Saturday, July 29, 2006


Seattle remains terrorist-free

An interesting timetable:

On Thursday Al Qaeda: War with Israel is 'jihad' - Jul 27, 2006

“Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."

Then on Friday, a man walks into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, announces:

“I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel,"

…and proceeds to shoot 6 women – one fatally. Six shot, one killed at Seattle Jewish federation. But of course it would be rash to infer any connection or refer to this as an act of terrorism.

“This was a purposeful, hateful act as far as we know, by an individual acting alone," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels at a news conference, adding "This is a crime of hate."

At Washington Post Online , they’re using Reuters to report the story and the latest posting is really illuminating Muslim Man Charged in Seattle Jewish Slaying

Many refer to them as Al-Reuters and they do not disappoint. Here is midway through their article:

“The FBI was working with local authorities on the case.


Police first responded to reports of shots fired and a possible hostage situation at the center shortly after 4 p.m., when there were about 18 people in the offices.”

I guess that was a tease because we have to read awhile longer to learn that”

“The federation, a group covering the Jewish community around the Puget Sound, had organized a large rally last weekend to demonstrate support for Israel in its fight against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon.”

Not mentioned was a similar rally held by Seattle's Arab American Community Coalition Separate rallies support Israel and Arabs

…nor why this fact was significant.

Which leads us to the utter irrelevancy of this factoid that Reuters uses to close out their article:

“In 1999, white supremacist Buford Furrow went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish community center outside Los Angeles, wounding five people including children. Later that day, he shot and killed a Filipino mail carrier.”

Why not just recount the Dreyfuss Affair? Or...maybe this more recent happening:

“A gunman opened fire Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport while standing in line at the ticket counter of Israel's El Al Airlines, officials said, killing two and wounding four others before an airline security officer shot him dead.

“Authorities identified the gunman as 41-year-old Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who came to the United States from Egypt in 1992 and had been living in Irvine, California, for the last two years.” Los Angeles airport shooting kills 3 - July 5, 2002

Because that incident, like yesterdays, was also just “an isolated incident”.


Legislatively vetoing the Law of Supply & Demand

It is perhaps my favorite quote from a national columnist this year:

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

Now nothing recently has happened that would threaten Maryland’s status of having the worst STATE legislature but others are pitching to show that such incompetence is endemic at the local and national levels also.

Case in point: the Chicago city council. You may have read awhile ago that the city had refused a permit for Wal-Mart to build a store in the South Side because, well, it’s Wal-Mart and, you know, Wal-Mart is bad. Properly chastened, Wal-Mart agreed to change its evil ways and become a more responsible corporate citizen and force union representation on its workers and keep Christmas in its heart all year round.

Ha! Just kidding – instead Wal-Mart merely moved their plans a few feet and built the store just outside the South Side. Sure this meant that the city was missing out on a significant tax revenue source but the important point here was that the city government did what was best for its citizens…even if the citizens were too stupid to realize it.

“News that all but 500 of the 25,000 who applied for the store's 350 jobs were Chicagoans helped fuel the debate between those who say retailers like Wal-Mart should pay a "living wage" and those who argue their communities are desperate for both jobs and the taxes that such shoppers bring to a community.”

This is why you just gotta love liberals – facts never get in the way of politics. With the Wal-Mart store mis-calculation fresh in their mind, the Chicago city council attacks again: Chicago approves 'big-box' wage law

“The measure requires mega-retailers with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet to increase workers' pay to at least $10 an hour in wages and another $3 in fringe benefits by July 1, 2010. Today, the minimum wage in Illinois is $6.50 an hour and the federal minimum is $5.15.”

Never mind that Wal-Mart already pays more than the Illinois minimum wage, the Chicago city council has somehow determined that ‘Big-Box’ workers are more deserving of more money for their work than, say, someone who works for a $500 million company in stores of 80,000 square feet. I can’t explain the logic of it but then again, I’m doubly burdened with an economics degree and non-reliance on union support.

But senseless pandering can also be a non-partisan maneuver. Case in point: the U.S. House of Representatives. In a combined move, the Minimum Wage Hike Passed By House also includes provisions to permanently cut estate taxes:

“The House last night voted to boost the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade while also permanently slashing the estate tax, a coupling that GOP leaders calculated might garner enough Senate support to become law.”

I hope this all crashes and burns in the Senate because, my support for estate tax relief notwithstanding, I consider minimum wage laws fundamentally stupid.

“Many conservatives disagreed with the provision to raise the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over three years.
"Every principled conservative knows this is horrible stuff,"
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said.”

It becomes even more outlandish when you put it in context with our immigration problem. How raising the price of labor serves to diminish the demand for cheap labor is beyond me but apparently some of our lawmakers labor under the impression that a minimum wage is a maximum wage. Accordingly, the thinking goes, raise the minimum wage and more Americans will do that kind of work. Yeah – increases in wages should increase the supply of labor. Unfortunately, whether the work is worth the increased wage and whether there will be employers out there who will pay it was beyond the scope of the legislation.

See, economic illiteracy – it’s not just a Maryland thing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


The End of PBS...hey, I can dream...

“The Federal Communications Commission's unclear edicts about language on television have paralyzed documentary filmmakers working for PBS, and its tenfold fine increase could put some PBS stations out of business, new Public Broadcasting Service chief Paula Kerger told TV critics Wednesday.” PBS's Lip-Reading Effort

I’m torn: the FCC fines are ridiculous but how tantalizing is the prospect of putting some government-supported PBS stations out of business…


Syria's Assad not taken seriously; Bush to blame

David W. Lesch is a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio and now a guest columnist in the Washington Post Op-Ed section. He is lamenting our refusal to talk directly with Syrian President Assad about the ongoing problems in the Mid-East.

“Indeed, one of the few Americans with whom he has had contact in the past few years has been a professor (me) who wrote a book about him -- not exactly high-powered diplomacy.”

Ours is not, however, a random, petulant refusal as even Professor Lesch seems to recognize:

“Along with accusations of Syrian support for the insurgency in Iraq, Washington began to view Assad as being on the wrong side of the war on terrorism.”

I say “seems to recognize” because remarkably he never once mentions Hezbollah or Syrian’s support for it as a potential reason for our discomfort in talking with Syria. In fact, he never uses the word “Hezbollah” once.

Any current commentary about Assad and Syria that ignores Hezbollah is immediately suspect but Professor Lesch gives us other reasons to question why anyone would want to study Middle East history at Trinity University.

“There are many reasons for the current crisis in the Middle East. It is largely the result of American weakness and perceived illegitimacy, stemming from U.S. folly in Iraq, which has allowed state and sub-state actors to assert themselves.”

I can understand that Mr. Lesch, being a college professor, is probably bound by some union-like rule to blame anything and everything on the Iraq war but such statements are just plain silly. Even if we accept his premise of weakness and illegitimacy, the largest part of the blame for the current crisis has to be assigned to the terrorists organizations that initiated the latest round of conflicts – you know, Hamas and Hezbollah. While Hamas is arguably a power unto itself, Hezbollah is Syria’s protégé and it strains credulity to not perceive Syria’s machinations in the Lebanese happenings.

The whoppers continue:

“Assad wants to be taken seriously. He believes the sincere overtures he made to the United States and even Israel in his first few years in power were categorically rebuffed -- and in fact they were.”

