Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Biblical Literacy And The Main Stream Media

Back in college I took a course called "The Bible As Literature." I remember my professor making the point that regardless of how one felt about the truthfulness of the Judeo-Christian Bible, to be truly literate in Western society (a term that was not politically incorrect at that time), one had to have a basic familiarity with the Good Book.

It seems that times have changed in the last 3o years, as this Power Line post strongly suggests. Some Western MSM types clearly have very little exposure to the Bible, which, aside from being a foundational work in Western Civilization, happens to be the best-selling book in the history of the world. I am confident that the same MSM types consider themselves quite well-educated nonetheless.

Read the Power Line post; if you know the Bible at all, you'll find it quite amusing, somewhat eye-opening, and probably a little depressing.

Walid Phares' Analysis of the Jan. 3- Al-Zawahiri/Al Jazeera Tape

Only on the blogosphere will you find a line-by-line analysis of Al-Zawahiri's latest statement, by a pro-democracy Arabic speaker. Dr. Walid Phares, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of Future Jihad, gives us just that in the Counter-Terrorism Blog. His introduction:

The new Zawahiri videotape released by al Jazeera today shows a sophistication in the propaganda war waged by the Jihadists worldwide against the US and its allies. Designed to "crumble" the morale of the American public and "boost" the commitments of the Jihadi forces, the tape is another attempt to score points in the War of ideas and media. The results were immediate in the West. The Associated Press immediate leads were stunning: 1) Zawahiri proves he wasn't killed by the US strike, therefore he scored one point against the US. 2) He labeled his enemy, the US President, as "butcher of Washington," hence attempting to rally the widest anti-American axis as possible. AP lead. But the tape is not just that, another message from the number two in al Qaida. It is a very well orchestrated political offensive aimed at the nervous centers of the "enemy's" public. A shot that may preceed action or asking for it.
He goes on to dissect the entire statement. Read the whole thing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

John McCain on "Earmarks"

John McCain tends too much toward a sort of "narcissistic maverickism" for my political tastes, but he gets many big issues right. As John Fund of Opinion Journal's Political Diary (a subscription service) reports, McCain seems right on Congressional earmarks:

[McCain] said the scandal in Washington is bipartisan because both parties earmark projects for favorite constituencies and insert them into bills at the last minute without anyone knowing until later. "You've got a process that breeds corruption. And it makes good people do bad things," he told Fox.

Asked why current reform plans pay short shrift to earmark reform, Mr. McCain was even blunter. Earmarks, he said, are "perceived to be by many politicians as their bread and butter, and preserves their incumbency." He concluded with a warning: "If we don't fix the earmarking, then I can assure you the corruption will go on."

Sounds right to me.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The "Military-Friendly" Senator Clinton And A Photo Opportunity Gone Wrong

Well, maybe she wants to be military-friendly, but there's evidence that members of the military do not wish to be friendly to her. Consider the photo at left, for example. Notice the soldier's left hand. Yep, he's showing what I understand is called the "sign of coercion" with his left hand, meaning he's not willingly shaking the good Senator's hand.

Not terribly significant, but fun to look at. We, ah, don't see this sort of thing with any prominent Republican who's visiting the troops in Iraq.

For verification of the photo's authenticity and of this soldier's intentions, look here.

UPDATE: Here's a relevant political cartoon.

John Kerry Sets Yodeling Record

This has already been posted on Power Line, but it's just too wonderful not to post everywhere possible. The Washington Times reports on John Kerry's call for a filibuster of the Alito nomination, which even Harry Reid concedes would be futile. Kerry was in Davos, Switzerland when he urged his fellow Democrats to try to block Alito:

By midday, Republicans had dubbed Mr. Kerry's international politicking the "Swiss Miss." White House spokesman Scott McClellan called it a "pretty historic" day. "This was the first time ever that a senator has called for a filibuster from the slopes of Davos, Switzerland," Mr. McClellan said. "I think even for a senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibusters from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps."

I'll bet McClellan smiles every time he thinks of that line.

Friday, January 27, 2006

U.S.-Mexican Border Security?

Read this story about how some obviously resourceful and well-financed drug smugglers were able to construct a

"tunnel . . . 60 feet below ground at some points, five feet high, and nearly half a mile long, extending from a warehouse near the international airport in Tijuana, Mexico, to a vacant industrial building in Otay Mesa, Calif., about 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego."
A photo of the tunnel is at left. It's about a half-mile long.

Then read this one about the discovery and dismantling of

"a false passport ring with links to al-Qaida and Hamas militants . . . Colombian officials said the gang allegedly supplied an unknown number of citizens from Pakistan, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and other countries with false passports and Colombian nationality without them ever setting foot in the country."
I think we should be worried about the border. And I wonder, along with Hugh Hewitt, "will the left object if NSA listens without a warrant if one of [the people who did these things] happens to be in the United States?"

