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Right Intention: March 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Trivia: The five wealthiest senators are.....

Choose one:
a) all republicans
b) republicans and democrats
c) all democrats

Pick a or b? Sorry... the correct answer is c) all democrats.
Can this be right? But aren't the republicans the ones usually associated with wealth, big business, corporate greed, etc? What is going on here??

All senators make public filings that have a low and high estimate of their total assets. Liabilities are not included, so we're only seeing one side of balance sheet; hence this is not actually a measure of wealth, but it's enlightening anyway. To arrive at these rankings I averaged the low and high number. Actually the top 6 are all democrats, as are 7 of the top 10.

The list is obviously headed by John Kerry, who is by far the wealthiest person in the history of the senate. His low and high asset numbers were 194 and 777 million dollars, respectively. His former running mate and personal injury lawyer, John Edwards, tips the scales at 19 million and 44 million. Adding the high numbers for Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards give you a number that could be the GDP of a small island nation.

In fact, John Kerry's assets exceed the total assets of all 51 republican senators combined by a very significant margin (35%). Repeat...all 51 republican Senators combined.

And how about the totals? 51 republicans weigh in with a total of $318 million in assets, or an average of $6.2 million per senator. 48 democrats list $1.19 billion in assets, or $24.8 million per senator. And it isn't all Kerry. (Note, 48+51 = 99, plus 1 Independent) If you take Kerry out entirely, you still have an average of $14.1 million per democrat, more than twice the republican average.

Meanwhile democrats love to portray themselves as simple common folk. Just plain people, working for a better America.

Hmmm... maybe not.

Civil War In Venezuela?

From Instapundit I found this news out of Venezuela:

Venezuela is having problems with the loyalty of its armed forces. The current government is run by a former army officer Hugo Chavez. Normally, that would not be a problem. But Chavez sees himself as another Fidel Castro. That is, the rebel Castro before he proclaimed himself a hard core communist. Chavez wants social revolution in Venezuela, but many, perhaps a majority, of Venezuelans don’t want to be another Cuba. While Venezuela's oil wealth has not been distributed equally, it has created a large middle class. This includes the military. Many of the troops are nervous about Chavez, and his social programs. Even some of Chavez’s military decisions have caused unease among officers and troops. For example, Chavez is now buying military equipment from Russia. This includes helicopters (nine Mi-17s and one Mi-26) for the navy. The navy considers these helicopters unsuitable for naval use. The sailors are correct, but the price is cheap, and Chavez wants to make a political point.

The army is unhappy about the cozy relationship between Chavez and leftist rebel groups in neighboring Colombia. Venezuelan troops have been operating more aggressively along the Colombian border. This is officially a crackdown on the smugglers who always have operated there. But the Venezuelan troops are accused to really going after the Colombian rebels, or supporting them. Take your pick. No one is sure exactly what is going on.

To top it all off, Chavez is now organizing a new army, one loyal to him personally. This is part of his plan create "Bolivarian Circles of Venezuela Frontline Defense for National Democratic Revolution." These are political clubs all over the country, particularly in poor areas, where Chavez has the most support. Chavez expects to have 2.2 million members, who will be the backbone of the “democratic revolution unfolding in Venezuela." What upsets the armed forces is Chavezs decision to pass out infantry weapons to these political clubs, so that his new political clubs can use force to “defend the revolution.” There are believed to be Cuban advisors involved in this effort. This sort of mass organization has been used before in Latin America, by both leftist and rightist dictators (pro-fascist Juan Peron of Argentina, and communist Fidel Castro of Cuba.) But by passing out guns to his most dedicated followers, Chavez is angering the military, making the middle class even more nervous, and setting the stage for a bloody civil war.

I think this is good news. Glenn isn't so sure. But Chavez has got to go, by any means necessary. He will single handedly destabilize most of South America if he isn't stopped. And he would have been out of power legally had it not been for that fool of an ex-President of ours, Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter seems to have a weird, unnatural love of dictators that is hard to understand, and he has single handedly complicated US foreign policy efforts pretty much every time he has intervened in his post Presidential career.

For more on Carter and the Venezuela elections, read this and this.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

New Twist With Wilson/Plame

You cannot be serious:

A federal court should first determine whether a crime has been committed in the disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's name before prosecutors are allowed to continue seeking testimony from journalists about their confidential sources, the nation's largest news organizations and journalism groups asserted in a court filing yesterday.

The 40-page brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues that there is "ample evidence . . . to doubt that a crime has been committed" in the case, which centers on the question of whether Bush administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in the summer of 2003. Plame's name was published first by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak and later by other publications.

The friend-of-the-court brief was filed by 36 news organizations, including The Washington Post and major broadcast and cable television news networks, in support of reporters at the New York Times and Time magazine who face possible jail time for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the allegations. Those two organizations filed a petition Tuesday asking the full appeals court to review the case.

Let me see if I have this straight. Journalists, in yet another attempt to bring down the Bush administration, started a feeding frenzy over the Valerie Plame situation. Desperately hoping this could be another Watergate or Iran Contra, liberal journalists countrywide demanded a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate this supposed heinous crime. It didn't matter one iota that the only place a crime had taken place was in their fantasies. They sensed a chance to hurt Bush and dammit, they were going to take it.

Now that the situation has boomeranged perfectly, the very same people who were demanding the investigation suddenly agree with those of us who said all along no crime had been committed. No one ever said journalists lacked balls.

You know what I find most amazing about this story? It's not the overzealousness of the media in pursuing this story, the ridiculous demands for a special prosecutor or the about face now that journalists themselves are in the crosshairs. All of these things are incredible, but none are what amaze me the most. So what is it?

It's that liberal journalists are doing all of this with a straight face.

UPDATE: The Opinion Journal has more. Go read it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Insurgents? I don't think so

Mainstream media glommed on to the term "insurgents" back at the start of the war in Iraq and refuses to let it go, even as their continued use of the word exposes their extreme bias. Let's look at some definitions of the word taken from various dictionaries and encyclopedia entries available on the internet (italics mine):

1. one who uses armed force to rebel against one's own government.
2. someone who is fighting against the government in their own country.
3. a person who takes part in a rebellion in the hope of improving conditions.
4. insurgent, insurrectionist, freedom fighter, rebel -- (a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions)).
5. Wikipedia: An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority, by any irregular armed force that rises up against an enforced or established authority, government, or administration. Those carrying out an insurgency are "insurgents." Insurgents conduct sabotage and harassment. Insurgents usually are in opposition to a civil authority or government primarily in the hope of improving their condition.

Notice that many, though not all, definitions include that a) insurgents are rebelling against their own government, or b) they are rebelling in the hope of improving their condition. How does this word describe the terrorists currently operating in Iraq?

Does al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who videotapes himself beheading non-Iraqi civilians, qualify as an insurgent? Is he fighting against the government of his own country? Or perhaps he is trying to improve his condition? Do the Algerian, Sudanese, Morrocan and Phillipino fighters killed in the recent raid on the terrorist training camp near Samarra qualify? When ordinary Iraqi civilians attack and kill a group of armed people that are about to attack them, do the dead fighters qualify as "insurgents" under these (or any) definitions?

So, let's look at the obvious alternative to describe these people, namely - "terrorists". The definition of terrorist is one who engages in terrorism, which is defined as:

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

WHAT AM I MISSING? The term "terrorist" fits these dirtbags like a glove. But you have to turn the word "insurgent" inside out and stand it on its head to make it fit. But the extreme liberal bias of the mainstream media encourages the use of poetic license in their description of these people. They intentionally shape people's perceptions by the use of specific language designed to make the actions of these despicable murderers more palatable.

Insurgents my ass.

Nazi Comparison Wearing Thin?

Due to overuse, the Bush/America = Hitler/Nazi Germany comparison seems to be losing its effectiveness. Desperately searching for another absurd way to compare Republicans to something evil, Jon Corzine unveiled this gem:

As a sign of how politically charged the issue has become, Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., a leading opponent of Bush's plan, told reporters Monday that Cheney had "a virtual career of disdain for Social Security" and compared his appearances to sending Saddam Hussein to campaign for democracy in Iraq.

I'm kind of surprised that Corzine used Hussein. He's not that evil in the eyes of your average leftie. After all, leftists have spent most of the last few years defending Hussein; saying he wasn't a threat, ignoring is mass murdering tendencies, his ties to terrorists, etc. And, considering the incredible amount of hate the left directs towards this administration, a comparison to Hussein is actually an improvement. Maybe leftists are warming up to them?

Unfortunately, making inane comparisons to your political opponents isn't a game the supporters of this administration can play. It simply won't work. Don't believe me? Just try and compare a leftie to Castro. They are more likely to say thank you than take offense. Stalin? In the world of a leftie, maybe Stalin went a little overboard by killing 20 million people, but the goal of communism was noble. And so forth.

See what I mean?

