Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Paulson a nice pickup

President Bush made a nice call selecting Goldman, Sachs chairman and CEO Henry (Hank) Paulson to replace John Snow at Treasury. We've been a solid supporter of the Bush administration and their appointees in general but Paul O'Neill and John Snow were definitely light hitters in the lineup. Captains of industry like O'Neill and Snow who had no markets experience were weak choices in an increasingly markets driven global economy. It's probably a credit to O'Neill/Snow as well as a bit of luck that no great financial upheavals like the emerging markets and Long Term Capital meltdowns of 1997-98 occurred on their watch.

For those of you with a non-financial background, Goldman, Sachs has been and continues to be the bluest of the blue chip U.S. investment banks. To get an entry level analyst job at Goldman typically requires nearly the unanimous consent of a dozen interviewers of various ranks and a career at Goldman is typically a tough slog. That said, for those who produce results there aren't many places that will promote quicker or compensate better than Goldman. Finally, you CANNOT be anything other than outstanding to be in senior management at Goldman. Robert Rubin and Jon Corzine are the customary examples; other recent Goldman alumni include NYSE head John Thain and Stephen Friedman.

Paulson has the free-market bona-fides that are de rigeur for SecTreas and his extracurriculars like Nature Conservancy and Goldman pedigree should make for a breeze in confirmation.

Will the nomination make a huge difference? Not immediately especially since the public seems unwilling to credit Bush for ANYTHING good. But the line-up is much stronger.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Jeffersonian Corruption -- a follow-up

The Monk (who has been neck-deep in trial work for two months) didn't realize that William Jefferson, the Louisiana Congressman at the center of the Congress-Presidency power struggle over whether the Justice Department can search the Congressman's offices, is a Democrat. That makes Hastert's defense of him inconceivably stupid -- does any person with a shred of sanity believe that Nancy Pelosi would similarly stand up for, say, Iowa Republican Steve King? She certainly didn't defend Tom DeLay and he was not caught on tape doing the exact illegal act that formed the basis of the accusation against him!

Here's the inestimable Mark Steyn on why the Republicans in Congress have earned their inescapable moniker of "the stupid party" on this:

. . . the Republican leadership did something incredible this week. When you have one of the most obviously destructive stories for the Democratic Party that's going on, instead of just stepping neatly out of the way, you intervene in the story on behalf of the Democrat, and in an indefensible cause. I mean, basically, Denny Hastert and the Republican leadership have said we object to the Department of Justice investigating this Congressman, because we think Congressman should be beyond investigation, that they're some protected imperial class, that they're the equivalent of the Saudi royal family, or every man his own Kennedy in a Massachusetts speeding case. It is disgusting. This is a republic of citizen legislators, and they should not be above the law.

The Contract With America in 1994 stated that Congress would ensure that the laws of the United States applied equally to members of Congress.

So much for that.

UPDATE AND BUMP: The Monk wanted to note the column in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week by one of The Monk's former professors at U.Va., Robert F. Turner, which Opinion Journal published for free on its site today. Prof. Turner notes that the Pelosi/Hastert argument against the FBI's investigation of Rep. Jefferson's corruption is rooted in the "Speech or Debate" Clause of the Constitution -- which expressly exempts treason and felonies (bribery is one) from its grant of immunity. Here's Prof. Turner's comments and his summary of a Supreme Court decision that covers this situation:

The "Speech or Debate" clause is contained in Article I, Section 6, which provides that members of Congress "shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." The provision was designed to protect legislators from civil law suits and unwarranted harassment by the executive branch, such as charges of defamation stemming from criticisms of the president during congressional debate.

* * *
But as the Supreme Court observed in the 1972 case of U.S. v. Brewster, the clause was never intended to immunize corrupt legislators who violate felony bribery statutes--laws that have expressly applied to members of Congress for more than 150 years. In Brewster, the court noted the clause was not written "to make Members of Congress super-citizens, immune from criminal responsibility," adding: "Taking a bribe is, obviously, no part of the legislative process or function; it is not a legislative act. It is not, by any conceivable interpretation, an act performed as a part of or even incidental to the role of a legislator."

Such behavior is therefore not protected by the Constitution. The purpose of the Speech or Debate Clause was to protect the integrity of the legislative process, and the court noted that bribery, "perhaps even more than Executive power," would "gravely undermine legislative integrity and defeat the right of the public to honest representation."

A dozen years ago, I testified before the House Committee on Administration on this same basic issue. Newt Gingrich and other reformers were trying to bring Congress under the same ethics laws it had imposed upon the rest of the country, and some indignant legislators seemed confident that the laws were not supposed to apply to them. The hearing was held in a small room in a part of the Capitol Building off-limits to the public, with exactly enough chairs for members, staff and the three witnesses.

* * *
Critics of the Gingrich proposal did not hear what they wanted. Some seemed genuinely shocked when I informed them that, in Federalist No. 57, James Madison noted one of the constraints in the Constitution to prevent legislators from enacting "oppressive measures" was that "they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society."

It is increasingly rare to find a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress these days. So a display of the spirit would have been a good thing to see--especially in a time of war--but for the fact that the issue now uniting Republican and Democratic leaders is an outrageous assertion that members of Congress are above the law, and that the Constitution immunizes legislators who betray their public trust in return for bribes from investigation by the executive branch.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ironhead Heyward, RIP

A former star running back at Pitt, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward was the predecessor to Jerome Bettis -- the enormous feature back with power and some speed. Heyward left Pitt after his junior year but never became a star in the NFL, primarily because teams wanted to use an RB his size (5-11, 270+) as a fullback, not a halfback. It took Natrone Means' 1000+ yard season in 1994 for NFL teams to realize that the big SOB who could knock over the opponent and then run past him could be a legitimate #1 running option. That set the stage for Ironhead's best season, his 1995 campaign when he ran for 1083 yards for the run-and-shoot Falcons.

But Heyward isn't known so much for his running prowess as he is (or should be) as a spokesman who transformed the use of a cleaning product. In 1996 or so, Zest soap began marketing its liquid shower soap to men. Its spokesman was a jovial, enormous black man -- in other words, someone whose manhood could not be questioned by the target audience. Ironhead Heyward became the spokesman for Zest shower gel and dismissed all the "manly man" objections to using a "girly" product during his monologue pitches. Heck, he even made it acceptable to use a loofa!

It worked. Zest kept Ironhead as a spokesman until he retired in 1998 and men's shower soaps became a product line that Zest's rivals immediately sought to supply. But Ironhead couldn't reap the full benefits of his efforts: in 1998 he learned he had a brain tumor, which would eventually take away his eyesight. For the next eight years, Ironhead fought recurring brain tumors and the deleterious effects they had upon his nervous system and his body such that Heyward required hospice care. Until today, when he died at age 39.

Ironhead Heyward, RIP.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Judicial idiocy of the week

This is ridiculous: a judge in Nebraska has sentenced a man convicted of two counts of SEXUAL ASSAULT ON A CHILD to four months of an electronic bracelet and 10 years of probation. No jail time.

That's it.

For sexually assaulting a child.


The convict is short.

No, seriously -- the little pervert is 5-foot-1 and the judge wouldn't throw him in the can because she thinks he'll be a target in prison not only because he is a sex offender but because he's a shrimp!

This is ridiculous. If the little perv truly fears a prison population, that should have worked as a deterrent to acting upon his heinous desires. Instead, the judge gives him a BREAK for being a little feller. And in Nebraska -- one of the reddest of the red states!

