Friday, June 30, 2006


Israel's measured response

I’m not following the story as closely as fellow MBA-blogger Soccer Dad but after reading SD’s Q & q with scott wilson (of the Washington Post), I admit to being more attuned to Mr. Wilson’s coverage of the Israeli foray into Gaza to rescue what’s rightfully theirs to rescue. Bringing us to today’s story: In Gaza, Seeking Shelter From Israeli Fire by the illustrious Mr. Wilson.

Let me begin with a rhetorical question: Has there ever been as murderous a group of thugs as found amongst the active elements of Fatah and Hamas that gets more benefit-of-the-doubt news coverage? We open with the perfunctory human interest element:

“Fatin Shabaat left home here Thursday with her three hip-high children, looking for safety from a slow-moving Israeli military assault launched to free a 19-year-old soldier being held by Palestinian gunmen.”

Apparenty Ms. Shabaat is a keen observer of the situation because Mr. Wilson dutifully records her educated insight:

"This is only going to get worse," said Shabaat, 25, who despite the impending clash favors keeping the Israeli soldier captive until at least some Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails. "We will not get anything otherwise. And they are going to invade anyway. This soldier is just an excuse."

He then goes on to casually throw off such lines as:

“…the creation of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”

We can argue at another time about the proper treatment of Jerusalem (originally intended in the post-WWII years to be an international city under no specific national control) but the 1948 conflict there kind of made such discussions academic. Thereafter, JORDAN occupied East Jerusalem until June of ’67 when they made the foolish error of hooking up with Nasser’s Egypt while he was openly threatening the annihilation of Israel. Such saber rattling didn’t work recently for Saddam and it didn’t work then for Jordan (or Egypt or Syria). Note to Mr. Wilson: If you’re going to give us an historical perspective, give us the whole perspective…or just shut up.

Mr. Wilson ends his hard-hitting news story with the observations of the noted Palestinian military leader “Hamada Abdullah Hamada, 31, a sergeant with the Palestinian national forces.” I don’t believe Mr. Wilson appreciates just how unwittingly his human interest focus on select Palestinians just goes to make the Israelis case:

“Pointing to the tank movements, Hamada said: "Even before the soldier was kidnapped, the Israelis were doing this. They will come in."

And what were the Israelis doing?

“The two rockets rose from behind a nearby agricultural school a quarter-mile from Hamada's concrete pillbox, and Israeli guns answered minutes later with steady, thumping fire.”

That’s right, the Palestinians were firing rockets from behind a school and it was only after these attacks that the Palestinians faced the wrath of the Israeli guns. No doubt, the UN shares the Palestinian outrage. It seems the Palestinians want it both ways here: not wanting the responsibility for the actions of a small faction within but at the same time expecting the Israelis to treat the demands of this small faction as worthy of consideration and respect. No nuance here – I fully support the Israeli actions in Gaza.

UPDATE: As part of the ongoing coverage of this story, the Post now has this AP article with the de rigueur slant of how this Israeli response could “backfire”: Israel's Hamas Tactics Could Backfire……Yeah, because things were right on track before.


More on Hamdan

Still wading through the Hamdan opinions with a more in-depth reading but have taken some time to also review other analyses of the case. As is their wont, the Washington Post thinks the President really got a stern tongue-lashing here:

“Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.”

One wonders if that paragraph wasn’t pre-written, betting that Hamdan would go against this administration. Once again: the Court didn’t “reject[] Bush’s military tribunals for terrorism suspects”, it rejected the way those tribunals operated. And to claim that this decision stands for the proposition that “a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate” is just plain hyperbole. To the Post’s credit, this article is labeled “Analysis”.  In addition, here is Charles Lane’s page one story - High Court Rejects Detainee Tribunals.

Some well-written commentary from our friends at NRO is here: Hadley Arkes on Hamdan & Supreme Court; Rich Lowry on Hamdan and Matthew J. Franck on Supreme Court & Hamdan. A key point they all touch on is this (from Hadley Arkes column):

“As if to soften the sting of the decision for the executive, Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Souter pointed out that “nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.” With the same expansive gesture, Justice Kennedy noted that “Congress has the power and responsibility to determine the necessity for military courts, and to provide the jurisdiction and procedures applicable to them.” Nicely filtered out of his gesture was the recognition that Congress had done just that — and done it forcefully: no courts or judges in fact have jurisdiction to hear these cases.

“That was the central, dominant point that Justice Scalia would make in leading the dissents. He would make it with a clarity that was penetrating, precise, and unanswerable. The Detainee Treatment Act was signed on December 30, 2005, and governed all cases as of that date. The majority would affect to believe that Congress intended to cover only those cases arising on or after December 30. But as Scalia showed, the plain meaning of the act was to govern all cases in this field, including the cases that were already underway.”

SCOTUSblog has a variety of informative posts which run the gamut of reactions on this subject. One, in particular, is my choice for the best single analysis I’ve read or heard so far. Richard Samp's comments I think most concisely and best express the ultimate bottom line of these opinions:

“I’d be surprised if any of the holdings in today’s Hamdan decision end up having large practical significance. The one exception is the Court’s rather cavalier treatment of the Detainee Treatment Act; the Court’s counter-textual interpretation of the DTA means that all Guantanamo detainees who filed suit before last December challenging their confinement will be permitted to go forward in the D.C. Circuit. But other than that, the importance of today’s decision is much more symbolic – it signals (assuming we needed any additional signals following Rasul) that the Court has abandoned traditional notions of deference when it comes to second-guessing the conduct of foreign and military affairs by the President and (to a lesser extent) by Congress.”

