Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What John Kerry Really Thinks of American Servicemen and Servicewomen

John Kerry, speaking at a rally for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides:

You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.
Like Hugh Hewitt, I hope that Democratic candidates everywhere are asked whether they agree with Kerry's statement.

Michelle Malkin has a round-up of links, including to video and audio.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Michael Barone: Are Those Polls Credible?

I have tended to be pessimistic about Republican chances to hold on to the House after next week's mid-terms. I still am. But I have wondered if the situation's as bad as the MSM depicts it (a little too gleefully, it seems to me). Michael Barone gives some reason for skepticism.

On a lighter note, Dean Barnett adds:

Where conservatives decline to even participate in polls, I bet the average liberal over-participates. I can hear the typical conversation:

Pollster: On the subject of President George W. Bush’s job performance, do you strongly approve, approve, disapprove, strongly disapprove, or have no opinion.

Liberal: Well, I’ve been around for 62 years on this green earth, and I’ve never seen abuses of power like this administration has reveled in…

Pollster: Sir, can you answer the question.

Liberal: Habeas corpus!!! Water boarding!! Iraq! It’s the death of America as we know it!!!

Sad, but with the ring of truth.

Also from Dean: The Boston Globe continues to act like a newspaper that does not like Mitt Romney.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson on Mitt Romney

I'm sure that after the 2006 mid-terms discussion of the 2008 hopefuls (and Mitt Romney's "religion issues") will become very active. Romney has attracted the attention of Victor Davis Hanson, a man whose thinking on today's issues I actually revere:

The Hoover Institution has been hosting Presidential hopefuls. The latest visitor was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who spoke to, and received questions from, the Senior Fellows yesterday. For about one hour, he heard some tough inquiries, answered without notes, kept his cool, and talked analytically rather than in platitudes. I was impressed, and came away thinking that being a conservative governor in Massachusetts must have sharpened his debating skills and given him insights about dealing with the therapeutic mindset. I don’t know what he thought of us, but most of us thought him quite impressive.

(HT: Power Line.) Just wait until the mid-terms are over. The presidential arena is going to get very busy very soon.

UN Business as Usual--UNIFIL Threatens to Shoot Down Israeli Jets While Allowing Hezbollah to Rearm

When Israel accepted the ceasefire and the UNIFIL "peacekeeping force" called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1706, the skeptics said that the UNIFIL force would do nothing to disarm Hezbollah or prevent its re-armament by Syria and Iran. Unlike past UN peacekeeping forces, Resolution 1706 authorizes the UNIFIL force to "take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council ... ." Advocates of the ceasefire argued that this provision would allow UNIFIL to use force to disarm Hezbollah. Skeptics responded that UNIFIL would do no such thing; rather, as has been the case with prior UN peacekeeping forces on the Lebanonese-Israeli border, UNIFIL would provide a shield for Hezbollah to re-occupy its military positions, and if the UNIFIL troops used force, it would be against Israel.

As Dry Bones illustrates in the two cartoons republished above and below, it appears that the skeptics were right, as usual. First, as reported here in the International Herald Tribune, the French (who else?) Defense Minister announced that Israel continuing overflights of Lebanon represent a "grave violation" of Resolution 1706 (apparently unlike the rearming and refortification of Hezbollah). (The reader may judge for himself whether that is the case by reading the text of Resolution 1706 here.) The commander of French troops in Lebanon allowed as how his forces might have to use their anti-aircraft weapons to shoot down an Israeli plane. Then came the recent encounter of Israeli fighters with a German ship and helicopter, which fortunately ended without any casualties.

One more step toward the War of Gog and Magog, when God "will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle?" [Zechariah 14:2.] Please note that although God arranges for the gathering of nations, He fights for the other side. Guess who wins.

Israeli Tour Itinerary for Mel Gibson

Michael Medved reportedly has recommended that Mel Gibson (pictured at left with a friend, and what a friend he has in him) visit Israel as part of the repentence process for his anti-Jewish rant following his arrest for drunk driving. One of my favorite Jerusalem Post columnists, Barbara Sofer, has her recommendations for Gibson's itinerary here. Ms. Sofer forgets, however, that the name "Udi Goldwasser," mentioned in her column, may not be as familiar to her foreign readers as it is to every Israeli. Udi Goldwasser was one of the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah in the July 12 across-border attack that triggered this past summer's war in Lebanon. His fate, and that of his fellow hostage, Eldad Regev, is still unknown. One should not be too hard on oneself if one has forgotten their names. The rest of the world seems to have forgotten them as well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Victor Hanson Asks Whether the West is Returning to the Dark Ages

"The most frightening aspect of the present war is how easily our pre-modern enemies from the Middle East have brought a stunned postmodern world back into the Dark Ages. "

With those chilling words, Victor Davis Hanson warns that the struggle against radical Islam is a life-or-death struggle for Western Civilization. Recent events teach us three lessons, he explains:
" First, the Western liberal tradition is fragile and can still disappear.

"Second, the Enlightenment is not always lost on the battlefield. It can be surrendered through either fear or indifference as well.

"Third, civilization is forfeited with a whimper, not a bang. Insidiously, we have allowed radical Islamists to redefine the primordial into the not-so-bad."

Read his entire column here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

If Brazil Can Do It, So Can Bill Clinton.--the Yes on 87 Non-Sequitur Campaign

Would you buy a used Proposition from this man? The latest Yes on 87 commercial playing incessantly on California television features none other than Slick Willie himself, trying to sell us the snake oil that Proposition 87 will reduce our State's reliance on foreign oil.

Funny thing, though, he doesn't say how. In fact, he doesn't even say what Prop. 87 will do. Indeed, none of the Yes on 87 advertisements say what Prop. 87 will do. That's probably because the sponsors realize it would strain the viewer's credulity to say outright that they believe an extraction tax on oil produced in California will lessen our reliance on foreign oil. Logic and rationality dictate the opposite--if California imposes a new tax only on oil produced in California, and then prohibits that tax from being passed onto retail consumers, gasoline refiners will buy more foreign oil to make gasoline for the California market, not less.

The Yes on 87 campaign may have taught us a lesson on how to judge a ballot proposition. If the proponents wouldn't tell you what it does, vote NO!

By that criterion, the Clinton ad, as one might have expected, is particularly egregious. "Imagine if we could stop being dependent on foreign oil," Bill begins. "Brazil did it. They made a simple change to their cars, to switch to ethanol, grown from their own crops, and it's 33% percent cheaper than gas. Now with Proposition 87, California can lead the way to our own energy independence. With Proposition 87, we can switch to cleaner fuels, wind and solar power, and free ourselves from foreign oil. If Brazil can do it, so can California."

And what does Proposition 87 have to do with switching cars over to ethanol? Will the tax proceeds sponsor the research necessary to create the technology to allow cars to run on ethanol? No, that can't be it. Obviously, the technology already exists, since it is being used in Brazil. Are ethanol-fueled cars currently against the law in California, and Prop. 87 will change that? No, of course not. Anyone who wants to do so can change his car over to run on ethanol tomorrow. About the only conclusion one might logically deduce is that by increasing the cost of gas to where California consumers can't affort to fill their tanks, they are more likely to switch over to alternatives like ethanol. Ethanol is probably 33% cheaper in Brazil only because it is taxed less or gasoline is taxed more.

In fact, that is probably the entire philosophy behind Prop. 87. Tax oil and natural gas enough, and we will all have to drive less and find energy alternatives. That certainly conforms to liberal political and economic philosophy.

The logical nexus between Prop. 87 and ethanol-fueled cars in Brazil is about as tenuous as a connection between Prop. 87 and those tiny swimsuits the girls wear on the Copa Cabana Beach in Brazil. No, I take that back--there is a stronger between Prop. 87 and the bikinis: If extraction taxes keep driving up the price of gasoline, most of us wouldn't be able to afford more clothing than those tiny pieces of cloth. Also, Bill Clinton has internationally recognized expertise on girls in swimsuits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ankle-Biting Pundits, McCain, and Romney: Ethical, Maybe; But Truly Transparent?