VDH Explains Bush Policy

In a recent article, Victor Davis Hanson explained why democracy is the new realist foreign policy. But first, he takes a shot at those who oppose spreading democracy:

The foreign policy Realists want nothing to do with George Bush's idealism. They rely exclusively on deterrence and balance of power to adjudicate relations abroad: We must deal with the world as it is, they say, rather than as we think it should be. Isolationists likewise bristle at the idea of expending blood or treasure in an open-ended commitment to spread our values. And don't expect liberals to applaud the new idealism, as if their 1960s vision of an ethical foreign policy has at last arrived. The Left's attachment to "multiculturalism" long ago ended the idea that the U.S. had any right to place Western ideas of politics over indigenous practices. Other "progressives" are de facto pacifists; for them, any use of U.S. force is a betrayal of global diplomacy.

So true. This is why few trust the left on foreign policy matters. They just aren't serious.

But here he explains what is obvious to pretty much everyone who isn't a liberal:

And while promoting democracy is idealistic, it does not necessarily follow that it is naive. What, after all, prevents wars? Hardly the U.N.; and not just aircraft carriers either. The last half-century of peace in Europe and Japan, and the end of our old enmity of Russia, attest that the widest spread of democratic rule is the best guarantee against international aggression. Ballots substitute for bullets in venting internal frustrations.

And in today's Middle East, our new insistence on democracy is not our first but rather our last resort. We have already tried averting our eyes, subsidies, passive-aggressive lectures, outright hostility, everything but principled and consistent promotion of constitutional government. Despite varying degrees of American appeasement, monarchy, Baathism, Nasserism, pan-Arabism, and Islamic fundamentalism have all turned out to have intolerable spillover effects on the U.S. In contrast, the Muslims of democratic Indonesia, India, and Turkey do not threaten us.

Far from being impractical, naive, or dangerous, explaining to the world that America will from now on always encourage democratic rule is sober and in our own vital interest. With patience and persistence, it will turn out to be both the right and the smart thing to do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bad Day For The Terrorists

Chrenkoff has a post up about a terrorist attack- sorry, I mean insurgent attack- on coalition forces that went horribly wrong, for the insurgents. He has six links in his post that I'm too lazy to add myself. Check his story for links.

Two days ago I wrote about a story from Agence France-Presse which breathlessly proclaimed "45 people killed in insurgent attacks" only to explain later that 29 out of those 45 people were insurgents themselves.

A major component of that casualty tally was an ambush that went badly wrong for the insurgents, seven miles southeast of Baghdad. Here's the story of how three squads of the Kentucky-based 617th Military Police Company killed 27 insurgents (three more than the original reports indicated) while suffering three Guards wounded. Says Sgt. 1st Class Marshall Ware, platoon sergeant for the squads involved: "From Day 1, there was an emphasis on training. We trained and trained and trained... The Guard is not the same Guard it was two years ago. They're as good as any active duty unit." Hence, Exhibit 1.

Here's also the ABC news story of the ambush.

As it usually happens, the ambush was video-taped by one of the insurgents. Our special correspondent Dan Foty reports that ABC played more or less the whole tape, which ends with the cameraman being himself shot, chanting "Allah u Akbar" a few times and toppling to the ground.

Here's the CBS news segment which contains some - but not all - of that footage. In fact, towards the end I can hear the invocation of Allah, but the last few moments aren't shown.

Update: Reader Patrick Chester asks: "Would this count as a 'deliberately-targeted' journalist?"

Eason Jordan, you are now vindicated.

Snicker. I have another question. Will Al Jazeera show this video? After all, Al Jazeera has shown practically every other terrorist video of which they have gained possession. Why not this one? I'm sure the Pentagon will make it available.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Larry Summers

The National Review Online has an interesting article up on the background of some of the more strident Lawrence Sommers critics.

The Harvard faculty of arts and science just last week passed a motion expressing a lack of confidence in the leadership of President Lawrence Summers. Such censure is unprecedented in Harvard's near 400-year-history. Summers unwittingly stepped on the third rail of university politics when he speculated that innate differences between the sexes might be one reason there are fewer women than men at the highest echelons of math and science. To understand the hornets' nest Summers has stirred up, one needs to have a close look at the main hornets.

Be sure to read the whole article, it's interesting.

Before I start, let me say this. I fully believe in the equality between men and women, as well as between the various races. I also believe socialization accounts for a good chunk of the differences we see between the various groups. That said, I have a couple of thoughts on this topic.

1. Men and women are equal, not identical. There is a difference.

2. There is a large body of research that suggests that men's and women's brains work differently. No serious inquiry into the topic of differences in achievement in math and sciences can exclude this angle and still be intellectually honest.

3. Liberalism is showing itself to be a very weak ideology if it cannot withstand even a modicum of scrutiny of one of its core beliefs.

4. This is tangentially related, but interesting nonetheless. There is much more coverage of Summers’ "offensive" off the record remarks than of Eason Jordan's "offensive" off the record remarks. Looks to me as if questioning liberalism invites a vicious backlash with lots of media coverage while questioning whether the military is committing war crimes by murdering journalists is largely met with silent approval by the same people. Hmmm. And then the media wonders why people are convinced of liberal media bias.

VDH & Nazi References

Victor Davis Hanson does a nice job of deconstructing one of the favorite phrases of the knee jerk, drooling simpleton antiwar crowd; and that is the Bush/America is Hitler/Nazi Germany reference. No, that does not include everyone who was against the war. There were some good arguments against the war and many reasonable people made them. This just refers to those who believe that by mindlessly repeating this idiotic phrase as often as possible they are making an important point. But, by virtue of writing an essay like this, it shows that VDH believes- correctly, in my opinion- that this mindset has infected a significant portion of the left and needs to be addressed. Here are some highlights:

Immediately after September 11, Ward Churchill compared the victims in the Twin Tower to “little Eichmanns.” Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) more recently likened President George W. Bush’s political methodology to what transpired in Nazi Germany. Earlier during the run-up to the Iraqi war, German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin smeared Bush with a similar Hitlerian analogy.

In fact, what do Linda Ronstadt, Harold Pinter, Scott Ritter, Ted Rall, and George Soros all have in common? The same thing that unites Fidel Castro, the European street, the Iranians, and North Koreans: an evocation of some aspects of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany to deprecate President Bush in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...

So what gives with this crazy popular analogy — one that on a typical Internet Google search of “Bush” + “Hitler” yields about 1,350,000 matches?

One explanation is simply the ignorance of the icons of our popular culture. A Linda Ronstadt, Garrison Keillor, or Harold Pinter knows nothing much of the encompassing evil of Hitler’s regime, its execution of the mentally ill and disabled, the systematic cleansing of the non-Aryans from Europe, or mass executions and starvation of Soviet prisoners. Like Prince Harry parading around in his ridiculous Nazi costume, quarter-educated celebrities who have some talent for song or verse know only that name-dropping “Hitler” or his associates gets them some shock value that their pedestrian rants otherwise would not warrant...

On occasion, those who are tainted, sometimes unfairly, with past charges of rightist extremism, find some psychic release in calling an American democratic president or his conduct Nazi-like. Thus, a German politician, who de facto unfortunately operates under the suspicions of the post-Nazi world, gains the moral high ground and moral fides by gratuitously deflecting attention to an American — not as the descendant of the liberators of the Europe, but as the true inheritor of the German Hitlerian mantel.

George Soros can nearly destroy the Bank of England in his hyper-capitalist financial speculations but somehow find spiritual cover among the leftists of, which he subsidized and which ran ads comparing the president to Hitler. Sen. Byrd, who suffers from the odium of an early membership with the racist Ku Klux Klan, perhaps finds it ameliorative to associate others with the tactics of the 20th century’s premier racist.

Entire continents can play this game. If Europe is awash in anti-Semitism, then one mechanism to either ignore or excuse it is to allege that the United States — the one country that is the most hospitable to Jews — is governed by a Hitler-like killer. Americans, who freed Europe from the Nazis, are supposed to recoil from such slander rather than cry shame on its promulgators, whose grandfathers either capitulated to the Nazis or collaborated — or were Nazis themselves.

If the sick analogy to Hitler is intended to conjure up a mass murderer, then the 20th century’s two greatest killers, Mao and Stalin, who slaughtered or starved somewhere around 80 million between them, are less regularly evoked. Perhaps that omission is because so many of the mass demonstrators, who bore placards of Bush’s portrait defaced with Hitler’s moustache, are overtly leftist and so often excuse extremist violence — whether in present-day Cuba or Zimbabwe — if it is decorated with the rhetoric of radical enforced equality...

Whenever I hear someone make a reference like this, I automatically tune them out. I don't care what your credentials are, if you say something this stupid and mean it, I know that you have nothing serious to say about politics, national security or foreign policy and don't merit my attention.

Monday, March 21, 2005

UN Whistleblower

Here's one that will be ignored by lefty UN-philes. A UN worker attempted to blow the whistle on the Oil For Food fraud and the UN was, shall we say, less than receptive.

Mullick told the subcommittee that he repeatedly alerted U.N. officials of problems he observed but was rebuffed.

"Each suggestion resulted in my supervisors reducing my job responsibilities," Mullick said. "This continued to occur until my only job was to run the slide projector at staff meetings."