Hamas: Know the Enemy

Ralph Kostant shares this chilling bit of information, direct from the source:

So just who is Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist party that this week won 76 seats in the Palestinian 132-seat parliament? It seems to be that the best information source is the organization’s own charter. In order to make sure that Hedgehog readers get a picture unbiased by pervasive Zionist influences, I have found a copy of the charter on a Palestinian website, here. By all means, read the entire charter of these loony tune characters, if you can handle it. For the weaker of heart and stomach, here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.

For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.

But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).

[The Jews] stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions and behind most of the revolutions we hear about here and there. They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and the like. All of them are destructive spying organizations. They also used the money to take over control of the Imperialist states and made them colonize many countries in order to exploit the wealth of those countries and spread their corruption therein. As regards local and world wars, it has come to pass and no one objects, that they stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate. They collected material gains and took control of many sources of wealth. They obtained the Balfour Declaration and established the League of Nations in order to rule the world by means of that organization. They also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials and prepared for the establishment of their state. They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council to replace the League of Nations, in order to rule the world by their intermediary. There was no war that broke out anywhere without their fingerprints on it: “…As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their efforts are for corruption in the land and Allah loves not corrupters.” Sura V (Al-Ma’ida—the Tablespread), verse 64.

We cannot fail to remind every Muslim that when the Jews occupied Holy Jerusalem in 1967 and stood at the doorstep of the Blessed Aqsa Mosque, they shouted with joy: ‘Muhammad is dead, he left daughters behind.’ Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. ‘Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.’

Hedgehog readers who belong to the Masons, the Rotary Club or the Lions Club probably did not know that their fraternal organizations owe their existence to the Zionist enemy. Presumably, we Zionists started Kiwanis and the Elks as well (“and the like”), although Hamas did not see fit to single them out.
Some elections do succeed in clarifying issues. This Palestinian election certainly is one of them.

Ralph B. Kostant


In an increasingly serious world, it is comforting to know that we can always depend on former President Jimmy Carter for some foolish advice. As reported by Little Green Footballs, Jimmy lost no time following the Hamas landslide election victory in calling for more financial support of the new terrorist government of the Palestinian Authority. I guess President Carter doesn’t belong to the Freemasons, Rotary Club or Lions Club. (See my post above.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just A Little More on Joel Stein

Joel Stein of the L.A. Times (about whom more here) is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, er, infamy, according to Reuters:

Stein said that, despite the fact that his e-mail address was not made public by the paper, he had received some 100 "hate e-mails" by noon. "They're telling me to leave the country, which sounded good at first because I thought they meant a vacation. But they didn't mean a vacation," he said. The columnist said he suspected the reaction was largely fueled by the Web sites, adding: "My guess is that it will die down pretty quickly."
Well, yes, Mr. Stein; that's because you haven't said much of any significance.

I've only read a Joel Stein column once before. The piece was so sophomoric that I thought Stein was probably a non-writer who had been given a guest column, perhaps an aging comedian trying very hard to be funny:

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.
Seriously, folks, who really thinks that kind of Christmas-season writing is amusing or interesting, in a general-circulation newspaper?

I only happened to notice Stein's latest because of the clever title: "Warriors and Wusses." It turns out that he's a young guy, in his early 30s, with little life experience. That may explain why he seems to confuse writing something provocative with writing something interesting or important. I hope he doesn't think that simply angering a lot of people means he's written something good, or that more people will read his column in the Times now due to his brain droppings of yesterday.

Mostly, Mr. Stein, we've noted your writing as the silly blatherings of yet another young leftist Bill Maher wannabe. We hate to disappoint you, but we won't be paying much attention in the future.

PATERRICO has more.

UPDATE: Could work like Mr. Stein's be the cause of the phenomenon reflected in this Day by Day cartoon?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Joel Stein and Kay Lebowitz: Two Sharply Contrasting Approaches to "Supporting The Troops"

Joel Stein is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. I've commented on his tasteless writing before, here. Today Mr. Stein writes about the concept of "supporting the troops." This will give you a taste:

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to
have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers
on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to
urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

In contrast, Mudville Gazette reports on the activities of one Kay Lebowitz. Note the contrast with Mr. Stein's attempt at humor, or satire, or whatever he's trying so hard to achieve:

It is well after dinnertime for Kay Lebowitz, but she hardly notices - she has hundreds of American troops to greet.Here at Bangor International Airport, she bustles about, sliding next to them at the snack bar. "I always ask them if they have children," she says. "They love to talk about their babies."

A planeload of US Marines, heading to Iraq, files in line to board. She strives to hug all 263 of them. "See you on the way back," she tells them.

"Kay, let 'em go," shouts a fellow volunteer at the front of the queue. "You're holding up the line." But the 90-year-old hardly notices that, either.