“Sincere overtures”? This man is exhibiting a classic case of the Stockholm Syndrome. Here is Bashar Al-Assad addressing the Syrian Parliament after assuming the Presidency:

"I will not forget to mention our brave people on the Golan, who cling tenaciously to their country and their Arab nationality, [while] rejecting Zionist existence in all its forms, and we say to them: 'We are with you and our steadfastness together is the guarantee that our land will be liberated.' In Lebanon, the brave national resistance wrote the best anthem of heroism and martyrdom which will always remain [as a model]that will live on with future generations…." Special Dispatch Series - No. 116

In January 2001 after a meeting with the head of Pakistan:

"The Arab-Zionist conflict is a struggle between truth and falsehood; between the spirit of tolerance and peace of Islam and the Zionist path of racism and aggression, as represented by Israel... It is a struggle between the desire for a peace based on justice and the granting of rights to their lawful owners, on the one hand, and the Israeli criminal aggression and barbaric crimes, on the other. Israel has been committing [these crimes], ever since it was [a bunch of] racist gangs; and it still commits them [now] that it is a state based on loathsome racist values and hatred towards Arabs and Islam." Special Dispatch Series - No. 177

Now those I believe are sincere overtures.

Professor Lesch concludes:

“In coming weeks, one hopes, the Syrian president will be talking with someone from the United States other than a professor who wrote a book about him.”

…because then anyone who wrote a book about President Assad may well be in demand...Methinks it is not just President Assad who wants to be taken seriously.


Great News in Energy

Shell 2Q Profit Up 40 Pct. on Oil Prices

Exxon Mobil 2Q Profit Jumps 36%

This is great news. It means the industry has incentive to seek out new supplies and others have incentives to seek out new alternatives. Now, if we could just get government out of their way…(Yes, I mean drill in ANWR and Yes, I mean drill in the Gulf!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Dog-Bites-Man: Maryland teachers endorse O'Malley

Update as to who gets the Maryland State Teachers Association’s gubernatorial endorsement.

The suspense is over and Martin O’Malley is their pick: Maryland's Largest Teacher Union Endorses O'Malley

At the announcement, his take on the recent report that has 6 Baltimore schools labeled "persistently dangerous" was not discussed. (h/t Soccer Dad)

So, what took so long to get the endorsement?

“Baltimore Mayor O'Malley was not endorsed by the 65,000-member Maryland State Teachers Association when it made most of its recommendations in May. That's because he did not get the required 58 percent support of the union's endorsement council.”

But now:

“With Duncan's departure, Kaufman said, the endorsement was an easy pick.”

Yeah, I guess so especially since:

“Governor Ehrlich did not participate in the union's selection process, which included a written set of questions and an interview.”

Meaning either he wasn’t asked to participate or the Governor knows a waste of time when he sees it.

Also, showing their political considerations run the entire gamut of far left to much further left:

“In other statewide races, MSTA tapped former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat, for U.S. Senate. Democratic Delegate Peter Franchot was endorsed for comptroller, and Democratic Montgomery County Councilman Thomas Perez was endorsed for attorney general.”


The Cynical Channeling of Spring Adams

I normally resist federal interference into matters that are best left to the states but the various state efforts to address parental involvement in their daughter’s abortion decisions have constantly met up with federal judicial enjoinment…which inspired the Child Custody Protection Act.

As you may have read, the Senate overwhelmingly passed this bill which would prohibit the transportation of minors across state lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion in circumvention of state-required parental involvement laws. Not sure why anyone should be able to transport minors across state lines for ANY purpose without parental notification but… The House has passed similar legislature several times in the past so this should result in something for the President to sign.

Both sides use anecdotal evidence as to why this bill is or isn’t a good idea. On the “isn’t” side, the tragic story of Spring Adams has been a mainstay:

"In Idaho, a 13-year-old girl named Spring Adams was shot to death by her father after he learned that she planned to terminate a pregnancy caused by his acts of incest," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said during House debate last year.” Senate revives abortion debate on rights of teens

“Opponents said the Senate measure could threaten the safety of girls, saying parents might beat their daughters if they find out about plans for an abortion. The proponents' approach "is not to deal with the reality of young people" in troubled families, said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). He cited the case of an Idaho man who impregnated his 13-year-old daughter and then killed her when he learned she had scheduled an abortion.” Interstate Abortion Bill Clears Senate

“Enacting this legislation and forcing young women in these circumstances to notify their parents of their pregnancies will only exacerbate the dangerous cycle of violence in dysfunctional families. This is the lesson of Spring Adams, an Idaho teenager who was shot to death by her father after he learned she was planning to terminate a pregnancy caused by his acts of incest.” House Judiciary Democrats dissent to HR 748

But that’s not the whole story. Here’s how the ACLU described it:

“Although the young woman decided to have an abortion and arranged for an appointment, shecould not afford either to pay for the procedure or to travel to the abortion provider, who was more than six hours away in Portland, Oregon. The local social services agency would have refused to pay for her medical care because abortions are not covered by medical assistance -- even in rape or incest cases. Two Portland organizations arranged for a free abortion, a ride to Portland, and a place for Spring to stay overnight. But the morning before she was to leave for the clinic, Spring's father shot her to death with a .30 caliber rifle while she lay sleeping.” American Civil Liberties Union Pamphlet

So some Portland organizations were going to step up to the plate and get this young lady an abortion. Which means some adults knew of her situation…and yet Ms. Adams was still in the company of her father? Didn’t it occur to someone that maybe, just maybe, getting her away from her molesting father was at least as important as getting her an abortion. From ewtn:

“Doctors in the Boise area refused to do abortions past 12 weeks for free (Spring was 16 weeks along), although one abortionist told her he would do the procedure for $800. Since the family didn't have that kind of money, the Idaho Health Department called an abortion mill in Portland, Oregon, that specialized in late-term abortions.

“The call went out to Oregon's pro-abortion 'community' for help. Unfortunately, while this 'community' took two weeks to marshal its ballyhooed vast resources, Spring's father killed her with a shotgun and then shot himself.” (see Case #6)

Two weeks? And then the father not only shot and killed Ms. Adams and self; he also killed Ms. Spring’s mother who apparently is the one who confronted him on the matter. Suburban Guerrilla » Women’s Rights Circling the Drain Finally, the mother wasn’t informed because of some parental notification requirement - Idaho wouldn’t have such a law on the books for over a decade later, the enforcement of which has been judicially enjoined.

Bottom line: Parental notification laws didn’t kill Spring Adams, her father did. The recountings of this tragic story imply that her father did so only upon hearing of her intention to get an abortion but who can really believe it was his reluctance to countenance an abortion by his daughter that enraged him. Isn’t it more likely that he did so upon realizing he was about to be publicly exposed as the evil he was. Shouldn’t he have been confronted on this earlier? Isn’t using the memory of Ms. Adams in such a cynical way beneath contempt?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


From the folks who teach your children

I haven’t seen much about this yet but from the website of your Maryland State Teachers Association:

“MSTA delegates vote to back O'Malley in governor's raceWith Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan dropping out of the race for health reasons, Maryland 's delegation to the RA enthusiastically called all MSTA members to action in support of the candidacy of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley for Governor and expressed deep appreciation to Duncan for his strong support for public education and educators.” MSTA: Maryland State Teachers Association

This doesn’t seem to be the same as the MSTA as an organization officially endorsing Mayor O’Malley in the gubernatorial election…although I don’t think anyone doubts that that is coming. The only holdup is probably the need to carefully craft a message of why the MSTA and its members think Mayor O’Malley is going to be such a boon for education. This is, after all, the same Mayor O’Malley who managed to convince his Democratic friends in Annapolis to keep 11 woefully underperforming Baltimore city schools under the same management they’ve always had. ( Democrats run Baltimore City for years so fault must lie elsewhere for state of its schools)

While the Mayor doesn’t have the kind of direct influence on education in his city that other mayors do, what influence he does have is certainly not inspiring. And he is not shy about latching onto any improvements noted. For instance:

“The study, published by the journal Education Week last week, maintains that only 38.5 percent of Baltimore's high school students graduated four years after they began high school. Only Detroit, where the graduation rate was 21.7 percent, had a lower rate. The city school system says its graduation rate was 54 percent in 2003, the year analyzed in the study, and improved to 59 percent last year.”

