raise disturbing questions about his character and credibility.
In the wake of the furor over the senator’s reported comments, Mr. Webb would not deny that he had employed the ugly term. He said he has never used it as a slur but added to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “I don’t think that there’s anyone who grew up around the South that hasn’t had the word pass through their lips at one time in their life.”

First, let’s dispense with the canard that the allegations came from people without a political axe to grind. The only three that have made the allegations public are Ken Shelton, Christopher Taylor, and Larry Sabato. Both Shelton and Taylor have openly stated that they want to see Webb elected. Sabato has no first-person knowledge of Allen’s supposed use of the epithet, and still hasn’t explained why he didn’t mention Allen’s purported racism when he moderated Allen’s debate in the 2000 election. Everyone else making the allegations have made them anonymously, as if Allen was some sort of John Gotti instead of a public official, and those teammates of Allen who have gone on the record have all said that he didn’t use that kind of language or show that kind of animus.
Second, the Post gives an incomplete picture of allegations of Webb’s use of the epithet. John Hawkins notes its use in Webb’s fiction, as an example, but the Post published this rather damning story from one of Webb’s former acquaintances:

Webb’s comments to the Times-Dispatch prompted Allen campaign officials to direct a reporter to Dan Cragg, a former acquaintance of Webb’s, who said Webb used the word while describing his own behavior during his freshman year at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Webb later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Cragg, 67, who lives in Fairfax County, said on Wednesday that Webb described taking drives through the black neighborhood of Watts, where he and members of his ROTC unit used racial epithets and pointed fake guns at blacks to scare them.
“They would hop into their cars, and would go down to Watts with these buddies of his,” Cragg said Webb told him. “They would take the rifles down there. They would call then [epithets], point the rifles at them, pull the triggers and then drive off laughing. One night, some guys caught them and beat . . . them. And that was the end of that.”

The Post found this newsworhy enough to print one day, but not enough to include in its one-sided indictment of Allen the next. Not only is that unfair, it’s rather revealing of the paper’s bias in this race. The omission of the allegations of anti-Semitism coming from the Webb campaign, starting in the primary and crescendoing in the general election (which the Post has also covered) makes this editorial even more suspicious.
Does any of this matter? No, it doesn’t, and the Post should know better. When one starts down this path, then elections become nothing more than a series of gotcha games where only the private investigators benefit. Instead of looking at issues that matter to Virginians, the campaigns start interviewing college buddies to find out whether someone got drunk or made stupid statements about race, women, or Elvis Presley. What’s next — a list of tasteless jokes told in middle school by each of the candidates?
George Allen just introduced a measure intended to benefit black farmers who missed a deadline for a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture. The Post could have talked about that, or about policy initiatives of both candidates, and demanded an end to the mudslinging in Virginia. Instead the editors chose to paint a one-sided picture of the controversy, ignoring even their own reporting, in order to kneecap a candidate they want to see defeated. I’m disappointed — the Post’s editors usually show more integrity than they did today.

Columbia Dean Abruptly Leaves After Invite Cancellation

The Dean of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University has abruptly left her position after her invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got cancelled by University president Lee Bollinger. Lisa Anderson resigned from her position, and the big question on campus is if Bollinger’s intervention caused it or whether the exposure of her politics drove the decision:

The big question at Columbia University this week is whether the tensions between President Lee Bollinger and the dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Lisa Anderson, led Ms. Anderson to step down.
The press office at the university confirmed yesterday that the dean, who has come under criticism for siding with anti-Israel factions on campus and for taking a junket to Saudi Arabia paid for by the regime in Riyadh, is leaving the post she has held for 10 years. Professors at SIPA said Ms. Anderson circulated an e-mail message at the end of the summer announcing her resignation, effective at the end of the academic year. It cited her desire to get back to teaching and research.
However, speculation is spreading on campus as to whether Ms. Anderson is stepping down because of tensions with Mr. Bollinger in the wake of his abrupt decision to overrule Ms. Anderson’s plan to welcome the Iranian president to the World Leaders Forum on campus. Ms. Anderson’s offer of hospitality to a leader who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and who has denied the Holocaust drew criticism on campus from professors and students alike.