Message from this tale -- if you're a short man looking for illicit action, you can go to Sidney, Nebraska and not worry about the justice system working properly, at least if you're in Judge Kristine Cecava's court.

Then again, the Nebraska AG will appeal Cecava's moronic decision and hopefully get it flipped -- the defendant was convicted of TWO SEX-OFFENSE FELONIES. He deserves jail time, period.

Our craven allies

Charles Krauthammer rightly rips the Europeans, the Left and our worst secretary of state since Cyrus Vance (two hints: first female in the post, worked for Clinton) for trying to pressure the Bush Administration to have one-on-one talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Considering that the US has no diplomatic relations with Iran, this is a preposterous suggestion at the start. Krauthammer supplies additional logic against the notion:

Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran. Remember: In September 2003, after Iran was discovered cheating on its nuclear program, the U.S. wanted immediate U.N. action. The allies argued for a softer approach. Britain, France and Germany wanted to negotiate with Tehran and offer diplomatic and economic carrots in return for Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. acquiesced.

After two and a half years of utter futility, the EU-3 had to admit failure and acknowledge the obvious: Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear ambitions. Iran made the point irrefutable when it broke IAEA seals and brazenly resumed uranium enrichment.

The full understanding we had with our allies was that if the EU-3 process failed, we would together go to the Security Council and get sanctions imposed on Iran. Yes, Russia and China might still stand in the way. But even so, concerted sanctions by America, Europe and other economic powers could have devastating effects on Iran and on its shaky clerical dictatorship.

. . . The very fact that Iran is desperately trying to change the subject, change the venue and shift the burden onto the U.S. shows how close the mullahs believe we are to achieving major international pressure on them.

Pushing Washington to abandon the multilateral process and enter negotiations alone is more than just rank hypocrisy. It is a pernicious folly. It would short-circuit the process that after years of dithering is about to yield its first fruits -- sanctions that Tehran fears. It would undo the allied consensus, produce endless new delays and give Iran more time to reach the point of no return, after which its nuclear status would be a fait accompli.

* * *
It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.

But there's a caveat, and Krauthammer offers a smart alternative:

If the allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral U.S.-Iran talks fail, then we might achieve something.

* * *
That's our condition. Otherwise, the entire suggestion of bilateral talks is a ploy that should be rejected with the same contempt with which it was proposed.

Short encomium for the Yanks

Considering that from now until October, I'll be highly critical time and again of the Yanks, I must offer praise when it's warranted. And right now, it is.

The RedSawx had a chance to slap the Yanks around this week -- the Yanks were in Bawstin for a three-game series without Chacon (DL) or Mooooooooooose (rotation set-up) pitching and lost the first game of the series with their best available starter getting swatted around (Wang). But the Yanks won the next two despite having a shaky 'pen (Tuesday) and a shaky Unit (Wednesday). How? Surprising effectiveness of Jaret Wright, who gutted out 5 shutout innings despite a first-inning injury on Tuesday, and actually hitting Tim Wakefield hard (6 ER).

On Wednesday, the Yanks played without Johnny Damon (who's been playing hurt the whole month) and scored 8 thanks to Melky Cabrera (4 RBI) of all people. Kudos to Kyle Farnsworth for the game-saving whiff of Fat Papi Wednesday on a night that Torre would not use Rivera to bail out his set-up men (Mo went 1.2 innings for the save on Tuesday).

The Yanks are aching: Pavano is out for the year following elbow surgery after looking sharp in rehab before the bone spur caught up with him; Matsui is out for 3+ months, Posada is injured, Chacon is on the DL, Sheff missed about a dozen, Damon is banged up with a broken toe, etc. So the Yanks need to tread water for awhile.

Here's hoping they do not follow past stupid patterns and end up trading Philip Hughes, the crown jewel of their farm system. The Yanks successfully resisted trading Wang in the past, and his sinker kills opposing hitters. No coughing up the future stud for a fill-in/has-been-to-be, please (see: Smoltz, John for Alexander, Doyle; Bagwell, Jeff for Andersen, Larry; Kasmir, Scott for Zambrano, Victor; Buhner, Jay for Phelps, Ken).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Arrant Stupidity in the House

The bribery case of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) simply beggars belief. Not so much that a member of Congress was found to be on the take. But rather the reactions of the House Leadership when the FBI raided the House offices of Rep. Jefferson after failing to secure his cooperation even after getting a videotape of him accepting a $100,000 bribe AND finding a great percentage of that money packed away in his freezer. Instead of taking a stand against corruption and disavowing the institution if indeed Jefferson is guilty, Speaker of the House Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who can't agree on the number of stars on Old Glory have banded together to declaim that:

"The Justice Department was wrong to seize records from Congressman Jefferson's office in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers, the speech or debate clause of the Constitution, and the practice of the last 219 years,"


This National Review editorial is right on point:

...The investigation of Jefferson has been going on for over a year. Two people (one a former Jefferson aide) have already pled guilty to bribing him. Meanwhile, one of Jefferson’s staffers told the FBI that his boss had been maintaining documentary evidence relevant to the corruption investigation in his congressional office. As the Justice department explained to the judge when requesting permission to search the office, prosecutors tried to obtain the evidence by other legal avenues—including by grand-jury subpoena—but were frustrated by Jefferson’s obstinacy.

So the choice was either to seek judicial permission to search the office, or to let Jefferson, a public servant, get away with using the public’s office space to obstruct the public’s investigation of his violation of the public’s trust. The investigators decided to seek the warrant, just as they should have. A federal district judge authorized the search, just as he should have, following well-settled law that required him to find: a) that there was probable cause of a crime, b) that there was probable cause to believe the evidence was located in the office, and c) that the warrant set forth a particularized description of what could be seized, so that the search would focus on the alleged crime and not become a fishing expedition.

In requesting the warrant, the Justice department appears to have exhibited extraordinary respect for Congress as a coequal branch of government. [emphasis added] It designed elaborate procedures to ensure a narrowly targeted search. The agents and prosecutors responsible for the investigation were not allowed to participate. The search was instead conducted by independent teams, uninvolved in the corruption investigation, who carefully reviewed all seized items to make sure that materials having nothing to do with the alleged crimes were either left alone or quickly returned to the House of Representatives.

There should have been little for leaders of Congress to do but applaud. Instead, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader John Boehner led a chorus of disgruntled legislators in crying foul, closing ranks around an apparent felon, and raving incoherently about a supposed separation-of-powers violation.

This incredibly tin-eared performance was based on an extravagant construction of the Constitution’s speech-and-debate clause (Article I, Section 6). Congress evidently reads this clause as giving its office space blanket immunity from any investigation by the executive branch—even with court authorization—in connection with any crime, no matter how heinous.

But the Constitution says no such thing. While it does provide protection for legislators and the legislative process, it expressly contemplates that members of Congress may be arrested and prosecuted for felonies (as well as for treason and any “Breach of the Peace”). And though it grants Congress an important evidentiary privilege, the resulting immunity is limited: Legal proceedings against members, including criminal prosecutions, may not be premised on “any Speech or Debate in either House.” The federal courts have long interpreted this protection as transcending commentary on the floor. It covers the entire “sphere of legislative activity,” including such matters as committee reports, resolutions, the act of voting, and all things done by a member of Congress in relation to legislative business. It does not, however, cover non-legislative activities, such as taking bribes. [emphasis added]
Further, it is a protection from the use of speech-and-debate information against members; it is not immunity from being investigated in the first place. The executive branch should not intentionally set out to obtain privileged materials, which is obviously why the Justice department designed such an extensive prophylaxis for the Jefferson search. But if it does obtain them, the privilege means the materials cannot be used against a member, not that the entire investigation is tainted or that properly seized evidence of crimes must also be suppressed.
Congress had a chance to come out swinging against corruption—to demonstrate, amid a slew of tawdry scandals, its recognition that public officials are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. The Republican leadership in particular should have seen an opportunity to redirect attention from its caucus’s lapses to a Democrat’s crude criminality. They chose, instead, to rally around an apparent swindler. We can think of 100,000 reasons why this will be remembered as an unparalleled blunder.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Scare of the Century

The cover story of the latest issue of the National Review calls global warming the scare of the century.