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Hamdan reaction: some guys should just not try 'clever'

Andrew Cohen, blogmeister of the Bench Conference blog over at the Washington Post, has posted a Top Ten Things You Can Say About Hamdan Case. I’m posting the link but, trust me, you won’t learn much about the case from them and if you use them in a discussion with, let’s say, someone who’s actually read the opinions, you’ll run the risk of sounding like a moron. I’ve scanned the opinions for a quick reaction and I hope to spend more time later with a closer reading. Still, I feel more than adequately well-read to comment on Mr. Cohen’s blog entry.

He says the ten talking points are in no particular order but he begins with every liberal’s favorite target: Justice Thomas.

“10. How about that Justice Clarence Thomas? You know you are on shaky legal ground when you stake out positions that even the parties in the case whose side you are supporting weren't willing or able to stake out. And yet there was Justice Thomas, over and over again, going to the right of his own party, his own president, and his own conservative colleagues on the bench. Yikes.”

I’m not sure what Mr. Cohen’s point here is because Justice Scalia joined Justice Thomas’ dissent as did Justice Alito (except for just a few sections). Perhaps Mr. Cohen didn’t really read the opinions or, worse, didn’t understand them because later he opines thusly:

“4. Why don't they just give those detainees fair trials like the Consitution (sic) and Geneva Conventions require and be done with it? After all, if the men are guilty of something, of anything, a military tribunal is going to so find even if the defendants actually get to see the evidence against them and perhaps even be able to appeal their convictions. Gitmo would have been closed long ago if that had happened when it first opened.”

Uhh, I don’t think that’s what the majority said. The issue was the use of military tribunals and Justice Kennedy and Stevens think that military tribunals, because they use the UCMJ as their guide, must apply the Geneva Conventions as part of the operating background of law. And please, the Constitution says nothing about requiring “fair trials” for war-time detainees. There are over 400 detainees there now. If every one was allowed to invoke Mr. Cohen’s nebulous “fair trial” requirement – with all the bells and whistles he apparently thinks they are entitled to – well, Gitmo would not only NOT have been closed long ago, we’d probably be talking to Fidel about extending our lease.

“1. Sure the case could very well end up back at the Supreme Court. But only if the Congress messes up again and still can't deliver legislation that both guarantees fair trial rights for the detainees while giving the president some of the latitude he wants to process the men.”

…..or Congress can just do a better job of clearly acting in accordance with their Article III, Section 2 power to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

“In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.” (emphasis added)

I think they tried earlier with the Detainee Treatment Act from last December but the majority apparently didn’t want to lose such a high-visibility case. As a first reaction, I’m not sure this is the stunning smackdown of the Bush Administration that so many have been painting it. Hamdan remains in Gitmo and, I suspect, will continue to do so as the Administration re-looks to Congress to clear this mess up. As mentioned, I look forward to a more in-depth reading as well as reviewing other commentaries and will be posting more on this subject.

Here’s a link to the opinions – all 185 pages of them.  


Loss in Texas redistricting case gives Left another chance to slam Delay

As you may have read, the Supreme Court recently ruled that redistricting Congressional seats for partisan purposes is not unconstitutional and furthermore, can be done as often as the state’s legislature has the energy and inclination to do so. However, Justice Kennedy also seems troubled by one of the redrawn districts so there may be some fallout there. (Despite what the papers say, I’m not sure Justice Kennedy et al are saying the district has to be redrawn but, who knows, his opinions can be kind of tedious) That last bit of judicial wisdom seems to be part of Justice Kennedy’s ongoing efforts to be the next Sandra Day O’Connor and therefore liked.

The redistricting efforts in Texas were spearheaded by Tom Delay and, for the most part, were successful on a partisan basis: Texas is now a majority Republican-represented state. So, for Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post (in a piece NOT labeled "Analysis") this can only be described as the great American Greek tragedy:

“Tom DeLay's dogged quest for a new congressional map for Texas led to a disciplinary slap from the House ethics committee, his indictment on money-laundering charges, his fall from the House leadership ranks and, this month, his resignation from Congress.”

That’s the opening paragraph; the next one tells us that, for the most part, Tom Delay’s efforts were upheld by the Supreme Court thus leading to this inescapable conclusion:

“DeLay's philosophical arguments may have prevailed, but as a practical matter, the high court ruling will have no bearing on his criminal case, and his redistricting effort will not survive unscathed.”

I know Tom Delay is no saint but Weisman’s article comes across as little more than a vicious and petulant hit piece. Briefly: The “disciplinary slap” was for his efforts in countering a Democratic walkout of the Texas legislature (so that they wouldn’t have a quorum to vote on approval of the new districts). There was no personal enrichment – i.e. nobody found $90,000 in his freezer. His indictment for money laundering charges was at the behest of a known Democratic prosecutor who involved several grand juries until he could find one that would do his bidding. It was this indictment that led to “his fall from the House leadership ranks” because it was a required action under House Republican rules (following an indictment) - a Democrat would not be so required.

In fact, I counted four mentions of his money-laundering charges without any hint of the political taint they carry because of Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle’s long history of such conduct. Nor does he mention the fact that the case has slowly been withering away (a judge has already thrown out the conspiracy charges although the prosecutors have appealed that decision). Here is an analysis of the case I wrote last fall, including a timeline leading up to the indictment: Looks like another partisan prosecution by Ronnie Earle.

In assessing the possible impact of this ruling, Mr. Weisman includes comments from two, and only two, local attorneys: “Nina Perales, the Southwestern counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which argued the case” and “Richard Gladden, a Denton, Tex., lawyer involved in the case.” Actually, the latter is better described as “Richard Gladden, a Denton lawyer who represents a Democratic voter challenging the new Texas map” (Dallas Morning News).  

In other words, Mr. Weisman believes no one can give us a better summary of what this case means than two lawyers from the LOSING side.

