Friday, August 31, 2007

Speaking of that GAO report, a draft version was leaked to the Washington Post, and it, naturally, found that "all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress."

What is not mentioned in the Post article is that the report was written in March, just two months after the surge started, not in August.

No surprise, considering it comes from the Congressional investigative arm. The GAO didn't even attempt to hide it's motive:

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
What the Post calls "watering down" is what everyone else on the planet calls a peer review. They'd much rather some politicos in the GAO be allowed to write a report without challenge. That's how the global warming scientists do it, so why not Congress, eh?

Well, the Pentagon is reportedly already correcting apparent "factual" errors made by the GAO.

Columnist Bill Kristol additionally adds, "If this is the best war opponents have to offer, the administration is in amazingly good shape going into September."

For the report from the White House, Congress asked the administration to detail if the Iraqis are making "sufficient progress." But Congress asked the GAO, by contrast, to report if the Iraqis had "completed" the benchmarks. This ridiculous standard was a Congressional trap that forced the GAO to waste time and taxpayer money to come out with a pre-ordained and meaningless judgment, since no one ever promised or expected that the Iraqis would have met the benchmarks by now. And the GAO report doesn't really shed light on the key question: Are the Iraqis making progress?

And what are the benchmarks that Congress set up? Do they include criteria that matter? No. Grassroots political progress? Not in the GAO report. The turn of the Sunnis against the insurgency? Not in the GAO report. The stabilization of Anbar province? Not in the GAO report. And progress against al Qaeda--the single most vital and direct American national interest in Iraq? Not in the GAO report.

The benchmarks they do use are often absurd. To take one example: "Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently." This is particularly silly. No one expected that Iraqi military units would surpass the capabilities of our NATO allies, most of which are also unable to operate fully "independently" of the American military. The question, again, is whether the Iraqi Security Forces are improving. Here the GAO's portrayal of Iraqi forces as having made no progress, at least as reported in the Post, is contradicted by mounds of evidence from knowledgeable observers.

I highlighted that very relevant point above.

On the flip side, you'll find that Democrats may not focus so much on the security progress as they will the political progress.

But as Chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee Thad McCotter pointed out -- it's not relevant.

Consequently, the true measure of political progress in Iraq is NOT found in its national Parliament; the true measure of political progress in Iraq is occurring in local tribes, towns and provinces where Iraqis are choosing liberty instead of the insurgency.

This Iraqi “election for freedom” is not an intrinsically military development. It is fundamentally a political development complementing and speeding military progress; and hastening the day such individual and local “grassroots” political wins collectively dictate political progress in Baghdad.

Exactly right. Parliamentary democracies aren't build from the top down, but from the local governments up. The 13 colonies Iraq ain't. But if we secure the local authorities who are friendly to the US troops and more frequently opposing al Qaeda (i.e., remember the regional strong horse/weak horse mindset) we have an opportunity to get Iraq closer to the Western way.

Japan. Germany. South Korea. These weren't liberal democracies the day after their corresponding wars ended. It took decades of blood, sweat and tears.

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Democrats are justifiably fearful that General David Petraeus is all he's advertised to be, and maybe more. We'll see, I guess, on September 15, when Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testify before Congress on the military and political progress in Iraq due to the surge enacted six months ago.

One supposes Petraeus could blow it.

But the true measure of what to expect from Petraeus is by reading the Democrats.

Since the day the surge was announced Democrats advocated pessimism and some - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - even preemptively declared defeat.

As previous posts show here and here, the Democrat strategy was to simply ignore Petraeus or instead focus on alternative reports, such as the one the Government Accountability Office (GAO) leaked this week to the Washington Post ahead of schedule.

But Democrats are beginning to realize that not only can they not ignore the progress in Iraq, but they have underestimated Petraeus.

Democrats fancied themselves brilliant for their demands that Petraeus come before Congress. Surely he's no match for we veteran politicians! Now the Democrats appear weary that Petraeus' political skill may match his military leadership.

"Terrorism Policies Split Democrats," reads a Wash. Post, Aug. 30, headline.

A week before the very liberal Democratic Congressman Brian Baird (D-3 Vancouver, Wa.), who voted against the Iraq War, recently penned a Seattle Times op-ed urging fellow Democrats to give our troops more time. His editorial epitomizes the Democrat's dilemma -- they overplayed their hand. "The answer is that the people, strategies and facts on the ground have changed for the better and those changes justify changing our position on what should be done," wrote Baird.

Why Even Harry Reid himself is backing down from previous troop withdraws in an attempt to court antiwar Republicans.

Could Petraeus falter before Congress? Sure. But were that expected the Democrats wouldn't be fighting amongst themselves so much now.

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[MRC] Media Research Center analysts reviewed all 517 campaign segments on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today from January 1 through July 31. Those three broadcast morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable news competitors, and are geared toward everyday voters, not political junkies. These programs are therefore a prime battleground in each campaign's quest for positive media attention.

The results are astonishing: Not only are the network morning shows overwhelmingly focused on Democrats, they are actively promoting the Democrats' liberal agenda.

Among the major findings:

-- The networks offered nearly twice as much coverage of the Democrats. More than half of all campaign segments (284, or 55%) focused on the Democratic contest, compared with just 152 (29%) devoted to the Republicans. The remaining stories either offered roughly equal discussion of both parties or did not focus on the major parties.

-- All three Democratic frontrunners received more attention than any of the top Republican candidates, with New York Senator Hillary Clinton receiving the most coverage of all.

-- Undeclared liberal candidates such as former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg received more network TV attention than many of the declared Republican candidates.

-- The network morning shows doled out nearly three times as much airtime (4 hours, 35 minutes) to interviews with the various Democratic campaigns. In contrast, the Republicans received just 1 hour and 44 minutes of interview airtime.

-- In their interviews with the candidates, the network hosts emphasized a liberal agenda. Of the substantive questions that could be categorized as reflecting a political agenda, more than two-thirds (69%) of the questions to Democrats reflected a liberal premise, and more than four-fifths (82%) of the questions to Republicans came from the same perspective.

-- The top Democratic candidates received much more favorable coverage than their GOP counterparts, with Senator Clinton cast as "unbeatable" and Illinois Senator Barack Obama tagged as a "rock star." The most prominent Republican, Arizona Senator John McCain, was portrayed as a loser because of his support for staying the course in Iraq.

-- Not once did network reporters describe Senator Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards as "liberal," while ABC only once labeled Obama as "liberal." Yet the networks showed no hesitation in attaching the "liberal" label to Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, who was so branded 12 times.

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Michelle Malkin comments on the decision by CBS News anchor Katie Couric - a single mother - to go to Iraq for 10 days of reporting: in short, don't jump on the Couric-bashing bandwagon.

Conservatives frequently criticize TV personalities for not taking time to visit the troops and getting a lay of the land. Well, now Couric is going. Seems hypocritical to bash her when she didn't go and bash her now that she's headed over, doesn't it?

Is she trying to boost her TV ratings? Sure. Who in tee-vee land isn't trying to do that? Does she have a liberal agenda? Again, with few exceptions, who doesn't have a liberal agenda in tee-vee land? Will she change her mind about the war? Probably not, but who knows? Look at Rep. Brian Baird.

Couric is coming under extra scrutiny because she is a single mom. She has two daughters, one in her teens and another a tweener. Is it reckless for her to leave her family and possibly risk her life to broadcast from Iraq? Some folks who think women have absolutely no place on the war front believe so. I don't. I made the decision in January to embed with our troops in Baghdad for a short trip, leaving my husband and two young children (much younger than Couric's), because I felt compelled and driven to see and experience what was happening on the ground for myself. My Hot Air colleague, Bryan Preston, who accompanied me, also left behind a young family. It was an invaluable experience for us. We were able to share unique video, photo essays, and blog reports with our audience, make contacts and friends, deepen our understanding of a complex battlespace, and express our appreciation for the troops. We would do it again in a heartbeat.