Mullick said he eventually submitted a 10-page report to U.N. headquarters in 2002 reporting that 22 percent of supplies imported under the program never reached Iraq's 27 million people.

"I heard nothing," Mullick said. "Finally I was contacted and told my contract was not being renewed."

Where's the outrage? Isn't the left big on workers rights? Don't they demand investigations of allegations of retribution against whistleblowers, like they did for Joe Wilson? Why, one might think that the left is being intellectually dishonest or, worse yet, hypocritical by appearing to only care about pursuing these issues if they are caused by their sworn enemy- Bush- as opposed their favorite organization, the UN? Perish the thought.

(Thanks, Captains Quarters)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Democrats Need To Re-Brand?

Here is an interesting article in the New Yorker. The title tells you all you need to know.

Can the Democrats make themselves look tough?

And a later paragraph reinforces this view.

Kerry considers himself to be a national-security-oriented Democrat—Holbrooke, too, puts him in that camp—and appeared to take no particular offense at Biden’s criticisms. “I’m not going to dissect the campaign,” he said. But he seemed displeased when I asked whether the Democrats had a credibility problem on defense issues, and he finally said, “Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding.” By this he meant that the Democrats had to do a better job of selling to the American people what he believes is already true—that the Democrats are every bit as serious on the issue as Republicans. “We have to brand more effectively. It’s marketing.”

It's not branding, guys. A large portion of the Democratic party is hostile to the military and a strong American presence in the world. And until that mindset changes few will trust the party on national security matters. But maybe Holbrooke realizes that already:

Richard Holbrooke suggests that the Republicans have boxed in the Democrats, by stealing their ideas. “The Republicans, who always favored bigger defense budgets—we were the soft-power people, the freedom-and-democracy people—now seek to own both the defense side and the values side of the debate,” Holbrooke said. He believes that if the Iraq war actually does bring about the hoped-for results it might help the Democrats. “We’d be better off as a country and better off as a party if Iraq is a success and we get it behind us. The Democrats can then talk about their traditional strengths, domestically and internationally.”

Mind you, this is one of the "tough guys" of the party talking.

Hoping the grown ups will solve the major problems so you won't have to address them is pathetic. Unless and until the Democrats go back to their roots and become strong on national security, they will lose elections. And deservedly so.

Swiftvet Interview

Paul O'Neil, the most recognizable figure from the SwiftVets, recently gave an interview to The American Enterprise Online. Here's a key passage:

TAE: At the Swift Boat veterans' May 4 press conference you had an open letter calling Kerry unfit to be Commander in Chief. It was signed by virtually all of John Kerry's commanders in Vietnam. Yet the story fell flat. The media ignored it. How did your group react to the media blackout?

O'NEILL: We were shocked. We couldn't believe it. I haven't been involved in politics or media relations, and I thought the job of the media was primarily to report the facts. It was obvious to me that many hundreds of his former comrades coming forward to say that he lied about his record in Vietnam and that he was unfit to be President would be important information for Americans. I only then became aware of the bias of the media.

TAE: How do you explain the media's response?

O'NEILL: The establishment media was very pro-Kerry. They were opposed to any story that was critical of Kerry, and I believe that they were captured by their own bias. We met with one reporter around that time. We told a story to him relating to Kerry's service. He acknowledged it was true and terribly important. And he told us he would not print it because it would help George Bush. That's when we began to realize we had a real problem on our hands.

Why am I not surprised?

(Thanks, Polipundit)

George Will's Take On Filibustering Judges

George Will brings up some interesting points about the "nuclear option" for ending judicial filibusters:

The future will bring Democratic presidents and Senate majorities. How would you react were such a majority about to change Senate rules to prevent you from filibustering to block a nominee likely to construe the equal protection clause as creating a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?

And pruning the filibuster in the name of majority rule would sharpen a scythe that one day will be used to prune it further. If filibusters of judicial nominations are impermissible, why not those of all nominations -- and of treaties, too? Have conservatives forgotten how intensely they once opposed some treaties pertaining to arms control and to the Panama Canal?

Exempting judicial nominations from filibusters will enlarge presidential power. There has been much enlargement related to national security -- presidential war-making power is now unfettered, Congress' responsibility to declare war having become a nullity. Are conservatives, who once had a healthy wariness of presidential power, sure they want to further expand that power in domestic affairs?

The Senate's institutional paralysis over judicial confirmations is a political problem for which there is a political solution: 60 Republican senators. The president believes that Democratic obstruction of judicial nominees contributed to Republican gains in 2002 and 2004. In 2006, 17 of the Democrats' seats and that of Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, their collaborator, are up, five of them in states the president carried in 2004.

It has been 98 years since Republicans have had 60 senators. But in the last 50 years, there were more than 60 Democratic senators after seven elections: 1958 (64), 1960 (64), 1962 (67), 1964 (68), 1966 (64), 1974 (61), 1976 (62). Republicans might reach 60 if the president devoted as much energy to denouncing obstruction of judicial nominations as he is devoting to explaining Social Security's problems. Solving those problems is important, but not as important as achieving a judiciary respectful of the Constitution.

No Democratic filibuster can stop the 2006 elections. Those elections, however, might stop the Democrats' filibusters.

I am leery that Democrats might try to change filibuster rules for their agenda in the future, the same way they broke precedent and forever politicized judicial nominations by their opposition to Bork. At the time, I wasn't fond of the Bork nomination either. But I also thought the opposition to Bork was ridiculous, dangerous and full of unforeseen consequences. Now look where we are. The same potential exists for changing the filibuster.

That said, I don't agree with George Will that the best solution is to try to win a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. First, I think it's unlikely that the Republicans will get sixty seats next time. Second, the Democrats aren't cooperating on anything anyway. I'm not sure how much more obstructionist they can be. It's a point of pride to the party to be against anything Bush is for. Third, I don't like the idea of two years of nonstop posturing just for the sake of trying to blame the opposition for a lack of accomplishments during the last congressional session. If the Democrats are going to mindlessly oppose every single Republican idea, which they are intent on doing, the Senate may as well accomplish what it can, which is staffing the judiciary.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Airbus Planes Need Work

This is not getting enough attention:

At 35 000 feet above the Caribbean, Air Transat flight 961 was heading home to Quebec with 270 passengers and crew. At 3.45pm last Sunday, the pilot noticed something very unusual. His Airbus A310's rudder -- a structure over 8m high -- had fallen off and tumbled into the sea. In the world of aviation, the shock waves have yet to subside....

He and his colleagues also believe that what happened may shed new light on a previous disaster. In November 2001, 265 people died when American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus A300 model which is almost identical to the A310, crashed shortly after take-off from JFK airport in New York. According to the official report into the crash, the immediate cause was the loss of the plane's rudder and tailfin, though this was blamed on an error by the pilots....

The separation of the rudder may have further implications for the cause of the 587 crash. In its report, the NTSB said the tail and rudder failed because they were subjected to stresses "beyond ultimate load", imposed because the co-pilot, Sten Molin, overreacted to minor turbulence and made five violent side-to-side "rudder reversals". The report said the design of the A300 controls was flawed because it allowed this to happen.

However, the NTSB investigation has been criticised by many insiders. Ellen Connors, the NTSB chair, told reporters last January that the report was delayed because of "inappropriate" and "intense" lobbying by Airbus over its contents, adding: "The potential for contaminating the investigation exists." In America, the NTSB staff is small and manufacturers provide many of the staff employed on air-crash investigations into their own products.

Airbus planes falling apart in mid-flight strikes me as a bad thing. One would think this would generate a bit of media attention.

(Instapundit, again)

Supermajority Vote For Judges?

From Radioblogger, I found another example of the Democratic strategy, wonderfully articulated by Barbara Boxer.

Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so? It's the only check and balance on these people. They're in for life. They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary.

Again you see the Democrats have neither the interest in re-assessing their ideas and beliefs nor the desire to convince the citizens of our country that their current ideas are sound. Instead they want to encode their ideas into law via judicial fiat, which is endangered by the Republican control of the Presidency and Senate. That's why you see the Democrats filibustering judges and their hysterics with regard to potential Republican tactics to counter it. The "nuclear option" is really nothing more than an attempt to move the process back in line with historical precedent and with what the founding fathers originally intended. But with this last pillar of power removed, the Democrats will eventually have to rejoin the political process and implement their vision the old fashioned way, by winning elections. And when the Democrats finally face up to reality, it will be a much healthier process and the entire country will benefit.

By the way, the far left seems infatuated by Barbara Boxer. Please, please, please nominate her for the Presidency in '08. As a registered Democrat, I hereby promise right now to vote for her in the primary. Nominating a nutjob like Boxer will result in an electoral defeat on a biblical scale for the Democrats. It will only hasten the meltdown the party needs to have before it can be reborn. Sort of like the phoenix rising from its own ashes.

(Thanks, Instapundit)

EU Arms Sales To China

Spiegel online has a good article on the EU's eagerness to sell arms to China. Here's the key paragraph:

"For Europe, there aren't many strategic issues," Wezeman says. "The United States is the biggest challenger to China's desire to become a regional superpower, but I don't think the Europeans really care if China becomes one." Still, he says, sales of European military equipment to China are helping it get closer to something it couldn't do in the past -- and that is the ability to invade Taiwan.

