Saturday, July 30, 2005

Another Sign That The Tide is Turning

France has expelled a radical preacher with pro-jihad ties.
[Intererior Minister Nicolas] Sarkozy said France did not have to tolerate radical preaching "which on the pretext that it is happening in a place of worship calls for hate and murder".
Couldn't have said it better myself...

Disagreement = Treachery?

Is that the equation now? On the very day that I speculated on whether Republicans wanted to base the party on the very narrow issue of abortion comes this headline by Augustine at Red State: Bill Frist : Traitor. A sample:

Today, on the floor of the Senate, Dr. Frist betrayed the conservative movement, President Bush, the history of the Republican Party, and thousands of defenseless Americans. In doing so, he effectively ended his brief flirtation with the Presidential nomination of the GOP - and if this is a just world, he may also have effectively ended his leadership role within the party in anything but title.

There is simply no justifiable reason for Dr. Frist to have changed his position on such an important matter, except in some crass attempt to appeal to a biased media. After years of claiming to be a pro-lifer - after accepting money, support, and applause from the pro-life community - Dr. Frist throws them overboard for the sake of The New York Times.

The issue, of course, is the move by Frist to support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

My concern here is not with the correctness of either viewpoint, but with the tactical error of embracing the Democratic tactic of eating our own. Are we the big-tent party, or do we prefer to dwell in the cocoon of activism like the Kossacks?

Again, here's Augustine:
There is only one explanation for today's Senate floor flip-flop: Bill Frist is a man without principles. He does not deserve polite acceptance of his treachery by any Republican. And any party that truly believes in a culture of life does not tolerate such men in positions of leadership. It should not tolerate Dr. Frist.
My, oh my...a man without principles? The only explanation? Frist can't honestly disagree with your position without being a worthless traitor? ...

Contrast this with Bush's dignified reaction:
Bush, notified by Frist of his decision Thursday, said, "You've got to vote your conscience," according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Listen up, gang - are you ready for Madame President? Keep heading this direction, and that's what you're gonna get...

UPDATE 9:53 p.m. central - the despicable Armando of the Daily Kos is having a field day with the Red State piece, and proving my point with his own loathsome partisanship:

Here's what I think - Frist's position on Schiavo and his unwillingness to stand up for stem cell research were both the acts of a craven politician who wanted to be President, and that the Dobson Party demanded it, along with extremist judges.

Why the change now? Frist now knows he will not be the GOP nominee for President in 2008. Does that mean this is more calculation? An attempt to regain his "moderate" image in the Media? Or is it a change of conscience spurred by the realization that his political career is basically over?

Frankly, I don't know and I don't care.

Truly vile, reprehensible (and poorly written and reasoned) garbage...

No Longer Secure In Their Monopoly, MSM Chases the Fringe

That's the message of this New York Times piece highlighted by our good friend Tom Maguire. It's a fairly comprehensive, well-reasoned piece summarized by the MinuteMan thus:
Low costs of entry to the media business have driven news outlets away from the political center in search of readers who want entertainment and validation rather than "news".
Validation...that certainly rings true. We seek refuge (most of us, anyway) in outlets most likely to confirm the wisdom of our views: thus, liberals listen to NPR, conservatives watch Fox News. Says Richard Posner in the Times:
The mainstream media are predominantly liberal - in fact, more liberal than they used to be. But not because the politics of journalists have changed. Rather, because the rise of new media, itself mainly an economic rather than a political phenomenon, has caused polarization, pushing the already liberal media farther left...

...The more news sources there are, the more intense the struggle for an audience. One tactic is to occupy an overlooked niche - peeling away from the broad-based media a segment of the consuming public whose interests were not catered to previously. That is the tactic that produces polarization. Another is to ''shout louder'' than the competitors, where shouting takes the form of a sensational, attention-grabbing discovery, accusation, claim or photograph.
Excellent points all, and you should read the whole thing. Needless to say, blogs are not immune from this; hence the mad rush on both the left and right to be more ideologically pure, more easily outraged, than the next guy. Fortunately, bloggers as a community tend to watch themselves even more carefully than the MSM, and hopefully, long-term, this will serve as a corrective to the tendency to divide into wingnuts and moonbats. Posner again:

The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek's classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.

In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise - not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It's as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

Food for thought on a Saturday evening...

There Is Still Hope...

To say that Michael Jackson's latest CD is struggling is, thankfully, a vast understatement...but a plea to the UK: if you love him so much, take him...PLEASE!!!...

Michael Moore Has HMOs Terrified: In Other News, Airline Pilots Forced to Dodge Flying Pigs

Pompous blowhard and faux populist millionaire Michael Moore is set to do to HMOs what he did to the Bush administration: i.e., nothing. It's a sign of the ego on the relentless publicity hound that he actually thinks the multi-billion dollar health industry is nervous about his upcoming documentary 'Sicko':
Michael Moore says his next documentary already has HMOs quaking in their boots. Moore has not yet begun shooting the film, "Sicko," but his planned critique of the nation's health care system, he says, is making "freaked-out" HMOs warn employees what to do if approached by the filmmaker. "At this point we haven't shot anything yet and they're totally discombobulated," Moore said at the inaugural Traverse City Film Festival.
On Wall Street, stocks of health-care companies have plunged in anticipation of the filmmaker's sharp expose - what's that? No stocks have plunged? Well, they've dipped slightly, surely? Failed to rise quite as quickly, maybe? No?

Hmmm...well, I'm sure the word just hasn't gotten out yet...meanwhile, Hillary Clinton supporters are reportedly offering the plump perpetrator of puerile pomposity $10 million in cash if he will move to Argentina and avoid making public appearances between now and the 2008 elections...

UPDATE 07/31/05 9:46 a.m. central: Many thanks to the lovely and charming Pamela for the link...

Does Rudy G. Have to Change His Abortion Stance To Win It All?

If he does, then I fear for our party in 2008. Here's what sent me down this path: writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Thomas Roeser apparently thinks the path to the presidency for Rudy is an opportunistic 'change of heart' on abortion. Says Roeser:
Social conservatives will oppose Giuliani for his pro-abortion views. It's up to Giuliani to help himself with them, and here's how. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed the most permissive abortion law in the country. Rudy, can you hear me? If you want this thing -- this presidency -- you gotta change and mean it. Your marriages we can do nothing about. But your social views have to change. They'll say you're an opportunist, but you have heard that before. You can change. And mean it. We're waiting.
There's an implicit threat in those words that is par for the course for pro-choice Democrats, but should have no place in the Republican Party. Let's shoot straight - most Republicans, myself included, hate the thought of abortion, primarily because we see its most prevelant use as a form of birth control, the taking of a life (real or potential) so that people can indulge in promiscuity. Am I wrong? I don't think so.

That's not going to change, regardless of who the President is. Republicans, as a group, will oppose unrestricted abortion, and Democrats will embrace it. The difference is, or should be, that for Democrats, it is quite literally the single most important factor that unites their various constituencies (if you doubt it, just look at the current SCOTUS debate).

In other words, it is the dreaded 'litmus test' be a Democrat in good standing, you simply must embrace the pro-choice movement. Do Republicans have to follow suit? Do we really want to elevate this social issue to the level of the highest importance? Isn't the War on Terror more important? How about getting hold of the deficit? Education? Social Security reform? Health care?

Our inherent disgust when confronted with the 'abortion as birth control' issue should not blind us to the fact that it is a matter that has its best solution in societal consensus. Facing off against our opponents across the empty streets of Dodge City in a winner-take-all shootout is a a dangerous fantasy that we cannot afford. There are too many issues that the President can really affect on a day-to-day level to let abortion be the determining factor in choosing a Commander-in-Chief.

Hiroshima: Right Then, Wrong Now

That seems to be the conclusion of noted historian Max Hastings, writing in the Guardian. Hastings examines the evidence on the side of both those who feel Hiroshima was a tragic mistake and those who think it was brutally necessary, and concludes both are right, depending on the prism that the event is viewed through.

