Monday, February 27, 2006

The States Take Back Abortion

South Dakota, known for Mount Rushmore and for keeping out of the news, may be the Fort Sumter in what may be the first very real challenge to Roe v. Wade--they are going to illegalize abortion except in life-saving circumstances. The State House and Senate passed the bill, and Gov. Mike Rounds (R) indicated that he will likely sign it. Then the fireworks will begin.

Planned Parenthood will sue to block the enforcement of the law in Federal District Court for South Dakota, citing the violation of a fundamental right (that being the fundamental right to an abortion), the result (whatever it is) will be appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and in turn that result will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Which means that Roe lovers have much to fear.

But before the legal and political shots begin, let's pay attention to what is at stake in this battle. To be very clear, abortion will not be nationally illegalized if Roe is killed. What will happen, however, is that abortion will be returned to the states for their decision on its legality. And back in 1973, the states were wrestling with the issue, with some approving and others proscribing it to whatever degree. Roe, however, took that power away from the states in a rather surprising display of judicial overreaching. The Supreme Court declared that, based upon the law as the justices read it (or rather wanted to read it) there existed a constitutional right to abort pregnancies, based upon their previous and much more supportable holdings that there existed a Constitutional right to privacy. Abortion and family decisions being private matters, the justices reasoned, made them Constitutionally protected. A weak line of reasoning to be certain, but it didn't have to be great to get the majority vote of nine people. But besides being about the politics of abortion, pregnancy and "women's reproductive rights" it was about the rights of the states versus those of the Federal Government.

Our Republic was founded upon the notion that the states are better able to govern themselves in most things than Washington governing the nation as a whole. One size does not fit all, and few can disagree that the things approved of by the people of Rhode Island, California or Massachusetts would likely not fly in Texas, Florida or Alabama, and vice versa.

It was understood, however, that there were certain areas where the Federal government ought to hold supremacy--national defense, relations with other nations, matters that affected commerce and travel that ran between states, a national money system, and a system of interstate postage, to name just a few. In other words, most things happened locally, and those things and the people's needs related to them are better understood and handled locally by people who understood and held the values of the local community. However, things that affected the states as a whole were matters for the Federal government to handle.

And in that vein, regulation of the health care industries is a power reserved to the states. But because seven justices said so, one particular procedure receives an entirely different treatment.
Abortion is the only medical procedure which is recognized as a Constitutionally-guaranteed right. To understand how absolutely strange that is, imagine if the Supreme Court had instead ruled that tobacco chewing enjoyed those same protections. It makes about the same amount of sense. By contrast, a life-saving angioplasty is not a state-guaranteed right. But because abortion was and continues to be a procedure with a very political angle which resonated with the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a group of misguided justices felt that abortion "ought" to be a constitutional right, and usurped the rights of the states and the powers of the Congress to make the law the way they saw fit.

But given the new landscape of the Court, with a population that is much more originalist than before, when Planned Parenthood v. South Dakota, or whatever its name will be, reaches the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade could be in trouble. Not because of politics, but because the law can't support Roe.

Roe is simply bad law, irrespective of the practice it sanctioned. Ignoring one's feelings about abortion, if Roe were used to guarantee a Constitutional right to ice cream eating, it would be equally nonsensical. It traced the historical development of abortion proscriptions, and more or less noting that mores were changing, made the mores of the day the law of the land. It invented a right based on spurious non-legal reasoning and considerations, but seven people's political beliefs bought it for the rest of us (and countless unborn babies for 33 years thereafter) because it seemed to resonate with the politics of the day. It would be much like the Court finding a federal constitutional right to gay marriage today (as the Supreme Court of Massachusetts did), simply because much noise is being made about it. Again, marriage is regulated by the states, not the feds. And as it should have been with abortion, it is up to the states to make those decisions for themselves and for the legislators and governors supporting them to face the voters thereafter.

And the new court, with the likes of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito may actually be able to bring Kennedy on board with them to invalidate Roe, simply as bad law, and return the debate to the states. And the result may be a very good thing.

For the first time, there will be a public debate on the morality and public acceptability of abortion. The people will have their say, their representatives will have reason to fear their ire the following November, and their governors had better have their fingers on the statewide pulse and get it right as well. The feeling that we had abortion crammed down our throats--which we did--by unelected philosophers will dissipate, and abortion will begin to become much less of an issue in elections. Granted, for a period it will be a violent political bloodbath in the statehouses, but once the laws are passed, the matter will have been settled, to the satisfaction of some, to the fury of others, but in the way that our constitutional system allows.

Abortion will also become rarer. When its not as available, people who are on the fence are more likely to stick it out. Of course, there will always be those who cross state lines to do it, those who help them, etc. But by and large, the rate of this legalized form of infanticide will fall as the laws of various states proscribe its availability. Likewise, this will allow for the real restriction of, for example, all but first term abortions (while Roe leaves room for it, they really aren't enforced). Not a great solution, but certainly less savage than a system that still permits late term and partial birth abortions.

Lastly, and probably of greatest importance to us as a republic, the value of state law and state politics will become more apparent to Americans. Washington is important, but it isn't everything. We were meant to be governed locally through laws passed by our local elected leaders. And perhaps the death of Roe may teach us--and courts--that their role as our robed masters is ending.

Update

It appears that Mississippi is now on board with a similar measure to the South Dakota bill. This is becoming serious. And this may be an effort to, or have the unintended effect of, energizing the conservative base in an election year when we may not be able to depend on the President's popularity to advance Republican candidates.

Bodie Says It Best Himself

Bode Miller's antics at the closing ceremonies appropriately encapsulate his performance better than any words ever could (h.t. Drudge).

I hope Coke didn't pay a ton for that endorsement.

What a complete jerk.

Olympics - The Skateboard Crowd Wins It--The Arrogant Lose

Another 2 week party in some frozen mountain town has ended, and a bunch of young folks collected medals under their nation's name. And for the U.S., we finished second in the medal count. In all, not too bad. But the real performers--and the real spirit of the U.S. team were the most unconventional sort--the skateboarders.

Shaun White, the redhead snowboarder, was a marvel. Also, the snowboard races were equally compelling. Shaun delivered as did his single-boarded teammates. As far as blades go, one of my favorites, Apolo Ohno was a true U.S. hero. His short track performance and his unfailingly professional attitude won him high marks, but also, no small degree of gold. These were guys who were serious about their performance, serious about their sport and serious about their team.

And then there's the other side. Bodie Miller. Favored for five gold medals, but unable to make the podium. And in some cases, unable to finish races. His slolem performances where he hooked gates weren't great, but doing it twice is not the kind of thing that should happen at the Olympics. He looked horribly winded when he finished each race, and appeared out of shape. Bodie, known to drink while skiing, may have finally received his comeuppance for his "bad boy" behavior. And this much is disappointing. While other athletes are working hard for a spot on the ski team, Miller gets it and blows it. And I wonder how Nike feels about it? They paid a bunch in endorsements which were aired contemporaneously with his blowouts. Which is Nike's second Olympic miscalculation: in 2002, when the Olympics were in Salt Lake, they passed on a deal to supply the U.S. team's uniforms. The contract went to the Canadian company, Roots.

Character counts. At these Olympics, it generally won.

The only exception to the ego/disaster dichotomy I drew was the tiara-wearing Julia Mancuso's gold. But the best wisdom came from another person of wonderful character, Picabo Street, who was highly critical of her successor's sissiness. The Olympics are a place for tough attitudes. Not the kind of silliness we saw from some of the members.

But the worst rivalry, that of Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick seemed to mellow. Granted, Davis may have made a bad choice by not joining the pursuit event, but his performance was nothing short of excellent. Likewise with his rival and teammate, Hedrick. But athletes do strange things for reasons that make sense to them. And it cannot be ignored that Shani cheered for Hedrick when Hedrick was racing. Two good guys, whom I hope ended up seeing the good in one another.

A good set of games where character--for the most part--won.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Let's Not Call Out The Iraqi Version Of Ken Burns Yet

The Iraqis are amid a civl war. Haven't you heard?

Well, at least that's what the media would have you believe. And given that the media-left seems a little more ideologically cozy with the people who bombed the Samarra Mosque, it stands to reason that that's how they'd report this.