The Ahmadinejad invitation was not just a one-off, as it turns out. Anderson also invited rehabilitated Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gaddafi to speak at Columbia earlier this year. Gaddafi, who has ruled the North African nation for decades by force, lectured Columbia students on democracy and proclaimed Libya “the only democracy on the planet”. That, along with her paid junket to Saudi Arabia and her apparent anti-Israeli stance, had to have heads scratching at the university and among its alumni.
Some question whether Anderson left on her own volition. A political science professor told the New York Sun’s Eliana Johnson that he believes Bollinger pushed her out. That seems unlikely. Bollinger’s cancellation of Ahmadinejad’s visit was predicated not on outrage over the selection of speaker but over a more technical point about the nature of the venue. Bollinger said publicly that Anderson could invite Ahmadinejad to a function sponsored solely by Anderson’s school rather than at the university-wide Leadership Forum. That doesn’t sound as if Bollinger cared enough about the ludicrous nature of having the genocide-threatening Iranian president speak at Columbia to fire someone over it.
It does, however, look like exposure of the invitation made a difference in this case. Ms. Anderson will undoubtedly find somewhere else to teach, and hopefully the Great Dictators Lecture Series will come to an end at Columbia.

And Some People Think A Fence Is Bad

The Greeks have reportedly found a new method to deal with their illegal immigration problem, according to Der Spiegel. When interdicting boats that carry illegal immigrants on the Aegean, the Greek Coast Guard simply returns them to the sea — but minus their boats. According to Turkish authorities, six people drowned and three remain missing when the Greeks threw 40 illegals into the water:

Greek authorities have denied knowledge of an alleged incident in which Greek officials threw illegal immigrants into the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. On Tuesday morning, some 31 illegals were plucked out of the sea near the Turkish coastal city of Izmir. They claimed that the Greek Coast Guard had thrown them into the water. They did so, said one survivor, “without even asking if we could swim,” according to Turkey’s state-owned Anatolia news agency. Six people have reportedly drowned; three are missing.
Greek officials denied the charges in general terms. “We never throw people into the sea,” said Haris Bournias, a Greek Coast Guard commander on the island of Chios. Turkey’s coastline is a major transit area for illegal immigrants trying to reach Europe, and Bournias said smugglers regularly set immigrants adrift in little boats without lights. “Many people drown that way in the straits,” said Bournias, and in fact early reports in the Turkish media claimed the survivors had washed ashore after their boat sank off the Turkish coast. …
According to reports, the survivors included Palestinians, Lebanese, Tunisians, Iraqis and one Algerian. Residents on the coast of Izmir had called the Turkish Coast Guard on Tuesday morning after being awakened by barking dogs and cries for help. The suvivors claimed that they had set off from Izmir province in a boat and landed on Chios. But they were captured by uniformed Greeks who placed them on a Coast Guard ship that carried them back toward Izmir, where they were tossed into the sea. “Two of our friends drowned in front of our eyes,” Muhammedi Alti, a Lebanese national, told the Anatolia news agency. “I still can’t believe what we have lived through … We had thought that human rights would be more valuable in Europe.”

It’s important to remember that the Greeks have denied this story and no international observers have independently corroborated it. However, the Greeks and Turks have an ongoing diplomatic feud over illegal immigration. The Greek border is the threshold for impoverished immigrants hoping to exploit Western economies for a better life. The Greeks want to keep their nation from being used as a conduit for illegal immigration, especially considering the security risks. They supposedly have a reciprocal agreement to return border crossers, but the Greeks say that the Turks have only agreed on 1400 cases — out of over 22,000.
Any familiarity between this border and our southern border with Mexico is strictly coincidental, of course.
If the Greek Coast Guard really did what the Turks allege, they have committed a serious crime. Regardless of the security and economic problems that border-runners create, they cannot simply throw people into the sea to drown. If the Turks have lied — and one hopes that turns out to be the case — then these accusations will only backfire on them. The world’s attention will turn to the Greek-Turk border as a potential gap in European security, and the Turks will come under greater pressure to secure it.
As far as our border is concerned, it looks like the Senate will vote on the border barier today. Bill Frist successfully limited debate on the bill yesterday, The US will get its border barrier, and far from turning America into Berlin, it will stop most of the unimpeded flow over the southern border that leaves us all vulnerable to more than just poor people looking for work.

