Monday, July 31, 2006
For the Dodgers, the deals are hit-or-miss. They gave up at least one good prospect to the Drays and Lugo is a shortstop, not a secondbaseman as the Dods want. Maddux seems deep into the downside of his career with an ERA far over 5 since winning his first five starts (although going to the pitchers' haven in Chavez Ravine will help). Their deal for Wilson Betemit seems to be, in the long run, the best of the bunch.
For the Yanks, adding Abreu can help the middling production they've received from Sheffield's various replacements. More importantly, Abreu is still a run producer (100+ RBI pace) without the power stroke he'd shown in previous years. And he's a VAST defensive upgrade from Sheffield.
Lidle is a question mark -- a high-upside guy who has never pitched to his potential. He is a good streak pitcher and is on one now. He should not be hurt by switching leagues because (1) he's been an AL pitcher before and (2) he pitched in Philly, one of the friendliest parks for hitters in all of baseball.
Certain deals never came to fruition: (1) the RedSux didn't end up getting Andruw Jones from the Braves and may have been wise not to do so because they kept John Lester; (2) the Nationals stupidly failed to move Alfonso Soriano, and will get some draft picks in 2007 that they can only hope will pan out -- Jim Bowden had sought a king's ransom for Sori from other teams and thus learned that if you don't flinch in a game of chicken, you crash; (3) the Orioles completely honked by failing to trade Miguel Tejada even when offered Roy Oswalt as part of the deal by the Astros -- yes, the same 91-46 career record Roy Oswalt who has more 20-win seasons (two) than Mike Mooooooooooooooooosina (0) in his six years in MLB; (4) the Angels and A's basically stood pat.
This notion is a common argument point. Thus, in the UK a CONSERVATIVE member of Parliament, Sir Peter Tapsell, who served as an assistant to former PM Anthony Eden (Churchill's Foreign Secretary during WWII) in the 1955 election can rise up in debate and characterize the Israeli attacks in Lebanon as "a war crime grimly reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter in Warsaw."
Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, takes issue with Europe's moral idiocy:
. . . [Tapsell's] remark seems to me a symptom of a wider unreality about the Middle East, one that now dominates. It tinged the recent Commons speech by William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary. It permeates every report by the BBC.
You could criticise Israel's recent attack for many things. Some argue that it is disproportionate, or too indiscriminate. Others think that it is ill-planned militarily. Others hold that it will give more power to extremists in the Arab world, and will hamper a wider peace settlement. These are all reasonable, though not necessarily correct positions to hold. But European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else - a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.
Not only is this analysis wrong -- if the Israelis are such imperialists, why did they withdraw from Lebanon for six years, only returning when threatened once again? How many genocidal regimes do you know that have a free press and free elections? -- it is also morally imbecilic. It makes no distinction between the tough, sometimes nasty things all countries do when hard-pressed and the profoundly evil intent of some ideologies and regimes. It says nothing about the fanaticism and the immediacy of the threat to Israel. Sir Peter has somehow managed to live on this planet for 75 years without spotting the difference between what Israel is doing in Lebanon and "unlimited war".
Is it something in the European psyche or a loss of faith in the notion of right and wrong that has destroyed the moral compass in Europe?
. . . It is as if, having relinquished power, we Europeans now wish our own powerlessness upon the rest of the world. We make vaporous and offensive Nazi comparisons. We preach that unilateral action is always wrong. That position can be maintained only by people who do not have to make life-and-death decisions. It is cheap and immoral.
And historically ignorant, and divorced from reality.
* * *
Especially disgraceful has been the Administration's half-hearted efforts to defend its own policies regarding the detention and treatment of terrorist prisoners -- an effort it has outsourced by implication to the right-wing blogosphere and random interest groups that agree with the Administration's broad policies.
That's why the Pentagon's records of PRISONERS abusing guards at Gitmo has only come to light because the Landmark Legal Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials on prisoner-guard incidents and the Pentagon had to comply (or face a lawsuit under which it would have had to pay Landmark's attorneys' fees if it lost).
"Lawyers for the detainees have done a great job painting their clients as innocent victims of U.S. abuse when the fact is that these detainees, as a group, are barbaric and extremely dangerous," Landmark President Mark Levin said. "They are using their terrorist training on the battlefield to abuse our guards and manipulate our Congress and our court system."
Good thing someone outside the Administration wanted to make that public.
"Editorial - What is Left of the Latin Left - Latin America has never been more centrist and pragmatic"
"Prisoners and Human Rights - The United States has the worst record in the free world when it comes to stripping convicted felons of the right to vote"
"Still the Wrong Man for the U.N. [Bolton, of course]"
"A Senate Race in Connecticut - The NY Times endorses Ned Lamont in the Democratic Primary"
It's just doesn't get much more knee jerk moonbat left than this. The problem isn't their strong opinions - the problem lies that the Times still represents itself as a NEWSpaper and that requires balance. I can't imagine that the newsroom isn't staffed and deeply influenced by the Editors.
A couple of examples:
"As ambassador, Mr. Bolton’s performance has been more restrained than many of his opponents feared. He has, as far as we know, faithfully carried out any instructions he was given. And on some issues, like this spring’s botched reform of the United Nations’ human-rights monitoring body, Mr. Bolton was right not to accept a bad result."
[But the Times still hates him]
"Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress. "
[Ah. Something wrong with supporting the war's progress.]
Frankly the best part of the Times these days might be the Styles Section
In the trading business this is called "sitting on the bid" and waiting for the seller to move. And the Phillies did, basically, to dump salary. The opposite of this is called "paying the offer" where the buyer basically gives the seller what he wants. That's what George and the front office used to do, frequently, in the old days when this trade could have cost Melky Cabrera or Philip Hughes.
It's a good move, Abreu has speed - average 30 SBs past seven years, a good arm, can hit for average and power AND has a pestilential on-base percentage which as Buster Olney points out will make the Yankees a meat-grinder for opposing pitchers.
Lidle is a decent back of the rotation guy and an upgrade over Chacon, Ponson and Small and could be a key guy that gives the Yanks a chance to win 3-4 more games down the stretch which could be all the difference in the world.
With the effectiveness of Matsui and Sheffield this year in significant question this is a great trade. Yes, it's a trade for today but the core of the Yanks are in their early to mid-thirties and George is spending money to win NOW.
New York fans will miss George when he's gone.
This is a historically ignorant and morally foolish view. First, Presidents have held the prerogative to interpret the Constitution and the laws of Congress for more than 200 years. Pres. Jackson vetoed the bill authorizing a second Bank of the United States precisely because he believed it was unconstitutional and the President had the power, authority and responsibility to exercise his own constitutional judgment.
Second, the President must protect and defend the Constitution -- that is a part of the oath of office he swears upon inauguration. President Bush's problem is that he has defended the Constitution too weakly -- by allowing the McCain Gitmo bill that effectively gave terrorists Geneva Convention status, by failing to veto the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold Act, by failing to protect executive power from Congressional interference.
Third, the ABA view is contrary to the purpose of our system. The courts do not have the sole authority or duty to interpret the Constitution and the President's role is not merely to perform Congress' bidding on those laws he does not veto.
Read the whole column.
Friday, July 28, 2006
What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?
What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities -- every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians -- and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?
Hearing the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world -- governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats -- has completely lost its moral bearings.
That's what happens when process is exalted over results and stability is a fetish of the diplomatic class. Mark Steyn sums up the mindset perfectly:
. . . the foreign policy professionals, these are basically the stability facists, and their whole thing is that they don't want to update their rolodex more than once of twice every third of a century, and that international relations are best managed by the same group of people talking to each other, professionals to professionals, nation to nation, across the decades.