No one makes the decision to leave their family lightly. There are single moms, single dads, and married parents in the military who have to make these decisions for much, much longer periods of time and who make far, far greater sacrifices every day to protect and serve our country.

Couric will be there for a total of 10 days. I'm sure it will be derided as a "drive-by" trip, a micro-embed, etc. But there is great value in walking even a foot in non-civilian shoes. Couric will not see combat and she probably won't have to lug around 50 pounds of gear, but she still will have to wear her own body armor, ride in a boiling C-130, and sweat like everyone else.

I don't expect much out of her reporting. She deserves low expectations, but she doesn't deserve derision for making the decision to go.

For now, I only have these words for Katie Couric: Good luck and Godspeed. May the journey open your eyes.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And, following along the lines of the post below this one...

[Fox News] A popular comic strip that poked fun at the Rev. Jerry Falwell without incident one week ago was deemed too controversial to run over the weekend because this time it took a humorous swipe at Muslim fundamentalists.

The Washington Post and several other newspapers around the country did not run Sunday's installment of Berkeley Breathed's "Opus," in which the spiritual fad-seeking character Lola Granola appears in a headscarf and explains to her boyfriend, Steve, why she wants to become a radical Islamist.

...Sources told that the strips were shown to Muslim staffers at The Washington Post to gauge their reaction, and they responded "emotionally" to the depiction of a woman dressed in traditional Muslim garb and espousing conservative Islamic views.
There was also considerable alarm over the strip at the highest echelons of The Washington Post Co., according to the sources.

Lago said she flagged some of the syndicate's newspaper clients for two reasons: because of the possibility that the jokes about Islam would be misconstrued and because of the sexual innuendo in the punchline.

...The Aug. 19 "Opus" ended with a joke about the late Jerry Falwell. In that strip, Lola, fresh from a quest to become an Amish nudist, is doing yoga and talking to the penguin character Opus about who goes to heaven.

Ho hum. Just another case of Ye Ol' Media Double Standard.

It's reminiscent of the New York Times refusing to run the 2006 Danish cartoons based on their logic that news organizations "usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."

The day before that editorial the New York Times "ran a photo of Chris Ofili's dung-clotted "Holy Virgin Mary " in an Arts story by Michael Kimmelman, who [previously had] called the Danish cartoons "callous and feeble.""

Seriously folks, you can't make this up. The hypocrisy is so thick you could carve it like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Bash Muslims, and EVEN Islamic extremists at that? No can do. Bash Christians? No problem... perhaps because the Washington Post, New York Times and elitist hypocritical press know they don't have to worry about an offended Jerry Falwell disciple strapping on a suicide-bomb vest and detonating himself at the papers' HQ...

And that's all you need to know about who will be the victor in the long run in the war against Islamic radicalism, eh?

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So typical... brought to you by Michelle Malkin.

File this under “No good deed goes unpunished” by the Religion of Perpetual Outrage:
A demonstration has been held in south- east Afghanistan accusing US troops of insulting Islam after they distributed footballs bearing the name of Allah.

The balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag which features the Koranic declaration of faith.

The US military said the idea had been to give something for Afghan children to enjoy and they did not realise it would cause offence.

The footballs were dropped from a helicopter in Khost province.

Some displayed flags from countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, which features the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith.

The words, which include the name of Allah, are revered, and Muslims are very sensitive about where and how they can be used.
As we’ve learned from Rushdie Rage, MoCartoon Rage, Burger King Ice Cream Cone Rage, Koran Flushing Rage, Valentine’s Day Rage, Veil Rage, Pope Rage, Fallaci Rage, Miss World Pageant Rage, and Rushdie Knighthood Rage, they’re pretty damned “sensitive” (read: ready to riot) about everything.

Malkin points out that Robert Spencer, author and blogger, actually predicted back in 2006 that the balls would cause a problem.

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Bret Stephens admits he's a "global warming denier." Here's the start and the end of a great read.

The recent discovery by a retired businessman and climate kibitzer named Stephen McIntyre that 1934--and not 1998 or 2006--was the hottest year on record in the U.S. could not have been better timed. August is the month when temperatures are high and the news cycle is slow, leading, inevitably, to profound meditations on global warming. Newsweek performed its journalistic duty two weeks ago with an exposé on what it calls the global warming "denial machine." I hereby perform mine with a denier's confession.

... I confess: Though it may surprise those who use the term "denier" so as to put me on a moral plane with Holocaust deniers, I have children for whom I would not wish an environmental apocalypse.

Yet neither do I wish the civilizational bounties built up over two centuries by an industrial, inventive, adaptive, globalized and energy-hungry society to be squandered chasing comparatively small environmental benefits at gigantic economic costs. One needn't deny global warming as a problem to deny it as the only or greatest problem. The great virtue of Mr. Lomborg's book is its insistence on trying to measure the good done per dollar spent. Do we save a few lives, at huge cost, as a byproduct of curbing global warming? Or do we save many, for less, by acting on problems directly?

Some might argue it is immoral to think this way. Maybe they are the ones living in denial.

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I thought this was an interesting comment by the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Chief, Vice Admiral (ret.) John Scott Redd:

What I'll tell you about bin Laden is if we knew where he was, he'd either be dead or captured. It's that simple. [He's] obviously a tough target. That whole area is a tough target. And my standard answer on OBL is: remember [convicted Atlanta Olympics bomber] Eric Rudolph. Nobody likes to hear it but, I mean, here's a guy [who was on the run] in the United States of America. We had unlimited access—the FBI, local law enforcement—and the guy hid out for an awful long time just by keeping a low profile. One reporter said the other day, "Well, gee, you've got all this great overhead stuff and various surveillance things." I said, "Yeah. I'd trade those for about three great human sources."
If a guy like Rudolph could hide in the US, imagine how long a smart terrorist could hide in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, or even in a Pakistan city that had hordes of people supporting or sympathetic of bin Laden.

We captured 9-11 masterminds Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh in large part because they were stupid and had big egos -- they were camera whores who allowed themselves to be interviewed by an Al Jazeera reporter whom was likely being tailed by Western and Pakistani intelligence services.

Don't expect Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri to make the same mistake.

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[Mark Steyn] American victory in the Cold War looks inevitable in hindsight. It didn't seem that way in the Seventies. And, as Iran reminds us, the enduring legacy of the retreat from Vietnam was the emboldening of other enemies. The forces loosed in the Middle East bedevil to this day, in Iran, and in Lebanon, which Syria invaded shortly after the fall of Saigon and after its dictator had sneeringly told Henry Kissinger, "You've betrayed Vietnam. Someday you're going to sell out Taiwan. And we're going to be around when you get tired of Israel."[emphasis gn]

President Assad understood something that too many Americans didn't. Then as now, the anti-war debate is conducted as if it's only about the place you're fighting in: Vietnam is a quagmire, Iraq is a quagmire, so get out of the quagmire. Wrong. The "Vietnam war" was about Vietnam, if you had the misfortune to live in Saigon.

But if you lived in Damascus and Moscow and Havana, the Vietnam war was about America: American credibility, American purpose, American will. For our enemies today, it still is. Osama bin Laden made a bet – that, notwithstanding the T-shirt slogan, "These Colors Do Run": They ran from Vietnam, and they ran from the helicopters in the desert, and from Lebanon and Somalia – and they will run from Iraq and Afghanistan, because that is the nature of a soft, plump ersatz-superpower that coils up in the fetal position if you prick its toe. Even Republicans like Sen. John Warner seem peculiarly anxious to confirm the bin Laden characterization.

How prophetic! Indeed we are waivering on Taiwanese independence and pulling away from Israel, as predicted.

Twenty years before Osama bin Laden coined it, Assad knew America was definately not the strong horse. What's sad about that is the reason is simply because we no longer choose it. Cultures aren't killed. Rather, they commit suicide.