Jason Lee Steorts takes Time magazine to task for declaiming that:

“In the past five years or so, the serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming, even most skeptics have concluded, is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it.”

By whom is more like it but Time doesn't mention this. The National Revie article is subscriber-only so here are some key points:

- It's land ice, stupid.

The world has two major ice sheets, one covering most of Greenland and the other covering most of Antarctica. While melting sea ice has captured its share of attention, it’s the land sheets that matter. Sea ice is already in the water, so its melting doesn’t raise ocean levels. But if land ice melts, the sea gets higher. Time wants you to be very worried about this: “By some estimates, the entire Greenland ice sheet would be enough to raise global sea levels 23 ft., swallowing up large parts of coastal Florida and most of Bangladesh. The Antarctic holds enough ice to raise sea levels more than 215 ft.”
About Antarctica, University of Virginia climate scientist Patrick J. Michaels is direct: “What has happened is that Antarctica has been gaining ice.” He explains that there has been a cooling trend over most of Antarctica for decades. At the same time, one tiny portion of the continent — the Antarctic Peninsula — has been warming, and its ice has been melting. The peninsula constitutes only about 2 percent of Antarctica’s total area, but almost every study of melting Antarctic ice you’ve heard of focuses on it.
In 2002, Nature published a study by Peter Doran that looked at Antarctic temperature trends from 1966 to 2000. What it found was that about two-thirds of Antarctica got colder over that period. At the same time, Antarctica has gotten snowier, and as the snow has accumulated the ice sheet has grown. Snowfall is probably rising because water temperatures around Antarctica have gotten slightly — repeat, slightly — warmer. As a result, there is more surface evaporation, making for higher humidity and more precipitation. Higher humidity also means more clouds, which might explain the cooler weather.
And Greenland? Various studies show that warmer temperatures are causing the ice sheet there to lose mass at the margins. But, as in Antarctica, higher sea temperatures are also causing greater snowfall and building up ice in the interior. As Richard Lindzen of MIT observes, “If you’re just going to look at what’s falling off the sides and ignore what’s collecting on top, that’s not exactly kosher.”

- Part of a cycle?

What we know is that the global average temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius or less since the late 1800s. We also know that industrial activity has raised atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations, and that this increase should make things warmer. But there is wide disagreement about the extent to which carbon-dioxide emissions are responsible for the warming we’ve seen so far, and how much warming they will cause in the future.

Fred Singer of George Mason University points out that “we have historic [temperature] records in Europe going back a thousand years. It was much warmer then than today. The Arctic was much warmer a thousand years ago than it is today. Polar bears survived. The ice caps survived.” And data from ice cores suggest that previous interglacial periods were warmer than the one we’re going through now.

- Research bias?

Richard Lindzen of MIT thinks that, while most scientists were originally agnostic on the question whether human activity was causing global warming, “environmentalists and the media would exaggerate.” That eventually built up a public concern, and politicians responded by throwing research dollars at scientists. If global warming turned out not to be a problem, those dollars would go away. Better to keep us worried: “You’ve developed a scientific community that will do whatever it needs to do to make sure the answer isn’t obtained. Why should taxpayers pay for people not to find an answer?”

- Kyoto is a p*ss in the wind

Of course, even if man-made global warming is the primary cause of the mild temperature and sea-level rises being observed, this doesn’t settle the question of what to do about it. The environmental lobby’s answer is: Ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Time isn’t even subtle about it, calling George W. Bush’s environmental record “dismal” and specifically citing his abandonment of Kyoto. But he abandoned it for good reason. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the treaty would cost the American economy $300 billion to $400 billion a year. Any decision about whether to pay such a price should be based on cost-benefit analysis. What, then, is the benefit?

In a word, nothing. Kyoto wouldn’t stop whatever warming is caused by greenhouse-gas emissions; it would just slow it. And it would barely do that. Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research calculated that the full global implementation of Kyoto would prevent 0.07 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2050, an outcome that is all but undetectable. To put a dent in CO2 levels, you’d need much greater emissions reductions than Kyoto calls for. Jerry Mahlman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, for example, has called Kyoto a “first step” and said that “30 Kyotos might do the job.”

Fire Isiah

The rumor mill is afire with reports that the Knicks will fire Larry Brown. After one years ith $40 million left on his contract? The Lip has it just right here.

But if Dolan truly believes Isiah Thomas is the answer to the Knicks' problems, he should show some guts now and fire Brown and end this. It would make him look a lot more like the rough and tough and dynamic young Steinbrenner he wants to be instead of what he is, a rich man's son with a third-rate basketball team, a third-rate network.

You can't fire Dolan but Isiah's moves have taken this team to its oorse possible destination.

Irrelevance. No one cares.

Who is this guy?

It actually was Kevin Reese. Our beloved Yankees are in a bit of disrepair when Kevin Reese (no offense intended, really) is playing in the Yankees-Mets interleague games.

Some thoughts - with which the Monk will certainly disgree...

- Injuries: Matsui done for the season hurts. Sheff and Posada are twingy...worrisome. Pavano hurt in a rehab start and might be a no-show again. Sturtze basically done for the year. This isn't a deep team and the Yanks are short a bit of punch. Bubba Crosby out with a bad hamstring. Chacon now on 15 day.

- No Mo. This is a familiar refrain. I worry about Mo because well he can't be like Billy Wagner was on Friday - three up, three down lights out. Good I didn't write this Saturday morning though and Yanks rocked BWag in the second game. The Monk usually trashes me for trashing Mo. And he's usually right. But we are well into the season and Mo's ERA (3.05) is high (for him) and so is his WHIP (1.38). The cutter just doesn't seem to be as sharp anymore.

- Clueless Joe? Why is Torre exposing Mo like he did on Friday in a tie away game? Willie Randolph did the same thing to BWags Saturday. It's time to slowly bring Farnsworth along I think...

On the bright side though the boys are doing relatively well with Moose having a great start, Scott Proctor, Villone and Myers have been effective and the rest of the staff improving. Thank goodness for Miguel Cairo and Bernie. Think the strategy at the moment is to muddle along and wait for some folks to get healthy and NOT make any rash decisions.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Evils of Nationalization

Those of you in the financial markets will probably have heard of Dennis Gartman. The writer of a daily, eponymous financial newsletter, Dennis is a sharp analyst and a trenchant commenter on politics and economics. He had a nice blurb today (that I hope he won't mind me reproducing) on the bad habit of nationalisation.

The Fruits of Nationalisation

In light of the recent decisions by Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador to nationalise their oil industries and to move rather violently left-ward at the same time, we note the following comment sent to us by [an old friend] regarding Zimbabwe, inflation and the price of bread.

