Sunday, July 27, 2008


Thursday, July 24, 2008

This comes from an article regarding the trial of Salim Hamdan. The point has been argued before, but not really as an admission from a member or al Qaeda:

In advance of attacks, Mr. [Ali] Soufan [a top counterterrorism investigator] said, Mr. Hamdan would often be alerted to prepare vehicles for a rapid move, in case of an American retaliation. He added that Mr. Hamdan came to believe that Washington's failure to launch massive retaliations after the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa and the 2000 Cole bombing emboldened Mr. bin Laden. The al Qaeda leader believed the U.S. would never send ground troops to pursue him in Afghanistan, Mr. Soufan said.
Thanks, Clinton administration! Bin Laden said it himself, people follow a strong horse over a weak horse. And, in the late 1990s leading up to 9-11-2001, Bin Laden clearly saw himself as the strong horse, especially because of the lack of a strong response by the US government again and again during a series of brazen attacks throughout the 1990s.

After the 2000 USS Cole bombing, key Clinton figures met to discuss a response to the attack. The meeting included Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, CIA Director George Tenet, Richard Clarke, who was basically the counterterrorism czar, and Attorney General Janet Reno. Richard Clarke was the only Clinton official in that meeting who urged a strong military response. The others demanded more "proof," which is difficult when the perpetrator incinerated himself in the attack, or fretted over our image as strongman before the Muslim community, or, in Janet Reno's case, argued that a military response against Bin Laden's Afghanistan camps might violate international law -- as though a country has no right to bomb the training camps in another country (Afghanistan) ruled by an internationally-unrecognized autocracy (The Taliban) that produce terrorists (Bin Laden) who openly brag about attacking that country.

Indeed, in Richard Miniter's book "Losing Bin Laden," he related an exasperated CIA official, Michael Sheehan, asking of Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them [the Clinton administration] to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Apparently so. One can argue Bush's incompetence prior to Gen. Petraeus (historical note -- it took Abraham Lincoln eight tries with seven generals to find his savior general: Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, John Pope, McClellan again, Ambrose Burnside, Joe Hooker, George Meade, Ulysses S. Grant), but one cannot argue with facts. Everyone thought the US would certainly be struck again by terrorists after 9-11. Nobody would have predicted 7 years straight without it. Beyond our technological advantages finally being utilized (what the far left mistakenly terms "domestic spying") it's hard to argue that our strong military responses in Afghanistan and Iraq have not given al Qaeda second thought about their tactics, even as they commit brazen acts of violence against Europe, which never replies with a military response.

And so, one wonders should a President Obama take control, will the foolish over-lawyered hand-wringing on our international image, dealing with terrorism strictly as a law enforcement issue but never as an issue of national defense, etc., simply bring us back to the Clinton era, when we hamstrung our own intelligence and investigative personnel to the point that terrorists struck us at home with ease?

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Great letter to the WSJ. I love the comment on our "fourth branch" of government.

"The Lawnmower Men" (Review & Outlook, July 19) proves the point that we no longer have only three branches of government. To the executive, legislative and judicial branches we have added bureaucracy. There are now a myriad of government agencies which have a say in how we may live our lives, and none of the people who run or staff these red-tape factories can be held accountable to the people of the nation through any electoral process.

So the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate my lawnmower and measure "grams per kilogram of cuttings"? This is the U.S. and here we measure in ounces and pounds; granted illegal drug dealers might not have a problem with this metric nonsense. Is the EPA going to say I can't cut my grass until it reaches a certain height in order to achieve the desired measurements? Will there be an extra tax on foods that tend to create more "emissions"? How about a tax credit for Bean-o? How about they just leave us alone.

We could solve the global energy crisis by hooking up generators to the founding fathers' graves. They should be spinning fast enough to produce enough electricity to fuel the whole country. If they were alive, however, I think I know what they would say about this proposal and all of the other rules dumped upon us: "No regulation without representation!" Though if this bureaucratic trend continues, we might go back to: "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Beth Halgren
Eudora, Kan.

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Even conservative estimates by the Congressional Budget Office say the cost for this bailout will run to $41.7 billion, with $16.8 billion offset by higher taxes. No one has any idea of the real cost. The most expensive provision gives the Treasury temporary authority to pour money into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The CBO says this could cost $100 billion, or it could cost "nothing." So it threw a dart at the wall and assigned a $25 billion price tag to the Fan and Fred bailout.

Likewise, the bill's $300 billion to refinance and insure distressed loans through the Federal Housing Administration will supposedly cost just a few billion dollars. That assumes few homeowners and lenders will sign up for the program because lenders will have to take a 10% haircut to be eligible. If no one needs this program, why is it there? If lenders do take advantage, they're bound to dump their worst loans on the feds. So as with the Fan and Fred bailout, the FHA guarantee will be either superfluous or much more expensive than we're led to believe.

Alongside these big-ticket items, we suppose the $4 billion tax credit for first-time home buyers, or the $4 billion in "community development" pork grants, or the $180 million for housing counseling are merely routine outrages.