When a political consultant acts like a political consultant, that's pretty much to be expected and there's not much interesting to say about it.

When a political consultant acts like what he is, but then pretends not to be acting that way, then something more interesting is going on.

And when what the political consultant really seems to be doing is playing religious politics on behalf of a client, but pretending not to be, then we have something really worth examining.

In response to my post below, noting that Patrick Hynes of Ankle-Biting Pundits is also a paid political consultant for John McCain, Mr. Hynes posted this comment here:
You don't know what you're talking about. I have defended Romney, the LDS church, the Prophet and the 12 Apostles. You are, simply, wrong:



In other words, "Who? Me? Playing the religion card? Never!"

The facts seem to be:

  • Mr. Hynes is regularly is putting out negative "buzz" about Mitt Romney.
  • Hynes is a consultant.
  • His business is to use the internet to shape public opinion for his clients.
  • John McCain is one of his clients.
You can draw your own conclusions.

With that in mind, a quick look at each of these URLs compels one of two conclusions: Either Hynes is trying to have a little joke on everyone, or he is, well, one disingenuous fellow.

In the first post referenced above, Hynes concludes:
So that we are clear, I don’t like Mitt Romney. I think he is a shifty, too-smooth-by-half political opportunist and I have felt this way since 1994 when I watched him tack leftward in a vein attempt to maintain his short-lived and possibly apocryphal lead over Sen. Ted Kennedy. Moreover, I generally distrust politicians whose positions on abortion are entirely dependent and what office they are presently seeking and which audience they are presently addressing. Nevertheless, I am a strong proponent of active faith in public life and Mitt Romney’s faith commitment qualifies him for high public office, it does not disqualify him; even if, as is the case, I believe his faith is misguided.

Oh yeah … and everyone knows by now that I work for McCain but that has no bearing on this post.
If that is a "defense" of Romney, I'd love to see what Hynes considers an attack. Of course, the disclosure removes any concern at all that a McCain paid consultant is getting this message out. (Doesn't it?)

The second post URL reveals these concluding paragraphs:
Finally, there is an interesting discussion over at GetReligion.org about how journalists should even talk about this issue without coming off as ignorant and insulting to the Mormon faith, which contains some difficult doctrines that are inconsistent with Christianity, such as, as GetReligion.org points out, a doctrine that holds that men can become gods and have their own universes of subjects in the afterlife.

And of course, the disclaimer.

Just so you know, GetReligion.org loves to worry about Mormon doctrines that the blog's author thinks will disturb creedal Christians. How thoughtful of Hynes to "defend" Romney by referring his readers there! Of course, he drops into his post perhaps the most explosive and misunderstood such Mormon doctrine. All in a day's work of defending Mitt Romney, I guess. And after all, he did insert his disclaimer. (Did I mention that Hynes had to be "outed" as a consultant before he began adding a disclaimer to his posts? If you're like me, that fact doesn't increase your confidence in the credibility of his blogging.)

The third URL leads us to a more subtle post. This one's about the recent Boston Globe article that I fisked on the Article VI Blog:
If—and that if is an iffy one—the Romney camp and the LDS church collaborated on a pro-Romney fundraising scheme, as a chief Romney friend and consultant contends, the FEC should rebuke and fine the Romney campaign and the IRS should consider whether the Mormon Church deserves its tax exemption. But let us please end this talk of restricting the rights of high ranking Mormon individuals, be they Apostles or Prophets.

So, the open question of the day for our readers is: Do you believe the Prophet and the 12 Apostles of the Mormon Church should be allowed to engage in politics?

Disclosure: Yeah, I work for McCain. But I’m writing this post as someone who believes faith in public life is no threat to America and the Boston Globe has gone too far.

So: Hynes "defends" the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders by noting that if they did as the Globe reported (in a very thinly-supported article), the Church's tax exemption should come under scrutiny. Of course, losing that exemption would be the end of the Church as we know it, but don't forget, Hynes is defending the Church. As individuals, Church leaders can do what they want. Just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

Hynes is a hired professional. His job is to help McCain. His future livelihood depends in part on his success in doing that. So he's using his popular blog to get as much information out as he can that will undercut Romney and raise questions about him. This is offensive on two levels:

1. It's dishonest. If you're paid to convince readers not to vote for Romney, say so.

2. It's playing on religious prejudice. My guess is that Hynes knows very well what he's doing: Feeding the fires of anti-Mormon prejudice, or related fears or uncertainties. It's un-American and really quite disgusting. But Hynes does it with a certain elan and Clintonian brazenness, doesn't he?

I hesitate to add to the exposure that Hynes receives and thereby reward his questionable tactics, but the great thing about the blogosphere is its self-policing possibilities. A Google search reveals that Hynes has been criticized in the very recent past for manipulating the blogosphere on behalf of clients. The web page for New Media Strategics, Hynes' company, describes part of the company's business:
New Media Strategics offers its clients a higher level of service. Beyond “commenting on other people’s blogs,” president Patrick Hynes and his team design unique New Media communications plans for each NMS client.

Patrick Hynes is a blogger. He understands how bloggers receive and process information. What energizes them and, just as import, what turns them off. At the same time, Patrick Hynes and the NMS team bring a deep commitment to core message discipline and time-tested communications and marketing techniques.
. . .

Buzz Targeting™ – Often to persuade public opinion, you need to create a lot of noise to influence only a few people, sometimes only one person. Buzz Targeting™ uses blogging technology to reach decision makers and journalists with precision. Buzz Targeting™ is fast, effective, and measurable.

NMS Incubation™ – Building alliances with existing bloggers is important. But incubating new blogs that are friendly to your organization and supportive of your agenda generates a powerful echo chamber. Incubation™ develops some of the most talked about stories on the web.

. . .

Blog Releases – New Media Strategics conceptualizes, drafts, and delivers blog-friendly content (including podcasts and vodcasts) for placement on friendly or relevant blog venues.

So it seems that Hynes is simply providing for McCain the services his company advertises.

But back to the blogosphere. We shine the spotlight on deception and misdirection, we don't try to regulate it. On balance, it's more important for Hynes to be exposed than to try to deny him a big megaphone. The voters who count will smell garbage when it's put before them. The others who like what Hynes is doing would never vote for Romney anyway.

Enough. A cat is always going to act like a cat, and a scorpion will always act like a scorpion. Hynes is simply doing what he does. But I do have some questions:

  • Does John McCain know what Hynes is doing?

  • If so, does he approve of this sort of religious politics?

  • If he does, how much more of this charming behavior will we see as the campaign unfolds?

We're waiting to see.

Oh, yes, I have a disclaimer too: I'm a Romney supporter and have donated to his PAC. But I'm sure not being paid by him.

Update: This post also appears in full at Article VI Blog.

Who Wrote This Letter to Latino Voters?

"Greetings. You are being sent this letter because you were recently registered to vote. If you are a citizen of the United States, we ask that you participate in the democratic process of voting."

Who sent a letter with that opening paragraph to Latino voters? Was it perhaps the Loretta Sanchez campaign, or the Orange County Registrar of Voters, or perhaps even the California Secreatary of State, all trying to counteract the now infamous letter sent to Latino voters by the Tan Nguyen campaign?

No, that is the opening paragraph of the letter from the Tan Nguyen campaign (translated from the original Spanish). To assure authenticity, I copied the text from the web site of one of Nguyen's most vocal and shrill critics, the Phil Angelides gubernatorial campaign. I will bet that none of you have seen that paragraph quoted in any of the coverage pillorying Nguyen (photo above right) for allegedly trying to intimidate Latino voters from turning out for the November 7 election. Nguyen, himself an immigrant from Vietnam, has been accused of acting out of xenophobia. Go figure.