Once again our moral superiors are being reckless with weapons technology. Europe has done this repeatedly. For example, it was instrumental in helping AQ Kahn develop a nuke, and helped Saddam with his WMD programs. But please, keep in mind that Americans are the bad guys. Oh, how I love to be lectured by Europeans.

Can we assign blame for this ridiculous situation? Yes we can. It's America's fault, which, ironically, is music to the ears of every leftist worldwide that likes to blame the world's ills on us. But in this case, it happens to be true. The reason Europe feels free to spread weapons technology is because it has virtually no global responsibilities. Europe believes, correctly, that when the sh*t hits the fan, the US will either be the one in the crosshairs or the one to clean up the mess Europe created, like what America is now doing in the Middle East. And this situation developed because the US has subsidized Europe's defense for the last 60 years. The resulting European weakness has forced the US to be the world's policemen because no other country would or could do the job. Again, this is our own fault. Europe would be much more concerned with issues like spreading weapons technology if it were their blood and treasure on the line to clean up any potential messes.

There is only one way to correct this situation. Turn Europe loose. Rescind the security guarantee. Force Europe to deal with reality. Forcing Europe to live in the real world will do wonders for them, and us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Attitudes Changing In Middle East?

Great article at Watching America where author Fathi Hamed tries to educate the Middle Eastern public:

The classification of America as an imperialist state is a mistake. Its own view of European colonization as a mistake shows that America is not England or France.

This error arose because America began its role as an international power as European colonization receded. It was the speed of this transition that blurred the differences and that has caused confusion in the mind's of America critics. This is why Arabs have failed to differentiate between the Americans and Europeans.

This is another sign that attitudes are changing in the Middle East. And its nice to see the blame for the mess in the Middle East finally being put where it belongs, in Europe's lap. They are the ones who colonized the region, not the US. They are the ones who artificially cut the region up into states and installed monarchies, not the US. Unfortunately the Cold War forced us to make deals with or otherwise tolerate dictators in the region, but at least America- well, 52% of it anyway- is now promoting democracy in the region while Europe squawks in the background and roots for our failure.

Here's a short video interview with a Kuwaiti ex-minister.

It's instructive that these gentlemen lack the "Blame America First" mentality that infests most of the Democrats these days.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Very Generous French Contribution To Iraq

Even the LA Times editorial page, which is generally not friendly to anyone to the right of Trotsky, finds the French contribution to Iraq pathetic:

President Jacques Chirac said to NATO leaders in late February that "France wants to contribute to stability" in Iraq. The contribution? Some $660,000 to a NATO fund for military and police training in Iraq and one French mid-level officer who's being assigned to the training mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Not 1,000 officers. Not 100. Just one.

So why did France contribute just one soldier and a few thousand bucks? A couple of thoughts come to mind.

They want to really make the point that they are assholes.

Have you ever been in a restaurant and been very dissatisfied with the service and want to reflect your dissatisfaction in the tip? So which is worse, leaving no tip or leaving a tip of one penny? I would argue that leaving a one penny tip is worse because its clear that you have thought about the tip amount and feel that one penny is appropriate. With no tip, the server could try to rationalize it that somehow the customer forgot. With one penny, the contempt is clear. The same thing applies here.

One soldier and $660,000 is all its military and economy can spare.

With GDP growth of 0.5%, 10% unemployment and a complete and utter joke of a military, maybe this is genuinely all the French can afford. If that's the case, I want to extend my intellectual and moral superiors a hearty thank you.

Maybe they want to marginally get on the right side of history.

If things turn out well in Iraq, France will want its share of the credit. The actual contribution of one soldier and $660,000 won't matter. All that matters is that France did something. 50 years from now I'm sure its contribution will have grown to 30 divisions and $100 billion in French history books. Sort of like the French resistance in WWII growing to mythic proportions today.


Things that make you go "hmmm":

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Is This The New Lefty Cause?

Liberal Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) is promoting what could be the new leftist chant:

US must stop 'outsourcing' torture

My guess is that the "US must" part will be dropped as it is a bit cumbersome. "Stop outsourcing torture" is short and has a nice rhythm to it. It also has the advantage of issuing a blanket condemnation of the US while easily fitting on protest signs, and being simplistic enough to be understood by your average campus radical. It's sort of like "No Blood For Oil" or "Not In My Name" in that regard.

Anyway, what's this all about?

AN UNMARKED PLANE arrives in the middle of the night carrying men who aren't wearing uniforms but have on black hoods. The men grab prisoners out of the hands of government officials, cut off their clothes, drug them on the spot, shackle them, force the prisoners onto the plane and take off into the night. When the ''torture" plane disappears, no one knows where and when the captives will appear and what will happen to them: electrocution, beatings, sexual abuse?

Oohh. Sounds ominous. It's the "torture plane". Let's continue.

At first guess, you might imagine that this terrible operation is the work of a drug cartel or a rogue member of the ''axis of evil," but the scene described involves US officials in a routine part of the Bush administration's practice of ''outsourcing torture."

There's that phrase again. What is "outsourcing torture"?

Recently, light has been shed on these dark practices, challenging us to reaffirm the principles on which our country was founded: justice, liberty, and the rule of law. The practice of sending prisoners into the hands of known human rights violators mocks the core values that define who we are and threatens our own soldiers who risk their lives in combat and could face terrible consequences as prisoners of war.

What he doesn't tell you is that these prisoners are usually sent to their home countries. It just so happens that most terrorists are from Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. that happen to be friendly to the US and dislike Islamist fascists as much as we do. Instead the Congressman will highlight an exception rather than the rule.

This extraordinary rendition first gained national attention in September 2002, when Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was seized by the US government while on US soil, but then was whisked away to Jordan and later Syria at the request of the CIA.

It may have been highlighted then, but the practice was started under Clinton. Here's the Opinion Journal with a quote from Sandy Berger:

It happens that in the spring of 1996, the government of Sudan offered to deliver Osama bin Laden (then living in Khartoum) into U.S. custody. The Clinton Administration was aware of the threat bin Laden posed, but it worried it didn't yet have sufficient information to indict him on terrorism charges in court. Instead, the U.S. sought to have the Saudis take bin Laden and behead him.

"In the United States, we have this thing called the Constitution, so to bring him here is to bring him into the justice system," Mr. Berger told the Washington Post in October 2001. "I don't think that was our first choice. Our first choice was to send him someplace where justice is more 'streamlined.' " In the event, the Saudis were in no mood to take bin Laden, Mr. Berger did not press the matter, and bin Laden left for Afghanistan on a chartered plane.

In other words, the Clinton Administration used the rendering practice with the avowed expectation that suspects would be tortured, or worse. The Bush Administration says it uses it only on condition of humane treatment and assigns personnel to "monitor compliance." If this is a torture scandal, it didn't start on September 12, 2001.

Don't expect to hear this from the left. No criticism is allowed of the patron saint of the party. Let's continue:

In 2002, then-CIA director George Tenet testified to the 9/11 Commission that over 70 people had been subjected to renditions prior to Sept. 11, 2001. CIA operatives interviewed by The New Yorker magazine stated that the once limited practice of rendition has mushroomed into a worldwide operation of detaining and transferring prisoners outside of any legal structure. One former government official said that over 150 renditions have been conducted since 9/11.

Is that all? 150? I would have expected, and hoped for, a multiple of this. We haven't caught as many terrorists as I would have thought.

Last spring, photographs of abuse conducted by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world.

No. What was shocking was the hysterical overreaction to naked prisoner piles and men forced to wear panties on their head. All of which was done in the hopes of damaging America and/or this administration. I just can't get worked up over humiliating terrorists.

If we believe these detainees are terrorists who have intelligence information vital to protecting our country, we should hold and question them ourselves.

Okay, this is the line that just sends me up the wall. How are we supposed to do this? Where has this guy been? The hysterically screeching left and their media allies have done their level best to hinder the war on terror at every freaking turn. If we capture a terrorist, we can't take them to Guantanamo because some ACLU lawyer or its equivalent will be filing a lawsuit within a nanosecond to get him access to an American court room with its standards of evidence. As if a terrorist caught in a cave in Afghanistan will have wiretaps or videotape evidence against them.

And wherever we hold them, any coercive interrogation techniques will be labeled "torture" regardless of what is actually done to the terrorist. The resulting media feeding frenzy and pressure on the government makes it impossible to actually interrogate these people ourselves. Because, as the Opinion Journal points out:

Keep in mind that al Qaeda detainees enter U.S. custody trained to deal with U.S. interrogators, and well aware of our legal limitations. U.S. forces have found al Qaeda training manuals that explain in detail what they can expect. This removes the most powerful tool any interrogator can have in dealing with detainees, which is the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. The prospect of rendition creates that uncertainty...

...there would be no need to render suspects in the first place if American interrogators were not already, and increasingly, constrained.

