Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Last week Venezuela announced that its U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum would sell 12 million gallons of home heating oil at a 40% discount to help the poor in Massachusetts. The deal was announced by Mr. Delahunt on the lawn of a beneficiary before Thanksgiving, with Congressman Ed Markey at his side. "This today is about people, it's not about politics," Mr. Delahunt said with a straight face. Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy, run by the Kennedy clan, will be one of the distributors.
"To Citgo, to the people of Venezuela, our debt," the Congressman pledged. Mr. Delahunt should rightly feel a debt to the people of Venezuela, whose per-capita income is perhaps one-tenth that of Massachusetts and whose sole source of hard currency is the oil that their leader is now giving away to the second-richest state in the union. But Mr. Delahunt has no unpaid debt to Mr. Chávez. For some years now the Congressman has been lobbying hard for the Venezuelan despot, whom he paints as a misunderstood humanitarian. How French.
Mr. Chávez came to power in 1999. In seven years he has a domestic record of human rights abuses, election fraud, property confiscations a la Zimbabwe's Mugabe, erosion of the independent judiciary, limits on press freedom and militarization. His best friends include Fidel Castro, the Iranian mullahs and Colombia's FARC terrorists.
Can the Commerce Department block this deal? If so, it should and da-n the consequences.
The Democrats' other excuse is that they never imagined that Bush would bollix up post-invasion planning as badly as he did. It's true that the president blundered, but it's not as if things usually go smoothly in the chaos of conflict. In any case, it's doubtful that the war would have been a cakewalk even if we had been better prepared. The Baathists and their jihadist allies were planning a ruthless terrorist campaign even before U.S. troops entered Iraq. Their calculation was that if they killed enough American soldiers, the American public would demand a pullout.
So far the terrorists' plan seems to be working. Even most Republican senators are demanding a withdrawal strategy. But it is the Democrats who are stampeding toward the exits. Apparently the death of about 2,100 soldiers over the course of almost three years is more than they can bear. Good thing these were not the same Democrats who were running the country in 1944, or else they would have pulled out of France after the loss of 5,000 Allied servicemen on D-day.
The Democratic mindset — cakewalk or cut and run — has already had parlous consequences. It is the reason why President Clinton did not take meaningful action against Al Qaeda in the 1990s. He figured that a serious military response — an invasion of Afghanistan or even a covert campaign to aid the Northern Alliance — would run steep risks, like body bags coming home. So he limited himself to flinging a few cruise missiles at empty buildings, leading our enemies to think that we were, in Osama bin Laden's words, a "paper tiger" that could be attacked with impunity. A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq today, aside from sparking a Balkans-style civil war in which hundreds of thousands might die, would confirm this baleful impression and encourage Islamo-fascists to step up their predations.
Indeed, my friend Andrew Sullivan's moral absolutism has led him to make sweeping comparisons between captured al Qaeda terrorists and dissidents in totalitarian regimes. As if one Solzhenitsyn equals one Zarqawi. He writes, "You cannot raise or lower the moral status of mass murderers with respect to torture." This strikes me as nonsense. It is a moral crime of a very high order to throw a man in prison simply because of what he believes. It is a moral necessity of a very high order to throw a man in prison if what he does involves mass murder. Death or lifetime imprisonment for writing a novel is surely torture for the novelist. But society cannot call these measures "torture," for then they would be unavailable for mass murderers and the like.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The inspector general's report is a case study of how dangerous ideological cronyism is as a substitute for nonpartisan expertise. Defenders of public broadcasting now must guard against still another conservative putsch - a Congressional move to cut financing for the corporation's $400 million budget of vital aid for local stations. This time, the "balance" zealots may resort to irony by citing the very chaos wrought by Mr. Tomlinson.
Does anything stand out here? Actually it's two words.
Doesn't surprise me that the Times casually links the two words. "Putsch", though it has entered the English lexicon, is German in origin AND MOST OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE THE HITLER'S COUP IN 1933.
Never miss an opportunity to associate the Right with HITLER.
The Geneva Convention standards for respectful treatment of honorable prisoners of war are rooted not merely in our ideals but in practical considerations of comity. Yet McCain concedes that al Qaeda's butchers will continue to torture and kill prisoners no matter how we treat ours. Alerting them — as the media glare of his legislation would do — that they had nothing to fear from U.S. captivity would not just cut off an essential intelligence pipeline but reward their savagery, guaranteeing more of it.
McCain counters that this would be worth enduring for the cumulative benefit we stand to gain from so shining an example of decency. "Our commitment to basic humanitarian values," he writes, "affects — in part — the willingness of other nations to do the same." The point, however pleasantly reassuring, is meritless.
...How we treat unlawful enemy combatants, as McCain knows, has utterly nothing to do with how we treat, and would treat, the soldiers (i.e., the lawful privileged combatants) of enemy nations who have executed and abide by Geneva. We honor those commitments in Iraq (where violators have been aggressively prosecuted). We honored them in Vietnam, even though we knew our brave fighting men, like McCain, were not reciprocally honored upon capture. And we would honor them in a war against any of the nations McCain is talking about.
With those nations, moreover, intelligence is not of the same premium as it is in a war against a transnational terror network. Other nations can be put in fear of having their territory seized, their regimes overthrown, their economies shredded by sanctions and blockades, etc. You can afford to forego what you might learn from grilling their soldiers. To the contrary, the only weapon you have against terrorists is knowledge of where they might strike next so you can stop them, and knowledge of where they are so you can kill or capture them. With terrorists, intelligence is the whole ballgame.
McCain also posits a tiresome bromide so easily discredited that no serious person is swayed by it — including McCain himself, as (we shall see) the balance of his essay demonstrates. It is the claim that there is no upside to coercion because its fruits are inherently unreliable...
In point of fact, many strategies for culling information, which we readily accept as staples of competent, everyday intelligence gathering, unavoidably incentivize the informant to tell his inquisitor what he wants to hear.
Despite the rich opportunity (perhaps even the likelihood) that these scenarios, and others, present for self-interested lying, we do not systematically deny ourselves access to the resulting information. Rather, we trust our ability to hear the information, determine whether it makes internal sense, test how it matches up against other things we know, and factor in the motives to falsify. Sometimes, predictably, the stories turn out to be as bogus as McCain's Packer linemen. Very often, however, some or all of the information turns out to be true, and salient.
There is, of course, no greater value for government than the security of the governed. [Amen.] Government is not there to teach us morality lessons. Government is there, first and foremost, to protect us. In the struggle against Islamic terrorism, that means getting the intelligence if there is reason to believe a plot is afoot to kill massively.
Senator McCain well knows this. That's why the most telling part of his essay is his wholly dissatisfying answer to the so-called ticking-time-bomb scenario. Yes, he admits, "if we capture a terrorist who we have sound reasons to believe possesses specific knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack ... an interrogator might well try extreme measures to extract information that could save lives."
So what's McCain's answer to the ticking-bomb dilemma? It is: Let's make such "extreme measures" illegal, but in the full expectation that the law would be broken with impunity. As he puts it: "Should [an interrogator engage in coercion,] and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation which he confronted." They would opt, in other words, not to prosecute.