On the other hand, the kid-glove treatment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is very much worth worrying about. On the floor of the House yesterday, Democrats argued that this bill was the least Congress could do "for the people," given the way the government had "helped" Bear Stearns. The cost borne by Bear Stearns was having its shareholders all but wiped out and half its employees pink-slipped. Countrywide was likewise sold at a fire sale price. Not so these two government-chartered giants.

Fannie and Freddie may well be too big to fail, as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson keeps reminding us. That is true in large part because they were allowed -- no, encouraged -- to grow like Topsy while Congress shielded them from oversight.

-- Wall Street Journal

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Along the lines of my post yesterday about the media's shameless backing of Barack Obama, here's another example:

A Top Obama Fund-Raiser Had Ties to Failed Bank
July 21, 2008; Wall Street Journal Page A10

For the Pritzker family of Chicago, the 2001 collapse of subprime-mortgage lender Superior Bank was an embarrassing failure in a corner of their giant business empire.
Billionaire Penny Pritzker helped run Hinsdale, Ill.-based Superior, overseeing her family's 50% ownership stake. She now serves as Barack Obama's national campaign-finance chairwoman, which means her banking past could prove to be an embarrassment to her -- and perhaps to the campaign.

Superior was seized in 2001 and later closed by federal regulators. Government investigators and consumer advocates have contended that Superior engaged in unsound financial activities and predatory lending practices. Ms. Pritzker, a longtime friend and supporter of Sen. Obama, served for a time as Superior's chairman, and later sat on the board of its holding company.

Sen. Obama has long criticized predatory subprime mortgage lenders and urged strong actions against them.

Just another case of Obama's "Do as I say, not as I do" campaign. But I noticed -- other than this story only appearing in the WSJ, not saturated daily in the NYT and every 10 minutes on CNN -- that this was run on page A10.

Dollars to donuts, had Obama been Republican you can bet this would have made page 1.

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Great editorial by Bret Stephens concerning Al Gore's "Kennedyesque" challenge that the United States be "100% zero-carbon electricity in 10 years." The simple fact is it was far more feasible to put a man on the moon than attain Gore's goal, especially when Gore himself opposes both nuclear and hydroelectric power.

In 1995, the U.S. got about 2.2% of its net electricity generation from "renewable" sources, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2000, the last full year of the Clinton administration, that percentage had dropped to 2.1%. By contrast, the combined share of coal, petroleum and natural gas rose to 70% from 68% during the same time frame.

Now the share of renewables is up slightly, to about 2.3% as of 2006 (the latest year for which the EIA provides figures). The EIA thinks the use of renewables (minus hydropower) could rise to 201 billion kilowatt hours per year in 2018 from the current 65 billion. But the EIA also projects total net generation in 2018 to be 4.4 trillion kilowatt hours per year. That would put the total share of renewables at just over four percent of our electricity needs.

Mr. Gore's argument would be helped if he were also willing to propose huge investments in nuclear power, which emits no carbon dioxide and currently supplies about one-fifth of U.S. electricity needs, and about three-quarters of France's. Britain has just approved eight new nuclear plants, and the German government of Angela Merkel is working to do away with a plan by the previous government to go nuclear-free.

But Mr. Gore makes no mention of nuclear power in his speech, nor of the equally carbon-free hydroelectric power. These are proven technologies -- and useful reminders of what happens when environmentalists get what they wished for.

Mr. Gore's case would also be helped if our experience of renewable sources were a positive one. It isn't. In his useful book "Gusher of Lies," Robert Bryce notes that "in July 2006, wind turbines in California produced power at only about 10% of their capacity; in Texas, one of the most promising states for wind energy, the windmills produced electricity at about 17% of their rated capacity." Like wind power, solar power also suffers from the problem of intermittency, which means that it has to be backed up by conventional sources in order to avoid disruptions. This is especially true of hot summers when the wind doesn't blow and cold winters when the sun doesn't shine.

And then there are biofuels, whose recent vogue, the World Bank believes, may have been responsible for up to 75% of the recent rise in world food prices. Save the planet; starve the poor.

None of this seems to trouble Mr. Gore. He thinks that simply by declaring an emergency he can help achieve Stakhanovite results. He might recall what the Stakhanovite myth (about the man who mined 14 times his quota of coal in six hours) actually did to the Soviet economy.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The New York Times has declined to publish an op-ed by Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, Drudge reports. Why? According to the explanation by the NYT Op-Ed editor, David "Chicken" Shipley, it just wasn't Obama enough. Chicken Shipley said that if McCain would rewrite it so that it "mirrors Senator Obama's piece" - yes, no joke, he actually wrote that - the NYT would be pleased to run it.

Why refuse to run it? Because in the marketplace of free ideas the left routinely gets it's collective butt kicked. And they know it.

This egregious case of leftward media slant, denying any evidence of victory in Iraq which McCain cites in his op-ed, is proof of that. They simply can't compete. Worse, the NYT and their Copperhead ilk spent so much ink and whining promoting defeatism in Iraq for 5 years that rather then admit wrong and premature commitment to defeat they just avoid the facts on the ground in Iraq. Period.

