Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Legality of the NSA Surveillance

Power Line has a round up; please read the entire Power Line post and all the other blogs it links to. The post's analysis appears balanced to me, and concedes that the question is eminently debatable. Meanwhile, as noted below, the polls show that President Bush's approval ratings have actually gone up after this controversy erupted.

These have been my points all along: (1) Politically, the surveillance is wise and well-supported by the American people; (2) legally, the president has an excellent case to make for the propriety of his actions. In any case, this was not a Watergate-style rogue operation; the surveillance was reviewed and lawyered on multiple levels before it was undertaken.

Below, commenter Chris (a friend) complains that Bush did not "bother" to get a warrant or court order. Assuming that to be true, I am not upset. Legally, the question is whether the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) obligated the president to seek a warrant, in spite of the authority granted to him by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. In other words, does Article II trump FISA?

That is not an easy call. Robert F. Turner, co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, served as counsel to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board from 1982 to 1984. He notes in Opinion Journal:

For nearly 200 years it was understood by all three branches that intelligence collection--especially in wartime--was an exclusive presidential prerogative vested in the president by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Marshall and many others recognized that the grant of "executive power" to the president included control over intelligence gathering.

Even if FISA does require a warrant (and it's not clear that it does), arguably Bush's Article II powers entitled him to go ahead. In any case, balancing FISA and Article II, it is simply not clear that Bush needed a warrant in these circumstances. In light of the few facts we know about the surveillance that went on, if the President had a close call to make over whether or not to monitor the conversations with terrorist groups that are apparently involved here, I feel just fine about the president making that call in favor of going ahead.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If you think Bush has truly jeopardized civil liberties in this country, tell me why and how.

Friday, December 30, 2005

More on The NSA Surveillance Issue

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Fred Barnes, Michael Barone, and Mark Steyn on his show yesterday. From Radioblogger we have this portion of the transcript:

HH: Mark Steyn, what about the attempt by Democrats to turn the president's ordering of surveillance of al Qaeda communicating with their American agents into the Nixon plumbers, part 2?

MS: Well, I think this is a good example of how even if they were right in a very narrow, legalistic sense, they're just wrong on the basic politics of it. I think Rasmussen had a poll a day or two ago showing that 2/3rd of Americans believed that this National Security Agency should be allowed to intercept phone conversations between terrorist cells in other countries and people living in the United States. And the idea that the Democrats can go to the country and say oh, it's outrageous that this Achmed in Hamburg was calling a number in Virginia and New Jersey, and the government was listening in on the conversations. That is simply not going to play. I don't believe even...the president has essentially become like one of these sort of creatures in a horror movie where the Democrats pump evermore ineffectual bullets into him, over Katrina, over Abu Ghraib, and now over this thing. And none of them resonate with the broader public.

MB: Can I just add onto that, Hugh?

HH: Please.

MB: You know, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the mainstream media that's been pumping this story, has an obvious subtext in all their stories, which is that the American people are going to be horrified when they hear that this is obviously a terrible abuse. Mark is right, and I've the Rasmussen Report figures right in front of me as I'm speaking to you. 64% of Americans believe that National Security Agency should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorist suspects in other countries and people living in the U.S. Only 23% disagree.

HH: That's remarkable.

MB: I'd like going into an election with a 64-23 issue on my side, and 68% say they're following the story closely. So that opinion's likely to be pretty solid. When Rasmussen asked them is President Bush the first one to authorize this, 48% said no, 26% said yes. So the NYT can hyperventilate all it wants. But this is a loser for the Democratic Party.

More on this later, including responses to Chris's comments on my post immediately below. (I have to go running right now or I'll lose my chance to do it today.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Wisdom of The American People Shines Through Again

Rasmussen has been polling on the Bush Administration's surveillance of suspected terrorists' phone calls. Here are the results. Excerpt:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency
(NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism
suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen
Reports survey found that just 23% disagree. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of
Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely. Just
26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one
currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not

Not surprisingly, there is a partisan split here:

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans believe the NSA should be allowed
to listen in on conversations between terror suspects and people living in the
United States. That view is shared by 51% of Democrats and 57% of those not
affiliated with either major political party.

I am sorry to say it, but many intelligent people of my acquaintance seem so blinded by their anger toward President Bush that they reflexively condemn the NSA surveillance, and do so with a moral and legal certainty that is quite impressive. To me, the weight of legal scholarship on the question of the legality and consitutionality of the surveillance is that only supportable anti-Bush conclusion is that his authority to order it is debatable. To ignore all that information and discussion and start talking about impeaching Bush seems to me to be evidence that those anti-Bush folks are not engaging in serious thinking.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kwanzaa? Not for LaShawn Barber

I must admit I know little about Kwanzaa, but I'm trying to learn. I have no opinion about it yet. I can say that if I ever run into La Shawn Barber at this time of year, I won't say Happy Kwanzaa to her.

UPDATE: Here are two different views of Kwanzaa: The first, by blogger Cobb, is supportive, and the second, by Mary Katherine Ham on Hugh Hewitt's blog, is decidedly less so. Both views are well-reasoned and interesting.

My own bias is that I'd like to see less emphasis on differences and more on what we all have in common. I don't like racialism and its emphasis on racial identity and separateness. But if black Americans want to establish and celebrate a holiday that emphasizes sound principles, I will live and let live.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas from the Hedgehog Blog

Once again, the words from my very favorite Christmas carol:

What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I wish a blessed Christmas to all.

Lowell Brown

Steven Spielberg's "Munich"

From news media reports it looks like Steven Spielberg's latest movie, "Munich," will get as much attention as "Brokeback Mountain" will get during the run-up to the Oscars. (That's not suprising, since the themes of both movies have a large power following in Hollywood.)

According to a review I heard on NPR yesterday, Spielberg freely admits his aim is not to be historically accurate, but to explore the implications of revenge. So, in an effort to help people remember what actually took place during the 1972 Olympics, here is a summary prepared by
StandWithUs. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, comments further on "Munich" here.

I was a senior in high school in 1972 and was riveted by the events unfolding in Munich that fall. I recall being inexpressibly sad, shocked, repulsed, and angry. I hope Spielberg's movie does not turn that event into some argument about an approach to terrorism that centers on "understanding" of, or sympathy for, the murderers.

UPDATE: The links in my original post were bad for some reason. I have fixed them. Thanks for letting me know.

Nothing to Do with Christmas

but a funny video. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Hedgehog's Annual Christmas Thought

"O blind man, blind man! . . . . Not to know that any . . . spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet I was like this man; I once was like this man!"

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

From NPR Today: "Bah, Humbug!"

As I was tromping around the neighborhood this morning on my daily workout, I decided to switch my headset radio to NPR. After all, it's December 23 and NPR often has some entertaining Christmas fare. (One year "All Things Considered" put on a wonderful historical bit about Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and its impact on Christmas celebrations then and now.)

But today I was to be disappointed. With evident pride, the NPR morning anchor announced a reprise of reading from his "Santaland Diaries." Apparently this has become something of a much-requested NPR Christmas season tradition.

I had heard Sedaris on NPR before (his voice and delivery style are distinctive; he reminds me a little of Truman Capote), but had never heard his account of his experience as Crumpet the Elf. Apparently Sedaris, as a starving writer, had to take a job as an elf in a Santa Claus display in a New York department store.