Constrained? We couldn't even try to capture these people during the Clinton administration without jumping through some ridiculous hoops. Read this:

Scheuer recalled that on one occasion, when a plan had been put together to capture bin Laden, U.S. lawyers demanded that an ergonomic chair -- with oxygen and medical supplies -- be built for him so he would be comfortable. They also reviewed the type of tape that would be used to gag the al-Qaida leader.

An ergonomic chair? The possibility of catching Bin Laden was held up because some lefty lawyers demanded he have an ergonomic chair? Are you freaking kidding me?

So let's sum up. If we capture terrorists, we can't bring them to US territory because the ACLU or its equivalent will spare no resource in trying to free them. Wherever we do hold them, the far left and their media allies will create a feeding frenzy and make it impossible to interrogate them. And we are expected to release them to the custody of their home countries, but only if it is a country like Britain or Australia, where the terrorist is unlikely to face a strong interrogation. If we send them to a country like Egypt or Jordan, the howling begins again, even if it's the terrorists' home country. How we are supposed to get information from the terrorists the left never says. Nor do I think they care. The left acts as if the US is a greater danger than Osama Bin Laden.

In the war on terror, the left has offered only obstacles, not solutions. And then they wonder why no one takes them seriously on national security or foreign policy issues.

Cut Europe Loose

Excellent comments at New Sisyphus regarding the Italian Journalist nonsense:

You would think that the number of Americans buried in Europe and Africa killed by Italian Fascists would lead the average Italian to approach the accidental death of an Italian patriot by American forces with some caution. But the time has long since passed since we Americans expect tact, grace or thoughtfulness from Europeans, even those who are our nominal allies.

We had thought to refrain from commenting on the Abu-Ghraib-du-jour that is the Guiliana Sgrena story. When we saw the item come across the wire our instincts told us that it would be the lead story in the European press in about 3 nano-seconds, and, further, that it would be the focus of that press for days. We guess we can take some cold comfort in knowing our instincts are still working properly.

But the recent absurd heights to which the story has risen has forced our hand. Really, we're not sure which is funnier: that an Italian Communist would think that she is significant enough to warrant our attention, let alone an assassination order, or the spectacle of a full state funeral for a fallen state security officer.

We mean no disrespect to the dead, but, somehow, we get the feeling the poor man's funeral would have been a bit less grand had he merely been beheaded by the usual suspects.

The incident shows the depths of the pathology that is Western anti-Americanism and offers, yet again, another cautionary and exemplary tale for Americans: until and unless we begin to decline to act as the world's superpower, the world's economic engine, the world's policeman, the world's lender of last resort in all instances, the Western pathology will grow. Like the over-spoiled adolescents of Orange County we grew up with, the nations of Europe and the wider West will continue with infantile temper tantrums and faux-rebellious posing, in one long hissy fit against "Daddy," putting at risk all that is of value in our Western Civilization.

The last paragraph is key. I've been arguing this for a while. Our welfare for the world, like any entitlement program, saps initiative and fosters dependency and resentment. The single best thing we could do for the world, and ourselves, is to cut Europe loose. We start by making it clear that Europe no longer enjoys a security guarantee from the US. Then the continent can either sink or swim on its own. In the end, either the US gains an actual ally, or loses a dead weight that slows us down. Either way America benefits.

UN Peacekeepers Vs. Abu Ghraib

It's been almost three weeks since I compared the amount of attention generated by the rapes of Congolese women by UN peacekeepers versus the naked prisoner piles at Abu Ghraib via a Google search. As you may remember, it is my contention that the world does not care about abuse and torture unless it is somehow caused by Americans. Please read the original post for caveats. With that, let's get an update.

Iraq Prison Abuse = 1,150,000 hits. +120,000 more hits than on Feb. 21
America Prison Abuse Iraq = 989,000 hits. +53,000
America Soldier Prison Abuse = 424,000. +1,000
Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse = 392,000. +4,000

Now, let's compare that to...

UN Peacekeeper Congo Rape = 71,100. +7,200
UN Peacekeeper Sex Scandal = 42,300. +4,600
UN Peacekeeper Rape = 10,700. +4,490.

Hmmm. Let's just say I'm less than impressed by media fairness so far. But there's still time to prove me wrong. I'll update this again in a few weeks.

Liberal Road Rage

Right Intention reader Misti passed on a story about liberal road rage:

This week, though, a Tampa woman learned that simple Bush-Cheney bumper sticker can bring trouble, if not danger, from a total stranger.

Police say Michelle Fernandez, 35, was chased for miles Tuesday by an irate 31-year-old Tampa man who cursed at her as he held up an anti-Bush sign and tried to run her off the road.

Gotta love yet another example of today's peaceful, diversity loving, respectful of different opinions liberal.

His sign, about the size of a business letter, read:

Never Forget Bush's Illegal Oil War Murdered Thousands in Iraq.

Hoo boy. Do these people ever have anything to say that didn't come from a Michael Moore / Democratic Underground talking points memo?

Police arrested Nathan Alan Winkler at his home on N Cleveland Street near Hyde Park within an hour of the incident.

After finding the antiwar sign in his car, they booked him into the county jail on one count of aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, Durkin said.

Good. Give 'em the max. Get a psycho off the street and force him to miss the next two elections. Maybe he will move to Canada when he gets out.

There's more. Go read it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More On The Italian Journalist

Here's a can't miss update to the Italian Journalist saga at Chrenkoff. He has pictures of the bullet ridden car as well as a translated article from a Dutch journalist who just happened to be sitting next to Sgrena on the flight she took to Baghdad just before getting kidnapped.

Two things. First, forget being shot with 300-400 bullets as she claims. If you can find ten bullet holes I'll be shocked. Second, this woman is an idiot on a monumental scale.

The Real Issue With The Italian Journalist Hostage Situation

Michelle Malkin tells it like it is about the Italian journalist:

International furor over Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian communist writer who claims American troops in Iraq may have deliberately shot at her car after she was released by kidnappers, misses the bigger scandal.

The scandal is not that an anti-war propagandist has accused the U.S. of targeting journalists. That's par for the course. (Yes, hello again, Eason Jordan.)

The scandal is not that mainstream media sympathizers are blaming our military and dredging up every last shooting accident along the treacherous routes to Baghdad Airport. Again, no surprise here.

The scandal is that Italy -- our reputed ally in the global War on Terror -- negotiated with Sgrena's Islamist kidnappers and may have forked over a massive ransom to cutthroats for Sgrena's release.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Murdering Journalists, Again

Here's yet another journalist with an exagerated sense of self importance who believes that the US Army so fears the mighty wordsmiths that it is rubbing them out:

...Now, just weeks later, the left-wing, anti-war Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena who was shot at and wounded by American forces in Iraq shortly after being released by her kidnappers, is echoing Jordan's assertion.

She claims US troops may have deliberately opened fire not only because of her anti-invasion, anti-occupation sentiments, but also because of the US administration's opposition to negotiating with "terrorists".

Further, she says, her captors warned her of America's malevolent intent, a statement she dismissed at the time as ideological nonsense.

Yeah, sure. Are we really to believe that this person, who detests all that America stands for, dismissed some (fictitious) warning that the devil Americans had some evil plan? Or maybe she's just trying to make herself look good? Nah.

Reporters Without Borders are also suspicious of the tragedy, referred to by Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini as simply "a macabre mockery of fate". It wants to see UN intervention.

The UN to the rescue! But make sure to lock up your underage daughters when the team comes to investigate.

"It is clear that this enquiry cannot be conducted just by the US army, which, in the past, especially in the case of the Palestine Hotel shooting that killed two journalists, produced reports aimed solely at exonerating the military," he added.

Evil, lying, bastard Americans!

It goes on from here, but the piece just gets more and more ridiculous. It's hard to take these people seriously.

(From Captain's Quarters)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Democrats Court The Felon Vote

More shenanigans from the left:

The Constitution grants states the authority to determine "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections," but Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are pushing a Count Every Vote Act that would, among other things, force states to allow voters to register at the polls and declaring Election Day a federal holiday. And then they want to force every state to let felons vote--even though the 14th Amendment specifically permits states to disfranchise citizens convicted of "participation in rebellion, or other crime."

Forty-eight states deny the vote to at least some felons; only Vermont and Maine let jailbirds vote. Thirty-three states withhold the right to vote from those on parole. Eight deny felons the vote for life, unless they petition to have their rights restored, and the Clinton-Kerry proposal would force them to enfranchise felons (or "ex-felons," as Mrs. Clinton misleadingly calls them) once they've completed parole.

Mrs. Clinton says she is pushing her bill because she is opposed to "disenfranchisement of legitimate American voters." But it's hard not to suspect partisan motives. In a 2003 study, sociologists Chistopher Uggen and Jeff Manza found that roughly 4.2 million had been disfranchised nationwide, a third of whom had completed their prison time or parole. Taking into account the lower voter turnout of felons, they concluded that about one-third of them would vote in presidential races, and that would have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates. Participation by felons, Messrs. Uggen and Manza estimated, also would have allowed Democrats to win a series of key U.S. Senate elections, thus allowing the party to control the Senate continuously from 1986 until at least this January.