They redefine diversity, inclusiveness, open-mindedness, enlightenment, intellectualism, all the other leftist buzzwords, etc., to mean that they'll just refuse to acknowledge any opinion that doesn't neatly fit their "progressive" point of view. Well, I'm laughing at their superior intellect.

Because, for conservatives, having the New York Times refuse to publish your opinion is a badge of honor. Shipley, such the schmuck that he is, will probably help McCain by promoting his op-ed, and getting more people to read it, than would have happened had they just run the piece. What a moron.

Here's the McCain op-ed which the NYT was too scared to run.

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation "hard" but not "hopeless." Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he said on January 10, 2007. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that "our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence." But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, "Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress." Even more heartening has been progress that's not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama's determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his "plan for Iraq" in advance of his first "fact finding" trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.

Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military's readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.

No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five "surge" brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his "plan for Iraq." Perhaps that's because he doesn't want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be "very dangerous."

The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we've had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the "Mission Accomplished" banner prematurely.

I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don't win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.

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Washington is teeing up "the rich" for a big tax hike next year, as a way to make them "pay their fair share." Well, the latest IRS data have arrived on who paid what share of income taxes in 2006, and it's going to be hard for the rich to pay any more than they already do. The data show that the 2003 Bush tax cuts caused what may be the biggest increase in tax payments by the rich in American history.

The nearby chart shows that the top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income taxes in 2006, the highest share in at least 40 years. The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he's going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that's also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half.

Aha, we are told: The rich paid more taxes because they made a greater share of the money. That is true. The top 1% earned 22% of all reported income. But they also paid a share of taxes not far from double their share of income. In other words, the tax code is already steeply progressive.

We also know from income mobility data that a very large percentage in the top 1% are "new rich," not inheritors of fortunes. There is rapid turnover in the ranks of the highest income earners, so much so that people who started in the top 1% of income in the 1980s and 1990s suffered the largest declines in earnings of any income group over the subsequent decade, according to Treasury Department studies of actual tax returns. It's hard to stay king of the hill in America for long.

The most amazing part of this story is the leap in the number of Americans who declared adjusted gross income of more than $1 million from 2003 to 2006. The ranks of U.S. millionaires nearly doubled to 354,000 from 181,000 in a mere three years after the tax cuts.

This is precisely what supply-siders predicted would happen with lower tax rates on capital gains, dividends and income. The economy and earnings would grow faster, which they did; investors would declare more capital gains and companies would pay out more dividends, which they did; the rich would invest less in tax shelters at lower tax rates, so their tax payments would rise, which did happen.

The idea that this has been a giveaway to the rich is a figment of the left's imagination. Taxes paid by millionaire households more than doubled to $274 billion in 2006 from $136 billion in 2003. No President has ever plied more money from the rich than George W. Bush did with his 2003 tax cuts. These tax payments from the rich explain the very rapid reduction in the budget deficit to 1.9% of GDP in 2006 from 3.5% in 2003.

This year, thanks to the credit mess and slower growth, taxes paid by the rich may fall and the deficit will rise. (The nonstimulating tax rebates will also hurt the deficit.) Mr. Obama proposes to close this deficit by raising tax rates on the rich to their highest levels since the late 1970s. The very groups like the Congressional Budget Office and Tax Policy Center that wrongly predicted that the 2003 investment tax cuts would cost about $1 trillion in lost revenue are now saying that repealing those tax cuts would gain similar amounts. We'll wager it'd gain a lot less.

If Mr. Obama does succeed in raising tax rates on the rich, we'd also wager that the rich share of tax payments would fall. The last time tax rates were as high as the Senator wants them -- the Carter years -- the rich paid only 19% of all income taxes, half of the 40% share they pay today. Why? Because they either worked less, earned less, or they found ways to shelter income from taxes so it was never reported to the IRS as income.

The way to soak the rich is with low tax rates, and last week's IRS data provide more powerful validation of that proposition.

-- Wall Street Journal

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008




Barack Obama purges Web site critique of surge in Iraq

Monday, July 14th 2008, 8:10 PM

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned.

The presumed Democratic nominee replaced his Iraq issue Web page, which had described the surge as a "problem" that had barely reduced violence.

"The surge is not working," Obama's old plan stated, citing a lack of Iraqi political cooperation but crediting Sunni sheiks - not U.S. military muscle - for quelling violence in Anbar Province.

The News reported Sunday that insurgent attacks have fallen to the fewest since March 2004.

Obama's campaign posted a new Iraq plan Sunday night, which cites an "improved security situation" paid for with the blood of U.S. troops since the surge began in February 2007.

It praises G.I.s' "hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics and enormous sacrifice."

Campaign aide Wendy Morigi said Obama is "not softening his criticism of the surge. We regularly update the Web site to reflect changes in current events."

GOP rival John McCain zinged Obama as a flip-flopper. "The major point here is that Sen. Obama refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong," said McCain, adding that Obama "refuses to acknowledge that it [the surge] is succeeding."

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The following regards Barack Obama's argument that Iraq is not the central front on the war on terror, rather that Afghanistan/Pakistan is (more to that in a moment).