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Here's the rub: So far this year the blue dogs have been almost all bark when it comes to fiscal restraint and debt reduction. Thirty of the 48 have voted for every one of the non-defense spending bills their committee chairman have sent them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is enforcing party discipline, and as a result 28 of the 48 blue dogs voted "no" on each of the 27 amendments that Republicans proposed to cut the costs of these bills. The 13 freshman Democrats who represent conservative districts -- such as Heath Shuler ( N.C.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Zack Space (Ohio), Nick Lampson (Texas) -- have been a particular disappointment; back home these same blue dogs trumpet their "independent streak."
-- WSJ

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Friday, August 24, 2007

[Associated Press] "The departure of even a small number of U.S . service members - perhaps 5,000 of the 160,000 troops in Iraq - would send a powerful message throughout the region that time was running out," [Va. Republican Sen. John] Warner said.
What the heck was Warner thinking?

The criticism from Warner and other Congressional "leaders" that the Iraqi government isn't making "substantial political progress" rings rather hollow considering the Congressional approval rating is at an historic low of 18 percent. If Iraq's parliament isn't functioning they can't be doing much worse than the American Congress.

A "powerful message throughout the region"? You've got that right, Senator.

Warner's suggested "powerful message" has already provided antiwar liberals some red meat propaganda, it has and undercut military morale (see Major Lynch's reaction below).

If the president were to actually follow such advice all we'd do is give encouragement to jihadists from Baghdad to Damascus. Oh look. American's are quitting. It's Vietnam all over again. They fled Vietnam after 58,000 dead. They'll flee Iraq after 3,000. Who knows, maybe the next war they'll flee after 1,000. Or maybe they won't show up at all!

In the words of Osama bin Laden, "when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." Guess which one Senator Warner looks like right now?

His statement doesn't even follow any logic -- he just throws a number out. 5,000? Why not 6,000? Or 4,000? Warner's careless number crunching just epitomizes the carelessness of the entire message.

One expects the armchair-quarterback Democrats to try and undercut General Petraeus' September progress report. But you'd think a republican senator would let the generals run the war.

In the end it's insignificant what Warner thinks. Short of them having the cajones to cut the war funding Congress' say is no more remarkable than your's or mine.

It's Petraeus' advisement that matters, not Warner's or another Congressional fool.

[ABC News] The U.S. military commander in one of the more troubled areas of Iraq said Friday that embracing Sen. John Warner's call to begin troop withdrawals before the end of the year would be "a giant step backward."
Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of troops south of Baghdad, said that in such a scenario, militants pushed from his sector in recent operations would quickly return.

"If coalition soldiers were to leave, having fought hard for that terrain, having denied the enemy their sanctuaries, what'd happen is the enemy would come back," said Lynch.

"He'd start building the bombs again, he'd start attacking the locals again and he'd start exporting that violence into Baghdad and we would take a giant step backward," Lynch told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Iraq.

He said that recent gains resulted from the buildup of troops in Iraq and that he needs all the forces he has until Iraqis are able to step up and take over, perhaps some time next year.

Good job undercutting your constituent base, "General" Warner.

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As predicted weeks ago the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are going to address the (predicted as positive) September report of General David Petraeus by either ignoring it or offering rebuttal through alternative reports (alternative, of course, being "expertise" from those not actually in Iraq and with longstanding agendas).

The first example of this is the latest NIE, or National Intelligence Agency, a collaborative summary of latest analysis created by all US intelligence agencies.

[Washington Post] ...release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that provided a mixed assessment on Iraq seven months after Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country. The report, produced by the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, determined that "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security." But it predicted that the Iraqi government "will become more precarious" in the next six to 12 months, with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.

The NIE seemed to support an emerging consensus among politicians in Washington that the troop buildup has made a difference in quelling violence in some pockets of Iraq but that the political reconciliation needed for long-term resolution appears broken. Advocates of withdrawal and supporters of the war alike quickly picked out parts of the report to bolster their arguments on future U.S. strategy in Iraq.

Both sides will cherry pick, eh? Well it's worth remembering that the reason why the president will often declassify documents with more frequency is because in 2006 certain intelligence analysts with an agenda leaked all the negative aspects of that year's NIE to the New York Times. Talk about cherry picking! After that, it was decided that they may as well release the whole thing and let people decide for themselves. Should this year's NIE go similarly you may see the same.

A couple of other warnings about NIEs should be noted too:

- NIE's don't have the greatest track record of accuracy: The 2002 NIE, you'll recall, proclaimed a likelihood of large quantities of WMD to be found in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Our intelligence services, it can be argued, aren't much better then they were 5 years ago.

- As Thomas Joscelyn points out, "it is often not clear what their [the intelligence community's] judgments are based on, what type of intelligence went into formulating these judgments, and what intelligence was left on the cutting room floor."

- More Joscelyn: "Since the NIE is a consensus document [of 16 intelligence agencies], the analysis is also confined to the lowest common denominator that all agencies can agree upon, which doesn't tell you much more than you can learn from reading open sources or making simple guesstimates. This is not to say that the NIEs are totally without merits, and occasionally they contain an interesting nugget of information."

In other words, what's the point? Well, other than providing lots of soundbites to blowhard politicians.

Here's Rich Lowry's take:

On balance, I think it helps the anti-withdrawal side. It says there has been "measurable but uneven" progress and forecasts continued improvement if we continue robust counterinsurgency operations. What has been the "bottom-up" approach of the surge represents "the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months." Iraqi forces operating with coalition forces "have performed adequately, and some units have demonstrated increasing professional competence." Deployment of Iraqi forces to Baghdad represents "significant progress since last year" when Iraqi soldiers deserted rather than leave home. It says perceptions that we will withdraw will encourage more sectarian violence, and Iraq's neighbors "will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown." And, in a key finding, "We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primarily combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven would erode security gains achieved thus far." Of course, the NIE says plenty of grim things too, but all of the above are facts that are inconvenient for the Democrats politically—and facts that they didn't have to deal with prior to the surge. The NIE has fodder for both sides (read all the key findings here), but on balance, it is another sign that the successes of the surge are shifting the grounds of the debate over the war in a way that helps opponents of withdrawal.
Maybe John Warner should have waited a few days before opening his trap.

If you like, you can read the entire NIE here.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy derides the New York Times for - what else! - misrepresenting the new Terrorist Surveillance Program bill by suggesting the Feds now have unprecidented search and surveillance powers.

The Times is engaged here in the worst kind of journalistic abuse. Risen and Lichtblau sprinkle their story with the names of several experts, but not a single one is identified as standing behind the explosive claims quoted above. Those are attributed to “experts” — unnamed. And unnamed for good reason: What the Times represents as a respectable, mainstream interpretation of the new law is actually a fringe construction unsupportable by any coherent reading.

All the very narrow reform bill really accomplished was a return of FISA (and only for the next six months) to its original design, stripped of the gloss recently imposed by the imperious FISA court. The law gives Americans modest protection against some forms of national security surveillance but otherwise acknowledges that the NSA and CIA have a free hand to target people outside the U.S. — especially if, as is usually the case, these overseas targets are contacting people who are also outside the U.S.; and even if, as is sometimes the case, they are contacting people who happen to be inside our country (and may or may not be Americans).

The reform bill allows the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence to “acquire foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States.” Could that information implicate Americans? Of course it could. If the government is monitoring an al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan and he happens to call you, an American citizen in, say, St. Louis, it will monitor your conversation. But just your calls with him. If the government then wants to take the next step and monitor all your calls, get your business records, or search your house, it still has to go to the FISA court to get authorization. The new law does not change that.

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[Washington Post] Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

Wow, that from Barack "Our soldiers are just air-raiding villages and killing civilians" Obama! He's gone from John Kerry to Harry Truman! What a difference a week makes, eh?

Is there any wonder why Congress' approval rating is just 18 percent? (Hey Ms. Pelosi, that's 12 points even lower than Bush's!)

It's amusing to watch the Democrats trip over one another's feet in the race to be for-the-surge-after-they-were-against-it. Meanwhile the looney antiwar left is just foaming at the mouth! But you promised troop withdraws and impeachments!!! [cry, sob] Not Fair!!!

Naturally Democrats will flip a few more times as November 2008 approaches. Heck, they'll flip a few more times this month.