On one hand, it conveys the nod-and-a-wink message that the law is not serious: If the circumstances seem grim enough, go ahead and abuse the captive and we're likely to look the other way. It announces that the president, because he wields ultimate prosecutorial authority, is effectively above the law — precisely the notion Congress is supposed to be defeating when it enacts behavioral standards for executive-branch agencies.
On the other hand, it is craven. It leaves the decision whether to violate a foolish proscription that cannot be justified in a crisis to the judgment of a lowly, young interrogator. "Our lives are in your hands, son, so do what you think is right — and, if things work out well, maybe, just maybe, we'll let you slide" — at least if you're lucky enough to have your actions come to light on that rare day when we're feeling feisty enough to face down Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, the New York Times and that pesky Arab Street.
Most of all, though, McCain's answer is perverse. It would be reprehensible to convert into an illegality something any responsible, good-faith government official would do — viz., try to coerce information from a morally guilty person in a real emergency with thousands of lives on the line. However noble the driving impulse, it would be a law designed to protect the physical comfort of a morally culpable person at the expense of the lives of countless innocent people whose deaths might be avoidable. That's not what we have a government for.
The best way, the honest, bright-line way, is to acknowledge that there are circumstances in which coercive interrogation would be appropriate; to be forthright about what those circumstances are and the lengths you would be willing to go; to require personal approval by a very high-ranking executive-branch official who would then be accountable; and to prove you mean business by aggressively prosecuting anyone and anything that does not meet the rigorous standards you've taken pains to establish.
Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.
There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.
* * *
In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
Ultimately, Lieberman realizes the stakes. Too bad the rest of his party has sold out to the lunatic fringe of the Left.
Today, useless grandstanding solipsist Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) announced the Philadelphia Eagles were "vindictive and inappropriate" for preventing Terrell Owens from playing for other teams and for suspending him.
This is just stupid. First, Specter's a lawyer and should know better -- restraints of trade are legal to the extent that they are necessary to protect a superior interest of the employer. In this case, Owens is prevented from playing in the NFL for 8 weeks to ensure the Eagles' trade secrets (their plays and scouting information) and competitive standing (he won't compete directly against them) are maintained.
Second, there is no restraint of trade when the person is STILL EMPLOYED BY THE INITIAL EMPLOYER. In other words, Owens still HAS a job and will be paid from now until the end of the season, therefore there is no restraint.
Third, Specter's theory that there is a right to play in the NFL this year that Owens has been denied because the Eagles and the NFL have enforced their rules (via an arbitration decision in their favor) to prevent Owens from landing another NFL job this season is the same postulate that the Second Circuit shot down in the Maurice Clarett case.
Ultimately, this is grandstanding garbage. The Senate is such a compilation of nannies and ninnies that it cannot even exercise restraint in areas that have nothing to do with the government. First, the disgraceful threatening of Major League Baseball; now this ridiculous attempt to oversee the NFL. The Senate is officially a confederacy of dunces and a national embarrassment and Specter is among the top dunces of the group.
"It's a restraint of trade for them to do that, and the thought crosses my mind, it might be a violation of antitrust laws," Specter said, though some other legal experts disagreed.
The Eagles suspended Owens on Nov. 5 for four games without pay for "conduct detrimental to the team, and deactivated him with pay on Sunday after the suspension ended.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Note that I write detailed travelogues for the vacation trips (not just family visits) that Monkette2B and I take. We had a fine trip and anyone who wants a copy of the travelogue I'm going to write can ring in to request one in the comments or email me. The previous ones are Dublin/London, Taos (New Mexico), Turks and Caicos (lost and gone forever); Budapest/Prague, Australia and Scotland. If anyone wants any of those, same suggestion: request one in the comments or by email. Wongdoer has been subjected to each of the previous iterations of the Travelogues and can attest as to their quality, usefulness, etc. I'm post-timing this entry so more of our devoted handful can decide if they want to partake of The Monk's travel wisdom.
Anyway, it's nice to be back in general, but that first day at work after time off just blows -- too many emails, emergency assignments that suddenly cropped the fk up over Thanksgiving, etc. Amazing what kind of petty rot goes on while one is away.
Today, we have yet another instance of Bolton's excellence. From the Jerusalem Post (HT = Opinion Journal):
Following intense US pressure, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued an unprecedented condemnation of Monday's Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel.
This condemnation - slamming Hizbullah by name for "acts of hatred" - marked the first time the Security Council has ever reprimanded Hizbullah for cross-border attacks on Israel. The condemnation followed by two days a failed attempt to get a condemnation issued on Monday, the day of the attack, when Algeria came out against any mention of Hizbullah in the statement.
When asked what changed from Monday to Wednesday, one diplomatic official replied: "John Bolton," a reference to the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton lobbied vigorously for the passage of the statement.
So during John Bolton's first months at the UN, the useless international body has issued its first-ever condemnation of a terrorist group that targets Israel and has issued its first-ever condemnation of an Islamic country for statements against Israel (Iran for calling for Israel's destruction). Maybe George Bush knows a lot more about upholding US interests in the UN than George Voinovich . . .
David Brooks [Times Select only] writes about Christopher Ieva, a Marine captain who is the third straight generation in his family to have served in the United States military. Captain Ieva led an attack on Ubaydi, a town on the Iraq-Syrian border that was a haven for terrorists. The action netted 75 KIA for the head-choppers and 17 captured.
But we won't hear about this action or many other actions because:
...The casual courage he and his men displayed is awe-inspiring, but most Americans couldn't name a single hero from this war. That's because despite all the amazing things people are achieving in Iraq, we don't tell their stories back here. That's partly because in the post-Vietnam era many Americans - especially those who dominate the culture - are uncomfortable with military valor. That's partly because some people don't want this war to seem like a heroic enterprise. And it's partly because many Americans are aloof from this whole conflict, and couldn't tell you a thing about Operations Matador and Steel Curtain and the other major offensives.
Captain Ieva, who is now serving at Camp Lejeune and has earned his own Bronze Star, has it right: "We're always painted as victims. But we assaulted them." This is a culture that knows how to honor the casualties and the dead, but not the strength and prowess of its warriors.
In a telephone interview with The New York Sun, Mithal al-Alusi yesterday said he expected a new wave of terror in his country, adding that Iraq and America's security were now inextricably linked and that it would be a "huge mistake" if American soldiers were brought home in 2006.
"Iraq is the main symptom of the terrorists, and I think we are going to have a new level of attacks in the area. It would be a huge mistake if Washington has made a decision to take the soldiers back. They cannot do it," Mr. al-Alusi said yesterday. "We are now trying to stop the terrorist attacks against America here."
Mr. al-Alusi's Iraqi Nation Party narrowly lost a bid to gain a single seat for the National Assembly in last January's elections, but there are indications that his party will do well in the elections scheduled for December 15. On November 19, an Iraqi newspaper, al-Bayyna, which is run by the Shiite Arab Iraqi Hezbollah Party, released a poll in which Mr. al-Alusi came in second to the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, among Iraqis when asked who they would support to be the next prime minister. Of those polled, 21% said they would support Mr. al-Alusi. Yesterday, the party leader said he expected his party would gain between 15 and 25 seats in next month's elections.