The media always quote the second paragraph of the letter, without the context of the first. It reads (in translation from Spanish): "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time, and you will be deported for voting without having a right to do so." Nguyen, while denying that he had any advanced knowledge of the mailer, insists that the Spanish word translated as "immigrant," "emigrado," actually means a legal permanent resident, or green card holder. News articles such as this one from the Long Beach Press-Telegram have called his defense into question, quoting experts in the Spanish language.

However, it seems to me that a fair treatment of the issue cannot limit itself to the dictionary meaning of terms, and not provide the context in which they were used. Here, a letter written in Spanish opens by encouraging citizens to vote, before it warns that it is illegal for illegal residents or an "emigrado" to do so. That certainly is a factor that suggests that the writer of the letter may well have intended the meaning that Nguyen ascribed to "emigrado." Certainly, journalists have the obligation to make their readers aware of the evidence that might tend to mitigate in favor of Nguyen, not just the facts that weigh against him.

There is no question that the mailer was a nasty piece of business, giving its use of the letterhead of a fictional organization and that it was signed by a non-existent person. The Nguyen campaign was clearly trying to avoid any obvious sign that it was the source of the letter. But mailers of dubious origin are a staple of both Democratic and Republican campaigns. What has singled out this incident for scandal is the allegation of GOP xenophobia. The mainstream media, as usual, refuses to give its audience the complete story.

Phil Angelides has a different view. In a speech on October 22, Angelides said, "The Orange County Registrar of Voters must inform all the voters who got that letter that they have the unequivocal right to vote." So Angelides will not even entertain the possibility that a non-citizen may have registered to vote. If one's name is on the voter rolls, even as the result of fraud, one is unequivocally entitled to vote. Although Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's statements about the Nguyen letter have been weak-kneed, spineless, patronizing and "girly man," at least his policies have tried to discourage voter fraud.

War is Coming in Gaza--But it is Unclear Who Will Fight and Who Will Stay Out

Bret Stephens, the former editor of the Jerusalem Post and now a member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, writes today that the next Middle East war is mostly likely to erupt in Gaza, but it is not at all clear who the combatants will be. The possible players are Israel, Hamas, Fatah and Egypt, and one can imagine almost any combination of 2, 3 or 4 of those parties participating in the fighting, including the possibility of Israel, Egypt and Fatah fighting Hamas. About the only safe bet is that Hamas will not fight along side Israel. Syria and Iran, as the arms suppliers to Hamas, are also interested parties. Stephens concludes pessimistically:
"If Egypt or Israel had the luxury of choice they would abandon Gaza to its own miserable devices, or--even better--to each other. But that's not how it works in the Middle East. The war for Gaza is coming, no matter who does the fighting. Whoever stays out of it wins."

John McCain, Bloggers, and Low Blows To Mitt Romney

My blogging partner at Article VI Blog, John Schroeder, commented today on this excerpt from Ankle-Biting Pundits:

There is growing concern among high-level evangelical leaders that the Romney campaign may have duped them after it was revealed by the Globe that Romney’s team has constructed a Mormon political machine in secret after repeatedly stating in private to them that Romney would not run with the Mormon Church’s backing.

Again with the unnamed "high-level evangelical leaders" - why won't these people stick their heads above ground? This piece from the normally reliable Ankle-Biting Pundits errs first by buying the Globe's hype - What machine? What secret? Charges implied by the Globe coverage, but never directly made, let alone proved. . . . I'm disappointed; good blogs like ABP are supposed to find the press's problems, not join them. . . .

The Ankle-Biting Pundits piece is a breathtakingly nasty, disingenuous, and dirty slam. It clearly tries to gin up a story out of nothing-- recycling old quotes (at least one of them out of context) that were not even made in reference to the Boston Globe story. It really looks like something a political consultant for one of Romney's likely opponents would cook up.

Well, what do you know? Even as we were wondering why Ankle-Biting Pundits would post such an attack, we received this e-mail from our reader Daniel Tenney (I have inserted some links):

I would ask you to remember that Patrick Hynes, founder of Ankle Biting Pundits and writer of the post in question, has recently been outed as working for McCain. On July 26, Jim Geraghty wrote about it in length at the National Review Online. Here's the link.

In his post, Geraghty also notices the marked increase in anti-Romney posts from Hynes since joining McCain's staff. The McCain camp is using every trick in the book to discredit Romney (see also Mosteller, Cyndi) and hiring bloggers that look credible is not beneath them in the least. So it comes as no surprise that Hynes ran with the Globe story despite its obvious inconsistencies and plain shoddy journalism. Expect more of the same from Ankle Biting Pundits with every new non-scandal about Romney.

(The real punchline: Hynes has repeatedly criticized others for trying to buy off the blogosphere, including . . . you guessed it! Romney!)
For a guy who has run something called StraightTalk America, McCain certainly seems to tolerate some forked tongues among his campaign operatives. In fairness to Hynes, he buries this disclosure at the end of his post. But it's not a failure to disclose that is so disappointing: It's the dirty religious politics.

Update: As long as we're talking about disclosures, I have one: I'm a Romney supporter and have donated to his PAC. But I'm sure not being paid by him.

Update 2: More about this here. The comment thread is especially interesting. Also, this. When a blogger starts using the "Slick Willard" appellation, it might be seen as clever; when it's a paid McCain consultant, it starts to look like something else.

Welcome, NRO readers. There's more detail on this subject at this post.


Well, at least here on the West Coast the day is starting.

Watch this David Zucker video, linked on Pajamas Media. It's hilarious. (HT: Dean Barnett.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Boston Globe-Mitt Romney Update

Thanks to frequent Hedgehog commenter Blue Buffoon, who offers the following report from Utah on the Mitt Romney-Boston Globe-LDS Church stories of the last few days:

Predictably, the Utah media are jumping all over the Globe's story, but in the process shedding more light on what really happened than either the Globe knew or was willing to report, as well as some local takes on the "Mormon Question" and a Romney candidacy.

The Salt Lake Tribune this morning (front page, above the fold in the print edition)demonstrates the real source of the correction against the BYU Management School administrators who too eagerly jumped aboard promoter Don Stirling's effort. A print-edition caption to a graphic of the e-mail, which I didn't find at the on-line version, makes clear that a BYU Management alum sent his warning to BYU's General Counsel Office the day he got the e-mails, essentially derailing the Globe's that their article triggered the actions taken at BYU. Not surprisingly to this observer, the tone of the Tribune's coverage is not much different from the Globe's even while giving more facts and acknowledging the LDS Church's position.

The Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) reports here and here, the latter reporting Senator Hatch's assertion, in comments to KSL-TV, that this as a "smear" attempt.

KSL-TV has more here, including Hatch's, and a local political pollster's, ruminations on the effect of polls showing voters unwilling to vote for a Mormon, and here.

The Salt Lake City Fox News affiliate uses the Globe story as the jump-off point for this video clip story, interviewing Utah Law professor, Ed Firmage, and local pollster, Dan Jones, on how they feel Romney's Mormonism will hurt his campaign for president.

Blue Buffoon really ought to start up a blog. He's good at this sort of thing. For more information about the Romney-Globe kerfluffle, go to Article 6 VI Blog.

The Peace of Ramadan?

Does anyone remember, as I vividly do, concerns that were loudly voiced by critics of the Bush I and Bush II Administrations, regarding the timing of combat operations during the Gulf War, the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the current war in Iraq? The United States must not conduct combat operations in Ramadan, the critics warned--that would show insensitivity to Moslem feelings, since Ramadan is a time of peace.

Here, for example, is a story from USATODAY on October 14, 2001, which stated that prospect of raids in Afghanistan in the coming weeks "raises fears that the United States will deeply offend Muslims worldwide, when the holiday starts Nov. 16 with images of the Christian West at war in Muslim regions and Muslims fighting Muslims as well." An Islamic scholar was quoted as saying "We need to keep in mind the sensitivities of the Muslim world. If [President George W. Bush] fights during Ramadan, that will give (Osama) bin Laden one more tool to argue to the Muslim world that the United States is disrespectful of their religion."