Musharraf Deal In Waziristan Prompting More Attacks

The deal between Pervez Musharraf and the tribal leaders of Waziristan looks more and more like a surrender rather than a partnership against terror. The British newspaper The Guardian reports that American military sources indicate that attacks from Islamists in the border regions have more than doubled since the deal was announced:

Taliban attacks along Afghanistan’s southeastern border have more than doubled in the three weeks since a controversial deal between Pakistan and pro-Taliban militants, the US military said yesterday.
Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, had promised the agreement with militants in North Waziristan would help to bring peace to Afghanistan. But early indications suggest the pact is having the opposite effect, creating a safe haven for the Taliban to regroup and launch fresh cross-border offensives against western and Afghan troops.
A US military spokesman, Colonel John Paradis, said US soldiers had reported a “twofold, in some cases threefold” increase in attacks along the border since the deal was signed on September 5, “especially in the south-east areas across from North Waziristan”.

This is the result of Musharraf’s deal with the tribal leaders, a deal that he probably couldn’t avoid in any case. He had tried for years to use the Pakistani military to bring the Waziris under his thumb, and instead they thumbed their noses at him. After losing several hundred troops in largely unsuccessful efforts in the mountainous region, Musharraf decided to try enlisting their support instead.
It hasn’t worked. Musharraf released thousands of pro-Islamist prisoners, to the consternation of the US, and that had the predictable effect of strengthening the Islamists in the region. When information came out that Mullah Omar blessed the deal, it surprised few but underscored the extent of Musharraf’s capitulation. Now the newly-energized Islamists can traverse the border region with little concern for security on the Pakistani side.
Hamid Karzai cannot abide the constant infiltration on his borders, and he has a right to be angry. The Pakistani refusal to police their own border puts a lot more pressure on his own security forces and the NATO coalition trying to protect Afghanistan’s first democratic republic. Since Pakistan’s intelligence services helped create and support the Taliban in its previous incarnation, Karzai and his government have plenty of reason to believe that the Pakistani retreat may have more sinister motivations and implications, and that suspicion has created a great deal of tension between Karzai and Musharraf.
President Bush has tried to remain optimistic about Musharraf’s efforts. However, the results speak for themselves, and we need to proceed with a more realistic understanding of Pakistan’s stance. Perhaps this would be a good time to start pressing for the return of Pakistani democracy.

Senate Approves Detainee Bill By Wide Margin

The Senate got bipartisan support for the passage of the White House’s comprehensive terrorist prosecution bill this evening, putting an emphatic stamp on a victory for the Bush administration. In the end, the bill garnered 65 votes and Bill Frist fought off attempts to bury the bill in amendments:

The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush’s plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.
The 65-34 vote means the bill could reach the president’s desk by week’s end. The House passed nearly identical legislation on Wednesday and was expected to approve the Senate bill on Friday, sending it on to the White House.
The bill would create military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects. It also would prohibit blatant abuses of detainees but grant the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible.
The White House and its supporters have called the measure crucial in the anti-terror fight, but some Democrats said it left the door open to abuse, violating the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting Americans.