"Bush in the Iraqi eye is a great man, to the liberals he is a great man," Mr. al-Alusi said. "We know the huge price America has paid, but America now has a partner in the Middle East. When I campaign, I am talking about the strategic relationship and how this is in Iraq's interests." Mr. al-Alusi was particularly critical of American politicians and writers who claimed the president deceived the public in order to go to war. He said that his party would press the Iraqi government to renew the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which he said he believes Saddam clearly had before the invasion.
Sadly, it seems, President Bush may well be better regarded in Iraq than at home.
Meanwhile, one hopes this is NOT true:
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times quoted anonymous aides to Mr. Bush as saying that he will announce the first drawdown of American soldiers from Iraq in anticipation of the 2006 midterm elections.
Jonah's original post:
I'm heading back to DC in a few hours. I always have such mixed feelings about Seattle. On the one hand, there's a lot to like about this town and this region. It's my kind of weather, my kind of food, etc. But I'm always amazed at how pre-Giuliani so much of the downtown is. I'm baffled at how the business community and the tourist industry can cave to the drug-addict romanticizers and panhandler enablers. There is so much skeeviness and bummery going on right at the heart of why people come to this town in the first place. And, it's not just to prey on the tourists, there are half-way houses, methadone clinics, etc all near Pike's. I don't folllow Seattle politics so I don't know how the arguments play out, but I'd have to guess there are West Coast versions of the same jackasses who thought drug dealing, transvestite hookers, and robbery were what gave Times Square its authenticity and "charm."
...it's not guiliani chic that makes seattle accept the winos and dopers in downtown, it's pure political correctness. no one is accountable for their state in life, we are all hapless chips in the swirling tide. this is the city that three years ago during mardi gras in pioneer square allowed a young man to be beaten to death for trying to protect a young woman from being groped by an approved victim-group. the police saw it happening, radioed to their superiors --- mustn't show too much initiative --- and the superiors told them to stay put, lest they prod the crowd to even greater violence. the police chief was later removed and now lectures for large fees on community policing strategies, while the new chief is only marginally better. when my wife and i moved here fourteen years ago we looked all over, loved the old homes in seattle and the nightlife, but decided to move across the lake to kirkland. we had kids and planned to have more and the downward slide was already apparant [sic].
Let me try to explain Seattle politics giving 3 examples.
1) It is against the law for any city of Seattle employee, including the police, to ask anyones immigration status.
2) The Seattle School District is 20 million in the hole yet the Seattle city council pays someone to read poetry at council meetings: http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/council/licata/poetword.htm. [Click this link - it's unbelievable]
3) We have a 10 year plan to end homelessness which contains 6 principle actions. The first one listed... "Prevent Homelessness". Not sure why we need the other 5 actions. http://www.cehkc.org/10-YearPlanFinal.pdf. Top of page 19 if you care to verify.
I could give you more examples but I have to work so I can afford the taxes to pay off the 200 million dollar debt for a monorail system that is now not going to be built.
Why do we care about a third string QB on a mediocre Rams team? Well, according to ESPN this am, he's the first Crimson football player to play in the NFL [I do find this a bit hard to believe but ok] and yours truly is Harvard '92 and we've had precious little to root for in sports outside of hockey [and not recently] and squash.
What we should be thankful for:
We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.
From Christopher Hitchens, a transplanted Englisman:
Still and all, I have become one of those to whom Thanksgiving is a festival to be welcomed, and not dreaded. I once grabbed a plate of what was quite possibly turkey, but which certainly involved processed cranberry and pumpkin, in a U.S. Army position in the desert on the frontier of Iraq. It was the worst meal--by far the worst meal--I have ever eaten. But in all directions from the chow-hall, I could see Americans of every conceivable stripe and confession, cheerfully asserting their connection, in awful heat, with a fall of long ago. And this in a holiday that in no way could divide them. May this always be so, and may one give some modest thanks for it.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Citgo Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices. It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance.
The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez’s government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt of Massachusetts, a Democrat, met with Chavez in August and helped broker the deal. He said his constituents’ needs for heating assistance trump any political points the Chavez administration can score.
“This is a humanitarian gesture,” Delahunt said, speaking after a news conference with Venezuelan officials and others outside the home of a constituent in Quincy who will receive heating aid.
A humanitarian gesture from a man who ordered political opponents shot in the streets of Caracas?
Jose Serrano of the Bronx has accepted a similar offer.
Absolutely putrid. Serrano and Delahunt are whores. And cheap whores at that.
I am just shocked that Cynthia McKinney who fell all over herself trying to grab for the $10 million Saudi 'donation' to 9/11 rebuilding (with anti-Semitic rhetoric as part of the package) after Giuliani refused it hasn't gotten in on this deal. She must be furious.
"Manny is not returning to Boston," Ortiz said Monday during a news conference at the Office of the Sports Secretary of the Dominican Republic.
"Manny lives a difficult situation that only he and his family know about, and he does not want to play there," Ortiz said.
"I spoke with him last week before he left for Brazil and he told me that he wants to go to a team in the West," Ortiz said.
"I found out that they are doing whatever is possible to trade him," Ortiz said after returning home from Boston.
If this comes to pass that's got to make everyone in the AL East, but particularly the Yankees, happy. Without the threat of Manny's 45 dingers and 144 RBI behind him David Ortiz will see much less to hit. Unless Trot Nixon regains his 2001-03 form even putting Varitek behind Ortiz gets you about half of Manny (22hr/70rbi in a weak season). Maybe they'll get Garret Anderson back for Manny...
Well when he checks here he will find that the Bucknell Bison upset No. 19 Syracuse 74-69 at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse struggled all night with the Bison's Princeton-like slow-down tactics and Bucknell closed the game with a 13-2 run.
Syracuse, surprisingly, shot 14-17 from the line.
I told the students that the way to deal with terrorists is the way Golda Meir did after the attack on the Israeli Olympic athletes: hunt them down and kill them one at a time and be rough about it.
Every person in that room heard my say this. I don't know why the reporter chose to conflate my remarks about our need to get behind the forces in the Muslim world into my approach on how to deal with terrorists.
Feel free to check with the University of Toronto students who invited me to speak.
I'll let the Powerliners check it out and report back.
MSNBC Hardball's talking head Chris Matthews gave a speech in the Multicultural Northland (Toronto, to be precise) and had this to say:
"The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said.
"If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective."
Oh so if only we would try to understand the grievances of Osama and al-Zarqawi..
Why do people feel the need to pander and grovel to a specific audience? Does he think he shows 'courage' as an American who dares to disagree with the Bush agenda?
What Matthews glibly proclaims is the useless moral relativism preached in far too many places that masquerade as centers of serious learning and debate. We understand their perspective very well - it's an eighth century Islamic caliphate where non-Muslims grovel or are put to the sword.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Beckett who dominated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series is young, a horse and can be overpowering. He does though have a history of blisters and some questions about his shoulder despite being only 25.