Ms. Lebowitz is a member of the Maine Troop Greeters, a community group that has dutifully gathered at this tiny airport in central Maine since May 2003. . . .

Read the whole thing here.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has much more on this.

UPDATE II: So does Dennis Prager. (Looks like I jumped on this one after about 98% of the rest of the blogosphere. I'm working too hard!) Prager's point is that when American leftists say that although they oppose the war, they support the troops, they are being dishonest; one cannot think the war is wrong and yet "support the troops:"

The Left's message is this: "You troops may think you are winning; you may think you are doing good and moral things in Iraq; you may believe you are fighting the worst human beings of our age and protecting us against the scourge of Islamic terror. But we on the Left believe none of that. We believe this war is being fought for oil and for Halliburton and other corporations; we believe you are waging a war that is both illegal and immoral; we believe you have invaded a country for no good reason and have killed a hundred thousand Iraqis [the Left's generally mentioned number] for no good reason; but, hey, we sure do support you."

What the Left is really saying is, "We think the war is horribly wrong, troops, but we don't blame you for that (except for the generals) and we hope you get out of it safely." I'm not sure many of the troops see that as support.

But at least Mr. Stein gets points for being honest. He's many other things, I fear, but he seems to be honest about his view of the war. That's more than we can say for most on the Left.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Are Members of The "Insurgency" Not Getting Along?

ThreatsWatch, an interesting new site that's worth following, offers information and insight into what Zarqawi's life is like right now. Here's a taste:

Zarqawi is said to have personally attended to the needs of his guests, led prayer sessions and washed the insurgent leaders prior to prayer. While the acts committed by Zarqawi are not uncommon in the Muslim world, they are not the actions of a confident man secure in his position vis-a-vis the insurgent groups. Zarqawi is attempting to demonstrate his piousness in an attempt to convince the groups his commitment to Islam is sincere.

(Thanks to InstaPundit.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Marriage Gap

I'll be doing client training all day today, with light blogging. But thanks to my friend Steve Finefrock, I have stumbled across this important piece by Kay S. Hymowitz. Entitled "Marriage and Caste," it argues that "America’s chief source of inequality" is "the marriage gap." Hymowitz's piece is long and tightly written, so an excerpt cannot possibly do it much justice; but here's an effort:

The results [of modern marriage trends] radically split the experiences of children. Children in the top quartile now have mothers who not only are likely to be married, but also are older, more mature, better educated, and nearly three times as likely to be employed (whether full- or part-time) as are mothers of children in the bottom quartile. And not only do top-quartile children have what are likely to be more effective mothers; they also get the benefit of more time and money from their live-in fathers.

For children born at the bottom of the income scale, the situation is the reverse. They face a decrease in what McLanahan terms “resources”: their mothers are younger, less stable, less educated, and, of course, have less money. Adding to their woes, those children aren’t getting much (or any) financial support and time from their fathers. Surprisingly, McLanahan finds that in Europe, too—where welfare supports for “lone parents,” as they are known in Britain, are much higher than in the United States—single mothers are still more likely to be poor and less educated. As in the United States, so in Europe and, no doubt, the rest of the world: children in single-parent families are getting less of just about everything that we know helps to lead to successful adulthood.

This is an important argument (and is an excerpt from Hymowitz' book, linked on the same article) and deserves to be widely read. Read the whole thing and pass it on.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Quote of The Day: Hillary Clinton, "The Very Essence of Controversy"

University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, on the 2008 "presidential prizefight," at RealClearPolitics:

Sen. Clinton is the very essence of controversy, as she has just proven again
with her Martin Luther King Day race-card remark comparing the Republican-run
House of Representatives to a 'plantation.' Whatever her specific stands, she is
perceived, probably irrevocably, as a liberal by most Americans... and no matter
what people tell pollsters about their open-minded willingness to have a female
commander-in-chief, there could be a significant electoral cost on account of
gender bias. There are also personal adjectives imputed to Senator Clinton that
are unattractive, such as 'cold,' 'devious,' and 'harsh.' Maybe this portrait is
unfair, maybe it is untrue. But it is reality, and the reality will be ignored
by Democrats at their considerable peril.

This will never happen, but if the Democrats nominated Joe Lieberman or a moderate center-left Democrat governor, they'd probably win in 2008. A Clinton candidacy makes me wince over the unbridled nastiness that would pervade political discussion for at least a solid year.

The Jill Carroll Kidnapping

I noticed this morning that CBS Radio News is referring to Jill Carroll's kidnappers as "militants."


My trusty home town paper, the L.A. Times, carries the same theme: "Militants Threaten Life of U.S. Journalist." The CBS News web site uses the same terminology in a related story.