National Public Radio just did a story about Zimbabwe's inflation which is running at 1000% per year. Currently you need about Z$120,000 to buy a loaf of bread. By the way the largest bill is Z$1,000 which is worth about USD$0.01. Walking around money is getting tough to carry.

Robert Mugable nationalised (stole) the white run farms and gave the land to the "people". Unfortunately, the white farmers ran very large and very efficient operations. The new farmers aren't do so well and not only aren't producing enough food, they are losing money. Zimbabweans are on the verge of starvation and the government needs to help them out. In order to keep the new farmers farming the government has been subsidising them with cash. To give them cash the government has been...TA DA...printing cash. Golly Gee, inflation. And this is an extremely serious variety, with prices doubling every six weeks...

We have written in the past of the evil that Robert Mugable has wrought upon the once wonderfully prosperous nation of Zimbabwe. This, however, makes it clear what he's done, and what nationalisation does to a nation. As has gone Zimbabwe, so too shall go Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador sooner rather than later. It is but a matter of time, and if it were not so sad it would be comical.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dutch Disgrace

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch MP, collaborator with Theo van Gogh and critic of Islam, was notified yesterday by the Minister of Immigration that she could be stripped of her citizenship and be deported because she lied about her name and age on her asylum application 14 years ago.

Note that this has been widely known since 2002.

It boggles the mind as to why the Minister of Immigration decided to push this NOW.

The government, to their credit, is a bit horrified at this farce. They should be. This would be a indelible stain on Holland, like, well the inaction of their peacekeepers in Srebrenica and Rwanda.

Christopher Hitchens has a good piece on Ali here.

Scuttlebutt has it that Ali, who was recently thrown out of her house due to neighbors' security concerns(!) is headed for the American Enterprise Institute.

If so, a hearty welcome to the USA.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Catholics and Commies

Strange bedfellows you would think?

Simon Elegant of Time Magazine doesn't think so. In a column about the conflict between Chicomms and the Catholic Church over the former's unauthorized appointment of two bishops, Elegant started with this:

It's not surprising, given their common penchant for intrigue and suspicion, that the rulers of China and the Roman Catholic Church have had a hard time getting along.


I am no Catholic and while the Roman Church has had a checkered history (e.g., Inquisition) I think its safe to say that the Church at its darkest moments could not compare to the butchers of Beijing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The CIA is revolting

Stephen Hayes says Pres. Bush fought the CIA by appointing Porter Goss as its director in 2004 -- and the CIA won. Click the link for Hayes' analysis of the Goss forced-resignation. Here are some notable quotes from the article:

ELEMENTS OF THE CIA have been in near-open revolt against the Bush administration since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, despite the fact that Bush retained CIA director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic Hill staffer.

* * *
Examples of political meddling at the CIAare plentiful. Here are a few:
* * *

* On July 15, 2004, an anonymous CIA official published a blistering attack on the Bush administration and, to a lesser extent, the CIA. The text had been through the CIA's pre-publication review and the author--subsequently identified as Michael Scheuer, the longtime head of the CIA's bin Laden unit--was granted permission to talk to the media. But when Scheuer used these interviews to criticize the CIA as well as the administration, the Agency quickly shut him up. "As long as the book was being used to bash the president," he later told Dana Priest of the Washington Post, "they gave me carte blanche to talk to the media."

* On September 16, 2004, the New York Times had a story about a leaked classified CIA analysis of Iraq. "A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday. The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms." Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry immediately used the report to question Bush administration claims that elections could be held in January 2005 and to accuse the Bush administration of living in a "fantasy world of spin."

* In a column published September 27, 2004, Robert Novak reported that a senior CIA official had briefed a group of business executives in northern California with the approval of his "management team" at the Agency. The official, Paul Pillar, harshly criticized the Bush administration and the Iraq war. His attack, which came less than two months before the 2004 presidential election, was not off the record. Although the ground rules stipulated that the official was to remain anonymous, the substance of his remarks could be reported.

If there were any doubt that these leaks--and many others--were designed to undermine President Bush's reelection effort, those doubts were put to rest a short time later. "The fact that the agency was leaking isn't denied by some," according to a November 2005 account in the American Prospect. W. Patrick Lang, former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency's Middle East division, spoke openly about the effort in an interview with the magazine. "Of course they were leaking. They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They'd say things like, 'This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won't reelect this man.'"

Our own CIA is more disloyal to the President than the infamously Islamist Pakistani Intelligence Service is to Pervez Musharraf. What a disgrace

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Putting together the terrorist jigsaw puzzle

Mark Steyn again strikes the right chord between ridiculing the press and smacking it in the head with reality. This excerpt speaks for itself:

. . . there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

The Monk found this revelation a bit more striking than the NSA-knows-who-I-called story in USA Today last week, also from Steyn's column:

[This] story comes from the United Kingdom . . . It was the official report into the July 7 bus and Tube bombings. As The Times of London summarized the conclusions:

"Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the bomb cell, had come to the attention of MI5 [Britain's domestic intelligence agency] on five occasions but had never been pursued as a serious suspect . . .

"A lack of communication between police Special Branch units, MI5 and other agencies had hampered the intelligence-gathering operation;

"There was a lack of co-operation with foreign intelligence services and inadequate intelligence coverage in . . ."

Sound familiar? That was the same situation we had in the US when, thanks to Jamie Gorelick's wall our intelligence agencies could not coordinate nor share information with law enforcement. In other words, they could not connect the dots.

More Steyn:

It's certainly hard to imagine Pat Leahy [who inveighed against the NSA's info-gathering] as FDR or Harry Truman or any other warmongering Democrat of yore. To be sure, most of Pat's Vermont voters would say there is no war; it's just a lot of fearmongering got up by Bush and Cheney to distract from the chads they stole in Florida or whatever. And they're right -- if, by "war," you mean tank battles in the North African desert and air forces bombing English cities night after night. But today no country in the world can fight that kind of war with America. If that's all "war" is, then (once more by definition) there can be no war. If you seek to weaken, demoralize and bleed to death the United States and its allies, you can only do it asymmetrically -- by killing thousands of people and then demanding a criminal trial, by liaising with terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then demanding the government cease inspecting your phone records.

I yield to no one in my antipathy to government, but not everyone who's on the federal payroll is a boob, a time-server, a politically motivated malcontent or principal leak supplier to the New York Times. Suppose you're a savvy mid-level guy in Washington, you've just noticed a pattern, you think there might be something in it. But it requires enormous will to talk your bosses into agreeing to investigate further, and everyone up the chain is thinking, gee, if this gets out, will Pat Leahy haul me before the Senate and kill my promotion prospects? There was a lot of that before 9/11, and thousands died.

Happy Mothers' Day

To my momma, MaMonk.

I love you Mom.

Friday, May 12, 2006


- to the Monk for the post.

- to our readers for their warm wishes.

- to my wife for another beautiful child.

Draw the Line Here and Now

The President's speech on Monday on immigration is an opportunity to take back the initiative on this subject and potentially reverse what appears to be policy drift over the past several months. By the grace of G*d perhaps Josh Bolten and Karl Rove have gotten their act together and crafted a smart, initially unpopular but ultimately workable policy on immigration.

There isn't a clear 'good' choice here which is why the Bush administration I think has dithered so long. Any policy that appeals to the conservative base has the likelihood of alienating Hispanics and compromising the cultivation of the Hispanic vote that the Republicans have done in recent years. A sensible immigration policy does not have to be racist but the demagogues on the Left know they can effectively pimp race once again.