That's just Nixonian detente, which Nixon entered into with the USSR because of the US' own weakness thanks to Johnson's mismanagement of the Vietnam. When the US became stronger thanks to Reagan's arms build-up and attempts to crush the economy-killing inflation of the late 70s, the Reagan plan to confront the USSR exposed that nation's own weakness and the moral failings of a detente policy that kept Eastern Europe under the Communist boot for decades. Similarly, all that the "peace process" and innumerable "ceasefires" that Israel has engaged in since 1987 has done is enable Israel's enemies to get stronger. And now those enemies need to be eradicated.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
So it is neither understandable nor justifiable how a Houston jury, upon retrial of quintuple-infanticidist Andrea Yates, could render a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for her. The woman should be shot, be it in the arm with a needle or by other methods, not hospitalized in some mental ward until she's cleared by some sympathetic doctors (probably sometime after menopause renders her infertile).
The proof is in the details, as Mark Steyn noted shortly after she killed her five children:
. . . by her own admission, Andrea Yates of Houston killed all five of her children. Not in a burst of gunfire, but by methodically drowning them all in the bathtub. Anyone who's tried to give an unwanted hair-wash to a kid will appreciate the effort involved in holding five struggling youngsters under water. The oldest, seven-year-old Noah, was the last to die. He wandered into the room and saw his baby sister lying lifeless in the water. 'What's wrong with Mary?' he asked. 'Get in the tub, ' his mother said. He understood. He ran, for his life. But she caught him and dragged him back to the bathroom, and forced him under, legs kicking, arms flailing. He was old enough to know, as he looked up into her eyesand fought against the weight of her hands, that his own mother was killing him.
Yes, Rusty Yates is an SOB who is more than a little strange himself and failed to take a real hand in either child-rearing or the marriage. But there is no excuse for this woman. More Steyn:
. . . 'Postpartum depression' certainly exists, though whether in most instances it's just a fancy name for an entirely natural discombobulation by a life-changing event is another matter. Mental illness isn't like physical illness: there are no scientifically measurable pathogens behind the symptoms. If you notice a blemish on your arm, it might be melanoma, or a lesion indicative of Aids, or a mild discolouration because you fell off your bicycle the other day. But at some point the objective cause of the blemish will be known.
By contrast, with mental illness the symptoms are mostly self-defining: you hunted your seven-year-old through the house, pulled him back to the bathroom and drowned him? Must be postpartum psychosis. 'No sane person' would kill her children. You killed your children. Therefore, you're not sane.
In his book The Untamed Tongue, Thomas Szasz wrote, 'What people nowadays call mental illness, especially in a legal context, is not a fact, but a strategy; not a condition, but a policy; in short, it is not a disease that the alleged patient has, but a decision which those who call him mentally ill make about how to act toward him.'
Anna Quindlen, the poster woman for self-pitying solipsistic Baby Boomer women throughout the west, said in a column responding to the Yates murders that she understood the urges that drove Andrea. Motherhood is difficult, and Quindlen said it can make Mommy displeased when cleaning up after her youngest son (of two in her case) pukes up his dinner all over his sheets in the middle of the night thereby causing Mommy to have to do an unscheduled laundry.
A century ago, there would have been no washer to throw 'em into, and fewer sheets. And she wouldn't have had a mere two boys, but thrice that number. . . . Au contraire, aside from the [ ] kids, the Anna Quindlens of the 1800s would most likely have had an aged relative or two living at home and adding to their burdens - some 14 people living in a New England farmhouse that today's realtors would advertise as a 'three-bedroom home'.
True, in those days women didn't have the dreary chore of shopping: instead of loading the trunk once a week at Price-Chopper, they had to grow it all at home. And the work they had to do wasn't a little light telephone sales or Newsweek punditry but brutal and back-breaking and unending - which is why so many of the worn, grey-haired rural wives in early photographs prove on close examination of the dates to be in their early thirties. In the 20th century, the refrigerator, dishwasher et al. so transformed the average woman's life that by the Fifties she was sitting in a house in the 'burbs bored and unfulfilled. So then women started going out to work. And, though life's a bitch with the job and the school-run and collecting 'em from daycare and picking up takeout at the drive-thru on the way home, the average woman cares for fewer kids and fewer aged demanding relatives, has more mechanical assistance and more mobility, and does less physical labour and housework than any generation in human history.
But boomer narcissism knows no bounds. So, for the new generation of sob sisters, infanticide is an understandable byproduct of the burdens of contemporary lifestyle. And, if we're all guilty, then no one is. . .
So it goes with Andrea and her lawyer, who's upbeat about her prospects of beating the rap. She's being tried for quintuple homicide: she killed five people, consecutively, and then called her husband at the office to invite him back to take a look.
Suppose she is 'ill'. She still did something truly evil, for which others in Texas would be executed, and it's hard to see why she should be exempted from that possibility simply because she's the mother of the victims. If she was as loving a mother as her family claim, she would, now [that] the alleged psychotic raptus has passed, accept the enormity of her crimes and plead guilty, period. But instead she's working out her strategy with counsel, because in the end it's all about her, isn't it? And, in that sense at least, the solidarity of the scrupulously non-judgmental columnists is genuine: call it a sisterhood of self-indulgence.
I disagree with the Captain's thought process. First, Nasrallah isn't a "commander" he's a religious-type icon who is all too happy to let others fight and die for him. Second, the Iranian and Syrian consultants know all too well that if they went to Lebanon to meet Nasrallah, they'd be lovely targets for Israeli ordnance. There's safety in Syria considering that Israel has not punished that nation for pulling Nasrallah's puppet strings (bombing the heck out of Syria's air force and ground artillery would be a nice start). This seems like a strategy session, not an instance of calling the subordinate onto the carpet for fouling up.
In a special meeting Thursday on the IDF's operations in Lebanon, the security cabinet approved a general mobilization of reservists in the event that they would be necessary, and set a limit to the number of people to be drafted; however, the draft was not approved for immediate implementation.
The cabinet also voted against expanding ground missions - a move the army had requested.
Senior military commanders had been pushing for a wider campaign in Lebanon, but Defense Minister Amir Peretz favors limited action, military and government officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations with the press.
Peretz's decision is foolhardy. History is clear -- only by total defeat will the intractable foe be vanquished. Germany and Japan needed their militarism literally bombed out of them before surrendering in WWII because those countries were led by megalomaniacal madmen like Sheikh Nasrallah and President Ahmadinejad. Israel should be pushing for unconditional surrender and total victory against Hizb'Allah, and then return to targeted assassinations of Hamas' leading nutters. Israel's survival is on the line, and it should have learned the lessons of history by now.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I have a friend, a very busy, worldly & successful guy, who is a great dispenser of advice, mostly good. His advice on raising a daughter: "Sure, education, orthodontistry, moral training, all that is good stuff. It's secondary, though. You must concentrate above all else on this one great objective: DON'T LET HER MARRY A LOSER. Corollary: Don't let her date any losers."
I had a very sad reminder of this today. I learned that an acquaintance recently lost his daughter. She committed suicide at age 30. She was married to a hopeless ne'er-do-well, a drug addict. She was sure she could put him right.
"Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington," went the old song. I think my first friend is right: never mind the stage, or anything else, just keep her away from losers. And from the illusion —widespread among women, in my experience— that she can change a loser into a normal person by the power of love. Perhaps it can be done once in a while, but it's not the way to bet. Not from what I've seen—and I've seen a few, and this is not the first one that ended tragically. May the poor girl rest in peace.