Frist predicted that the bill would get a significant number of Democratic votes, but most people thought that the tally would be closer. Democratic Party leadership had blasted the bill in recent days, claiming that the elimination of habeas corpus for foreign terrorists captured abroad would mean the end of civil liberties in America. Equally objectionable, the Democrats said, was the language that the bill used to comply with the Supreme Court’s insistence on adhering to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
In the end, though, only a third of the Senate stood with the Democratic Party’s leadership. That should give Democrats some pause about the direction their party has taken since 9/11, and perhaps voters should consider this as well.
UPDATE AND BUMP: The vote has been posted at the Senate site. The only Republican to vote against the bill was, predictably, Lincoln Chafee. Despite throwing some smoke earlier, Arlen Specter voted for the measure. Twelve Democrats voted for the bill, including Joe Lieberman, and that should keep the netroots chattering for the next few days. Other Democrats crossing the aisle are:
Carper – DE
Johnson – SD
Landrieu – LA
Lautenberg – NJ
Menendez – NJ
Ben Nelson – NE
Bill Nelson – FL
Pryor – AR
Rockefeller – WV
Salazar – CO
Stabenow – MI
This is an interesting list. The red-state Democrats are all represented, and some from other states are in tight re-election campaigns. Carper, Lautenberg, and Rockefeller don’t qualify as such, and their support seems very telling. Rockefeller and Lautenberg has spent a lot of time criticizing the Bush administration on the war, and Rockefeller has been very aggressive. Their assent to the bill sends a quiet but noticeable message about the stakes involved.
Their support means that the United States will not change 200+ years of history and treat captured enemies as citizens. We will not suddenly decide that foreign terrorists captured abroad now should have the same rights as the American citizens and residents they try mightily to murder in large numbers. We will not shy away from using the successful methods used to prevent eight separate attacks on our country by eschewing the kinds of techniques our own Special Forces troops endure during their training.
Twelve Democrats voted for common sense, tradition, and successful national-security programs during a time of war … only twelve Democrats.
UPDATE II: For those who haven’t heard about SERE training for American and British Special Forces, here is a detailed description:

Like, for example, there is a secret place not so far from one of our best ally’s capitals, where male prisoners are stripped naked and chained to splintery wood pallets. They are kept for days in stress positions, hosed down with freezing water, deprived of sleep and warmth, and regularly interrogated by female guards who mock the size of their genitals and impugn their manhood. What secret place is this? It’s where the best of the SAS and what used to be called the 14 Intelligence Company go for their capture survival training.
In one secret location right here in the United States, there is a prison camp run by federal authorities where the inmates are regularly waterboarded, stripped and hosed down with cold water, kept in stress positions, deprived of sleep, and denied food and water. Where is it? It is in Virginia, at a location where CIA undercover operatives are trained in how to withstand coercive interrogation methods.
There is another U.S. facility where humiliation, mortification, shame, and embarrassment are the least of the nasty things that can happen. Denizens at this facility get so hypothermic they actually urinate on one another to keep warm. Where? At the Naval installation in Coronado where SEALs go through their BUD/S training ordeal.

If it’s good enough for our troops, it’s good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and the like.
UPDATE III: Here are the Geneva Conventions, for anyone who wants to peruse them. Nandrews in the comments wants to know where it states that noncombatants do not get the protections of the GC. The Society of Professional Journalists’ GC site has a handy alphabetical guide to the conventions. Under “combatant status”, the SPJ notes:

Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war. (Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec. 2) …
Convention III offers a wide range of protections to combatants who have become prisoners of war. (Convention III, Art. 4)
For example, captured combatants cannot be punished for acts of war except in the cases where the enemy’s own soldiers would also be punished, and to the same extent. (Convention III, Art. 87) …
However, other individuals, including civilians, who commit hostile acts and are captured do not have these protections. For example, civilians in an occupied territory are subject to the existing penal laws. (Convention IV, Art. 64)

Unlawful combatants are not afforded the protections given under Part III of Convention III, and for good reason. The entire point of the Geneva Conventions is to protect civilians. The rights afforded uniformed combatants and denied to all others are intended to motivate forces to distinguish themselves from civilians so that civilians do not get put at unnecessary risk by warfare. Terrorists undermine these rules of war by deliberately hiding among civilians and targeting them for their attacks. Giving terrorists the same rights as uniformed combatants under the GC not only doesn’t act to protect our troops, it legitimizes terrorist attacks on civilians.
For most people, this is common knowledge. Others have to have it spelled out for them.