Knowing what we do now, Hastings argues that clearly we were facing a defeated Japan that could no longer offer a viable threat; at the time, though, when faced with an enemy that preferred death to surrender (sound familiar to anyone?), and in light of the massive effort spent to win the atomic race, our decision was almost unavoidable.

In one of those ironic coincidences that happen from time to time, I had a dream last night in which I was explaining the differences between Fat Man and Little Boy (the collapsing sphere versus the uranium bullet) to some acquaintances. I did a pretty decent job of it, too...and for that, I thank what remains the greatest single account of the Manhattan Project, Richard Rhodes' brilliant The Making of the Atomic Bomb, easily one of the ten best books I have ever read on any subject. If you haven't enjoyed the pleasure yet, I suggest you do so soon...

From the Mosque to the Prison

Theodore Dalrymple, a retired prison doctor, writes in the London Times on the lure of radical Islam to the convict. Interestingly, in London, the majority of radical Islamic prisoners are Pakistani. I say interestingly because in the U.S. there is a long history of prison proselytizing to the black community in prisons. To my knowledge, though their rhetorical excesses against the Jews are widely known, the black-dominated Islamic groups such as the Nation of Islam have not proven to be fertile ground for the suicide bomber brand of radical Islam. I've yet to see that angle fully explored. If any of my vastly intelligent readers knows of such a piece, or comes across one in the future, I would greatly appreciate being informed...otherwise, I might be forced to try to put a piece together myself, and we know how ugly that might be...

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Dangers of Willing Illiteracy

What am I talking about? Tim Blair can enlighten you...

Friday Night Quick Shots: More Good Buzz For Huckabee

Blue State Republican has enlightened us before on Mike Huckabee's health initiatives, but today he's spotlighting some great education results in Arkansas...

Jay at Stop the ACLU has a new address, and a request to join the Coalition of the Chillin'...welcome aboard, Jay!...

It's been quiet on the Coalition front for a bit...I wonder, can we still coax Ryan James into adding a late member to the blogroll? Ryan, you got room for Jay? In the meantime, check out Ryan's post on everyone's favorite maniacal movie director, Oliver Stone...

Good piece at Tech Central Station on the Guardian's continued shakeups after Scott Burgess called 'em out (hat tip to the Instapundit)...

Is Islam a Terror Organization?

Michael Graham has been suspended from WMAL for calling Islam a terror organization, under pressure from CAIR; AJStrata is trying to put together a blogroll of his supporters, so please check it out, and read AJ's post, too. AJ's one of the favorites around these parts, and he lays out a good justification for his position, but I can't sign on to this one; I think the statement is too broad and too intentionally inflammatory. I do think moderate Muslims have a duty to condemn the Islamic extremists and marginalize them, and I've stated it repeatedly.

There have been some encouraging steps in that direction; it's not enough, but all journeys start with a single step. I've seen and heard the criticisms of the American Muslim fatwa against terrorism, and it's left me unconvinced: despite the horrendous words and deeds in the past of some of the signatories, the statement itself is completely unambigious and is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be encouraged rather than cynically disparaged. Once again, though, I encourage you to visit AJ for an alternative view that you may find equally or more persuasive...

Found In the Comments At Huff'N'Puff

You aked about BushCo: Does anyone support these guys anymore? We're too drugged too care.

Drugged by false propaganda post 9/11
Drugged by patriotic fervor
Drugged by stories like "missing in Aruba"
Drugged by poor Laci
Drugged by voting irregularities
Drugged by the "blue dress"
Drugged by Ken Starr
Drugged by Fundamentalism
Drugged by rampant materialism on borrowed money

We are drugged, exhausted and with no antidote in sight. Apathy has our ethics "suffocated". America is at great risk......not just from "terrorists"....but from detachment and ignorance.

D.W. Price

D.W., when you're right, by golly, you're right! Because, after all, as a conservative, let me tell you we JUST "CAN'T" SHUT UP about Ken "Starr", "voting" irregularities, and the "blue dress"...they dominate our every conversation! BWAAA-HAAAA-HAAAA!...

(P.S. - It's 2005 - please wind your "watch"'s 7 years behind)...

Excellent News In the GWOT... UK authorities report all four July 21st bombing suspects are now in custody. Well done...

UPDATE 2:07 p.m. central: More good news as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf orders all foreign students in the country's religious schools (or madrasas) to leave, and promises to shut down unlicensed schools...

The Return of Rosett

It's been a while since Oil-For-Food has made the headlines, but that doesn't mean the scandal has gone anywhere. Claudia Rosett returns with the story of the mysterious link between the scandal and French businessman Jean-Bernard Merimee:
Until this week, Merimee figured on the U.N. Web site's list of "Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General," with the rank of Under Secretary-General. Following a query this past Tuesday into Merimee's whereabouts, the United Nations quietly removed his name from the list. Asked about the revision, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric explained that Merimee has not worked for the United Nations since Feb. 14, 2002, and that his name had remained on the list for more than three years due to an "oversight."

... What to make of all this? Repeated attempts this week to contact Merimee - or even locate him - hit a series of dead ends. Spokesmen for the French U.N. mission, the European Commission's New York office, and the United Nations itself, all say they have no contact information for him. Calls to a phone number in Paris said to be his were not answered.

Despite the allegations, there is no proof Merimee did anything wrong. It remains a source of some mystery whether French investigators now delving into the case will divulge whether Merimee was knowingly involved in Saddam's plans to provide him with profitable oil deals; or was the unwitting target of a failed bribery scheme; or whether the allegations about "Jan Mirami [French]," are accurate at all.

On the U.N. front, however, there is the question of why, if Merimee's work for the organization ended on Feb. 14, 2002, there was no public announcement of his departure. And also why his name remained for another three years on the public list of those enjoying the senior status of U.N. under-secretary-general and special adviser to Kofi Annan - an "oversight" amended only after an inquiry to Annan's office this week, following up on recent news that Merimee had become one of the targets of a French Oil-for-Food probe.

And, on a far bigger scale, there is the question of whether the U.N.-authorized inquiry into Oil-for-Food, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is planning to clarify not only the roles in the scandal of former Under Secretaries-General Maurice Strong, Benon Sevan and now Jean-Bernard Merimee, but their ties to Annan himself - and his knowledge, if any, of their alleged ties to Saddam during their U.N. service.

The pattern continues: where the U.N. is involved, corruption soon follows (hat tip to the Instapundit)...

Misleading Headline of the Day

CAFTA Passage May Hurt Other Deals, says the Miami Herald, and naturally I was intrigued: how can the passage of a free trade agreement hurt other free trade agreements? Let's take a look:

After the House early Thursday passed a trade agreement with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic by the narrowest of margins, supporters in Washington, Miami and Central America hailed it as a major win.

But the reality, analysts say, is that CAFTA-DR's slim and mostly partisan 217-215 vote raises doubts over the future of other hemispheric trade pacts that are in the pipeline, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, and a trade pact with three Andean nations that negotiators hope to complete next spring.

''That it was so close, instead of an overwhelming victory, and so clearly split on partisan lines even in states such as Florida that depend on trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, indicates that the pro-trade consensus that used to prevail in Congress is on life support,'' said Eric Farnsworth, with the Council of the Americas, a pro-trade group based in New York.

And so, this means by passing CAFTA, we have made it more difficult to pass other agreements? Of course, the reality, as even the article acknowledges implicitly, is that partisanship on the part of Democrats who are intimidated by labor union threats is what makes passage of free trade agreements difficult, and that partisanship is reflected in the close vote.

That CAFTA was able to pass in such a charged atmosphere, on the contrary, is nothing short of a miracle, and a real shot in the arm to free trade boosters (not to mention, it's a good agreement in and of itself). I know the authors of newspaper pieces seldom pick the headlines, so shame on whoever it was that came up with this one...