As you may know, The Monk has been in the Bayou City (aka Houston) for about four months for a trial. The case finally went to a jury yesterday. Because the jury charge is slightly shorter than an unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo, the verdict is not expected back for a few days, at the least.
In the meantime, between now and when The Monk either has to read and figure out the meaning of the verdict (the form is nearly 100 questions with an average of 3 subparts each for the jury to answer, with tons of room for conflicting responses -- this is what happens when the judge won't make a decision on what is legitimate to submit), The Monk will actually contribute on a regular basis to the blog he founded and self-titled. The benefit to you? Uh, my wisdom, obviously. If you feel that's small benefit indeed, consider that I pay Wongdoer even less than that small amount.
Quite honestly, there's plenty going on in the world and expect more chatter here in the near future. My regret is that with all that I've had to do for work, there are obvious items, comments and news of note that I've missed.
For now, start with Andrea Levin's discussion of how the BBC won't let facts color its
Once, there was a small nation created by international consensus from the ashes of a world war. It included two main nationalities and it was the only free nation in the region, surrounded by larger neighbors who resented it and coveted its land, which they felt rightfully belonged to them. In spite of that, it was a prosperous and free republic, and its citizens enjoyed one of the highest living standards in that part of the world.
As a result of the hostile attitude of its neighbor countries, this tiny country had developed a well trained and superbly equipped military, with advanced weapons and its own arms industry. It was also allied with the Western democracies both by its values and by strategic and practical necessity.
One of this small country`s warlike neighbors had a number of its former natives in a part of the tiny nation and began orchestrating riots and other terrorist activity among them in an effort to subvert and conquer their neighbor. When the government of the small country attempted to restore order, the larger nation accused it of violating its former nationals' human rights and committing an "occupation."
A quartet of nations, including the Western democracies the small nation was allied with, came together to find a solution and a peace plan was created -- without the input or agreement of anyone from the small country.
The peace plan involved a trade of land for peace, with the former nationals of the larger nation to have an independent state on a large part of the small country`s land.
No. Not Yet.
Those who favor bullying Israel into a so-called peace settlement would do well to remember the last time the West betrayed a strong ally to preserve "peace in our time." They might want to consider what a victory of this kind for the forces of Islamic fascism might mean to the West and preserving its freedom.
And the Israelis would do well to remember that all the security guarantees in the world are no substitute for defensible borders and a strong military. And that `security' is not something that can be left to others.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
You will moderate air strikes against civilian infrastructure, but will continue to strike Hezbollah leadership and long-range missile facilities. It may be difficult to kill Sheikh Nasrallah, but it's within Israel's power to prevent him from ever appearing in public again.
At the same time, you will send ground forces to the Litani to destroy every Hezbollah bunker, outpost, communications facility and weapons cache. You will withdraw the bulk of those forces as soon as feasible, but you will announce that Israel will shoot on sight any Hezbollah forces that move within 10 miles of the border. That should get the Katyushas out of range of Haifa and Tiberias. As for the much deadlier Fajar and Zilzal missiles, you will publicly hold Damascus accountable for their use, since these Iranian missiles could not have reached Lebanon without Syrian connivance. This should have a clarifying effect on Bashar Assad, who will risk war with Israel only through his proxies and who, if pressed, may bring pressure to bear on Sheikh Nasrallah.
Finally, you will play the diplomatic game with apparent sincerity, entertaining every proposal provided two baseline conditions are met: Your kidnapped soldiers are returned, without preconditions, and Hezbollah is disarmed, as Security Council 1559 Resolution demands.
Neither is likely to happen, but in the meantime you will dominate southern Lebanon, secure Israel's border and humiliate Hezbollah. In a test of wills and wiles, this is your strategy to demonstrate both.
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The U.N. humanitarian chief [Jan Egeland] accused Hezbollah on Monday of "cowardly blending" in among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks of cross-border violence withIsrael.
"Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," he said. "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men."
Wow. But this is a UN official so the following is de rigueur:
During that visit, he condemned the killing and wounding of civilians by both sides and called Israel's offensive "disproportionate" and "a violation of international humanitarian law."
What's "international humanitarian law"?
Tel Aviv may be the economic and cultural capital of Israel, Jerusalem its political and symbolic capital. But the Galilee is where Israelis come to play, the forested and breezy getaway from the sweltering coast and the incessant dramas of everyday life in this region. Israelis were prepared to give up sandy Gaza and might also have been prepared to do the same with the rocky West Bank, if only the Palestinians would behave themselves. Yet places make a nation as much as principles do, and the Galilee was one place no Israeli could part with if his country was still going to be worth living in.
So even as terror-stricken residents of the north flee, the rest of the country is prepared to fight, whatever the cost: A recent poll found that 80% of Israelis support the present military operations, and three-quarters of those would be prepared to launch a full-scale invasion of Lebanon if that is what it takes to defeat Hezbollah. No similar consensus has existed among Israelis since the 1967 Six Day War.
Up in his winery, Mr. Haviv fears that if the war continues, he will have no one to tend the vines and take in the harvest, and an entire season's worth of business will be ruined. Yet as we stand beside one of his fields, watching an Apache helicopter fire missiles at a Lebanese village visible in the far distance, he muses on what his decision to remain here means. "Being here is part of defending the country. If Hezbollah wins this, the terrorists win this war, and not just against us but against the free world. You think I'm coming down from here? Never."
THE CURRENT campaign in northern Israel and Lebanon has brought into sharp focus the major pathologies and strengths of the West in fighting the Iranian-led jihadist axis. The British government's push for a cease-fire, together with the enthusiasm of the UN and France for sending their own troops to Lebanon to protect the Lebanese from the "disproportionate" Israelis; the demand of Israel's radical Left that a deal be made with Syria; and the demands of leftist ideologues in the US that an artificial deadline be set for the conclusion of Israel's operations in Lebanon all point to a similar pathology.
As a group, the ideological Left rejects the notion of victory in war for Western forces (although it is fine for jihadists); rejects the notion that there are enemies that are impossible to appease; and specifically rejects the idea that Israel has a right to defend itself against its enemies, let alone vanquish its foes.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Reporter: The news for the last 48 hours from the Middle East, it is more and more apparent now that many in the Middle East, Lebanese and others, are accusing the U.S. and the Security Council of being the obstacle to a real ceasefire immediately because that’s what they need. Could you explain in a couple words what is really your position about this?
Ambassador Bolton: Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah. How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained. The government of Israel, everybody says, has the right to exercise the right of self-defense, which even if there are criticisms of Israeli actions by some, they recognize the fundamental right to self-defense. That’s a legitimate right. Are there any activities that Hezbollah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of it’s activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire. You know in a democratically elected government, the theory is that the people ultimately can hold the government accountable when it does something and doesn’t live up to it. How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire? What does a terrorist group think a ceasefire is? These are - you can use the words “cessation of hostilities” or “truce” or ‘ceasefire”. Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire.
Meanwhile, the sage white-maned Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) has promised a bruising fight in any effort to confirm Bolton.
"I regret this. I'm sorry the administration wants to go forward with this. The problems still persist. ... Many ambassadors at the U.N. feel that he hasn't done a good job there. He has polarized the situation." In other words, ambassadors think Bolton has not done a good job."
Ah. So we should seek the approval of OTHER nations' ambassadors for OUR representative who is supposed to represent OUR interests. Typical leftist hand-wringing claptrap posing as internationalism.