I don't want to be picky here, but aren't they "kidnappers?" Or maybe "captors?" Or perhaps even "terrorists?"

It looks like the militants picked the wrong victim this time. Al Jazeera's web site states, "Aljazeera reaffirmed its rejection of all forms of violence against journalists and demanded Caroll's immediate release," and further reports:

Carroll's former employers The Jordan Times published a Sunday editorial, stating: "The kidnappers who abducted her could not have chosen a more wrong target. True, Jill is a US citizen. But she is also more critical of US policies towards the Middle East than many Arabs… Jill has been from day one opposed to the war, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. "
The pressure on those militants who kidnapped the wrong woman to release her is growing. I hope it suceeds; I can only imagine what her family is going through. My thoughts, prayers, and heart go out to their daughter and them.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Peggy Noonan: Time for Republicans to Take Stock

Peggy Noonan has a pretty good piece in today's Opinion Journal. Excerpt:

But where does this leave us? With our mass media busy with reluctant reformation . . . with the old network monopoly over and done . . . with something new, we know not what, about to take its place . . . with the Democratic Party adjusting to the loss of its megaphone . . . Where does that leave us? I think it leaves us knowing that, more than ever, the Republican Party--the party ultimately helped by the end of the old monopoly and the reformation of news media--must be a good party, a decent one, and help our country.

That it regain a sense of its historic mission. That it stop seeming the friend of the wired and return to being the great friend of Main Street, for Main Street still, in its own way, exists. That it return to basic principles on spending, regulation and state authority. That it question a foreign policy that often seems at once dreamy and aggressive, and question, too, an overreaching on immigration policy that seems composed in equal parts of naiveté and cynicism. That its representatives admit that lunching with lobbyists is not the problem; failing to oppose the growth of government--so huge that no one, really no one, knows what is in its budget--is. That they reduce the size and power of government. That they help our country.
I've written here about being a Main Street Republican before, which I think means the same thing to Noonan that it does to me. It does not mean people like Jack Abramoff, and probably does not mean many of the folks at the Heritage Foundation, National Review, or the Weekly Standard.

I'm not sure, by the way, what Noonan means about "overreaching on immigration policy," but I hope she is not one of the "seal the border and deport them all" crowd. And one might argue that Ronald Reagan's foreign policy was "at once dreamy and aggressive," but it sure worked.

All that aside, Noonan's right that Republicans need to stake stock. The true Republican post-Reagan era is beginning. The GOP has have enough power that lobbyists are getting in big trouble for being too cozy with its leaders. That's a sign of a mature party, but it can also be a sign of an overripe sluggishness and ennui. (Think of the Dmeocrats in the late 70's.) Time to refocus on those principles and move to the next level, and remain "the friend of Main Street," not the friend of those others.

Osama bin Laden's Latest Tape, "Betwen the Lines"

Walid Phares give an illuminating read here. (HT: Hugh Hewitt.) Nice to know what the enemy is saying.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Can Islam Evolve?

Ralph Kostant comments:

In a piece entitled The Pope and the Koran, published in The Jerusalem Post online edition, Daniel Pipes responds to a recent interview of Father Joseph D. Fessio, SJ on The Hugh Hewitt Show. Mr. Pipes does not share the pessimism that, according to Father Fessio, Pope Benedict XVI expressed concerning the capacity of Islam to evolve. I am sure that the Pope shares my hope that Mr. Pipes is correct. Also, it is good to see that the influence of Hugh, the Hedgehog’s blogfather, has spread internationally to an audience that is unlikely to have heard his show over AM radio (although it is available to them in real time over cyberspace).

Ralph B. Kostant

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Franklin

He was born 300 years ago today. Ann Althouse has a brief tribute and links. He was, as Prof. Althouse notes, "the first great American," and was one of the most famous men in the world at the time of the Revolution. For him to join the leadership of the American colonists against the British Crown was no small matter.

A favorite Ben Franklin quote: "He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals."

UPDATE: Other Franklin birthday-related links here, here, and here.

Missing In Action: The Political Courage of Hillary Clinton

Maybe you missed this news item:

CARACAS, Venezuela - The American singer and activist Harry Belafonte called President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world” on Sunday and said millions of Americans support the socialist revolution of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Belafonte led a delegation of Americans including the actor Danny Glover and the Princeton University scholar Cornel West that met the Venezuelan president for more than six hours late Saturday. Some in the group attended Chavez’s television and radio broadcast Sunday.

“No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution,” Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.

Last Thursday Senator Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to respond to Belafonte's remarks, as she and he were both on the program at a Childrens' Defense Fund luncheon in New York City's Rainbow Room. What did she do? Well, according to this story, she pretended Belafonte was not there and made sure she remained at least 15 feet away from him the entire time.