As I sailed along on my workout, surrounded by my neighbors' Christmas decorations, I was treated to Sedaris's story, told in a flat monotone that dripped contempt for his experience as Crumpet. NPR listeners were treated to biting observations about the sad weaknesses of some parents who abused their children, accounts of gay flirting among the elves and Santas (including Sedaris's excitement over another elf hitting on him), stories of horribly ill-behaved children and other generally depressing, cynical commentary. If it qualified as satire at all, it was of the most Juvenalian kind.

I became more and more depressed and amazed as the story unfolded, but I kept listening because I wanted to experience the full phenomenon of what at least a part of NPR culture seems to have become. If you're of a mind you can listen to the whole thing here, but I don't recommend it as a way to put yourself in the holiday spirit.

I don't know what I found most depressing this experience: The piece itself; that NPR was playing it on December 23; or that the piece is apparently so popular with the NPR audience that it is replayed as a classic.

I'm serious about this. Yes, mean-spirited social commentary is part of our society; I accept that. But two days before Christmas, on publicly-supported radio? And it's an audience favorite.

Oh, well, I'll try to light some candles here and stop cursing the darkness. NPR is not monolithically anti-Christmas: Here's a reading of "A Christmas Carol" by Jonathan Winters that's worth hearing.

This will definitely not be my last Christmas post!

And have a great December 23!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Department of Justice Position on NSA Surveillance

You can read it here. This is a matter of great weight and I hope some members of the news media will stop trifling with it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Still More Informed Analysis of The NSA "Spying" on Americans

John Schmidt served under President Clinton from 1994 to 1997 as the associate attorney general of the United States, and is now a partner in a major Chicago law firm. In today's Chicago Tribune Mr. Schmidt begins his op-ed piece very simply:

President Bush's post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National
Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls
and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the
Justice Department under prior presidents.

Read the whole thing. I wonder how much attention this will get in the rest of the mainstream news media. I'm not optimistic.

To Be Frightened or Not: Some Useful Perspective on Warrantless Searches

To read much of the old news media commentary, one would think that the Republic is near collapse over President Bush's warrantless surveillance (search) of some American citizens' telephone conversations. I am sure many of my liberal friends find the entire situation downright frightening.

Of course, many of my liberal friends are routinely frightened, but only by forces that disturb their well-ordered world view. For example, one of them finds Paul Harvey's daily radio commentary frightening. Another finds evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews frightening. Of course, the 1994 Contract With America was terrifying to another. Oddly, none of them ever found the Soviet Union frightening (or even a little disturbing-- it was just an alternative governmental system, after all).

Significantly, in more modern times, many of my liberal friends do not find al Quaeda frightening. This may be the most obvious difference these days between mainstream liberals and mainstream conservatives.

So my "liberal overreaction antennae" always rise when I hear those folks are once again frightened by a Bush Administration action. Now that President Bush has admitted to warrantless surveillance of telephone conversations connected to the non-frightening al Quaeda organization, fear and outrage are widespread.

Fortunately, there are people in the world who know what they are talking about in this area. One example: In National Review, Andrew McCarthy, a former prosecutor, reminds everyone that warrantless searches are as common as can be in the USA. He gives 27 examples. Read them.

I haven't noticed any former prosecutors yet who are frightened by the president's NSA surveillance activities. Have you? Hugh Hewitt sums up the opposition of the frightened liberals:

I have to believe these are people of good faith who simply have no experience in the world, who simply have no idea what we are up against. It was the same way in the '80s, when the nature of the Soviet Union was not understood by the left, and the Venona intercepts still a long way from being made public. They are not serious in that they will not allow their carefully constructed world views to be disturbed by reality, no matter how ghastly the reality that knocks at their front door. 9/11, Bali, Beslan, Madrid, Zarqawi etc --nothing matters to them except their own convictions about President Bush. The good news is that they are a minority of American voters. The bad news is that they can and do accomplish a great deal of injury to the national security, and that they appear to be the decisive voice in the Democratic Party at the close of 2005.
I haven't noticed any commentator who is not an obvious and consistent Bush critic or opponent who is frightened or upset about the NSA matter. I'll keep an eye out for one.

Hugh points us to another former prosecutor, XDA, who sums up the legal underpinnings of present controversy:
So, based on cases . . . by the Supreme Court of the United States and by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (which reviews the FISA court) there is nothing unreasonable about warrantless listening in on the phone calls from known al Qaeda operatives to persons in the United States especially after al Qaeda declared war on us in 1998. I'm sorry if one half of the conversation is by someone in America who may well be an American. If we could stop listening when the American is speaking without doing damage to our understanding of the conversation, perhaps we could try; but we all know that wouldn't work because then we wouldn't know what the al Qaeda guy was talking about if all we heard was half the conversation. That there is an American on the line of a foreign call doesn't make listening in unreasonable, especially when the person he or she is talking to is with al Qaeda. I believe it would be unreasonable to say the President can't try to discover what our self-declared enemy is planning. But of course I would say that, I'm a Republican. Here's the short version of what the President is doing at the NSA: Not unreasonable, not illegal, but in fact perfectly legal, reasonable, necessary and prudent. No warrant is required for reasonable searches.
Read the whole thing; it's enlightening, not frightening.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sixteen Small Stones

This is a very interesting, well-written blog by a thoughtful, technically gifted blogger, J. Max Wilson. Visit it-- you'll like it!

Where Are The Iraq War Heroes?

Fred Barnes writes that they are plentiful, but we don't hear about them:

In a study of over 1,300 reports broadcast on network news programs from
January to September of this year, Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only eight stories of heroism or valor by American troops and nine of soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But there were 79 stories, Noyes said, "focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel."

Read Barnes' entire piece. This is an outrage, of course, but we can chip away at it in our own way. Readers of this blog know I like to highlight Medal of Honor winners. Here's a post about Paul Ray Smith, the first Medal of Honor winner of the Iraq War, who received the honor posthumously. Here's one about Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a legal immigrant who gave his life in the Battle of Fallujah. And here's one about Marine Captain Brian Chontosh, who won the Navy Star.

SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely, KIA Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 Aug 05

Take 2-3 minutes and read this from Mudville Gazette. It's an e-mail to that blog from a father who lost his son in Iraq last August. Prepare to be saddened, uplifted, and grateful all at the same time.

Democrats: Uh-Oh

A Washington Post-ABC News poll out today strongly suggests that President Bush is rebounding politically:

Bush's overall approval rating rose to 47 percent, from 39 percent in early November, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. His approval rating on Iraq jumped 10 percentage points since early November, to 46 percent, while his rating on the economy rose 11 points, to 47 percent. A clear majority, 56 percent, said they approve of the way Bush is handling the fight against terrorism -- a traditional strong point in his reputation that nonetheless had flagged to 48 percent in the November poll.
Read the wholse story; it's full of nuggets like this:

Bush's pre-Christmas rebound was fueled largely by a sharp increase in support among his core supporters. In the past month, the proportion of Republicans approving of the president's performance rose nine percentage points, to 87 percent. And among conservatives, three in four said Bush was doing a good job, up 12 points from November. Among Democrats, independents and moderates Bush's support remained unchanged or increased only modestly.
Could it be that the president is turning things around just as the 2006 election cycle begins? Among other things, the Democrats were surely hoping for a weak and battered White House just as the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings begin. It's not looking like a merry Christmas for them.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Legal Analysis of President Bush's Surveillance

Professor Orin Kerr has written a careful legal analysis of the president's actions in light of the Fourth Amendment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization to Use Military Force, and the executive's inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. His conclusion, in esence:

My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges
somewhat on technical details we don't know, it seems that the program was
probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. My answer is extra-cautious for two
reasons. First, there is some wiggle room in FISA, depending on technical
details we don't know of how the surveillance was done. Second, there is at
least a colorable argument -- if, I think in the end, an unpersuasive one --
that the surveillance was authorized by the Authorization to Use Miltary Force
as construed in the Hamdi opinion.