Here's my take. The Democrats are once again showing they have little interest in either fundamentally reassessing their ideas or trying to convince the electorate their current ideas are sound. Instead they are trying to create another victim class voting block by superseding state law and simultaneously telling felons they are being "disenfranchised". Simply amazing.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Lebanon Protests In Pictures

Female Lebanese protestors are really pretty.

Can we foment a rebellion in Sweden next?

(Inspired by Jim Geraghty)

Thomas Friedman Column

I generally disagree with Thomas Friedman more than I agree with him. But today he nailed it:

For the life of me, I simply do not understand why President Bush is objecting to the European Union's selling arms to China, ending a 16-year embargo. I mean, what's the problem?

There is an obvious compromise that Mr. Bush could put on the table that would defuse this whole issue. Mr. Bush should simply say to France, Germany and their E.U. partners that America has absolutely no objection to Europeans' selling arms to China - on one condition: that they sell arms to themselves first. That's right, the U.S. should support the export to China of any defense system that the Europeans buy for their own armies first. Buy one, sell one.

But what the U.S. should not countenance is that at a time when the Europeans are spending peanuts on their own defense, making themselves into paper tigers and free riders on America for global policing, that they start exporting arms to a growing tiger - China...

But what really concerns me is Europe. Europe's armies were designed for static defense against the Soviet Union. But the primary security challenges to Europe today come from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. If you put all the E.U. armies together, they total around two million soldiers in uniform - almost the same size as the U.S. armed forces. But there is one huge difference - only about 5 percent of the European troops have the training, weaponry, logistical and intelligence support and airlift capability to fight a modern, hot war outside of Europe. (In the U.S. it is 70 percent in crucial units.)

The rest of the European troops - some of whom are unionized! - do not have the training or tools to fight alongside America in a hot war. They might be good for peacekeeping, but not for winning a war against a conventional foe. God save the Europeans if they ever felt the need to confront a nuclear-armed Iran. U.S. defense spending will be over $400 billion in 2005. I wish it could be less, but one reason it can't is that the United States of Europe is spending less than half of what we are. And the U.S. and E.U. really are the pillars of global stability.

The U.S. is building 180 C-17 long-range lift aircraft to transport troops and tanks anywhere in the world, and 112 C-5's, to replace the aging C-141's. The European NATO members have exactly four C-17's. They all belong to Britain and even those are leased from Boeing. The Europeans are so short of long-range lift aircraft that they basically have to depend on leased Russian and Ukrainian Antonov transports to get to the battlefield. George Robertson, the former NATO secretary general, used to ask them what they would do if a war broke out during the Christmas season, when most of the Antonovs are leased to toy companies shipping electronic games around the world. Ride, mister?...

If Europe wants to go pacifist, that's fine. But there is nothing worse than a pacifist that sells arms - especially in a way that increases the burden on its U.S. ally and protector.

An Interview With Dr. No

If the MSM spoke with one voice:

Dr. No, you have achieved superstar status in a very competitive field--negativity and pessimism. How have you achieved that, Doctor?

The way I see it, every silver lining contains a new cloud. You just have to look for it. Maybe you noticed that right after the Iraqi elections, when most people were euphoric, half the reporters in New York and Washington started waving around a 1967 news clipping, headlined "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote, Officials Cite 83 pct. Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror." It was all over the Internet, too. That was me. It was a twofer--deflating optimism and comparing Iraq to Vietnam, always a trump card in my profession. I also got Teddy Kennedy to demand an exit strategy right on the eve of the voting. When optimism threatens to break out, I usually look for Ted.

(Thanks, Powerline)

North Korea

I found an interesting op ed in the Washington Times on the North Korean situation. First the authors blame the entire situation on the Bush administration. Here's a sample:

The Bush neoconservatives have been convinced the only thing the North Korean leadership understands is power, pure and simple. They think negotiating with Pyongyang is not doable and trying to equals "appeasement" and "giving in to blackmail." The net result is the continuing nuclear crisis facing the major actors in Northeast Asia.

North Korea has no culpability whatsoever. At least if the authors believe so, they don't mention one word to that effect.

Another theme in the op ed is that the any legitimate opinion on the situation does not belong to the US.

It should be easy to accept the proposition that South Koreans understand North Koreans better than Americans do. Not so for the Bush administration which, almost four years ago, rejected the "Sunshine" policy of South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung and has not supported the "Peace and Prosperity" policy of the current President Roh Moo-hyun, aimed at reconciliation and eventual unification with the North.

The authors then go on to say:

The optimum Six-Party Talks strategy is to follow South Korea's lead, which seeks reconciliation and eventual Korean unification. This is not appeasement or surrender to blackmail.

Okay, sounds promising. Let's see their ideas.

1. Declare the U.S. has no hostile intent toward North Korea and is ready to co-exist peacefully with its present government.
2.Remove North Korea from the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist states. North Korea has not been involved in an act of terror since 1987.
3.Declare the U.S. ready to normalize relations, end economic sanctions, and help Pyongyang obtain World Bank and Asian Development Ban loans, despite its past loan defaults.
4.State the U.S. will work toward a regional nonaggression arrangement with North Korea, as well as establishment of a broad regional Northeast Asia security organization.
5.Commit the U.S. to work with Six-Party members and international organizations to help North Korea develop peaceful energy and agricultural capabilities.

Nope. No appeasement there.

What's expected of North Korea?

1. Return to the Six-Party Talks.
2. Disavow and dismantle nuclear weapons programs.
3. Rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, readmit International Atomic Energy Agency specialists and discuss special inspections by Six-Party teams.
4. Declare the intention to maintain normal relations with all members of the Six-Party Talks.
5. Release American, Korean and Japanese abductees.

Well, at least the authors put dismantling the programs in there. But discuss special inspections? That shouldn't be a discussion; that should be non-negotiable. No discussion of human rights for North Korean citizens? No discussion of penalties when- not if, when- North Korea violates the agreements? In other words, its the tried and true formula of the US being expected to deliver a bunch of things for the hope that our enemies keep their end of the bargain. We've been down this road before.

So here you see a rather textbook example of why its difficult to take the left seriously in matters involving national security and foreign policy. The template is as follows

1. The US is always wrong.
2. Everyone else is always right.
3. Appease the enemy, don't confront them.
4. The US is expected to make most of the concessions.
5. There are no penalties when the other side doesn't live up to its obligations.
6. When the situation deteriorates in the future, repeat steps 1-5.


I'm no expert, but I would have thought we were doing this already.

The Bush administration has adopted a new counterintelligence strategy that calls for "attacking" foreign spy services and the spy components of terrorist groups before they can strike, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday.

National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave said in a speech here that the past policy of waiting for intelligence threats to emerge "ceded the initiative to the adversary."

"No longer will we wait until taking action," Miss Van Cleave said during a conference hosted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. "To meet the threat, U.S. counterintelligence needs to go on the offensive, which will require major but achievable changes in the way we do business."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

US troops killing journalists?

I just saw Richard Engel, NBC correspondent in Iraq, relate the following story to Tim Russert on his show. I'll retell it as best as I can.

Engel was traveling with a US unit in a Striker vehicle near Mosul recently when a car full of Iraqi troops was fired upon and burst into flames. The US soldiers immediately went to try and pull wounded Iraqi soldiers from the vehicle. Engel went with them, bringing a blanket impregnated with a special fire-retardant foam. As they were rescuing the wounded Iraqi soldiers, the ammunition stored inside the Iraqi vehicle began exploding, and simultaneously, another group began firing on them. Engel and the US soldiers were now outside their vehicle, on open, unprotected terrain, completely exposed to the incoming fire. As soon as the firefight started, a US soldier came over to Engel and purposely stood between him and the incoming fire, while firing on the enemy. He didn't drop to the ground to make a lower profile or hightail it back to the vehicle. He stood his ground in front of a reporter. According to Engel, the soldiers and units that he travels with routinely behave like this.

Hey Eason, are you listening? Are these the same guys targeting journalists? And this isn't FOX telling the tale, it's NBC.

Liberal Media & The Intifada

Powerline finds a Clifford May article on the killing of Mohammed al-Durra, a 12 year old Palestinian boy.

The image is as disturbing and iconic as any seen during the many decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Mohammed al-Durra, just 12 years old, caught in a cross-fire in Gaza, trembling against a wall, his father desperately attempting to shield him. And then, heartbreakingly, Mohammed al-Durra, shot and killed by Israeli gunfire.

His death, in September 2000, inspired poems -- and suicide bombings. According to the 2001 Mitchell report it was one of the events that set off the intifada.

A poster of Mohammed al-Durra is in the background of the video of the butchering of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Osama bin Laden used the boy's image in recruitment tapes and began a list of indictments against America by saying that President Bush “must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Durra and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq.”

But there is something most people don't know about this story: It didn't happen the way I described it above. It may not have happened at all.

Clifford May then goes on to describe how it is highly likely that this event was staged, as several investigations into the incident conclude. Here's some more info on the reporter:

The France 2 reporter on the story, Charles Enderlin, was not at the scene. The information for his voiceover came exclusively from Rahma.