Of course, the very first problem with this is that Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leadership have plainly stated on several occasions prior to this that Iraq is indeed the central front on the war on terror.

The next problem for Obama, is that those experts on the subject, including those experts who are endorsing Obama, likewise believe that Iraq is the central front for the war on terror.

The following I took from the blogger Mad Irish:

All: Please note that Lee Hamilton, who introduced Sen. Obama at his speech in Washington today, disagrees with Sen. Obama on at least two central issues addressed in his speech today. Specifically, Sen. Obama today denied that Iraq has ever been a “central front in the war on terror,” despite the fact that Hamilton described Iraq as “a central front in the war on terror” in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee while he was co-chairing the Iraq Study Group. Further, three months ago in April 2008, Hamilton said he opposes “target dates” for withdrawal in Iraq -- something Obama is clearly continuing to embrace today with his 16-month timetable:

Obama vs. Hamilton On Iraq As “A Central Front In The War On Terror”

Obama Today: "In fact – as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain – the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was." (Barack Obama, Remarks, Washington, D.C., 7/15/08)

In December 2006, Hamilton Told The Senate Armed Services Committee That Iraq Was “A Central Front In The War On Terror.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “If you asked the 10 members of the commission the question: “Is Iraq the central battlefront in the war on terror,” what answer would you have received?” … Hamilton: ‘I would strike the word “the” and use “a.” It is a central front. Look, al Qaeda today is a important part of the violence, but not as important as sectarian violence. It is a central front in the war on terror, but to make it THE central front overstates it.” (Lee Hamilton, Committee On The Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Testimony, 12/7/06)

Obama vs. Hamilton On Timetables For Iraq Withdrawal

Obama Today Attacked Those Who Oppose Timetables, And Offered His Own 16-Month Timetable: “We Can Safely Redeploy Our Combat Brigades At A Pace That Would Remove Them In 16 Months.” “George Bush and John McCain don’t have a strategy for success in Iraq – they have a strategy for staying in Iraq. They said we couldn’t leave when violence was up, they say we can’t leave when violence is down. They refuse to press the Iraqis to make tough choices, and they label any timetable to redeploy our troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government – not to a terrorist enemy. Theirs is an endless focus on tactics inside Iraq, with no consideration of our strategy to face threats beyond Iraq’s borders. … We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months.” (Barack Obama, Remarks, Washington, D.C., 7/15/08)

Hamilton In April 2008: "I'm not a great fan, incidentally, of target dates in foreign policy as a rule and in Iraq specifically." (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 4/11/08)

It's bad enough Barack Obama is attempting to revise history by acting as though he's always been an advocate of the Petraeus Surge (he has, for instance, now scrubbed his campaign website of all comments that were negative regarding the Surge), but that he's dictating policy and offering a plan on Iraq before actually traveling to Iraq and talking to General Petraeus is not just counterproductive but a foolish campaign move too.

A final point regarding the Obama camp's claim that Iraq is not the central front on terror, or only became the central front on terror after the US invaded Iraq -- FLYPAPER.

It was smart strategy to lure our enemies into the open from out of the shadows of Saudi Arabia or the caves of Afghanistan, or mosques in Europe for that matter.

If Democrats are going to get all queasy about 4,000 dead in Iraq, where the terrain is flat and far more friendly to US technology, how would they ever stomach a war in the miserable terrain of the Hindu Kush mountains, where our advantages like helicopter warfare would become neutralized due to climate and terrain?

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The New Reality in Iraq
July 16, 2008; Page A17 Wall Street Journal

All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow; and the Sadrist militia and other Iranian-backed militant groups have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has accomplished almost all of the legislative benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. More important, it is gaining wider legitimacy among the population. The attention of Iraqis across the country is focused on the upcoming provincial elections, which will be a pivotal moment in Iraq's development.

The result is that we have an extraordinary – but fleeting – opportunity to advance America's security and the stability of a vital region of the world.

As far as the civil war is concerned, there have been virtually no sectarian killings recorded for the past 10 weeks. Violence is still perpetrated by organized groups, but AQI, the remnant Sunni insurgents and Shiite fighters are now focused on attacking their own members who have defected to our side. This is a measure of their weakness. The Iraqi population is increasingly mobilizing against the perpetrators of violence, flooding American and Iraqi forces with tips about the locations of weapons caches and key militant leaders – Sunnis turning in Sunnis and Shia turning in Shia.

The fighters have not simply hidden their weapons and gone to ground to await the next opportunity to kill each other. The Sunni insurgency, as well as AQI, has been severely disrupted. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or detained many key leaders, driven the militants out of every one of Iraq's major cities (including Mosul), and are pursuing the remnants vigorously in rural areas and the desert.

The Shiite militias have also been broken apart, sending thousands of their leaders scurrying for safety in Iran. Iraqi forces continue to hammer Iranian-backed Special Groups and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al Mahdi that have been fighting with them in Sadr City, Maysan Province and elsewhere. At this time, none of these networks can conduct operations that could seriously destabilize the Iraqi government. But both al Qaeda and the Iranians are working hard to refit their networks.