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The following are some rather dangerous facts by the judge who signed the material witness warrant authorizing Jose Padilla's arrest in 2002. His reminders are generally unstated by those who believe our civilian court system is adequate for trying terrorists. Sure, we may put some behind bars, but do so at the peril that we'll allow others to complete their plots to kill Americans.

In fact, terrorism prosecutions in this country have unintentionally provided terrorists with a rich source of intelligence. For example, in the course of prosecuting Omar Abdel Rahman (the so-called "blind sheik") and others for their role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other crimes, the government was compelled -- as it is in all cases that charge conspiracy -- to turn over a list of unindicted co-conspirators to the defendants.

That list included the name of Osama bin Laden. As was learned later, within 10 days a copy of that list reached bin Laden in Khartoum, letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.

Again, during the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an apparently innocuous bit of testimony in a public courtroom about delivery of a cell phone battery was enough to tip off terrorists still at large that one of their communication links had been compromised. That link, which in fact had been monitored by the government and had provided enormously valuable intelligence, was immediately shut down, and further information lost.

-- Michael Mukasey

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I just love Michelle Malkin's takedown of Pat Schroeder, former Democrat Congresswoman and now CEO of the Association of American Publishers.

In fashion typical of elitist liberal snobs Schroeder used a very general news headline as justification for her bigoted attack on conservatives.

The headline came from an AP poll citing that liberals read more books than conservatives (by an average of just one more book a year, hardly worth bragging about).

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Since when does one more book a year make one "more prodigious"?

But Malkin noted all the poll facts that Schroeder ignored:

[According to the poll results] "The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. Every other genre — including politics, poetry and classical literature — were named by fewer than five percent of readers."

So while Schroeder uses the poll to extol liberal readers as learned "policy wonks," political books are a blip on the screen.

Can't wait for her reaction to the fact that the Bible and religious works were the most widely read books among those polled.

Peel that onion, Patty.

No kidding. Wonder who's reading those bibles? Would you like to wager it's not the 'blue state' voters?

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Research from columnist Jack Kelly:

A great moment in journalism it wasn't. At 6:58 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, Aug. 14, Agence France Presse distributed a photograph by Wissam al-Okaili, an AFP stringer, of an elderly Iraqi woman holding two cartridges in one hand. The caption that accompanied the photo read: "An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she said hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City."

I used the word "cartridges." The caption writer used the word "bullets." Let me explain the difference for the benefit of the photo editors at AFP. A cartridge consists of three elements: the bullet (the pointy thing at one end); the propellant that forces the bullet through the barrel of the gun when the trigger is pulled; and the casing, in which the bullet and the propellant are held together until the cartridge is fired. But once the cartridge is fired, the bullet and the casing go their separate ways.

The casing of the cartridges in the woman's hand is clearly visible, which alone should have told AFP's photo editors that the only way these "bullets" could have hit the woman's house was if they'd been thrown at it. They'd obviously never been fired. There were other tips. Bullets deform when they strike something (like, say, a house in Sadr City). The pointy things don't stay pointy.

Modern firearms have rifling -- grooves in the barrel that cause the bullet to spin, making it more accurate. Rifling leaves striations on bullets which actually have been fired. There are no striations on the bullets in the AFP photograph. But if the editors couldn't grasp the significance of having the bullets still in their casings, I suppose these other clues would be too subtle for them.

Which is too bad, because Wissam has fished in these waters before. On July 10, AFP transmitted a photo by him which shows what seems to be the same old woman holding a larger caliber cartridge. That caption for that photo read: "An elderly Iraqi woman inspects a bullet which she says hit her bed during an alleged overnight raid."

In that photo, the woman had the wit to hold the cartridge so the casing isn't visible, but the bullet is not deformed, and there are no striations. It hadn't been fired, either.

There is no question the photo is a fraud. The question is, whose? Did the old woman fool the AFP photographer? Was the photographer blowing smoke by his photo editor? Were they all in on it?

AFP issued a correction of sorts Aug. 15, adding the word "unspent" before bullets, and deleting from the caption the woman's claim the bullets "hit her house." But AFP should have acknowledged the photo was a fraud, and sent out a kill notice.

Trust and confidence in AFP's accuracy and integrity was not enhanced when it was discovered Aug. 15 that AFP claimed credit a photo of U.S. troops in Afghanistan that actually was taken by Sgt. Brandon Aird of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

I sent AFP an email asking whether disciplinary action has been taken or is contemplated against Wissam al-Okaili, who pretty obviously is a propagandist for the Mahdi army, or against the photo editor, whoever he or she is. I've received no reply.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

[CNN] "I think that it's unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation," said Clinton, a New York Democrat.
But apparently Hillary's got no problem for our troops to be at war while the American Congress takes a vacation... seriously folks, you can't make this stuff up.

Hillary's message today gets even more confusing. Her feelings on the surge?

"The best way of honoring their service is by beginning to bring them home," Clinton said, receiving respectful, yet tepid applause during an address to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

[UK Guardian]``It's working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics,'' she said. ``We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war.''
It's working... so let's leave? Run that logic by me again...

After months and months of pessimism and declaring defeat just days after the surge was announced the Democrats are so deep in the hole that they're now looking like fools attempting to play both sides of the fence simultaneously.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program.

The changes may violate Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman for the site said on Thursday.

That's not all it violates... how about violating the trust the American public puts in the CIA and FBI to provide for the common defense and keep the baddies away instead of wasting time updating the world's first unreliable, amateur "encyclopedia"?

Just a few of many CIA screwups include: Not detecting North Korea's surprise attack in 1950. Underestimating Soviet strength and its invasions all through the Cold War. Being caught by surprise when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. India's nuclear proliferation. Pakistan's nuclear proliferation. Iran's nuclear proliferation. North Korea's nuclear proliferation. Indeed, the CIA can't win for losing - realized by UN inspectors after the Gulf War, first the CIA underestimated Saddam Hussein's WMD program in the 80s, and then they overestimated the same program prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003!

And that's not even all the detection failures regarding Islamic terrorism - 9/11, naturally, but then there's the USS Cole bombing and Khobar towers and Lebanon bombings of the US embassy and barracks in 1982 and 1983, and not foreseeing Hezbollah's kidnapping of its own people back then. In fact, by the 1990s the CIA didn't have one single human asset (spy) in Iraq. Not one.

Former CIA agent Robert Baer told reporters after 9-11 that the CIA "Beirut office has basically been closed since 1990-1991," and that "All the people in the counter-terrorism center (CIA CTC) and the FBI basically dismantled counter-terrorism over the 1990s." ...Who was president then... never mind.

I'm sure there are a slew of more unknown failures, and I'm sure there are a slew of unknown successes, but let's be honest that the CIA's reputation ain't exactly gold right now.

They'd be wise spending less time on Wikipedia and more time getting their crap together.

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Interesting reporting this Saturday by the Wall Street Journal - two Congressional legislators demanding an increase in gas taxes to prevent future bridge collapses happen to be the same two legislators most responsible for the recent Minnesota bridge collapse!

James Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who runs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently stood beside the wreckage and recommended an increase in the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax, as a way to prevent future bridge collapses. His wing man, Alaska Republican and former Transportation Chairman Don Young, agrees wholeheartedly.

As it happens, these are the same men who played the lead role in the $286 billion 2005 federal highway bill. That's the bill that diverted billions of dollars of gas tax money away from urgent road and bridge projects toward Member earmarks for bike paths, nature trails and inefficient urban transit systems.

...Minnesota's transportation auditors warned as long ago as 1990 that there was a "backlog of bridges that are classified as having structural deficiencies." In 1999 engineers declared that cracks found in the bridge that collapsed were "a major concern." Bike paths were deemed a higher priority by Congress, however, including its powerful Minnesota Representatives.

As recently as July 25, Mr. Oberstar sent out a press release boasting that he had "secured more than $12 million in funding" for his state in a recent federal transportation and housing bill. But $10 million of that was dedicated to a commuter rail line, $250,000 for the "Isanti Bike/Walk Trail," $200,000 to bus services in Duluth, and $150,000 for the Mesabi Academy of Kidspeace in Buhl. None of it went for bridge repair.