More of This, Please

As I have been quite vocal in calling for the Muslim world to condemn terrorism, it's only fair that I acknowledge efforts in that direction. With that in mind, this is most welcome news:

American Muslim scholars who interpret religious law for their community issued an edict Thursday condemning terrorism against civilians in response to the wave of deadly attacks in Britain and other countries.

In the statement, called a fatwa, the 18-member Fiqh Council of North America wrote that people who commit terrorism in the name of Islam were "criminals, not 'martyrs.'"

"There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism," the scholars wrote. "Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram - or forbidden."

The entire statement (and a list of signatories) is here; I am especially pleased that there don't appear to be any 'yes, but...' clauses aimed at U.S. foreign policy and support of Israel. Now, if only the Saudi Wahabbi authorities would take a similar step, we just might get somewhere...

UPDATE 11:24 a.m.: To say that a substantial percentage of conservatives don't share my view here would be an understatement; see this post by Michelle Malkin for a list of all those who view this declaration as a sham, insufficient, or insincere. I can't buy that...all of those things may be true, but they are speculation, not fact. The fact is that the statement is unequivocal. Read it for yourself...people are bringing their own preconceptions to the table when they take issue with this statement.

To be sure, some of the organizers and signatories have pasts that are clearly associated with terrorism, and the fact that the statement doesn't 'name names', so to speak, is disappointing (particularly in light of the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie), but if the statement is incomplete, it is nevertheless an unequivocal denunciation of terrorism, and extremism. How can that not be a good thing?

An Apology? No, A Condemnation

Mansour El-Kikhia is outraged that we conservative Americans keep calling on Arab Muslims to apologize for terrorism:
I am fed up with the ceaseless requests by columnists, religious personalities and other American public figures for Arabs and Muslims to apologize for terrorist acts committed by thugs and murderers in the name of Islam...There is nothing American Muslims can do to satisfy this group short of packing up and leaving the United States.

Talk about attacking your straw men! Has anyone called for American Muslims to leave our country? Have American Muslims been singled out? And most importantly, has anyone called for any apology? Condemnation is what we want, condemnation that, admittedly, is finally starting to come from many top Muslim figures.

But we needn't take this complaint too seriously; predictably, El-Kikhia reveals his cards in his conclusion:
Future turmoil in the region is exactly what the instigators of the Iraq invasion have planned all along. They had made their desire for strife in the Middle East known long before the invasion of Iraq. Yet they underestimated the consequences of their lunacy and set into motion processes and events that will make the United States less secure and threaten the lives of Americans for many years to come.
Yes, that's it: America said, "Hey, you know what? There's not enough turmoil in that calm Middle East - let's go invade Iraq, just to stir things up." Please...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Happy 5th Anniversary... James Taranto's Best of the Web, a true daily must-read. If you haven't caught the addiction yet, there's no time like the present. My own favorite Taranto bit is not the massive push for 'kerfuffle' to join the regular lexicon, but rather his endearing habit of referring to JFK II as "the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam". Great job and many happy returns!...

From The Dream To The Nightmare

We've come a long way from MLK's epochal 'I Have a Dream'; unfortunately, when it comes to black political leadership, it's been in the wrong direction. Representative Major Owens, writing in the Democratic Gazette - sorry, the Huffington Post (who can tell the difference?) - tells of his nightmare - a nightmare consisting of Republicans ruling for 1,000 years because they helped the black community more than the Democrats did.

Is this what it's come to? A black leader whose nightmare is that Republicans will serve the black community? Would Representative Owens prefer a hostile glare to a helping hand, if that hand comes from the wrong side of the aisle? Isn't there something fundamentally wrong with an approach that puts partisanship above results? And, lastly, have we still not reached the day when we can put aside the simplistic formula 'Black=Democrat'?

When I read the mighty, mighty words of MLK, I don't see a man who was a tool of the Democratic party...I see a man who spoke out with clarity and conviction against an unjust situation, and appealed to the best in all of us. When I read this piece by Representative Owens, I just sadly shake my head...

Two Faces Have I

Thanks to the Instapundit for spotlighting this excellent blog that specializes on the German political press. The post in question spotlights the very different stances presented to the German and English audiences. As the author notes, Yasser Arafat was notorious for this tactic of throwing red meat to the Palestinians and conciliatory words to the West. Another up-and-comer is the English version of Aljazeera, which serves up a fairly innocuous brew of seldom changed opinion pieces that bear little relation to the Arabic version (how do I know this? One, I've been told so by a friend that speaks Arabic; two, just look at the pictures on the two front pages - there is very little overlap in the top stories on any given day).

The point? Well, it's a rather obvious and old one; don't take anything at face value from those you don't trust without independent verification, especially in the Internet age...

A Question For You: Whither Ann Coulter?

If anyone cares to comment, I would like to know: how seriously do you take Ann Coulter? Full disclaimer: I own or have read all of her books. I sometimes find her arguments intriguing, and I often find her wit amusing...but I must say, I tire of her apocalyptic rhetoric at times. Her latest obsession has been the idea that John Roberts is not a conservative. I'm sorry, but to me, this kind of talk sounds like the same ideological purity garbage that we get onto the Left for. Hypocrisy is not a winning strategy.

Anyway, that's my take; what's yours?...

Kossacks on HRC: We Like Losing!

Hilariously, as Hillary Clinton tries to make a (real or perceived) shift to the center, the Kossacks are crying foul. Dan Balz of the Washington Post has a story on the far, far left Daily Kos supporters who are apparently afraid that Hillary might actually win a national election for the Democrats. The Kossacks, of course, have always spoken disparagingly of the DLC, and why not? After all, what did the DLC ever do for the Democrats...other than give them their only two-term president in the last 50 years (and the only Democrat, period, to hold the Presidency since Jimmy Carter)?

Commenting on the kerfuffle, Mickey Kaus gets off the line of the year, and though my jealousy overwhelms me, I'm quoting him anway:
Kos is one of the few people on the planet with a personality so unappealing he allows Hillary to seem warm and enchanting! the whole thing here...

The Party of Special Interests Continues To Fade

I know that Republicans are accused of special interest politics, for example with the Christian Right (though I would argue it's more a confluence of interests, most of the time - more on this topic another time), but the Republicans actually have an agenda that they articulate and get elected on. The only two things that define today's Democratic Party are opposition to Bush, and cynically playing to a wide away of special interest groups.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the submissive posture the Democratic party assumes when confronted by the increasingly impotent labor unions. For a crystal-clear graphical representation of this, I refer you to this excellent post at WILLisms (hat tip to the Instapundit). Look at the chart and ask yourself - does this REALLY reflect the opinions of the Democrats, or have they crumbled under the threats of labor? At times like this, I think the future for the Republicans is very bright, indeed...

UPDATE 11:23 a.m. central: Excellent Bob Novak piece today on the backstory of the recent AFL-CIO - Teamsters split. Highly recommended...

UPDATE 2 12:39 p.m. central: More good commentary on the AFL-CIO and its embattled head John Sweeney at the Big Tent Blog...

Some Hither, Some Yon...

Another good update on the Shuttle and the history of foam problems from AJStrata...

The Bernoulli Effect talks about the measure of success in Iraq: guess what, folks, in the areas that count, we're winning...

An update on that Air America corruption link and their bottom-dweller ratings from Michelle Malkin...

Tom Maguire congratulates the paper of record on discovering the identity of one of their main rivals (but if you've been reading the MinuteMan, you're way ahead of the curve)...

Why CAFTA Is a Good Thing

I'm for free trade agreements, period; ideologically, it's a no-brainer for me. There are other, more tangible reasons to support the just-passed agreement, though, and Investor's Business Daily lays some of them out here (hat tip to RealClearPolitics):
"CAFTA is a larger U.S. export market than Russia, India and Indonesia, combined," said Ayse Oge, trade consultant with Los Angeles-based Ultimate Trade, who notes that Central American consumers are desperate for U.S. goods.