The larger strategic meaning of these military and political advances must be kept clearly in mind. Iraq remains a critical front in al Qaeda's war against the U.S.

Discussions in the American media about whether AQI is "really" al Qaeda are puerile. AQI's leadership, largely foreign, is part of the global al Qaeda network operating in support of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden and his lieutenants in Pakistan and around the world send support (including foreign fighters) to Iraq and closely follow the situation there, as their repeated public pronouncements show no less than their actions. Al Qaeda's central leadership is not prepared to lose in Iraq, and has been seeking ways to regain lost ground.

Within Iraq, AQI operatives are still seeking aggressively to re-establish bases from which they can launch more substantial operations in the future. They are failing because of the continuous pressure American and Iraqi forces are putting on them from Baghdad to Mosul. If that pressure is relaxed, they will begin to succeed again.

The Iranian leaders responsible for Iranian policy in Iraq – principally Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Brigadier General Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force – also remain determined. They are retraining and re-equipping thousands of fighters who fled the most recent Iraqi and Coalition operations in Basra, Baghdad, and Maysan Provinces.

Past patterns suggest those fighters will return to Iraq and attempt to restart attacks against Coalition Forces in time to disrupt Iraqi elections and to affect America's voting. Their attacks are likely to be more spectacular, but less effective at disrupting Iraqi government and society.

If America remains firm in its commitment to success in Iraq, success is very likely. The AQI and Shiite militias at present do not have the capacity to drive Iraq off course – unless both the U.S. and the Iraqi government make a number of serious mistakes.

The most serious error would be to withdraw American forces too rapidly. That would strengthen the resolve of both al Qaeda and Iran to persevere in their efforts to disrupt the young Iraqi state and weaken the resolve of those Iraqis, particularly in the Iraqi Security Forces, who are betting their lives on continued American assistance.

The blunt fact is this. In Iraq, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Shiite militias are badly off-balance. Now is exactly the time to continue the pressure to keep them from regaining their equilibrium. It need not, and probably will not, require large numbers of American casualties to keep this pressure on. But it will require a considerable number of American troops through 2009.

Recent suggestions in Washington that reductions could begin sooner or proceed more rapidly are premature. The current force levels will be needed through the Iraqi provincial elections later this year, and consideration of force reductions makes sense only after those elections are over and the incoming commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, has evaluated the new situation.

The benefits to the U.S. from seeing the fight through to the end far outweigh the likely costs. For one thing, Iraqis have shown their determination to increase their oil output, currently averaging 2.5 million barrels a day, as fast as they can – something that can only happen if their country is secure.

Far more important is the opportunity in our hands today to work with a Muslim country in the heart of the Arab world to inflict the most visible and humiliating defeat possible on al Qaeda. Success in Iraq also makes it possible to establish a strategic partnership with a legitimate, democratic majority-Shia state that is aligned with the U.S. against Iran.

Recent comments by some Iraqi leaders about the current negotiations for a status-of-force agreement – made in the context of an increasingly heated election season in Iraq, and with the desire to improve Iraq's bargaining position in the negotiations – do not call the U.S. partnership into question. As we recently found in Baghdad, even the most outspoken advocates of rapid American force reductions strongly insist on a strategic partnership with America that helps Iraq stand up to Iran. Most of Iraq's military leaders are unequivocal about the need for a continued U.S. force presence.

The Iraqi government and people – whose surging anti-Persian feeling is more obvious every day – have already shown their willingness to push back against Iranian intervention. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attack on Iranian-backed forces in Basra, followed by Iraqi-led operations in Baghdad, central Iraq and Maysan, is proof of Baghdad's willingness. Helping Iraq to succeed is our best hope of finding a way of resolving our differences with Iran over the long term without coming to blows.

It is time for Americans to recognize it's a whole new ballgame in Iraq. The civil war is over, American troops are not an "irritant" fueling the unrest, and far from becoming dependent upon us, the Iraqi government and the army show more determination every day to run their country and to protect it. But they continue to want and need our assistance.

While victory in war is never certain until the war is over, the odds are strongly with us for once – provided we do the right thing. That is to stand by our best ally in the war against al Qaeda, and the struggle to contain Iran.

-- Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Mr. Keane is a former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. All have just returned from their most recent visit to Iraq.

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, July 15 -- Salim Ahmed Hamdan, an alleged al-Qaeda driver who faces a historic military trial next week, testified Tuesday that a female interrogator elicited information from him using sexually suggestive behavior that he called "improper."

Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who is accused in a terrorism conspiracy, told a military court that during questioning in 2002, a female interrogator "came close to me, she came very close, with her whole body towards me. I couldn't do anything. I was afraid of the soldiers."

"Did she touch your thigh?" asked Hamdan's attorney Charles Swift.

"Yes. . . . I said to her, 'What do you want?' " Hamdan said at a pretrial hearing. "She said, 'I want you to answer all of my questions.' "

"Did you answer all of her questions after that?" Swift asked. Hamdan said he did.

Talk about PC run amok. And -- beyond the point that apparently it worked -- are we now going to classify "suggestive behavior" as torture?