Finally, with all this gratuitous slamming of Mr. Delay, I guess Mr. Weisman just couldn’t find the room to actually give us the name of the know, the one that upheld the redistricting efforts of Tom Delay; those efforts being the inspiration for much of the partisan attacks against him. The case is League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Perry.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


More inane commentary on the Duke lacrosse case

Amazingly, even when Ruth Marcus seems like she’s on the right track, she comes across as someone so lacking in insight and thoughtfulness that one wonders what exactly are the credentials for becoming a Washington Post op-ed writer.

As my previous rants on a Ms. Marcus column (Harvard got played. & Ruth Marcus (hearts) Ted Kennedy) indicate, I have to consider myself forewarned before any future forays into a Marcus column. Still, the title (Reasonable Doubt at Duke) seemed so rational, so unMarcus-like that I couldn’t resist. So I clicked and discovered that, indeed, it really was a Ruth Marcus column.

She begins by admitting to a stereotype of alcohol-imbibing Lacrosse players in confessing her initial presumption of guilt and spends the first third of her article trashing the players, concluding:

“These don't sound like young men you'd want your daughter to date.”

(Well, she may be right there but I say that mainly because they’re from Duke.)

She then goes on to enumerate the various instances of evidence and non-evidence that all go toward exonerating the three accused in this case. In true, modern, PC fashion, she manages to get the name of the three accused into her story while continuing the practice of not naming the accuser. Hey, Ms. Marcus, help us out - she doesn’t sound like a young woman anyone would want their son to date.

But it is her concluding passage that ultimately establishes this column as worthy of the ‘Ruth Marcus’ byline:

“In an odd way, I hope Nifong's proved right, because the alternative -- that he began with a dubious case and stuck with it as it became shakier -- is so troubling. As it stands now, the case isn't expected to go to trial until spring 2007. That seems like an awfully long time to wait to find out.”  

She hope’s Nifong’s proved right? In other words, the prospect that three young men (attending an over-hyped but still probably decent school) actually assaulted a young woman is preferable to learning that a liberal Democrat, hyping this case for all its political worth, may be in the wrong. I guess it’d be like learning that Ted Kennedy can be an insensitive, unstatesman-like guy: Ted Kennedy's Neanderthal comment

Full disclosure: I played Lacrosse in college (well, I was on the team) but we never had any underage drinking at team parties (the drinking age was 18) and no strippers either (as if…). However, despite knowing better, I’ll continue to negatively stereotype Dookies (and Boston College people and Yankee fans and…).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The NY Times: trust us, we know what's best for this country

Today’s online piece by Howard Kurtz assesses the various reactions to the recent NY Times banking record story. He includes passages from a Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report . (Bill Keller is the executive editor of the Times) True to the Times’ recent tendency to sheer vapidness, Mr. Keller does not disappoint.

First, there is the usual treacle about the majesty of a free press:

“It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press….They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.”

Way to highlight an argument that nobody is making. Does anybody really believe that some nimrod at the Constitutional Convention actually stood before his fellow delegates and said:

“Here’s an idea, why don’t we just establish that it is always wise and patriotic to take the President at his word and the press should clear all publishing decisions with the government”

All the Constitution says is that “Congress shall pass no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” In other words, our founders didn’t “give” freedom to the press; they recognized such freedom as an inherent right and merely inserted a constitutional guarantee that Congress would respect it.

(And we should take special note of the “freedom of speech” portion of that amendment…because the Times doesn’t. It has long championed significant restrictions on certain speech – codified in McCain-Feingold – that allows the NY Times to bash conservatives 24/7/365 but otherwise limits the rest of us with restrictions on money and speech timing. You Call This Reform? )

He continues:

“The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor. “

What a pompous….! The NY Times is a business – that’s it. They were given no “power”; the freedoms they enjoy are ostensibly the same as those of any community newspaper of only 1,000 circulation or even this blog (which would kill for a ‘circulation’ of a 1,000 hits). And forgive me for dismissing his claim that national security decisions “are among the most agonizing decisions [he’s] faced as an editor.” I have no doubt that any ‘agony’ he’s experienced, ceased once he was convinced that a particular story would embarrass or reflect badly on this administration.

Somewhere within the federal government, someone entrusted with classified information is illegally disclosing that information to non-authorized persons. That is a story, one that is worthy of publication. We will not read about it, though, because the NY Times, the Washington Post et al have decided that their access to that information is more important than our access to information about corrupt officials in the government. Fair enough but that’s a business decision and one that is deserving of no special protection.

And somewhere within the confines of the NY Times is an unauthorized receiver of classified information. I have yet to read or hear an adequate, intellectually consistent argument for just why being employed by the NY Times should give you a grant of immunity for an act that would subject others to significant criminal liability.

The NY Times is unabashedly anti-Bush and anti-our efforts in Iraq. Their decision to publish this information is consistent with this …which makes his conclusion simply laughable:

“But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.”  

I don’t think they made the decision ‘casually’ – I think they made it gleefully, daydreaming that maybe, just maybe, this could be the news item that breaks this administration. Oh well, back to the drawing board for the Times.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Rewriting McCain-Obama

The Washington Post continues its cheerleading for Senator Obama in an otherwise pointless article on possible rule changes for lobbying Congress. Call for Lobbying Changes Is A Fading Cry, Lawmakers Say
Reading the article, you might think that Senators Obama and McCain were side-by-side in this fight to re-write the rules of Washington lobbying:
"I was eager to participate; I was excited about it," Obama recalled. "The timing was good not just for the party but for the country.  ......

“A steady stream of proposals favored by McCain and Obama was rejected by Senate panels.”

This left me questioning my memory….I mean, did I just imagine this this past February:

“Dear Senator Obama: I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere.

“… As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.” U.S. Senator John McCain letter to Senator Obama

Saturday, June 24, 2006


The GOP and Iraq: The Post clears it all up

The Washington Post provides us with a contrasting message with these two articles in today’s paper: Republicans Get Selective In Backing Bush Agenda and Clinton Says GOP Blindly Follows Bush.