Canadians David Matas and David Kilgour, a human rights lawyer and long serving Canadian MP, respectively have published a investigative report on the charges that the Communist government in China has put Falun Gong members to death for the purpose of harvesting their organs.
This is the conclusion to the 66 page report:
Based on what we now know, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that the allegations are true. We believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners.
We have concluded that the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centres and “people’s courts”, since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Their vital organs, including hearts, kidneys, livers and corneas, were virtually simultaneously seized for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.
How many of the victims were first convicted of any offense, serious or otherwise, in legitimate courts, we are unable to estimate because such information appears to be unavailable both to Chinese nationals and foreigners. It appears to us that many human beings belonging to a peaceful voluntary organization made illegal seven years ago by president Jiang (Zemin) because he thought it might threaten the dominance of the Communist Party of China have been in effect executed by medical practitioners for their organs.
Our conclusion comes not from any single item of evidence, but rather the piecing together of all the evidence we have considered. Each portion of the evidence we have considered is, in itself, verifiable and, in most cases, incontestable. Put together, they paint a damning picture. It is their combination that has convinced us.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her re-election bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.
"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.
Bush has been so concentrated on the war in Iraq that other Middle East tension arose as a result, he said.
But 100,000 voters in Ohio this clown would have been President.
I note this following comment for the day Kerry decides we'll have to negotiate with Hezbollah:
"This is about American security and Bush has failed. He has made it so much worse because of his lack of reality in going into Iraq.…We have to destroy Hezbollah," he said.
Yesterday, on NPR I listened to Rami Khouri of the Lebanese Daily Star ask with deep scorn "So America can ship precision weapons to Israel but Iran and Syria can't send weapons to Hezbollah."
This captures, in a nutshell, the essence of the asininity of the forthcoming debate. The point of fact, Khouri's highly cultivated righteousness notwithstanding, is, yes, America can ship precision weapons to Israel and, no, Iran and Syria should not be sending missiles to Hezbollah, an established terror organization. Hezbollah claims to be a political party. Why does it need anti-ship missiles? Moreover, look at what the U.S. is shipping to Israel. We're selling them precision munitions so as to avoid casualties. What do Iran and Syria give to Hezbollah? Rockets intended to kill casualties, many of them loaded with buck shot, almost none of them with a guidance system to aim at strategic targets. Their rockets are intended to just fly in any old direction. If they hit a school, fine. If they hit an old-age home, fine. If they hit an oil refinery, bonus!
As time goes by, we're going to see the analogy between Hezbollah and Israel harden for two reasons:
1) People on the anti-Israel side want to elevate Hezbollah's moral status while lowering Israel's and
2) journalists are very, very lazy and will want to take comfort in supposedly "balanced" formulations.
Friday, July 21, 2006
As much as the Democratic Party is nearly useless I see no joy in seeing it completely taken over the loathesome Far Left.
When President Bush announced the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, Democrats howled. Pulling out of the treaty to roll out missile defense would, they predicted, lead to a new arms race, undermine American security and in any case was unnecessary. "This premise, that one day Kim Jong Il or someone will wake up one morning and say 'Aha, San Francisco!' is specious," Senator Joe Biden told AP in May 2001.
Apparently no one bothered to translate "specious" into Korean.
Precious. But Biden, supposedly one of the 'saner' Democrats isn't alone.
All of which makes the U.S. political debate over missile defenses worth revisiting, not least because some Democrats are still trying to strangle the program. In the House, John Tierney of Massachusetts this year proposed cutting the Pentagon's missile-defense budget by more than half. His amendment was defeated on the House floor, but it won the support of more than half of his Democratic colleagues, including would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Carl Levin (D., Mich.) offered in June to cut off funds for the ground-based interceptor program that Mr. Bush recently activated in Alaska in anticipation of the North Korean launch. Mr. Levin wants to stop new interceptors from being built, but Senate Republicans wouldn't bring his proposal up for a vote. Mr. Levin has been waging his own private war against missile defenses for a generation, to the point of outflanking Russian objections on the political left.
But missile defense makes sense.
No missile defense is perfect, but even our current rudimentary shield has proven to be strategically useful these past few weeks. The Navy had at least one ship-based Aegis missile-defense system deployed off the Korean coast, with a potential to shoot down a North Korean missile. The Aegis cruisers have successfully shot down missiles in seven of eight tests in recent years, and could become an important player in protecting allies and U.S. forces against regional missile threats.
The Pentagon now spends nearly $10 billion a year on missile defense and is developing several promising new technologies. These include sea-based defenses and low-orbit satellites that help track incoming missiles, as well as the Thaad program designed to knock out long-range missiles as they are heading to Earth. Thaad had a successful test over New Mexico last week.
Meanwhile I keep hearing Ned Lamont on the radio trying to run desperately Left of Joe Lieberman and is leading in the latest primary poll.
Nasrallah's brazen deed was, in the man's calculus, an invitation to an exchange of prisoners. Now, the man who triggered this crisis stands exposed as an Iranian proxy, doing the bidding of Tehran and Damascus. He had confidently asserted that "sources" in Israel had confided to Hezbollah that Israel's government would not strike into Lebanon because Hezbollah held northern Israel hostage to its rockets, and that the demand within Israel for an exchange of prisoners would force Ehud Olmert's hand. The time of the "warrior class" in Israel had passed, Nasrallah believed, and this new Israeli government, without decorated soldiers and former generals, was likely to capitulate. Now this knowingness has been exposed for the delusion it was.
There was steel in Israel and determination to be done with Hezbollah's presence on the border. States can't--and don't--share borders with militias. That abnormality on the Lebanese-Israeli border is sure not to survive this crisis. One way or other, the Lebanese army will have to take up its duty on the Lebanon-Israel border. By the time the dust settles, this terrible summer storm will have done what the Lebanese government had been unable to do on its own.
In his cocoon, Nasrallah did not accurately judge the temper of his own country to begin with. No less a figure than the hereditary leader of the Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, was quick to break with Hezbollah, and to read this crisis as it really is. "We had been trying for months," he said, "to spring our country out of the Syrian-Iranian trap, and here we are forcibly pushed into that trap again." In this two-front war--Hamas's in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah's in Lebanon--Mr. Jumblatt saw the fine hand of the Syrian regime attempting to retrieve its dominion in Lebanon, and to forestall the international investigations of its reign of terror in that country.
[N]asrallah was in the end just the Lebanese face of Hezbollah. Those who know the workings of the movement with intimacy believe that operational control is in the hands of Iranian agents, that Hezbollah is fully subservient to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Jay Nordlinger has a superb Impromptus skewering Julian Bond and the NAACP, who now is targeting the Target stores. A sample:
President Bush has agreed to speak to the NAACP, and I’m sort of sorry about it. For years, every president — every eminento — spoke to the NAACP, because, in doing so, they thought they were speaking to Black America. And that’s the way the NAACP thought too.
But, one day, an extraordinary president — George W. Bush — said no. He recognized, I believe, that the NAACP had become another left-wing hate group.
Whatever the NAACP's glorious past, it can be a nasty piece of work now. And that nastiness is personified by Bond.
He has had a sad trajectory. I remember him well from my growing up. He was an even more prominent figure than he is today — perhaps because he was more measured, more dignified, more sane. I remember, in particular, a speech he gave to several hundred of us when I was in college. He was liberal, all right, and he said a lot of offensive things about President Reagan. But he wasn’t a nut. And he wasn’t pulsing with hate.