“Mayor Martin O'Malley, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, has been praising the city's improved graduation rate in his campaign, using the state figures.” Schools challenge report -

Now why anyone wants to brag about a 59% graduation rate is beyond me but apparently that’s an impressive rate to some. I think the best line about Mayor O’Malley’s commitment to education comes from Montgomery County County Executive doug Duncan:

"I am not surprised that, as a candidate for governor, Mayor O'Malley is now promising to do for Maryland's schools what he has failed to for Baltimore," Duncan said.” Metro


The Crisis in Education explodes

Every so often it’s a good idea to step back from the problems of the world and focus on the problems of Sui Lang Panoke. Ms. Panoke was kind enough to alert us to a pressing crisis; namely that we haven’t done enough to Put Grad School Within [Her] Grasp. Ms. Panoke is studying for a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) at American University (Washington, DC) and apparently it hasn’t been financially easy for her.

“I am a single mother who qualifies for the maximum amount in federal aid for graduate students. But this amount barely covers my tuition; paying for housing, books and living expenses is up to me.”

“Furthermore, I can work only part-time jobs while in school; otherwise I would not qualify for child-care assistance.”

Now some may be tempted to ridicule her for her life choices and subsequent whining for having to live with the results of those choices…but that would be too easy. Instead, I ask: what does it say about us as a nation when an adult is expected to have to handle housing, books and living expenses for herself…especially when she has a child and no husband to help out. This poor woman is voluntarily taking on the privilege of attending a very expensive graduate degree program at a private university so that she can then get a good–paying job, presumably with a government agency, where she’ll then be in a position to influence public policy.

…and I for one can’t wait to have her keen insights applied to society as a whole. For instance, how many of you were aware that:

“We are failing to redistribute the wealth in America, and the divide between the upper and lower classes is widening.”

Many of you may think that wealth is created and that when governments get into the business of redistribution of wealth they run the risk of ending up like Cuba but that’s probably only because you’ve never studied for an MPA at American University.

But it’s one thing to identify a problem; it’s another to propose a solution:

“It's clear that a federal need-based grant program for graduate students must be created.”

OK – now how many of you saw that one coming? A federal government spending solution to Ms. Panoke’s problem. Ms. Panoke goes on to explain why this is such a good idea.

“Money invested in graduate education will benefit the government by improving the quality of life for citizens.”

She doesn’t say exactly why using federal – vice private - funds improves the quality of life overall. But hey, what do I know – I’m not studying for an MPA at American University.

Ms. Panoke is selflessly attempting to address a crying need in our society – namely, the lack of over-educated public policy wonks with little real world work experience shaping the direction and spending priorities of our governments. Will we just stand by as a nation and let her dream of taking our wealth and redistributing it as she sees fit go unfulfilled?

Monday, July 24, 2006


Why Tyre?

Stories coming out of Tyre are indeed tragic as Anthony Shadid's piece in today’s Washington Post makes clear. What it doesn’t make clear – in fact, doesn’t even attempt to make clear – is the context of the attacks on Tyre.

“Are there any armed men here? Is there any resistance here?" asked Ali Najm, a physician helping to treat the injured in Tyre.”

Reading this article, it would be easy to forget that Tyre was not just some misfortunate city chosen at random to bear the brunt of Israel’s wrath.

“But this town is also the gateway to Hezbollah country, where Hezbollah controls everything from local administration and schools to security. Hezbollah has its footprint everywhere here, from its signature yellow banners to portraits celebrating fallen martyrs (sic).” Bombings Bring Season of Fear to Seaside Resort

Nor has Israel not warned the citizens of Tyre what was coming:

“Many residents, acting on Israeli warnings in leaflets dropped over the area, gave up their stand Monday (July 17) and decided to brave the drive. A line of cars packed with families and piled with bags was seemingly endless on the mountain passes leading out of here. "

Instead, Mr. Shadid provides only the slightest hint at why Israel was targeting Tyre

“The signal of Hezbollah's radio station, al-Nur, was jammed by Israel, which repeated its own message. “Know that the state of Israel will continue its campaign with force and determination with the goal of ending the terrorist work coming from Lebanese land," the voice said. The message ridiculed Hezbollah's leader, saying he was hiding in a cave. "Where is Hasan Nasrallah?" the voice taunted.”

As usual, there’s more to the story than we’re reading.


Iraqis divorcing; Bush to blame

Proving once again that there isn’t any social problem can’t be blamed on us, the Post this morning gives us the alarming news of the War Taking Toll on Marriage, Too. Apparently, Iraqis are now divorcing at record rates.

“More than twice as many marriages are ending in divorce as before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to ministry and court officials, social workers and divorce lawyers, though no reliable data are available from the earlier period. The twin stresses of perpetual violence and a stagnant economy -- along with the loosening of certain social stigmas -- are taking a toll on one of Islamic culture's most sacred institutions.”

Yep – based on unreliable data, we now know that marriage in Iraq is in trouble and it probably has something to do with us.

For the article’s author, Jonathan Finer, it seems that the memory of life under Saddam as the good ole days has morphed into an all-purpose article of faith. Seriously, it’s the POST-2003 “perpetual violence and a stagnant economy” that’s undermining marriage?  Pre-2003, there was the Iran-Iraq war followed up by the Iraqi invasion into (and subsequent return from) Kuwait - all with an ongoing regime built on terrorizing its populace acting as the backdrop.  A staple of pre-war news coverage was how our embargo was crippling the Iraqi economy to the extent that the children were in dire straits. In fact, I thought that was the whole humanitarian premise behind the UN’s oil-for-food program.

Amazingly, all those years the Iraqis handled with aplomb but just a few years with the Americans…

Since the article doesn’t actually recount any divorces it can attribute to the twin stresses, one might be tempted to infer that this is just some gratuitous slam at our Iraq efforts. But the Post constantly assures us that their editorial pages and news coverage do not mix so I don’t know quite what to think. For what it’s worth, I suspect the third reason - “…along with the loosening of certain social stigmas…” - presented almost as an aside, is the true dominant factor. The first anecdotal story given is indicative:

Furious when he took a second wife four months ago, she moved out and refused to return until he granted a divorce.”

Then there was this:

“or what she calls "tiny problems," like bed-wetting, an issue in a recent case.

“The husband "complained to the judge that he had to change the mattress every morning," Habash said. "When the judge said this is no reason for divorce, he cursed him. Really, now they want to divorce over anything."

In fact, they all pretty much read like divorce court here (well, except for the second wife bit) - in other words, marriages ending that probably shouldn’t have been marriages in the first place.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Stop the Presses: US out of sync with "allies"

I often wonder if leading newspapers in other countries do as much wailing and gnashing of teeth about their countries being out of sync with the U.S. as ours do worrying about the U.S., for example, being at Odds With Allies on Mideast Conflict.

“The United States faces growing tensions with allies over its support of Israel's military campaign to cripple Hezbollah, amid calls for a cease-fire to help with the mounting humanitarian crisis.”

Now, to date, U.S. support for Israel has been pretty much limited to the President supporting their right to self-defense so this may have just been a wishful inference by the article’s authors. Unfortunately, they do not identify the so-called allies for whom, apparently, anything short of outright condemnation of Israel for being Israel counts as support. And while there are those with reasonable concerns about the situation over there, I can’t believe anyone is really that upset that the Israeli military campaign is trying to “cripple” Hezbollah – upset about the possible effect of the campaign on Lebanon itself, yes – but I don’t think anyone is wringing their hands over the possibility of a crippled Hezbollah.