The first article is designated “Analysis” which is Post-speak for: “even we’re not going to try and pretend this is a real news story.” In it, Peter Baker makes the rather obvious point that, on the whole, Republicans are still with the President on Iraq but are decidedly not when it comes to immigration.

The second article, by veteran Bush-basher Dan Balz, highlights Sen. Clinton’s recent criticism of congressional GOPers:

“We're not blindly united like the other side is, where they are like the three monkeys -- 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,' " she told reporters after a speech to the Democratic group NDN. "They're not going to say anything negative about the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense or anybody else. I think that's irresponsible. It's negligent."

Hillary Clinton is, of course, famous for her tolerance of dissent and negativity. We all remember how she celebrated the opportunity to publicly discuss her health care proposals in 1993:

“May 20, 1993 - The first of four scheduled internal health-policy debates takes place at the White House. Clinton asks everyone present to keep the meeting private but the very next weekend accounts of the session appear in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The next three debates are indefinitely postponed. This incident, and others, make the Clintons and Magaziner feel they are being subjected to intentional acts of disloyalty.” NewsHour Online: The Healthcare Debate leading up to Clinton's Healthcare Address to Congress

Nowhere in this second article does Mr. Balz question Ms. Clinton as to why she thinks the Republicans remain united around Iraq if his colleague at the Post, Peter Baker, reports that Republicans are being election-driven in their support of the President’s agenda and, as he reports, polls show that Iraq support could be a losing proposition:

“A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that 54 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to support a candidate who favors pulling all American troops out of Iraq over the next 12 months.”

Of course, he also doesn’t connect how:

“That same poll showed that 57 percent of Americans favor reducing troop levels but that only 38 percent support a fixed timetable for removing them.”

So, we now know that 54% will support someone who favors a complete pullout within twelve months but only 38% will support a fixed timetable….what do they think completely out in 12 months is?

Final nit-pick: “One proposal, written by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), would have forced the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by next summer.”

How exactly would that resolution have “forced” the complete withdrawal if, as a rule, congressional resolutions generally don’t force the President to do anything?

Friday, June 23, 2006


Crusaders - Class of '10

I’m posting this link purely because the two young men profiled will now be attending the finest liberal arts college in the country. Good luck to them. Beat Georgetown!! For the Love Of Ballou  


Good for Governor Ehrlich

Good for the Governor: Ehrlich Vetoes Bill Offering Electricity Rate Relief

Although the General assembly will probably over rule his veto, it is always a good thing to be on the right side of an issue. This bill is nothing more than an attempt by the Democratically-controlled Maryland legislature to deflect blame for the introduction of market forces into the Maryland energy market. The Democratic solution is to have everyone participate in the rate hike deferral (a deferral in the same sense that a mortgage is a deferral of paying for the house) – more or less forcing us all to pay interest on the portion of the hike not yet in force. I’d just as soon pay up front but apparently I have no say in this matter because, once again, the Democrats who run this state know what’s best for me.

Two good columns on this issue from the Gazette: Lawmakers slay rate hike dragon and What a sham!

Just more evidence that John Fund may be right:

“It should normally be difficult to pick the worst state legislature in America, but Maryland's is way out in front.”


Good Luck to Doug Duncan

I am genuinely sorry to see that Doug Duncan has dropped his bid for the Democratic Maryland gubernatorial nomination Depression Led to Final Decision

From a partisan viewpoint, the spectacle of County Executive Duncan and Mayor O’Malley trashing each other in the months leading up to the September primary was a helpful one for the re-election efforts of Governor Ehrlich. Beyond that, though, I believed Mr. Duncan was eminently more qualified to be governor than Martin O’Malley ever will be: if a Democrat once again moves to Annapolis to become governor, Doug Duncan would have been the superior choice.

Good luck to Mr. Duncan and his family; let’s hope all goes well with whatever personal problems he faces.


More violations of terrorists' civil rights

The Washington Post, following up on the NY Times story, reports that:

“[t]he Bush administration, relying on a presidential declaration of emergency, has secretly been tapping into a vast global database of confidential financial transactions for nearly five years, according to U.S. government and industry officials.”

Now why, for nearly five years, would they be doing that? Well, we learn in the second paragraph that ostensibly this is:

“an effort to track the locations, identities and activities of suspected terrorists.”

Apparently just considering “the 2001 attacks” a useful data point, the Post gives us the timeline for this operation:

“Terrorism investigators had sought access to SWIFT's database since the 1990s, but other government and industry authorities balked at the potential blow to confidence in the banking system. After the 2001 attacks, President Bush overrode those objections and invoked his powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to "investigate, regulate or prohibit" any foreign financial transaction linked to "an unusual and extraordinary threat."

And which administration denied “terrorism investigators” access to the SWIFT’s database in the 1990’s? Would have it made any difference in 2001? That part of the story the Post isn’t disclosing. And nothing in the Post article gives even a hint that the operation is now exceeding its mandate. The whole depressing intelligence update to our enemies is here: Bank Records Secretly Tapped.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Dems take a stand on Iraq

Iraq is once again at center stage in Washington as Congress votes on funding and end-game resolutions Parties Face Off Over Iraq War in 11-Hour Debate

“As the Pentagon announced the 2,500th death of a U.S. service member in the conflict, the House embarked on its first extended discussion of the war since Congress authorized force nearly four years ago.”

It’s always strange to argue about death counts because it can come off as some deaths are less serious than others but here is a link to what the Pentagon actually released: Casualty Report - 6-15-06

Note that over 20% of the deaths reported (528) are categorized as non-hostile. Meaning they died in Iraq but not because someone took them out. While we honor and regret the loss of all who paid the ultimate price in Iraq, I think objectively the fact that less than 2,000 have been killed by hostile fire despite that being the main goal of so many for so long is a testament to our military’s professionalism and is a context in which to review this number.