What I mean by that is that they have taken every opportunity to play up every setback in this war. And given that they tend to be militantly anti-war, to use an appropriate oxymoron, the idea of a civil war in Iraq is just dandy. Hundreds of thousands, up to millions, will be killed, rather than living peaceably in a democracy. But to the media-left, the bloodshed is a mere detail to the ultimate objective of making the Bush Administration look bad and advancing Democrats and liberalism. But per my brother in law, who is stationed in Samarra, here's what took place the day after the blast.

In all reality, civil war has always been a risk of our involvement in Iraq. The reason is pretty simple. The majority Shi'ites knew that the moment that they stepped out of line, the Ba'ath government under Saddam Hussein would be waiting to gleefully exterminate them. Likewise, the Sunnis knew that they only held any degree of respect because Saddam was one of them in name only. People knew in that Stalinist state that one did not step out of line and that nobody had anything but a glowing opinion of their dictator if they wanted to remain alive.

But freedom brings with it scores of new ideas, not all of them good. And among those ideas are those of settling old scores. It was inevitable in Iraq. Sunnis cared not for Shi'ites, and after years of Saddam's oppression and pogroms, the Shi'ites were similarly interested in evening things up. And so al Qaida, eager to do anything to prevent the loss of a state that was so supportive for so many years is doing anything it can to stoke those flames. If these people are setermined to settle old scores, then there is little we ever could have done about it. Freedom does not necessarily mean freedom to do what the Nobel Committee would have people do. It also means freedom to behave however one wants. And like a kid sent off to college for the first time, largely accountable to nobody, the Iraqis will learn to coexist by whatever means seem appropriate to them. And we can't prevent all contingencies, as we cannot stay there forever.

But today, stories like this and this, and a development like this lead me to believe that cooler heads may prevail.

There is no telling what will happen, but the gleeful and giddy attitude of the media that they may benefit politically from bloodshed, and that a nation may fall into a horrid civil war is morally reprehensible.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq--Sunnis Hit Below The Belt--Shiites Just Want the Nearest Westerner

A bomb blew apart a Shi'ite Mosque in Samarra Iraq, which is probably like someone doing it to St. Peter's Basilica. Intolerable.

It is plainly an effort to start violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites and to prevent the formation of the Iraqi government, and to break the tenuous balance between these two branches of Islam which will be required if any Iraqi government is to function.

My brother in law is in the Army there, in Samarra, investigating bomb scenes, and here is his take. The people don't want help, they just want to hurt the nearest Jew/American (I guess it's best if they could get an American who is a Jew??), rather than the creeps who really did it.

Disturbing that these people really lack the ability to control themselves and allow aid. Because a civil Iraq will have to involve people who can keep their heads.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

You Know It's Time To Fire The Communication Team...

...when the Bush Administration's best advocate is the Washington Post Editorial Board.

Read the entire article, as it provides the very explanation for which many had been calling.
None of the U.S. politicians huffing and puffing seem to be aware that this deal was long in the making, that it had been reported on extensively in the financial press, and that it went through normal security clearance procedures, including approval from a foreign investment committee that contains officials from the departments of Treasury, Commerce, State and Homeland Security, among other agencies. Even more disturbing is the apparent difficulty of members of Congress in distinguishing among Arab countries. We'd like to remind them, as they've apparently forgotten, that the United Arab Emirates is a U.S. ally that has cooperated extensively with U.S. security operations in the war on terrorism, that supplied troops to the U.S.-led coalition during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and that sends humanitarian aid to Iraq. U.S. troops move freely in and out of Dubai on their way to Iraq now.

Finally, we're wondering if perhaps American politicians are having trouble understanding some of the most basic goals of contemporary U.S. foreign policy. A goal of "democracy promotion" in the Middle East, after all, is to encourage Arab
countries to become economically and politically integrated with the rest of the world. What better way to do so than by encouraging Arab companies to invest in the United States? Clearly, Congress doesn't understand that basic principle, since its members prefer instead to spread prejudice and misinformation.

Rarely does such an unambiguously favorable article come out of the Post, but my question is why the Administration could not simply offer this explanation on its own? If this had come out last Friday, this whole matter would have looked almost as dumb as the flap about the Cheney shooting and could have been played off as the bitter press trying to get revenge for the black eye they got last week.

I've been saying for over two years that Bush needs to revamp the communications apparatus of his Administration. And if the newspapers scoop him on his own policy defense, a week after he had a chance to do so himself, he has grave problems getting the message out.

Plunging A Veto In His Own Heart

The fight over whether a nation with iffy commitments in the war on terror ought to be operating our ports continues with the President threatening to use a power of his which he has heretofore never exercised--the veto.

As an aside, and a response to a reader from yesterday, it makes sense that Bush has never exercised the power. He's had a Republican Congress to deal with for his entire Administration. Comity generally does away with the need for the veto. But back to the issue at hand.

He has against him just about every Democrat, which is not headline material. They oppose his choice of coffees in the morning. But the very real problem he faces is opposition from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who is promising to introduce legislation to hold or altogether block the deal. On the House side, allies such as House Speaker Denny Hastert and new House Majority leader John Boehner are opposing the deal.

And per the above-linked article, Bush just continues with "trust me". Now, there is no legitimate question of corruption here in the handing out of a government contract, i.e. no Halliburton issue for the Dems to demagogue, but its wisdom is legitimately questioned. The response to such questions is an answer that appropriately addresses the "why" of this deal.

"Why" is a question that goes to the core of how our society thinks about things. It involves reasons, facts, and arguments. Addressing a why with a reason or reasons gives us a place from which to get inside the Administration's thinking and either ratify or take issue with it. Without that information, and with only a paternalistic "trust me", we have only the appearance of a very unwise deal.

The offered excuses that the Coast Guard and Customs retain control over the security of the ports is minimally comforting. Those operating the ports get to see the procedures, and as we've learned from al Qaida, the opportunity to adapt and evade detection in an effort to smuggle in unwelcome items into our ports, and even to identify the ones with the most lax security. So at the very least, the opportunity for an enemy to learn is there.

But forgetting the specific security concerns, this move has the potential to be politically disastrous for a president who is desperately trying to get the engine to turn over on his second term. Already a year into it, he has allowed himself to be at the mercy of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the media, and any Democrat planning to run for president in 2008. And here, when he is trying to make a comeback, we catch him advocating for a foreign nation with interests adverse to our own, over a port operation deal. It smacks of remarkably poor political calculation and shortsightedness to have even approved the deal. It simply doesn't pass the smell test. But to continue to defend the deal without providing any justification for it and then to threaten to take on one's best friends in the Congress is insanity.

Which brings me to the biggest problem. If that legislation passes Congress and comes to the President and he vetoes it, he is looking at having his first veto overridden--there ought to be plenty of votes to against him on this issue to pull that kind of thing off. The result would be to render Bush and his agenda dead for the remainder of his term. Following from that, Democrats would be in a stronger position in 2006. No Republican is helped by this.

Of course, they will manage to work something out to avoid what would certainly be a train wreck for both President and Congressional leadership, but whatever the result, the President leaves this week with a pretty sizeable net minus, given that the hit comes against his strongest issue, national security. And when you have leftists like Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Wherever) running to Bush's right on his strongest issue, it's always a bad thing.

It could have been avoided by better communication, but it wasn't and as a result, the President gets a valid hit on his reputation at a point in time when he really can't afford it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No More "Trust Me"

There comes a time when trust gives way to verification. It was Ronald Reagan's false expression of confidence in the Soviets. Because "trust but verify" means "verify". And now again we are dealing with another Bush Administration "trust me", this time on port security.

As I opined here, this lapse is fairly consistent with the Administration's eyes wide open policy on border insecurity. And while our airliners are very secure--nobody is going to sneak a nuclear device into the country on one--cargo containers entering through our ports are nearly a sure thing for terrorist importation of munitions and improvised nuclear devices. Very easy to package it, very easy to slip it past security, as we cannot pick through each container entering the ports.