It's a big addition to the Bosox rotation which went from being dominating in 2004 to wobbly in '05. Mike Lowell, an All-Star 2002-04, inexplicably had a horrible '05 campaign will displace Bill Mueller at third. This could be a huge lift for Boston if Beckett can avoid the 0.90 ERA ballooning that usually happens to NL pitchers who switch leagues and Lowell regains some of his all-star form. He's a terrific glove and only 32 so could be a small loss but possibly a big uptick for Boston.
The Yanks, meanwhile seemingly haven't made much progress so far other than the (key) re-signing of Hideki Matsui.
MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB
Specifically how the fiftysomething Dowd is trying act cute and ditzy as a 17 year old.
MUTTON DRESSED AS LAMB.
But Maureen "with a tropism towards powerful men" Dowd deserves at least as much.
Monday, November 21, 2005
On the one side are the protester-arsonists, many if not most of them Muslim, whom the Interior Minister called racaille (rabble)--young, restless, violent, vibrant, angry, jobless, envious and fecund. And on the other side is an aged and exhausted civilization, the hollowed-out core of European Christendom, static, aging, contented, coddled, passive and literally without faith. Who would you think will win in the end? …
France always thought it had one last resort, one ready strategy for fending off the rage of its Arab street: beyond avoidance lay appeasement. No country in the West has done more to cultivate world Arab opinion, to appease Arab terrorists, to ostentatiously oppose American Middle East policy (Iraq above all), to champion the signal Arab cause of Palestine. It was no accident that Yasser Arafat chose Paris as his place to die--Paris, after Jerusalem, his second holiest city.
Paris burns anyway. As the French seem to learn every 70 years, appeasement does not work. It merely whets the appetite. And the angry alien young were already hungry.
Couldn't say it any better.
HT: The Corner
"It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately."
Here are the three who voted to bail out immediately:
Jose Serrano (D), NY
Robert Wexler (D), Florida
Cynthia McKinney (D), Georgia (I guessed this one, I really did)
And perhaps worse, the six who voted "Present":
Jim McDermott (D), Washington
Jerrold Nadler (D), NY
Maurice Hinchey (D), NY
Michael Capuano (D), MA
Major Owens (D), NY
William Lacy Clay (D), MO
I guess these six couldn't decide on which was worse, being a coward or alienating their 'base'.
Mac Owens explains the perfect parallel of what happened in Vietnam vs references the Vo Nguyen Giap quote to Vietnam historian Stanley Karnow:
After 1968, the situation in Vietnam was very similar to the one that prevails in Iraq today. Trends were moving in the right direction for the Americans and South Vietnamese. The United States had changed its strategy after Tet 1968, scoring significant military successes against the North Vietnamese while advancing "Vietnamization." These successes helped stabilize the political and economic situation in South Vietnam, solidifying the attachment of the rural population to the South Vietnamese government and resulting in the establishment of the conditions necessary for South Vietnam's survival as a viable political entity.
The new strategy was vindicated during the 1972 Easter Offensive. This was the biggest offensive push of the war, greater in magnitude than either the 1968 Tet offensive or the final assault of 1975. While the U.S. provided massive air and naval support and while there were inevitable failures on the part of some South Vietnamese units, all in all, the South Vietnamese fought well. Then, having blunted the communist thrust, they recaptured territory that had been lost to Hanoi. So effective was the combination of the South Vietnamese army's performance during the Easter Offensive, an enhanced counterinsurgency effort, and LINEBACKER II — the so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 later that year — that the British counterinsurgency expert, Sir Robert Thompson concluded US-ARVN forces "had won the war. It was over."
But as Bob Sorley has observed, while the war in Vietnam "was being won on the ground... it was being lost at the peace table and in the U.S. Congress." First, the same sort of domestic defeatism that is endangering our effort in Iraq today impelled President Nixon to rush to extricate the country from Vietnam, forcing South Vietnam to accept a cease fire that permitted North Vietnamese Army forces to remain in South Vietnam.
Second, the Watergate scandal changed the makeup of Congress, which, in an act that still shames the United States to this day, then cut off military and economic assistance to South Vietnam. Finally, President Nixon resigned over Watergate and his successor, constrained by congressional action, defaulted on promises to respond with force to North Vietnamese violations of the peace terms. Only three years after blunting the communist Easter Offensive, and despite the heroic performance of some South Vietnamese units, South Vietnam collapsed against a much weaker, cobbled-together communist offensive. And South Vietnam ceased to exist, consigning millions of souls to communist tyranny and weakening the United States for a decade.
How did the North Vietnamese Communists pull this off? In 1990, North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, confirming what he has written in his own memoirs, told Stanley Karnow that "We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war." [emphasis mine]
Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol argue that Murtha's primary thesis, that US armed forces have become the focus of the 'insurgency' is wrong:
Murtha, of course, claims that the U.S. occupation is the primary problem in Iraq and that "our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence." This is nonsense. For many months now, the insurgents have been shifting their attacks away from U.S. and coalition forces and directing them at Iraqis instead. Iraqis now make up the overwhelming majority of casualties resulting from insurgent attacks. This shift is evidence not only of the effectiveness of our protective measures, but also of the growing vitality of the Iraqi political process, which the insurgents, according to their own statements, fear and hate more than the U.S. military presence.
Fred Barnes notes how the noises made by Murtha, the Senate as well as Bill Clinton turning around on Iraq is telling the head-choppers:
What message did this package of events send to the insurgents in Iraq? Stay the course, the Americans may be going soft again, just as they did in Somalia a decade ago, in Lebanon in the 1980s, and in Vietnam in the 1970s. What other conclusion could the insurgents draw?
This leaves Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the entire administration with a larger task than refuting the trumped-up Democratic charge that they misrepresented intelligence on Iraq. They're already off to a good start in knocking down that canard. Now they must quash the idea of Vietnam redux.
Mel Laird, it turns out, isn't the only person who's been thinking about the parallel between Iraq and Vietnam. So has Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy. In his intercepted email [July 2005, eds] to al Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he said, "Things may develop faster than we imagine." He wrote that "the aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam--and how they ran and left their agents--is noteworthy." Indeed, and it is relevant.
It appears that any serious damage has been averted for now, even though many on the right are decrying the replacement Senate resolution for being too meddlesome and the House overwhelming rejected an immediate withdrawal by a vote of 403-3 though with the usual histrionics. However I'm worried that the recent recriminations not only strengthen the terrorists [who blundered badly in Jordan] and encourage them to step up their attacks on US troops over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The feckless and addled ones in Washington have just told them at a repeat of the Marine barracks in Beirut 1983 would greatly help their cause.
UPDATE: Powerline has a letter from Lt. Colonel Joe Repya of Minnesota who, at age 59, volunteered for a return to active duty in Iraq:
Two weeks ago, as I was starting my sixth month of duty in Iraq, I was forced to return to the USA for surgery for an injury I sustained prior to my deployment. With luck, I'll return to Iraq in January to finish my tour. I left Baghdad and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn 60 years old in just four months, but I'm tired:
What is Repya tired of? Here's an example:
I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom - Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Why pay upwards of $33M/3 for a 35-year old to play the KEY outfield position, centerfield -- one which he has not played regularly in about half a decade (and he wasn't exactly Mike Cameron to begin with).
Why add a 35-old outfielder to a team that already has two 30+ outfielders who do not cover their positions at a Gold Glove level?