At this point, at least, Enderlin does not claim to be sure of his facts. Instead, he says that his assertion that Israelis killed al-Durra “corresponded to the reality of the situation, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank.”

Powerline puts it better than I can:

Did French state-owned television stage an event that helped trigger the intifada, including suicide bombings undertaken in the name of avenging al-Durra? We don't know. Did French state-owned television falsely blame Israel for the death (or non-death) of al-Durra based on the uncorroborated word of a Palestinian and the prejudices of its own reporter? The answer seems clearly to be yes.

I'm getting a feeling of deja vu here: the French report "corresponded to the reality of the situation not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank." In other words, it was "fake, but accurate." How many other mainstream media outlets are there that view this as the appropriate standard for judging evidence?

People have died because of the belief that Israel killed this child; which is likely nothing more than a figment of the liberal media's imagination. Sickening.

More Trouble For Europe

This is not good:

Islamic terror groups are becoming increasingly active in Germany and coordinating with militants across Europe to recruit fighters to join the insurgency in Iraq, equipping them with fake passports, money and medical supplies, security officials say.

European citizens have undoubtedly killed US soldiers in Iraq. Some would argue that its our own fault for being in Iraq in the first place. I would say that Europe's inability to assimilate its own population is more to blame.

But put aside the death wish of certain European citizens for the moment. As the next item suggests, Europe has a bigger problem.

There's only sketchy evidence that any of the recruited radicals have returned to Europe from fighting in Iraq, but that remains a top fear, Tophoven said.

"The big threat is that they will eventually come back to European countries and they will come back with an image, with a reputation as heroes who fought the unbelievers, as it was in the war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan," he said.

"If they do, they come back from Iraq trained, they know how to fight, they know how to do an ambush, how to make a bomb, and so on, and intelligence is afraid of these developments."

Bingo. Welcome to the terror war, Europe. Again, many will affix blame to the US. But that is false. The danger to Europe was very real long before we liberated Iraq.

Iranian Street

Some more thoughts on Iran at the Weekly Standard:

DURING HIS RECENT TRIP TO Europe, President Bush sent mixed signals about U.S. policy with regard to Iran's development of nuclear weapons. At one point he dismissed the prospect of military action as ridiculous; immediately after, he emphasized all options were on the table; then at another point he suggested there might be "convergence" between U.S. and European views on how to address the problem. If the president seemed to be all over the lot, that may be because the policy choices with respect to Iran are complex, and none is without its drawbacks.

The author then goes on to describe four options on how to deal with Iran, the last of which is a military strike. The author believes this is the best option since the other three choices as he sees them deals with the Europeans to some extent and will likely fail mostly because of European involvement. But the military strike option has a big drawback.

A military strike could also alienate a great swath of moderate, and especially younger, Iranians who are inclined to be friendly toward the United States and in whom we repose hope for the creation one day of a more decent, secular regime in Iran. Moderate Iranians may oppose clerical rule, but they do not necessarily oppose an Iran with nuclear capabilities. Losing the natural affection of these people would be a genuine setback.

This is the prevailing wisdom. Pro American Iranians will become our enemies if we try to take out their nuclear capability via military strike. It's mentioned by almost everyone who writes about the Iranian situation.

But is this true? I'm no expert, but hearing this line repeatedly is starting to sound a whole lot like the vaunted "Arab Street" that was supposed to rise up against us at every step during the terror war. As we now know, the only uprising we've seen, and are likely to see, is the one demanding democracy from their governments, mostly due to our actions in Iraq.

But let's say for a moment that the conventional wisdom is correct. So what? Maybe they will hate us. But does that mean the population will like the mullahs more than they did before? I doubt it. After all, they are still executing 16 year old girls for having sex. I wouldn't be surprised if this society is so sick that it won't be cured by the temporary solidarity of acquiring nukes. My guess is that they may or may not hate the US, but they will definitely hate the mullahs, and still want out from under their collective boots.

Bottom line, I think the downside risk of a military strike is less than the conventional wisdom suggests. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling we'll find out soon enough.

German Anti Americanism

Davids Medienkritik has a nice piece up about German anti Americanism:

On February 22, 2005, just one day before President Bush visited Mainz, Germany on his tour of Europe, this highly interesting interview was published in "Die Welt" on anti-Americanism in the German and European media. Here, now, is a full English translation:

Go read it already.

Victor Davis Hanson

VDH has another brilliant column up. This one points out the rather schizophrenic nature of Europe's commentary towards the US:

Don't dare divide us into old and new! We speak with one voice from Warsaw to Lisbon. We aim to be as united as your states are in America — BUT help us to ensure that Europe has separate U.N. Security Council seats for Britain, France, and, we hope, Germany as well.

Stop using force to solve problems! Listen to our diplomats. Promote international courts. The world no longer works according to your silly laws of military power and deterrence — BUT don't dare take any more American troops out of Germany.

Stay in NATO! You are pledged to the collective defense of Europe — BUT get used to the fact that we will soon have a new and rival independent EU military force.

Pay attention to the Muslim world! Hear us who have more experience with the Middle East. Try to incorporate, rather than isolate, the "other" — BUT stop telling us that we have to let Turkey into the EU.

Cease militarizing the globe! See instead the world as an interconnected family of liberal societies that is trying to settle differences by reason — BUT stop trying to prevent us from selling hi-tech arms to big Communist China to threaten tiny democratic Taiwan.

Learn from our more humane culture! See how our short work week, cradle-to-grave entitlements, and pacifism promote well-being — BUT how exactly do you rich and powerful Americans do all that you do?

Remember that we are your critical partners in the war against terrorism! Appreciate our unheralded work that goes unnoticed amid the loud bombs and tanks of you rowdy Americans — BUT Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization and cannot be labeled as such (and Hamas isn't either and needs our financial support).

Sign Kyoto! Start acting like good global citizens! BUT quit suggesting we had a hand in the Rwanda mess, the Balkans mess, the Oil-for-Food Mess, the Saddam-reactor mess, the Hezbollah/Hamas mess, the Arafat mess...

Quit proceeding unilaterally! Refer events that affect the world to the U.N. Don't just act on your own as if your deeds don't affect others — BUT don't remember the Falklands, the Ivory Coast, the unification of Germany, or the oil deals with Saddam.

Don't tamper in the Middle East! Do you cowboys realize what madness you are unleashing? BUT if you succeed we might just stop our caricatures — IF democracy follows and we can take credit for and profit from it.

Al Qaqaa

Johah Goldberg asks about the infamous Al Qaqaa explosives:

Remember al-Qaqaa? This was the massive cache of explosives that American forces failed to secure after the fall of Saddam. In the final week of the presidential campaign it was The Most Important Story on Earth.

The New York Times splashed the news on its front page and didn't stop splashing it for a week. In all, the Times ran 16 stories and columns about al-Qaqaa, plus seven anti-Bush letters to the editor on the subject over an eight-day period. Editorial boards across the country hammered the "outrage" for days. It led all the news broadcasts. It became the central talking point of the Kerry campaign, with John Kerry bellowing his indignation at the administration's incompetence at every stump stop. Maureen Dowd wrote a column about it, titled "White House of Horrors."

As we all now know, the story was bogus. So why the sudden intense interest? Liberal media bias was clearly a major factor in publicizing this non-story. But was there another angle?

There's also another news angle that might have been worth investigating. As Times columnist William Safire and Cliff May, a former Times reporter and contributor to National Review Online, have suggested, the whole al-Qaqaa story might have been orchestrated by Mohammed el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in order to influence the American presidential election. The Bush White House dislikes Baradei, and reportedly the feelings are mutual (largely because the White House wouldn't support Baradei's bid for another term as the head of the IAEA). According to the Wall Street Journal, Baradei triggered the process which resulted in the al-Qaqaa story getting leaked to the Times and CBS News.

If his intent was to influence the election, it would amount to a major scandal, in that foreign agencies aren't supposed to be trying to influence American elections by dropping distorted bombshells in the last week of a presidential campaign. At least, I don't think they are.

I'd be surprised if this wasn't the case. And the reason few will follow up is because of the weird, unnatural love liberals have for trans-national organizations. Sounds like a job for the blogsphere.

Jimmy Carter

It's not true, but it would be appropriate if it were:

Just days after the Navy announced that it will commission its newest nuclear-powered attack submarine The Jimmy Carter, North Korea proclaimed that it is naming its entire nuclear weapons program after the same ex-U.S. President who made it all possible.

The move is seen by experts as a show of one-upmanship against the U.S. in world news headlines, and at the same time being a pseudo-bribe to entice the Bush administration into unilateral negotiations.

Amir Taheri Vs. Bill Clinton

What little respect I had for Bill Clinton is officially gone. Amir Taheri takes him to task over some mind boggingly stupid comments he made regarding Iran:

Here is what Clinton said at a meeting on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, just a few weeks ago: “Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.”

Oh really? Ask this person. Or this one.

“Iran is the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). (It is) the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties. In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.”

So, while millions of Iranians, especially the young, look to the United States as a mode of progress and democracy, a former president of the US looks to the Islamic Republic as his ideological homeland.