Moving on: after getting John Murtha to vote last November against a resolution that echoed his own call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq (House Rejects Iraq Pullout After GOP Forces a Vote), you’d think most Democrats would be sensitive to avoiding such situations.

…and you’d be wrong. Thank God for John Kerry! He’s seems to always be there whenever the GOP most needs him.

“In the Senate, Republicans tried to put Democrats on the record as supporting or opposing an amendment -- drafted by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) but submitted for a vote by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.”

The final vote was 93-6 against the amendment yet the Post somehow paints this as the Democrats “largely thwart[ing]” the Republican effort.

“In the Senate, Republicans were also spoiling for a chance to depict Democrats as soft on the war, but Democrats largely thwarted the effort. GOP senators wanted a vote on language recently drafted by Kerry calling for nearly all U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the year's end. But Kerry, his party's 2004 presidential nominee, surprised the Republicans by declining to offer the language as an amendment to a defense authorization bill, after colleagues had urged him to consider possible revisions.”

“Largely thwarted the effort”? The GOP wanted a vote on the amendment and got a vote on the amendment…..and all but 6 Democrats are now on record as opposing a set timetable for withdrawal.

Coming on top of the Democrats big showing last week in the California 50th district (Dems garner huge upset although GOP retains House seat), I’m not sure what more Republicans can do to “thwart” the Democrats' obvious momentum.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Oh!! the Humanity!!!

David Ignatius joins the choir and sings for the closing of the Gitmo detention camp A Prison We Need to Escape. Here’s his reasoning:

“When I hear U.S. officials describe the suicides of three Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay last Saturday as "asymmetric warfare" and "a good PR move," I know it's time to close that camp -- not just because of what it's doing to the prisoners but because of how it is dehumanizing the American captors.”


The inspiration for such treacle is that former detainee, Moazzam Begg, has written a book detailing just how awful his experience in the camp was and Mr. Ignatius explains that the book “…came to [his] attention because the publisher asked [him] to write a brief foreword.”

The book was originally published in England and the US version is due in September. I’m sure it was just dumb luck that the publisher came across Mr. Ignatius for the “brief forward” but there is no doubt where Mr. Ignatius’ sympathies lie after reading this “remarkable” book. He helpfully gives us some of Mr. Begg’s background:

“Begg is a radical Muslim, but there is no evidence he was an active member of al-Qaeda or that he engaged in terrorist operations….He drifted toward radical Islam as a young man and began raising money for Muslim fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. In 1998 he traveled to Pakistan, and in 2001 he moved his family to Kabul, where he supported the Taliban.”

Sounds like a real sweetheart. Anyway:

“Begg was seized in Islamabad in January 2002. Though he was never charged with any crime, he was held for three years -- at Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan and then at Guantanamo.”

This little factoid kind of glances over the significance of his capture in Islamabad…as in Islamabad, Pakistan. Meaning the US didn’t make the original capture, the Pakistanis did. He’s captured in January 2002 – a scant 4 months after the 9/11 attacks. He’s connected to the Taliban, and he’s moved to Afghanistan – as in the same country then suspected of hiding Bin Laden. He later wanders over to Pakistan after the US goes into Afghanistan. This was not as if he was just some random name taken out of a phone book.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ignatius just can’t get over the fact that he, like so many others there, has not been charged with a crime. He laments:

“That's why due process for the detainees is so important -- because it will allow courts to distinguish between prisoners who are vicious killers and deserve the harshest punishment, and those who may be innocent of any terrorist crimes. We need to stop seeing everyone in the same orange suits.”

Had the prisoners now there instead been caught wearing uniforms while acting under the direction of a commissioned officer, they would properly be considered POWs and treated accordingly. But treated accordingly would not include due process and the right to a speedy trial. So under what theory of detention does Mr. Ignatius believe that foreign-held suspected terrorists should be afforded more rights than a properly-identified POW?

Mr. Ignatius is all atwitter because he fears that the captors have dehumanized the prisoners and thus dehumanized themselves. He then goes on to lump together all the captors at Gitmo because of his Voinovich-like reaction to an official’s post-suicide comments. This despite the fact that he even quotes a passage from the book which seemingly shows no loss of humanity by a least one US soldier:

“He describes a guard named Jennifer from Selma, Ala., who painted her fingernails black and dressed like a Goth on weekends, and who once confided: "I don't know if they've ever accused you of anything. But I know y'all can't be guilty." Begg says of her: "She left me with a lasting impression. All Americans were not the same."

No matter, it is Mr. Begg’s seeming irrepressible humanity that gives Mr. Ignatius hope. In short, he makes this radical and former supporter of the Taliban Muslim out to be the hero in his piece.

Let me offer an alternative viewpoint: Gitmo is not posh duty – it’s an important duty station but it’s also tedious, hard work. Little glamour pervades the place and there is probably a sense that all your actions are now magnified because of the symbolic importance so many critics is putting on the camp. So it would not be surprising if some of the assigned soldiers there developed an ‘us-against-them’ mentality. But by and large we’re not hearing that. We’re not seeing mangled bodies of detainees being carted off the camp. Any wrong-doing by a member of the military is taken as an affront by fellow service members and is simply not sanctioned. In short, if Mr. Begg’s self-serving tale is all you’ve got to counter the body of evidence affirming the professionalism of our troops at Gitmo, then the case for closing Gitmo doesn’t even get you a warrant.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The new fuzzy math: liberals = jobs

E.J. Dionne opens today’s column with a remarkable declaration:

“There is no sturdier liberal or Democratic slogan than "Jobs, jobs, jobs." In Search Of a New New Deal

Now Mr. Dionne is as sturdy a liberal Democrat as you’ll find on the Washington Post editorial pages so it’s no surprise when he later follows that whopper up with this one:

“But conservatives are expected to stand up for the rich. Liberals are supposed to expand the standard of living for everybody else.”