Boy, that takes big cajones. The Journal additionally found that "Minnesota spends $1.6 billion a year on transportation--enough to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River every four months." Worse, a previous sales tax dedicated to road and bridge repair was diverted to mass transit.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Via Michelle Malkin's website, I found this link to a post feeding all the Scott Thomas Beauchamp proponents a little well-deserved crow.

Written by John Rohan it's a long list of diatribes by liberal bloggers who dedicated their time to smearing anyone who dared question Beauchamp's lack of evidence in his (now) baseless occusations and purported eyewitnessed atrocities. Rohan called the post "one of the few articles that has been pure joy to write."

It's a sad reflection on a liberal community that was oh-so-ready to believe the absolute worst about our servicemen and women without even a shred of proof. Even more comical was their justification and rationale once the first Beauchamp lie was exposed -- one of his (supposed) accounts occured before he even got to Iraq.

The most entertaining reminder regarded the cheerleading by Andrew Sullivan, a former The New Republic writer and (yet another) classic liberal who was for the war before he was against it.

A note of background: Andrew Sullivan used to work for TNR, and is the one who hired Stephen Glass , another well-publicized fraud. That may be why he reacted very differently to this story than he did to this similar 2004 story of fraudulent Iraq abuse photos printed in the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror)

Also, Sullivan on 27 July:
[Sullivan] Well, I trawled through the various knuckle-dragging websites and there's still no actual, you know, evidence that he fabricated anything. Maybe he did. First-person war-stories are always hard to verify beyond a shadow of a doubt, no? But if Malkin can't dredge up something and fling it by now, no one can.
Sullivan, again on August 2:
[Sullivan] Read TNR's accounting. It is as I predicted: honorable and, except for one small inaccuracy, it checks out. All the aspects aggressively challenged by the usual propaganda organs have been verified and corroborated. The military is now conducting its own investigation. Given the record of such formal investigations, I'm not as confident in the Pentagon as I am in TNR. Can we now expect apologies from the people who smeared and maligned the magazine and its soldier-reporter? I doubt it. The attackers are not the kind to acknowledge their own errors.
(Neither, apparently, is Andrew Sullivan. As of right now, he has not issued an apology for these statements)

Never expect the cluelessly self-absorbed to apologize or correct their inaccurate assumptions. A guy like Sullivan is way to narcissistic to do that.

And, like I wrote two weeks ago, I love the liberals' new Orwellian definition of "innocent until proven guilty" -- for backward thinkers like Sullivan it isn't the accuser Beauchamp who has to provide evidence of wrong doing, but rather the military that has to provide evidence of his fabrication!

How about MR. Sullivan be asked to prove a negative? Can just ol' anyone write into TNR without proof and claim that Sullivan is, say, implicated in the Michael Vick dog fighting ring, expect it to be published by TNR, and further expect Sullivan to have to "prove" it false? Well, if Sullivan were a soldier in Iraq they could. Call it liberals against liberty.

And Sullivan's "one small inaccuracy" was indeed the damn crux of Beauchamp's entire story! How could Beauchamp claim that the 'horrors of war' turned him into an uncaring amoral jerk if he was already acting like one before he ever stepped foot in Iraq?

Expect Beauchamp to one day work for these people and become them. Like John Kerry's "Winter Soldier" fabrication, he'll never have to prove a thing. And the anti-war liberals will just repeat it like it's fact, evidence be damned.

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In fact, Padilla's case demonstrates the opposite [of the argument that our civil courts are capable of trying illegal combatants]. Before yesterday's verdict, war foes were sneering that prosecutors weren't even charging him in the dirty-bomb plot. That is true, but the reason he wasn't charged for that crime is that the case was procedurally deficient: The military didn't read Padilla his Miranda rights or provide him a lawyer when it interrogated him. Padilla was convicted instead of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas. That means that if war opponents had their way, and if Padilla had been guilty only of planning to kill Americans on U.S. soil, he would walk free today.

This problem may be remediable in a similar future case. No doubt the next time a terrorist is picked up at O'Hare International Airport, FBI agents will read him his rights and make sure to honor them. But it is unreasonable to expect soldiers, Marines and intelligence officers on foreign battlefields to follow police procedures at the same time they're dodging bullets and trying to extract information to prevent attacks on Americans back home. The Padilla decision is reassuring in many respects, but it is not a model for the future handling of enemy combatants.

-- Wall Street Journal.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007
BAD P.R. 101

Stephen Hayes wrote good column about Dick Cheney, but there are two short points that really stand out:

First isn't so much about Cheney but about former CIA Director George Tenet's assessment of the heavily debated and controversial CIA and military interrogation methods.

The policies he has advocated have been controversial. But they have also been effective. Consider the procedures put in place to extract information from hardcore terrorists. Mr. Cheney did not dream up these interrogation methods, but when intelligence officials insisted that they would work, the vice president championed them in internal White House debates and on Capitol Hill. Former CIA Director George Tenet--a Clinton-era appointee and certainly no Cheney fan--was asked about the value of those interrogation programs in a recent television appearance. His response, ignored by virtually everyone in the media, was extraordinary.

"Here's what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the president of the Untied States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. . . . I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us."

No matter what you think of George Tenet - and believe me I'm hardly a fan of the man - it's nonetheless worth noting when the (then) head of our nations most important intelligence gathering group calls our interrogation program the single most important of them all.

The next point is to me the epitome of my primary criticisms of the entire Bush administration - their absolute failure at using the bully pulpit.

As the White House enters a critical domestic phases of the war on terror--with a heightened threat environment and the coming report from Gen. David Petraeus on progress in Iraq--Mr. Cheney may be called on to play a more public role. That may seem counterintuitive. If Mr. Cheney's approval ratings are so abysmal, why increase his visibility? The answer is simple: because his low poll numbers are the result of his low profile.

Mr. Cheney likes to work in the background and he does not care much about being loved. "Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole?" Mr. Cheney said in 2004. "It's a nice way to operate, actually." But this reticence has a price. Where there is an information vacuum, people move to fill it, particularly in Washington, a town that operates on appearances.

Yep. The Bush public relations failures are indeed directly related to their inability (and in Cheney's case unwillingness) to communicate their ideas.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

[Investor's Business Daily] Is has become a familiar refrain among Democrats that the Baghdad parliament is unable to solve the country's deep-rooted ethnic-based political problems over a short period.

But someone should remind the Democrat-controlled Congress that it itself hasn't been able to address the biggest problems now facing America: It can't secure the border from terrorists, for instance. And staving off the inevitable fiscal train wreck on entitlement spending isn't even on its agenda.

Meanwhile, the legislature of the largest state in the union, California, is now in the midst of its annual paralysis, unable to approve a budget. Flawed though they may be, Baghdad's lawmakers routinely take bigger risks than either Washington's or Sacramento's.

Good point.

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The Philidelphia Inquirer published my letter criticizing Stu Bykofsky's column:

According to Stu Bykofsky, Bush I did everything right. Then why are we still dealing with Iraq today? Perpetual no-fly zones. Troops in the Middle East, a common raison d'guerre from Islamic terrorists to this day. The unenforceable sanctions regime that empowered a multibillion-dollar U.N. oil-for-food corruption scheme. Bill Clinton's 1998 Operation Desert Fox campaign. All of these are but an iceberg's tip of problems that came to fruition because Bush I did everything wrong.
You may have already read this though.

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Here's a good commentary by Ann Marlowe, questioning the validity of those who tout Afghanistan as failing. Indeed, she's been there and found:

The U.S. is now planning to start a second provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Nangarhar Province, and it will be staffed by military reservists who are farmers and ranchers in civilian life. This second PRT will work with local farmers in Nangahar's lush river valley, while also building infrastructure to get crops to market--cold storage facilities and local roads. Air Force Lt. Col. Gordon Phillips, the commander of the existing PRT, says that blacktop roads will link all district centers in the province to the main road to Kabul by the end of this year.