In fact, we have no idea as to the context of the "improper" brush of Hamdan's leg, which could have been completely innocent and a total fantasy by Hamdan -- and I can't believe we've really gotten to this point where such trivial matters become "news" -- but one can bet that for a true-believing Islamofascist like Hamdan the very fact that the US military had the audacity to send a female interrogator is, to him and those like him, "improper."

So we're now at the point where rather than ridiculing this sexist, gynophobic, oppressive and illiberal Islamic fundamentalist culture we will instead respect it and submit to it all in the name of cultural awareness, diversity and political correctness. Absolutely bassackwards ridiculous!

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Here's Jonah Goldberg on the anti-speculation frenzy driving the populist crowd:

Never mind that there’s no evidence “speculators” — i.e. commodity traders — are doing anything to increase the price of oil. They aren’t hoarding it. No one’s cornering the market. The speculators make money when the price goes down, and they make money when it goes up. In short, they don’t care if oil prices are high or low as long as they guessed correctly.

And that may be the most infuriating part of all this. The speculators don’t want high oil prices, but Washington does.

Read the rest.

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For the life of me, I'm trying to understand what Israel had to gain in this "prisoner exchange." To be a prisoner exchange, don't all the parties in question have to still be alive? It was really a remains exchange where Israel has to turn over a breathing, living terrorist to boot.

ROSH HANIKRA, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli forensic experts have begun trying to identify the remains of what are believed to be two captured Israeli soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Hezbollah officials handed over two black coffins to Red Cross officials, who will carry them over the border to Israel.

If forensics experts determine that the remains are those of Staff Sgt. Ehud Goldwasser and Sgt. First Class Eldad Regev, Israel will turn over to Hezbollah five Lebanese prisoners -- including convicted murderer Samir Kuntar, whom many Israelis consider the embodiment of evil.

Israel is also returning the remains of 199 fighters from Lebanon who Israel says were killed in clashes over the years. Nineteen coffins were being transferred onto Red Cross trucks and sent to the Lebanese side, the Israeli military said.

The forensic determination is expected to take several hours.

The Israel Defense Forces said it would not comment on the transfer until it was complete.

"The IDF has yet to complete the process of identifying the soldiers' remains and will therefore make no comments about the process conclusions until those are completed and the families of the soldiers are notified," it said in a statement. Watch as coffins are delivered »

The transfer began shortly before 10 a.m. Israel time (3 a.m. ET) at the Rosh Hanikra crossing in western Galilee, which the army had declared a closed military zone a day earlier.

The swap caps a tireless campaign by the soldiers' families to bring them home. It also ends decades of resistance by the Israeli government, which wanted to use Kuntar as a bargaining chip to obtain information about a missing airman whose plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986.

The Shiite militia Hezbollah cast the swap as a victory for all Lebanese, with one official calling it "an official admission of defeat."

...A member of the Palestine Liberation Front, Kuntar led a group of four men who entered Israel from Lebanon by boat in 1979. They killed a police officer who came across them. Then they took a 28-year-old man and his 4-year-old daughter hostage.

Kuntar shot the father dead at close range in front of his daughter and tossed his body in the sea. He then smashed the girl's head, killing her, too. In addition, a 2-year-old girl from the same family suffocated as her mother tried to stop her from crying while they hid during the violence.

Kuntar was sentenced to 542 years in prison.

...A day before the transfer, Goldwasser's father, Shlomo, held out hope about his son's fate.

"They were kidnapped alive. [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nassrallah swears on it the first day that he announced to the world he kidnapped two soldiers alive," the father said. "If tomorrow he brings them in coffins, it means that he killed them -- his words. It means that they killed them, and if he killed them I am waiting for him to be punished."

The poor father. This is a just exchange? Hezbollah is absolutely correct, this is in fact a victory for them.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Tony Snow was hands down the best presidential press secretary in the modern era. Sharp and concise, he was a rare voice of clearly communicated conservatism in a time when it is desperately needed. God bless his family.




Read this essay by Peter Wallison regarding the Freddie Mae/Fannie Mac fiasco. In short, some 80 percent of all housing loans are ultimately owned by either Freddie Mae or Fannie Mac, institutions which are neither here nor there private nor public sector. What's scary is what our government did for housing loans with these two quasi-socialist Frankensteins they now want to do to investment banking. (If you have a subscription you can check out the WSJ's history of columns critical of Freddie Mae/Fannie Mac going back to 2002.)

Although they are owned by shareholders, Fannie and Freddie are government sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, chartered by Congress to perform a government mission: providing a national market for mortgages and enhancing the availability of affordable housing. This, together with a brace of special statutory exemptions and the fact that the U.S. government has always bailed out its GSEs, has led the capital markets to believe, correctly, that the U.S. government will never allow Fannie and Freddie to fail.

The result has been a complete loss of market discipline, uncontrolled growth, and the development of two giant companies whose deteriorated financial condition now threatens the stability of both the U.S. and the world economy. The story of Fannie and Freddie is a cautionary tale about the moral hazard created by government support for private institutions -- a tale we saw played out in the S&L debacle less than 20 years ago, and one we may be about to inflict on ourselves again.