If you are really interested in the rather complex legal aspects of this controversy, rather than the superficial headlines you'll see on CNN, Time, Newsweek, or the L.A. Times, then Professor Kerr's post is an important read.

Surveillance of Suspected Terrorosts: Have We Reached A Turning Point?

John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics thinks by pushing the "Bush spied on Americans" story the Democrats will have overreached and may well pay a big price for it:

[T]he Democrats still do not grasp that foreign affairs and national
security issues are their vulnerabilities, not their strengths. All of the
drumbeat about Iraq, spying, and torture that the left thinks is so damaging to
the White House are actually positives for the President and Republicans.
Apparently, Democrats still have not fully grasped that the public has profound
and long-standing concerns about their ability to defend the nation. . . .

One of the major problems working against Democrats is many on their side
appear to be rooting for failure in Iraq and publicly ridicule the idea that we
actually might win. When this impression is put in context of the debate over
eavesdropping or the Patriot Act, Democrats run the significant risk of being
perceived to be more concerned with the enemy’s rights than protecting ordinary
Americans. This is a loser for Democrats. . . .

If Democrats want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story they
are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story is out and the security
damage is already done, let’s have a full investigation into exactly who the
President spied on and why. Let’s also find out who leaked this highly
classified information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If the
president is found to have broken the law and spied on political opponents or
average Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, then Bush should be
impeached and convicted.

I agree. Let's get all this out in the open. And let's see if the MSM and the Democrats are as interested in having this leaker brought to justice as they were in seeing the Valerie Plame leaker prosecuted.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

John Bolton Tells It Like It Is, by Ralph Kostant

Caroline Glick is Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. (Regular listeners of the Hugh Hewitt Show are familiar with Mr. Gaffney, Hugh’s weekly guest whose slot is always introduced and ended with the theme music from “Patton.”) Ms. Glick, who lives in Israel, is also a columnist with the Jerusalem Post.

In her column this week, linked here, Ms. Glick lauds U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as the person who “may very well be Israel's greatest friend in the US government.” As Ms. Glick reports, Mr. Bolton recently was the keynote speaker at the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). While acknowledging some recent “positive steps” improving Israel’s standing in the United Nations, Ambassador Bolton cautioned that "to say that Israel can be said to be treated as a normal nation at the UN would be a statement of fantasy." In particular, Ambassador Bolton noted that recent remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, drew “almost no attention at the UN."

A recent event sponsored by the United Nations, which Ambassador Bolton discussed at length, perhaps best illustrates the truth of his main thesis. November 29 is the anniversary of the passage in 1947 of the General Assembly Resolution that approved the partition of the British Mandate in Palestine into two states, a Jewish State and an Arab State. The area identified in the General Assembly’s partition resolution for the future Jewish State was only about 10% of the region that League of Nations designated for a Jewish State when it granted the mandate to Great Britain in 1922 (Britain promptly having carved off 80% of the Mandate territory to create the Kingdom of Transjordan (now Jordan), as a consolation prize to the Bedouin Hashemite clan, for the loss of Arabia to the House of Saud). Nonetheless, the Jewish Agency, which under the Mandate was the official representative of the Jews in Palestine, immediately accepted the partition, and declared the existence of the State of Israel the following May. In contrast, the Arabs in Palestine and the surrounding countries rejected the partition resolution, made war on the newborn State of Israel (with disastrous results for Palestinian Arabs), and continued their rejection of the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel for the next 58 years, to this very day. More than any other factor, that is why no Palestinian Arab state exists today.

So how does the UN observe the anniversary of the partition resolution each November 29? Does it honor the spirit of compromise in the resolution, commemorate the birth of Israel (a UN member State) and express hope for the birth of a Palestinian Arab State that will live beside Israel in peace?

Well, actually, November 29 is the official United Nations Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, marked this year by an event at UN Headquarters, attended by Secretary General Kofi Anan and the Presidents of the Security Counsel and General Assembly, who, as Ms. Glick writes and Ambassador Bolton described to the ZOA:

“sat on a stage against the backdrop of a map of the Middle East in which Israel was mysteriously replaced by a country called ‘Palestine.’ Not one of the UN leaders, or any of the other participants in the event, saw fit to protest the fact that Israel had been literally ‘wiped off’ this official UN map.”

According to Bolton, "I think we need to use this example, this piece of evidence about a fundamental flaw within the UN itself. This is not simply a mistake that the three men made not speaking about the map. They didn't speak about the map because they didn't see anything unusual. And in fact there isn't anything unusual about it in the context of the UN. We need to take this instance and go beyond what our normal reaction might be - to slam the people involved for not criticizing the map, for not walking out. We need to say this is a pivot point to change the culture at the UN."
Sad to say, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has been far more outspoken concerning this outrage than the Israeli Foreign Ministry or its UN Ambassador. Ms. Glick notes that this follows a pattern of Israeli diplomatic obsequiousness since the Oslo Accords. One recent example is last week's vote by the Diplomatic Conference of all state parties to the Geneva Conventions that will pave the way for Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) to finally become a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, but only if it participates displaying a bizarre “Red Diamond” instead of the Red Star of David. The Wall Street Journal wrote on its editorial page, "Israeli diplomats celebrate this deal as a great victory. We'd hate to see a defeat." The editorial continued, "If Israeli relief workers around the world or army medical corps must hide their identity and wear some 'New Age' symbol to be accorded the protection of international law, one might consider this as just another example of the gradual delegitimization of Israel as a Jewish state."

However, as Ms. Glick memorably notes, “Sadly, as in the case of Israel's treatment at the UN, what we see here is yet another example of Israeli diplomats mistaking spit for raindrops.”

Please read the entire article, which is linked above. I am particularly interested in how Hedgehog readers will react to an idea floated by Ms. Glick for private Israeli citizens to arrange for the families of U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq to live in Israel while their family members are deployed in Iraq. The objective would be that the proximity of the families would allow the American military personnel to visit their families perhaps every month, instead of once a year.

Ralph B. Kostant

Saturday, December 17, 2005

About That National Security Agency Intercept Program

President Bush devoted much of his national radio broadcast to the subject this morning. He is not backing down one whit. You can view his speech (which was televised this time, apparently) here. The president's remarks are 7 minutes, 51 seconds long, and everyone should see them. This is deadly serious stuff, and it's clear President Bush sees it that way.

Not surprisingly, the CNN headline running right next to the video of the speech is "Bush won't confirm report NSA spied on Americans." This story is probably going to receive a lot of oversimplified news media hype, so if you can't watch the speech, read the whole thing. (HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

News Media Bias Deniers

I recognize that the concept of news media bias is a slippery one and often depends on the eye of the beholder. And yet, and yet . . . sometimes it is so palpable that I have to shake my head. In The American Thinker Thomas Lifson reviews comments by Howell Raines, until very recently the New York Times editor, that pretty make Raines look like a venomous Bush-hating lefty. And they are Raines' own unedited comments. Example:

Behind George W, there are four generations of Bushes and Walkers devoted first to using political networks to pile up and protect personal fortunes and, latterly, to using absolutely any means to gain office, not because they want to do good, but because they are what passes in America for hereditary aristocrats. In sum, Bush stands at the apex of a pyramid of privilege whose history and social significance, given his animosity towards scholarly thought, he almost certainly does not understand.