The model of course is NAFTA, which helped boost the economies of Mexico and the U.S. in the past decade. "We would not be here without NAFTA," notes Jose Otanon, CEO of Grupo S.E.P. of Lynwood, Calif., whose company sells insurance for burials in Latin America. "Most Mexicans and Salvadorans never had insurance. They can get it now."

According to recent estimates, the jobs and incomes CAFTA creates will boost purchasing power by $15 billion in the U.S. and $5 billion in Central America.
I find the above very illuminating; the Progressive Left is forever carping about capitalism's exploitation of the poor, yet it is capitalism that is their only hope. $15 billion in purchasing power isn't much in an economy the size of the U.S. (although I ask you: would you rather have the $15 billion extra or not?), but $5 billion is proportionally much greater for the far poorer nations of Central America...and ultimately, more prosperous neighbors are more democratic, peaceful neighbors who are far more likely to trade with the U.S. and support free market economic policies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More On The Shuttle, From One Who Knows Far More Than I

I posted earlier on my misgivings about this latest shuttle flight...AJStrata, who's in a far better position to know about this things, has an excellent post up that I highly recommend. You should read it all, but I'll highlight this:
...This foam incident is a real conundrum for NASA - and it has nothing to do about 'rushing' back. It has to do with the shuttle design, and dealing with core design elements that are so expensive to correct you might as well start building the replacement we have a PR expectations challenge. And we will ground the flights until NASA figures out how to deal with this mixed bag of low probability risk and a public perception it is actually an a unavoidable disaster waiting to happen...
As I said before, I'm no expert, and I certainly hope I'm being a bit of a hysteric here. AJ points out the tremendous vibrations of a launch, and the near(?) impossibility of avoiding debris, a thought that has occurred to any event, I appreciate the post, and now that AJ has framed the issue better, I agree it wasn't a 'rush' that caused the foam incident. Thanks for the info!...

Miscellanea: Fair and Balanced, Al Jazeera Style Edition

Al Jazeera, that pillar of journalistic integrity, has no problem at all giving Dick Durbin plenty of coverage, but has stayed strangely silent regarding another recent controversy...

Then there's fair and balanced, with the Wilsons, living large with the Boss...

More on everybody's favorite intelligence-gathering couple from the typically thorough Tom Maguire...

I've often thought that the Left in particular, and some on the Right, have downplayed the role faith played in our nation's beginnings. Scott Elliott has more along these lines. The bottom line is this: you may question the political agenda of today's Christians (after all, that's what democracy is all about), but you really have to go through some major league contortions to deny the huge influence Christianity has always had in America...

Oh, brother!...

We've considered the effect of his faith on Mitt Romney's 2008 chances a time or two in these parts; here's a great article in the always excellent Atlantic Monthly that hits the same theme (hat tip to Hugh Hewitt - like the redesign, Hugh!)...

This Is Not Good

As NASA admits that it made a mistake in declaring the Space Shuttle fleet ready to fly again, I can't help but go back to my question of a couple of days ago: why did we launch? What was the rush? Here's what I said at the time:
Why,...for God's sake, are we pushing through a mission with an admitted flaw that has not been fixed? It seems the height of folly to bend the safety rules on the very first flight after the last disastrous mission. Count me among the supporters of the space program...I'm a big believer in the scientific benefits...but even if we do need the Shuttle, does it really need to launch tomorrow?
Now I wasn't talking about the foam problem, and I'm not trying to be prescient (God knows - I hope with all my might that I'm dead wrong), but I have had an uneasy feeling ever since the launch date was announced. The whole thing has felt rushed...those men and women can't get back on the ground safely soon enough for me...may God protect them and keep them safe.

If It Ain't Broke, Let The U.N. Break It

In a sign of the brilliant planning that typifies the United Nations, the World Summit of the Information Society is being held in Tunisia, drawing the ire of free speech advocates and human rights groups.
"Putting a summit on the future of Internet in society in a country like Tunisia is like holding an environmental summit in a nuclear power plant," says Alexis Krikorian, director of Freedom to Publish, International Publishers Association in Geneva. "We believe it is a very inappropriate place for such a meeting to take place."
(Actually, Alexis, it's not like that at all; in fact, nuclear power could do a great deal to help the environment...but that's another post for another time).
Says the 2005 report of Reporters Without Borders, a group that monitors press freedom around the world, "It is a cruel irony that Tunisia will host the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November 2005."
The meeting location is a major snafu that is par for the course for a UN that has Sudan on the Human Rights Commission, but it will be a far bigger scandal if we let the notoriously corrupt, inefficient, U.S.-hating international body anywhere near a leadership role on any aspect of the Internet.

The greatest irony of all is that the Summit is aimed at fixing a problem that doesn't exist:
The main item on the agenda is getting some influence, if not outright control, of the process by which ICANN and its predecessor has structured the World Wide Web since the 1980s. ICANN, which severed its final links to the U.S. government last year, is a non-profit that decides such issues as what a country's Internet suffix should be (.cn for Canada, for instance, versus .ch for China).

While supporters argue that ICANN has performed well in keeping the sprawling World Wide Web stable, ceding such power to an organization that grew out of an American government agency has proven controversial, particularly among non-English speaking nations.

So, the indictment against ICANN is that it has American roots. Oh, and there's - umm, well - did I mention that ICANN has American roots? And that's a problem because - ummm- say, did you see that Tiger Woods? Wow, what a golfer...

CAFTA Passage Predicted

If this holds, it will be very welcome news indeed. House leaders are saying the votes are there to pass the Central American Free Trade Agreement this evening:

President Bush met with Republican House members on Capitol Hill this morning and personally underscored the importance of passing CAFTA. He was accompanied by Vice President Cheney and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

After the meeting with Bush, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told reporters, "It will be a tough vote, but we will pass CAFTA tonight."

Although opponents hold out hope that they can defeat the treaty, they have increasingly acknowledged in recent days that the determination of the agreement's backers may be too much for them to overcome.

It's not the flashiest story in the news, but it will have one of the longest impacts. I'll be watching this vote VERY closely...

Kinsley Reportedly Out At L.A. Times

Editor & Publisher has the scoop on what looks like a demotion for Michael Kinsley, the short-lived top editorial gun of the L.A. Times. I don't pretend to cover this particular beat with any frequency (though Mickey Kaus and Patterico are excellent L.A. Times watchers), but I will say this - I like Kinsley: though I seldom agree with him, I find him a sincere advocate of the liberal position who is not afraid to buck the conventional wisdom; I also find him a frequently humorous writer of skill and ability. He's scheduled to stay on as a writer at the Times, but personally, I doubt it will happen that way. It's hard, pride-wise, to move backwards in an organization...

Weasel Watching

Many thanks to the Watcher's Council for nominating one of my posts this week. Check out all the links here; there are some excellent posts for your reading enjoyment...

A Liitle of This, A Little of That...

AJStrata makes the case that we've got this whole special prosecutor thing all wrong. AJ, I'll meet you this far: that's what should be investigated...

Has Air America benefitted from diverted funds intended for inner-city youth? Sure looks that way...

Have you checked out the Daily Roundup at Election Projection? Now's as good a time as any...

Anne Applebaum on Karen Hughes and the Islamic civil war:
...With no discussion and no debate, Hughes takes over the least noticed, least respected and possibly most important job in the State Department. Her formal title is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.

...We need to monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam, and we need to help the moderates win. This means making sure that counter-arguments are heard whenever and wherever Muslim clerics and intellectuals are talking, despite the impact of Saudi money.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quick Shots: The Intolerant Infidels

I find the results of this poll interesting; there are several ways you could take this, both positive and negative. I choose to cautiously embrace it as another sign of the innate optimism of Americans. Muslim leaders of the moderate variety would do well to take advantage while the good will remains...