But as hyperbolic as their first paragraph was, Post writers Robin Wright and Colum Lynch don’t let up in paragraph number two:

“European allies are particularly alarmed about the disproportionately high civilian death toll in Lebanon. They are also concerned that the U.S. position will increase tensions between the Islamic world and the West by fueling militants, playing into the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and adding to the problems of the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq.”

Particularly galling is their opinion-stated-as-fact use of the term “disproportionately high”. Would our European “allies” really be less alarmed if a couple Hezbollah rockets were more proportionately successful? “Disproportionate” is such a subjective term in this context that I don’t believe it reflects anything other than the authors own applied use of mathematics. While any civilian casualty is regretted, I trust the Israeli military that any Lebanese civilian casualties are as a result of unfortunate (and, by some reports, Hezbollah-forced) proximity to Hezbollah military targets…if for no other reason than that if the Israelis really wanted to target civilians, the civilian death toll would be an order of magnitude greater. Meanwhile, is there any serious argument that Hezbollah is strictly targeting military targets in Israel? So when I read that “they are also concerned that the U.S. position will increase tensions between the Islamic world and the West”, I’m mentally inserting Robin Wright and Colum Lynch as chief among the “concerned”.

U.S. actions in Lebanon have yet to go beyond evacuation of U.S. citizens and I can’t believe a few muted words of encouragement are going to rile up a populace that isn’t already riled up. But if our support has them that concerned, imagine their stark terror upon hearing that Leading Saudi Sheik Pronounces Fatwa Against Hezbollah (h/t – NRO)

Meanwhile there are the predictable calls from the UN, Lebanon and France for a ceasefire:

“What there needs to be now is a cessation of hostilities," U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown told reporters yesterday. "The Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region."

“The fragile Lebanese government has pleaded for a cease-fire, and France has urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for an end to hostilities, proposing political and security measures.”

Lest we forget, the United Nations has a two thousand man force in southern Lebanon, led by a French general, specifically to “help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area.” Been around since 1978: while there, Palestinian attacks continued on Israel (1982) and Hezbollah has conducted terrorist actions against Israel and Lebanon has no control over its southern portion…so with this record of success as a backdrop, it is only natural that we turn to the UN for more help. (UN; heal thyself )

Thankfully, amidst all this nonsense, a voice of reason is heard:

“U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton challenged France's proposal. "I am not sure that conventional thinking about a cease-fire makes any sense when you are dealing with a terrorist group that fires rockets at civilian populations and kidnaps innocent Israelis," he said.”

Even Senator Voinovich gets it. (H/T Soccer Dad )

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Wal-Mart Health Care bill fails first test

This just in: Judge Rejects Md.'s Wal-Mart Health Care Law.

My first post ever was on this very subject - Maryland's bid to get business to Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania.... – so the matter has long held my interest. Federal District Court Judge Frederick Motz issued his opinion and order today, declaring:

... that the Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, Md.
Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 8.5-101 et seq., is preempted by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.”

The first part of the opinion addresses the State’s challenge to the Retail industry Leaders Association’s (RILA) standing to seek a declaratory judgment that the Wal-Mart bill was pre-empted by the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The basis of the challenge comes across as rather perfunctory and Judge Motz easily dismisses it.

A more interesting aspect of the decision is when he reviews whether the bill’s requirements are of a tax or fee basis.

“The Secretary next argues that the Act imposes a "payroll tax" upon covered employers and that the Tax Injunction Act ("TIA") therefore strips this court of jurisdiction to hear the case”

Judge Motz reviews appropriate previous Federal court decisions, including those from our own Fourth Circuit, and concludes that this is a fee.

“The Fourth Circuit adopted this test in Valero Terrestrial Corp. v. Caffrey, stating:
To determine whether a particular charge is a “fee” or a “tax,” the general inquiry is
to assess whether the charge is for revenue raising purposes, making it a “tax,” or for
regulatory or punitive purposes, making it a “fee.”…

“The record makes clear the purpose of the Act is not to raise revenue but to require Wal-
Mart to spend an amount equal to at least 8% of its Maryland payroll on health care benefits for its Maryland employees.

Now all that was left to determine was whether or not the Wal-Mart bill was preempted by ERISA. This Judge Motz gets to fairly quickly:

“In order to provide discipline to the ERISA preemption inquiry, the Court has held that a law “relates to” an ERISA plan if it has either a “reference to” or “connection with” such a plan…

“Because I find that the Fair Share Act has a “connection with” an ERISA plan and is preempted on that ground, I do not reach the “reference to” issue…

“…the intended effect of the Act is to force Wal-Mart to increase its contribution to its health benefit plan, which is an ERISA plan, and the actual effect of the Act will be to coerce Wal-Mart into doing so.”

End result: ERISA does indeed preempt the Maryland bill and a summary judgement for RILA declaring just that. Judge Motz spends the last third of his decision declining to find “that the Act violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution” but I think RILA is more than happy with their results. At first blush, then, this is a well-written and reasoned decision that gets it right.

Obviously, I think the Wal-Mart bill was an incredibly moronic attempt to curry union favor all the while getting the rest of to pay for it. But my animosity to the Wal-Mart bill notwithstanding, I am not convinced that ERISA should preempt state law in this matter. I think it can preempt and clearly does preempt - I’m just not convinced it should. I would prefer to see the States permitted to screw it up on their own before we are tempted to apply such idiocy on a national level. Judge Motz hints accordingly in Note 15:

“In light of what is generally perceived as a national health care crisis, it would seem that to the extent ERISA allows, it is strongly in the public interest to permit states to perform their traditional role of serving as laboratories for experiment in controlling the costs and increasing the quality of health care for all citizens.”

In other words, I think the Wal-Mart bill was a bad idea but I’m not real comfortable with the idea that we have to rely on federal courts to rescue us from ourselves.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


US Bishops speak out on the Mideast (yawn)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement today calling for a Ceasefire And An End To The Cycle Of Violence In The Middle East; Urge Greater Leadership From United States To Secure Peace

“The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ international policy committee said in a statement today that provocative acts of violence by extreme factions of Hamas and Hezbollah, along with disproportionate military responses from Israel, undermine efforts to create a just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and endanger the vulnerable democracy in Lebanon.”

It is little more than the usual tripe and vacuous platitudes we have become accustomed to reading from the Conference as they continue to try and achieve some sort of relevancy on issues outside of Church teachings (which this is not).  Statements such as “[t]he extreme armed factions of Hamas and Hezbollah” tell me that Bishop Thomas G. Wenski (the Chairman) is incapable of looking at the parties decisively – describing them as “extreme armed factions” makes it sound as if they are some out-of-control splinter groups instead of the very essence of Hamas and Hezbollah. Bishop Wenski should not feel the need to lump Israel’s reaction to those groups’ terrorist actions as an equivalent of them just to be perceived as even-handed and impartial.

Because it’s the U.S. Conference, the Chairman drags the US in:

“Our Conference calls upon the United States to exert greater leadership with all parties to the conflicts and to work more intensively and multilaterally to end the provocations and violence, to secure a ceasefire, to restrain Israel, to move toward negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to bring about security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians, and to ensure the independence of Lebanon.”

Again, I have to wonder if the good Bishop and his committee have been paying attention. The U.S. has been a constant in the Israel/Palestinian talks – Arafat practically had his own room at the White House during the Clinton years. The results speak for themselves. The only threat to Lebanon independence is from Hezbollah.  Finally, you don’t get much more multilateral than the UN and so far I’m not seeing any benefit to their ongoing presence in southern Lebanon.  