Here is the big picture, as drawn by the Republican political analyst Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty. Starting in 1850, the Bushes, through alliance with the smarter Walker clan, built up a fortune based on classic robber-baron foundations: railroads, steel, oil, investment banking, armaments and materiel in the world wars. They had ties to the richest families of the industrial age – Rockefeller, Harriman, Brookings. Yet they never adopted the charitable, public-service ethic that developed in those families.

I have very intelligent, well-read friends who insist that the New York Times does not tilt in any particular direction, let alone leftward. Can they read this stuff and think that Raines' views are exceptional inside that organization, and that now that he has left, the paper is objective? Can any honest person deny that?

Reviewing The Iraqi Elections

Robert Kagan and William Kristol suggest the elections were a true turning point:

One 50-year-old Shiite schoolteacher told the Los Angeles Times, "I am proud as an Iraqi because our country is becoming a center of attraction for all Arab countries. The new situation in Iraq, the democratic system, is starting to put pressure on the Arab systems to make some changes toward democracy." Such thoughts cannot yet be freely expressed in the salons of Washington, D.C., and New York City. But they seem to make sense in today's Iraq.
Maybe with time everyone will be able to recognize both setbacks and progress in Iraq. Despite my own biases, I'm getting better at recognizing the setbacks and mistakes; if I can do that, maybe there's hope for those who won't recognize progress.

Immigrants and America's Greatness

This blogger, JusPasenThru, is a physician with interesting insights into politics and culture, many derived from his patient care encounters. Since I spend half my professional day working closely with physicians, I often find myself intrigued by their view of the world. In this post, JusPasenThru writes about the patriotism of his immigrant patients. Enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Morgan Freeman, A Man

In an Associated Press interview, Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous:"

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday. . . . "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history." . . .

Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.
Pretty refreshing, I think.

(HT: Best of the Web Today.)

Two Quotes of The Week on Iraq

First, from Congressman John Murtha:

[President Bush] continues to mis-characterize linking terrorism with insurgency. There's no connection between the U.S. Cole incident and Iraq. There's no connection between 9/11 and terrorism and Iraq. And there's no connection between the embassy attacks and terrorism...or Iraq, rather. Let me separate, and I've said this over and over again. You've got to separate terrorism from the insurgency. Terrorism started in Afghanistan. Terrorism...we attacked Afghanistan. Everybody supported what we did in Afghanistan. The world supported what we did in Afghanistan. And we went into Afghanistan, and started to clean up. Then, we diverted our attention to Iraq, where there was no terrorism before, no terrorist camps, no nuclear weapons, no biological/chemical weapons, and none of the things that took us to war. We go to war because of our national security interests. We don't go to war to start a democracy in another country.

Now Mark Steyn, in response:

Well, If I was the Republican Party, I'd be praying they keep that guy on TV every minute of the day, because he's a classic example of how the Democrats have got themselves on the wrong side of history. And I don't care whether he was...did a great job in the last war. I don't care, anymore than I would've cared about the fact that in the second World War, Marshall Petain had done a great job in the first world war. It's important that you're on the right side of the war we're fighting now. And if he is saying that Zarqawi blowing up weddings in Amman, Jordan, and Zarqawi's guys blowing up buses in shopping markets in Iraq isn't terrorism, he's on the wrong side, not just of the Iraqi people, but of the Sunni people. The fact of the matter is now, the so-called insurgency, the so-called holdouts against Iraqi democracy, come down to basically these buffoons from the Democratic Party...shame on them, because they have nothing constructive to offer...these buffoons from the Democratic Party, and Zarqawi and his suicide bomber goons. Zarqawi and his idiots, his death cult idiots, are walking the walk. And this ridiculous fellow Murtha is talking the talk. But shame on them. They're regarded as a party that's weak and pitiful on national security, because they got the last twenty years of the Cold War wrong. And they're making the same mistake all over again.
The whole interview took place on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday and is available on Radioblogger.

Western World, Please Call Your Office

Adolf Hitler announced to the world in Mein Kampf, in 1925-26, exactly what he planned to do to Europe and to the Jews. The problem was that only a few people, such as Winston Churchill took him seriously. And no one took Churchill seriously until the invasion of Poland. In recent weeks, the President of Iran [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, photo above -- Ed.] has announced his plan regarding the United States and Israel, which is to destroy them. His chief strategist has spoken in similar terms, throwing in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Arab Gulf State for good measure. Iran is a rich, modern country, with a huge army, on the verge of becoming a nuclear power with long-range missiles. In this column, Mark Steyn notes that the British reaction has been to discount the evidence of their own ears, while the United States is too preoccupied with the Scooter Libby indictment to pay attention. Those who fail to learn from history ….

Ralph B. Kostant

JOHN MARK REYNOLDS on Jollification

[NOTE: I made a terrible mistake and originally attributed the following to Mark D. Roberts. The true author is John Mark Reynolds. We apologize to John Mark for this error.]

Here's one for the pre-Christmas weekend from John Mark Reynolds at OneTrueGodBlog:

We live in a world in dire need of a good solid Narnian word: jollification. The Narnia film is cheerful, but realistic. There are real dangers in the woods . . . in a past 9/11 world we know there are real wolves in the woods. Some of our friends will sell us out to the wolves for a bit of personal peace. However, one need not despair or become intolerant. One can simply do one’s duty while enjoying a bit of Christmas. It is the totalitarians (on the right and left) who are always serious. We know how limited is our power and how little our dreams of utopia would match reality in this age! As a result, we can stop in the midst of even the most serious war and have some toast (with jam!) and wait for our gifts from Father Christmas. Our opponents on the secular lefts can never tell jokes . . . they can only deal in sarcasm and irony. They never feast for they fear too greatly dying to enjoy feast foods. Real Christianity is jolly without being unserious.
This puts me in mind of what Someone once said about how in the world we will have tribulation, but that we should be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How The Left Sees The Iraqi Achievement

Or maybe they don't see it. Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has a rundown of posts on better-known lefty blogs regarding the elections in Iraq today. As Jeff explains:

I’m not passing judgment on these sites; I’m just trying to give you some idea about how the anti-war sites are reacting to the elections. Perhaps some sites are waiting for results. Or a really nasty explosion or something. You can draw your own conclusions.
It's pretty amazing.

Protein Wisdom is a fine blog, by the way. I've blogrolled it.

GOP Congress Still Not Making Sense on Illegal Immigration

Jason Riley notes in today's Opinion Journal Political Diary (a subscription service) that the Sensenbrenner bill to be introduced today is more of the same:

Mr. Sensenbrenner has chosen to focus exclusively on border control and
interior enforcement, an approach that has been tried time and again -- Congress
has passed six such bills in the past decade -- without much to show for it in
terms of reduced illegal immigration. Among other things, the Sensenbrenner
proposal will throw more money at beefing up the Mexican border; make it a
criminal, not civil, offense to be in the country illegally; and force employers
to establish the immigration status of all hires.