"Every day we open 15 to 20 new accounts," says Maseh Arifi, the 24-year-old manager of the Jalalabad branch of Azizi Bank, one of Afghanistan's two homegrown consumer banks. The branch opened at the end of last August and has 18,000 accounts. Next door, rival Kabul Bank has opened 9,400 accounts totaling $7 million in two years. The 27,000 bank accounts represent about 15% of 660,000 adults of Jalalabad--and doesn't count some of the most prosperous locals, who commute to Peshawar to do their banking. In Nangarhar, AWCC and Roshan together have about 206,000 mobile phone customers, 31% of the adults.

Read it all here.




Here's the problem: The U.S. stopped investing in Iran's energy industry in the 1990s thanks to sanctions imposed during Bill Clinton's presidency. Unfortunately, Europe stepped in to fill the void, with state-owned oil firms providing capital and energy technology. Today 80% of the Iranian government's revenue comes from oil exports and sales. Without Europe's support, the theocracy's fiscal lifeline would be a very thin thread.
-- Roger Stern

There's a number of interesting points to what is a pretty complicated issue. After all, it's not every day one reads something in the WSJ critical of sanctions against Iran.

There's a saying that NY Times' Thomas Friedman likes to apply to Middle Eastern oil regimes: the inverse of "no taxation without representation" means that oil regimes don't feel the need for representation since they don't tax their people (because of oil revenues).

One can apply that new adage to all the calls for US energy independence or our relationship with Saudi Arabia (among others). If we absolve ourselves from Middle Eastern oil we can expect to lose the only influence - the almighty buck - we ever had with them, just as we lost it with Iran.

Other countries will fill that market void - indeed, as much as a law as gravity - and attain the influence.

So, maybe we should be careful what we wish for.

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This is an interesting column by Todd Zywicki for two reasons -- first, his findings, and second, why two supposed Harvard "scholars" would come to such a dramatically different conclusion.

The argument [that the middle class is being squeezed by higher mortgages, not so much by taxes] is developed in the book, "The Two Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke," by Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Tyagi. In fact, using their own numbers, it is evident that they have overlooked the most important contributor to the purported household budget crunch -- taxes.

Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi compare two middle-class families: an average family in the 1970s versus the 2000s (all dollar values are inflation-adjusted). The typical 1970s family is headed by a working father and a stay-at-home mother with two children. The father's income is $38,700, out of which came $5,310 in mortgage payments, $5,140 a year on car expenses, $1,030 on health insurance, and income taxes "which claim 24% of [the father's] income," leaving $17,834, or about $1,500 per month in "discretionary income" for all other expenses, such as food, clothing, utilities and savings.

The typical 2000s family has two working parents and a higher income of $67,800, an increase of 75% over the 1970s family. But their expenses have also risen: The mortgage payment increases to $9,000, the additional car raises the family obligation to $8,000, and more expensive health insurance premiums cost $1,650. A new expense of full-time daycare so the mother can work is estimated at $9,670. Mother's income bumps the family into a higher tax bracket, so that "the government takes 33% of the family's money." In the end, despite the dramatic increase in family income, the family is left with $17,045 in "discretionary income," less than the earlier generation.

The authors present no explanation for why they present only the tax data in their two examples as percentages instead of dollars. Nor do they ever present the actual dollar value for taxes anywhere in the book. So to conduct an "apples to apples" comparison of all expenses, I converted the tax obligations in the example from percentages to actual dollars.

In fact, for the typical 1970s family, paying 24% of its income in taxes works out to be $9,288. And for the 2000s family, paying 33% of its income is $22,374.

Although income only rose 75%, and expenditures for the mortgage, car and health insurance rose by even less than that, the tax bill increased by $13,086 -- a whopping 140% increase. The percentage of family income dedicated to health insurance, mortgage and automobiles actually declined between the two periods.

During this period, the figures used by Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi indicate that annual mortgage obligations increased by $3,690, automobile obligations by $2,860 and health insurance payments by $620 (a total increase of $7,170). Those increases are not trivial -- but they are swamped by the increase in tax obligations. To put this in perspective, the increase in tax obligations is over three times as large as the increase in the mortgage payments and almost double the increase in the mortgage and automobile payments combined. Even the new expenditure on child care is about a quarter less than the increase in taxes.

Overall, the typical family in the 2000s pays substantially more in taxes than the combined expenses of their mortgage, automobile and health insurance. And the change in the tax obligation between the two periods is substantially greater than the change in mortgage, automobile expenses and health-insurance costs combined.

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This week, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and UCLA law professor Kal Raustiala penned what might be the least persuasive op-ed of the new millennium in the New York Times. Clark and Raustiala argue that we shouldn't treat members of al Qaeda as enemy combatants because such a designation is too high a compliment. "Labeling its members as combatants elevates its cause and gives al Qaeda an undeserved status," they argue. Therefore, they conclude, "the more appropriate designation for terrorists is not 'unlawful combatant' but the one long used by the United States: criminal."

They do not address the fact that under our system of law, "criminal" is the most advantageous designation a terrorist can get. It comes with all sorts of rights and rules terrorists can exploit: Miranda, speedy trials, the right to see classified evidence, the benefit of a reasonable doubt, the right to remain silent, etc.

We did not designate al Qaeda "enemy combatants" to elevate their status but to lower it. Under current treaty obligations, if we viewed al Qaeda as actual soldiers, they would be entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions even though they reject those conventions themselves.

And if we treated them like criminals under American law, we'd have to launch CSI: Kabul, collecting evidence for every "arrest." Clark and Raustilia say al Qaeda terrorists are more like pirates. But last I checked, Blackbeard wasn't interested in imposing a worldwide theocracy, and his henchmen weren't keen on blowing themselves up to achieve it.

If treating terrorists like any other criminals is such a good idea, why don't they recommend such an enlightened approach to Israel? After all, when Hezbollah rains down rockets on your cities, the sagacious response is to issue an arrest warrant and convene a grand jury.

We obviously need rules for dealing with people we capture, which is precisely what the Bush administration has been trying to establish. But saying that we should treat terrorists like criminals is to argue for doing less than nothing.

-- Jonah Goldberg, NRO

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When you read something like this it really drives home the point that liberals aren't so much for a separation of church and state as they are simply opposing Christianity. Every other religion is embraced as "multiculturalism," "diversity" or other such buzzword.

[WSJ] The Detroit chapter of the ACLU has scrambled to find a way to recuse itself from the matter, claiming that the footbaths qualify as secular since they could be used by non-Muslims, and therefore don't cross the group's usual bright church-state line. Further, the ACLU explains, the university's decision to take on the $25,000 expense was motivated primarily "by health and safety" because some students didn't like washing their hands in the sinks after others students had washed their feet. If that hadn't been the case, the group says this religious accommodation would surely have merited greater investigation and criticism.

Uh-huh. This is the same ACLU chapter that in 2005 objected to a high-school wrestling coach saying a prayer with his team before meets, calling the action "inherently coercive." And the ACLU of Michigan is already on the defensive for its non-action this time. In a letter explaining its silence regarding university footbaths, the ACLU notes that it "has often come to the defense of other religions when the state has attempted to interfere with their religious expression." The letter even includes a list of cases in which the group has defended Christian clients. Too bad none of the examples prove much of a parallel to the current recusal over state recognition of a religious practice.

Of course the whole issue is nonsense. "Separation of church and state" appears nowhere in the US Constitution. And if a government entity besides Congress - the only body to which the First Amendment applies - wants to put in some Islamic foot wash bins or the 10 Commandments, for that matter, it's entirely their decision and not the place of our blowhard politicians or overreaching courts to decide.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

In a column cited on The Drudge Report, columnist Stu Bykofsky makes a great number of childish logical errors.

Here's the worst: According to Bykofsky, "Bush I did everything right."

Really? Then why are we still dealing with Iraq today?