The current NAACP President has called on blacks to stay out of Target stores because Target has refused to answer a survey.
A Target spokeswoman said via e-mail that the company opted out of the survey “because Target views diversity as being inclusive of all people from all different backgrounds, not just one group.” The NAACP survey asks only about blacks.
She added that minorities make up 40 percent of Target employees and 23 percent of all officials and managers.
Colored Peoples indeed.
On May 31, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the startling announcement that the United States would end a decades-old policy of refusing to engage in direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The shift appeared to run directly counter to the “Bush Doctrine” first articulated by the president in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
That doctrine, highlighted with great moral clarity a year later in “The National Security Strategy of the United States,” asserts that: “The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them.”....
By this explication, there can be no worse enemy of the United States than Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. No nation, then, is more worthy of pariah status — no negotiations and no deals. Iran, after all, has scoffed at the Bush Doctrine. It has continued to pull the strings of Hezbollah, the terrorist organization it owns and coordinates with Syria — the terrorist organization which works with al Qaeda and which, like al Qaeda, has a history of bombing American embassies and American military installations, in addition to kidnapping, torturing and murdering American government officials...
It was thus puzzling, to say the least, that the administration would choose to reward this heinous behavior with a seat at the negotiating table — certainly absent an unambiguous, verifiable foreswearing of terror promotion.
The proposal is a desperate petition, calling on the mullahs and Ahmadinejad only to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons. There is nothing about terrorism. And the overture is surely futile. Russia and China have exhibited no stomach for meaningful penalties if the blandishments fail to do the trick. Quite apart from that, though, why would Iran accede to demands when its intransigence has already resulted in the abandonment of what was purported to be a foundational tenet of U.S. foreign policy during the war on terror?
Remarkably, it would make verification of what would be Iran’s reciprocal obligations to end enrichment activity and other nuclear-weapons development totally dependent on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). For a sense of what a fabulous arrangement that would be, this story from Die Welt is instructive. It recounts how the Iranian regime systematically obstructs inspectors from performing their work. More significantly, it reports that IAEA’s leader, Mohammed El-Baradei, who is notoriously hostile to the Bush administration, bowed to Iran’s demand that the chief IAEA inspector in Iran be forced out. (Not surprisingly, the IAEA is said to have attempted to suppress publication of the story.)
[T]he underlying logic of the Bush Doctrine was that rewarding terrorists and their rogue state benefactors with negotiations and concessions inevitably encourages more of their barbarism. Firmness is the only language they understand. As top terror recipients of Iran’s largesse wage war with Israel, it’s worth asking whether we’ve forgotten that.
Lamont is pounding Lieberman on his support of the war. One of his execrable radio ads go to the tune of "Joe Lieberman is hazardous to your health...loved by big oil...good for friendly dinners with Republicans."
While at the end of the day Lieberman will probably edge out a primary win - if he doesn't, he will run as an independent and will quite likely keep his seat. Lamont's surprising strength though is worrisome as it signals unmistakably how the core of the Democratic Party (those who vote in primaries) has veered hard to the left.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
"Some of our other middle-class friends are not doing as well. One family, supported by both mom & dad, has had to forgo using an obstetrician in favor of a midwife due to cost and rather shoddy health insurance. They are praying for no complications. Another family of our acquaintance is in the same boat: they simply can not have children in the way Americans are accustomed to: hospital, doctors, nurses, etc. That the middle class is being squeezed economically is debatable. [The logic here suggests my correspondent missed out a 'not' in that sentence, but that's what he wrote.] Below-replacement birthrates by its members do not bode well for its viability over the long haul.
"Having ones' friends consider a riskier birthing regimen due to cost is galling enough. What makes it nigh enraging is seeing that at [name of local mega-hospital] 70% of their 16,000 births per year are to illegal aliens (11,000+). That is my property tax dollars at work. No attempt is made to get payment from the illegals themselves, as the cost is written off when incurred from illegals. If my wife or our friends' wives were to give birth at [name of hospital], that debt would follow us like a hound dog. If it went over 90 days past due, it would be turned over to a collection agency and our credit would be trashed. A $25,000 bill for a Caesarean section would sink our family ship.
"This is not how my folks (degreed, middle class) and their friends had to live."
The IDF has found that Hizbullah is preventing civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon. Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A common statement of the Israel Hawks is that Israel's existence is fragile, like you said earlier today. However, they have air superiority, the best weapons, the most disciplined troops and the bomb. Yet, you make it sound like they'll collapse the second they don't respond in an overheated way. They beat 3 bigger Arab countries once and they still have a significant military and economic advantage over everyone else. So why the lie about their fragile existence?
Whenever it's necessary to use force to stay alive your position is precarious. And if you have to use it constantly just to live, that's a sign your "existence" is under serious threat (the humans in the "Living Dead" movies are always well-armed, none of them feel their existence isn't fragile).
In other words, the point is that Israel must maintain a very high level of military preparedness and vigilence merely in order to survive. If they didn't have that capability they'd be gone in a week. If they let down their guard for a moment, we've seen what happens. That's a pretty thin line if you ask me. Most countries don't have the ability to fight off all of their neighbors simultaneously but that's because they don't feel the need. According to the Israel-is-strong view, Belgium's existence is more fragile than Israel's because Israel is better armed. Who in the world thinks that's the case? I can assure you that most Israelis would rather have the "fragility" of Belgium's plight than the "stability" of theirs.
Never said better.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Bush was talking to Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg and said the following: (during lunch, while chewing, apparently - I haven't seen the video)
The two leaders also referred to an offer by Blair to help. Blair said Rice has "got to succeed" if she goes out to the region.
Bush replied: "What they need to do it to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh*t." Shortly afterwards Blair noticed the microphone and hastily switched it off, but not before the recording had reached news media.
Maybe it was just slip...or a warning to Syria.
Friday, July 14, 2006
WHY IS THIS ARAB-ISRAELI WAR different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it's not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel's traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn't a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn't involved in any of Israel's previous wars.
What's happening in the Middle East, then, isn't just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What's happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West--but is India part of the West? Better to say that what's under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.
States matter. Regimes matter. Ideological movements become more dangerous when they become governing regimes of major nations. Communism became really dangerous when it seized control of Russia. National socialism became really dangerous when it seized control of Germany. Islamism became really dangerous when it seized control of Iran--which then became, as it has been for the last 27 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria (a secular government that has its own reasons for needing Iranian help and for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas), little state sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah. And no Shiite Iranian revolution, far less of an impetus for the Saudis to finance the export of the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam as a competitor to Khomeini's claim for leadership of militant Islam--and thus no Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and perhaps no Hamas either.
The war against radical Islamism is likely to be a long one. Radical Islamism isn't going away anytime soon. But it will make a big difference how strong the state sponsors, harborers, and financiers of radical Islamism are. Thus, our focus should be less on Hamas and Hezbollah, and more on their paymasters and real commanders--Syria and Iran. And our focus should be not only on the regional war in the Middle East, but also on the global struggle against radical Islamism.
Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak. (emphasis added.)
The right response is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.
I fear though that the current Administration has applied all its will and vigor in Iraq and cannot or will not spare it unless deeply provoked. Which we will come to regret.
The two sides have long engaged in a conflict in southern Lebanon — albeit, since Israel’s pullout in 2000, one mostly limited to a disputed territory known as the Shebaa Farms and contained by unwritten rules. This week, however, Hezbollah transgressed three political lines.