Oh and just for the record and lest there be any doubt: As with many issues, these Catholic bishops are NOT speaking for me in this instance.  


Cohen to Israel: You're a mistake; act like one!

As of this writing, Richad Cohen’s column - Hunker Down With History - in today’s Washington Post has already generated 87 blog linkings according to the Technorati sidebar. A quick sampling of them indicates the trend is definitely anti-Cohen…and deservedly so because his column today is mind-numbingly inane.

“The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake.”

Putting aside the obvious that you can’t forget what you never knew; Mr. Cohen seems to be invoking a classic “blame the victim” in ascribing much of the Mideast’s problems to Israel’s very existence.

“…the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now.”

He then goes on to warn Israel against doing something that I have yet to hear Israel has any intentions of doing:

“Whatever happens, Israel must not use its military might to win back what it has already chosen to lose: the buffer zone in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip itself.”

He follows this up with a point-on summary of how the “hard line” critics of the original plan to give up Gaza and the southern Lebanon buffer zone were proved right. He references the “moderate” PLO and a comatose Ariel Sharon and then concludes that:

“All that the critics warned has come true. But worse than what is happening now would be a retaking of those territories. … The smart choice is to pull back to defensible -- but hardly impervious -- borders. “
In other words, go back to where they were a month ago…before Hamas and Hezbollah stepped up their terrorist actions. Because obviously that was working great back then.

UPDATE: Soccer Dad has an excellent roundup of other blog reactions.

Monday, July 17, 2006


The Israel Lobby, redux

After the London Review of Books published the infamous The Israel Lobby I, along with much of the blogosphere, reacted with some scathing comments (Maryland Conservatarian: The Lobby...and other things that go bump in the night and Jonathan Pollard, Larry Franklin & "The Lobby"). I stand by those earlier comments as I link to a recent Washington Post Magazine piece, A Beautiful Friendship?, which revisits the issue.

“It's really about the perceived power of the Israel lobby, a collection of American Jewish organizations, campaign contributors and think tanks -- aided by Christian conservatives and other non-Jewish supporters -- that arose over the second half of the 20th century and that sees as a principle goal the support and promotion of the interests of the state of Israel.” (emphasis added)

…or maybe it’s just a matter of principle for many of us.

While the author, Glenn Frankel, expresses some skepticism, the Walt/Mersheimer piece is overall given a respectful treatment in large part, I believe, because the two professors are from Harvard and Chicago.

“In March two distinguished political scientists -- Stephen Walt from Harvard and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago -- published a 42-page, heavily footnoted essay arguing that the Bush administration's support for Israel and its related effort to spread democracy throughout the Middle East have "inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security." (note the footnoted version can be found here: KSG:The Israel Lobby)

Mr. Frankel recounts some of the history of this purported lobby, focusing on its most visible member – AIPAC. One part of the story was of particular interest:

“Nevertheless, the Israel lobby, and AIPAC in particular, gained a reputation as the National Rifle Association of foreign policy: a hard-edged, pugnacious bunch that took names and kept score. But in some ways it was even stronger...
“Then one day it went too far.”

He went on to describe AIPAC’s efforts to overcome President Bush’s (#41) insistence that Israel not use loan guarantees toward Gaza and West Bank settlements…and how they got smackdown for their efforts. I found this story of particular interest because I never read anything about it in the professors’ paper.

Mr. Frankel’s goes on to favorably cite another Walt/Mersheimer effort: An Unnecessary War

“In the prelude to the invasion of Iraq, Walt and Mearsheimer published an article in Foreign Policy magazine in January 2003, titled "An Unnecessary War." It concluded that Iraqi leader Hussein was weak and eminently deterrable without resorting to force…
“We went to war anyway, and many of Walt and Mearsheimer's most dire predictions came to pass. No one in government had listened to them.” (emphasis added)

And what were those most dire predictions that came true? I’m guessing Mr. Frankel thinks they’re somewhere within this final paragraph of Foreign Policy article:

“Even if such a war goes well and has positive long-range consequences, it will still have been unnecessary. And if it goes badly—whether in the form of high U.S. casualties, significant civilian deaths, a heightened risk of terrorism, or increased hatred of the United States in the Arab and Islamic world—then its architects will have even more to answer for.”

And maybe someone at the Washington Post (obviously not Mr. Frankel) can ask the professors to answer just why they didn’t notice the so-called Israel Lobby as a primary reason for our involvement in Iraq back in 2003 if the Lobby is such an 800-pund gorilla in the corner. Or if they would like to revisit their earlier declaration that:

“First of all, there is no credible evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or more generally that Iraq is collaborating with al Qaeda against the United States. Hawks inside and outside the Bush administration have gone to extraordinary lengths over the past months to find a link, but they have come up empty-handed.” (An Unnecessary War)

Maybe the reason no-one in the government listened to them is because they don’t appear to have anything particularly relevant to say. They come across as little more than agenda-driven, ivory-tower academics who crave influence without wanting to do the hard-work of actually applying their advice to the real world and being held accountable for the results.

The timing of this piece puzzles me although I’m sure Mr. Frankel wrote his article well in advance of the recent Hezbollah terrorism. Still, I’ve come across nothing since March to indicate these two deserve any kind of respect for their obvious disdain for both Israel and those of us who refuse to jump on their anti-Israel, anti-Bush bandwagon.


UN; heal thyself

Apparently, things continue to happen in south Lebanon so much so that;

“…intensified fighting prompted U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the European Union to raise the prospect of sending an international security force to southern Lebanon.” Mideast Deaths Mount as Attacks Intensify

Maybe they could use this as a model should such a plan come to fruition: UNIFIL: United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon:

“UNIFIL was created in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area.”

Unfortunately reports out of the Mideast indicate that the UN may need to act sooner rather than later because UNIFIL says Israel's Onslaught is Endangering its Soldiers

“The 2,000-strong U.N. force deployed in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border said Monday that Israel's onslaught was endangering its soldiers, one of whom was already been seriously wounded.”

Noted, without comment: “Led by a French general, UNIFIL is made up of soldiers from…”


Another Soccer Dad sighting

I was away this weekend and waited until now to catch up on my readings…so I only just now saw this from this past Friday’s NRO’s Media Blog:

“UPDATE: Dave Gerstman has Bolton's statement, in which he essentially calls the Security Council irrelevant. Support Bolton. Grow the 'stache.” AP: Bolton Tells U.N. to Back Off

That David Gerstman would be our very own fellow-MBA blogger Soccer Dad. Congrats David.

Ever notice those guys hanging in the background during an interview or other TV shot…just so they can get on TV themselves.  Well, once I figure out a way to do the blog equivalent with SD’s frequent national blog mentions, that’ll be me.


The Plan: in a twist, it's not all Israel's fault

Leaders Work Out Plan For End to Mideast Crisis. They do?  Reading the article, it seemed the G8 leaders had concocted a Plan worthy of the United Nations for its innovations and creativity; the article seemingly summarizing the Plan thusly: Everything goes back to the way it was a month ago.

Well, I didn’t just want to take the Post’s word for it so I read the Plan myself. Guess what? That’s the Plan! (go ahead – it’s a one-pager: Official Website of the G8 presidency of the Russian Federation in 2006: Mideast).

I think most of us recognize that a reasonably-informed 7th grade social studies class could have come with something similar but without a hint of irony, the Plan ends on a self-congratulatory note:

“These proposals are our contribution to the international effort underway to restore calm to the Middle East and provide a basis for progress towards a sustainable peace, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. “

Cynicism aside though, the Plan is significant for what it doesn’t do: It doesn’t put the blame squarely or even primarily on Israel.