The White House isn't buying, of course, and insists that any bill the President signs will have a guest worker provision (or something along those lines) that deals with the 11 million illegals already here. As I've posted before, those 11 million people can't be wished away and can't be deported. We have to recognize and normalize their presence. Trying to get them all to leave is a pipe dream.

Riley further observes:

The fundamental problem with U.S. immigration policy, said conservative
activist Grover Norquist, is that "the number of legal immigrants is set too low
by law." Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum, which organized
yesterday's teleconference, said an estimated 500,000 immigrants come to the
U.S. each year, yet we hand out only about 5,000 visas. The reality is that
we'll never have true immigration reform until that disparity is

We will keep on hoping that serious people will stop sloganizing and get serious about this problem.

The Iraqi Election

Spend 2 or 3 minutes viewing this slide show on Yahoo. The photos will make the election more real to you.

The RealClearPolitics blog pretty much sums up the significance of today's events:

"Forget about politics for a minute. You're either moved by the pictures and news reports from Iraq or you aren't. You either believe what Iraqis are doing today is a courageous act of great significance or you don't. From an emotional standpoint there really isn't much of a middle ground."
I'd say that's about right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times

Michael Hiltzik was on Hugh Hewitt's show today and I am sorry I missed it due to another sudden attack of employment. Hugh blogs about the two-hour interview here; and Hiltzik gives his side here. The interview must have been a doozy, because it seems that both interviewer and interviewee are still smoldering. Hiltzik seems more upset than Hugh; unless I'm misreading him, Hiltzik's post drips with venom. Perhaps more interesting: If what he says in his blog about the interview is accurate, Hiltzik seemed to come to the interview loaded for bear, with old allegations about Hugh's activities while director of the Nixon Library some 15 years ago. Wow. Meanwhile, Hugh seems to want to let the interview speak for itself.

I think both men reveal a lot about themselves in their blogging. Here's a startling excerpt from Mr. Hiltzik's blog, in which he laments Howard Stern's departure from the free radio dial:

I love Howard Stern; he was one of our few national radio stars, a groundbreaking talent. His show has given me many a guilty laugh, brightening the gray freeway in the morning . . . . On any average morning Stern exposed to open air the way we think at our basest, most unkind moments, when our thoughts aren’t adulterated or moderated by the need to maintain a sociable veneer: the racism, sexism, stereotype-ism, pettiness and meanness that lurk somewhere beneath the surface of even the most sanctimonious Mr. and Mrs. Grundys—especially the most sanctimonious.
I think this paragraph is embarrassing and says a lot more about Mr. Hiltzik than it does about either Howard Stern or the Grundys of the world. Sorry, Mr. Hiltzik, but I found Stern's show to be an appalling attempt to appeal to everyone's baser instincts. And by the way, calling anyone who sees the matter differently than you do "sanctimonious" is a cheap rhetorical trick.

I must note that I have nothing against Michael Hiltzik. I actually had a pleasant encounter myself with Hiltzik a few months back, right here on this little blog. You can read it here,
here, and here.

The Red Cross, The Red Crescent, And Now, The Red Crystal

From Ralph Kostant:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has 182 national member affiliates, including, of course, the American Red Cross, but also including the national Red Cross and Red Crescent groups of many other countries. However, Israel’s Mogen David Adom (Red Star of David) has never been recognized by the International Federation, much less accepted as a member, due to the opposition of Arab and other Muslim countries.

That situation is apparently about to end, but Israel’s membership will be of a decidedly second-class character. By a vote of the 192 signatory nations to the Geneva Convention, the International Federation has adopted a third symbol, the Red Crystal, which is a red square standing on its point. (Red Square, hmm.) While Israel will now be permitted to join the International Federation, it may use a red Star of David only in its domestic operations. When participating in international relief efforts, it must display either the Red Crystal alone, or a red Star of David inside the Red Crystal. In contrast, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are permitted to display a Red Cross or Red Crescent, without the Red Crystal, when they participate in international relief activities. Even with these limitations, over 20 Muslim nations, led by Syria, that paragon of international mercy and cooperation, voted against admitting Israel into the International Federation.

The Red Crystal was not just a compromise device to sneak in Israeli membership. In recent years, the International Red Cross has encountered hostility when conducting relief operations in Arab and Muslim countries due to it Red Cross symbol. Now, Red Cross societies may choose to utilize the Red Crystal when working in Islamic countries.

It is an unfortunate consequence of their lack of Jewish pride that Israeli diplomats and government officials characteristically gush and act like they have received a great gift whenever the world offers them as a “privilege” an inferior version of what every other nation state takes for granted. The Red Crystal compromise is no exception.

However, in an editorial published on December 11, the Jerusalem Post not only suggests that Israel should have felt offended, rather than honored, by this half-gesture from the international community; but also notes the implications of the new arrangement for the Christian world:

Rather than rejecting and combatting hatred, it accommodates violence and
intolerance. It is no coincidence that, after over half a century of tolerating the rejection of the Star of David, the Red Cross has itself in recent years found it increasingly difficult to operate, and began to seek cover.

Though the crystal is being portrayed as the solution to a general problem, namely places where one symbol or another is not tolerated, in practice the intolerance flows almost entirely in one direction: from the Muslim world against the Star of David and, recently, against the Red Cross too. It is almost impossible to conceive of a situation in which a Christian country, by contrast, would take violent offense to a rescue mission operating under a Red Crescent.

By bowing for so long to the utter rejection of the symbol of the Jewish people, and then devising for it a second-class status, the international community legitimized a hatred that is the antithesis of the Red Cross mission and the cause of many of the casualties it treats.

Why should a Red Cross ambulance, whose only mission is to save lives, not be able to operate in Muslim areas? Why does Israel have to beg Muslim countries for the right to openly help their peoples recover from national disasters? Most perplexingly, how has this blinding intolerance become so "normal" that such questions are not even asked?
The Red Cross movement seems to be voluntarily joining the Jews in passively accepting the equivalent of dhimmi status in Moslem countries. Dhimmi is the second-class status that Christians and Jews historically had under Islamic law. Dhimmis were better off than pagan infidels, who were simply given the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Dhimmis, in contrast, were not required to convert, and were allowed to practice their religions. However, they were subject to a head tax, a land tax and various legal disabilities to remind them of their inferior status. Hence a Christian or Jew was not permitted to ride a horse or camel, but only a donkey. Dhimmis were not allowed to carry weapons. Where non-Moslem worship was permitted (and in modern Saudi Arabia and certain other Arab countries it is not), it was forbidden for a church steeple or synagogue roof to be higher than the local mosque. A Moslem was permitted to kill a dhimmi without legal consequence other than a fine. Dhimmis also had to wear distinctive garments or colors to publicize their status—it was the Moslem world that first compelled Jews to wear a yellow garment, such as a turban or badge. The Nazis adopted the device from them, compelling Jews to wear yellow badges or arm bands with Stars of David. (At least it wasn’t a Yellow Crystal.)

But perhaps I am being too harsh and judgmental. The Red Crystal concept has some potential uses in other contexts. For example, the ACLU probably would permit a crystal in place of the cross that once adorned the Los Angeles County seal.

Ralph B. Kostant

UPDATE: Welcome, Pajamas Media readers. We hope you'll visit the rest of this blog.

A Sense of Humor About Your Own Side

If you're a conservative who has one, you'll enjoy this. I must admit, Will Farrell has GWB down pretty well.