The great Arthur Chrenkoff takes a look at a poll of British Muslims and finds some bad signs...but also some hopeful ones...

At Americans for Freedom, jp also plays the optimist and sees hopeful signs in the recent Rumsfeld overseas visits...

Our good friend bebere and her beau have a good suggestion to deal with the Hollywood slump, real or perceived...

Seems Like I Was Busy Doing Something Close to Nothing...

Eric at Viking Pundit has totally owned the non-story of all non-stories...that is to say, the lack of ideas in the Democratic Party. Today, he was shocked to find an actual position being taken...alas, as so often, the devil is in the details. Read all about it here...

Kaus on Clinton, Hitchens on Plame, and Conyers On Acid

Here are three pieces that are well worth your time:

First, Mickey Kaus takes down the speaking style (and content) of HRC:
Is Hillary Clinton ever electric? I deny it. Her speaking style is controlled and insistent--at best, strong--and her substance quotient hovers close to zero. Expectations of electricity are expectations that will be disappointed. ...

...The Left...loves Hillary so much it could conceivably be bought off with a bit of Bush-bashing that covers a dramatic Hillary shift to the right. But it's now also clear that her shift to the right doesn't have to be that dramatic, because the equally Cheap Date press is ready to interpret even the subtlest, most insubstantial shading as part of Hillary's New Moderation. She can get credit for centrism without having to actually take too many positions that the left would disagree with (and hold against any another politician). Paleoliberals can love her, the DLC can love her, and she never has to say anything, either leftish or moderatish, that commits her publicly to a position that might annoy someone. Her primal drive for vagueness is free to trump her drive to the center.The only problem is that the resulting biteless rhetoric is almost totally uninspiring.
Next up is the great Hitchens, with another valuable history lesson. This time Hitch takes us all the way back to 1982, when the Left was up in arms about the unconstitutional Intelligence Identities Protection Act, then lays down a devestating indictment of the whole Plame fiasco:
Now observe the operation of this law in practice. A fairly senior CIA female bureaucrat, not involved in risky activity in the field, proposes her own husband for a mission to Niger, on the very CIA-sounding grounds that he enjoys good relations with the highly venal government there, and in particular with its Ministry of Mines. This government, according to unrefuted intelligence-gathering from British and other European intelligence agencies, is covertly discussing sanctions-breaking sales of its uranium to a number of outlaw regimes, including that of Saddam Hussein. The husband, who has since falsely denied being recommended by his wife, revisits his "good contacts" in Niger for a brief trip and issues them a clean bill. The CIA in general is institutionally committed against the policy of regime change in Iraq. It has also catastrophically failed the country in respect of defense against suicidal attack. ("I wonder," Tenet told former Sen. David Boren on the very first news of 9/11, "if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training." Wow, what a good guess, if a touch late. The CIA had failed entirely to act after the FBI detained Zacarias Moussaoui in Minnesota in August.)

...Who is endangering national security here? The man who calls attention to a covert CIA hand in the argument, or the man who blithely says that uranium deals with psychopathic regimes are not in train when they probably are? And we cannot even debate this without the risk that those who are seeking the true story will end up before a grand jury, or behind bars!
Wow...that's strong stuff, indeed.

Contrast the moral and intellectual clarity of Hitchens with Rep. John Conyers, Huff'n'Puff hack and shameless self-promoter, who calls the affair 'Treasongate'. That's a mighty big accusation - one I would expect from the Kossacks, but not from an elected representative of the United States. If Karl Rove is not indicted - i.e., if the Special Prosecutor concludes there is no proof that he willing exposed the identity of an overcover CIA asset, as he almost assuredly will conclude - will Conyers resign for accusing Karl Rove of treason, the most despicable crime in American politics? I intend to follow up on this one...

UPDATE 07/27/05 6:33 a.m. central: Thanks to the Blogging Caesar for including this in his always-excellent daily roundup, and to Leon H at Red State for the link, as well...

One Judge, Two Views

From the right, National Review...from the left, The 'em both, and you's really no contest.

The Box-Office Slump Is Due To Hollywood's Leftward Trend - Or Is It?

Michael Medved makes the case for the connection between disconnected Hollywood limousine liberals and the slumping box office:

Revealingly, none of the studio honchos talked about reconnecting with the public by adjusting the values conveyed by feature films, and replacing the industry's shrill liberal posturing with a more balanced ideological perspective.

Something clearly changed between 2004 and 2005 to cause an abrupt drop-off at the box office, and the most obvious alteration involved Hollywood's role in the bitterly fought presidential election. The entertainment establishment embraced John Kerry with near unanimity - and bashed George W. Bush with unprecedented ferocity.

Sounds good - only problem is, there is no box office slump, as revealed in another of Edward Jay Epstein's great insider pieces. Or rather, there is no slump among the big studios (it's the smaller pictures that are getting clobbered):
Instead of a box-office decline, the studios actually took in more from the U.S. box office in the first quarter of 2005 ($870.2 million) than they did in the similar period of 2004 ($797.1 million). So even though the total audience at movie theaters declined during this period, this came mainly at the expense of independent, foreign, and documentary movies. For the Hollywood studios (and their subsidaries [sic]), in fact, there was no slump at all.
Nevertheless, Hollywood is in a death spiral, according to Epstein, who goes on:
The real issue that emerges in these secret industry numbers is not the rise of a new format. Just as the DVD replaced VHS, a more efficient digital format will eventually replace the DVD. (A high-definition digital recorder with massive storage is already available in the United States and Japan.) What has inexorably changed is the location of the studios' crucial audience. In 1948, with studios earning all their revenues from the box office, that audience was moviegoers. Even as late as 1980, when the audience had television sets and video players, studios still earned 55 percent of their money from people who actually went to movie theaters. In 2005, however, those moviegoers provided the studios with less than 15 percent of their worldwide revenues, while couch potatoes provided it with 85.8 percent. (Click here to see the numbers behind the rise of the home entertainment economy.)
That's startling: 85.8% from the home, 14.2% from the theater. My conclusion: I'm more persuaded by Epstein. The problem isn't Hollywood's values so much as it is our love of staying home. It wouldn't hurt for Hollywood to be more in touch with the mainstream, but it won't stop the decline...

So Far, So Good...

Godspeed and good luck to the Shuttle astronauts, as Discovery had a successful launch today and Americans have returned to space. That's welcome news to our good friend SEPARight, who says 'Take that, Osama!'...Instapundit has more good news on the space front, including a response to my misgivings about the sensor problem, and a reiteration of our commitment to get to Mars...

PlameGate Hearings To Be Held

The MinuteMan has the scoop...meanwhile, over at Huff'n'Puff, Cenk Uygur has perhaps the most unfunny comedy piece ever written. Some high(?)lights:

I think the press has been really tough on Karl Rove and the administration over this Valerie Plame scandal, so I wanted to come to their defense a little bit. First of all, Plame might have been a covert CIA operative, but she once sat in a desk and shuffled papers around. If you're not shooting people in the field every day, then how do you go around with a straight face calling yourself a secret agent?

Secondly, Karl Rove was just trying to prevent the press from making yet another error by reporting on Ambassador Wilson's claims. Joe Wilson was lying about his trip to Niger. The Iraqis were, in fact, trying to buy uranium to build nuclear weapons. That's why we found all those nuclear bombs in Iraq labeled "Made in Niger."

Sure, there was a memo circulating in the administration identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. And it was marked with an "S." "S" normally stands for "Secret," but to be fair to Rove, he might have thought in this case, "S" stood for "Send to Reporter."

You get it? Huh? Did you?...Freakin' hilarious, this guy is...

I Would Never Bring Up My Opponent's Weird Religious Views, No Matter How Distasteful I and Most Americans Might Find Them...