And if anyone believes that Dubai Ports World (DPW), the United Arab Emirates company charged with doing the job of operating and securing our ports isn't susceptible to compromise, they are being naive. The UAE is a haven for terrorist money laundering. A number of the 9/11 hijackers used it as their transfer point into the U.S. It was one of the three nations which recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan, and it is even today trying to cozy up to Iran. This is not a friendly nation, despite the fact that they are not actually engaging us in battle or a diplomatic dispute. And we want them to guard our soft underbelly. Now, this doesn't mean that the company cannot do that effectively and competently, but we'd like to know why this company gets the nod.

And now, two staunch Bush allies, Gov. Bob Ehrlich of my state of Maryland and Gov. George Pataki of New York are taking steps to prevent DPW from operating their state's ports. The Administration continues to assure us that they have every confidence that DPW is a fine organization, up to the job of operating and securing our ports. But we have no basis upon which to evaluate that belief, as the Administration has once again reverted back to "trust us".

And I admit that in this space I stood up for the Administration on the Harriet Miers nomination when Bush told conservatives that they had nothing to worry about and simply to trust them. I indeed did trust this Administration. But I cannot do so any longer when it comes to our border security.

I have much respect for this President on many issues, but I cannot comprehend why the notion of sealing off our border with Mexico except for limited and approved entry points is somehow anathema to them. I cannot understand why that welcome mat for criminals and drug terrorists remains out and dusted off. I cannot understand why they have permitted certain towns on the Texas border to become lawless enclaves where drug money controls the local governments. Mexico is becoming the newest enemy in the war on terror, and Vincente Fox, once thought to be an ally of the United States has become an encourager of illegal border crossings, unwilling to police his own people or behave in a peaceful fashion to his most important neighbor. And I cannot understand why this Administration puts the security of that border and the people on this side of it, second to a facade of good relations with a foreign government that deserves nothing of the sort and for the purpose of garnering a greater share of the Hispanic vote for Republicans. And likewise, I cannot understand why port security is something that we can trust to a nation with a relatively poor track record on terror.

So if there is a reason to trust the Administration's decision on this matter, it would be helpful if they shared it with us. Because they seem to be asleep on the border security issue. And "trust me" isn't going to fly anymore. It's time to trust--but verify--the Bush Administration's decisions on border security.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Turnabout on Cheney

It seems that the Cheney shooting story is going to remain in the news, per Drudge. The media has decided to keep it in. But their reasons for keeping it in are positively hilarious, showing that they really have no clue as to the glaring irony of the situation in which they find themselves.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post complains that this story has been used by the Administration to make the press look awful. He also states that they've been made to look awful before. Likewise, Bill Plante of CBS cites the same problem but goes even deeper:
The vice president and the White House have both used the constant press
coverage of this story as a wedge. [snip] It plays to the prejudices of the
people who are predisposed not to like us, and it's one way to distract
attention from what happened.
A wedge between who? The public and the press they so adore? And why would the Administration waste its efforts preaching to the anti-media choir? And what was it that really happened?

This is little more than an apoplectic media, upset that the Administration had a little fun at their expense, doing to the medis-left what it has been doing to the Administration for over five years. Turnabout is fair play.

But continuing to run this story isn't--for the media. The public doesn't care. And now the very correct appearance, that the media has a personal ax to grind with the President and Vice President is becoming more clear than the media really need it to be. And it now promises to be just a bit embarassing if they keep it up.

I hope they play it up at increasingly shrill pitches all week.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The UAE and the Ports: A Fox Guarding the Henhouse

The Administration appears to have selected a firm called Dubai Ports World to operate a few U.S. ports, namely those of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. DPW is a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates--a nation that is trying to cozy up to Iran of late and who was one of the three nations to recognize the Taliban government of Afghanistan. And while still holding on to its belief in the legitimacy of the Taliban government despite a popularly elected leadership, the UAE makes up for it by failing to recognize Israel. And so this deal raises the very legitimate question as to whether the Administration has completely lost its mind.

The ports are everything. The Port of Baltimore, just 20 minutes from my home imported $31.2 billion in cargo in 2004. But if a lapse in security allows destruction at the port, my state would be devastated. The remainder of the east coast would have to accommodate the load of Baltimore. The economic impact is pretty clear. Lose two of them and it's probably game over. Likewise, a port can be an excellent place to sneak in a weapon of mass destruction. If you don't believe me, read Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears (read it, don't see the Ben Affleck movie), where the ease of slipping a WMD in through a port and the resulting catastrophe are laid out. And while I am not arguing that because this us a UAE owned company that they will enable a terrorist act, we also need to be selective with who we allow to guard the door, because the stakes can be unbelievably high. And something tells me that we'd have to keep an extra close eye on this "ally."

In all fairness to the Administration, DPW bought out the British company which was previously operating the ports, so it is more of a successor in interest. Nonetheless, the very idea of having our ports operated by a nation that, regardless of their stated position of being a partner in the war on terror (like other loyal "partners" such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Turkey and other such nations who are called "partners" because they are not actively thwarting our efforts in the terror war), seems to retain uncomfortably close ties to that very same terror, is profoundly troubling to me. And in the interests of remaining as fair as possible, whatever justifications the Administration offers for continuing with this contract, I would not have bought them if offered by a Clinton Administration, and I likewise won't grant the Bush people what would be a dishonest pass.

And in the further interest of fairness, this really smacks of the same lack of concern over border security with Mexico. When I see things like this, (H.T. RealClearPolitics), I wonder if the Administration is really serious about protecting our borders, or whether they are more interested in easing the way for "guest workers".

It's one thing to keep them from hijacking or blowing up airplanes. But if we fail to take even the most basic and sensible steps to protect our ports of entry, our efforts at homeland security are for naught.

A Little Whine Made From Sour Grapes

Some words from the Special Report Grapevine:

That interview with Vice President Cheney didn't go over well with our competitors at CNN. Political commentator Paul Begala, who is also a Democratic operative, called FOX News, "the house organ for the Republican Party" and compared Cheney sitting down with FOX to Khrushchev giving an interview to Pravda."

And someone named Jack Cafferty said, "It didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the vice president to wander over there to the F-word network,” calling the interview, "a little bit like Bonnie interviewing Clyde." What's more, while CNN had video clips of the interview available, it chose not to run them, instead using unattributed fullscreen quotes that did not mention that the interview was from FOX News.

In all fairness to Begala and company, I suppose I too would be more than just a bit bitter towards a network that relegated me to irrelevance by checking the unfair spin of the media-left.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Cost of Reporter Interference

Following on the previous post, I offer a little flavor for where certain reporters may be headed.

If the past ten years has taught us anything, we know that when the reporter becomes the story because of behavior that crosses bounds of professionalism, decorum and civility, it reflects upon the media in general and generates a blowback.

Connie Chung and Dan Rather had a show in the early 1990s that was widely perceived as pro-Clinton to the point of being dismissive of stories that would damage that Administration. The show didn't last long, and neither did Connie. She violated confidentiality and broadcast a remark by Newt Gingrich's mother which involved a very frank opinion about Hillary Clinton. Connie was gone.

Connie's erstwhile partner, Dan Rather lasted a decade longer, but irreparably damaged what was left of his reputation with an anti-Bush story that was based on forged documents, taking with him longtime producer Mary Mapes. And while that was quite harmful, his repeated and increasingly intellectually unsupportable defense of the story finished him off. When he ultimately declared that he believed the story despite the fact that the evidence was false, he belied a bias that prevented him from fairly and accurately reporting the news.

And as I noted last month, Helen Thomas, now more angry hag caricature than reporter, makes news when she offers that she is mad that the President passes her over in press conferences and threatened to kill herself if he won re-election (a promise about which we can only assume she was not serious, given that she is still apparently living).

And who could forget Eason Jordan, former CNN Chief News Executive, who hid evidence of Saddam's human rights abuses in order to have greater access to the Iraqi government. And while he kept quiet about those abuses, he manufactured a few others about Americans. He stated that American soldiers in Iraq were targeting journalists. It cost him his job and put a huge black eye on CNN for keeping him.

It is a very expensive mistake for a reporter to allow his or her bias or personality to become part of the story, and it is almost always a bad thing when the reporter is the thing reported. Because it's often bias that comes through, which tells the public that some of the people reporting the news can't be trusted to do so in a fair manner.

We'll see if David Gregory manages to grow up.