His column then devolves into some kind of call for a “New and Improved Deal”. As usual, such rails against modern capitalism are long on rhetoric and short on details. He does reference one standard liberal answer for many of our woes:

“What's needed, they've said, is heavy investment in education and job training to allow people to make the transition from the "old" economy -- those auto jobs -- to the new.”

(Left unexplained is why people primarily educated by the reliably liberal Democrats of the teachers’ unions are so ill-equipped to handle this changing of the guard.)

Without digressing into a history of liberal thought, let me just say that, in my lifetime, any association between liberal Democrats and “jobs, jobs, jobs” must have been a clandestine one. I can’t think of one policy introduced and advanced by these so-called progressives that can be positively linked to job creations. Higher taxes? Health care mandates? Regulations? …well, maybe the growth of government but the Republicans deserve much of the blame there too.

So, bottom line, I have no idea what Mr. Dionne is writing about when he connects liberals and jobs as if they were synonymous. Of course, maybe he just got confused and meant to write about LiberIA instead: ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’ are Liberia’s top priority

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Journalism: the Profession that isn't

So-called professional journalists always seem to crave respect. They want to be recognized as a profession but without all the messy credentialing and governmental oversight that attend other professions (Doctor, Lawyer, CPA etc.). They also want to define who gets to be a journalist when it comes to privileges attending the profession – most notably the privilege to publish whatever they want without telling their source, no matter that such behavior by anyone else may be criminal. Ideally, they would shape the definition to include Dan Rather, Bob Woodward and David Broder without somehow including the likes of your truly.

Part and parcel to this ongoing struggle for respect is the self-congratulatory pieces we see and hear every so often as we are constantly reminded about the importance of a free press blah, blah, blah. Today’s Washington Post provides us with just such a piece as Robert Kaiser recounts once again how brave and selfless the Post is in their work Public Secrets.

“For the Founders, the issue was freedom and how best to secure it. Addressing that point in his Pentagon Papers opinion, Justice Hugo Black captured the spirit that animates my profession in just two sentences:

"The government's power to censor the press was abolished [by the First Amendment] so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people." (emphasis added)

Implicit throughout his piece is an arrogance that says someone who writes for a living should be trusted as the final arbiter of what should or should not be revealed.

“Labeling something "classified" or important to "national security" does not make it so. The government overclassifies with abandon. And the definition of "national security" is elusive. Some politicians act as though revealing any classified information threatens our nation's security, but that seems preposterous.”

Of course, he’s right – the government does over-classify. It was a source of constant eye-rolling while serving in the Navy. But we, the people, established a government that puts in place people to make classification decisions; none of whom currently write for the Washington Post. Mr. Kaiser would have us believe that the press is merely an unnamed fourth branch of government, worthy of deference when they make a decision.

He also intimates that use of confidential sources is a must and that journalists, however defined, should not be required to reveal who gave up a classified secret – unstated is the addition “esp. if it embarrasses this administration”. He goes through the litany of heroic stories, spinning them to make the Post look good while ignoring what they don’t report. I, for one, believe the fact that the #2 guy at the FBI was illegally passing secrets out of the agency in a pique because he didn’t get the top job should have been news. The Post decided otherwise SOLELY out of concern for their own best interest. Their’s was a solitary decision because you can bet that the NY Times, Washington Star or NBC News would have immediately revealed that Mark Felt was Deep Throat during the Post’s glory days of Watergate.

Coincidentally, Michael Kinsley provides in the same Outlook section a useful counterweight to Mr. Kaiser’s self-serving drivel.It is a helpful reminder that the press can screw it up…and with horrible results for those they name incorrectly. Two Bad Cases for Anonymity In it, he primarily discusses the case of Wen Ho Lee, the scientist unfairly accused of betraying the US.

“When a string of government officials denied under oath that they leaked Lee's private information to the media, Lee's lawyers subpoenaed several reporters and demanded to know their sources. To avoid an unfriendly Supreme Court ruling on this question, five major news organizations (including The Post) kicked in some $150,000 each (The Post was reported to have paid about $10,000 less because it had not exhausted all its appeals) -- or roughly half of the $1.6 million the government paid Lee to drop the lawsuit. But they did so with ill grace, saying that the Lee case was "a matter of great public interest" and that "the public could not have been informed about the issues without the information we were able to obtain only from confidential sources."

Only the information has never panned out and Mr. Lee has had his name forever associated with a treasonous act for no apparent reason.(We also see such press excesses in the remarkably inept reporting on the Duke Lacrosse case. Despite available evidence not really proving much beyond some underage drinking, some of the ‘respectable” press has had no problem in publicly identifying the players while not seeming to bring any question of the credibility of the accuser and the prosecution.)

Although the gist of his article is inspired by the recent settlement agreement with Mr. Lee, Mr. Kinsley also briefly cites the Valerie Plame case. And Michael Kinsley being Michael Kinsley, he makes sure that we remember that:

“Likewise in the Plame case: The real story was about the leaks -- a Bush White House stratagem to punish a troublemaker,….” (emphasis added)

Funny, but in his entire recollection of the Wen Ho Lee case, Mr. Kinsley can never get around to mentioning that it was the Clinton administration that went full bore after Mr.Lee – instead it’s just the “government”….until it becomes the “Bush White House”.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Dems garner huge upset although GOP retains House seat

As you may have heard, the Congressional seat formerly held by Republican and now-convicted Duke Cunningham is to be occupied by…another Republican. The political discourse of late has been all about the tantalizing prospect of the Democrats once again resuming their presumed natural control of Congress and the California 50th would have been a visibly symbolic place to start.

Only it didn't……so let the spinning begin.