I've blogged before on Mitt Romney and the Mormon factor. Today Alex Beam of the Boston Globe is asking similar questions. At least he and I are up front about it; however, the Democrats, and particularly Teddy Kennedy, are using the Mary Cheney "I don't think it's an issue at all that my opponent's daughter is a lesbian" smear tactic that has become all to familiar. For evidence, see Beam's piece, plus the Instapundit and Joe's Dartblog...

Speaking of Ted Kennedy, the seventh edition of the Carnival of the Clueless is up...don't delay, read it today!...

The Palestinian 'Innovation'

In a blistering editorial, Dennis Prager puts the onus of today's terror squarely on the Palestinians and the anti-Israel elements of the the Left:
We need to thank Palestinians for their major contribution to humanity - religiously sanctioned mass murder of innocents through suicide. Prior to the Palestinians, this did not exist...

...Palestinian Muslims - no Palestinian Christians have committed a suicide bombing - have created a religious and moral basis for mass murder and did so within a worldwide religion with a billion adherents. When the Palestinians sent brainwashed young men to blow themselves up in Israeli buses, cafes and discos, they offered justifications that provided the basis for many others to do the same.

They said that blowing up Jews in Israel -- of any age and in any location -- was an act that glorified Allah, that one who engaged in such atrocities was a Muslim equivalent to a saint, and would be rewarded in heaven by many beautiful virgins. I do not know of any Muslim religious organization or leader who condemned this Palestinian Muslim terror-theology as anti-Islamic.

...That is where the Left comes in. They have provided the secular and universal justification for Palestinian Islamic terror against Jews.According to the world's Left, it's OK for Palestinians to put bombs in an Israeli student cafeteria because:

1. Israel occupies Palestinian land (even though a leftist Israeli government offered 97 percent of it to Yasser Arafat)

2. Therefore, Palestinians are engaging in legitimate resistance

3. Since Palestinians don't have sophisticated weaponry, they use their weapon, the suicide bomber

4. Israelis kill Palestinian civilians, so there is a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians (even though the Palestinians target Jewish innocents and the Israelis do not target Palestinian innocents)
Now that's a provocative article; and Prager has deliberately framed it that way. Whether you buy it wholeheartedly or not, there is much truth to it. Sadly, the hatred of Israel in the Muslim world is real, pervasive, and unyielding. Indeed, the hate is so great that it makes people blind to the most horrendous and foul deeds. It bears repeating: at the heart of terror is an ancient prejudice. Anti-semitism, unfortunately, never appears to go out of season...

Brad Pitt's Illness, Colin Farrell's Sex Tape, and Oh - There's That Genocide Thing, Too

Nicholas Kristof continues to impress. His latest column, following his series on North Korea, takes the Bush administration to task for its relative silence on the Darfur tragedy, but his real anger is at a news media that would prefer to cover the Michael Jackson trial or Martha Stewart's prison sentence to an embarrassing extent while completely ignoring the African genocide:
According to monitoring by the Tyndall Report, ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year - and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings. NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes - about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks.

Incredibly, more than two years into the genocide, NBC, aside from covering official trips, has still not bothered to send one of its own correspondents into Darfur for independent reporting.

No doubt the network heads would say they are merely reflecting what the public wants (news by focus group?)...but the root problem here is the blurring of infotainment and news (yikes - shades of Frank Rich! Of course, Rich errs when he attributes this to the Bush administration - it's actually a pervasive societal trend). When it becomes difficult to distinguish World News Tonight from Entertainment Tonight, something is terribly wrong. We're not quite there yet...but then, we're not that far from it, either...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Night Quick Shots: Vote, Vote, Vote!

I've already given a plug for Patrick Ruffini and his 2008 straw be it, I'm plugging again! That's because Patrick is breaking out the votes by reference blog, and you guys have helped me get Decision '08 on the list. Thirteen of you have voted after coming from this blog...not bad, but, in the words of John Kerry, we can do better! (By the way, Rudy G. is in the lead among the Decision '08 group)...

Greg Bullock has a long, thoughtful response to Barack Obama's commencement address. Highly recommended...

Want to reform the U.N., asks The Bernoulli Effect? Then it's time to whip out the big stick...

It seems that Ryan James and I share the same Congressman - who would've thunk it? The joys of redistricting...

Is the Shuttle Worth It?

That's the thought that goes through my mind as I read this NY Times article about the risk of 'catastrophic failure' (i.e., the ship is destroyed - let's not mince words). NASA now puts the risk at 1 in 100, but the 2 disasters among the 113 Shuttle flights give the ugly picture of 1 in 57. Many prominent scientists have long decided that most of what is accomplished in a Shuttle mission could be accomplished by unmanned missions, and at a fraction of the cost.

Officially, NASA says the Shuttle is needed to complete construction of the International Space Station, and then it will, in all likelihood, be retired. The cost between now and then will be astronomical (no pun intended), and that's with, God willing, no additional loss of life. Many space enthusiasts say manned missions are needed to maintain public interest in the space program and thus to ensure continued funding. Maybe so...and maybe we really do need the Shuttle to finish the Space Station.

Why, though, for God's sake, are we pushing through a mission with an admitted flaw that has not been fixed? It seems the height of folly to bend the safety rules on the very first flight after the last disastrous mission. Count me among the supporters of the space program...I'm a big believer in the scientific benefits...but even if we do need the Shuttle, does it really need to launch tomorrow?

Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices?

John Fund certainly makes a persuasive case in the Wall Street Journal. Fund calls for 18 year limits, an exemption for currently seated judges, and one justice retiring every two years, giving each president at least two shots at the high court. In general, I don't like tinkering with the founders on issues like this, but the argument that does carry a lot of weight with me is the enfeeblement that so many justices undergo before they will let go of power. The sight of a person who is incapicitated for all intents and purposes sitting on the highest court in the land is not a pretty one. Food for thought, in any event...

Beyond Parody

Jane Fonda has announced an upcoming bus tour with an anti-war theme:
Actress and activist Jane Fonda says she intends to take a cross-country bus tour to call for an end to U.S. military operations in Iraq.

"I can't go into any detail except to say that it's going to be pretty exciting," she said.

Fonda said her anti-war tour in March will use a bus that runs on "vegetable oil." She will be joined by families of Iraq war veterans and her daughter.

A bus that runs on vegetable oil, eh? I have a feeling most of her audience will be running mostly on hemp...

Michelle Malkin has more...

Sincere Best Wishes to An Old Antagonist

People who are really into politics can get quite nasty at times; I'm certainly not above the occasional snarkiness, and of course, there's the Weekly Jackass series. Still, I'd like to think that I keep in mind that behind that person whose views I may find totally nauseating is a human being of flesh and blood.

So it is that I, and I'm sure all of my readers, express my sincere condolences to Maureen Dowd upon the death of her mother at the age of 97. Dowd has written a quite touching and heartfelt tribute that I recommend you read. Although remarks on a recently deceased parent shouldn't be viewed as an opportunity for literary criticism, I must state once again how much more Dowd's talent shines through when she avoids the swamps of politics.

If Dowd chooses to return to her column, we'll be there, taking on her wrongheaded views on 'Rummy' and 'Dubya' and all the rest...but that's for another day and another occasion.

We're Concerned, But Not That Concerned

Via the great Tim Blair, we learn that The Age is very concerned about the efforts of Hizb ut-Tahrir to recruit disaffected Sidney youth...naturally, the same paper was one of those to reprint the 'sassy' editorial by the now-unemployed Guardian columnist who belonged to said group. Mark Steyn has more on The Age and its editor, the man who was shocked that Australian hostage Douglas Wood wasn't more diplomatic when discussing his kidnappers. Meanwhile, Scott Burgess, the blogger who blew the story wide open, is getting a much deserved day in the sun (hat tip to the Instapundit)...