So what can Bush do? I recommend the following:

- The Mexican/US border is CLOSED to ILLEGAL immigration effective IMMEDIATELY. This will be enforced by the National Guard. The construction of a security fence commences immediately. Immediately might sound draconian but it's necessary to prevent thousands or more of taking advantage of any free option if a date in the future is given.

- Current illegal immigrants will have a specific window (2-3 months) to declare themselves and their families. Those who are not guilty of any serious crimes (felonies) GET TO STAY. Those who are GET DEPORTED. Those found later who have not declared themselves within the alloted time frame GET DEPORTED.

The Left will be outraged, outraged, outraged. The Right won't be happy with the "amnesty". This will be more fodder for scum like Castro and Chavez.

But it will work. And we take a big step towards being a nation of laws once again.

Yanks season snapped apart?

Does Joe Torre have another minor miracle in his trick bag? After winning the division in 2005 with starting pitchers from the minors (Wang, Small) and a Colorado washout who renewed his life in NYC (Chacon), the Yanks lost part of their soul yesterday when Hideki Matsui broke his wrist attempting a sliding catch of a looper hit by Mark Loretta (the newest Yankee-killer). Matsui is a no-complaint player who lives up to the professionalism standard that was the hallmark of the 1996-2000 Yanks. He is one of the most productive hitters in baseball and a man who could be counted on to come up with hits in clutch situations -- one of the few Yanks with that knack.

Now Godzilla is on the shelf for 3+ months and may be out until 2007. And Torre will have to pull another minor miracle out of his ear for the Yanks to win again.

Lost purpose in the CIA

Daniel Henninger elucidates the dividing line between the CIA now and the CIA before the fall of the Berlin Wall -- lacking a raison d'etre. Large bureaucracies need a defining mission. During the Cold War, that was easy to identify and define: thwart, undermine and defeat the USSR and its intentions. Since the Cold War, the CIA has lost its way, whereas the Defense Intelligence Agency is stepping into the breach to some degree:

From 1950 to 1991, America's enemy took the form of a country with hundreds of ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads aimed at the U.S. mainland, and a global espionage force called the KGB with a single address, Moscow. This was the Cold War, and in those days the U.S. intelligence community had a common worldview. That ideology was laid out in the now-famous National Security Council document 68, delivered in April 1950 to President Harry Truman. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb the previous August.

NSC-68's first page--"Background of the Current Crisis"--describes a Soviet Union that is "animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world." NSC-68's chapter headings were not about mere policy but the basics, describing "The Fundamental Purpose of the United States" and "The Underlying Conflict in the Realm of Ideas and Values Between the U.S. Purpose and the Kremlin Design."

Who could disagree? Well, many did--ceaselessly outside the government, mostly in academic centers and policy journals. It was a lively, titanic debate. But not inside the government, or at least nothing that compares to what has been leaking out about the war on terror. The most serious bureaucratic disputes within the government's Cold War intelligence agencies involved disagreements over arms-reduction proposals in the SALT talks and the like. But there was no serious disagreement with the ideology or threat described in NSC-68.

Even the leakers and turncoats were rarely antiAmerican, instead they usually were motivated by greed. The US defectors to the USSR were never of the importance of Kim Philby or Donald Burgess. Today's disagreements are geared to publicly undermine the government's stated policy, as Henninger notes:

Today we have neither institutional discipline nor a shared ideology. The foundational U.S. document in the war on terror is the June 2002 Bush Doctrine, a response to September 11. But here the threat itself is debated endlessly. Islamic terror has no address. Obviously swaths of the national security bureaucracy--the Pillars, Wilsons and McCarthys--not only don't buy into the Bush Doctrine but feel obliged to take their disagreements with it outside the government. Since Vietnam, a war as in Iraq is no longer a national commitment but a policy matter.

As a result, the security bureaucracies have become a confused tangle of oppositional ideas over the war in Iraq, discrete policies such as the warrantless wiretaps, and the nature of the threat from Islamic terror. Out of this confusion of policy and purpose have fallen leaks as sensitive as the al Qaeda secret prisons and as oh-golly-gee as yesterday's "leak" about the government analyzing billions of phone-call patterns to pick up terrorist activity.

. . . [But] using a privileged, confidential position inside an intelligence agency to blow up a U.S. government's war policy isn't "dissent." It's something else.

The Chihuahua in this fight

There's no real question why the Mexican consulate in California has funded immigrants fighting US immigration restrictions, why the Mexican foreign ministry published pamphlets instructing Mexicans how to cross the US border, and why Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox is a staunch opponent of any measure the US takes to limit illegal immigration from the south. Victor Hanson explains:

Exporting its own poor turns out to be about the cash equivalent each day of selling on the open market about half a million barrels of $70 a barrel oil. The muscles of Mexico's former residents can prove just as deleterious as oil derricks to the long-term health of the country's economy.

Millions of unemployed Mexicans are now dependent upon money wired from the United States, where low-skill wages are now nine times higher than in Mexico. On the national level, such subsidies, like oil windfall profits, allow just enough money to hide the government's failure to promote the proper economic conditions - through the protection of property rights, tax reform, transparent investment laws, modern infrastructure, etc. - that would eventually lead to decent housing and well-paying jobs.

It may be counterintuitive to think that checks from hard-working expatriates are pernicious. But for a developing nation, remittances can prove as problematic as the proverbial plight of the lottery winner - sudden winnings that were not earned. In short, remittances, along with oil and tourism - not agriculture, engineering, education, manufacturing or finance - prop up an otherwise ailing Mexican economy. This helps explain why half of the country's 106 million citizens still live in poverty.

* * *
It might be cruel should remittances somehow come to an end. But it may be even crueler in the long run not to deal with a broken system that facilitates such massive transfers - both for millions here in dire need of retaining all their earnings, and millions more in Mexico in more dire need of vast structural reform.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Stunk in the Bronx

Considering Randy Johnson's recent struggles, the Yanks need to take a sharp look at their pitching brain trust. Ron Guidry is in his first year as pitching coach so he needs whatever help he can get but his knowledge of how to pitch should suffice to help Johnson, especially considering that Guidry threw the same two pitches Johnson has lived off -- fastball, slider. That is a major project for the year that should not be. Guidry needs input from Yankee bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan -- a poor manager whilst with the RedSawx, but a fine pitching coach with them before his managerial stint (just look at the stiffs the Sawx used other than Pedro in '98 and '99 while winning 91 and 94 games in those years).

More important, and absolutely deadly from the Yanks' view, is the players they failed to improve during the Stottlemyre years. From Ted Lilly the Redsawx killer who is off to a hot start and who picked up 2-3 mph on his heater after leaving the Yanks when the A's adjusted his form, to Jose Contreras the WhiteSawx game 1 ALDS and ALCS starter who is sporting an ERA sub 1.50, to Javy Vazquez who lost his command in NYC but is suddenly sharp in Chicago, the Yanks have a long list of notable failures. The latter two may face the Yanks in the playoffs, if the Yanks get there.

Even the Mooooooooooooooooooose's resurgence to date is unrelated to the Yankee pitching brain trust -- as Joel Sherman noted in yesterday's NY Post, Moooooooooooooose only learned he was tipping his changeup when Jorge Posada told him after bashing some Moooooooooooooose changes in an intrasquad game this Spring.