Here's what she might have said:

It's no secret that I have deep concerns about the Administration's prosecution of foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq. Our intelligence was shamefully poor and the post-war planning was beneath the level we have a right to expect from the United States. I will continue to work to bring better focus to our country's efforts there.

All that aside, I must also express my concerns about the statements some of our fellow Americans are making about our country. I have long admired Harry Belafonte and enjoy his music; he is a great American. But calling the President of the United States "the greatest tyrant in the world" and "the greatest terrorist in the world" is beneath Harry; he should not have said those things, especially while visiting a foreign country whose leader is hostile to the United States. We all feel strongly about these very controversial issues, but we must be responsible in our discussion of them. Say what you will about President Bush, but he is neither a tyrant nor a terrorist.
I think this is a no-brainer, the type of "Sister Souljah moment" that Real Clear Politics thinks Ms. Clinton needs to seize. Yes, such a statement would have started a civil war among the Democrats-- a war that political party probably needs to have. But it would also have given Senator Clinton true standing as a courageous Democrat and a true moderate. (How could John Kerry criticize her-- by arguing that Harry Belafonte was right to call Bush names while in Venezuela?) She would have instantly positioned herself to win the general election in 2008.

But I wonder if she has (a) the political dexterity and (b) the innate courage necessary to pull off such a "moment." Clearly her husband did; I suspect she does not. It will be interesting to see, as 2008 approaches, whether she steps up to similar opportunities as they arise.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ask Yourself This Question:

In the days before the blogosphere, wouldn't the New York Times have gotten away with this?

Seems to me the "Gray Lady" ought to be the "Blushing with Embarrassment Lady" today.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Roe v. Wade: Bad Foundation

Chicago Tribune Columnist Steve Chapman:
Says Edward Lazarus, a former clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the opinion in Roe, "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose."

For nearly two centuries, the courts had no inkling that abortion was protected by the framers. When the Supreme Court finally discovered the oversight, it didn't get there by applying clear principles or solid precedents, as it usually does in expanding protections. Instead, it took the right of privacy, which is implicitly upheld in various provisions of the Bill of Rights, and stretched it beyond recognition. The result was like building a skyscraper on a foundation designed for a log cabin. Roe was shaky on Day One and has been shaky ever since.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ariel Sharon: A Different Perspective

From frequent contributor and future fellow Hedgehog Ralph Kostant:

All across the American political spectrum, columnists, including even conservative pundits such as Charles Krauthammer, are extolling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for his vision in pushing through a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and pressing for even further unilateral territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Here is a different perspective, from Frank J. Gaffney Jr., head of the Center for Security Policy.

Ralph B. Kostant

What To Do About Iran?

Military historian John Keegan, writing in the Daily Telegraph:

Saddam merely pretended to have weapons of mass destruction, largely to feed his own fantasies of power. Iran is actually turning itself into a nuclear weapons state, a fact disputed by none of the players on the international scene. Iran, moreover, does not seek such weapons for psychological reasons. It wants them for practical purposes, including, according to a statement by its new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former revolutionary guard, to "wipe Israel from the map". Islamic extremists are, of course, given to blood-curdling rhetoric. Nevertheless, Iran's record must cause not only the West but all Iran's neighbours to take the threat seriously. . . .

[I]f the West is considering military action [against Iran], so are the ayatollahs. They are the sponsors of much of the insurgency in Iraq and suppliers of the insurgents' weapons. They also have intimate links with most of the world's worst terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Iranians may well be the missing link for which MI5 is searching behind the July 7 bombings in London. Moreover, while Iran has its own armory of medium-range missiles suitable for nuclear delivery, the ayatollahs are also known to favor the placing of nuclear warheads in target cities by terrorists traveling by car or public transport.

The whole this is worth reading. Warning: it will not make your day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sometimes You Just Have to Shake Your Head And Turn The Page

Here's part of MSNBC's coverage of the controversy in today's hearings over Sam Alito's past
membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP):

Alito, for his part, reiterated earlier statements that he had no recollection
of his membership, which he listed on a job application. “If I had been involved
actively in any way in the group, I’m sure that I would remember,” Alito said.

Alito's lack of recall is at odds with a Nov. 18 report in the Daily
Princetonian newspaper. The story states that Alito, in the process of
completing a “Personal Qualifications Statement” as part of an application for a
job in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, wrote that he was “a member of the
Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group.”
Let's see: Alito says he doesn't remember being a member or being actively involved in CAP. But the student newspaper reports that he was a member. That report is "at odds" with his lack of recall. So this means . . . what, exactly? I guess it means . . . he doesn't remember! He did not say he was not a member; he said he didn't remember being a member or participating actively in CAP.

Then MSNBC throws in this valuable information:

Interviews with alumni who were contemporaries of Alito at Princeton told the Daily Princetonian they recalled the group “as a far right organization funded by conservative alumni committed to turning back the clock on coeducation at the University.”
Oh, please. This is news reporting?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Michael Barone Skewering of James Risen

Painful. But Risen asked for it.