Cheney's Response Snubs MSM

Dick Cheney's interview with Fox News's Brit Hume was just what he needed it to be. He came across as someone trying to hide emotions of embarrassment and pain after having shot a friend in a hunting accident. And regardless of his friend's improving health, he appeared shaken, calling the event the worst day of his life.

He also made the observation that the media noise being made about the event was mainly about the media themselves, not Cheney, Whittington or the shooting.

But most interesting was the choice to give the story to a local newspaper, and not to the national media. The rationale offered was that the national media wouldn't get the hunting aspect of the story, mainly because they have no idea how guns or hunting work, and probably that the MSM could not be trusted to do anything more than turn it into yet another gun control or anti Cheney/Administration story. And rather than state that it could have been handled better, Cheney indicated that he made the choice he did, and would do so again. A series of very significant thumbs of the nose at the media-left.

But the choice of Fox News was equally troubling to them. I heard on the radio that Brit Hume was asked as he got to the White House by other reporters whether he/Fox was chosen because Fox is a conservative news outlet. His equally vexing response was that the Administration probably chose Fox because they wanted to have the interview aired by the cable news outlet with the biggest audience. Smack!

The question remains how the now again-snubbed White House press corps, the "other guys", will behave today and tomorrow. Certainly Cheney's interview gave them in word--but not in substance--what they had been demanding, but it was all he had to do from the public's perspective, presuming he had to do anything at all. It also gives the press a break--an opportunity to stand down and shut up, and for this weeks behavior to be largely forgotten. But if they don't resist the temptation to continue to push the story for their own ends, it will create the same problems for them which we saw early in the week, with the correspondents' ego-driven frustration and unprofessional behavior becoming more of the news than the story itself.

Because when the story becomes about the reporter, it's almost never a good thing. It causes the public to question the fairness and seriousness of the people who report the news, which has become a very easily understood and troubling issue in recent years.

The White House knows this, and through the increasingly popular outlet of Fox News, laid a very clever trap for other members of the press corps.

The question is whether the cheese smells better to the rat than the risk of springing the trap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Getting the Cheney Story Wrong

I know I have been blogging quite a bit about this, but the impressions I am getting from across the blogosphere (check realclearpolitics.com which has the best variety of opinion) from reasonable and conservative minds and in the news reports from Republicans are that Cheney's people were somehow wrong and caused this shooting hoopla.

To be clear, yes, the whole communication apparatus didn't function well, and this whole thing could have been avoided by a paragraph in a press release.

But it seems more that people are concerned that the press is upset. My reaction? Who cares! After the truly infantile behavior of David Gregory of NBC, it seems as if the conensus is that in order to avoid the bullying from the media and unfair behavior from unscrupulous political opponents, we must apologize to them and give them whatever they want, or else they will allow the story to be blown out of proportion.

But the standards of common decency apply not just to politicians, but also to the media. And while Cheney could have handled the reporting of this a bit better, the overreaction to this very insignificant story tells us that the White House press corps is filled with a bunch of very silly megalomaniacs.

And while issuing a statement would have prevented this accident from becoming the issue the media has made it, they have unwittingly made their behavior an issue. There is no excuse for the kind of rudeness they have displayed, nor the truly unprofessional behavior of the likes of David Gregory who actually threw a fit (check the Malkin piece below) when he didn't like Scott McClellan's ribbing him. So it may help to remember that they are in the White House talking to the people's elected leaders, where a certain level of decorum is expected.

And if certain members of the press corps can't remember that, then perhaps it might be a better thing that they go back to covering the local fire department carnival where such silliness is tolerated.

Cheney's Interview

Dick Cheney is going to do an interview, not a press conference. The interview is with Fox News, which should tell folks that the VP is not interested in taking questions from reporters who are out to demagogue the accident, but rather wants the opportunity just to tell us what we already know. It will likely be with Brit Hume doing the interview, with whom Cheney will be more than comfortable.

This is probably a crafted response to that will clear up the matter in every sane person's mind, but which also may assist in the Administration's plan to have this backfire on the media and on the likes of Harry Reid for trying to make it into a major issue.

Cheney would be wise to be straight on the facts, and make a special note as to how he ensured that his friend's needs received attention above all else. But he ought to also express his remorse for his friend, and how he feels badly for what happened, despite the fact that it was an accident. That will give him a place to give a businesslike expression of displeasure over the obnoxious behavior of the media and certain Democrats who are trying to use an accident with no moral component, that has no effect on the Vice President's job, and that is none of their affairs, as a means to hit him when he already feels terribly.

The Administration is not granting this interview for no reason, and hopefully, this will bring about a much deserved response to those who used this occasion to display their inexcusable lack of civility.

Execrable Partisanship, Depraved Hearts

The matter of Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of a friend on a hunting trip has been carried out of control by the media and the left. This shooting was an accident. Period. Just ask Harry Whittington, the victim.

But Democrats have joined their allies in the media, treating this as a matter of significant national interest, and the what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it questions come pouring out in a remarkably embarrassing and cruel manner (H.T. Drudge).

But let's frame this whole story, shall we?

The victim is a friend of the Vice President's who remains so. He does not blame Mr. Cheney for the accident. One victim, nobody else, and no moral, ethical, and no significant legal component to the story. And sorry, but the $7.00 stamp that Cheney and Whittington both forgot to get on their Texas hunting licenses doesn't count, but I'd love to see the Democrats and press granstand on that one.

At the time of the accident, it was Cheney who saw to the man's medical needs, and saw that he was taken to the hospital without an instant's delay. The responsible thing was done.

And from what what we can tell, the Vice President feels horribly about the whole thing. Mr. Whittington then had a small heart attack because of the migration of one of the pellets. So the last thing the Vice President needs at this point is more reason to feel awfully about the accident by a bunch of Democrats who have the gall to use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity for a cheap and morally inexcusable political hit.

But Hillary Clinton opens her mouth, and citing a "troubling pattern," and declaring that there is,

A tendency of this administration -- from the top all the way to the bottom -- is to withhold information ... to refuse to be forthcoming about information that is of significance and relevance to the jobs that all of you do, and the interests of the American people
This is rich coming from someone with the name "Clinton", whose name has become synonymous with corruption.

Charles Schumer takes a nice logical leap by associating this with the Valerie Plame affair:

In light of the recent shooting accident and all the questions surrounding his role in the leaking of classified national security information through his Chief of Staff Lewis Libby, there are many questions that Americans have for VP Cheney
An effort to associate a personal tragedy as part of a series of now defunct and factless scandal allegations. Tasteless.

But Harry Ried's two statements between yesterday and today take the cake. Today, he demanded that the Vice President hold a press conference on this matter which is really nobody's business. Yesterday, he offered these insightful words,
Talk about secrecy, the vice president accidentally shoots someone and keeps that a secret for nearly a day. That man, of course, is now very sick.
This veiled implication, that Cheney dumped the guy there for a day without care is inexcusable and the unscrupulous Senator who uttered it is beneath contempt. It would be bad if Cheney had caused a severe accident as a result of his negligence, rescued himself and left this man, say, underwater to drown, and for eight hours left the accident unreported while he partied and the man died. But that's not where we are.

The left has no concern for the fact that Cheney did everything right--except give them the stream of information to which they feel they are always entitled. In other words, if you ask these shameless people, Cheney took care of the second most important thing--Mr. Whittington's health and safety. The most important thing, of course, would have been to put out a press release to David Gregory, and to hold a press conference that would satisfy Harry Reid's need to know.

It's wise to pick one's battles, and this incident is a great example of why. Because this will backfire on the arrogant press and the Democrats who date to make an issue of it.

ADDENDUM
Here's Michelle Malkin's take.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Did The Quail Know and When Did It Know It??

Inquiring minds want to know. Dick Cheney shot a friend in a freak hunting accident. He was shooting a quail and facing into the sun, and his friend, returning to the pack, didn't announce himself. He got peppered, but he'll be fine. And since he's fine, it's probably ok to giggle about the fact that we're usually worried about shooting attempts on high government officials, not the other way around.

But the press is apoplectic. Not that Cheney shot a guy, but because they didn't find out right away. So they hyperventilated all over White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. But their reaction is inversely proportional to the public's concern over a bunch of reporters' bruised egos, especially when it comes to being informed on irrelevant details about a non-story that would never have received the airtime it has, had the news cycle been more exciting.