Why continue adding basecloggers with high OBPs instead of speed for the top of the lineup so Jeter can go to the #2 hole?
Why did they sour on Juan Pierre?
Lupica's take is devastating, and accurate:
The Yankees need to get younger, they need to get faster, they need to move Derek Jeter back to No. 2 in the batting order. And they need a pure center fielder who can go get it. Giles is a solid player, an All-Star player once, a splashy hire for the Padres when they got him in 2003. But if you think he covers any of those Yankee needs, send up a flare.
* * *
Cashman has been saying for months that the Yankees can't just throw money at their problems anymore. He was still saying that when the Yankees were out of the playoffs and Aaron Rowand, the White Sox center fielder, was catching everything he saw in the ALCS and then in the World Series.
Another thing the Yankees say is that they want to cut payroll. Apparently what that means is they wait for old bad contracts to come off the books before they start offering new ones.
At places like Harvard, the military is a rarity on campus...A male student stopped to greet us. He was wearing a puffy vest over what looked like an old version of the Army physical training sweatshirt--the oatmeal gray cotton zip-up. I asked him if it was an Army sweatshirt (the vest covered his chest where the "ARMY" logo would be). "No way," he scoffed. "I would never wear that. I hate the Army."
I never ask that my fellow liberals agree with me, just that they respect my sense of obligation and professional duty. But at Harvard, that's a tough sell. Here, the emphasis is on the individual--the "me", the "I," and the "mine." It is difficult to explain a group obligation to people who idolize the first person singular.
But the most difficult part of the recruiting period has been learning the limits of liberal tolerance. It has been uncomfortable to see that the lessons I learned from the traditional liberal platform appear not to apply to me.
Sad? Yes. Surprised? No.
Marriages between cousins should be banned after research showed alarming rates in defective births among Asian communities in Britain, a Labour MP said last night.
The report, commissioned by Ann Cryer, revealed that the Pakistani community accounted for 30 per cent of all births with recessive disorders, despite representing 3.4 per cent of the birth rate nationwide.
"We address problems of smoking, drinking, obesity and we say it's a public health issue, therefore we have to get involved with persuading people to adopt a different lifestyle," the MP for Keighley, Bradford, told BBC2's Newsnight programme last night.
"I think this should be applied to the Asian community. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people."
It is estimated that more than 55 per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins, resulting in an increasing rate of genetic defects and high rates of infant mortality. The likelihood of unrelated couples having the same variant genes that cause recessive disorders are estimated to be 100-1. Between first cousins, the odds increase to as much as one in eight.
In Bradford, more than three quarters of all Pakistani marriages are believed to be between first cousins. The city's Royal Infirmary Hospital has identified more than 140 different recessive disorders among local children, compared with the usual 20-30.
The findings were expected to be condemned by the Asian community, in which many see the tradition of marriages between first cousins as culturally fundamental.
"You have an understanding, you have the same family history," said Neila Butt, who has had two children with her husband, Farooq, her first cousin. "It's just a nicer emotional feel."
Goblet is probably my favorite or second fave of the Potter books (Azkaban is quite good and more succinct). And adapting a 700+ page novel into a 2.5 hour film is no easy task. Gone are the patent irrelevancies viz. the main plot surrounding the Tri-Wizard Tournament: Hermione as elf union organizer, much of the classroom scenes (if not too much), the usual I-hate-Snape stuff from Harry. Unfortunately, some other parts are clipped that comprised hints as to the identity of the hidden villain and there were about three scenes with Rita Skeeter that ended up completely irrelevant. And the other schools received short shrift -- the Beauxbatons beauties and the rough looking skin-headed martinets from Durmstrang.
But those gripes are fairly minor.
First, the pacing is relatively swift, so the movie does not FEEL like 2.5 hours long. Indeed, it could have used a bit more exposition; therefore I hope the DVD will have extra scenes in it.
Second, the composition of the numerous effects scenes is much better than in the previous films, including Azkaban -- the effects are more fluid, more realistic and the kids (especially Danny Radcliffe) react much better than in previous films (compare the poor climactic scenes in the first two movies with this one and the difference is obvious). Give credit for Mike Newell who may have taken a page from Peter Jackson's Special FX direction manual.
Third, the kids are better overall. Radcliffe especially. He made some strides from movies 1-2 to #3; he makes a leap forward in this one. Emma Watson was always the best actor of the three main critters, and that's still true. She has a future after the HP series without doubt. Rupert Grint is the weakest link, but his screen time is less than the others' and he has made progress too. Ancillary Friends of Harry have decidedly minimal screen time, other than the Weasley twins' comedic interludes.
Fourth, Mad-Eye Moody is great. Nice job by Brendan Gleeson.
The movie has to balance the double tone of the series in what is the darkest of the movies to date, and of the first four books. That is not an easy task, and there are a lot of elements in the movie that have to be meshed into the larger storyline: the kids are in full puberty with all the trouble that brings, there is dating pressure and an extended dance/ball scene including Hermione's Cinderella moments (coming down the stairs to meet her date at the Yule Ball, then flinging off her shoes after an unhappy ending to the evening), tension between Hermione and Ron or Harry and Ron, resentment by other students toward Harry who is an unwarranted intrusion into the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and the background to the Death Eaters and Voldemort's reincarnation. The result can be a bit choppy.
Overall, the movie is good. I'd see it again in theaters and will obtain the DVD (especially because the Monkette2B is an HP FREAK).
Hits: effects, panoramic views of Hogwarts campus, main tri-wizard tourney set pieces, kids much better, Gleeson, Michael Gambon has a larger role as Dumbledore, McGonnigal and Snape not forgotten despite minimal importance.
Misses: screen time for the other schools, Harry's love interest (you'll see, the girl he went to the Yule Ball with is way cuter than the one he pined over), Fleur de la Couer's performance in the tourney looking especially weak (bad b/c she's the lone girl), Voldemort more icky than scary, the unsatisfying end scene.
I believe with the U.S. troop redeployment the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted -- this is a British poll reported in The Washington Times -- over 80 percent of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition forces, and about 45 percent of Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice. The United States will immediately redeploy -- immediately redeploy. No schedule which can be changed, nothing that's controlled by the Iraqis, this is an immediate redeployment of our American forces because they have become the target.
Murtha, who cares about American soldiers and shares the pain of the families of the maimed and wounded at Walter Reed and Bethesda and is decent and well meaning, is also DEAD WRONG. His thesis is that the military's stated job is done and to prevent more casualties we must pull out. Certainly pulling out the troops will mean we will sustain fewer losses but its also EXACTLY what the terrorists want. [I would also note that his reliance on a British poll that 80% of Iraqis don't want us there is probably ill-advised. Whose poll? and where? Sunni triangle perhaps?] Iraqi forces may well be sufficiently strong to allow a significant drawdown of US troops in a year's time but they are not ready to shoulder the burden alone yet.
Well-known Iraqi bloggers Iraq the model disagree with Murtha:
It is really strange when a US representative says something like this few weeks after the elected Iraqi government demanded from the UN to extend the mission of coalition forces for another year; apparently my government (and I) do not think that US military presence is harmful for us and the Arab League also thinks that an immediate withdrawal would be disastrous for Iraq and the region.