Alito HeadLine Comparison: Nothing If Not Predictable

Here are the headlines from four major MSM print dailies about yesterday's first day of confirmation hearings. Does any one of them stand out to you as being slanted in one direction or another?

The Los Angeles Times:

Alito Tries to Defuse Doubts

  • Bush's nominee says he's not bound by ideology, but Democrats promise sharp questions for the man who could tip the high court's balance.
The Washington Times:

Alito vows equal justice for all

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. promised a panel of senators yesterday that he would dispense justice to the rich and poor equally and without ideological bias if confirmed to become the 110th Supreme Court justice.

The New York Times:

Focus of Hearings Quickly Turns to Limits of Presidential Power

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 - The opinion is more than 50 years old, and it is not even binding precedent. But just minutes into the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., it took center stage and seemed to lay the groundwork for the questions he will face concerning his views on the limits of presidential power.

The Washington Post:

Alito on Day 1: 'A Judge Can't Have Any Agenda'
Court Nominee To Be Questioned By Senators Today

Samuel A. Alito Jr. sought to reassure senators yesterday that divisive policies he once advocated as a government lawyer do not necessarily signal how he would rule if confirmed to the Supreme Court, saying a judge "can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case."

The Chicago Tribune:

Alito: `A judge can't have any agenda'
No one is above or below the law, nominee says in opening remarks

WASHINGTON -- Pledging "to do equal right to the poor and the rich," Judge Samuel Alito said Monday that if confirmed to the Supreme Court he would respect the rule of law and "administer justice without regard" to a person's standing in life.

My home town paper, the L.A. Times, does not disappoint me in my expectation that it would have the most slanted headline. The Washington Times (a conservative paper) and the Chicago Tribune seem straight-up in their headlines and ledes. As for the Washington Post and the New York Times, you can decide: Do those headlines and ledes seem straight-up or not?

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Grudge," starring Senator H. Clinton

Opinion Journal's Political Diary (a subscription service) reports that when the White House asked that all its pending judicial nominees be carried over to 2006, Brett Kavanaugh was not included because of an objection from "a single anonymous Senator." Kavanaugh's nomination will now have to be resubmitted, "a tedious procedure that will further delay its consideration."

In an article entitled "Hillary Clinton's own private grudge match," Quin Hillyer of the Mobile Register reports:

"Republican and Democratic sources alike say that the objection, and a long-running 'hold' on the Kavanaugh nomination, were effected by another Democratic senator at the direct request of Sen. Clinton -- who apparently wants to be able to deny formal culpability for the parliamentary maneuvers.

"Why is Sen. Clinton so particularly vindictive toward Brett Kavanaugh? Apparently, for simple revenge. Mr. Kavanaugh was an important mid-level attorney on the staff of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, whose investigation of course is famous for leading to the impeachment of her husband."

Glad to see the Clintons are continuing their high-minded approach to the business of the country.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tolerance of Intolerance and the Decline of the West

Work's had me all over the country this past week, and I'm still not home, but I can't pass up the opportunity to comment on Mark Steyn's piece, "It's The Demography, Stupid." As Hugh Hewitt notes, Steyn's piece makes for gloomy reading:

Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam
is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off. When the jihadists engage with the U.S. military, they lose--as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this were like World War I with those fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

Steyn's long piece is well worth a read. I have never been a big advocate of predicting the decline of the West, not because I don't think it's happening (I do) but because I don't think people listen when one starts talking that way. Steyn's argument is exceptional, however, and carefully reasoned. One Steyn point caught my eye: The notion that we in the West are so tolerant of intolerance (in the form of radical Islam) that we have assumed a suicidally supine position with respect to those who would like to end our freedom-loving way of life.

A well-known organizational behavior author I respect, Stephen Covey, teaches that it's important in all human interaction to balance courage and consideration. In other words, respect and understand the views of others, by all means; but also stand up-- and stoutly-- for your own views and values. It's the second half of that equation that we in the West seem to be neglecting. Tolerance for "the other" seems to be everything, without demanding (or even expecting) any tolerance in return.

Who would have thought that the failure to observe such a simple and inoffensive principle could lead to such a disastrous consequence as the loss of an entire society?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Why Patterico Is Important

Patterico is a long-time chronicler of the L.A. Times' abuse of its position of trust as a newspaper. That's an issue of daily importance for Los Angeles residents like me (all Angelenos have strong opinions about the Times, most of them negative). Patterico's work is important for everyone, however, even for the newspaper's relatively few fans and for fans of the MSM generally. Here's why.