What?!!! But don't worry, Amir explains what everyone but apparently Clinton knows about the reformers.

But who are “the guys” Clinton identifies with?

There is, of course, President Muhammad Khatami who, speaking at a conference of provincial governors last week, called for the whole world to convert to Islam.

“Human beings understand different affairs within the global framework that they live in,” he said. “But when we say that Islam belongs to all times and places, it is implied that the very essence of Islam is such that despite changes (in time and place) it is always valid.”

There is also Khatami’s brother, Muhammad-Reza, the man who, in 1979, led the “students” who seized the US Embassy in Tehran and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days. There is Massumeh Ebtekar, a poor man’s pasionaria who was spokesperson for the hostage-holders in Tehran. There is also the late Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, known to Iranians as “Judge Blood”.

Next, Clinton gives aid and comfort to the enemy, just like another former president.

Not surprisingly, Clinton’s utterances have been seized upon by the state-controlled media in Tehran as a means of countering President George W. Bush’s claim that the Islamic Republic is a tyranny that oppresses the Iranians and threatens the stability of the region.

Clinton demonstrates his ignorance of the true nature of Iranian elections:

Didn’t anyone tell Clinton, when he was in the White House, that elections in the Islamic Republic were as meaningless as those held in the Soviet Union? Did he not know that all candidates had to be approved by the “Supreme Guide”, and that no one from opposition is allowed to stand? Did he not know that all parties are banned in the Islamic Republic, and that such terms as “progressive” and “liberal” are used by the mullas as synonyms for “apostate”, a charge that carries a death sentence?

What's next is truly sickening:

Clinton told his audience in Davos, as well as Charlie Rose, that during his presidency he had “formally apologized on behalf of the United States” for what he termed “American crimes against Iran.”

He did what??!!! This is yet another example of self loathing, guilt ridden, western liberalism run amuck.

It goes on from here, but I can't take any more.

UPDATE: Further thoughts at PBS watch.


Instapundit found some deep thoughts on Iran:

Rolling back Iranian influence in the Horn of Africa is good, and seizing an island would certainly wake up the mullahs. But would these moves really be enough pressure to give a "slight push" to the "freedom-loving people of Iran"? How effective at mobilizing an opposition can US Special Forces or clandestine operatives be in Iran? Is there any organized opposition in Iran that can be trained or coordinated? Starting riots, protests, and other types of demonstrations is the bread and butter (or used to be) or the CIA and possibly even Delta Force . . . seizing one island while simultaneously fomenting riots makes for a partial campaign . . . especially if the Iranian offensive capabilities are concentrated on the island. But it seems that this is still missing some crucial elements. What is to become of the old guard? Are they corrupt? Where will they go? Will they melt away or form an insurgency against a new Iranian government a la Iraq? Will they actually go to Iraq and join the insurgency?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Al Qaeda Ready To Strike?

The Word Unheard has an excellent post about a frightening possibility:

The Word Unheard out of Washington, DC today comes from The Jamestown Foundation, where Michael Scheuer considers a very plausible probability:

Al Qaida has completed the required warning cycle demanded by Islamist scholars and may now not only have the green light, but be armed and prepared to execute an attack on the Continental United States on a scale that could dwarf 9/11.

Michael Scheuer's reasoning is straight forward and logical, and he dots all of the I's and crosses all of the T's.

Realist Foreign Policy

Charles Krauthammer takes a look at the recent events in the Middle East. But I like this key section best:

Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, takes to The New York Times to oppose immediate withdrawal of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to ``engage and empower'' the tyranny in Damascus.

These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall, and our ``realists'' want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy to try to rein in the revolution in Lebanon. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by our proclamation of those principles.

I've never understood the "realist" camp, particularly since the end of the Cold War. There was a good argument to be made for "realism" during the Cold War, although I was never comfortable with it. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I saw no reason for it. There were foreign policy reasons to discard the "realist" ideology, but I opposed it for a simpler reason. It was wrong to support dictators that oppress their own citizens just because we didn't want to deal with the after effects of seeing democracies take root. It always struck me as selfish.

Democrats & Black Vote

Mona Charen takes a look at the Black vote and the Democrats need to keep it:

It is a plain fact of American political life today that Democrats are completely dependent on black votes. The day African-Americans stop casting 80 percent to 95 percent of their votes for Democrats is the day Democrats stop winning elections. ... In the year 2000, George W. Bush won 54 percent of the white vote and 31 percent of the Hispanic vote. But Al Gore won 90 percent of the black vote and thus topped Bush in the total popular vote." Democrats at the national level consistently win fewer than 50 percent of white votes.

And she has noticed what I have noticed. Which is Democrats try to play up racial issues in order to keep Blacks voting for them.

Brazile herself contributed to this myth-making when she declared that the results of the 2000 election in Florida represented "a systematic disenfranchisement of people of color and poor people," adding that "in disproportionately black areas, people faced dogs, guns, and were required to have three forms of ID."

This is pure fiction. So were Democrats' claims that George W. Bush somehow condoned the dragging murder of James Byrd in Texas, or that Judge Charles Pickering was soft on the KKK, or that black churches in the South were targets of a racist arson conspiracy.

Democrats have been hoping to prevent Republicans from speaking to African-Americans by creating the equivalent of radio jamming. They've spewed so much falsehood and emotion into the air that they hope Republicans cannot be heard over the din.

I really hate it when Democrats condescend this way. Let's discuss real issues, not create racial divisions where none exists.

But we Blacks are catching on. The Democrats are going to have to work very, very hard to keep our vote in the type of numbers they are accustomed to. I predict they will fail.

Steyn Again

I love his stuff. A little early on the victory lap, I think, but I love it nonetheless.

By the way, when’s the next Not In Our Name rally? How about this Saturday? Millions of Nionists can flood into Trafalgar Square to proclaim to folks in Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority that all the changes under way in the region are most certainly Not In Their Name. Among the celebrity Nionists, Harold Pinter should be available to denounce Blair as a ‘war criminal’ and a ‘hired Christian thug’ one mo’ time. For as the Guardian reported this week, the great man announced that ‘he has decided to abandon his career as a playwright in order to concentrate exclusively on politics’.

I would love to see another anti-war rally. If it was near me I'd even go and watch. Sort of like going to a zoo.

But I doubt their hearts would be in it. Wouldn't have the same verve, I expect.

A couple of years back, I went to hear Paul Wolfowitz. I knew him only by reputation — the most sinister of all the neocons, the big bad Wolfowitz, the man whose name started with a scary animal and ended Jewishly. In fact, he was a very soft-spoken chap, who compared the challenges of the Middle East with America’s experiments in democracy-spreading after the second world war. He said he thought it would take less time than Japan, and maybe something closer to the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe. I would have scoffed, but he knew so many Iraqis by name — not just Ahmed Chalabi, but a ton of others.

Around the same time, I bumped into Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister and man of letters. He was just back from Egypt, where he’d been profoundly moved when he’d been asked to convey the gratitude of the Arab people to President Chirac for working so tirelessly to prevent a tragic war between Christianity and Islam. You don’t say, I said. And, just as a matter of interest, who asked you to convey that? He hemmed and hawed and eventually said it was President Mubarak. Being a polite sort, I rolled my eyes only metaphorically, but decided as a long-term proposition I’d bet Wolfowitz’s address book of real people against Villepin’s hotline to over-the-hill dictators. The lesson of these last weeks is that it turns out Washington’s Zionists know the Arab people a lot better than Europe’s Arabists.

Man, he's good. And I'm not sure how one can argue the bolded point. Either the Arabists were completely wrong or, in my opinion, they were lying because they valued stability (read business connections) more than freedom for the masses. Neither alternative is attractive.

The other day I found myself, for the umpteenth time, driving in Vermont behind a Kerry/Edwards supporter whose vehicle also bore the slogan ‘FREE TIBET’. It must be great to be the guy with the printing contract for the ‘FREE TIBET’ stickers. Not so good to be the guy back in Tibet wondering when the freeing thereof will actually get under way. For a while, my otherwise not terribly political wife got extremely irritated by these stickers, demanding to know at a pancake breakfast at the local church what precisely some harmless hippy-dippy old neighbour of ours meant by the slogan he’d been proudly displaying decade in, decade out: ‘But what exactly are you doing to free Tibet?’ she demanded. ‘You’re not doing anything, are you?’ ‘Give the guy a break,’ I said back home. ‘He’s advertising his moral virtue, not calling for action. If Rumsfeld were to say, “Free Tibet? Jiminy, what a swell idea! The Third Infantry Division go in on Thursday”, the bumper-sticker crowd would be aghast.’

But for those of us on the arrogant unilateralist side of things, that’s not how it works. ‘FREE AFGHANISTAN’. Done. ‘FREE IRAQ’. Done. Given the paintwork I pull off every time I have to change the sticker, it might be easier for the remainder of the Bush presidency just to go around with ‘FREE [INSERT YOUR FETID TOTALITARIAN BASKET-CASE HERE]’. Not in your name? Don’t worry, it’s not.

How true. And the vaunted Arab Street will know, too.

(Thanks, Chrenkoff)