First of all there is the issue of the polls. As we learned from the noted non-partisan desk of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., we don’t really need to count votes when we have incredibly accurate polls to tell us who won. (Sample quote: “Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science.”) On May 17th, the Busby campaign breathlessly informed us that Democratic candidate Francine Busby had a 7 point lead on Republican rival Brian Bilbray. While not an exit poll, clearly something is amiss when a Democratic pollster is that dramatically off. I hope Mr. Kennedy is on the case.

Lots of interesting sidelights to this race. The Republican Party apparently spent a lot of money on this race in what should be a safe Republican district. Senator McCain pulled out of a planned campaign appearance when it became obvious that he and Mr. Bilbray did not agree on the immigration issue. Ms. Busby made a couple of questionable moves late in the race which the other side easily exploited. Jim Geraghty over at NRO has a good roundup of reactions and commentaries on the race results. Also John J. Pitney Jr. @ NRO gives a good overview on the significance (or lack of it) of this result.

Bottom line: a Republican-held seat remains a Republican-held seat…at least through November. Who’d a thunk it?

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Al-Zarqawi Dead; Lefties focus-group testing appropriate response

The president just made some comments on this happy occasion…not sure if the Democrats will demand response time. Just waiting for Congressmen Murtha and McDermott to denounce the troops involved. Al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The Nanny State: One county at a time

The Nanny State continues its encroachment here in Maryland: Howard Bans Restaurant and Bar Smoking. At least one Howard County politician gets it, though:

"We promised people that if they put in the extra ventilation equipment, they would be okay. Now we're just cutting them off and telling them we know better than them about their business," Feaga said. "I just think that government is being too much of a Big Brother."

Smoking was apparently a HUGE problem in Howard County as the last paragraph in the article makes clear:

“Opponents of the smoking ban, which also prohibits smoking within 15 feet of the restaurant and bar entrances, said the measure was unnecessary because 83 percent of the county's eating and drinking establishments already prohibit smoking.”

An unidentified quote from years ago: “Liberals don’t care what you do as long as it's compulsory.”

Finally, we get to read this bit of self-serving puffery:

"I think we're all very pleased that once again Howard County will be a leader in public health," said council member Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia), who voted with Ball and Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County) to support the measure. "We'll be able to move forward and protect our citizens and our employees from an unhealthy workplace environment."

As Thomas Sowell might put it; this is self congratulations as a basis for social policy. (From his eminently readable The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy)

Sunday, June 04, 2006


To listen to me is to do as I say

This article from yesterday’s Washington Post I think is reflective of a lot of the Washington mindset: if we don’t hear about it, it didn’t happen. White House Opens Door To Dissenters

The gist of the article highlights how some critics of this administration are now talking about how they’re getting an audience inside the White House. These include General McCaffrey and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Apparently, to many observers, the fact that some areas of disagreements are just now becoming public means disagreements were stifled before. How bad a problem was this?

“To disaffected insiders…, Bush has seemed powerfully indifferent to alternative views or shielded from them altogether. First-term figures such as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman and Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill ultimately left frustrated. Skeptical assessments of Iraq's weapons programs were largely disregarded before the 2003 invasion.”

Left unsaid in this litany was that frustrated Secretary of State Colin Powell was certainly not disregarded re: Iraq’s weapons programs. After all, he was the point man in explaining our understanding of the weapons program. Also not explained is just why they were frustrated - did they explain their policy preferences and the President just decided to go in a diffeent direction? Or were they frustrated with themselves because they kept quiet all the while?

Alluded to but not highlighted is the chasm between being “indifferent to” and “shielded from”. Listening to critics doesn’t mean you have to incorporate their suggestions or otherwise alter your strategies. Obviously, the President has people on his staff and in his council to advise him. They may offer different perspectives and disagree. The President goes one route thus disappointing those who counseled another. They’re unhappy; maybe they leave. It happens.

What doesn’t follow is that this is an indication that the President is “indifferent to alternative views or shielded from them altogether”. Nor does a collection of quotes and anecdotes from longtime critics who continue in that role cinch the case for that viewpoint. If the President wants to talk with Secretary Albright now, that’s his prerogative. On the other hand, should he surmise (like I might) that she probably has little to offer constructively, I’m not going to consider that just one more example of his isolationism.


Wife pregnant after sex with husband; Bush to blame

A 42-year-old, happily married mother-of-two, VA-based lawyer recently got pregnant. Sadly, this left her no choice but to get an abortion. Of course, this was all George Bush’s fault.

Dana L. (real name withheld) courageously outlines her dilemma in today’s Washington Post: What Happens When There Is No Plan B? Because this piece somehow manages to blame the Bush administration for the result of her unprotected moment of passion, the Post gives her front page status in Section B.

Apparently, she and her husband got it on one Thursday evening last March without her diaphragm being where it needed to be. I immediately wondered if the President had somehow managed to hide it but, in a rare moment of lucidity, she does not make that claim. Anyway, the next morning, I guess she remembered that sex could lead to pregnancy and so she called her “ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.”

Probably not a good time for her to learn:

“…that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B. No reason given. Neither did my internist. The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day.”

Her conclusion?

“But I needed to meet my kids' school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options -- short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book -- I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best.”

This is one efficient lawyer. She makes three phone calls - ob/gyn, internist and midwifery practice – right after getting her kids off to school and it’s already time to go meet the kids’ bus again.

As you can guess, she later learns that she is pregnant…..and was she ever pissed about it. A telling comment:

“I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.”

So Ms. L digs in and learns:

“[I]in May 2004, the FDA top brass overruled the advisory panel and gave the thumbs-down to over-the-counter sales of Plan B…”

(Note to Ms. L – Advisory panels don’t get overruled because, as an advisory panel, they don’t make the rules, they advise…hence the word “Advisory”)

Here is the link to the FDA’s Questions and Answers on Plan B on this very subject. Of course, they’re going to deny political or religious pressure as being part of their decision but they do highlight one point Ms. L kind of brushes over in her tirade: the original application provided that the drug be available OTC for all. I’m not a parent but I’m going to guess most parents don’t want their 14-year old daughters to have access to Plan B absent their knowledge. The sponsor (of the application to go OTC) then submitted a change request:

“…to allow for marketing of Plan B as a prescription-only product for women under 16 years of age and a nonprescription product for women 16 years and older was incomplete and inadequate for a full review. Therefore, FDA concluded that the application was not approvable.”