There might have been a time when it was possible to believe that the feds would not stand behind Fannie and Freddie's obligations, but today, the possibility that any holder of their senior debt (or their mortgage-backed securities) would be allowed to suffer a loss is simply unimaginable.

First, because of unprecedented conditions in the capital markets, they are now virtually the only consistent buyers and securitizers of U.S. mortgages. If they could no longer raise the necessary funds to continue this activity, housing finance -- already very weak -- would come to a halt. The consequences for the housing market in the United States would be dire.

The result of a GSE default for the financial markets and the world economy would, if anything, be even worse. Fannie and Freddie's debt securities are held by thousands of U.S. banks -- often in amounts in excess of their capital -- and in large amounts by financial institutions around the world. Many of the world's most important central banks also hold huge inventories of these securities.

If there were ever the slightest doubt that the U.S. would stand behind these obligations, there would be a rush for the exits that would make what occurred in the equity markets last week look like a stately minuet. The value of GSE debt securities would plummet, and with it the capital of virtually all the world's major banks and other financial intermediaries. With weakened capital, lending would decline and further damage already weak economies, perhaps with truly disastrous results.

Thus, because the U.S. government will not allow Fannie and Freddie to default, they should be able to survive. If housing prices turn up again and their losses are stanched (or if they can raise more capital to cover the losses they will suffer in the future), these two companies will get through this period. This is by far the most likely outcome of the current period of stress.

But their survival will not be unalloyed good news. It will chase the wolf from the door only temporarily. Their embedded losses -- made worse by the risky commitments they are probably now making in order to recover their profitability or hide their losses -- will, as in the case of the S&Ls, eventually have to be paid. And of course, if Fannie and Freddie actually become insolvent, the U.S. government is now ready to step up. Considering that these two companies now have something like $5.3 trillion in liabilities, this is no small step.

This is a bad state of affairs; the U.S. government has lost any room to maneuver. Worse still are indications that no lessons have been learned. In the same week when it became apparent that implicit government backing has made the U.S. hostage to the health of two companies that grew out of control, Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson told Congress that they wanted a new regulatory structure for investment banks like Bear Stearns.

In this plan, the Fed would have supervisory authority over these companies and oversee a formal system for their "orderly liquidation." The only reason the Fed might want to regulate the investment banks is that it believes itself to be somehow at risk. The markets, ever clear-eyed, will read this for what it is -- potential Fed backing if the big investment banks get into trouble. In other words, we are now proposing to introduce a government-created moral hazard into investment banking. The resulting loss of market discipline will replicate the experience with the S&Ls and Fannie and Freddie.

According to reports, not an eye blinked in the House Financial Services Committee when the Fed's bid for more power was laid on the table last Thursday. This is fully consistent with the past willingness of Congress to condone -- and even encourage -- unimpeded growth at Fannie and Freddie.

If Congress actually believes that the Fed can assume responsibility for supervising and liquidating the large investment banks -- and yet not become responsible for bailing them out when their enhanced access to capital results in massive losses -- they deserve to wrestle with the future crisis they are now setting in train. But the American people do not.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barack Obama isn't bilingual. Neither are his children. But he's "embarrassed" because the rest of us are just like him. More condescending nonsense from the Obama camp:

[Investors Business Daily] Obama peddled his Ameriphobic nonsense at a town hall meeting Tuesday morning in Powder Springs, Ga. Asked a simple question about what he'd do to stop teenagers from dropping out of school — more of a job for a student body president than a U.S. president — he lost the plot, as the (English-speaking) Australians like to say, venturing into dangerous (for him) no-teleprompter territory.

"I agree that immigrants should learn English," he ranted. "But understand this: Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they'll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. "You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say (is), 'Merci beaucoup.' "

Does he think that one day the rest of the world will stop speaking English just to keep single-language Americans out of the loop? Is he aware that English, as an example, is the worldwide official air-traffic-control language? Has he ever talked to foreign businessmen — or any businessman at all, for that matter — who have different native tongues, yet speak English to each other so they can be understood? Or is he trying to establish some cosmopolitan street-cred with the hipsters who fawn over him?

English became the global language because Britain spread its mother tongue through colonization and trade. And the U.S. sailed capitalism, ambition, a tireless work habit, fairness, justice, the rule of law and a rigorous military defense against tyranny to the top of the world. It's not fashionable to say so in the circles that Obama travels in, but the power and universality of the English language confirm — and strengthen — America's way of life.

Exactly. The world's citizens don't learn English because they have some enlightened attitude that Americans do not. They learn it because so many of them, for several hundred years, had to in order to be successful and compete. Example, just as a greater percentage of American military and politicians spoke French, say, circa 1780 -- it served a necessity! Today, Europeans learn English because the United States conducts business globally, has an annual Gross Domestic Product of $13 trillion -- grossly more than any other country on the planet -- and because they're (Europeans) more likely to vacation here than we are there.

And here I was told that Obama was supposed to be brilliant. His opening comment, the idea that if we learn Spanish our overwhelming influx of illegal immigrats -- mostly from Mexico -- will be more likely to learn English, is juvanile. If Bush said such a thing, he'd be ridiculed, and justly so.