Quick Shots: A Letter to the Guardian

The always entertaining Jim Treacher, who is now blogging at a new locale, has a letter to the Guardian regarding their recent editorial by 'a staff reporter' (hat tip to the Instapundit)...

What Bob Herbert doesn't know could fill a library...

At Red State, trevino has more thoughts on our timidity in confronting our enemies...

Don't miss the latest, very entertaining, RINO Sightings...

Exercise Your Right To Vote... the great Ruffini's straw poll. As of now, George Allen is in the lead, with Rudy G. in I underestimating Allen? Could be (hat tip to Lorie Byrd at PoliPundit)...

Latest PlameGate Revelations - Less (Much Less) Than Meets the Eye

Hot on the heels of Frank Rich's breathless overplay of the 12 hour heads-up supposedly given as a courtesy by Alberto Gonzales to the evil Rovian conspirators comes this Washington Post article playing up the same angle. Indeed, from the SCREAMING HEADLINES at Huff'n'Puff, you might think this blows the case wide open. However, when one gets too excited about these things, it's always good practice to check in with the great Tom Maguire:

First, this referral was delivered from Justice to Gonzalez on the evening of Monday, Sept. 29. However, NBC News reported late on Friday, Sept 26 that a criminal referral was imminent, and the Sunday, Sept 28 WaPo front-paged the story that broke this case open.

Inquiring minds have wondered why the Justice Dept waited until the evening of the 28th to tell Gonzalez the obvious, but any criminal conspirators had plenty of warning.

And my second question - is forewarned forearmed in this case? Just what might an evil conspirator do with a twelve hour head start (which was really a head start going back to July?) E-mails, for example, are protected by a Federal records law; I imagine that other White House documents are similarly protected.

Well, Rich's version is certainly more exciting; but, as is so often the case, there is simply no 'there' there...

Is It Too Late For Europe?

In the midst of the latest terror attacks, a new meme is circulating that perhaps it is time to be more aggressive in stopping the spread of the relaxed atmosphere that has allowed the rise of radical Islamic terrorists in our neighborhoods and communities. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pete du Pont laments the lack of will found in continental Europe:
Old Europe may be falling apart before our eyes. This is a suggested by the opposition of Western Europeans to the American military action in Iraq as well as the defeat of the European Union Constitution in France and Holland last spring and the economic decline of European socialist economies. In any case, Old Europe has neither the political will nor the economic strength to combat terrorism. Without the United States, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq would be terrorist-controlled nations. Once again it will be up to America to defeat an assault on Western civilization, just as it was left to the United States to rescue Europe against Nazism and then against the global assualt of communism.
In the Times of London, Michael Portillo says England has been too lax, too:
It is easy to explain how the Londonistan phenomenon (the concentration of Muslim political activists in the capital) has come about. For years foreign governments have complained that dissidents settled in Britain were using the fax and the internet to foment discontent in their countries. Our response has been dilatory. Under our asylum rules we have made no distinction between the innocent victims of persecution and others intent on bringing down states.
AJStrata thinks there's more to it than that:
The liberal-socialist strangle hold on Europe's news media is incredibly strong, and was incredibly wrong. My regular trips there for years never made it less shocking how poorly they understood America because their news was pure propoganda. The news media never interviewed anyone from center right unless they were in a maverick role. The news media never explained the political right's perspectives or arguments - they were simply dismissed without debate.
Indeed, Europe has always had a love affair with the radical. The tactics on display by the Green Party and other European 'progressives' have found a sympathetic reception in the halls of the European elite, including the media. The Left's innate hostility to capitalism has perhaps deadened many to the growing threat from such close proximity.

Yet it is the freedom of the capitalist democracies that remains the only antidote to terror. Freedom - economic, political, journalistic, theological - is the cure for the disease. A free Iraq, a Lebanon free of Syrian domination...these are important steps. It's about far more than missing WMD stockpiles. It's about the survival of Western civilization. Our enemy understands this: look at the ferocity of the suicide bombers. We need to make sure the citizens of the West understand the stakes with equal clarity.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Republican Reshuffle

From time to time, I plan to revisit my odds to keep them fresh and as up-to-date as possible. Not too long ago, I did the Democrats, and now it's the Republicans' turn. Without further ado, then, here are my latest odds on the Repubican nomination:

Dick Cheney: 40-1
Arnold Schwarzenegger: 200-1
Colin Powell: 50-1
Mark Sanford: 16-1
Condoleezza Rice: 13-1
Newt Gingrich: 125-1
Rudy Giuliani: 7-1
John McCain: 9-1
Jeb Bush: 25-1
Mike Huckabee: 13-1
George Allen: 14-1
Rick Santorum: 33-1
Mitt Romney: 15-1

That still leaves about 27-28% of 100% odds to play with as I add new candidate profiles - noticably missing, still, are Bill Frist and Brownback, among others. The main changes are I moved most everyone up a little, with the exception of Ahh-nold, who, it's increasingly becoming apparent, wouldn't have the time to push for a Constitutional Amendment even if he wanted to run. Colin Powell also dropped considerably, and Jeb Bush, a little.

As you can see, I think it's McCain vs. Rudy G. at this point, with about 4 or 5 dark horses still in contention. Also notable are my relatively long odds on George Allen; I'm not convinced at all yet that he has the goods, although I certainly don't rule him out.

More On Radical Islam and Terror

Are we or are we not going to permit (or perhaps continue to permit) the emergence, within our midst, of totalitarian Islam?

That's the question raised by Paul Cella in this excellent piece at Tech Central Station (hat tip to Erick-Woods Erickson). I can't go quite as far as Paul on some of his suggestions; for example, I think he goes too far in weakening the First Amendment. Still, he frames the debate starkly, as it should be:
The answer we should give is this. We - whatever other free nations choose to do or not do - are going to put certain considerable obstacles in the way of totalitarian Islam; we at least are not going to encourage its development on our shores; we at least are going to say, in the manner republics "say" things publicly, such that it is clear to the leaders of this movement, its sympathizers and facilitators, both here and abroad, to the world at large, and most importantly to ourselves, that we will not tolerate totalitarian Islam. Rather, we will place very substantial burdens and abridgements, of varying social, political and legal character, upon those holding the beliefs associated with totalitarian Islam. We will make the price for sympathy with it very high indeed.
Now, if Paul perhaps goes a little far, what are we to make of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a perfect example of the 'excuse-making' squad, those who would have us sympathize with our murderers? Imagine if the great Rudy G. had said something like this in the aftermath of 9/11:
"If at the end of the First World War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to let them be free and have their own governments, and kept out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this wouldn't have arisen."
Not exactly Churchillian, is it? Livingstone goes on:

Mr Livingstone said he did not just denounce suicide bombers.

He also denounced "those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy, as we have occasionally seen with the Israeli government bombing areas from which a terrorist group will have come, irrespective of the casualties it inflicts, women, children and men".

He continued: "Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves."

Appalling, that is...using the occasion of a suicide bombing to denounce the tactics of...Israel, victim of more suicide bombings than any nation. From Livingstone's comments, you can see that we have two enemies to engage; one, militarily, and that is the Islamo-fascists, and two, intellectually, we must defeat the defeatists. Leon H, who has posted on the Livingstone comments (and please read the entirety of his excellent post), puts it well:
...If the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom come to be dominated by those who think that we are to blame for the slaughter of our own civilians, and who draw moral equivalencies between liberal democratic governments and reactionary theocratic dictatorships, the war for Western Civilization will have been lost.
Just so...and that brings me to my final consideration here, the comments of Tom Tancredo, who you just may have heard suggested that perhaps a disincentive to the use of nuclear weapons by radical Islamists might be the threat to take out Mecca (in so many words). As Leon H points out, the response was meant to indicate the most draconian reaction that we might have if faced with a nuclear strike, and not a preferred policy option.