For an immediate resolution, the Plan begins with a call for:

“- The return of the Israeli soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon unharmed;
- An end to the shelling of Israeli territory; …”

It goes on to reasonably urge that Lebanon, not Hezbollah, run southern Lebanon and that there be some sort of Hezbollah disarmament. In Gaza, it recognized that Israel had previously disengaged from there and that the Palestinians simply have to accept the reality that is Israel. All very reasonable but probably not too persuasive to the terrorist instigators involved. Accordingly, I’m not going to burden myself with any expectations from this.

With the end of the G8 conference, the various member nations will no doubt resume their normal independent ways meaning the return of anti-Israeli rhetoric by some. So, despite it being little more than an impractical statement of the obvious, I’m going to savor the Plan as a rare moment of lucidity and civility by some nations not normally known for either.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Hezbollah in the news

Attacks Could Erode Faction's Support announces the Washington Post on top of an article discussing the effect of Hezbollah’s attack on Israel on the terrorist group. The article also highlights Lebanon’s dilemma:

“"To declare war and to make military action must be a decision made by the state and not by a party," said Nabil de Freige, a parliament member…"It's a very simple equation: You have to be a state."

Lebanon might as well act like a real state because Israel is treating it as one. The Lebanon nation is being forced to cash the check that Hezbollah wrote in this instance… and deservedly so. There have been the predictable outcries that Israel has responded “disproportionately” but I honestly don’t know what would have been proportionate. Kidnap a couple Hezbollah terrorists? I think that’s a trade Hezbollah makes every time.

A so-called “proportionate response” is a term of art. Proportionate responses don’t dissuade nor deter. So to hell with a proportionate response in this instance. In fact, I’d argue that Israel’s response has not been disproportionate enough seeing as how Hezbollah is showing no signs of second-guessing its strategy and Lebanon has yet to crack down on Hezbollah.

Now there is sure to be some search for who to blame for this mess - how did Hezbollah manage to amass the resources to act like a rogue state:

“And even critics such as Jumblatt say the prospect of the group's disarmament -- a requirement under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 -- is almost impossible.
"We don't have the means to disarm Hezbollah, and we don't want to have a civil war here," he said”

So you can’t blame the UN; they did every thing they could. Fortunately, since they’ve already handled the Hezbollah problem, they can now direct their influence to that Iranian problem. Frustrated World Powers Send Iran to U.N.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Lebanese attack: Who's to blame?

I hope US politicians are paying attention because we could all learn a lesson from the Palestinians and Lebanon on how to fight a war. The last few weeks have seen a lot of violence directed at Israelis, the most recent being Hezbollah Attacks Israeli-Lebanon Border. Now although these attacks originate from Palestinian territory and Lebanon, apparently it wasn’t the Palestinians or Lebanese who did the attacking of Israelis. Nope; turns out it was Hamas (Palestinians) and Hezbollah (Lebanon) causing all the trouble.

Now some might nit-pick and point out that Hamas is the elected ruling party of the Palestinians. And that Hezbollah has been pretty much in control of southern Lebanon, even winning an Easy Victory In Elections in Southern Lebanon a little more than a year ago. That’s where their genius comes out: those are the political wings of these ruling parties; the Israelis are being attacked by the MILITANT wings of these parties. For example:

“Lebanon's prime minister said his government did not condone Hezbollah's cross-border attack, and he condemned the Israeli retaliation.”

I’m sure he would have said something to the Hezbollah leadership but he didn't want to interrupt their press conference:

“Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah said the ambush was aimed at forcing the release of prisoners in Israel. He said the two Israeli soldiers would be released only through a prisoner exchange.
"What we did today . . . is the only feasible path to free detainees from Israeli jails," Nasrallah told a news conference in Beirut.
(Just a reminder: Beirut, the Lebanon capitol, is not in southern Lebanon.)

Anyway, I think it would be a great idea if we could have militant wings of our parties fight our nation’s wars. Can you imagine President Bush shrugging his shoulders at a news conference as he disclaims any responsibility for an incursion into North Korea or Iran:

“Hey, what can I do - we have no control over the militant wing of the party”

Maybe give that smirk that drives the liberals crazy. Howard Dean would go nuts...and then promise to have a Democratic counterpoint in each state.

Other Notes: According to the Post, my new favorite reporter, Scott Wilson (one of several on today’s byline) is reporting from Shtula, Israel. But apparently he just can’t seem to find any Israelis to talk to. Today Lebanese terrorists attacked Israeli soldiers, capturing some and killing others. So of course everyone’s first interest is naturally the effect of all this on the southern Lebanese people who stand behind these terrorists. I’m presuming it’s Mr. Wilson who so eloquently captures their plight:

“Scores of suddenly stranded Lebanese wandered back roads looking for a way home -- their faces grim and worried, their belongings stuffed into plastic bags. Sirens wailed in the background…

“But the sense of unease and fear was mixed with resignation from people who have known peace only rarely. Many also said they were elated at the capture of the soldiers by Hezbollah, which for years has effectively controlled this region.

"Look, we're used to it -- 25 years, 26 years it's been like this," Hassan Qaryani, a 21-year-old butcher from Burj Rahal, said of the airstrikes. The kidnapping, he said, was "like a crown on my head . . . as soon as I heard the news I was overjoyed. It was like Italy winning the World Cup.

“In the southern suburbs of Beirut, people handed out candy in the streets and set off fireworks. Fireworks also were set off on the airport road, snarling traffic.”

What a plucky people!

Also today: an online ‘debate” between a “Palestinian Journalist and Israeli Commentator: PostGlobal: Who's to Blame for Gaza, Lebanon?

One comment of note:
Philadelphia, PA: Why was Gaza not returned to Egypt when the 1979 peace treaty was signed? Didn't Egypt control that area from 1948 - 1967? Is it that Israel saw value in maintaining control or did Egypt refuse to take control?
Yossi Melman: Because Egypt didn't want it back”

I think that fairly sums up the one-sided “peace treaty” that was Camp David: whatever Egypt wanted. It’s good to remember that Egypt got Sinai back as a result of the treaty and that’s been pretty much the only part of that treaty that’s come to fruition (I mean besides all the Nobel Peace Prizes). Jordan and Egypt were to have worked with the Palestinians and Israelis on resolving the Gaza and other land issues…and well, we can see how that’s worked out. In retrospect, Egypt not taking back Gaza has proved to be a remarkably prescient move of headache-avoidance for them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Fruitcake in July: the Palestinian leader speaks out

Ismail Haniyeh has an Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post entitled Aggression Under False Pretenses. Name not necessarily ringing a bell? Well, the Post’s blurb at the end of the piece describes him thusly: “The writer is prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority.” Does that help much? Of course, he is also the head of Hamas, which the State Department has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (but I guess including that in the description would have been considered rude). You may also recall him from an earlier interview he had with the Washington Post this past February: 'We Do Not Wish to Throw Them Into the Sea'

Anyway, the Post has given him prime Op-Ed space to explain exactly why, when you get right down to it, all the problems going on in that area of the world are the fault of the Israelis. Forget what you read and hear about Israel wanting some soldier returned; as Mr. Haniyeh so eloquently puts it:

“The "kidnapped" Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.”

I first read his piece late last night and was struck by the sheer moonbatiness of it. It has all the intellectual gravitas of Cindy Sheehan…which is why I resisted immediately posting on it. I can’t improve on his effort here to come across as a wacko; some things just speak for themselves.