Factoid of the Week

"A majority of teachers, parents and students at Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley favored renaming the school Sequoia Elementary because Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. Under Chief Sequoia, the Cherokee nation owned more than 1,500 black slaves."

--George F. Will in Newsweek.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Surprising And Distressing News

Well, it's surprising and distressing if you're a Deaniac or follower of Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi.

70 percent of Iraqis say life is good for them.

Predictably, ABC News also finds this surprising can't report the news without adding some hand-wringing:
Surprising levels of optimism prevail in Iraq with living conditions improved, security more a national worry than a local one, and expectations for the future high. But views of the country's situation overall are far less positive, and there are vast differences in views among Iraqi groups — a study in contrasts between increasingly disaffected Sunni areas and vastly more positive Shiite and Kurdish provinces.
Notice how ABC rushes to fit in the "but" to the story. (HT: Blogfather Hugh.)

If You Have A Daughter

Or even if you have only sons, or just a parent, now gone, whom you love, this is a fine, sweet piece from Lileks. (Thanks to Hugh Hewitt.)

Viewing The World Through The L.A. Times Prism


Times staffers John Horn and Elaine Dutka report:

In its debut weekend, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" grossed $67.1 million, exceeding both industry projections and the initial weekends for the first two "Lord of the Rings" films. Disney said its $180-million adaptation of the C.S. Lewis children's book about a magical land populated by talking creatures and an evil witch played strongly across the country, attracting a surprisingly large number of adults without children.
Interpreting: Doggone, the movie did well- very well, in fact! And it attracted more than just kids. Isn't that something? Its theme operates on two levels, you know, and one of them is - gasp! - religious!

Horn and Dutka continue:

While the studio said Sunday it did not have data on how many ticket buyers were attracted by the film's Christian themes (the story's lion, Aslan, sacrifices himself to save four children, only to be resurrected to vanquish evil), anecdotal evidence suggested faith communities turned out in droves.
Well, certainly. People didn't just go this movie on their own, did they? They had to be rounded up like sheep and taken to it. That makes the turnout easier to understand, doesn't it? And "anecdotal evidence" is such a handy way to prove such a point.

It seems that viewing the film's success through the Times' secular prism helps secular writers make sense of it. (Forgive me for coming to a conclusion based on anectdotal evidence.) In fairness to the writers, the article is not really an in-depth analysis of why the film did so well. All the quotes in the article are either from marketing people who supported the film or Christian pastors who organized efforts to attend the movie. Even so, I suspect this approach foreshadows the condescension we'll see when one of the Times wise men or women decides to explain it all to us.

By the way, I'm going to see the movie, maybe today, and it won't be because I have been bused to it.

John Yoo

In another Times article Anne-Marie O'Connor profiles Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who has decidedly conservative views on presidential war powers and the Geneva convention. Read the article. It makes Professor Yoo look like a very nice man who, in the view of everyone who knows anything, is simply and terribly wrong. Among the many positions the article cites as examples of Yoo's supposedly extreme views is this one:

"In the war against Al Qaeda, the Geneva Convention doesn't apply," Yoo explained in November on C-Span. "Al Qaeda is not a nation. Under the McCain amendment, all we could do is question people…. The real effect of the McCain amendment would be to shut down coercive interrogation."
Well, I haven't seen any legal scholar, left or right, argue that the Geneva Convention applies to Al Qaeda. It clearly does not. But if you read only articles like O'Connor's, you would think that only John Yoo and the people who agree with him hold that view.

And those are today's insights into how the world works, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Brief Foray into The L.A. Times Opinion Section

When I have a few extra moments on a Sunday (which is not often) I like to see if the print edition of the L.A. Times has published anything unexpected in the Sunday opinion section. That section is now called "Current." This is ironic; the notion of new wine in old bottles comes to mind. Or maybe it's the same old wine in a new bottle?

Snarky comments like that aside, I did find some pleasant surprises today. (Hugh Hewitt noticed them too.)

Starting with the unsurprising stuff, today the first page of Current was devoted to an utterly predictable three-editorial broadside on the Bush administration's foreign policy called "Axis of Evil Revisited." Each of the three op-ed pieces attacks Bush's record on North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. In the on-line edition the three pieces are not featured together on the same page, but you get the idea.

But page 2 improves somewhat. True, there is a predictable selection of three editorial cartoons (two of them harshly critical of Condoleeza Rice and President Bush, but that probably constitutes balance in the minds of Times editors). Then, alongside those cartoons, Dennis Prager has a nice piece called Religious zealots, arranged right to left. The provocative first paragraph:

AMERICANS CONSTANTLY hear and read about the dangers emanating from the religious right. But what about the dangers from the religious left? Ever hear about those dangers? In fact, do you ever hear about a religious left at all?
It's a good read.

Joel Kotkin also offers a "Modest Proposal" for the new mayor of L.A., Antonio Villaraigosa, who, despite failing the California bar exam more than once, still found work after law school as a labor union organizer. Now, years late, as an elected official His Honor apparently is still very fond of unions and eager to please them:

Villaraigosa signed off on a deal with Department of Water and Power workers that no sane private executive would ever agree to — five years of annual wage increases of 3.25% plus a cost-of-living clause. Now all the other city unions, starting with the 8,000-member Engineers and Architects Assn., are demanding the same sweet deal.
Man, it must be great to an L.A. City employee-- at least until the city faces the same bloated compensation and benefits obligations that General Motors is now trying to cope with. It's depressing for me to contemplate, as one who plans to live and work in L.A. for at least another 15 years, the impact that decisions like this will soon have on life in this town. Maybe I can move somewhere outside the city limits and just drive a little farther to work.

An Outside the Tent piece by Catherine Seipp makes great fun of the Times' recent pathetic effort to chronicle the blogosphere. The degree to which those folks are clueless about blogs is nothing if not morbidly fascinating. Read it; you'll be amazed.

Now for the money piece: This on-line poll gives some insight into who actually reads the Times on-line opinion section:

Which political party is more apt to run the country, Democrats or Republicans?
Democrats, Republicans have proven themselves to be corrupt
(1824 responses)
Republicans, Democrats are not unified and lack a cohesive vision
(410 responses)
Neither, Where is a viable third party when you need it?
(861 responses)
3095 total responses
Hey, if that's the makeup of the Times audience, I can see why the paper slants its opinion pages in that direction. Maybe it's time for a new L.A. Times advertising slogan:

The L.A. Times - The Left-of-Center Echo Chamber of The West!

Then again, if the Times keeps putting stuff like the articles above in the paper, maybe the readership will balance out a little. At least center-right thinkers would find a reason to start reading the thing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Some December Saturday Morning Musings

The Chronicles of Narnia

Rich Lowry writes today of Who Is Afraid of C.S. Lewis, and Why? Key comments:

"Lewis and Tolkien undertook their project against the grain in a mid-20th century that was an age of desiccated rationality. . .

We have gotten more desiccated since. Now everything tends to be viewed through the postmodern trinity of race, gender and sex. . . . [Narnia is about] the capacity to be childlike, with its guileless receptivity to wonderment and joy."
I like that: "T
he postmodern trinity of race, gender and sex." Tiresome, isn't it?