And in their ire, they are eager to turn this into another media-manufactured scandal. To wit, this:
Scott, when you consider the chronology that you've tried to go through here and all of the various wrinkles of how long it took for the primary information that the vice president was the person who shot this fellow, to get through to the president himself, is there any notion here of reviewing your own communications apparatus? I mean, this is sort of reminiscent of the levee story, frankly...
What did the President know and when did he know it? And why didn't he take steps to prevent the shooting of this person when he knew that loaded firearms were going to be present? When did the person who was shot learn that he had been shot?

And then McClellan got this painfully stupid question from an angry David Gregory of NBC that should have gotten Gregory fired:

Hold on one second. Human beings are not normally this inefficient. Was the vice president immediately clear that he had accidentally shot his friend or not? Or did that information become available later?
Nor are they normally so dumb as to have asked such a question. Try not to think that one over too hard.

But protestations of this variety, while telling us nothing about the Administration, speak volumes about a media out of control. They have no respect for anyone but themselves, and lacking much in the way of introspection, see nothing wrong with making their petty inconvenience into national headlines. And the stink which they made of such a very small matter reflects a particular arrogance. They believe that they have a right to have their noses in every event which they consider newsworthy. And the things that made this story worth more than a 5 second mention are 1) that they hate Dick Cheney, and 2) that Cheney's people had the nerve not to give them an endless supply of information to which they felt they were entitled.

They could do us all a favor and get over themselves.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Western Blasphemy Or Just More Islamist Bigotry?

Check this from Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard. They reproduced the Mohammed cartoons that were printed in European newspapers which sparked riots among chronically angry youth in the Middle East. But the important thing is that those cartoons were also printed in Egypt's version of the Washington Post. The Western act spurred riots. The Middle East version didn't.

But isn't ANY reproduction even for demonstrative purposes (i.e. here are what the cartoons looked like) blasphemy under this increasingly unyielding standard which these thugs apply to us? So it seems that the basis of these violent demonstrations is that westerners published them. But if that's the case--and make no mistake, it is--then it's not blasphemy to make such reproductions, but rather bigotry to attempt to stop someone else from doing it based upon their nationality.

And just for a bit of reference, the Koran has NO prohibitions on images of Mohammed. These are legalisms created by clerics who felt that it would be a good thing to subject people to absolutist regulations.

So let's reduce this matter into a couple of simple ideas. Because these people hate westerners, they attacked them. The offered justification for this particular event of violence was that the westerners offended an obscure prohibition of a religion which these thugs use as a political cloak of righteousness for what is essentially a brutal anti-civilization movement. They want westerners to limit their rights to free speech where their religious sensibilities are concerned, and they want their cultural norms to replace ours on our own turf.

And if, through the pressures of political correctness we do that, we may as well lay down our concerns in the terror war, because they will have scored a political victory, paving the way for a whole lot more.

And this all comes back to 9/11. If there is any more appropriate example of who and what we tolerate when we accommodate radical Islam in order to avoid a conflict, we in a very significant way capituate to people who flew three civilian airliners into buildings and another into the ground--people who committed such acts because they didn't tolerate us.

So when we consider giving up certain rights, namely that of free speech in order to buy into some misbegotten politically correct ethic, remember that in doing so, we are stating that the whims of murderers are more important than the lives of the Americans whom they will kill whether we kowtow or not.

And with that thought, I invite us to be on our own side in this one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Armchair First Responders

After Hurricane Katrina, Michelle Malkin coined the phrase "armchair first responders" to describe the individuals who carped left and right about the federal response to the disaster in the hours and days following the hurricane.

And here we go again. The Administration knew of the levee breaches. They knew in enough time to...what? The unmitigated gall of Democrats is amazing in this regard. Perhaps there was something that the President could have done, but such mean-spirited second-guessing would be impossible without benefit of months of hindsight and extensive postmortems.

But I return to the place from which I have argued since this tragedy first occurred: it was the responsibility of the local governments to do something about their own people

The concern that the levees might be topped by a storm surge was significant, but it never happened. Instead, a section of one of them gave way, spilling water into the mostly below sea level city and flooding almost all of it. But these concerns beg a single question--what was the Administration supposed to do?

The City, whose duty it is, beyond encouraging tourism, heavily taxing its residents, and undereducating city students is that of actually protecting the citizens. In this case, Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans had a duty to bus the people out of New Orleans. But when the mayor, in his one shot to display competence in crisis, leaves approximately 350-700 buses to be flooded and therefore useless for bussing out city residents, it's a little hard to evacuate people. Not that he couldn't have done all of that prior to the coming of the hurricane to minimize risk to health, safety and life when it would have been easiest, but I suppose that somehow was missed during the planning lunch. And in that respect his degree of concern prior to the hurricane is even more disturbing given that he told the people of New Orleans, most of whom own no private form of transportation, save a pair of shoes, that they were largely on their own to get out of the city. Likewise, Gov. Kathleen Blanco barred relief agencies from entering New Orleans, which could have ameliorated the after effects of the disaster, and even held off federal relief for 24 hours after an offer from the President.

So whatever the criticism of former FEMA director Mike Brown's incompetence, and that of the Administration, there is this whole notion of causation. Their incompetence had to have had an effect beyond the already-existing failures on the ground by state and local officials. And if their services can't get into the city because the governor opposes it and the people are stuck in the city because the mayor proved that he cannot perform his function as a leader in a time of crisis, the question then becomes what the feds had to work with in the first place.

So if the President could have 1) evacuated everyone in time to avoid the worst of the flood as the water was actively spilling in, and 2) avoided a problem with state sovereignty and overrode the governor's snub of an offer of help, I would be very open to hearing suggestions as to how that could have been done based upon the knowledge available to him at the time.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Exchanging Liberties or Exercising Wisdom?

I have tired of hearing the maxim from Ben Franklin that those who exchange their liberty for security deserve neither, when discussing the issue of NSA wiretaps. The quote has its place in debate, of course, but using it as the guiding ethic is inappropriate.

Franklin's comments need to be seen in the context of the time in which they were made--an era when Thomas Hobbes Leviathan suggested the wisdom of despotic government. Hobbes basic thesis, while encouraging the sovereign despot to be a benevolent leader, was that people turn their freedom to operate outside the strictures of the social contract over to the sovereign who will provide security for the people. And while I doubt that Franklin was directly responding to Hobbes, as an ardent supporter of a democratically elected representative government of laws, Franklin opposed the notion of subjecting oneself to unaccountable government. And in Franklin's day, the notion of wiretaps to intercept telephone calls, calls coming to and from foreign countries, and for that matter "calls" did not exist. Neither did the notion of terrorists flying planes into skyscrapers, the destruction of cities by weapons of mass destruction, and the annihilation of our population by zealots who use our civil liberties and political sensibilities against us. So while Franklin's quote is a fine reminder that liberty is something not to be tossed aside lightly, it is also a very poor place to begin or end this debate.

And it is probably helpful to recognize that the Founders--including Franklin--probably did not intend the Constitution to be a suicide pact. It exists for our protection, and it stands to reason that the Founders would take a dim view of saboteurs making use of our civil liberties as a tool to shield them from detection and interdiction as they plot our destruction, and would want a means to protect people from warrantless inspection of their private communications. And it also stands to reason that we need less protection from the state than we do those who have an interest in destroying that state and us with it.

So any discussion as to what kind of measures we must take to protect ourselves must begin with 9/11. It defined the stakes.

And while we have an interest in keeping our communications private, we have another interest in keeping ourselves alive and with an intact society. Given the knowledge that our enemies use our legal system and its loopholes and protections to their advantage as they plot an attack on our homeland, it makes sense that we will afford their communications less protection. But, as some fear, in less scrupulous hands this power could lead to warrantless domestic eavesdropping, and in a Nixonian environment, such a thing would have been a very powerful tool against lawful political opponents. And while government overreach is a concern when adding powers to it, this argument misses a very significant point. Our right to privacy as provided by the Bill of Rights is intended to protect private citizens from a nosy government that harasses them. It bases its protections around the assumption that people are basically lawful, and that if for some reason they are committing crimes the state can apply for a warrant to take a closer look at their behavior. But the dire risk posed by al Qaida is something that cannot be treated as common crime, which reflects the basic misunderstanding of some as to how to handle terrorism.