Well, as near as I can tell, the whole concern was a crock. Quite apart from the fact that Moslem nations have never shown the same sensitivity toward the holy days of other religions--Exhibit A being the deliberate decision by Syria and Egypt in October 1973 to launch a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur--Moslems themselves seem to have no compunction whatsoever about fighting and killing during Ramadan. Indeed, apparently they view Ramadan as the season for violent jihad, matyrdom and the murder of their enemies. In fact, the Yom Kippur War is called the Ramadan War in the Arab world because it was launched on the 10th day of Ramadan.

In Iraq in 2003, a sharp surge in guerrilla attacks ushered in an insurgent effort that was termed the "Ramadan Offensive", as it coincided with the beginning of Ramadan. This year Ramadan in Iraq was marked not only by the highest death toll suffered by American troops since November 2004; but by the constant murder of Iraqis by Iraqis, Sunnis killing Shiites and Shiites returning the favor. Yesterday, as Ramadan ended with the feast day of Eid al-Fitr, shoppers in the marketplaces were greeted with bombs planted by their Muslim brethren. It was reported that at least 44 Iraqis were either killed Sunday or their bodies found dumpted along roads or on the banks of the Tigris River.

I respect Islam. I respect Moslems. I respect the observance of Ramadan. However, please respect my intelligence and don't try to tell me that the United States armed forces must refrain from conducting military operations during Ramadan.

Victor Davis Hanson Recites the Lessons Learned Since 9/11

Examining the current pessimism over whether U.S. efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan can ever succeed in winning over the hearts and minds of the peoples of those countries, Victor Davis Hanson writes:
"I don’t know whether such pessimism is true or not, but I am interested in the frequent analysis that it is somehow the fault of the United States or its allies, not the Islamists themselves.

"Consider Kurdistan that is still thriving. Its population, devoutly Muslim, apparently understands the advantages of Western commerce and tolerance in a manner not true of the Iraqi Shiia and Sunni communities, or the Afghans. Yet the West has poured more aid money into the latter than the former. The difference seems to be that in Kurdistan when someone picks up a Westernized cell phone, drives an imported car, or turns on a computer, they seek to use such appurtenances to bring greater security and commerce to their own.

"In contrast, in tribal Afghanistan and the Sunni Triangle the Islamists are entirely parasitical on the West: they want our material products, but only to use them for destructive purposes. And if they employ televisions and videos to further the spread of Islam, they never pause for a second of self-critical analysis. It is not just that the world of the 7th century does produce what a Mullah Omar or Dr. Zawhri prefers to use, but that the Islamic Dark Ages ensure that such appurtenances could never be discovered or improved by fundamentalist cultures that adjudicate scientific research by Koranic purity, subjugate half the population, invest in scapegoating rather than in confident self-reliance, and predicate merit on blood ties and religious zeal."
Hanson notes further, "It is difficult in history to find any civilization that asks as much of others as does the contemporary Middle East—and yet so little of itself." He then goes on to summarize in 10 propositions what he perceives as "the collective mentality of the current Arab Middle East—predicated almost entirely on the patriarchal sense of lost 'honor' and the rational calculation to murder appeasing liberals and appease murdering authoritarians. Read those 10 propositions here.

The Boston Globe Doesn't Seem to Like Mitt Romney

I don't live in Massachusetts, so I haven't followed the Globe's coverage of Governor Mitt Romney. I've heard reports that the Globe's biased against the Governor, and now I've seen some evidence, provided today by Scott Lehigh of the Globe. As I noted over at Article VI Blog:
[Lehigh's] op-ed piece today triumphantly refers to the Globe's articles of last week, which are full of unwarranted assumptions and unsupported conclusions, as if they were holy writ. Especially charming is Lehigh's reference to Romney as "Slick Willard." (Romney's first name is Willard.) Couldn't they at least come up with something original? Next thing you know they'll be calling him "Tricky Mitt." The Globe's animosity toward Romney is embarrassingly palpable.
The longstanding myth is that "great" newspapers don't behave that way. But they do. And any careful and relatively informed reader can see that the Globe's pieces on the Romney camp's supposed improper contacts with Romney's church represent an attempt to connect dots that are simply not there. The Globe's stubborn insistence on the validity of its story is remarkable, to say the least.

Perhaps the best approach to this travesty is to laugh at it, as Nutmeggers for Mitt did in a post entitled "Romney Camp Caught with Mormons!!! Scoop Inside:"
Apparently some of the Romney staffers visited Utah and met with a few high-ranking Mormon officials to discuss when the Mormon plan to take over the world, led by Romney, should commence.
I laugh out loud every time I read that one.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Man Bites Dog: The Boston Globe Links to A Blog Critical of Its Political Reporting

Article VI Blog, which I co-author, has been quite critical of recent Boston Globe reports attacking Mitt Romney. Today the Globe itself links to our critical posts.

We also got into an e-mail exchange with the Scott Helman, the lead Globe reporter on the story. Here's the link to that post. Our other critical posts are here and here.

Now I must admit, all this is a little surprising. Especially in light of the Globe's editorial today, slamming R0mney and repeating many of the unsupported conclusions from the original article.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NY Times Public Editor Now Says Times Erred in Revealing Secret Bank Data Surveillance Program!

In a turnabout that Michelle Malkin rightly describes as "Un.Freaking.Believable," New York Times "public editor" (i.e., ombudsman) Bryan Calame has reversed field from the position that he took in a July 2, 2006 column. In a blurb buried in his media column in the Times, Calame now says that the Times should not have revealed the existence of a top secret program designed to detect transfers of cash by terrorists. While Calame is to be commended by his willingness to re-examine his former position and criticize the actions of the newspaper that employs him, Tom Maguire at Just One Minute summarizes the situation well in three words, "Toothpaste meet tube." For an excellent description of Calame's change-of-heart, a good roundup of reactions on the conservative blogosphere, and overall fine analysis, check out the story at Squiggler.

Here is Calame's reasoning for his reversal of position:
"Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of 'the most substantial argument against running the story,' but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
I haven’t found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken. Data-protection rules are often stricter in Europe than in America, and have been a frequent source of friction.
Also, there still haven’t been any abuses of private data linked to the program, which apparently has continued to function. That, plus the legality issue, has left me wondering what harm actually was avoided when The Times and two other newspapers disclosed the program. The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.
In addition, I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed. (If one sentence down in the article had acknowledged that a number of people were probably aware of the program, both the newsroom and I would have been better able to address that wave of criticism."

So, the program was legal, there is no evidence of abusive use of private data, and Calame does not understand "what harm actually was avoided" when the NY Times (and the LA Times) disclosed the details of a top secret anti-terrorism tool. (The third newspaper referred to by Calame, the Wall Street Journal, only published its story on the program after the NY Times had disclosed its existence and described its workings in detail.) Does he even pause to consider what harm was potentially done by the NY Times?

The Hedgehog gave its take on the situation back on July 11, 2006: "A Law Unenforced is a Law Ignored--Prosecute the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why is the GOP Abandoning Tan Nguyen?

Speaking of betrayals by one's political party (see the previous post), the Los Angeles Times reports today that Orange County Republican leaders have ditched Tan Nguyen, a Congressional candidate running against incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. What was Mr. Nguyen's crime? Was he found to have sold votes to campaign donors? Was he found to have sexually harrassed Congressional pages? No, his unforegiveable crime is that his campaign sent out a letter in Spanish that said in part: ""You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time…."

And the problem with that statement is, what? The last time I checked, it was voter fraud and a violation of federal law for an illegal immigrant or alien to vote in a federal election. True, the word "illegal" should appear before the word "immigrant" as well, but I have not seen the original Spanish version of the letter, and it is possible that the L.A. Times has creatively translated it.

The L.A. Times article further states, "The episode was a jarring reminder of what some observers call Orange County's history of xenophobia and voter intimidation, an ugly distinction that Republican leaders say they've tried hard to bury." Are we to seriously entertain the argument that the Tan Nguyen campaign, whose candidate is himself an immigrant from Vietnam, is xenophobic? Give me a break.