Here's Meghan O'Rourke's insightful take on Narnia generally:

Judging the Narnia books solely by their Christianity is an impoverished way of reading them. It is a reflection more of our polarized moment—in which a perceived cultural divide has alienated Christians from secular culture and secular readers from anything that smacks of religious leanings—than of the relative aesthetic merits and weaknesses of Lewis' books. Lewis, devout Christian though he might have been, would have been the first to say so—in large part because the litmus-test approach has led us to overlook children's experience of the books. The real genius of Narnia is the way Lewis built, out of a hodgepodge of literary traditions and predecessors, a patchwork world of unconventional characters who understand and instruct children without seeking to domesticate or indoctrinate them. The result is indelible, and anything but strictly allegorical.
The whole piece is very much worth reading.

I'm going to try to see the movie this weekend.

The Democrats' Self-Destructive Leftist Ossification

Victor Davis Hanson has a devastating piece in today's Private Papers entry, entitled "Democratic Implosion: Can The Party of the people Be Saved from Itself?" As always, his writing is so tight, it's hard to find an excerpt that does justice ot the entire piece. Here's a try:

Contrast the Democratic reactions to respective advice offered by Congressman Murtha and Senator Joe Lieberman. The former is a respected but not nationally known Democratic figure; the latter ran for the vice presidency of the United States. The Democrats gushed over Murtha’s bleak Dean-like assessment that the war is essentially lost and that we must leave as soon as possible. But then when a vote was called on the issue, they voted overwhelmingly not to follow the congressman’s prescription.

In contrast, when Lieberman returned from Iraq and gave a cautiously optimistically appraisal that our plan of encouraging elections, training Iraqis, and improving the Iraqi economy is working both inside Iraq and in the wider neighboring region, he was shunned by Democrats — who nevertheless by their inaction essentially agreed with Lieberman and so made no move to demand an immediate withdrawal. How odd to be effusive over the Democrat whose advice you reject while ignoring the spokesman whose advice you actually follow.

Even though I don't think the Democrats are "the party of the people" at all, the whole thing's a must-read.

Iraq from Businessmen's Perspective

William F. Buckley's got an interesting piece out today, breaking down the Iraqi opposition and responses thereto. This graph intrigued me:

As for the other principal menace, as many as a hundred IEDs exploded in Baghdad alone in a single week. Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander, has called for the equivalent of a Manhattan Project to address that problem. Efforts are being made to come up with techniques of detection and immobilization, but it is felt that the awful lag time is not sufficiently diminishing. "Inability to reverse effectiveness of this weapon not only costs us casualties, it has a significant effect on support for the war at home."
Yes. Isn't it truly awful that we keep losing our best young men and women to those makeshift bombs? Surely we can figure out a way to neutralize such a crude but murderous weapon. Doing so would go a long ways toward winning the conflict both in Iraq and at home. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Revealing Statement of the Week

"For most Americans, the truth is that the war on terrorism hardly touches their lives. For the few that have friends or relatives in the armed services, there may be some personal connection. But it isn't like there is a draft or the prospect of significant American military casualties, even in a full-fledged war with Iraq. The economy may be in the toilet, but it is not because of war shortages or changes in industrial production driven by war needs. It is not like there is going to be rationing. Travel has been inconvenienced and tourism disrupted. But in no way are these the dark days of either World War II or the nuclear arms race during the Cold War, when the survival of America was at stake."
--William Arkin, Los Angeles Times military affairs specialist and frequent columnist, in a speech he delivered on Sept. 25, 2002, to the U.S. Naval War College (emphasis added). (HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

That is the core of the debate between honest liberals and conservatives: Does the GWOT really matter? Is anything really important at stake?

Take a look at the video here. Then ask yourself: Just how sure can we really be that al Quaeda or a similar organization is not planning an attack along those lines?

How do honest liberals feel about such concerns? I think they agree with John Kerry:

[Kerry stated that] the threat of terrorism had been "exaggerated" by the Bush administration. Terrorism, he asserted, was "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world — the very thing this [Bush] administration is worst at."
Not many Democrats are willing to say that publicly; Kerry probably lost the 2004 election because of such statements. At the time I could not be sure whether Kerry emitted such jaw-droppers because he really believed them, or he was just dumb politically. I now think he really believes what he's saying. I don't think voting Americans believe it, however, which is why the Democrats aren't going to win many national elections in the foreseeable future.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


From the talented Chris Muir.

Today's Christmas Carol - 8 December 2005

I missed yesterday because I was on the road, working; and because my hotel had only dial-up internet access. Fatigue won out.

Today's offering is "Nativity Carol," by John Rutter, who is discussed below:

Born in a stable so bare,
Born so long ago;
Born 'neath light of star
He who loved us so.

Far away, silent he lay
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Cradled by mother so fair,
Tender her lullaby;
Over her son so dear
Angel hosts fill the sky.

Wise men from distant far land,
Shepherds from starry hills
Worship this babe so rare,
Hearts with his warmth he fills.

Love in that stable was born
Into our hearts to flow;
Innocent dreaming babe,
Make me thy love to know.

Words and Music by John Rutter
Copyright 2002, Collegium Records
I have sung this piece in a choir several times. Its sweetness and tenderness cannot be fully appreciated without hearing the music and the Rutter-conducted performance of his own arrangement. You can buy it here.

Here you'll find an interesting interview with John Rutter, by the way.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quick Takes

  • "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is 40 years old this month. I watched the first broadcast-- I was 11 years old-- and loved it. Did you have any idea, as Factmonster reports and Mary Katharine Ham notes, that the show almost wasn't aired because some considered it too overtly religious? (Remember - Linus quotes from Luke 2.)
PBS is without question an elitist, left-of-center, Beltway establishmentarian media organization, which occasionally produces high quality broadcasts. It is in deep denial about its core bias, and always has been.
No intellectually honest person can quibble with that conclusion.

  • Will the 9/11 Commission ever go away? Or are we doomed to continual hectoring by that deeply flawed collection of self-important former politicians?

  • Does Celebrity Heinous Murderer of the Week Tookie Wiliams deserve to live? Read this and tell me if you think so.

Plame, 42, worked undercover for the CIA tracking weapons proliferation but
saw her clandestine career imperiled after she was identified as an agency
operative in the summer of 2003 in a syndicated column by Robert

Friends said the mother of 5-year-old twins wanted to spend more time with her family, and that although she agreed to be photographed last year with her husband for an article about the case in Vanity Fair magazine, she had no plans to speak out.

From Vanity Fair, January 2004 (HT: Slate)

"Clandestine career imperiled?" Really? And that shot in Vanity Fair was, well, just something that happened. No harm to her clandestine career there, was there? "No plans to speak out." Yup.

  • More unintentional humor: Mary Mapes has a (deeply dishonest) long piece in Vanity Fair about how she was really right about those Bush National Guard memos and all those right-wing meanie bloggers were wrong.

Gotta love Vanity Fair. I'll bet many of its readers actually believe everything Mapes says.

  • Finally, if you want to see some attempted satire that fails because it just hits too hard and becomes mean, check out Joel Stein's piece in today's L.A. Times. Excerpt:
We Jews find it a little embarrassing that adults can still make such a big fuss over Christmas. To us, Jesus was just a cool guy everyone liked because he died young. And even 16-year-old girls eventually take down their James Dean posters. . . . So please, go nuts with your celebration, with your lying to children about where presents come from and your beverages made from raw eggs and your desperate use of greenery to get women to kiss you.

Does the Times have anyone willing to serve as an editor?

Today's Christmas Carol, 6 December 2005

I'm going to try to post a favorite, but somewhat obscure, Christmas carol every day between now and Christmas. I'll begin with something from English choral director and composer John Rutter, photo at left, who is well-known to any lover of choral music, especially sacred music. Rutter has been described as "the musical equivalent of Dickens."