The first was its expansion of military operations outside the Shebaa area. While Hezbollah has done this before — even killing some Israeli troops — the latest operation was certain to be intolerable to an Israeli government already dealing with the kidnapping of another soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, by Hamas in Gaza.
A second line that Hezbollah crossed was its evident coordination of strategy with Hamas; this went well beyond its stated aim of simply defending Lebanon and left Israel feeling it was fighting a war on two fronts.
The third line crossed was domestic. By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel, Hezbollah sought to stage a coup d’état against the anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group’s adventurism.
This is an interesting observation:
It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here is one of extreme anger that the group has provoked a conflict Lebanon cannot win. The summer tourism season, a rare source of revenue for a country on the financial ropes, has been ruined. Even Hezbollah’s core supporters, the Shiite Muslims in the south, cannot be happy at seeing their towns and villages turned again into a killing field.
Young sees an opportunity here for useful! UN intervention.
What to do? While the United Nations has been ineffective in its efforts toward Middle East peace, it may be the right body to intervene here, if only because it has the cudgel of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was approved in 2004 and, among other things, calls for Hezbollah’s disarmament.
The five permanent Security Council members, perhaps at this weekend’s Group of 8 meeting, should consider a larger initiative based on the resolution that would include: a proposal for the gradual collection of Hezbollah’s weapons; written guarantees by Israel that it will respect Lebanese sovereignty and pull its forces out of the contested Lebanese land in the Shebaa Farms; and the release of prisoners on both sides. Such a deal could find support among Lebanon’s anti-Syrian politicians, would substantially narrow Hezbollah’s ability to justify retaining its arms, and also send a signal to Syria and particularly Iran that the region is not theirs for the taking.
Young makes sense. Israel should damage Hezbollah as much as possible but refrain from unduly harming the anti-Syrian Lebanese government. Which means raids should be directed towards Hezbollah directly and not to 'punish' the Lebanese government.
Count me out of the increasingly popular media theme of current Middle East coverage which holds that Iran is using the poor Palestinians as a cat's paw.
Without any help from Iran, the Palestinians ELECTED Hamas — whose main platform is the destruction of Israel. Before that, they were the willing accomplices of Arafat, whose career was about destroying Israel. The Palestinians are committed to terrorism as a political tool, and refuse — as a matter of policy — to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Virulent antisemitism is inculcated in children from infancy and is the daily fare of (regime-controlled) media broadcasts, while maps depicting the hoped-for "Palestine" over what was once Israel are commonplace. (By contrast, Palestinians are among the many Arabs living peacefully in Israel — some of whom even serve in Israels' government as our friend Seth Leibsohn pointed out on Bill Bennett's radio show this morning.)
The Palestinians are not victims here; they are top-tier co-conspirators in a broad plan to destroy Israel. They are like mafia buttons — they may not be the Godfather (Iran) or even the local capo (Syria), but when it comes time to whack some Israelis, they're the happy hitman.
Michael Ledeen has been right all along that Iran is the heart of the problem. But the developing narrative that Iran is manipulating the Palestinians is nonsense. It's a fiction based on the delusional hope that we are thisclose to peaceful co-existence ... if only the bad outside influences would just cease and desist.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Dennis Gartman, the author of the eponymous Gartman Letter, a financial markets daily publication (subscriber only) is an unusually perspicacious observer of many things financial (and political).
One of his most powerful theories is that the one economic number that you can always trust implicitly is tax revenue paid to federal, state and local governments. Businesses do not pay taxes on phantom or expected profits, only on realized profits. [Americans, he finds, are generally excellent in paying the government its due.]
From the 40s to the early 90s, government tax revenue very closely matched that of GDP growth, within say 0.5%. In the past few years with GDP rising 3-4% tax revenues have been rising 9-11% over the same periods - a stunning break from tradition. And the trend is that the spread is widening.
But this strong growth doesn't seem to be reflected in the tepid employment growth numbers and the horrifying trade deficit numbers. Why? The way in which we measure trade and economic growth, Gartman argues, is suited more to a 19th century mercantilist economy than the heavily internet and service oriented one today. One of his most compelling questions is how many people do you know who aren't covered by either the household (unemployment rate) or the establishment (payrolls growth) surveys?
How great is this growth? Revenues are RISING with LOWER tax rates.
Political and military analysts in Egypt and Israel said the recent events seemed to stem from a growing relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah. While there is no direct evidence of coordinated attacks, several analysts said they believed that the two kidnappings were part of a plan reflecting a trend that began several years ago, with Hezbollah trying to teach Hamas its methods.
“What took place from Hezbollah today, in my opinion, is tied to their relationship with Hamas,’’ said Dr. Wahid Abdel Meguid, Deputy Director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt. “Hezbollah developed a strong relationship with Hamas. The most manifest form of this relationship is Hezbollah’s role in training the Hamas cadres.”
Hezbollah and Hamas are part of a complex four-way relationship with each other and Iran and Syria. Iran helped to create, finance and train Hezbollah. Hamas’s political leader, Khaled Meshal, lives and works in Damascus. The expectation among political and foreign affairs analysts is that Hamas and Hezbollah would never have taken such provocative actions without at least the tacit approval of their sponsors in Tehran or Damascus.
What's even more stunning is this was in a report from the New York Times!
Today, however, he rips into the deans of some of the top journalism schools in the US. Why? Because they agreed that the NYTimes should have published the SWIFT program (terrorist finance tracing) and NSA international telephone call surveillance stories, even though those stories have hamstrung the US intelligence-gathering efforts that are necessary to prevent another 9-11 type of attack. But those same journalism deans blast Bob Novak for his throwaway statement in a column that did not discuss her that identified Valerie Plame as Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife.
As York notes:
They appear to believe that the Plame disclosure did more damage than the others — even though Patrick Fitzgerald, the CIA leak prosecutor, has said that in the upcoming perjury trial of Lewis Libby, he, Fitzgerald, does not plan to offer “any proof of actual damages” done by the Plame leak.
Maybe there was some harm; we just don’t know. But there seems no doubt that the terrorist-financing, NSA surveillance and CIA prisons stories did substantial damage to American national security.
The deans are ridiculous. The Plame revelation is a nullity -- she was not a covert operative and had not been for more than half a decade. The harm from the NSA, CIA prisons and SWIFT operations stories is clear from the revelation itself. The press should not wonder why it is more lowly regarded than the President, the Congress and even most lawyers.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The real news, and where the policy credit belongs, is with the 2003 tax cuts. They've succeeded even beyond Art Laffer's dreams, if that's possible. In the nine quarters preceding that cut on dividend and capital gains rates and in marginal income-tax rates, economic growth averaged an annual 1.1%. In the 12 quarters--three full years--since the tax cut passed, growth has averaged a remarkable 4%. Monetary policy has also fueled this expansion, but the tax cuts were perfectly targeted to improve the incentives to take risks among businesses shell-shocked by the dot-com collapse, 9/11 and Sarbanes-Oxley.
This growth in turn has produced a record flood of tax revenues, just as the most ebullient supply-siders predicted. In the first nine months of fiscal 2006, tax revenues have climbed by $206 billion, or nearly 13%. As the Congressional Budget Office recently noted, "That increase represents the second-highest rate of growth for that nine-month period in the past 25 years"--exceeded only by the year before. For all of fiscal 2005, revenues rose by $274 billion, or 15%. We should add that CBO itself failed to anticipate this revenue boom, as the nearby table shows. Maybe its economists should rethink their models.