A drug dealer is certainly a threat to the neighborhoods upon which he preys, but he can be quickly and easily brought down, extracted from the community and the effects of his crime minimized. But not so the terrorist. By the time a bomb goes off in a mall, a school is attacked, an airborne disease process is released, a plane is hijacked, or they get a crude atomic device to work, the damage is catastrophic and irreparable.

I suppose that there is a law enforcement component to anything like this, but the matter is far more significantly rooted in our nation's right to use whatever means necessary to preserve domestic safety and security. And to put them in the same category is a gross error. They are not the same thing and for the sake of our nation, cannot be treated that way.

And while the scheme we have now is not perfect, it does work. A few legal niceties need to be worked out, but the larger point of surrendering liberties is one more smokescreen that ignores the reality and cleverness of the enemy that we face.

So we need to ask ourselves, if we hold strictly to interpretations about privacy, if we are left with another major disaster as a result of a terror attack, will we be comforted by the fact that at least people's 4th Amendment rights were protected?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wellstoneing Another Funeral

Memorial services are odd occasions. They are times of raw emotion and pain. They are times when normally reserved people express their feelings openly and laud the life of a person whom they will miss. And they are times when it is generally socially inappropriate to criticize the remarks of a mourner which might be interpreted as intemperate, leaving the target of such unfair allegations often unfairly defenseless. It is not appropriately the time for a debate.

But when the remarks are so irrelevant to the occasion, and are not generated as a result of an emotional overflow, but rather a calculated effort to be petty, to the extent that the event becomes a free platform for unleashing abusive statements, the tide often turn against the opportunist.

Jimmy Carter took the opportunity yesterday, while pretending to laud Coretta Scott King the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., to get in rhetorical jabs on the sitting president who was just a few feet behind him regarding wiretaps and Hurricane Katrina. It was a new low for the failed President. And then, Rev. Joseph Lowery did much the same, bringing in the whole WMD in Iraq issue. It was an inexcusable misuse of the pulpit and a terrible example to his congregation.

We saw this same kind of thing in October 2002, when the funeral of Paul Wellstone became an opportunity for a number of crazed leftists to turn it into an SDS rally, booing Republicans who came to pay their respects, demanding that Republican candidates for Senate resign their candidacies as a tribute to Wellstone, bashing the President and putting forth a rally for Wellstone's replacement. The moderate governor of Minnesota, Jessie Ventura walked out. Others joined him. And the remarkable tastelessness of the event backfired on them and may have turned several close races in favor of the Republicans.

And while we are in a slightly different situation here, it becomes very hard to escape the conclusion that the left lacks any sense of moral or social grace or decency or any restraint of any kind. To these people, the rising of the sun is politics.

Contrast this with the passing of President Ronald Reagan. It was an event marked by laudatory remarks about the man's life, his work and the legacy he left. Nobody took the opportunity to say that Reagan had to come in and revamp a military which Jimmy Carter allowed to be gutted. Nobody mentioned the embarrassment of the Iran hostage crisis where Jimmy Carter did exactly nothing to rescue the hostages (a poorly planned Delta Force rescue that never even got there doesn't count), that he displayed flaccidity in the face of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan by boycotting their Olympics, thereby guaranteeing a huge sweep of gold medals and denying American athletes their chance to prove their worth, or kissing Brezhnev and telling us just before the Afghanistan invasion that we have nothing to fear from the Soviets. Nobody mentioned the Carter gas lines. Nobody mentioned the misery index, the sum of the high interest rate and unemployment rate of the Carter years. Nobody talked about how dangerous a period the world entered from January 1977 to January 1981. Nobody demagogued the failures of those years. And they didn't mention the years of failure after that: The North Korean agreement that he brokered in 1994, and may have broken U.S. law to do, which led to the crisis we have now. The endorsement of the theft of the election in Venezuela by the pro-Castro, anti U.S. Communist, Hugo Chavez. And nobody used his good points, few though they were, as platforms to describe their unintended consequences. It was never mentioned that the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt were the thing that got Egyptian President Anwar Sadat killed. And nobody was tasteless enough to suggest that President Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity, probably the greatest thing he has ever done, did little to elevate the economic condition of the people whose homes he built (an inexcusable and patently false allegation to be certain, but it's qualities are not too different from what we regularly hear from the far left [lies about Iraq, blood for oil, anything about Halliburton]). Instead, the focus was on the man who had passed, his family, and his accomplishments.

But people on the left like Jimmy Carter, Rev. Lowery, and the folks who befouled the service for Paul Wellstone lack any sense of decorum or politeness, and are simply unable to coexist with others in a non-political environment. And it's a shame that they cannot exercise enough self control to forego cheap political stunts at funerals, for the sake of peace and remembering the life's work of one who has passed.

Disgraceful and shameful, but such admonitions are completely lost on those who should be ashamed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

McCain "Straight Talks" Obama

It seems that John McCain is becoming John McCain again. This man, once a reliable conservative is using his current popularity to make life difficult for the equally popular, punishing them for political maneuvering on lobbying reform.

Howard Dean has already unequivocally declared that the Abramoff scandal is a 100% Republican affair. We also know that Harry Reid categorically rejected the notion that he would ever work for a bipartisan solution to lobbying reform because he wants this to be a Republican scandal with a Democrat solution. But given that Reid's hands may not be the cleanest in this regard, and that Dean had no idea about it when others clearly did, it's safe to assume that the Democrats are trying to create a smokescreen to shield themselves from self-inflicted embarrassment and to preserve this as an election issue, which is an increasingly weak proposition. Enter the skillful politician, Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL).

Obama expressed in interest to McCain's invitation to take part in reform. But when it came time for him to put his words into action, he revealed that his words were little more than window dressing. He was with Harry Reid's proposal all along. So to that end he sends this letter that ends with the typical Washington blow-off of "Thank you again for your interest in this important matter."

But McCain's response, rather than chastising Obama, flagellated himself.

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. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again. [snip]

As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem. They see it as yet another run-of-the-mill Washington scandal, and they expect it will generate just another round of partisan gamesmanship and posturing. Senator Lieberman and I, and many other members of this body, hope to exceed the public's low expectations. We view this as an opportunity to bring transparency and accountability to the Congress, and, most importantly, to show the public that both parties will work together to address our failings.

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.


Translation: Shame on me for believing you.

And with a letter like that, accusing Obama and his leaders of caring more about temporary political advantage rather than accountability of elected officials, and playing to the very reasonably low expectations of the public, McCain committed a much needed and refreshing breech of Washington etiquette. Obama's response is contained in his posting, which apparently contains all of the correspondence between these two, but it does little more than splash the same varnish on the matter and blow the same smoke that the original letter did, and if anything, confirms McCain's allegations.

It is candor like this that does much to cut through the really unhelpful dialogue that has for too long allowed slippery politicians to escape scrutiny, simply because they choose their words (if not actions) very carefully.

And for Obama, his veneer may be getting a little scuffed by this exchange.

Retaliatory Cartoons

Per my last post, I believe that the intolerance of the Islamist community is reflected in the fact that while violence against people (meaning those they don't like, which is just about everyone) is just fine, cartoons that they feel are blasphemous are not, and warrant acts of violence and murder. But perhaps the Iranians are getting in the spirit of things. They are commissioning a contest for Holocaust cartoons. Of note, the Mullah quoted in the article seems to be the thinking type, but I'm not holding my breath that his words will bring sanity to a group of people who are already completely detached from the rest of the world.

And I'll hazard a guess that they are probably looking for the most tasteless and cruel depictions, but it's their contest, not mine. Of course, the government of Iran is not calling for an end to the violence caused by the Mohammed cartoons, but at least they want to show that they can get into the free speech game too. But remember, the speech is only free if it disagrees with the current government and no state action is taken against the speaker. But given that hate of Jews and Israel is the state policy of the Mullahs of Iran and of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, such a thing is a pretty safe prospect in Iran and throughout the Middle East.