On the contrary to Obamanomics, the opposite is true. Why bother learning English if everyone speaks Spanish? Were you to move to Japan you'd learn Japanese because you'd have to do so, but you wouldn't bother if they all spoke English, right? Else, what's the point?

And while we're on the topic, why should any American bother learning a European language, especially French? The last time I checked, France wasn't exactly becoming an economic powerhouse. Seems to me, if you're going to make the argument, we better learn Chinese.

Finally, Obama's point doesn't sit well with Americans at large (hat tip to Jim Geraghty)

Eighty-three percent (83%) place a higher priority on encouraging immigrants to speak English as their primary language. Just 13% take the opposite view and say it is more important for Americans to learn other languages.
But what do they know? I mean, how dare they question the hypocrisy of the messianic Rockstar-in-Chief Barack Obama.

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The Metaphysics and Some Politics of Global Warming

Regarding Bret Stephens's "Global Warming as Mass Neurosis" (Global View, July 1): In 1992, at my 25th Harvard College reunion, we got an accurate forecast of the "ideological convenience" driving global warming alarmism. In a discussion of the Rio Summit on environment and development, one of my classmates effused, "Who would have thought that the environment would bring us world government?" In other words, the advent of world-wide "pollution" controls will lead to world government (which all of us statist Harvard grads eagerly await).

On the other hand, climatologist Patrick Michaels has noted that we merely need to "follow the money" to explain global warming enthusiasm among scientists and academicians: Huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are running down the drain of climate research, and the people raking in the bucks are the same ones spouting the global warming nonsense.

--Grant W. Schaumburg Jr.

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A Bipartisan Fix for the Oil Crisis
July 10, 2008; Page A15 Wall Street Journal

As president of Gulf Oil, New England's largest independent petroleum company, and as someone who has spent his life in and around energy markets, I find the tone and substance of the current debate about our energy policy to be profoundly disappointing.

Partisan sides are using a serious crisis to advance political agendas, create political attack sound bites, and launch hearings to "expose" the culprit. Pick your favorite: speculators, Big Oil, environmentalists, China, India, etc.

This is not leadership.

A fundamental misunderstanding of how markets work, and how an effective government can support the private sector, is delaying remedies that will bring down energy prices now. These remedies are to be found in both supply and demand – and both Democrats and Republicans need to demonstrate their command of this fact. Energy is too important a cornerstone of domestic prosperity and international stability to be used as a debating prop.

To Democrats:

Supply must be increased, and that will require more drilling.

We can responsibly drill. The technology to find, drill and recover oil has evolved tremendously, and careless drillers will fear tort lawyers more than government regulators. The claim that the oil companies are sitting on leases and not drilling defies all logic. With oil at $135 per barrel and drilling rigs renting at $300,000 per day, there are no idle rigs anywhere. Furthermore, economic decline – and war induced by basic resource struggles – are greater threats to the environment and American workers than drilling.

Your claim that any oil we drill for now will not come on line for five years or longer – and will thus have no effect on prices today – is incorrect. Unlike past oil crises, where the spot price of oil (that is, today's price) rose more than forward prices, the oil price for delivery in 2012 is trading at $138 per barrel. The market is sending a clear price signal that our problem is in the future – because we do not have the will to curb demand or increase supply.

How many houses would someone invest in if there were a future guarantee that the price would not decline? It is anticipation of ever-increasing prices that fuels the mania.

The oil market, however, has more than anticipation; it has a well-defined forward price signal. This is a key component of the added $25-$40 per barrel in current oil prices. Congressional hearings and "make it go away" legislation will not stop that. Demonstrate the national will to address the supply and demand issues now and it will.

As forward prices decline, watch how quickly the spot price comes down.

To Republicans:

Efficiency is a huge source of new energy. It is scandalous that we have let the mileage standards decrease over the past 25 years. Whether through mandates or tax policy, active government intervention is needed. Republicans have to stop acting as if the "market" is some pristine state of nature that is not subject to active shaping.

The latest farm bill, ethanol and sugar tariffs, the cost of the Iraq war and Bear Stearns all make that reasoning ring hollow. So when some "free marketeers" attack annual biofuel subsidies of $4 billion, fleet mandates, or government research and development expenditures, it is hard not to view this criticism as at best naïveté, and at worst hypocrisy.

Finally, can we stop with the nonsensical talk of "energy independence," the end of petroleum, and postured, ineffectual boycotts of Exxon Mobil? We cannot, should not and will not be independent in a global economy, and petroleum is not going to disappear.

A more accurate metaphor is the global energy market as a giant bath tub where more withdrawals (Chinese and Indian) are being made every day. The only consistent new supply to that tub is coming from periodically unstable and unfriendly places (Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Venezuela).

Our national interest is to add more energy, use it more efficiently, and diversify its source and type. This will serve to lessen the power of any one choke point (geography, nation or source).

Using market mechanisms and the private sector (admit it, Democrats) alongside an engaged, effective and focused government (admit it, Republicans), true leaders can solve this crisis decisively.

Mr. Petrowski is president of Gulf Oil.

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