If you're old enough to remember the pre-blogospheric era (and most are), you'll recall that when a newspaper like the Times made a mistake or was unfair or biased, all you could do was write a letter to the editor, which would probably be ignored. Many abuses were simply accepted as facts of life with a sigh of resignation. Uncounted abuses went unaccounted for and the Times pretty much got away with unchecked agenda journalism.

No longer. Review this annual round-up by Paterrico, and see the work he has been doing. Note the sheer number of abuses he has identified and publicized. It's remarkable, and those of us on the conservative side of the ideological spectrum should not take Patterico and others like him for granted. At last the Times is being held accountable and is subject to regular and intense scrutiny by people who can publicize its abuses. We have the blogosphere and people like Patterico, who approach these matters with intelligence and dedication, to thank for this.

I don't know that this scrutiny will change the Times; there are suggestions that it is helping. In any case, we're all better off.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Was The NSA Leaker A Noble Whistleblower? Not A Chance.

The Democrats and liberal MSM commentators are trying to characterize the recent NSA leaks as the acts of a mere whistleblower who is only attempting to expose wrongdoing. Nice try, but legally, there is a huge difference between a whistleblower and someone who is merely attempting to inflict political damage on a presidential administration by leaking to the press. Here's why.

The Nobleness of Leakers Is in The Eye of The Beholder

Leaks are funny things and produce odd reactions in those who report on them. That seems to be especially true of national security leaks. Whether or not a commentator approves of a particular leak often depends on who benefits from, or is harmed by, the leak.

That's certainly true of the NSA leak controversy now under way. The liberal members of the MSM have taken to calling the NSA leakers heroes. I first heard that characterization from Jonathan Alter, who appeared on Hugh Hewitt's show two weeks back. (Thanks, Radioblogger.)

The "heroic leaker" spin now seems to be morphing into a "whistleblower" argument. For those who, like me, were not watching the Sunday political interview shows on New Year's Day, the inimitable and invaluable Michelle Malkin reports that Chuck Schumer has taken up the cudgel for the whistleblower theory:

"There are differences between felons and whistleblowers, and we ought to wait
until the investigation occurs to decide what happened," Schumer sputtered as he
complained about Republican "distractions." The quote, of course, found its way
into a prominent place in the NYTimes and elsewhere.

If, unlike me, you are in the mood to listen to Schumer bloviate, you can link to the video here. (It's a .wmv file.)

This "eye of the beholder" phenomenon is the reason why there was such hand-wringing and outrage among MSM pundits over the Valerie Plame leak. Instead of being a noble whistleblower leak, the argument goes, the Plame leak was merely intended to discredit Joe Wilson's "investigation" into whether Saddam Hussein sought to acquire yellowcake from Niger. Of course, it now appears that there was no real "leak" in the Plame matter; the special counsel who doggedly investigated the matter for over a year decided not to indict anyone for leaking. Regardless, the Plame non-leak was considered a "bad" leak, and the NSA leak is considered a "good" one.

Is A Leaker A Whistleblower?

I know something about whistleblowers, because dealing with such folk is part of my professional life. A leaker to the press is not a whistleblower, at least not in any legal sense-- and that's the sense that matters now, because the Justice Department is investigating the NSA leaks.

Without getting into a great deal of legal mumbo-jumbo, here's the take-home message: If a person working in the government with information about illegal activity wants to blow the whistle on such activity, there is an established process for doing so. That process does not include going to the press. (Michelle refers us to Bluto, who also makes this point.) Every federal department, including the Justice Department, has an Office of Inspector General, whose job it is to receive whistleblower complaints and act on them. Right on this page is the button a real whistleblower pushes to report "violations of civil rights or civil liberties," which would include illegal wiretaps. Press that button and you see this language:

Section 1001 of the USA Patriot Act, signed into law by the President on
October 26, 2001, directs the Inspector General to review information and
receive complaints alleging abuses of civil rights and civil liberties by
Department of Justice employees. The OIG has created a special section in its
Investigations Division to process these complaints. This section will identify
the more serious civil rights and civil liberties allegations and assign them to
OIG employees for investigation. The OIG will refer other complaints to
Department components for their review and handling.

An instructive example, in another context, is the federal False Claims Act. This Civil War-era law is designed to prevent profiteering off government contracts. If you work for a company providing goods or services to the federal government, and your company defrauded the government in some way, you can file a whistleblower lawsuit (called a "qui tam" action) against your company and receive a large portion of what the government recovers from the wrongdoer. In some famous cases involving defense contractors and (more recently) health care providers accused of abusing the Medicare program, the whistleblowers have made millions of dollars. In the recent past qui tam suits have resulted in around four billion dollars in recoveries for the United States Treasury, and the whistleblowers themselves have received more than one hundred million dollars.

Now, you may ask, what does a False Claims Act whistleblower recover if he or she goes to the press with the report of wrongdoing, rather than following the legally established process by involving the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or the Justice Department? The answer is zero, zilch, nada.