All this at a time when voter fraud, including voting by non-citizens, has become a major issue, and attempts by the States to stop it are fought by the Democrats by any means necessary. Witness today's Supreme Court decision, which allowed Arizona to proceed with a policy of requiring photo i.d. from voters in the upcoming November 7 election. The Democrats literally went to the Supreme Court to try to stop implementation of the Arizona law, as they had previously used litigation to defeat the application of similar laws in Georgia and Missouri. What is the principled argument against such laws? And what is the principle behind the abandonment of Tan Nguyen by the spineless GOP leadership in Orange County?

If I am missing something here, readers, please let me know.

Fighting Joe Lieberman Is Back! And That Makes the Democrats' Left Wing Nervous

Instead of going quietly away, Joe Lieberman has unapologetically returned to his core beliefs, has adhered to pursuit of victory in Iraq, and is leading Ned Lamont by huge margins in his independent campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. I have no illusions that Senator Lieberman views himself as anything other than a Democrat, but in today's WSJ.com Opinion Journal, Daniel Henniger speculates that the Democrats may have created their own party's version of Senator John McCain, a maverick who cannot be depended upon to adhere to the party line. If the Democrats are ever to vere back to the middle and start winning national elections, they will have to follow Lieberman's example, even if they refuse to say they're sorry for abandoning him in favor of the candidate of the defeatist left.

A Little Pre-Weekend Reading

Over at Called As Seen, Harold Hutchison has some good offerings:

1. Iraq and Vietnam.

2. Ahmadinejad talks big. Can Israel survive?

3. Surber on "conservative ingrates." The old question again: Is ideological purity more important than being in office?

4. The stakes in the mid-term elections. Linking to the RNC's ad, coming out this weekend.

5. A leaking staffer suspended. Guess what? He's a Democrat.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Boston Globe Goes Snipe-Hunting

The Boston Globe published a remarkable story today. The lede:
"Governor Mitt Romney's political team has quietly consulted with leaders of the Mormon Church to map out plans for a nationwide network of Mormon supporters to help Romney capture the presidency in 2008, according to interviews and written materials reflecting plans for the initiative."
Now that's sensational stuff.

I also think the entire article is an irresponsible hit piece.

Here's a post about it on Article 6 Blog.

Update: Here's today's take from Article 6, commenting on the Globe's stubborn insistence on some of the flawed elements of the story. Also, Geoff at Millennial Star comments:

Romney supporters had the audacity to discuss his campaign with other Mormons!!!!! Doesn't he know that Mormons are not allowed to vote and organize for candidates? It's been that way at least since Missouri in the 1830s.

As for reaching out to other religions besides the Mormons, what do the writers of this ridiculous article think he has been doing with evangelicals and Catholic leaders for the last decade? So, it's OK for him to talk to other religious leaders for support, but it's not OK for him to talk to Mormons?

The comment thread to Geoff's post is pretty entertaining as well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Emboldened by its success in Lebanon, Iran is expanding its influence in Gaza as well. DEBKAfile reports:

"The military pacts Palestinian Hamas interior minister Said Siyam signed with his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi in Tehran on Oct. 12 [see photo at left] are designed to transform Hamas’ military wing, the Ezz e-Din al Qassam, into a crack operational arm of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and Gaza into a second Lebanon.

"Syam was in Tehran for two days at the head of a 7-man delegation.

"DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report Tehran has committed to training Hamas’ rapid deployment force of 6,500 men in Hizballah combat tactics, with the accent on missiles, especially the anti-tank variety which were used with devastating effect against Israeli tanks in the Lebanon War. The force will be sent over in batches for six-week courses at Revolutionary Guards installations in southern Iran.

"Iran will foot the $60 million bill for the training as well as for the top-notch weaponry."

Follow the links to read the entire DEBKAfile report. [HT: A loyal reader.] Although I am a news junkie, I did not see this significant story anywhere in the mainstream media, including in Israel.

This ominous development underscores the truth of a column that appears today in the Jerusalem Post, by Michael Freund, entitled "The Coming Middle East War, which warns that all the signs point to an impending war against the Jewish State by Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Such an attack would assail Israel on at least three fronts: Gaza, Lebanon, and the Golan Heights; probably accompanied by violence in Judea and Shomron ("the West Bank"); and perhaps involve missile attacks from Iran as well.

Dear "Stupid Party" Voters: Please Don't Be Stupid on Nov. 7!

A couple of months ago it was fashionable for many ticked-off conservatives to announce that they were so frustrated with the Republican Congress that they were going to stay home on election day. Tony Blankley writes today about the idiocy of that approach. The money quote:
"This current conservative petulance -- if it actually occurs on Nov. 7 -- will increase the chances of electing Hillary, or worse (if such a thing is possible) in 2008.

"There is no rational policy or political basis for conservatives not voting. I'm not sure the country can take the current Democratic mob in power for long.

"A realist once observed that the history of mankind is little more than the triumph of the heartless over the mindless. The Democrats are obviously heartless.

"Conservatives must guard against falling into the category of the mindless. Ignore your heartfelt peevements, use your brains and vote."
Conservatives, please listen Mr. Blankley.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reuters Photographer Stages Rock Throwing Attack

In the wake of the scandal involving altered and staged photos published by Reuters during the recent Lebanese-Israeli conflict [see The Hedgehog Blog, here, here, here and here], Reuters is still being embarrassed by its Arab photographers and camera crews, who seem to view anti-Israel activities to be part and parcel of their journalistic role. Israel National News reports that a Reuters Arab cameraman has been arrested and remanded to prison until trial for fomenting rock-throwing attacks by Palestinian thugs against Israel security forces:
"The cameraman, Imad Muhammad Intisar Boghnat, was arrested and charged as a result of violent riots in the Arab village of Bil'in, in the Modi'in region, on October 6, 2006. A videotape that the prosecution presented to the judge shows Boghnat encouraging and directing rioters in Bil'in to throw large chunks of rock at Israeli vehicles in such a way as to cause maximum damage. The accused is heard shouting, 'Throw, throw!' and later, 'Throw towards the little window!'"

[Note: The photo above of a Palestinian throwing a large rock at an Israeli police officer was not taken at the incident in question.]

Jack Quinn And The Democrat Line on Iraq

I'm sitting on a Delta flight from Fort Myers to Atlanta and enjoying a very cool feature: live television via the little seatback screen in front of me.

I tuned to Fox News (as soon as the inane "Fox and Friends" ended) and caught a clip from Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Bush. The president said he understands the American public's frustration with the war, which exists because we "want to win." Because Americand are humane and conscience-driven, Bush said, they grow weary quickly of murderous violence and daily loss of innocent life. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda understand this, he noted, and have stated that their strategy is to prolong the killing until America "loses its nerve."

Here, I think the president makes THE case for the war, perhaps the only truly persuasive case left. The islamofascists are pushing our buttons and they know it.

I don't think enough Americans know it, however. Jack Quinn, White House Counsel in the Clinton Administration, was a "talking head" reactor to the O'Reilly-Bush interview. (I last saw Quinn when he was testifying before Congress in defense of Bill Clinton's indefensible last-minute pardons.) Quinn stated flatly that the terrorists are not trying to influence American public opinion, but are simply engaged in sectarian violence. That's all. Quinn then moved on to attack Bush, sneeringly calling the O'Reilly interview "painful" and attacking Bush for his failure to understand the real situation in Iraq and the need for the United States to get out.

So here we have two views of the war: The Democrat view, expressed by Quinn, vacuous and unsuppported by anything other than opinion; and the Republican view, supported by our enemies' clear and repeated statements about their goals.

President Bush and all GOP officeholders need to stand up and repeat that message: Don't let the terrorists succeed by wearing down our resolve. We have a plan and are implementing it. There are setbacks and obstacles, but we are moving toward the goal. We must see it through.