I guess I'm wondering, though, where Jews come in to this debate. It was European secularists who did the cartoons which offended the Islamofacist terrorists. They were not printed by Israelis. Why not depictions of libertine secular Europeans who actually did this? Why not some hyperventilatory cartoon showing a bunch of egghead Europeans defiling the Koran? Or are these people so absolutely clouded by hate of a people who never really did anything to them, that they just want to spread the misery around? Or better yet, is it that they have no substantive response to the substance of the cartoons, such that they can only respond with neolithic displays of violence and rhetorical irrelevance?

And if this is the state of cultural and psychological affairs among these extremists, if we are going to put burkas on women to prevent them from causing sin, perhaps we can put straight jackets on the men to prevent them from doing the same.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Kristallnacht 2006

By now, Islamofacists are in full swing, attacking the embassies of various European nations who dared to print cartoons with which these politically adored brigands disagree. But the violence over these cartoons is not lost, as it tells us a good deal about the values, attitudes and intentions of these people.

Certainly 9/11 told us that they want to kill civilians, but we already knew that. More than anything though, it told us more about our own vulnerabilities. And we learned that the terrorists had become all the more observant and careful, adapting their tactics to circumvent our defenses. And we also learned that the Israelis were the canaries in the mine, insofar as the Islamofacists intended to do the same kinds of things here.

That being said, these riots over the graphic and satirical depiction of Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, reflect much the same thing as the riots in Afghanistan over the false reporting of the destruction of copies of the Koran by U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo Bay. One may argue that all of this proves that the pen is mightier than the sword, but it really proves that these extremists value things and rules more than people.

They tell us that the image of a religious figure must be kept sacred. So must be the holy book of the religion. But there is a logical and moral disconnect when those same requirements do not apply to the treatment of people to whom the religion is supposed to minister. People with peaceful purposes are captured, dismembered by Islamist terrorists on videotape which is then aired to the Arab world by Al Jazeera like a sporting event. Zealots with bombs strapped to their bodies walk amid women and children peaceably shopping in open air markets and blow themselves up to inflict maximum damage. Sunni extremists murder pro-democracy Shiite clerics in Iraq and level their mosques. Where is the parallel outrage? Why aren't there mass demonstrations burning effigies of Usama bin Laden, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, or the Hamas leadership? Well, there was one, but that was after some Zarqawi people blew up a Sunni wedding in Jordan. In that case, the terrorist simply selected the wrong victim, hence the outrage. It involves a depraved heart and mind to be able to rationalize such a distinction, but such is the way of individuals who have no values other than enforcing, for their own political purposes the strictest portions of their religious dogma to subjugate others.

But if their values are nearly zero, their intentions are quite grandiose. They are taking a zero tolerance policy towards the printing of cartoons they consider blasphemous in European newspapers. But rather than boycotting the newspapers, keeping their circulation out of the Middle East and making their political and religious views known, they are destroying property and working to kill people as retribution. Which means that newspapers whose circulation is not directed toward those in the Middle East are not permitted to print anything an Islamofacist doesn't like. Meaning that their rules apply to you. And they want their reach to extend to you. Getting the picture? If these people get their way and we treat their behavior and twisted theology as even the least bit legitimate we will have to change our culture to fit their strict sensitivities in order to avoid their violent retribution. Freedom of speech dies. Freedom of religion dies. Those not-so-clear Constitutional rights to privacy become clearer than ever, when they are wiped away with the Constitution. They want to force and enforce their religion against you.

And in all reality, Islamofacism isn't much different than Nazism. It is a violently ambitious political movement by individuals who lack tolerance for anyone else. Anti-Semitism is one of its hallmark characteristics, it seeks diplomacy only to the extent that same helps it advance its primary tools of statecraft, mass murder and fear, and seeks to take over the entire planet. And this current outbreak of violence is likely the Kristallnacht of this war.

The only difference between this movement and that of Hitler is that the creepy occult images of the Nazis which never caught on in the West have been cleverly replaced by religious ones that will. And so this purely political movement cloaks itself with a false legitimacy by wrapping its fetid values and goals in a religious outer shell.

It's really very clever. And if we appease it rather than stamp it out, the result will be the same. But this time, they'll skip the Atlantic warfare and just lob nuclear tipped missiles across regions, continents and oceans. And if we let it get that far, our only hope is that a missile defense system--opposed by the appeasers--works, or that a bomb fizzles. And neither is an adequate or responsible defense against such a determined enemy.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Kartoon Krazies Krack

The Syrians attacked the Danish and Norweigan Embassies over offensive cartoons printed in newspapers. Folks, that's an act of war.

Bu the lesson will soon become that Islamofacism's hyperventilatory hypersensitivity does not control the globe. And this may be the beginning of the break of the European media-left's honeymoon with these murderers. Because it's their cartoons that got these maniacs upset. But it's also their right to print what they want.

And so I wonder if they'll part first with their right to say what they want or their desire not to offend terrorists.

But if it's the latter, which I think is likely after their pronouncement that free speech means the right to commit blasphemy, the bloody hands of Islamofacists may have just lost their most valued ally in the West.

You Know It's Bad When...

...Russia and China get scared.

Today, the U.S. scored a major foreign policy victory when the IAEA voted to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. What that means is that Russia and China saw Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the thug he really is, and Iran's nuclear program for the frightening threat to world peace that they really intended it to be.

And in the face of the threat, the Iranians threatened to do the very thing thing that they were going to do anyway: jack up uranium enrichment and obstruct U.N. monitoring.

But the switch of the Russians and Chinese is not to be ignored. This is big. And perhaps Ahmadinejad just realized that there is a cost to being an international bully and downright creep. Because the guys with the big guns just turned on him.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Can't Trust Whom?

CIA director, former Congressman from Florida, and former spy, Porter Goss testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and stated that the leaks of information about the U.S.'s efforts to intercept communications between al Qaida operatives had done serious damage to our efforts to stay ahead of them and interdict their plots.

No surprises there. When a resourceful enemy like al Qaida gets information on sources and methods they adapt their operations. But what I found remarkable were the remarks of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV),

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the [Intelligence] committee, complained that briefings about the NSA program have been limited to the top congressional leadership, leaving the full intelligence committees to conclude that they cannot be trusted.

"This rationale for withholding information from Congress is flat-out unacceptable and nothing more than political smoke," Rockefeller said.

This comment is remarkable, as completely irrelevant as it is, because it implies that Rockefeller is either too stupid or too stuck in his party's bitter ideology to see the glaring irony of such a statement.

The Administration disclosed the program to Members of Congress and of the Senate, among them Rockefeller. Rockefeller argues that the failure to disclose it to the entire Committee means that Bush is implying that some of the committee members might not be trustworthy. Perhaps so, but what does the fact of the leak we are dealing with say about the limited list of people who were fed the information right before the election?

Read this post from Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics.com, where he suggests that the list of potential leakers is pretty short, given the sensitive nature of the information. It's probable that someone on the short list couldn't be trusted, and if that's the case, the whole idea of expanding the ranks of the informed makes little sense.

And likewise, as Goss offered, another inquiry into who supplied information to journalists, all the while committing a criminal act to do it, is in order. Journalists need to be queried as to their sources, because somewhere within the government, we have someone who, likely for political purposes, released information about a program that did no harm to Americans, but whose publicity endangered them and helped an enemy.

And I imagine that Jay Rockefeller might want to call for such hearings as well. If he's really interested in finding who leaked this.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Funny over the Funnies

I'll cut to the chase in this one.

An artist in Denmark a while ago did a political cartoon depicting Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. It was unflattering, but then again, isn't that the point of a political cartoon? Somebody gets mocked. And cartoons of that variety have been running for centuries in newspapers.

But the reaction from the Islamofascists was a bit asymmetric, but still predictable given what we know of them. Declarations of blasphemy (it is forbidden to depict Mohammed), bomb threats, etc. with certain editors saying that they wouldn't have published them had they known that such a furor would arise.

And I find that unfortunate, because these international goons are now making an active effort to censor any communications that might in some way offend them. But here's a news flash--their senitivities do not control the planet any more than mine do. That's one of the beauties of freedom. Ideas get to stand on their own. People get to weigh the merits. And in the western world, Islam is not perceived as a religion of peace, but one whose chief representatives are a bunch of AK-47 toting, mask wearing, invective spewing, murderous outlaws.