And So?

Among other things, what this means is that whatever the NSA leakers' motives, in the Justice Department investigation they will not be considered whistleblowers, either by the Justice Department or any court that reviews the matter. Democrats and the MSM (but I repeat myself) may argue that the leakers' motives were noble, and that is certainly a debatable point, But the leakers are not legal whistleblowers, and any refusal by the Justice Department to consider them as such will be firmly grounded in the law.

UPDATE: Commenter Miguel Sanchez shares what he probably believes is a devastating statement by President Bush:

"Now, by the way, ANY TIME you hear the United States government talking
about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap REQUIRES A COURT ORDER. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about GETTING A COURT ORDER before we do so."-George W. Bush, telling another noble lie, Buffalo, April 2004

My (updated) response:

Miguel: You forgot to include the words "emphasis added." ;-)

Are you aware that, as this Power Line post argues, FISA might not even apply to the NSA surveillance because one end of all the conversations involved was in another country? There's an awful lot we don't know about this situation. Apparently that does not stop you (and the rest of the blindly Bush-hating crowd) from concluding that you simply know. You know when Bush is lying. You know he violated the law. You know many, many, things, don't you? So I hesitate to share this Power Line post with you. It pretty much eviscerates your "knowledge." Come back when you have something substantive to say, based on facts and the law.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year from the Hedgehog Blog

And many happy returns. May 2006 be a year of peace, democracy, good policy out of Washington, a Red Sox World Series win, and Ute conference championships in football and basketball.

Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Illegal Immigration: How The Mexican Government Makes It Worse, And Some Well-Meaning Americans Keep Us from Controlling It

Victor Davis Hanson analyzes the infuriating and perverse incentives created by our porous borders and the cynical policies of the Mexican government toward the flight of its own citizens to the U.S.

I think Hanson is an important commentator on this issue, but he does not address the major sticking point in getting Congress to address the immigration problem: What to do about the illegals already here? Hanson says only this:

"[T]he American poor who wish to organize for better wages; the reformers in Mexico who need pressure on the Mexican government; and the middle class, which pay the taxes and tries to obey the letter of the law, are increasingly against illegal immigration. And they no longer much worry over being slurred, by their illiberal critics, as nativist."

This is an oversimplification and actually describes the mood of the electorate incorrectly. Yes, people are angry about unchecked immigration and all its costs (many laid out in detail by Hanson); but the evidence from this poll is that the same electorate does not think all 11 million of the illegals should be deported. Yet a substantial number of the same conservative politicians (and more importantly, lobbying groups) who are most vocal about the illegal immigration problem also vociferously oppose any type of guest worker program.

Hanson complains about the nativist label, but it seems to me that among that opposition bloc is a substantial group that does not like the idea of "all those Mexicans" coming into the USA. In my experience that group consists almost exclusively of my fellow white anglo-saxons. I'm not convinced that there is not a large element of nativist sentiment in that group. The same sentiment has been with us since the days of the Know-Nothings. Perhaps this sounds familiar:

The nativist movement, championing the so-called rights of Protestant, American-born male voters, grew out of fear about new waves of immigration, and about the future. From 1820 to 1845, the arrival of newcomers to our shores had been steady — 10,000 to 100,000 a year. Then immigration surged: from 1845 through 1854, some 2.9 million immigrants, including 1.2 million Irish and more than a million Germans, poured into seaboard cities like Boston and New York. These strangers were impoverished and disease-ridden, easy fodder for the burgeoning coalition of nativists. Membership in the new third party soared: by 1854, when the Know-Nothings formed the American Party and won offices nationwide in that year's election, they had scored an impressive coup.

Once they took on the hard work of enacting legislation, though, the Know-Nothings too became mired in political reality. Although they had transcended their own xenophobic rhetoric and tried to achieve desirable reforms, their accomplishments were transitory.

Many in the anti-guest worker bloc bristle when they are compared with the Know-Nothings, but the uncomfortable similarities are there. Notably, the Know-Nothings were out of business after only a couple of election cycles, and in 1860 a new national party called the Republicans elected to the presidency a man named Lincoln, who was a fierce critic of the Know-Nothings:

I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who
abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white
people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a
nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now
practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the
Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except
negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer
emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to
Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base
alloy of hypocracy.

In this blogger's opinion, we need to control the borders, normalize those who are here already, and have some faith in American culture and the English language to assimilate the newcomers. It is true that we run a great risk if we continue to allow unchecked illlegal immigration, because that seriously endangers assmilation. That is where the anger should be directed, and that is the most important key to solving the problem. But if enough Republicans continue to insist that their agreement to a program for controlling the borders is conditioned on the total absence of a guest worker program, then we are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good and we will not see a solution anytime soon.