I think that's a winning message. Fox reported polling data indicating that 41 percent of Americans favor leaving Iraq, and 39 percent want to stay. (I'm not sure of the specific polling questions that were asked.) There's a division in the country on the issue. The president has a case, and it's better than the opposition's. He and his allies need to press that case relentlessly.

Just after that report, Fox showed live video of the signing ceremony for the Military Commission Act, authorizing, among other things, the use of aggressive interrogation techniques against captured enemy combatants.. In his remarks the president reminded us again how much information those techniques have produced, and the atrocities that have been avoided as a result.

Like just about everyone, I am sickened and appalled at the violence in Iraq and weary of the loss of life. But one side of this argument is serious about the threat facing us, and the other is shockingly unserious. I hope the Republicans can make that clear.

Monday, October 16, 2006

BBC Fights to Keep Internal Report on its Middle East Coverage Secret--Report Believed to Substantiate Anti-Israel Bias

Telegraph.co.UK reports:

"The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage.
"The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.
"The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming."

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, who observes, "REMEMBER WHEN JOURNALISTS SPECIALIZED IN TELLING US THINGS instead of keeping secrets?" Glenn, that is a little unfair. American MSM journalists have no problems disclosing any secret, provided that its revelation will damage U.S. security, weaken the War on Terrorism, undermine our the efforts of our troops in Iraq, weaken morale and national resolve, or politically hurt the Bush Administration.

How Does the GOP Win Elections?

In today's WSJ.com Opinion Journal, in a column entitled "A Tale of Two GOPs," Kimberly A. Strassel examines the differing fates of two GOP gubernatorial campaigns: Florida, where Republican candidate Charlie Crist is leading by double digits and should succeed Jeb Bush and preserve his State House for the Republican Party, and Ohio, where Ken Blackwell is trailing by double digits, and the Democrats are likely to replace a Republican incumbent.

Strassel argues that the difference between Florida and Ohio is not the candidates, but rather the policies pursued by each State's Republican Party. In Florida, the GOP has remained true to its principles and has followed through on its campaign promises, cutting taxes and keeping spending in check. In contrast, a series of Republican Governors in Ohio have allowed State spending to rise sharply and have gone along with tax increases to balance the budget. The lesson that Strassel draws is that the GOP wins by governing according to conservative principles and keeping its promises. Ken Blackwell, who has championed tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and broad government reform, is the victim of his State party's failure to govern based on that platform in successive Republican Administrations.

I assume that Strassel would view my State of California as the exception that proves the rule. Here, in a State where the Democrats enjoy an overwhelming majority in voter registration, and have dominated Statewide politics, Governor Schwarzenegger is winning re-election by running to the Left. Even so, he also campaigns that he has controlled the runaway spending of the Gray Davis Administration and has brought fiscal responsibility back to California, restoring its standing in the bond markets without resorting to tax increases. Conservatives may grumble, but as against Phil Angelides there really is no question that Ahnuld is the conservative's preferred alternative.

However, there is another element to the difference between the Florida and Ohio races that must at least be considered. Ken Blackwell is an African-American. Just as Tom Bradley, an excellent Mayor of Los Angeles, could not win a statewide gubernatorial election in an overwhelmingly Democratic State, it is possible that Blackwell's campaign suffers from at least unspoken racial discrimination. He will not get the majority of African American votes in Ohio, because he is a conservative Republican. And at least part of the GOP base may find themselves unable to cast a ballot for an African American candidate, even if they agree with his policies. I would love to see evidence that I am wrong from Hedgehog readers; indeed I deplore the possibility that I am correct. Nonetheless, that is how I see it. And Mr. Strassel weakens his analysis by not answering this obvious objection.

A British View of Mitt Romney

Sometimes it seems that to get fresh insights we need to go "across the pond." The latest evidence of that is Sarah Baxter's piece in today's London Sunday Times. Baxter reports the following nuggets about Mitt Romney:

1. The Governor has some real political genius in him. If you've ever listened to the Laura Ingraham radio show, you know how crazy she is about her dog Troy. You probably also know that Troy went missing a few weeks ago. Romney saw opportunity:
Laura Ingraham, the popular conservative talk show host, recalled how the smooth Romney had rung to sympathise after she announced that her dog Troy had gone missing. “He’s the man,” she said approvingly.
2. Romney has a new comeback on the religion question, or at least one I haven't heard yet:

Romney, who already has a fan club called Evangelicals for Mitt, thinks the religious issue will fizzle. “People used to wonder whether a divorced actor could be elected,” he said, referring to Ronald Reagan, “or whether a Mormon could win Massachusetts, a state that is 55% Catholic.

“There was probably a time when people cared which church you went to, but that’s past. People today look to see a person’s faith in the way they live in their home with their family."

3. Romney met with Baroness Margaret Thatcher last month at

"a Washington think tank. . . . If not quite an official anointing, the handshake and chat with so venerable a figure was an unmistakable sign to conservatives that he was 'one of us.'”

4. The governor has a comeback for comments about his unusually good looks:

Romney looks like a taller version of Martin Sheen in The West Wing, has been married to his high school sweetheart for 37 years and has five photogenic children. At 59 he is no youngster but is frequently ribbed about his film star appearance. “My wife and I know better. She’s the one with the looks in the family,” he remarked.

5. He is becoming bolder about establishing a little distance between himself and President Bush on Iraq:

He has spent time recently with Paul Bremer, the former head of the provisional coalition authority, and other Iraq experts. Mistakes were made, he freely admitted, but the Iraqi government had to be given more time to establish security.

“When that is achieved” — he did not say by 2008, but he must be hoping — “there will be a relatively rapid withdrawal.”

That last position will be interesting to watch.

Update: For more on Romney's very latest activities, Article 6 Blog has a news roundup here and commentary here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hamas Smuggles Anti-Aircraft Weapons into Gaza

In an ominous start to the Jewish new year, Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence Research Chief Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz disclosed Sunday that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has succeeded in smuggling anti-aircraft weapons into PA-controlled Gaza. As reported here by Israel National News:
"Baidatz's assessment is that Hamas plans to use the weapons against Israeli fighter planes in the context of future conflicts, aiming eventually to use them against civilian aircraft as well. The intelligence chief said that Israel must come up with a solution to protect its planes from the new weapons or imperil its entire aviation industry.

"It is known that PA Arabs are attempting to smuggle such weapons into Judea and Samaria as well – putting Ben Gurion International Airport within range of the missiles.

"The same anti-tank rockets that were used to disable many of Israel's tanks in Lebanon have also been streaming into Gaza on a daily basis, making a ground invasion of Gaza a much more perilous task."

This heightened danger to Israel emphasizes the damage to Israel's deterrence capabilities caused by its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza:

"Prior to the implementation of the Disengagement from Gaza, the IDF controlled the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt, enabling teams of soldiers to identify and destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels on a regular basis. Following the withdrawal, in addition to week-long periods where the border lay open, tunnels have been built and continue to operate without obstruction."

Another factor enhancing the ability of the Paletinians to smuggle weapons into Gaza is that, at the insistence of U.S. Secretary of State Rice, Israel turned over responsibility for policing the Gaza-Egypt border to Egypt, which has shown about as much enthusiam about preventing arms smuggling as the United Nations forces in south Lebanon are showing about disarming Hezbollah.

All of these weapons are forbidden to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords, but the fact that the Palestinians completely ignore their obligations under their treaty with Israel is old news, and Olso is for all intents and purposes a dead letter. What is astonishing is that supposed experts are counseling Israel's leaders that the solution to the gathering crisis is--more negotiations with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, more concessions and further territorial withdrawals in Judea and Shomron. For a prime example of this genre of political punditry, see this article in the current edition of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Two From Dry Bones

Alright, I am back again. (Sort of like the country song, "How Can I Miss You When You Wouldn't Go Away?"] When I saw these contributions from Dry Bones, I had to share them with the Hedgehog Blog's loyal readers, both of you.