But if you’re interested in other commentary on this piece, check out Media Blog on National Review Online, where fellow MBA-blogger Soccer Dad is given prominent mention for his roundup of coverage on this terrorist’s Op-Ed: Giving a terrorist a platform. (well done, SD!)

Monday, July 10, 2006


Where have all the liberals gone?

Just came across today’s page one article in the Washington Post on the Alliance Defense Fund. (Bringing the Church to the Courtroom) Not familiar with the fund? Post writer Peter Slevin describes it as:

“a socially conservative legal consortium”

…and then provides us with even more useful details about it. We learn that associated with the Fund are “D. James Kennedy, leader of Florida's Coral Ridge Ministries and one of the prominent Christian conservatives who fashioned the alliance in 1993…

“…and other conservatives -- including James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and William Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ”

…as well as Reagan-era prosecutor Alan Sears.”

Since you are judged by the company you keep, ominously, the Fund has worked with the “American Center for Law & Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, and Liberty Counsel, backed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.”

Not surprisingly then, some of the Alliance’s projects can bring “enormous attention -- particularly from the religious right and conservative media outlets”

Fortunately, the Alliance has not gone unnoticed; some prominent nonpartisans have weighed in:

They're not for some form of generic religious freedom. They're for Christian superiority, that Christians take over the courts," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

“"They know that a teacher who has a pattern of proselytizing has crossed the line," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, asserting that the ADF went too far.”

“They seem to have an ACLU-envy problem. They distort the position of the ACLU to justify themselves," said Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.”

While these additional sources are a welcome counter, I am a little disappointed that Mr. Slevin could not find at least someone from a known Liberal organization to add a little balance.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Mexico votes

Contender Alleges Mexico Vote Was Rigged

“López Obrador ignited the smoldering emotions of his followers Saturday morning, alleging for the first time that Mexico's electoral commission had rigged its computers before the July 2 election to ensure the half-percentage-point victory of Felipe Calderón, a champion of free trade.

“López Obrador …would attempt to have the election declared illegal by Mexico's Supreme Court. That strategy presages a constitutional confrontation because according to many legal experts the special elections court is the only body that can hear election challenges.”

I’m sorry, E. J. Dionne, you were saying? It Couldn't Happen Here

Friday, July 07, 2006


Requisite Bad Economic News for 'Balance'

Because there is no such thing as good economic news while a Republican is in the White House, the Washington Post is duty bound to bring us this piece of alarming news: Whither the Women? Sub-headlined: After Decades on Rise, Labor Participation Rate Is Down.

Yep, things are pretty grim:

“But women's rush to employment stopped in 2000 and started to decline, as they began to join their male counterparts in retirement, go out on disability and delay paid employment to get more education. Some economists think the high-water mark of female participation in the labor force was in 2000, when it hit 60.3 percent.”

(and please, no one tell Linda Hirshman: Unleashing the Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms – these poor women don’t need another lecture from her)

Wow, two references to the year 2000…hmm, now what happened in 2000 that could have reversed that trend? Anyway, the ubiquitous “economists” (no names, please) say that:

“This flattening of the women's rate, combined with a continuing decline in the men's rate, has helped tighten the job market and could slow U.S. economic growth in coming years…”

Actually, Post writer Neil Henderson includes a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that perhaps this isn’t all a sexist GOP plot but also includes this tidbit:

“Some analysts say the labor force participation rate also reflects the lingering effects of the last economic downturn and that it would have rebounded by now if job growth were stronger. The fact that so many people remain out of the workforce reflects "weak labor demand rather than choice," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on labor issues.”

The Economic Policy Institute bills its work as “Research and Ideas for Working People” and Mr. Bernstein is its Director of the Living Standards program so you can perhaps guess where on the political spectrum they fall. But if you guess wrong, then peruse this recent interview Mr. Bernstein had: Daily Kos: (Bush Yoyos While the U.S. Burns)

That is the only economist Mr. Henderson bothered talking with so I guess we’re stuck with his one-sided viewpoint of a “weak labor demand”. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Post: Small Gains Keep Unemployment Rate Steady reports that unemployment remains at 4.6%. Will our doldrums never end?

Thursday, July 06, 2006


The NY Times: an observation

Compare and Contrast:

New York Times editor Bill Keller said that he and his staff concluded after a long and vigorous debate" that publishing the cartoon would be "perceived as a particularly deliberate insult" by Muslims. "Like any decision to withhold elements of a story, this was neither easy nor entirely satisfying, but it feels like the right thing to do." - Media draw the line on running cartoons (February 7, 2006)

Hmmm “…feels like the right thing to do.” Yeah, you wouldn’t want to tick off a bunch of Muslims, not when there is the even more important business of “not” sticking it to a Republican administration:

Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively…

“…But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.” Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report - New York Times (June 25, 2006)

Now, just for fun, imagine how different things would have been if the NY Times had instead left the to-publish-or-not-to-publish decisions up to the Islamo-fascists we are fighting…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Palestinians attack, Israel to blame

The Gaza reporting of the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson continues to fascinate and exhaust me. Going in, I know I’ll need to carefully parse just about every word he writes but I can’t resist the challenge. Today’s piece does not disappoint.

I know that he does not necessarily come up with the story’s headline but I can’t see him objecting to this one: Israeli Airstrikes Hit Palestinian Ministry, School

“Israeli military aircraft destroyed the Palestinian Interior Ministry before dawn Wednesday, wounding at least seven people…”

Yep – damn those belligerent Israelis – what were they thinking? Well, maybe it was that the airstrikes took place only AFTER:

“the military wing of the governing Hamas movement fired a rocket at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon that landed in an empty school.”


“An Israeli airstrike soon after hit the Dar al-Arqam School, a Hamas-funded institution here that Israeli warplanes also targeted last year.”

Maybe Mr. Wilson was on deadline…or maybe he just didn’t think it important but why is the Israeli school simply noted as “empty” while we learn pretty much everything about the Palestinian school except its soccer team’s record and whether it too was empty? On the latter, though, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it too was empty…if only because if it hadn’t been empty, this would have been a gleeful Page One story about Israeli treachery instead of its current Page A-8 status.

Mr. Wilson continues his description of the Palestinian school with this curious disclosure:

“Israeli military officials said the Islamic school, part of Hamas's social-service network, provides charity to families of suicide bombers.”

Now I’m no expert on the Israeli military but I have enough respect for their professionalism to think that either a) they wouldn’t purposely bomb a charity or b) if they did, they wouldn’t immediately disclose that they had purposely bombed a charity. So what gives here?

As he mentions, the school had been previously hit (September 2005). At that time, an Israeli military official was a little more specific:

“Israel, however, makes no distinction between the civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas. Israeli Captain Yael Hartmann told TNS that the school was targeted because "it was bringing up the next generation of Hamas members." Air Raids Terrorize Gaza Residents, Target Key Infrastructure - The NewStandard

Israel believed this because “[i]n February 2003, an IDF unit in Gaza went into the Dar al-Arqam school, created by the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Among the texts found for teaching the next generation of Palestinians were the writings of famous Saudi Wahhabi religious authorities, among them Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Fahd, the author of a religious ruling justifying the use of weapons of mass destruction against infidels (i.e., Christians and Jews).” Israel News - Daily News Alert from Israel

The backdrop of all this is the kidnapping of Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, by some Palestinian armed groups.

“[A] spokesman for one of the armed groups, the relatively unknown Army of Islam, said the gunmen would no longer participate in Egyptian-led diplomatic efforts to broker an agreement for Shalit's release…
“…The spokesman, who goes by the name Abu al-Muthana, added that no new information would be provided about Shalit.