However, I agree with Mr. Murtha that some people in Iraq would benefit from an immediate withdrawal but that would be al-Qaeda and there are also countries in the region that would benefit from that too but these would be Syria and Iran!
The reason for the invasion of Iraq was always twofold, WMD which everyone thought Saddam had AND regime change. Specifically to dismantle a brutal and dangerous despotic regime and germinate in its place a democracy that if successful would change the face of the Middle East for a long time.
Two thousand American soldiers have died for this. To withdraw now and leave Iraq at best a weak, divided state and potentially portend a return of the Baathists to the Sunni areas would be to WASTE their sacrifice.
By the way this was a cheap shot against VP Cheney and Murtha should have been above this:
Q The president and the vice president are both saying it is now irresponsible for Democrats to criticize the war and to criticize the intelligence going into the war because everybody was looking at the same intelligence.
REP. MURTHA: I like guys who've never been there to criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there, and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what need(s) to be done. I resent the fact on Veterans Day he criticized Democrats for criticizing them.
And for the "Bush Lied, People Died" crowd:
The military drew a line -- a red line around Baghdad, and they said when U.S. forces cross that line, they will be attacked by the Iraqis with weapons of mass destruction. And I believed it, and they believed it. But the U.S. forces -- the commander said, they were prepared. They said they had well-trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.
Finally this strikes me as being a bit unseemly:
Q: Senators Warner and Stevens just talked with reporters on the other side of the Capitol, and they said that they had yet to meet a single soldier in Iraq or at the hospitals here who thought it was time to pull out of Iraq --
REP. MURTHA: Is that right?
REP. MURTHA: What do you think they're going to tell you? We're here to talk for them. We're here to measure the success. The soldiers aren't going to tell you that. I told you what the soldiers say. They're proud of their service. They're looking at their friends.
Murtha, of all people, should know from his Vietnam experience that that war could have been won on the battlefield but was lost at home - Vo Nguyen Giap told us that. Does he want to see al-Zarqawi tell us the same thing in ten years time?
Where one stood on going to war should not impact how one stands on Iraqi nation building. A serious case cannot be made that there is a better alternative to the US and the current coalition staying and finishing the job. Rebuilding Iraq has been and will continue to be expensive in terms of blood and treasure. The alternative is much worse.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Gérard Larcher said multiple marriages among immigrants was one reason for the racial discrimination which ethnic minorities faced in the job market. Overly large polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behaviour among youths who lacked a father figure, making employers wary of hiring ethnic minorities, he explained.
The minister, speaking to a group of foreign journalists as the government stepped up efforts to improve its image with the foreign media, said: “Since part of society displays this anti-social behaviour, it is not surprising that some of them have difficulties finding work ... Efforts must be made by both sides. If people are not employable, they will not be employed.”
As James Taranto notes in OpinionJournal this is a strong argument against diluting the idea of marriage between one man and one woman. Loosening this bond leads to bad social dynamics.
Polygamy is a taboo subject for most mainstream French politicians. Far-right groups, however, have seized on it to argue that immigrants abuse the French social security system by collecting state benefits for several wives.
Hm. Hadn't thought of that.
The government has also been criticised for refusing to closely analyse demographic patterns in France in order to better integrate minorities. But Mr Larcher said France was so traumatised by the Vichy government’s expulsion of French Jews to German concentration camps during the second world war that it still found it unpalatable to allow information to be collected on people’s ethnic origins.
So traumatized by the expulsion of French Jews!!?! I'll let the Monk comment on that.
He acknowledged that the unemployment rate among young people in France was twice the national average, but said other European countries faced similar problems. He also pointed the finger at the US, where he said the unemployment rate among blacks aged 16-19 was twice that of their white counterparts.
Hm a bit reminiscent of the customary Communist riposte of "What about your Negroes living in the South?" when taken to task for their human rights violations.
Giles has enviable stats starting with +.400 OBP and many more walks than whiffs. He boasts decent speed, an above-average arm, decent pop and by all accounts is a good citizen. On the downside he's going to be expensive and will be 35 by opening day.
Another name being bandied about is Juan Pierre who trails Giles substantially in every category EXCEPT stolen bases. He is however, 28 and might be one of the fastest players in the league. Apparently though the Yanks have soured a bit on him.
Johnny Damon is a cut beneath Giles offensively but has better range in the field but a below average arm. He's four years younger though but will be more expensive.
The safe bet is probably to go after Giles as Damon will lose some offensive punch out of Fenway (he's 40 points lower on BA and 50 points lower obp from 2002-2004).
There's plenty decent pop in the lineup though but the Yanks could do with a chaos creator on offense and stellar defender that they haven't had since Bernie in his prime. Juan Pierre would be cheaper and would run down flyballs in the gaps better than any of the other candidates. His presence would also protect Matsui (above-average) and Sheffield (average) in the corner outfield. I'm tempted to take Pierre in a decent deal over Giles as he would seriously upgrade the defense and the type of catalyst one would want in the playoffs.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
"...Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.
In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.
Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation."
This revelation casts doubt into Fitzgerald's 'timeline' and specific wording in the indictment that Libby was the first government official to leak Valerie Plame's name to reporters. Fitzgerald is unlikely to drop the indictment but I think it would be fair to say that the Libby defense has just 'flopped a set'.
The 'official' isn't Scooter Libby and it isn't Karl Rove.
Libby attorney Ted Wells: (courtesty The Corner)
Woodward's disclosures are a bombshell to Mr. Fitzgerald's case. First, the disclosure shows that Mr. Fitzgerald's statement at his press conference of October 28, 2005 that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson's wife was totally inaccurate. Second, Woodward's disclosure that he talked to Mr. Libby on June 20 and June 27, 2003 and that Mr. Libby did not mention WIlson's wife undermines Mr. Fitzgerald's key theme that Mr. Libby was involved in a scheme to discredit Wilson by telling reporters about Wilson's wife's employment at the CIA. Hopefully as more information is obtained from reporters like Bob Woodward, the real facts will come out.
Tom Maguire is all over it here.
Uruguayan players had called it G-d's will that Uruguay, a living-in-the-past two-time champion from WAY back in the day (1930, 1950; and currently just a high mid-level power), should win and play in the World Cup. Didn't happen, as the Aussies avenged their playoff loss from 2001, which landed Uruguay a spot in the South Korea/Japan World Cup of 2002.
Under the FIFA qualification system that awards bids based on the relative strength of each region, Australia is homeless: one spot of the 32 places in the tourney goes to the host, 13 spots go to Europe, 4 to Asia, 3 to North and Central America, including the Caribbean (CONCACAF), 4 to South America and 5 to Africa. The last two spots in 2006 go to the playoff winners of South America #5 v. Oceania #1 and CONCACAF #4 v. Asia #5. Australia romped through its regional soccer affiliation (Oceania) qualification process, and still had to fight for a spot.
Good to see our allies doing well in the most political of all sports.
Now if they can beat the Germans, I'd almost forgive them for their crash in 1997.
P.S. -- Congrats to Trinidad and Tobago too, it qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever and came from the US's region. For those of you not playing along at home, the US qualified last month.