The cartoon on the left reflects the current state of anxiety in Israel over the looming Iranian nuclear threat and the re-arming of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. The cartoon on the right deals with the North Korean nuclear test. Contrary to what the Islamist in the cartoon says, the prospect of a North Korean atomic bomb is very nearly as much of a threat to Israel (and the United States) as the Iranian nuclear program, because either regime might make a nuclear bomb available to terrorists who could bring it into an Israeli or American city in a crate or shipping container. One does not need a strategic missile to deliver a nuclear warhead to its target.

On that happy thought, do you really want to risk turning national security over to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats?

Viral Video and Campaigns

Over at Article 6 Blog I've posted some interesting links and thoughts (which I hope are also interesting) about the use of viral videos in political campaigns. What's a viral video, you ask?
The term viral video refers to video clip content which gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or IM messages, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature and may range from televised comedy sketches such as Saturday Night Live's Lazy Sunday to unintentionally released amateur video clips like Star Wars kid and Gary Brolsma's Numa Numa dance. While the viral video phenomenon has occurred in a largely unstructured manner, a number of organizations are attempting to find marketing strategies that rely on the distribution of viral video, with mixed results.
These are going to be big in campaigns. If you want to check into this more, go to YouTube
and search for the name of any politician now running for office. Then realize that any of those videos can be e-mailed, and you'll see why I think we're going to see more and more of this.

Update: Read Robert Cox's piece in the Washington Examiner. If he's right, I'm a little worried.

Note to our Readers

Lowell Brown, the Hedgehog, my senior blog partner and the founder of the Hedgehog Blog, has been in Hawaii this week. If asked, he no doubt would try to persuade the inquirer that he is laboring away there on some project involving his health law practice. Those of us who know him well, however, assume that he is either on one of his frequent vacations or else has arranged some boondoggle that permits him to deduct his travel expenses. In any event, he asked that in his absence I try to keep the blog full of new posts for our readers, and I hope that I have provided some interesting material this week. The Jewish holiday season culminates on Saturday and Sunday with the festivals of Shemini Atzeret (the 8th Day of Assembly) and Simchat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Torah), and on those days I will be feasting rather than blogging. Until next week then, when I and hopefully the Hedgehog as well return to duty, farewell, dear readers.

Lowell adds: Well, yes, I was in Hawaii, celebrating 25 years with Mrs. Hedgehog (who may not appreciate that appellation). I think Ralph has done an outstanding job of keeping the flag flying. Or the Hedghog burrowing. Or something like that.

By the way, if you've never been to Hawaii, as I had not until this trip, you must go. Find a way!

Why do Americans on the left think only they have the right to dissent?

In today's Wall Street Journal,, Peggy Noonan asks a question that I have been wondering about as well. She attempts to come up with an answer, suggesting that "what is missing on the American left is an element of grace--of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together."

I agree with that, but there are two more profound reasons for the penchant on the Left to stifle dissent. One is an observation that Dennis Prager is fond of making: that conservatives view liberals as being foolish, naive and wrong; while liberals view conservatives as being evil and worthy of being hated. One sees this tendency most clearly in the nearly hysterical criticisms of President George W. Bush, sometimes comparing him to Hitler and attributing to him only the worst of motives. If one's political foe is a servant of evil, if not the Father of Evil himself, it seems only right to deny him the right of free speech. On the other hand, if one views his political adversary merely wrong-minded, as conservatives tend to view liberals, then free and open debate may serve to expose the errors of his thinking, and perhaps even persuade him of the correctness of the conservative position.

The second, and uglier, basis for this stifling of dissent comes from the idealogical roots of today's political left, in the New Left of the 1960s. I was strongly exposed to the New Left, and even participated in its activities, at Stanford from 1969 through 1972. The New Left was strongly influenced by Marxism-Leninism, especially of the Maoist variety. It adherents believed that traditional political liberalism--the ideals represented by the Bill of Rights--represented bourgeois morality. Such mores were not to be taken seriously. If tactically useful, the Marxist-Leninist could use such values as political weapons to aim at the ruling class, by accusing political opponents of McCarthyism and fascism. However, the Marxist-Leninist did not really believe in political freedom or free speech or civil grace as objective ideals, which should be enjoyed by one's political adversaries as well as by the Left. Hence, the very leftists who demanded academic freedom for Marxist-Leninist scholars would not hesitate to disrupt speeches or classes given by anti-Marxists, or to use their positions as professors or teaching assistants to threaten students with politically incorrect views with failing grades. As David Horowitz , himself a former New Lefty, has documented, this stifling of dissent continues on campus today, and perhaps is even more firmly entrenched, because the students of the 1960s New Left are the tenured college professors of today.

Of course, the far right is not immune from these tendencies to stifle the speech of political opponents, and my fellow Zionists often are to quick to try to suppress the views of those critical of Israel, but for pure, unadulterated, ideologically motivated opposition to free expression in our time, look to the Left.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Terrorist High School

From Israel National News, a story that I couldn't have made up if it wasn't true:

Faking Attacks in Order to Graduate: Correspondent Haggai Huberman reports on a new phenomenon among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria: Youths carry knives or small bombs across checkpoints in order to get themselves arrested so that they can study for high school matriculation exams at the State of Israel's expense.

Sitting in jail for a number of weeks or months is a small price to pay, and the returns are significant: A high school diploma, and a high social standing as a "freed terrorist."

Huberman notes that earlier this week, IDF soldiers reported that they had thwarted an attack in the northern Shomron when they arrested two 19-year-old boys carrying two pipebombs of one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) each. However, the IDF later concluded that the boys were merely trying to get arrested for the purpose of matriculation exams, and that the pipebombs were not designed to cause significant damage.

Apparently, Israeli prisons offer more educational opportunities than the Palestinian Authority. Hollywood, this would make a great movie. Sort of "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" meets "School of Rock" meets "Syriana."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Californians: Vote No On Prop 87!

Al Gore and Barbara Boxer support Proposition 87, on the California ballot for the November 7, 2006 election. That fact alone ought to be enough to convince voters to defeat the proposition. However, the advertising campaign in favor of the proposition merits examination for the insights it offers into the thinking of the political Left on economic issues.

In the television ad featuring Al Gore, Gore begins by stating that "California is dangerously dependent on foreign oil." Another pro-87 ad shows a Saudi prince and mentions the compensation paid last year to the CEO of Exxon. This column from the San Jose Mercury News, by Senator Barbara Boxer, carries on the theme that Proposition 87 will lessen dependence on imported oil.

Al Gore, Senator Boxer and the proposition's other proponents probably hope that voters do not actually read Proposition 87. How does Proposition 87 propose to lessen our dependence on foreign oil? By a severance tax on oil produced in California! The tax would not affect oil from Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Venezuela, or even Alaska, Louisiana or Texas. It is assessed only on oil produced right here in the State of California!

Moreover, the proposition states that California oil producers may not pass the tax on to "consumers" in the form of higher retail prices for gasoline or refined oil. Inenvitably, then, if California oil producers are assessed with a new severance tax at the rate of 6% of the value of produced oil (based on current oil prices), the new tax would have the following consequences:

A. The California oil producers will try to add the cost of the tax to the wholesale price they charge the refiners who purchase their oil. Proposition 87 does not prohibit increasing the wholesale price of oil. The refiners, at least theoretically, will not be allowed to increase the price of their retail products. Those refiners operate in an elastic, open national and international wholesale oil market. They can buy oil from anywhere. Naturally, rather than accepting the higher cost of California oil, which they cannot include in their retail pricing, the refiners will meet their needs by purchasing foreign oil or oil produced in other States.

B. Due to the higher cost and lower profit margin of producing oil in California, as well as the decrease in demand for pricier California oil that will result from refiners turning to foreign oil sources, investment into the California oil industry will decline. Investment capital for drilling, exploration and technology will be directed into Texas, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and foreign oil fields--any place but California!