The Gospel of chicanery

In one of his new gigs, Mark Steyn is writing book reviews for Macleans, the Canadian newsmagazine that is the equivalent of Time or Newsweek. The book reviews are not necessarily literary deconstructions of the various works; instead they discuss the larger cultural and political significance of the subject book. Today, Steyn takes on The Gospel of Judas and The Da Vinci Code. Excerpts:

It's a good rule in this line of work to respect a hit. But golly, The Da Vinci Code makes it hard. At the start of the book, Dan Brown pledges, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." It's everything else that's hokum, beginning with the title, whose false tinkle testifies to Brown's penchant for weirdly inauthentic historicity. Referring to "Leonardo da Vinci" as "da Vinci" is like listing Lawrence of Arabia in the phone book as "Of Arabia, Mr. L" . . .

* * *
. . . Even in a largely post-Christian West, Jesus is still a hit brand but, like other long-running franchises, he's been reinvented. It's like one of those bizarro Superman/alternate universe specials the comic books like to do. Or maybe one of those sputtering soaps that take refuge in ever more bizarre storylines -- that season of Dallas where they wrote off the previous year's worth of shows as a bad dream of Pam Ewing's.

The latest Bizarro Christ bestseller is the so-called Gospel of Judas, lost for 1,600 years but apparently rediscovered 20 minutes ago, edited by various scholars and now published by the National Geographic Society in Washington. Evidently, National Geographic has fallen on hard times since the days when anthropological studies of remote tribes were a young man's only readily available source of pictures of naked women. So I hope this new wrinkle works out for them. Renowned betrayer Judas Iscariot, you'll recall, was the disciple who sold out Jesus. Only it turns out he didn't! He was in on the plot! The betrayal was all part of the plan! For, as the Gospel of Judas exclusively reveals, Christ came to him and said, "Rudolph, with your nose so bright . . ." No, wait, that's a later codex. Christ said to Judas that he "will exceed all" the other disciples because it had fallen to him to "sacrifice the man that clothes me."

* * *
. . . [The Gospel of Judas is] a fourth-century Coptic text by some guy, but it's believed to be pretty close to the original second-century Greek text. Okay, Judas wasn't around in the second century, but the fellows who wrote his "Gospel" likely got it from a friend of a friend of a friend of his. As Dr. Simon Gathercole of the University of Aberdeen told my old pal Dalya Alberge in the London Times, the alleged Gospel of Judas "contains a number of religious themes which are completely alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which did become popular later, in the second century AD. An analogy would be finding a speech claiming to be written by Queen Victoria, in which she talked about The Lord Of The Rings and her CD collection."

Read it all, it's paradigm Steyn.

What part of "unreasonable" don't you understand?

The press in general has no better clue about Constitutional Law than most average Americans. The Bill of Rights is not only divided into 10 Amendments, but also subdivided into Clauses that ensure specific rights, have separate effects and different standards. For example, the First Amendment has no less than six Clauses: Free Speech Clause, Free Press Clause, Free Exercise [of religion] Clause, [no] Establishment [of religion] Clause, the Peaceable Assembly Clause, and Freedom to Petition Clause. Each Clause guarantees a different right and has a different meaning and a different standard for enforcement than the others under the Constitution as interpreted by Supreme Court case-law. The Clauses are read separately unless circumstances bring them into conflict (i.e., pick a school prayer case decided by the Supreme Court -- the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause wind up at odds).

The Fifth Amendment has the Grand Jury Clause, Double Jeopardy Clause, Self-Incrimination Clause, Due Process Clause, the Takings Clause, and the Just Compensation Clause. Understand? The ten Bill of Rights Amendments (especially the primary substantive ones: First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth) collectively contain more than just 10 rights or one for each Amendment.

Adam White understands this. He is a former clerk for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which is commonly (and erroneously) referred to as the nation's second-highest court, and in NRO (link in title) he details why CIA-Director nominee General Hayden interprets the Fourth Amendment a lot better than the average American and journalist:

As the Fourth Amendment provides (emphasis added),
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
On its face, the amendment only provides for protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, while it later provides that no warrant shall issue without “probable cause.” Landay and Hayden’s critics mistakenly apply the “probable cause” requirement to the “searches and seizures” provision. That reading is erroneous on its face; to apply the amendment’s warrant requirements to the searches and seizures clause would also require that searches be supported “by oath or affirmation,” with the objects of the search described in advance. Hayden’s reading—that searches must only be “reasonable”—is the better reading.

Hayden’s critics’ mistaken reading of the Fourth Amendment is not even supported by the Supreme Court’s decisions . . . the Court has explicitly warned that the two terms are not equivalent in all circumstances. In the Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton (1995), for example, the Court roundly rejected Hayden’s critics’ reading of the amendment (emphasis in original):
Warrants cannot be issued, of course, without the showing of probable cause required by the Warrant Clause. But a warrant is not required to establish the reasonableness of all government searches; and when a warrant is not required (and the Warrant Clause therefore not applicable), probable cause is not invariably required either. A search unsupported by probable cause can be constitutional, we have said, “when special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable.”

Read the whole piece.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

1000 for Torre

Congratulations to Joe Torre the best Yankees' manager by far in the free agent era. Today Torre won his 1,000th game as the manager of baseball's greatest franchise. For the man the NY Post called "Clueless Joe" upon his signing in the 1995-96 offseason, and whom the less knowledgeable (notably including me) have routinely criticized, there is no question that Torre is one of the best managers in Yankees history and is one of the main reasons that players who are not Yankees want to play for the Yankees. Contrast that with the team's disastrous 1980s when free agents avoided the team like plague.

So kudos to the Yankee skipper, the fourth to win 1000 with the team (Stengel, McCarthy, Huggins -- nice company), and whose team won three games in a hitters' ballpark this weekend with quality starts from each of its starters. Just the way Torre likes it.

World Premiere: Wongdoer offspring 3.0

Congratulations to Wongdoer and especially Wongdoerette (it's not like Wongdoer was a gestation vessel for nine months -- he had the easy job)!

May 6, 2006 is the birthday of their second daughter and third critter total, 6 lbs., 4 oz. and momma and babygirl are doing well. After Princess and Whingy, this is the third Wongdoer contribution to the propagation of the species. And the baby is just what Wongdoer needs -- another justification to become a shotgun owning member of the VRWC; after all, it's only 10 years or so until Princess starts dating . . .

Friday, May 05, 2006

Joe going clueless again?

The Monk is disgusted. Yes, it's temporary, but it will linger and watch for more on this theme in the future.

Tonight, the Yanks had an 8-1 lead in Texas heading into the bottom of the 8th with Mooooooooose on the mound and only 85 pitches on his arm. His 86th pitch turned into a leadoff single in the bottom of eighth. Torre pulled him, inserted Aaron Small, who is still on a spring training level of progress back from injury, and watched the following: Small imploded; Farnsworth wandered in and out of more trouble, then Torrre had to use Mo for a four-out save starting with the bases loaded -- and Mo allowed ALL THREE inherited runners to score. Then Mo stuttered around the 9th before closing out an 8-7 win.

This is Torre at his worst: overprotecting the starters and exposing Rivera. After last year's ALCS, when the White Sawx used all of five pitchers and racked up four complete games, the trend of using starters who are not used up (only 86 pitches for a vet like Mooooooooooose!) should be on the upswing. Not in NYC, where Torre again hooks a starter too early and instead exposes Rivera. Yes, The Monk is still haunted by game 5 of the '04 ALCS (see here for more); nonetheless, Moooooooose had owned the Rangers all night and Rivera had to toss more than 20 pitches to get the Rangers out. And another thing: when Mo comes in to face a lefty, everyone knows he's throwing inside cutter first; when he's facing a lefty who hits him well like Hank Blalock, Posada should call SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR ONCE. Tonight -- first pitch to Blalock with bases loaded = banged through the right side for a two-run single.