But here's one of the few times I will catch myself agreeing with the secular left. They stated that part of free speech is the right to commit blasphemy. Which is a meaningful thing in this context, because an Islamofascist defines anything that offends him as blasphemy. Free speech has its social consequences too, as the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Dan Rather, and Terrell Owens have learned. And if one is so concerned about blasphemy, the proper approach is to seek revenge through symmetric channels. Let your opposing voice be heard, and seek to correct, shame or socially ostracize opponents. Bill O'Reilly has made a decent living out of it, and is probably the most effective agent for social change in America today. It's called discourse.

But all of that aside, I wonder why they don't have the same outrage when defenseless living people have their heads torn off by desperate terrorists who capture them and videotape their murders in the name of Islam?

But it just goes to show that nature of this enemy we face. They expect complete conformity, they do not tolerate disagreement, and above all, they hate anyone who does not have an encyclopedic understanding of and unfailing respect for even the tiniest nuances of their excruciatingly bitter and intolerant culture.

So no, they won't find cartoons funny either.

Boehner - A Little More Lipstick on the Pig

John Boehner (R-OH) has been selected as the House Majority Leader, replacing Tom DeLay (R-TX). And while Boehner is a better selection than Roy Blunt (R-MO), he is not much better, and he is not John Shadegg (R-AZ).

Boehner is a solid conservative who campaigned on cleaning up corruption in the Congress. But Boehner's dark side is not to be ignored. He passed out campaign contribution checks from lobbyists on the House floor in 1995, and his PAC, the Freedom Project, raised $31,500 from Jack Abramoff's tribal clients since 2000.

Passing out tobacco checks is just plain stupid. And on any other day, the link to Abramoff clients would not have bothered me so much, but the whole purpose of this election was for the Republicans to divorce themselves as much as possible from the appearance of influence by lobbyists such as Abramoff.

Boehner may be a very qualified individual, but we were looking for more than just ability to do the job. The goal was to have an effective leader who could also help slough off the appearance that Republicans are under the influence of lobbyist dollars. Shadegg could have done that. He remains an idealist and reformer at his core. As the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Shadegg could have restored the credibility that followed the Republicans into Congressional control in 1995.

And while we're better off than we were with Roy Blunt, who was a deputy to DeLay, we cannot declare that we have thrown aside all vestiges of the very thing which the Dems will use to attack us this November.

It's half a change. Let's see if it makes half a difference.

UPDATE

Katherine Jean Lopez over at The Corner adds these comments by Shadegg. But then again, what the heck else would he say?

Bush May Have Backed Democrats Into a Corner

My tepid response to the State of the Union aside, I think President Bush may have set the increasingly apoplectic Democrats up for a very big fall with his speech. And upon further reflection, this may indeed be the same calculating Bush we've always known, lowering expectations, and preparing to pounce.

Despite the initiatives he mentioned Tuesday night, Bush was really serious about three things: preventing the expiration of the tax reductions, of the Patriot Act, and his authority to act to protect the American people by intercepting communications to and from Al Qaida agents. And we know two things about each of these proposals: The American people for the most part favor them and the Democrats don't. (courtesy RealClearPolitics.com)

When better than an election year for the Democrats to be caught advocating for tax increases (because that's how Bush will pitch their opposition), weakening or eliminating our national security laws which have kept us safe from attacks for the past four and a half years, and to oppose wiretapping of suspected al Qaida agents which has likewise kept us safe, in keeping with the tenets of their anti-American, secularist legal arm, the ACLU?

Bush didn't offer those propositions just because he wanted them passed, but because he is certain that they will pass, and that they will do so only after a very bloody and public fight with the Democrats. And unlike a Social Security change (much like the confusing and therefore unpopular Medicare Part D changes), people know the benefits they have enjoyed under the Patriot Act--no bombs, hijackings, buildings destroyed or people killed on our soil. Likewise, Americans aren't all that concerned that al Qaida agents enjoy a bit less privacy than others when it comes to electronic communications. And the notion of keeping more of the money they make for their own purposes, aside of the benefits the government reaps from such cuts, is equally appealing.

But Democrats working for opposite results--results that will economically harm and physically endanger Americans--will not go down smoothly with voters. And such a thing may help Republicans to hold critical Senate seats, like that of Rick Santorum (R-PA) who looks to be in big trouble, or to potentially score what now appear to be unlikely upsets, such as replacing Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) with Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) , or perhaps to turn close races such as that for the seat of Herb Kohl (D-WI) into a victory for Tommy Thompson (R-WI). It worked in 2002 when Republicans had more seats to lose than Dems, and if played carefully and appropriately, can do the same when the Dems have more to lose, as they do this year.

And if they choose 2006 as the year they moderate themselves, Bush likewise takes a record of successes, with at least the appearance of a better tone in Washington. But who are we kidding? The Democrats have abandoned reason for the hippie leftism for which they never really stopped advocating since the 1960s, and they surely won't stop now.

But it also needs to be understood that Bush rises to elections much better than just about anyone else. He turned a troubled year of 2004 into a victory, and in 2002 did the same, as he was ramping up to a war.

We'll see what happens, but if the Dems oppose Bush in these three areas, they will be forced to answer for it in the fall. Recall Max Cleland.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

SOTU--A Product of Lessons Learned

Bush gave a decent State of the Union address. His speech was upbeat, and he made the case for a limited set of policies he is advancing this year. But this is a much more careful Bush than we saw in January 2005.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the speech a good deal, but I'm a pretty easy audience for this President. He needed to reach out to that 51% who disapprove of his leadership, and he needed to do it in a powerful way. Bush may have reached those who were looking for a reason to believe in him, or at least were possessed of minds more open than the nutty extremist who was ejected from the House Chamber prior to the Address. But it was not the stirring speech we saw at the convention in 2004.

My main disappointment is that Bush tends to be a risk-taker in his speeches and proposals, and when he sticks with the "risk", things tend to turn out well for him. Here, he hedged, probably as a result last year's results when he may have taken more risk than he could handle.

As has been argued before, Bush misread his mandate last year, to the point that he thought he had a specific mandate beyond what he was already doing. And last year's State of the Union involved a very ambitious laundry list of reforms that, for the most part, fell flat. A wartime president can't afford such damage to his public support. It imperils the war effort by limiting his flexibility. Here, he did his due diligence on the Iraq War, by telling us in limited terms what is going on, and that the cause of liberty is going to be pursued by the United States, whether the Dems opposed it or not. Same with the War on Terror and the NSA wiretaps. He thumbed his nose at the Dems and told them that he is going to do what he must with the legal authority he has to protect Americans from another terrorist attack. And regardless of the position held by the hawk-on-America-dove-on-the-enemy crowd, Iran is another front in the War on Terror, and retreat from it equals defeat.

And so learning a lessonhe pushed a number of very safe domestic propositions--renewing the tax cuts, renewing the Patriot Act, and eliminating earmark spending. Failing to renew the tax cut means that we get a tax increase. Nobody wants to be accused of being the stick in the mud who let it happen. The Patriot Act, notwithstanding the incoherent mouth-foaming of the left who are more interested in terrorists' privacy than our safety, is going to be something which Bush will not concede. And earmarks are becoming less and less popular as Members of Congress are being called to task about pointless wastes of money when people on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in particular are having to depend on private donations.

Here, he can mark promises kept on the Supreme Court, and can more or less declare victory in time for November 2006 by touting three or four high profile victories over Democrat opposition.

A decent strategy. Because for any success in 2006 and beyond, Bush needs a solidly Republican Congress.

Elevating the Dialogue

If the Democrats are trying to meet the President's challenge to elevate the dialogue to a civil level, inviting Cindy Sheehan to be a State of the Union guest is not the way.

She was a guest of the very liberal Rep. Lynne Woolsey (D-CA). It's fine to disagree on the war, but it's not fine to give a moonbat activist access to the State of the Union to make an inappropriate scene.

Rep. Woolsey should be ashamed, but she's not. Once again proving that the Democrats have no regard for decorum, and will late hate and bitterness guide them.

Keep it up guys. You're not fooling anyone. And we have an election coming up. It worked well for you last time too.