Nevertheless, I'm not as shocked by Tancredo's comments as I am by my own reaction: I don't think even that would do the trick. Indeed, I can see no credible pre-attack threat by the United States that would have any effect at all on a radical Islamic group in the possession of nuclear weapons. When your enemy places no value on life, yours or theirs, you are at a distinct disadvantage if you, as we do, belong to a society dedicated to the propositions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The divide could not be any greater, the choice any starker; we simply cannot allow the scenario to even develop. If nothing else was accomplished (and much else was) by our deposition of Saddam Hussein, then even forestalling the eventual acquisition of nuclear materials was well worth it.

Against all the challenges, all the worries, all the threats, we carry one distinct, and quite large, advantage: we have the right on our side. I don't mean the political right, but the moral right; simply put, we are on the winning team. Only we can defeat ourselves, by convincing ourselves otherwise. Those who would use hatred of George W. Bush or Tony Blair or John Howard to oppose our efforts in defeating radical Islam have bloody hands, indeed; they are just as much a danger as the terrorists, and while we can't and won't deny them the freedom of speech and the freedom to be wrong, we must challenge them at every opportunity, taking the offensive in the war of words, until we are as equal to the challenge mentally as we are militarily. There is no alternative.

North Korea and the Christian Right

Nicholas Kristof continues (concludes?) his series of op-eds on North Korea with another call for closer ties, a step I'm not prepared to endorse. Along the way, he again categorizes some of the horrors:
Koreans sent back from China have been herded like beasts, with wires forced through their palms or under their collarbones. People who steal food have been burned at the stake, with their relatives recruited to light the match. Then there was the woman who was a true believer and suggested that the Dear Leader should stop womanizing: after she was ordered executed, her own husband volunteered to pull the trigger.

"The biggest scandal in progressive politics," Tony Blair told The New Yorker this year, "is that you do not have people with placards out in the street on North Korea. I mean, that is a disgusting regime. The people are kept in a form of slavery, 23 million of them, and no one protests!"

Correction, says Kristof, the Christian Right does protest; but he quickly dismisses them as deluded and counterproductive, and says liberals are the North Koreans' only hope:

So can anything be done to help North Koreans? Yes, if liberals stop ceding the issue to conservative Christians. Ultimately, the solution to the nuclear standoff is the same as the solution to human rights abuses: dragging North Korea into the family of nations, as we did with Maoist China and Communist Vietnam.

Our first step should be to talk directly to North Koreans, even invite senior officials to the United States. Many conservatives would accept direct talks, as long as the agenda included human rights (on the model of the Helsinki accords).

I would be happy to cede the issue to liberals if they had a solution, but bilateral talks that include human rights issues don't seem very promising. We know how seriously North Korea takes its agreements, and you can count me among those who think that China will ultimately be the country to force change upon the North Koreans. Still, I applaud Kristof for using his stage to throw light on the North Korean nightmare. At this point, any approach is better than inaction.

The Most Unsurprising News Of the Day (Week? Year?)

8 out of 10 French people think they are good-looking. Whaaa? The French? Arrogant? That's the first I've heard of it...

Richard Cohen Channels MoDo

That's the (correct) conclusion of Stephen Green of Vodkapundit fame, as he catches Cohen adopting the Dowd method of column writing: take two things completely unrelated, throw them together as if they are, and try to extricate yourself by column's end. It doesn't work for Dowd, and of course, Cohen isn't up to the challenge, either. Cohen's column also caught the eye of the great Mark Steyn; you can read all about it here (hat tip to Viking Pundit)...

When The Finger Points At You, Blame the Victim

Writing (where else?) in the Guardian, Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, declines to take any responsibility for what has happened in London, nor will he specifically condemn Islam's role. Why? Because to do so would be to admit culpability, when we all know that there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism. What other conclusion can be drawn from this:
...I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister [sic] has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself," he said last week.

Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope. He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy. Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself. If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.

By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister [sic] absolves himself of responsibility.
The Prime Minister? He's responsible? But of course:
It is not Muslims but Mr Blair who is in denial. He was advised that the war in Iraq would put us in more danger, not less. Silvio Berlusconi has admitted Italy is in danger because of his alliance with Bush; Mr Blair should do the same.
And the circle comes round again...but a question, if I may, Mr. Saeed: where was the Muslim concern for the citizens of Iraq when they lived under the brutal thumb of Mr. Hussein? Can you point me to a condemnation of the Butcher of Baghdad? Show me, Mr. Saeed, if you will, where and when your organization condemned the actions of Osama bin Laden...and Mr. Saeed, how do you feel about the murders of Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers? Surely, this peaceful religion of yours must teach against the murder of these innocents...

And It's Seven For Lance

Congrats to Austin's own Lance Armstrong, who solidified his claim as one of the great sportsmen of the last twenty years with his seventh Tour de France victory. His comeback from cancer also assures that he is one of the most inspiring sports figures, as well. Great job, Lance...

Who's Killing The Iraqis?

When we hear figures of Iraqi civilian casualties from the war, whether it is the 100,000 figure from the widely discredited Lancet study, or the more agreed upon figure of 25,000 or so that has been bandied about by UN reports and Iraq Body Count, we seldom hear any breakdown of who, exactly, has been doing the killing. Rod Nordland, in a piece at Newsweek's website, of all places, puts things in some much-needed perspective.

Nordland recounts the twists and turns the anti-war Left engages in to avoid stating plainly that Coalition troops aren't killing many civilians at all. An example:
Fully 30 percent of the civilian fatalities Iraq Body Count records took place prior to May 1, 2003, when U.S. troops were actively engaged in the invasion and in subduing remnants of Saddam's army. During that military campaign, large numbers of Saddam Fedayeen and other irregular forces foght [sic] back from the cover of civilian dress, a violation of the laws and customs of warfare. Those who died were inevitably declared civilians by their loved ones. And such forces in most places represented the bulk of the resistance against the invasion; the uniformed Iraqi military for the most part deserted and fled. And Saddam's forces, both uniformed and not, systematically took refuge in schools, mosques, hospitals, and civilian neighborhoods, using those places as firebases - a guarantee that civilians would be killed in the process. In many places, coalition troops held their fire and slowed their advance for fear of causing greater civilian loss of life. In all, 6,616 civilian fatalities are listed by the report. Even if you make the dubious assumption that all of them were truly civilians, it is not surprising that so many died. Given the tactics of the enemy, it's surprising that so few did.
Nordland also demolishes the statistical significance of the Lancet study, and documents the ludicrous overcount of civilian casualties at Fallujah. His conclusion:
...A much fairer rendering of IBC's own statistics would suggest that at worst 9.8 percent of these fatalities could be attributed to U.S.-led forces, another 32.5 percent to the fog of war, crossfires and the like, and the remaining 42.3 percent to insurgents and terrorists. And even that assumes, falsely, that all of these civilians were really civilians.
If Nordland is correct, that means about 2,400 civilian casualties can be attributed to the Coalition in the twenty-eight months that we have been in Iraq. While even that number is tragic, it's a far cry from the indiscriminate slaughter being thrown about by those who oppose the war.

UPDATE 4:27 p.m.: Once again, many thanks to Leon H at Red State for the link; if you're not taking part in the conversation at Red State, you're really missing out on one of the best parts of the conservative Internet presence...

The Summer of Their Discontent

Looking for a break from politics and terrorists? An amusing diversion is only a mouse click away, as New York magazine presents the feature Celebrity Psychos: The Year They All Went Mad. A sample:
Celebrities with dissociative-behavior disorder tend to behave in outlandish ways with no knowledge that others perceive their acts as out of the ordinary. Most often seen in megastars with extensive entourages.
Example: Tom Cruise
It's funny because it's true...

For more on our favorite celebrity psycho and his wacky pseudo-religion, see Tom Cruise Is Nuts and Operation Clambake...