Bad move all around.

Appeasing like it's 1938.

As Britain's foreign minister Jack Straw utters ridiculous statements about how Iran should never be attacked based on its nuclear ambitions, China and Russia restock Iranian generators and supply it with advanced technology, and the more noteworthy nutcase states in the Muslim world (Sudan) cheer on Ayatollahstan, the world faces potentially the gravest threat since Hitler's Germany. Yes, a nuclear Iran is more of a threat to innocent people throughout the world than the USSR because Iran feels no constraints on its actions -- it is a "revolutionary" state that perceives its role as spreading radical Islam to an unbelieving world. The best formulation of Iran with nukes is Mark Steyn's observation in his fantastic essay about the danger from Iran that "Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist."

And the West not only fails to understand this reality, it turns a blind eye to it all. This is merely an ongoing pattern as Steyn notes:

If we'd understood Iran back in 1979, we'd understand better the challenges we face today . . . But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia--and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively . . . The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say "Islamic Republic," they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.

Twenty-seven years ago, because Islam didn't fit into the old cold war template, analysts mostly discounted it. We looked at the map like that Broadway marquee: West and East, the old double act. As with most of the down-page turf, Iran's significance lay in which half of the act she'd sign on with. To the Left, the shah was a high-profile example of an unsavory U.S. client propped up on traditional he-may-be-a-sonofabitch-but-he's-our-sonofabitch grounds . . . To the realpolitik Right, the issue was Soviet containment: the shah may be our sonofabitch, but he'd outlived his usefulness, and a weak Iran could prove too tempting an invitation to Moscow to fulfill the oldest of czarist dreams--a warm-water port, not to mention control of the Straits of Hormuz. Very few of us considered the strategic implications of an Islamist victory on its own terms--the notion that Iran was checking the neither-of-the-above box and that that box would prove a far greater threat to the Freeish World than Communism.

But that was always Iran's plan. In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact disintegrating before his eyes, poor beleaguered Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block: "I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan," Ayatollah Khomeini wrote to Moscow. "I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system."

Today many people in the West don't take that any more seriously than Gorbachev did. But it's pretty much come to pass. As Communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay who'd have been "Marxist fantasists" a generation or two back are now Islamists: it's the ideology du jour. At the point of expiry of the Soviet Union in 1991, the peoples of the central Asian republics were for the most part unaware that Iran had even had an "Islamic revolution"; 15 years on, following the proselytizing of thousands of mullahs dispatched to the region by a specially created Iranian government agency, the Stans' traditionally moderate and in many cases alcoholically lubricated form of Islam is yielding in all but the most remote areas to a fiercer form imported from the south. As the Pentagon has begun to notice, in Iraq Tehran has been quietly duplicating the strategy that delivered southern Lebanon into its control 20 years ago. The degeneration of Baby Assad's supposedly "secular" Baathist tyranny into full-blown client status and the replacement of Arafat's depraved "secular" kleptocrat terrorists by Hamas's even more depraved Islamist terrorists can also be seen as symptoms of Iranification.

So as a geopolitical analyst the ayatollah is not to be disdained. Our failure to understand Iran in the seventies foreshadowed our failure to understand the broader struggle today. As clashes of civilizations go, this one's between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war--wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers.

The way to gain credibility with the masses in the Islamic world is to peddle Jew-hatred (another fine export from Europe to the Middle East). Indeed, Iran threatens a second Holocaust that it can cause with the turn of a launch key. As Charles Krauthammer notes in the title link of this post:

The establishment of Israel was a Jewish declaration to a world that had allowed the Holocaust to happen -- after Hitler had made his intentions perfectly clear -- that the Jews would henceforth resort to self-protection and self-reliance. And so they have, building a Jewish army, the first in 2,000 years, that prevailed in three great wars of survival (1948-49, 1967 and 1973).

But, in a cruel historical irony, doing so required concentration -- putting all the eggs back in one basket, a tiny territory hard by the Mediterranean, eight miles wide at its waist. A tempting target for those who would finish Hitler's work.

His successors now reside in Tehran. The world has paid ample attention to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that Israel must be destroyed. Less attention has been paid to Iranian leaders' pronouncements on exactly how Israel would be destroyed ``by a single storm,'' as Ahmadinejad has promised.

And the Brits do not care; the French see commercial opportunities; the Russians and Chinese see a potential ally; and Europe as a whole worries about its cradle-to-grave welfare benefits. Even the United States lacks the will and foresight to take whatever action is necessary to actively prevent a nuclear Iran, as Bill Kristol notes. Secretary of State Rice is right, Iran is not Iraq -- it is a more clear and imminent danger than Saddam dreamed of becoming. It's the scenario of Tom Clancy's Executive Orders . . . only it's real now, not a technothriller as Krauthammer notes.

Last week, Bernard Lewis, America's dean of Islamic studies who just turned 90 and remembers the 20th century well, confessed that for the first time he feels it is 1938 again. He did not need to add that in 1938, in the face of the gathering storm -- a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the West, and most determinedly of the Jews -- the world did nothing.

When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never again?

Our squishy elite and the Moussaoui verdict

I agree with Moussaoui ("America, you lost!"), Charles Krauthammer (who said the Moussaoui trial regardless of the outcome demonstrated the complete failure of the US justice system as a forum for terrorist trials) and Peggy Noonan (who said the jury should have voted for him to die). This is the most important part of Noonan's column that Wongdoer quoted (see about 2-4 posts lower):

This is what the jury announced yesterday. They did not doubt Moussaoui was guilty of conspiracy. They did not doubt his own testimony as to his guilt. They did not think he was incapable of telling right from wrong. They did not find him insane. [such considerations go to the question of guilt or lack thereof -- TKM] They did believe, however, that he had had an unstable childhood, that his father was abusive and then abandoning, and that as a child, in his native France, he'd suffered the trauma of being exposed to racial slurs [mitigation factors for death penalty sentencing -- TKM].
As I listened to the court officer read the jury's conclusions yesterday I thought: This isn't a decision, it's a non sequitur.

Of course he had a bad childhood; of course he was abused. You don't become a killer because you started out with love and sweetness. Of course he came from unhappiness. So, chances are, did the nice man sitting on the train the other day who rose to give you his seat. Life is hard and sometimes terrible, and that is a tragedy. It explains much, but it is not a free pass.

I have the sense that many good people in our country, normal modest folk who used to be forced to endure being patronized and instructed by the elites of all spheres--the academy and law and the media--have sort of given up and cut to the chase. They don't wait to be instructed in the higher virtues by the professional class now. They immediately incorporate and reflect the correct wisdom before they're lectured.

And therein lies the danger. Europe is a continent whose political culture throughout (except occasionally in Britain) is exemplified by the self-annointed intelligentsia that is anti-American, anti-Semitic, self-indulgent, welfare-statist and filled with the sociological mythos of what a wonderful world this would be if the world could be as one. It's the Imagine generation inscribing John Lennon's vapid ideals onto the political culture of the continent of Enlightenment.

And the oceans have not prevented those intellectual weeds from taking root in the US.

Disregard for life

Click the link above and on the right side when you scroll down a bit, you'll see a picture of a big-eyed doggie framed in a heart. The dog is Mercy and she never lived to see her first birthday. The reason? Dog murder. A 21-year old man tortured, burned and stabbed the dog. Rescuers and vets tried time and again to save her life but ultimately failed.