Join The Jihad, Take The Dirt Nap

The leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, released an audiotape that tries to recruit more radical Muslims to the Iraqi jihad. In doing so, Zarqawi’s replacement shows why the US considers Iraq a central ground for the war on terror and how effective our effort there has been against the terrorists. Unbidden and apparently thinking it an attraction, Masri told his followers that the US-led Coalition has killed over 4,000 terrorists in Iraq:

Al-Qaida in Iraq’s leader, in a chilling audiotape released Thursday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group’s holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheik who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.
The fugitive terror chief said experts in the fields of “chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences — especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts” should join his group’s jihad, or holy war, against the West.
“We are in dire need of you,” said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri. “The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases (in Iraq) are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them.”

They’re in “dire need” of recruits, no doubt, because of the death toll. It’s hard to fight effectively when over 4,000 of your forces have been killed by the enemy. That doesn’t count the terrorists captured by the US and other Coalition forces in Iraq, nor does it count those captured in Afghanistan.
His message, as well as his plea for scientists and weapons experts, reek of desperation. AQ failed to stop three elections. It failed to stop the adoption of a constitution created and supported by the Iraqi assembly and electorate. It has failed to dislodge the Coalition which has nurtured the Iraqi democracy, and it has failed to stop the creation of an Iraqi security force that will stand on its own against the foreign terrorists. He needs a Hail Mary, if you’ll pardon the expression, and only WMD can gain him any hope of victory now. In the meantime, he wants to attract all of the suicidal Muslims he can find to serve as cannon fodder … and it sounds as if he is having a great deal of trouble convincing them to do so.
The NIE was correct. If we fight and prevail in Iraq, these terrorists will have been completely discredited. We have engaged them in Iraq and have all but wiped them out. The only way to beat the Islamists is to fight them where they stand, and we have done that in Iraq — and even Masri has to admit it.

Twin Cities Nod A Bipartisan Win

How did the Twin Cities land the Republican National Convention for 2008? It took a bipartisan effort that predicated itself on a gentleman’s agreement: all Minnesota politicians would support bids for both conventions, and whichever party chose first would get unanimous support. The combination worked better than anyone could have hoped, as the Twin Cities made both short lists. However, in the end, Howard Dean’s inability to make a decision cost the Democrats the spot:

On an October day last year, Tom Mason, who served as Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s chief of staff, finished breakfast at St. Paul’s Downtowner with Pawlenty and visiting Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman and offered Mehlman a lift.
While he drove, Mason listened as Mehlman raved about Minnesota’s beauty, its fall weather and its political value as a swing state and thought “Gee, we might have a shot at long last.”
Mason’s next call was to Jeff Larson, a low-profile but highly connected political operative with ties to the White House and the RNC. …
But with St. Paul and Minneapolis both led by Democratic mayors, Mason and Larson knew they’d never pull it off without help from the other side. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak had reached the same conclusion after a breakfast meeting with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean in January.

This is a story that reflects well on everyone in Minnesota. Old rivals put aside differences and allied together for both efforts, and in the end, the result means that everyone won. Some officials put the economic benefit for a national convention as high as $150 million, with thousands of people flying in and out of the Twin Cities, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, not to mention the use of the Xcel Center and such.
At the end, though, Rybak tried his best to get the Democrats to pull the trigger first. After hearing that the GOP had decided to go with the Twin Cities, Rybak called his party chair and warned him that the Democrats had to act fast if they wanted to get the nod. Dean couldn’t get the DNC to make the decision, and the Republicans held the field. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Democrats couldn’t also meet here, but it’s unlikely, and that means they have given the GOP a golden opportunity to sweep the Upper Midwest in 2008.
Of course, we’re looking forward to seeing everyone here in 2008. You’ll love the Xcel Center and Minnesota hospitality. Even our Democrats look forward to seeing you!

‘Is That Too Much To Ask?’