Perpetual no-fly zones. Troops in the middle east - a common raison d'guerre from Islamic terrorists to this day. The unenforceable sanctions regime that empowered a multi-billion dollar United Nations oil-for-food corruption scheme. Bill Clinton's 1998 Operation Desert Fox campaign (conducted on the basis that Iraq had WMD, conveniently forgotten by Bush II administration critics). All of these are but an iceberg's tip of problems that came to fruition because Bush I did everything wrong, not right.

George H. W. Bush's solution was to deal with Iraq by not actually dealing with Iraq. And it was hardly just Bush's paradigm. It was shared by foreign policy analysts on both left and right, cited to this day from both Madaline Albright to James Baker as the proper policy. But we know now it was an ignorant application of Cold War logic to new enemies. These old guard Clinton and Bush I associates were - and some still are - stuck in the past.

People may reasonably debate as to the wisdom of our current war in Iraq, "mistakes made," and all that nonsense we never discuss regarding past wars, and certainly not during them. But to label the 1991 Gulf War a success is to redefine the word in Orwellian terms. It was procrastination, nothing more.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

To repeat: In the Internet/Dan Rathergate era, you'd think that a magazine formerly discredited by the Stephen Glass fiasco would never again allow themselves to be duped by fictional reporting.

Think again:

Washington Post - New Republic Iraq Stories Questioned

New York Times - Army Says Soldier's Articles for Magazine Were False

Associated Press - Army Concludes Baghdad Diarist Accounts Untrue

USA Today - Military: Soldier-essayist's allegations of misconduct in Iraq 'are false'

"The investigation is complete and the allegations from PVT Beauchamp are false," Maj. Steven Lamb, a spokesman for Multi National Division-Baghdad, says in an e-mail to On Deadline [USA Today blog].

It gets worse for The New Republic. Apparently these guys are flat out liars whose audacity in fabrication is only matched by their commitment to the half-truth.

According to Bob Owens, via this Weekly Standard report, the anonymous spokesperson of the manufacturer of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System - whom TNR quoted as confirming that a Bradley could be driven in a manner in which Private Beauchamp described - has today informed the public that his statements to TNR actually contradicted Beauchamp's story!

The spokesman - Doug Coffey, head of Communications, Land & Armaments, for BAE Systems - instead reported what other experts have previously stated:

I can't pretend to know what may or may not have happened in Iraq but the impression the writer leaves is that a "driver" can go on joy rides with a 35 ton vehicle at will. The vehicle has a crew and a commander of the vehicle who is in charge. In order for the scenario described to have taken place, there would have to have been collaboration by the entire crew.

The driver's vision, even if sitting in an open hatch is severely restricted along the sides. He sits forward on the left side of the vehicle. His vision is significantly impaired along the right side of the vehicle which makes the account to "suddenly swerve to the right" and actually catch an animal suspect. If you were to attempt the same feat in your car, it would be very difficult and you have the benefit of side mirrors.

Anyone familiar with tracked vehicles knows that turning sharply requires the road wheels on the side of the turn to either stop or reverse as the road wheels on the opposite side accelerates. What may not be obvious is that the track once on the ground, doesn't move. The road wheels roll across it but the track itself is stationary until it is pushed forward by the road wheels.

The width of the track makes it highly unlikely that running over a dog would leave two intact parts. One half of the dog would have to be completely crushed.

It also seems suspicious that a driver could go on repeated joy rides or purposefully run into things. Less a risk to the track though that is certainly possible but there is sensitive equipment on the top of the vehicle, antennas, sights, TOW missile launcher, commander and if it was a newer vehicle, the commander's independent viewer, not to mention the main gun. Strange things are known to happen in a combat environment but I can't imagine that the vehicle commander or the unit commander would tolerate repeated misuse of the vehicle, especially any action that could damage its ability to engage.

As the Weekly Standard best summed up: "Yet the New Republic did not see fit to print Coffey's concerns. In fact, they didn't even see fit to show Coffey the original article."

This isn't shoddy journalism. It's deceptive. One would hope TNR subscriptions are being cancelled tonight.

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Back in the 1980s Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan, upon his acquittal of corruption charges, famously uttered, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

No doubt Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt feels the same:

[AFP] Murder charges against a US Marine accused of killing three Iraqi civilians during an alleged massacre in Haditha two years ago have been dropped, the military said on Thursday.
A statement released by the Marines at their Camp Pendleton base in southern California revealed that three charges of unpremeditated murder against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt had been withdrawn.

The decision was announced in a written ruling from the commander Lieutenant General James Mattis and followed a recommendation from an investigator last month that the charges should be dropped.

"An independent Article 32 investigating officer has considered all the facts and determined that the evidence does not support a referral to court-martial for Lance Corporal Sharratt," Mattis wrote.

"Based on my review of all the evidence in this case and considering the recommendation of the Article 32 officer, I have dismissed the charges."

Sharratt was accused of shooting three Iraqi men execution-style in what prosecutors alleged was part of a rampage that left 24 civilians dead following the death of a Marine in a roadside bomb in November 2005.

Sharratt said the men were shot at close quarters as Marines cleared a house where insurgents were believed to be operating.

In a statement recommending the charges be dropped released last month, investigator Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ware said the prosecution charges were "unsupported by the independent evidence."

"To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary," Ware added.

The Haditha killings are the most serious allegations of war crimes against US soldiers in Iraq.

Eight Marines were initially charged in connection with the case -- four with murder and four officers with failing to properly investigate the incident.

Sharratt is the second Marine to have murder charges dropped after allegations against Sergeant Sanick DeLa Cruz were withdrawn in April.

As many conservative voices have noted, Sharratt and his fellow soldiers had previously been frequently cited by antiwar critics such as Rep. John Murtha (D, PN) to justify their criticisms of the War in Iraq and the military in general.

The accusations hit prime time and page one. Where shall the retractions fall, if at all?


I'll take this moment to plug the book of Lt. Ilario Pantano, Warlord. It's an account of his own battle to clear his name after falsely accused of atrocities in Iraq.

If only the Left spend as much time trying to destroy the real enemy instead of our soldiers.

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The anti-war left uses the same playbook as the former Soviet KGB, explains former Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa (he was, by the way, the highest ranking Soviet official ever to defect to the West).

Money shot:

Unfortunately, partisans today have taken a page from the old Soviet playbook. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, for example, Bush critics continued our mud-slinging at America's commander in chief. One speaker, Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, had earlier in the summer stated he was more worried about the actions of the Bush administration than about al Qaeda. On another occasion, retired four-star general Wesley Clark gave Michael Moore a platform to denounce the American commander in chief as a "deserter." And visitors to the national chairman of the Democratic Party had to step across a doormat depicting the American president surrounded by the words, "Give Bush the Boot."

Competition is indeed the engine that has driven the American dream forward, but unity in time of war has made America the leader of the world. During World War II, 405,399 Americans died to defeat Nazism, but their country of immigrants remained sturdily united. The U.S. held national elections during the war, but those running for office entertained no thought of damaging America's international prestige in their quest for personal victory. Republican challenger Thomas Dewey declined to criticize President Roosevelt's war policy. At the end of that war, a united America rebuilt its vanquished enemies. It took seven years to turn Nazi Germany and imperial Japan into democracies, but that effort generated an unprecedented technological explosion and 50 years of unmatched prosperity for us all.

Now we are again at war. It is not the president's war. It is America's war, authorized by 296 House members and 76 senators. I do not intend to join the armchair experts on the Iraq war. I do not know how we should handle this war, and they don't know either. But I do know that if America's political leaders, Democrat and Republican, join together as they did during World War II, America will win. Otherwise, terrorism will win. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi predicted just before being killed: "We fight today in Iraq, tomorrow in the land of the Holy Places, and after there in the West."

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It's pretty sad that even the New York Times can acknowledge that the Iranian government is actively arming terrorists who kill our soldiers and the nation collectively yawns...

The lack of response will only instigate Iran into conducting more overt attacks against us. We are, to quote bin Laden, perceived as the weak horse. And for Iran we have been the weak horse since about 1979.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 7 — Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military.
The devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, were used to carry out 99 attacks last month and accounted for a third of the combat deaths suffered by the American-led forces, according to American military officials.