Remember the folks who said the tax cuts would "blow a hole in the deficit?" Well, revenues as a share of the economy are now expected to rise this year to 18.3%, slightly above the modern historical average of 18.2%. The remaining budget deficit of a little under $300 billion will be about 2.3% of GDP, which is smaller than in 17 of the previous 25 years. Throw in the surpluses rolling into the states, and the overall U.S. "fiscal deficit" is now economically trivial.
The CBO uses the zero-sum formula for tax accounting -- that is, it looks only at the current revenues and the effect of a lowered tax rate on that revenue level. The CBO makes the same mistake every time: lowered taxes that stimulate economic activity will raise tax revenues because of the economic improvements.
For example, a 15% tax on $1000 income ($150 to the Treasury) lowered to 12% does not mean that the government will only receive $120 in the future from that taxpayer -- instead, if the taxpayer increases its income thanks to the lower cost of its business (or less incentive to hide away money in tax-free investments) to say $1300, the goverment actually gains revenue (12% of 1300 = 156) thanks to the tax cut's effect on the taxpayer's prosperity. Democrats refuse to use these models, which are vastly more accurate than the CBO's zero-sum formula.
As for the tax cuts helping only the rich: that's the largest pile of horse offal possible. Americans in the top 5% of income pay proportionately more in taxes than their "fair share" (their proportion of the tax burden is higher than their proportion of the income that they receive).
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
[T]he silver lining grasped by a number of usually astute analysts . . . goes something like this: “The Supremes may have slapped down President Bush’s effort to deny al Qaeda terrorists trials that would provide them with an education in American intelligence capabilities. But don’t fret: Congress can make it right.”
Underlying this rosy construction, though, is an implication that would have horrified the Framers: The president’s power to safeguard the United States from external threats is dependent on Congress’s willingness to “authorize” protective measures. Our forebears knew better. They had lived through over a decade of the Articles of Confederation. They had seen national security by committee. They well understood that it was no national security at all.
* * *
. . . On its face, Hamdan is a case about military commissions, not electronic surveillance. Yet, its facts are saliently analogous to those of the TSP.
Military commissions, like national-security eavesdropping, originally derive from the president’s inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. Later, legislation was enacted, in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and its predecessor statutes, that arguably endeavored to limit military commissions, just as FISA legislation unquestionably undertook to restrict the executive’s ability to conduct surveillance of hostile foreign operatives.
Both situations thus present the question of whether Congress can taper presidential powers (such as conducting war, negotiating treaties, nominating judges, etc.) by passing statutes that touch on these Article II prerogatives. . .
* * *
Under Hamdan’s logic, even if the president starts out with inherent Article II authority, that power — constitutional power — can now be rescinded by statute. The new theory is most expansively set out in the Hamdan concurrence of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who offered a “constitutional principle that congressional statutes can be controlling.”
With no discussion of the constitutional moorings of presidential power to direct wartime military commissions, Justice Kennedy began by asserting that “Congress, in the proper exercise of its powers as an independent branch of government, and as part of a long tradition of legislative involvement in matters of military justice, has considered the subject of military tribunals and set limits on the President’s authority.” He then dropped the hammer:
Where a statute provides the conditions for the exercise of a governmental power, its requirements are the result of a deliberative and reflective process engaging both of the political branches. Respect for laws derived from the customary operation of the Executive and Legislative branches gives some assurance of stability in time of crisis. The Constitution is best preserved by reliance on standards tested over time and insulated from the pressures of the moment.
This sounds reassuring and is … preposterous. First of all, what if a president, or Congress, is wrong? What if the president signs a flawed law? That, to put it mildly, has been known to happen. The customary operation of the political branches is, well, political. It is always influenced by the pressures of the moment, which often are given precedence over what the Constitution objectively requires.
This is precisely why we insulate the federal courts from political pressures. Every now and then, a president (like Jimmy Carter) will overreact to the fleeting political currents of a scandal (like Watergate) by agreeing to a statute (like FISA) that cedes to an opportunistic legislature important presidential powers (like determining which enemy operatives should be monitored in wartime). It is in those times when we most need the Supreme Court to ignore the politics and remind us that a president’s ill-advised concessions can no more reduce Article II than Nixonian overreaches can inflate it. Constitutional authority is an objective, enduring fact. It does not shift with the winds of transitory politics. . .
Read it all.
Bombs ripped apart some of Bombay/Mumbai's commuter railway stations this morning. As of this posting, the India Uncut blog states that seven bombs have exploded and the death toll is about 135.
Go to India Uncut for a roundup of events, links to newsreports and more. The explosives were high-power, that means this is a well-funded terrorist group, not just an amateur operation that got lucky.
Monday, July 10, 2006
News gets worse: the US backed down from its opposition to Muhammed El-Baradei's re-election for a third term of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the alleged nuclear power watchdog of the UN, because so many European states indicated they supported him. Of course, the US sees that good deed get punished:
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively fired his lead Iran investigator this spring at the request of the Iranians, according to a new report in the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag.
The lead inspector of the 15-man IAEA team in Iran, Chris Charlier, told the newspaper that the IAEA chief, Mohammad ElBaradei, agreed to a request the Iranian government made, and relegated Mr. Charlier, a 64-year-old Belgian, to office work at the organization's Vienna-based headquarters. The Iranian request was reportedly made when Mr. ElBaradei visited Iran in April.
Get it? Charlier didn't take the BS line from Iran at face value, Iran wanted him gone in favor of someone who would, El Baradei agreed. What a useless process.
It's a bit long but a required history lesson.
At the time he left office in January 1953, so toxic that most of his party had shunned him, no one could imagine that Harry S. Truman, common-man heir to a great wartime president, would one day be claimed by both major parties, each of them longing to be just like him.
Despising George Bush, and enraged by the left, which is trying to purge them, the liberal hawks are making their stand with and through Harry, to prove they are manly without being macho, and nuanced and caring without being wimps. Harry, they claim, was strong, but so gentle; a leader, but always deferring to others; moral and mighty yet multilateral, just as they are in their fantasies. Peter Beinart claims in his book The Good Fight that only liberal hawks such as Harry can bring national greatness, a view warmly endorsed by Joe Klein in a New York Times review that flogs it with vigor.
Emery discusses a number of 'myths' that these liberal hawks and grown around Truman:
Myth number one might be called the Liberal Fallacy--the belief that Harry Truman, and Franklin Roosevelt before him, were not just liberals who made good foreign policy, but that they made good foreign policy because they were liberals, and that thus only liberals can make good foreign policy judgments.
History records many, among them Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, who in 1943 committed a Republican caucus to Roosevelt's plan for the United Nations; in 1944 put a plank to this end in the Republican platform; in 1945 attended the conference in San Francisco at which the U.N. was founded; in 1947 was the first to pledge his support to the Truman Doctrine, suggested to Truman the bipartisan commission that helped the Marshall Plan gain its wide public acceptance, and in 1948, when the North Atlantic Treaty was believed to be in some trouble, lent his name to the bill that helped it go through. "Without Vandenberg in the Senate, the history of the postwar period might have been very different," wrote Acheson.
And then there was Ike, Harry's partner in virtue, co-architect of the Cold War world order, who lent Truman his vast stores of political capital, backed the U.N., the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan from the very beginning, and legitimized NATO by agreeing to lead its forces in Europe, much as George Washington had legitimized the Constitutional Convention.