My fellow Examiner Blog-boarder Lorie Byrd pens a critique of the media in its recent coverage of war-related stories. She points out examples of bias and incompetent reporting in the stories about the Clinton-Wallace interview and the NIE release, and wonders why reporters cannot perform simple research when reaching unsupported conclusions:

The first story that got a lot of attention this week was the Fox News Sunday interview with Bill Clinton. News anchor Chris Wallace asked Clinton the question, “Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and al-Qaida out of business when you were president?”
For that, he was attacked by a visibly angry, finger-pointing Clinton, and later by some on the left, for conducting a “conservative hit job.”
It is understandable that the theatrics of the interview got lots of attention, although none of the networks showed the most unhinged clips.
What was focused on by few, however, was the content of Clinton’s remarks, including the demonstrably false statements he made during the interview. DNA does not apply in this case, but surely those reporting on this story have heard of a LexisNexis or Google search. Few, if any, thought to do either one, though.

Bloggers know how to do research, and those who follow the blogosphere got all the context they needed to deconstruct Clinton’s arguments. The same is true with the NIE, which the New York Times misrepresented in its initial reporting. Lorie wonders when the national media will finally catch up with its readers and start to rebuild its damaged credibility. Be sure to read all of Lorie’s article.

The Big Apple Becomes The Recipe Police

Everyone understands by now that trans-fatty acids create an avoidable health risk for people who ingest them on a regular basis. It causes heart disease, among other problems, and the Food and Drug Administration acted to ensure that Americans could track the amount of trans fats in their food by requiring manufacturers to reveal the amounts of trans fats on labels. That requirement pressured the manufacturers to find ways to reduce trans fats in their products, fearful of the market reaction when consumers became more informed of the composition of the food.
However, New York City decided that consumers and food preparers couldn’t be trusted to make their own decisions. The health board imposed trans-fat limits on restaurants in the Big Apple, transforming the debate from health to politics:

City health officials maintained on Tuesday that they could not have suggested more strongly a year ago that restaurants voluntarily cut trans fats from their menus. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is overseen by the Board of Health, said it had sent out mass mailings and trained thousands of restaurant operators in the perils of trans fats — but to no avail.
About half of the city’s 20,000 restaurants still serve trans fats in quantities that pose a public health risk, the department said.
Its proposed restriction is described on the department’s Web site, nyc.gov/health, which also provides instructions on how people can submit their comments on the proposal in writing, or attend a public hearing on Oct. 30. After the public feedback, the Board of Health, which is made up of mayoral appointees who can enact the proposal without the consent of other city agencies, is to take final vote in December.

This is what happens when people make the mistake of transforming what should be a personal decision into a government diktat. In the first case, trans fats are not a public health hazard. The risk is incurred personally, not publicly, and it’s taken by adults making their own decisions about their food intake. Public health risks should be defined as to be limited to that which affects the public outside their control, such as epidemics, pollution, and the like.
Otherwise, we will start seeing all sorts of new prohibitions in New York City. Alcohol in anything but the most moderate amounts are a private health risk, and the results of inebriation have a lot more public impact than the ingestion of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Does the health board plan to prohibit the sale of alcohol in restaurants as well?
Beware the government that takes these kinds of personal choices away from citizens in the name of protecting them. It will not be long before the next health fad strikes NYC’s consciousness, and the precedent will now exist for them to dictate food recipes to address any concern. For instance, I have a friend whose son has a severe peanut allergy, which literally could kill him in a few minutes. Some restaurants have warning signs for people so that those with this potentially deadly allergy can avoid exposure. Will New York ban peanuts and peanut products in restaurants? After all, peanuts can kill, and apparently people can’t be trusted to make their own decisions on food intake.
This kind of government intervention will go beyond food preparation if left unchecked. The impulse to remove choice for the good of the people is not limited to health concerns. New Yorkers should balk at these new laws that treat them as imbeciles not because eating trans fats doesn’t pose a risk, but to limit the reach of a government that is intent on eliminating their personal freedoms. Disclosure of the personal risk should be sufficient for adults to act in their own interests. Declaring the personal public sets a precedent that will eventually eliminate all distinctions between the two.