''We encourage China to continue down the road of reform and openness,'' Bush told an audience that stayed silent until its polite applause at the end. ''By meeting the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness, China's leaders can help their country grow into a modern, prosperous, and confident nation.''
His challenge to Beijing immediately followed lavish praise of Taiwan.
''By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society,'' Bush said. Pointing to Taiwan -- as well as South Korea -- Bush said political freedoms are the inevitable product of the kind of economic liberalization China has begun pursuing.
''Men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will eventually insist on controlling their own lives and their own future,'' he said. ''As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed.''
The Red Chinese loathe being compared with Taiwan.
I'm enjoying him now as he'll be gone far too soon.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., an abortion rights supporter and the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she asked the conservative judge about a document released Monday showing Alito in 1985 telling the Reagan administration he was particularly proud to help argue that ''the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.''
''He said first of all it was different then,'' she said. ''He said, 'I was an advocate seeking a job, it was a political job and that was 1985. I'm now a judge, I've been on the circuit court for 15 years and it's very different. I'm not an advocate, I don't give heed to my personal views, what I do is interpret the law.'''
When asked whether she found his answer satisfactory, Feinstein said: ''The question is, Did I believe he was being absolutely truthful, and I did.''
The intriguing argument of the day is Jayson Stark's statistical breakdown comparison of A-Rod to Fatboy2, which easily provides the best argument for voting for Fatboy2 over A-Rod for the MVP. Go with the numbers as Stark presents them, add in the Ortiz effect in the RedSux clubhouse and you get about enough to overcome the fact that Fatboy2 sits whilst his teammates chase the ball in the field.
The Monk disagrees with the straw men Stark sets up at the outset of his column (Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Frank Thomas all won MVPs so how important could defense be? He forgot Mo Vaughn). The fact that subpar defensive players won the MVP (and Canseco, Gonzalez and Thomas were adequate or just subpar, but not dreadful, during their MVP years) does not excuse Ortiz from NOT playing the field.
The coalition partners — representing, as they do, the opposite ends of the political spectrum — found it hard to find common ground on most issues, but on one point they could emphatically and enthusiastically agree: the way to stimulate an economy suffering from mass unemployment and stagnant consumption is to increase tax.
Germany’s plan to cure its self-confessed economic failure by doing exactly the opposite to what modern economics would suggest is certainly a bold and novel idea. Jim O’Neill, the chief international economist of Goldman Sachs, remarked on television last week that German politicians are acting as if they had never seen an economics textbook, much less understood one.
Accordingly, the new German Government has decided to impose one of the biggest tax increases in postwar history and to target the extra taxes on the weakest and most sensitive parts of the economy: consumption, which will suffer a three percentage point increase in VAT, and housing, which will lose tax incentives for first-time buyers. In addition, to fend off accusations that the new consumption taxes will bear unfairly on poorer consumers, the Government will hit the rich as well, increasing the top rate of income tax from 42 per cent to 45 per cent.
So the stimulus plan for a shaky economy is to HIKE a regressive tax (VAT), lift the marginal tax rate for wealthy individuals AND DEPRESS the property market?? They seem to have gone stark-raving mad in Berlin. Kaletsky notes that fiscal policy like this would need to be accompanied by loose monetary policy and a devalued currency. Except the ECB controls both and is looking to raise rates. Seems like a good prescription for a deflationary spiral. Folks are thinking the euro may be near a short term bottom here at 1.17 but if the Germans go through with this insanity (changes to take effect in January 2007) I don't want to be long any euro.
HT: The Corner
...Superior force and discipline are not enough against this [terrorist] adversary. We need intelligence. Intelligence is the single asset that stands between the terrorist and scores — if not more — of slaughtered civilians. Between the terrorist and murdered American military personnel. In the war on terror, as in no war before it, intelligence will be the difference between victory and defeat.
And if Senator John McCain has his way, the most urgently needed intelligence will be lost.
None of it is necessary. Torture is already against the law. It is, moreover, the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain — which is to say, much of the prisoner abuse that has prompted the current controversy has not been torture at all. Unpleasant? Yes. Sometimes sadistic and inexplicable? Undoubtedly. But not torture. And where it has been either torture or unjustifiable cruelty, it is being investigated, prosecuted, and severely punished.
That's because the provision does not change existing law a wit. In 1994, the United States ratified the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT).
But wait a minute, you say. Haven't commentators (like yours truly) noted that the Senate approved the treaty with a heavy caveat? Indeed it did. The Senate provided that the treaty was limited by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Although those amendments call for due process and bar both coerced confessions and cruel and unusual punishments, they have largely been limited to judicial proceedings involving criminal defendants. Thus, they are essentially irrelevant to wartime detentions of alien enemy combatants.
So does the McCain Amendment change that? No. It contains exactly the same reservation. In fact, it expressly reiterates the UNCAT caveat and explicitly cites to it, lest there be any confusion. On this, again, it is all show and no substance.
So what's different? That question brings us to the suicide part. McCain wants to turn every enemy combatant into an honorable prisoner of war — at least to the extent that such prisoners are protected under the Geneva Conventions against any type of coercive interrogation.
The McCain Amendment provides that no prisoner held by the Defense Department "shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation." That manual expressly forbids any use of force, coercion or intimidation in conducting questioning, even if such tactics fall short of torture, even if the prisoner is a terrorist guilty of war crimes, and even in a matter of life-and-death — perhaps thousands of deaths.
Obviously, in the vast majority of circumstances, this provision of the McCain Amendment is also gratuitous moralizing. In general, though we are at war with terrorists against whom intelligence is our only defense, the military does not resort to forcible methods. To the contrary, gushing respect is our customary response to savagery, complete with halal meals, prayer rugs, and literally white-glove treatment for government-issued Korans (even if the prisoners proceed to use them for stuffing toilets and passing secret messages).
But there are certain circumstances in which high-level al Qaeda operatives are captured in the throes of plotting massive strikes. There are certain circumstances in which such a terrorist might be able to tell us, right now, where bin Laden is, or Zarqawi, Zawahiri, and other leaders who are themselves weapons of mass destruction because they have the wherewithal to command massive strikes.
Understand: If we were to learn where one of those men was, we would attack that target and kill him, and we'd make no apologies for it. By the McCain logic, the killing is fine but the infliction on a terrorist of non-lethal discomfort to obtain the intelligence necessary to do the killing should subject the inflictor to prosecution. That's absurd.
Sen. Levin: "The War Against Terrorism Will Not Be Finished As Long As [Saddam Hussein] Is In Power." (CNN's "Late Edition," 12/16/01)
Sen. Levin: "We Begin With The Common Belief That Saddam Hussein Is A Tyrant And A Threat To The Peace And Stability Of The Region." (Committee On Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 9/19/02)
Sen. Levin Admits That Democrats Also Believed That Saddam Hussein Had Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD). SEN. LEVIN: "You know, the administration continues to talk about everybody believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That is true, but that isn't the issue." (CNN's "American Morning," 11/14/05)
Keep hitting back.