Myth number two is the modesty gambit, the belief that the Cold War world order was built by the meek, organized around the idea that American power was too big and too brutal to unleash on a small, gentle world. Truman, according to Klein, placed "the need for American restraint and humility" at the center of all his designs. With this in mind, quoth Beinart, Truman "encased" the United States in a web of treaties that vastly curtailed its power. Thus was Washington able to convince its allies to agree to be protected by America's bombs and its armies, and to accept billions of dollars in aid. This is the lesson, so they inform us, that has been totally lost on Bush. "In Iraq, by contrast," Beinart instructs us, "Bush utterly failed to convince not merely the U.N. Security Council but most of America's democratic NATO allies that the war would really make the world safer." Not mentioned in this account is that it is easier to win friends when you are offering them protection and money (as Truman was doing in the late 1940s) than when you ask them for effort and sacrifice (as Bush did in 2002).
Myth number four is the Perfection Illusion, the fantasy that once all was well. "Remarkably, on their very first try," or so Klein informs us, "Harry Truman's liberal anti-Communists developed a global leadership strategy that was strong, sophisticated, optimistic, and humane." Well, perhaps, if you omit the word global. In Europe, the Truman Doctrine was a roaring success that stopped communism at its World War II borders, held the line (after more than a few dicey moments), and allowed Western Europe to recover from war comfortable (perhaps a little too comfortable) behind the American shield. In Asia, however, it was a disaster. Mao triumphed in China; war and then a bloody stalemate dragged on for years in Korea; and Vietnam became a catastrophe...Do not expect the subject of Asia to come up all that often in these hymns to the liberal hawks.
Above all, do not expect Korea to be brought up at all. Korea, in fact, is Iraq on steroids, a compendium of every complaint that the liberals bring against Bush and his administration: a war of choice that began with an error, that became in effect the mother of quagmires, that cost billions of dollars, killed tens of thousands, and dragged on years longer than anyone looked for, to an inconclusive and troublesome end...It was a war of choice, in that it was an invasion of a country to which the United States was not bound by treaty, but felt obliged to defend as a matter of principle.
The public turned on the war, and on Truman, whose approval ratings bottomed out at 23 percent near the end of his tenure. His presidency was widely assumed to have been a debacle. In 1952, he was shunned by his chosen successor. His country was eager to show him the door.
Liberal hawks hail Harry now that he has been cleared by the verdict of history, but what would they have said in those dark days of trial? Would they have been loyal, in real time, to the man they now look to? Or would they have bailed out on Korea and Harry, as they have now bailed out on Bush and Iraq?
If the Truman of Korea is not mentioned much by today's liberal warriors, the Truman of Japan is not mentioned at all: a relentless war leader who used power to crushing and awesome effect. In the last months of the war, to avoid an invasion of the Japanese islands, America's two greatest liberal presidents planned, executed, and blessed a campaign so completely hair-raising that the horror remains to this day. "From March to July 1945, against virtually no resistance, the B29s dropped 100,000 tons of incendiaries on sixty-six Japanese towns and cities, wiping out 170,000 square miles of closely populated streets," Paul Johnson relates in Modern Times.
[In early August], the first atom bomb hit Hiroshima, followed three days later by the bomb on Nagasaki. Two more bombs were ready for dropping, in case there had been further resistance. Truman never regretted his decision to drop them, and said he had never lost one minute's sleep.
What Truman showed here is the relentlessness he shared with Lincoln and Roosevelt; the will to do what one must to save one's people, in the knowledge that sometimes men who do not like to kill are forced and obliged to kill in great numbers, to make sure that cruel and evil regimes do not flourish and that those who like killing do not rule the earth. It is the Democrats' problem--and therefore the country's--that their last president to understand this on a visceral level left the White House in 1963 in a coffin, and that none of their leaders have quite known this since. Their evocations of these people feel and sound hollow--they may like the idea of FDR, JFK, and Harry, but one feels the real men would unnerve them. They are right to look to Truman for a way out of their malaise and their quandary, but the Truman they create is part of the problem: soft-power Harry, Humility Harry, with none of the iron that he had in real life. They don't like the real Harry--the one of Japan and Korea--and they don't like his real traits, when they see them in others, like George W. Bush. This is their flaw, and their evasions won't help them. When they own and admit the genuine Harry, people will trust them with power again.
The Monk agrees with most of that, except the best team notion. Let's be clear, Anon knows his soccer better than Monk and watched more of it because Anon had the time to go to the pubs and chill during his lunch (two)hour whilst Monk was in trial.
That said, Anon has vastly understated what Italy accomplished: between Buffon, Canavarro and the rest of the Azzurri defense, the Italians performed an historic feat: no goals scored by an opponent during play. The only goals Italy let in during the whole tournament were an own goal that a defender knocked into his net, and the chip-shot penalty that Zidane hit during the Final. No actual shots or shots on goal (unlike hockey stats, soccer distinguishes between shots attempted that would not have gone in, and shots that would have scored if not for a save or block; penalties don't count as either) reached the Italian net.
Now consider who Italy played while demonstrating that lockdown defense: world #2 Czech Republic; world #5 (HA!) US; the best African side in the Tourney, Ghana; Australia (the offensive weak link of the bunch); Ukraine and its phenom Andriy Shevchenko; host Germany, the most effective attacking squad in the Cup; and the French. Other than its win over a befuddled (and shockingly poor) Brazil, France really had an easier road to the Final.
Anon also claimed that France should've knocked home three goals before Zidane head-butted his way off the pitch. That may sound good, but reality is that mis-hits are part and parcel of even the best players' games (Anon unquestionably saw the English brick a wide-open shot from deep within the penalty area about 20 minutes into their 0-0 draw and shootout loss to Portugal), and Buffon stifled two of the best opportunities. So some more credit where it's due -- that Italian defense is the real story of the Cup and the Azzurri deserve what they received.
CORRECTION: Zidane's idiocy played no part in the Golden Ball (Ballon D'or) voting -- it ended at half-time of the Final. No doubt, that voting cutoff saved him: FIFA announced this morning that he won the trophy as the best player in the Tournament.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
The Monk watched the full game today and from minutes 50-105, the French were better and from minutes 75-120 the Italians looked flat-out waxed (probably from the 120-minute match against Germany from Tuesday). From minutes 5-45, the Italians ruled. And when the match came down to penalties, the Italians were all class: they buried all five penalty kicks, twice beating French GK Fabian Barthez even though he had guessed the right way to dive.
So now, the good, bad and ugly of this Final.
The Good: ITALY WINS ITS FOURTH WORLD CUP.
More good -- Gianluigi Buffon showing that he is the class among 'keepers worldwide; the Italian penalty takers who put on a how-to demonstration; Thierry Henry, who caused trouble as long as he could play; Zinedine Zidane (for 108 minutes or so), who was the best player on the pitch; minimal floppery from the Italians, who are infamous for their flopathons.
The Bad: the two penalties for the French, one given, one not. The first one, given in the 5th minute, was a cheap flop; the second one, not given in the 47th minute, was a legitimate and clear foul. More bad -- the offsides call that wiped out the Italians' second goal (Toni, the erstwhile scorer, was onside when the ball was played forward); the Italians' back line in the last 1/6th of the match when the French had far too many opportunities to bang home the winner; the Italian attack for the last hour of the game; the horrid wide-open 25-yard shank by Ribery with just under a half hour in regulation = horrid finishing, really just US-quality stuff.
The Ugly: Zidane's head-butt that got him tossed out on a red card. That's just low-end stuff from a great player.
The Cup is over. The second-lowest scoring tournament in Cup history (behind only Italy 1990). Much dullness, but a hard-fought Final with a good result. Here's hoping South Africa 2010 will be more fun, with a better US performance, and more success for my paesani.