"Whether he will be killed or not killed, we will not disclose any information about the fate of the soldier," Muthana said. "We will not kill the soldier, if he is still alive."

True to Mr. Wilson’s reporting style, that statement “…if he is still alive” is just recorded without any follow-up or context.

And for those of you wondering about the human cost in all of this, on the story’s web page is also a link to a video, described thusly:

VIDEO War is part of the landscape in Gaza. War in reflected in the music and the countless number of martyr posters around this densely populated costal strip. Psychiatrists say this, and Israel's military strikes, is traumatizing Palestinian civilians.” (Video by's Travis Fox)” (Emphasis added)

Still no word from Mr. Wilson or the Post on the effect of all this on Cpl. Shalit’s family.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


A Happy Fourth of July to All

July 4, 1776 is part of my history even though my ancestors came to America well after that date. In fact, it was over a hundred and twenty years later that they came from Ireland, Croatia and Czechoslovakia. But they did not come here to become Irish, Croatian or Czech-Americans and I believe I best honor them and their memory by remembering that I am, first and foremost, an American.

So treat today as kind of a Rorschach test on patriotism. Never mind your position on the various matters we endlessly parse, your pride in America - in being an American and contributing to its greatness - should be absolute and without nuance…because this country deserves that pride. God bless us all.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Jimmy Carter: Problem Solver

Former President Jimmy Carter has a “hard-hitting” op-ed in today’s Washington Post in which he courageously calls for more access to government information. Entitled We Need Fewer Secrets, you can almost hear his familiar monotone drone on concerning the government’s need to be more transparent esp. since everyone (i.e. countries that work with the Carter Center) is doing it. Towards this, he ominously notes:

“Policies that favor secrecy, implementation that does not satisfy the law, lack of a mandated oversight body and inaccessible enforcement mechanisms have put the United States behind much of the world in the right to information.”

Is he freakin’ kidding me!?!?!  Does he not read the NY Times? Our problem is that we can’t keep a secret. And his claim that the US is now “behind much of the world in the right to information” is simply laughable. Is he talking about the EU?

“Proposals to make debates when Ministers discuss draft European laws open to public view have been tabled by Austria, current holder of the EU Presidency. But Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett this week justified negotiations behind closed doors as essential for efficient and effective law-making.” London MEP challenges Blair on EU secrecy (Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP)

Maybe he is referring to that noted bastion of openness – Venezuela:

“None of this would matter if the auditing process had been open to scrutiny by the Carter observers. But as the economists point out: "After an arduous negotiation, the Electoral Council allowed the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Carter Center to observe all aspects of the election process except for the central computer hub, a place where they also prohibited the presence of any witnesses from the opposition.” OpinionJournal - Conned in Caracas

He concludes thusly:

“In the United States, we must seek amendments to FOIA to be more in line with emerging international standards, such as covering all branches of government; providing an oversight body to monitor compliance; including sanctions for failure to adhere to the law; and establishing an appeal mechanism that is easy to access, speedy and affordable.”

I’m with the former president in calling for more transparency. If he is willing to face up to the Washington bureaucracy and shine some light on the activities of the countless agencies that make up the senseless rules that guide so much of our lives, I’m ready to stand with him. If he is calling for increased disclosures of the participation in the rule-making process of special interest groups – including unions, NGOs and various advocacy groups such as NARAL and Common Cause - okay, where do I sign up? For many of us, increased access to information includes identifying the source of that information. We need to know that for us to adequately assess its reliability and indirectly the competence of the provider. So if making known the name of the individuals releasing info to the NY Times (and thus our enemies) is part of the former President’s plan, well, count me in!

But who can tell? His bland call for “amendments to FOIA to be more in line with emerging international standards” is a detail that tells us nothing. What secrets are at the Congressional level that he feels we’re denied access to? (Besides, if it’s truly worthy of disclosure, I’m sure Senator Leahy will make sure we hear about it 'Leaky Leahy' Revisited ). The Supreme Court regularly issues opinions complete with footnotes and citations – does he think there is something else they’re not telling us?? An oversight monitoring body? Answering to whom? That would be another piece of bureaucracy intended to combat the problems of bureaucracy.

This piece is so emblematic of his performance as President – full of sage-sounding platitudes that do nothing to address the problem at hand.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


More on Gaza

Scott Wilson, the Washington Post’s man-on-the-scene covering the Israeli – Palestinian conflicts, has got to become aware that words have meaning…especially when you’re reporting on a situation as visible as what is going on in Gaza right now Israel Strikes at Hamas Anew.

I recently commented on what I considered a rather amateurish bit of Scott Wilson reporting on the situation (Israel's measured response). Today’s article represents a better effort – meaning it contains no transcripts more suited to the Lifetime Channel than the ‘A’ Section of the Post. But he includes a passage that I think highlights much of the problems with the overall reporting of what’s happening in that part of the world:

“Although the Israeli government makes little distinction between the military and political wings of Hamas, the groups leaders say they are powerless over militia commanders, who last month broke a 15-month informal truce amid Israeli artillery shelling and airstrikes that killed more than a dozen Palestinian civilians.”

“…amid Israeli artillery shelling and airstrikes that killed more than a dozen Palestinian civilians.”? I’m guessing he’s referring to the mortar blasts of June 9th that killed numerous Palestinian beachgoers including most of one family. The footage of the young girl over her dead father was a staple of TV news. But since then, the Israelis have done a pretty good job of laying out the evidence showing that whatever blasts happened there weren’t of Israeli origin: lgf: Gaza Beach Bombing: Another Pallywood Hoax?

Of course, Mr. Wilson could just as easily wrote that the “15-month informal truce” was broken amid reports that “around 20 people have been killed in clashes between Hamas and Abbas loyalists in Gaza in the past month”. Hamas seeks cease-fire with Israel. 15/06/2006. ABC News Online

This information has been out there for some time now and it is simply inexcusable for someone of Mr. Wilson’s stature and with his access to information to blithely continue to throw out such context-less statements.  

Further, anyone reading that statement without knowing somewhat of the events leading up to the broken “truce” might think that Mr. Wilson was actually soft pedaling Israel’s culpability in the breakdown of the “truce”. After all, one can hardly blame Hamas for responding “amid Israeli artillery shelling and airstrikes that killed more than a dozen Palestinian civilians.”

Let’s review some pertinent facts (Hamas ends truce after Gaza attacks):

The explosion occurred near an area that Israel has been bombarding with artillery shells each day in a bid to frighten off militants who use the area to launch missiles at Israel.
Hamas' truce was not recognised by Israel. It was frequently broken by other factions, notably Islamic Jihad, which killed 10 people with a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv two months ago. Since the Palestinian ceasefire was announced in March last year, 48 Israelis and at least 360 Palestinians have died in the conflict. The collapse of the ceasefire coincides with mounting tension between Hamas and the former ruling party, Fatah. Fatah's leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will seek to hold a referendum on July 26 on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.” (emphasis added)

The fact that perhaps it wasn’t Hamas throwing out the rocket attacks on Israel was probably of little comfort to the Israelis in the rockets’ paths. This is not to single out the Post; just about all major press outlets offhandedly throw out the terms of “Hamas” and “Fatah” without noting that they are not necessarily synonymous with the Palestinians. And when it is Palestinians who are attacking Israelis, party affiliation doesn’t make the attack any more or less severe.

We will, no doubt, continue to read about the trials and tribulations of a 'moderate' Abbas, the 'moderate' Fatah movement (Fun fact according to CNN: “Arafat co-founded the moderate Fatah Palestinian group in 1956”), and the peace seeking Hamas (note the headline and first line of this ABC story). And I will continue to react with a jaundiced eye toward such nonsense.

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