"July was an all-time high," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said in an interview, referring to strikes with such devices.

Such bombs, which fire a semi-molten copper slug that can penetrate the armor on a Humvee and are among the deadliest weapons used against American forces, are used almost exclusively by Shiite militants. American intelligence officials have presented evidence that the weapons come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, although Tehran has repeatedly denied providing lethal assistance to Iraqi groups.

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The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.

The latest wave of executions is the biggest Iran has suffered in the same time span since 1984, when thousands of opposition prisoners were shot on orders from Ayatollah Khomeini. [emphasis mine]

Not all executions take place in public. In the provinces of Kurdistan and Khuzestan, where ethnic Kurdish and Arab minorities are demanding greater rights, several activists have been put to death in secret, their families informed only days after the event.

The campaign of terror also includes targeted "disappearances" designed to neutralize trade union leaders, student activists, journalists and even mullahs opposed to the regime. According to the latest tally, more than 30 people have "disappeared" since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21. To intimidate the population, the authorities also have carried out mass arrests on spurious grounds.

According to Gen. Ismail Muqaddam, commander of the Islamic Police, a total of 430,000 men and women have been arrested on charges related to drug use since April. A further 4,209 men and women, mostly aged between 15 and 30, have been arrested for "hooliganism" in Tehran alone. The largest number of arrests, totaling almost a million men and women according to Mr. Muqaddam, were related to the enforcement of the new Islamic Dress Code, passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) in May 2006.





Schip was supposed to help children from low-income families, but Democrats are now using the program to expand government control of health care and undermine private insurance... To grease the way, the [State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip)] bill re-labels "children" as anyone under 25, and "low income" as up to 400% above the poverty level, or $82,600 for a family of four.
-- Wall Street Journal, 8/9/07

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A few days ago I noted that global warming proponents are just as well-coordinated and financed as the so-called global warming "deniers." But in reality, it's quite the opposite:

[MRC] But as Marc Morano, of the minority staff of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works, noted: "It is the proponents of man-made global warming fears that enjoy a monumental funding advantage over the skeptics. (A whopping $50 BILLION to a paltry $19 MILLION for skeptics -- Yes, that is BILLION to MILLION.)"
The environmental Left are indeed the neo-fascists: the grand lie told often enough becomes tomorrow's conventional wisdom. I give you global warming, the grandest propaganda ever.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The delusions of the Democratic party can be neatly summarized with a trio of news articles today.

According to the NY Sun, Western and American intelligence services believe that terrorist cells connected to the British "doctors plot" may already be in the United States and planning terrorist attacks here based on "E-mail addresses for American individuals [which] were found on the same password-protected e-mail chains used by the United Kingdom plotters to communicate with Qaeda handlers in Europe."

But what are the Democrats and liberal community worried about (well, besides the red herring of climate change)?

They're worried about eavesdropping on communications of suspected terrorists, and they're worried about how the CIA has been treating the captured 9-11 mastermind and murderer of 3,000 Americans, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Let's start with the news regarding the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP, aka warrantless wiretapping):

The Democratic-controlled House last night approved and sent to President Bush for his signature legislation written by his intelligence advisers to enhance their ability to intercept the electronic communications of foreigners without a court order.

The 227 to 183 House vote capped a high-pressure campaign by the White House to change the nation's wiretap law, in which the administration capitalized on Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism and on a general congressional desire to act on the measure before an August recess.

Oh, gee, no biased reporting there! The TSP enhancement was needed to help our intelligence agencies catch terrorists. Period. Not to assist "Bush advisers" or "play on fears."

Clearly enough Democrats knew this to be true.

Maybe the votes were instigated by the warning to Congress from National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden: "Had this program [TSP] been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such."

Maybe they were instigated by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, who told the media last week that intelligence operatives are unable to protect Americans because Democrats previously abridged the TSP program. "'[The intelligence community is] missing a significant portion of what we should be getting' from electronic eavesdropping on possible terror plots," according to Newsweek.

Maybe it was because even some of the less liberal democrats recognized that it shouldn't take a warrant to spy on a jihadist in Peshawar who is telephoning instructions to a suicide bomber in London, all because the call happens to go through a switch located in the US.

One suspects that if a President Clinton or Obama takes the reigns most of this leftist concern will wither away. But for now, regardless of their loss in Congress, it won't stop the anti-war left from being far more concerned about intangible and theoretical dangers (see: post below) than of the actual terrorists trying to kill them.

"There are a lot of people who felt we had to pass something," said one angry Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of caucus discussions. "It was tantamount to being railroaded."
Railroaded? Yes, railroaded said the Democrat so proud and sure of themselves they refused to be identified.

Civil liberties and privacy advocates and a majority of Democrats said the bill could allow the monitoring of virtually any calls, e-mails or other communications going overseas that originate in the United States, without a court order, if the government deems the recipient to be the target of a U.S. probe.
"Board your wife and children! Virtually any calls!" (some restrictions apply, such as target "BEING RECIPIENT OF A US TERRORISM PROBE.")

Last night, several Democrats said the bill would undermine the Fourth Amendment. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said lawmakers were being "stampeded by fearmongering and deception" into voting for the bill. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) warned that the bill would lead to "potential unprecedented abuse of innocent Americans' privacy."
So the Fourth Amendment now applies to foreign nationals suspected of terrorism and electronically communicating overseas...? I don't think James Madison had that in mind.

Needless to say that Mr. Nadler and Ms. Harman represent two states most likely to be terrorist targets.

"I'm not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily," said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence committee. "The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security."
Does Mr. Holt "detest" the United Kingdom? Because their MI-5 conducts domestic spying everyday, and yet their democracy seems intact. Likewise even wacky-liberal France conducts domestic spying.

The bottom line is that this bill was created because the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Service Act) courts were created decades ago and no longer cover our modern technologies, at least not without some upkeeping, which is what this bill did.

And, of course, if Democrats allowed more surveillance maybe we wouldn't need to have women interrogate a naked Khalid Mohammed.

Which brings us to our last article:

[Washington Post] Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was subjected to the CIA's harshest interrogation methods while he was held in secret prisons around the world for more than three years, part of an interrogation regimen that the International Committee of the Red Cross has called "tantamount to torture," according to a New Yorker article to be published on the magazine's Web site today.

In a 12-page article released yesterday, reporter Jane Mayer analyzes the development of the CIA's secret interrogation techniques and writes that a confidential ICRC report to the U.S. government details Mohammed's assertions that he was tortured by the CIA. Unnamed Washington sources told Mayer that Mohammed said he was held naked in his cell, questioned by female interrogators to humiliate him, attached to a dog leash and made to run into walls, and put in painful positions while chained to the floor. Mohammed also said he was "waterboarded" -- a simulated drowning -- in addition to being held in suffocating heat and painfully cold conditions. Mohammed's captors also told him shortly after his arrest in March 2003: "We're not going to kill you. But we're going to take you to the very brink of your death and back," the article said.

Me thinks torture is made of sterner stuff. Torture doesn't "simulate drowning," it actually drowns you. Or your family in front of you, etc.

Certainly one would wager our treatment of al Qaeda operatives is purposely designed to skirt techical law - which is why they don't cause "prolonged mental harm" or threaten death. One can be sure it's not pleasant. But neither is anal rape in our state prison systems, yet we hear no peep from the liberal community to reform that. So, beyond discomfort and humiliation, Mohammed gets to keep all of his limbs - unlike, say, Saddam's victims - and has been flat out told we'll never kill him.

And this assumes Mohammed is speaking the truth even though the ICRC admits that the only person who can verify these claims is the very terrorist, Khalid Mohammed.

If Khalid Mohammed can organize the murder of 3,000 Americans he can certainly lie about or exaggerate his treatment to the Red Cross and play to their bleeding-heart sympathies.

But, even if he isn't lying, his fate is far, far better than those of his victims.

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