I'm a huge Rutter fan. In 1981 Rutter formed his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, as a professional chamber choir primarily dedicated to recording. I think we have every Christmas album ever produced by the Cambridge singers. Their work is available from Collegium Records, a label formed just for them. Here's the lyric to one of their best and most famous recordings:

What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his flowers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
This is a sublime carol as performed by the Cambridge Singers. The sheet music is here, and the recording is available here (along with many other Rutter works).

Try a little John Rutter. Your Christmases will be greatly enriched.

Monday, December 05, 2005

There's Nothing Quite Like A Report from The Front Lines

It is beyond argument that the established news media, for whatever reason, isn't giving us a very full picture of events in Iraq. Here, at 365 and a Wakeup, is just one example of the kind of report we hear nothing -- absolutely nothing-- about anywhere outside the blogosphere. As you read it, ask yourself: Can you imagine any of our enemies doing anything similar to what these soldiers did? Can you imagine any occupying military force other than the United States doing anything similar?

I didn't think so.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Christmas Season Begins

Well, it has for my family and me, at least. The beginning of the season is really a state of mind in our house, and coincides with our annual tradition of hanging Christmas lights outside. On that subject, I will note only (1) I'm a colored lights guy, but my wife is a white lights gal, and so we have both; (2) white icicle lights are an abomination-- awkward, tangle-prone, short-lived. Next year we’re doing something else! I have been saying that for several years, but this time I really mean it. (I also said that last year, of course.)

There's obviously much more to the season than lights. Here's a favorite seasonal verse:

Christ Ran Stumbling
Anthony Ross
Lord Rector, University of Edinburgh

Christ ran stumbling down the street
on little twisted feet;
small blue hands over the place
where someone had bruised his face.
His starved, thin body shook with tears
and quick short gasps of fear.

Bitter the December day,
streets and sky an equal gray;
no brightness, but the neoned pub
where city men with Christmas grin
forgetfully went out and in.

When did we see you? folks will say,
at the last day.

May we all see Him when He's right in front of us -- which is practically all the time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Illegal Immigration: A Fragile Conservative Consensus Begins to Emerge

Thanks to Real Clear Politics for this sampling of opinion on immigration. I think we are beginning to see the emergence of a consensus that immigration needs an approach that is both tough and practical: (1) Enforce the border and (2) assimilate those already here who are not committing crimes other than immigration law violations.

Here are three different views of the problem.

Same Old Same Old

This piece in the Washington Times is by two Republican congressman, John Hostettler of Indiana and Lamar Smith of Texas, so probably cannot be taken very seriously. It was surely written by committee staff to please one constituency or another. Entitled "Illegals Hurt Americans," it makes the rather tired argument that illegal immigration is costing legal Americans their jobs.

I find that hard to swallow in light of today's report of 5% unemployment, virtually a full-employment economy. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Yesterday's data blitz included a report by the Institute for Supply Management that showed manufacturing activity was robust in November and expanded fast enough for factories to add new jobs. Although the ISM's index declined slightly
to a reading of 58.1 from October's 59.1 and September's 59.4, economists said the report indicates that manufacturing activity, and indeed the broader economy, is on solid footing. (Readings above 50 indicate growth; while readings below 50 indicate that activity is contracting.)

The Path of The Future

R. Emmett Tyrell in the Washington Times says the issue is not economic:

We are almost at full employment, and with 2 to 3 times as many illegal
immigrants in the country as in the mid-1980s, when former Sen. Alan Simpson, Wyoming Republican, last addressed the immigration issue. That pretty much proves the economy can accept immigration and prosper. . . . The real problem is border security and an orderly society. We need to know who is entering the country and that they abide by the laws. So Congress is preparing a series of get-tough measures. . . . [proposed] legislation would deputize state and local police to arrest the millions of illegal immigrants (possibly 12 million) and deport them. . . .

Any prudent law must be based on what James Madison in The Federalist Papers called the "genius" of the people. The American people are by nature generous, optimistic and tolerant. It is apparent, at least to me, that as we begin arresting illegal immigrants the process will soon come to a sorry end. Wretched immigrants would be held up by many Americans now favoring the tough approach as the victims of unjust law enforcers. Civil libertarians would step in. The approach would be brought to ruin, and the "hate-America" crowd would have more spurious evidence this is a racist and intolerant country. There is a better approach.

We have the capacity to close off the border, and we should. We also have the capacity to encourage many of the illegal immigrants to enroll in a program aimed at amnesty, but one that does not make chumps of legal immigrants who have played by the rules. The legislation of the 1980s ended in amnesty and well more than half the illegals became law-abiding citizens.

The burden on the president and Congress is to close off border and get the present immigrants to enter amnesty programs. This is not easily done, but it is certainly more practical and feasible than the "tough" approaches bandied about. The market for immigrants is here and will not evaporate. The Know-Nothings faded away but the bad repute they settled on the country endured -- unfairly, but it endured.

Tyrell, editor of the American Spectator, certainly has solid conservative credentials and is no bleeding heart softie. I think his view is the one that will eventually prevail.

The Economic and Human Reality

Writing in the Miami Herald from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Frida Ghitis takes a different but equally realistic tack, arguing that Mexicans (and other latinos) are going to come to the USA no matter what:

For the millions who make it to the United States, a life of relatively high earnings does not mean a life of comfort. Mexican migrants send so much of what they make back to their families, that remittances have become the second-largest source of revenue for Mexico, second only to oil exports.

. . .

One of the reasons for U.S. success as a country is that it was built by immigrants, a self-selected group, which has always included some of the most determined, driven and hard-working people from around the world.

As long as the United States needs workers and Mexico has more people than jobs; as long as Mexico remains so much poorer than its northern neighbor, Mexicans will give in and seek to make their fortune in America. And, as long as there is no viable legal option to enter the country, an illegal infrastructure, rather than legitimate immigration authorities, will control the border. That will make the U.S.-Mexico frontier one that will open America to anyone willing to pay cash and take the risk.

I don't like that, but it's reality. We have to cope with it. Tyrell has it right. As Matt Drudge might say, developing . . . .

"Fahrenheit 9/11" One Year Later

Christopher Hitchens:

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of 'dissenting' bravery."

That about covers it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hugh Hewitt, Blasphemer

This is a dark day. My esteemed blogfather Hugh Hewitt starts off with a little light-hearted banter about the Boston Red Sox (say that name with pride, son!). Then, sadly, Hugh gets carried away and utters this:

Did I mention that Rocky Colavito should have been elected to the Hall of Fame twice before Yaz got in as a visitor?

It's so sad to see things like this happen. Now, I think Hugh, being of Irish descent and all, probably enjoys an adult beverage now and then. But surely not at 6:54 a.m., when the above was posted. One suspects that a little of that Ohio inferiority complex got the best of him; I hear it manifests itself mostly in early December mornings, when it starts to sink in on Buckeye fans that once again, they're not going to the Rose Bowl.

I will not embarrass Hugh any further, except to note that it was Carl Yastrzemski who won three batting titles (career average .285), the Triple Crown, seven Gold Gloves, and got 3,419 hits (an average of 162 hits per season). Rocky hit .266 lifetime and had, um, 1730 hits (about 123 per season). No Triple Crowns in sight for ol' Rock.

We hope Hugh is feeling better by the time his show starts today.