In the interest of full disclosure, the Kosher Hedgehog has clients who are independent oil producers here in California. By the same token, my legal work in the California oil and gas industry gives me some informed insight into the current state of that industry. California oil and gas fields are in their declining years. By and large, (contrary to the pro-87 ads which talk about the worldwide profits of Exxon), the oil giants such as Exxon do not have a lot of interest in the California oil production industry. Increasingly, oil exploration, drilling and production in California is the province of smaller independent companies. Those types of companies are the most economically vulnerable to a huge severance tax increase. I have no doubt that the passage of Proposition 87 would result in a recession in the California oil industry.

Only the liberal mindset would conclude that a tax on oil produced in California, and only in California, would reduce our dependence on oil imports. If you want to see more money flow into the pockets of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the other OPEC countries, vote Yes on 87. If you want to put more power into the hands of the enemies of Israel, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, vote Yes on 87. If you rank Al Gore and Barbara Boxer among the great economic thinkers of our time, vote Yes on 87. Otherwise, please vote NO!

Sharanksy to Retire From Israeli Politics

This story from the Jerusalem Post saddens me. Natan Sharansky represented the best in Israeli politics. Honest, principled, incorruptible and courageous, the man who survived nine years in the Soviet gulag and emerged defiant was not about to kowtow to politicos. Although he greatly admired Ariel Sharon, when Sharon pressed forward with his policy to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, Sharansky resigned from his Cabinet position.

Here is a previous post on Sharanksy that appeared in the Hedgehog Blog after the Wall Street Journal published his column, entitled "Dissident President: George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom." Here is a link to that column.

For reasons that I never completely understood, Natan Sharansky was unable to build a strong political constituency in Israel. Many Israelis, including even his friends and political allies, such as Ariel Sharon, considered him to be a naive idealist. But one doesn't defy the Soviet Union and then outlive it by being naive. He believes that, like the Soviets, the Palestinian Authority cannot trusted to keep an agreement until it has transformed from a despotic regime to a democracy. However (and this is where his critics fail to comprehend the depth of his thought), he realizes that a democratic election is one of the later steps in building a democracy, not the first. One first has to build the political foundations for democracy, including a society where there is a rule of law, just courts, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. He knew that the Paletinian elections were premature and would produce a farcical result, such as a Hamas victory.

Now he believes that he can contribute more to Israeli democracy from outside the political system. He is rejoining the Shalem Center, a center-right, Zionist think tank, and is expected to write another book. However, I pray and believe that we have not seen the last of Natan Sharansky in Israeli politics, and hope that someday Israeli society catches up to one of its moral giants.

To close this tribute to Sharansky, nothing is more appropriate than to reprint for the Hedgehog's readers his statement on July 14, 1978, upon his conviction by a Soviet kangaroo court on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage:

"During my interrogation the chief investigators threatened me that I might be executed by a firing squad, or imprisoned for at least fifteen years. But if I agreed to cooperate with the investigation for the purpose of destroying the Jewish emigration movement, they promised me freedom and a quick reunion with my wife.

"Five years ago, I submitted my application for exit to Israel. Now I am further than ever from my dream. It would seem to be cause for regret. But it is absolutely the other way around. I am happy. I am happy that I lived honorably, at peace with my conscience. I never compromised my soul, even under the threat of death.

"I am happy that I helped people. I am proud that I knew and worked with such honorable, brave and courageous people as Sakharov, Orlov, Ginzburg, who are carrying on the traditions of the Russian intelligentsia. I am fortunate to have been witness to the process of the liberation of Jews of the USSR.

"I hope that the absurd accusation against me and the entire Jewish emigration movement will not hinder the liberation of my people. My near ones and friends know how I wanted to exchange activity in the emigration movement for a life with my wife Avital, in Israel.

"For more than two thousand years the Jewish people, my people, have been dispersed. But wherever they are, wherever Jews are found, every year they have repeated,'Next year in Jerusalem.' Now, when I am further than ever from my people, from Avital, facing many arduous years of imprisonment, I say, turning to my people, my Avital, 'Next year in Jerusalem.'

"Now I turn to you, the court, who were required to confirm a predetermined sentence: To you I have nothing to say."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lest We Forget How the Korean Nuclear Crisis Became a Crisis

"Democrats Assail Bush's North Korea Policy" reads the headline of the story on Yahoo News. However, the photo at the right illustrates the utter bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Democratic attacks. It shows the Clinton Administration's Secretaryt of State Madeleine Albright exchanging toasts with the Kim Il Jong six years ago this month, when Albright became the first American Secretary of State to visit North Korea. As reported at the time by CNN, one purpose of her trip was to explore the possibility of a visit to North Korea by President Clinton before he left office. In September of the previous year, President Clinton had relaxed economic sanctions against North Korea.

By October 2002, it became apparent that the Great Leader had successfully played the Clinton Administration for fools. That month, North Korea disclosed to U.S. diplomats that it had an ongoing secret nuclear weapons program, conducted in blatant violation of the 1994 non-proliferation agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. North Korea had pressed forward with its nuclear weapons research and development throughout the Clinton Presidency.

The Bush policy on North Korea's nuclear program has been to isolate North Korea diplomatically, coordinating with China, South Korea and Japan in multilateral negotiations to try to bring North Korea to heel, while keeping pressure on North Korea through economic sanctions. Both of these approaches have been successful to a degree. China has joined the U.S., South Korea and Japan in sharply condemning the recent North Korean missile and nuclear tests. The economic sanctions have bit deeply as well, cutting back on the cash flow that enables the Great Leader to pursue his favorite hobbies of drinking and women. Indeed, Kim's pique at the erosion of his lifestyle may in part explain the North Korean brinksmanship of the past few months.

The usual Democratic critique of Bush foreign policy is to decry the Administration's unilateralism. In this case, the Bush policy has been a model of multilater cooperation. But perhaps the Democrats believe that the Clinton/Albright model of toasting the despot would be more fruitful. Let us deeply hope that they have no opportunity to test that hypothesis.

Monday, October 09, 2006

British Historian Claims to Have Discovered Location of Temple Artifacts

One of the mysteries of Biblical archaeology has been the fate of the treasures from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which the Roman Legions commanded by Titus looted when they sacked and destroyed the Temple in 70 A.C.E. It is known that Titus brought the Temple artifacts to Rome, because some of them, including the golden seven-branched menorah, are shown on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which depicts the triumphal procession of Titus upon his return from the conquest of Judea. (See photo at upper left.) Many have speculated that the Temple treasures may reside in the museums of the Vatican.

Now, as reported here by Israel National News, a British historian claims to have traced the artifacts to their present hiding place. In a newly published book, British historian Sean Kingsley, basing himself on untapped historical texts and new archaeological sources, argues that the treasures were removed from Rome after the Vandal invasion of 455 CE. From there they were succesively transported to North Africa and Constantinople, before an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch, Modestus, spirited away the treasures to their final hiding place in the Judean Desert in 614. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Theodosius, where Kingsley believes the relics may be today, was founded in 476, and lies some 12 kilometers east of Bethlehem.

If Mr. Kingsley is correct, the publication of his book may expose the hidden Temple artifacts to grave danger. St. Theodosius lies within the areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, ruled by the radical Islamic party Hamas. Palestinians have shown little regard for the protection of Jewish historic sites within their jurisdicition. On the Temple Mount itself, the Moslem Waqf (its ruling authority) has been conducting excavations and renovations with blatant disregard for Jewish antiquities, from the time of the Temple, that the work has unearthed. Archaeologists combing truckloads of debris dumped from the construction have found a number of artifacts, but the scholarly significance of those discoveries has been greatly compromised by the loss of context.

Many suspect that the Moslem Waqf is deliberately destroying all evidence it finds of the Temple's existence on the Temple Mount, a throughly documented historical fact which Palestinians nonetheless deny, because it proves the historicity of Jewish ties to the Land of Israel. Even if the destruction is not deliberate, it represents a blatant and ongoing violation of Israeli law regarding construction excavation of archaeologically significant sites, but successive spineless Israeli governments have done nothing to confront the Waqf.

If Hamas or other Muslim fanatics locate the hidden Temple artifacts first, who can say what will become of them?