In Texas, laws against animal killing and torture carry maximum sentences of up to 10 years in prison, one of the longer sentences in the nation but still probably too low, but only if the accused has been twice convicted of the crime in the past or committed the crime while using a deadly weapon. Why too low? Because murdering pet animals is a mark of a pathologue (remember the very good Law and Order episode with the killer 10-year old girl -- the psychological studies are clear that persons who can and will kill semi-sentient animals in cold blood similarly will perform violent, torturous and/or murderous acts on humans).

In this case, the owner is the dog's accused killer. Because there is no indication that he has been convicted twice before for animal cruelty, the crime may only be a "state jail felony" punishable by only 6 months-2 years in the can. The lone loophole = use of a deadly weapon kicks the offense up to a third degree felony punishable by 10 years in the brig -- the owner stabbed the dog and then burned her with gasoline (knives and gasplusflame sound deadly to me).

Operation kindness is a pet rescue and no-kill shelter organization. It is hosting a petition to urge the Dallas County DA to seek the maximum sentence available against the accused. The Monk possibly can only hope - the accused is already free on a mere $2500 bond.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moussaoui gets Life - UPDATED

"America, you lost. I won."

Moussaoui, exulting, after the verdict.

Apparently, the jury was concerned about factors like these:

The jurors were divided on the 23 mitigating factors in the case: None was moved by the fact that top al-Qaida operatives in U.S. custody are not facing death penalty prosecutions, but three cited racism that Moussaoui faced as a child of Moroccan descent.

The closest the jurors came to unanimity in finding mitigating factors was on two questions involving his troubled childhood. On the first count of conspiracy to commit international terrorism, nine cited his unstable early childhood including stays in orphanages and a lack of emotional and financial support, and nine also cited physical and emotional abuse by his father.

An unstable early childhood is a mitigating factor??

Another reason to execute him? So some buffoon of a President in the future like Bill Clinton doesn't decide to pardon him.


20th 9/11 bomber Zacharias Moussaoui gets life in prison after six days of deliberation.

I can already see future defense attorneys arguing against death with:

"How can you give it to my client if Moussaoui didn't get it?"

Bah. He wanted martyrdom, he should have gotten it.

Now I think we ought to stick him in solitary in the coldest, nastiest prison we have.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The "Cold War Liberal" is dead

Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of the center-left New Republic, is one of the more sane of the liberals. In a piece he wrote for the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday, he pines for the resurgence of the Cold War Liberals exemplified in action by Harry Truman and in theory by folks like Reinhold Niebuhr and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. It's worth a look.

Beinart's theme basically is that today's liberals must hearken back to the days of Truman and the early Cold War when the United States acted in concert with other nations, even those who did not entirely agree with us, and in doing so set the stage for the eventual victory against communism.

The problem, of course, is that Beinart's Cold War liberals are long dead. John Kerry, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid aren't fit to share an outhouse with George Marshall and Harry Truman.

Beinart's history is a bit suspect. He claims, for instance, the Clinton and Blair had the right idea in the Balkans but Clinton's foibles caused Blair's internationalist ideas to be 'stillborn'. Wishful thinking at best.

Beinart defines the problem reasonably but his solution is old and tired.

Where is the moral and the legal and the political authority for you to do this? The authority has to come out of some kind of reference point, some legitimate reference point — treaties, international law, international conventions, U.N. Security Council resolutions, General Assembly consensus, some mechanism that has credibility.

It's sad that someone like Beinart really thinks the UN still has credibility. Beinart proceeds then to fall back on another trite platitude - persuasion.

In the liberal story, America's power to intervene effectively overseas depends on its power to persuade and not merely coerce. The power to persuade depends on a willingness to be persuaded. And that willingness depends, ultimately, on America's willingness to entertain the prospect that it is wrong.

Soft power - ah that old chestnut. Works great. In Old Europe. Persuasion isn't very effective against Islamicists (Iran) or totalitarians (China).

Beinart closes with the following:

Almost six decades ago, Americans for Democratic Action was born, in the words of its first national director, to wage a "two-front fight for democracy, both at home and abroad," recognizing that the two were ultimately indivisible. That remains true today. America is not a fixed model for a benighted world. It is the democratic struggle here at home, against the evil in our society, that offers a beacon to people in other nations struggling against the evil in theirs. "The fact of the matter," Kennan declared, "is that there is a little bit of the totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us." America can be the greatest nation on earth, as long as Americans remember that they are inherently no better than anyone else.

Unfortunately, the ADA has long since become a knee-jerk far left organization whose primary contribution is the ADA rating on how insanely liberal legislators can be. And where I deeply and profoundly disagree with Beinart is the assertion that Americans are inherently no better than anyone else.

I am a deep believer in American exceptionalism, something that's best exemplified by a quote from former Secretary of State Colin Powell. [This is a bit of a paraphrase but it's late so forgive me.]

"For its sacrifice America has never asked for any land in return other than a place to bury her dead."

Jean Francois Revel, RIP

French philosopher, logical thinker and Atlanticist is dead at 82.

"Obsessed by their hatred and floundering in illogicality, these dupes (Europeans) forget that the United States, acting in her own self-interest, is also acting in the interest of us Europeans and in the interest of many other countries, threatened, or already subverted and ruined, by terrorism."

Defaming Jefferson

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." - Thomas Jefferson


As Mark Steyn points out his Sun-Times column Sunday, Thomas Jefferson NEVER said this. However, this hasn't stopped every worthless bugger from Ted Kennedy to John Kerry from making liberal use of it.

As far as I can tell, it was Nadine Strosser, the ACLU's head honcho, who cooked up the Jefferson fake. At any rate, she seems to be the only one who ever deployed it pre-9/11. Since then, however, it's gone nuclear, it's everywhere, it's a bumper sticker and a T-shirt slogan and a surefire applause line for the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation.
Indeed, America's hardboiled newsmen can't get enough of the Thomas Jefferbunk. The Berkshire Eagle used it as the headline for last year's Fourth of July editorial. Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press thundered: "We need to stop slicing this country in half, and saying those who support this act or this politician are 'good' Americans, and the rest are not. Sometimes 'dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' I didn't make that up. Thomas Jefferson did."

Er, no. You made up that he made it up. But former Georgia state Rep. Mike Snow uses it, and Miranda Yaver of Berkeley wore it on a button to the big anti-war demo in Washington last year, and Ted Kennedy deployed it as the stirring finale to his anti-Bush speech:

"It is not unpatriotic to tell the truth to the American people about the war in Iraq. In this grave moment of our country, to use the words of Thomas Jefferson, 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "

By the way Kerry abused Jefferson in a speech here he demanded that Iraqis get their house in order by May 15 or all American troops should be withdrawn.

Thank God and the people of Ohio that this clown isn't President.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Poignant" Cindy Sheehan

This past Saturday evening I was watching the 11 o'clock news on WABC, an ABC affiliate here in New York which dutifully reported on an anti-war march in Manhattan. After five second clips of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson the former who pontificated that "the President who could see WMD in Iraq but couldn't see a hurricane in New Orleans" the reporter added with sincerity:

"...And the most poignant moment was when Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, spoke."

The clip of 'Mother' Sheehan?

"This morning I had a dream, I dreamed my son was three and he asked me to go out and play."

Good G*d, seems neither WABC or Cindy Sheehan has any shame.