France was not always opposed to the American invasion of Iraq. One persistent Pentagon rumor, however, might explain why the French came to oppose the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. In December 2002, a French staff officer visited the Pentagon with a proposal from his government. France would send 18,000 troops (about what they contributed in 1991) to join the Iraq invasion force. However, France wanted a specific area of occupation after the war, with full authority in that area for as long as Iraq needed to be occupied. The American State Department backed the French proposal, but the Department of Defense didn’t trust the French, and were suspicious of their motives. So the French officer went home empty handed, and the French government decided that invading Iraq was really an evil thing to do.
If this is true, it is further proof of French perfidy and duplicity. Remember: the French backed Saddam and the Sunnis for more than 30 years. That allegiance meant more to the French (and still does) than any alliance with the US.
Monday, November 14, 2005
That alternative is a fragmented Internet, without a single "root file" that describes the locations of everything on the Net. The U.S. government has led many to believe that this is equivalent to dismantling the Internet itself. But it is bluffing.
Here's how it might work. At some point, China will grow tired of the U.S. refusal to give up control to the U.N., and it will secede from the status quo. It will set up its own root server, tweaked to allow access only to those sites the government deems nonthreatening, and simply order every Internet service provider in the country to use it instead of Icann's. The change will be seamless to most users, but China will have set up its own private Net, one answerable to the people's revolutionaries rather than to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Others may follow suit. Root servers could spring up in France, or Cuba, or Iran. In time, the Internet might look less like the Internet and more like, say, the phone system, where there is no "controlling legal authority" on the international level. More liberal-minded countries would probably, if they did adopt a local root-server, allow users to specify which server they wanted to query when typing in, say, Microsoft.com.
As a technical means of content control, going "split root," as they say in the business, is too compelling for governments not to give it a try. But the user experience would likely be much the same as it ever was most of the time. ISPs, as well as most vaguely democratic governments, would have an interest in ensuring broad interoperability, just as no one in Saudi Arabia or China has yet decided that dialing +1-202-456-1414--the White House switchboard number--from those countries should go somewhere else, like Moammar Gadhafi's house. Nothing stops phone companies from doing things like that, except that the market expects a certain consistency in how phone calls are directed, so it is in the interests of the operators to supply what the market expects. The same principle would apply in a split-root world.
Would it be better if countries that want to muck around with the Net just didn't? Sure. But they do want to, and they will, and it would be far better, in the long run, if they did so on their own, without a U.N. agency to corrupt or give them shelter. It's time to drop the apocalyptic rhetoric about a split root file and start looking beyond the age of a U.S.-dominated Internet. Breaking up is hard to do, but in this case, the alternative would be worse.
The NYTimes also has a fascinating article on a sabermetric publication known as the PECOTA. It basically projects the possible trajectories of each player for the upcoming season and assigns probabilities to each.
...Take Johnny Damon, the Red Sox center fielder considered one of this off-season's most attractive free agents. Pecota examines many factors beyond his raw statistical record - the effect of playing in hitter-friendly Fenway Park, Damon's age (32), power and speed, even his height and weight - and compares him with every major leaguer since 1949, identifying the trajectories others have taken and assessing the probability Damon will follow them.
The system forecasts Damon to have about a 25 percent chance of posting an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .829 next season, but also a 40 percent chance of declining to .761. This is because players like Damon have maintained their performance only for about one year before beginning a consistent, decided decline. In other words, buyer beware.
Pecota is less pessimistic toward shortstop Rafael Furcal, who at 28 has a better chance of maintaining his performance level. (Though the system suggests that middle infielders age more quickly than classic sluggers.) A relative sleeper could be found in outfielder Brian Giles, who despite being 35 has the kind of skills - excellent power, speed and a fine batting eye - that tend to age relatively slowly.
Good -- it's been long past time for the White House to fight back against a hostile press.
One of the fathers of current international conservative doctrine, Norman Podhoretz, analyzed the Democrats current falsehoods in Commentary Magazine. His feature article is available at Opinion Journal. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Among the many distortions, misrepresentations and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.
What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.
* * *
. . . the consensus on which Mr. Bush relied was not born in his own administration. In fact, it was first fully formed in the Clinton administration. Here is Bill Clinton himself, speaking in 1998:
If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program.Here is his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, also speaking in 1998:
Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.Here is Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Adviser, who chimed in at the same time with this flat-out assertion about Saddam:
He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.Finally, Mr. Clinton's secretary of defense, William Cohen, was so sure Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that he remained "absolutely convinced" of it even after our failure to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.
There's much more. And the Left has no answer for this for one simple reason: each of their heroes believed that Iraq had WMD before it became expedient to bash the President by advocating the opposite position.
Friday, November 11, 2005
"If men were angels," James Madison famously said, "no government would be necessary." But men are not angels--and so government is necessary. Mr. Madison and his colleagues did not take Utopia as their starting point; rather, they took human beings as we are and human nature as it is. They believed ambition had to be made to counteract ambition.
Scholars of American government have pointed out the Founders were determined to build a system of government that would succeed because of our imperfection, not in spite of them. This was the central insight, and the great governing genius, of America's Founders.
And in all of this the Founders believed the role of the judiciary was vital--but also modest. They envisioned judges as impartial umpires, charged with guarding the sanctity of the Constitution, not legislators.
In Federalist No. 78, Alexander Hamilton described the judiciary as the branch of government that is "least dangerous" to political rights. Because it was to have "no influence over either the sword or the purse," the judiciary was "beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power." As a result, Hamilton told us, "liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone."
In the 1770s we saw, within just a few hundred miles of here, the greatest assemblage of political philosophers since ancient Athens. Yet today the counsel of Madison and Hamilton and the other Founders too often goes unheeded, at least in influential law schools and among too many of our judges. And this failure has led to increasing politicization of the judiciary and increased activism on the part of many of its members.
America's 43rd president believes, as you do, that judges should base their opinions on strictly and faithfully interpreting the text of a document that is reliable and remarkable: the United States Constitution. William Gladstone called it "the greatest work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."
Critics of constitutionalism say it is resistant to social change. But if people want to enact or repeal certain laws, they can do so by persuading their fellow citizens on the merits through legislation and constitutional amendments. This makes eminent good sense--and it allows for enormous adaptability.
This last paragraph is the key counterpoint to those who pine after "a living, breathing Constitution". If the American people see fit to change the Constitution the founders left them a way. The document can be amended as it has been, infrequently, (thankfully) over time. It's a difficult process because the Founders meant it to be. [Wonder why we've been going strong for 230 years and the French are on their fifth republic?] Five unelected judges should not be able to change the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Scott "Scrappleface" Ott hits the high points regarding the Democrats' false arguments:
“We had no pre-war intelligence,” said Sen. John Kerry, “History will show that none of the leading Democrats had substantial intelligence. Anyone who remembers what we did then knows that the president is making a baseless allegation. I think history will bear out my contention that we Democrats lacked the intelligence to make such an important decision.”
The junior Senator from Massachussetts said he continues “to faithfully support the troops who uselessly die for a lie in Iraq.”
“Our troops deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war will remain firm in our conviction that we didn’t know what we were doing at the time,” Sen. Kerry said. “It’s important, on Veteran’s Day, to remember that our Democrat commitment to our military hasn’t changed.”