Ms. L gives short shrift to concerns over expanding availability of this drug; lumping all such doubts together as being conservative and religious-based. But there are some concerns that are common to any drug seeking OTC status, most notably the comprehension by the drug’s user of the associated instructions. As the users will be of the younger, probably less-educated (which partly explains why they’re in the position where they think they need the drug in the first place – sorry, Ms. L) part of the populace, it is important they know the associated risks. Users need to understand also that this is not an everyday birth control pill. To do this they’ll have to read the directions or get advice from a doctor or pharmacist. Also, from the manufacturers own web site (Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc.):

“A physical examination is not required prior to prescribing Plan B. A follow-up physical or pelvic examination, however, is recommended if thee is any doubt concerning the general health or pregnancy status of any woman after taking Plan B”

...and since doubt about pregnancy status is one of the reasons someone takes the drug....

We also learn Ms. L is “dumbfounded” to discover that doctors and others are allowed to possibly follow their beliefs and not prescribe the drug. Worse, in her eyes, they don’t have to disclose why they won’t prescribe certain drugs. The irony of her dismay at this allowed practice in a column where she won’t use her real name apparently escapes her.

The point of this article is clearly to get us to tsk-tsk the purported politicization of the Plan B OTC proposal by conservatives. As Ms. L concludes:

“But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.”

“Well-nigh impossible”? Unless I missed federal laws prohibiting previous inquiry of your physicians and making more than three phone calls in a day to track down the pills, I’m just chalking that up to hyperbole. And any politicization of this matter is clearly matched by those wishing to put “Plan B” on the fast track to your local drug counter (NOW and Emergency Contraception).

I do not wish to make light of Ms. L’s dilemma – I have no doubt it was heartfelt and real. But in taking to the pages of the Washington Post to assign the blame for it to conservative politics, the Bush administration and her non-prescribing doctors, she makes herself a suitable target for mockery for her seeming lack-of-accountability in this matter.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Michael Moore and ICC citings

My compatriots in the Maryland Blogger Alliance have latched onto some interesting stories that I thought I’d highlight.

The Baltimore Reporter yesterday linked to a NYPost article about a lawsuit against Michael Moore (The Baltimore Reporter: I so hope he wins.....):

“A double-amputee veteran of the Iraq war is suing filmmaker Michael Moore for $85 million, claiming Moore used an old interview with the G.I. to make him appear anti-war in his movie “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Soccer Dad adds “moore” by recalling an earlier Michael Moore incident where he (as usual) played loose with non-facts. Soccer Dad: Moore protection

I consider Michael Moore one of the most vile and contemptible (or is it contemptuous – let's ask Helen Thomas) people in the news today and a worthy successor to an aging Jane Fonda in this regard. His misuse of Sgt. Peter Damon’s words and image are just another exhibit of why.

Finally, Pillage Idiot covers an unfortunate side-effect of Maryland’s just started Inter-County Connector (ICC). Pillage Idiot: Parkland over people

In 1984, I had just returned to living in Maryland and bought a townhouse north of Silver Spring off Rt. 29. A neighbor informed me then that I had made a smart buy because the impending ICC would really help real estate values…..and nearly 22 years later we have the ground-breaking (but I no longer have the townhouse). I’ve long supported the ICC project but agree that the use here of eminent domain is (while proper in the way that Kelo never was), in the word and implied tone of Pillage: “Nice”.


Exxon has a new CEO; I like him already

On the Washington Post’s web site, a picture of some protesters outside an annual stockholders’ meeting for Exxon provides the link to a story on same: Exxon Mobil Shareholders Defy Board (the defiance was on a non-binding resolution – big whoop). The picture’s caption is what got me to follow the link: Exxon Chief Sneers at Global Warming 'Consensus'

Now this being the Post, anything short of genuflection at the altar of mankind’s (read: United States) guilt for global warming amounts to a dissing so I initially took this as typical Post hyperbole. But if Post writer Steven Mufson has quoted new Exxon chief Rex Tillerson correctly and within context, well then maybe the “sneering” descriptive isn’t too far off:

“Tillerson was most combative with critics of Exxon's funding of scientists and institutes that cast doubt on global warming. With reference to the global warming debate, he said that the phrase "scientific consensus" was an "oxymoron." And he denounced those who said the company was underwriting "junk science," arguing that Exxon was simply taking part in the "debate" over global warming.”

You go, Rex!!

Much of the story focused on shareholder dissatisfaction with the recent pay package announced for outgoing chief Lee Raymond but we do learn that Exxon once again raised their dividend “ they have every year since 1983.”

Also, in response to Exxon’s approach to “global warming”:

“…Tracey C. Rembert, a representative of the Service Employees International Union, which owns $12.5 million worth of Exxon stock, said Exxon had funded groups that "have tried to muddle the debate" on global warming, not clarify it. She said it was unfortunate because "in so many other ways Exxon excels at long-range thinking."

She then announced that her union could not be part of such irresponsibility and would be selling their stock.

Ha!! Just kidding! Did you already forget the part about the dividend increase? Such a sale would be like law professors announcing they would willingly take a cut in pay as part of a principled stand against “Don’t ask; don’t tell”.

Finally, the article mentions that the annual meeting “attracted a small number of protesters”. However, they must have been of the plucky type as Mr. Mufson devotes three paragraphs to them and the Post site provides two pictures.

Would that some of our successes in Iraq get half that much coverage in the Post.

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