Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson: Sobering

From today's Opinion Journal:

Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today's Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats--and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in "liberal" Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge--although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.

It's one thing to be an alarmist, and quite another simply to be alarmed. I don't think enough of the people we trust to make policy and defend us are alarmed.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dry Bones on the Israeli-Terroist Ceasefire

UPDATE NOV. 28, 2006, 6:00 P.M.: As rockets continue to rain down on Sderot on the second day of the "ceasefire," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told European Union envoys this evening that "we are a little disappointed by the continuation of Kassam rocket fire at the South by the Palestinians." Presumably the residents of Sderot feel similarly.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is trying to distance himself and the IDF from the decision to agree to the ceasefire:
"The IDF played only a partial role in the decision to reach a cease-fire agreement with the Palestinians," Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday morning. He said terrorists would attempt to exploit the truce and use it to rearm."

It would appear that, having led the IDF in the Lebanese fiasco this past summer, Halutz now recognizes a blunder when he sees one.

All of which brings to mind another DRY BONES classic, where two Israeli "men on the street" are discussing the latest ceasefire with the Palestinians. "It's the typical ceasefire with the Palestinians," one says. "Yes," agrees his friend, "We cease and they fire."

New Book: "My Year Inside Radical Islam"

Deborah J. Saunders reviews the new book and interviews author Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle online. Two of the observations made by Gartenstein-Ross in the interview confirm everything you always suspected about the left and mainstream media (if you will excuse the redundancy):
He believes Americans need a more fact-based understanding of Islam, which requires the media to do a better job of reporting what Muslims think and say -- instead of papering over radical rhetoric. Once when a local reporter visited Al Haramain to write a piece on Ramadan, a co-worker refused to shake her hand, launched a defense of sorts of Algerian terrorists and lambasted a French policy that prohibited schoolgirls from wearing the hijab in class. The comments never made the story. Gartenstein-Ross writes, "And so, as I often did, the reporter chose not to acknowledge that a real clash of values existed here."

Islam's approach to homosexuality is another area that the left ignores in deference to multiculturalism. (Think of Bay Area liberals who voice outrage at the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but are silent about the Shariah policy on homosexuals -- 100 lashes or death.) Ditto the status of women.

60 Minutes: "Managing Defeat"

I am glad I did not watch 60 Minutes last night; it would have taken the bloom off a fine Sunday. (I never watch 60 Minutes. I'm still glad I didn't watch it last night.)

Even so, this video clip from Power Line is not to be missed. As John Hinderaker says: "Defeat: it's getting so close, they can almost taste it."

Olmert Offers Palestinians Mass Prisoner Exchange for Israeli Soldier

Demonstrating once again that he does not have the strength of will or the insight to govern, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today offered a massive release of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (photo at left). JTA reports that in a major policy address, Olmert said:

“With Gilad Shalit’s release and his return, safe and sound, to his family, the Israeli government would be willing to release many Palestinian prisoners, even those who have been sentenced to lengthy terms.”

Shalilt was taken hostage in a June 25 raid across the Gaza-Israel border by Hamas. Just as past one-sided prisoner exchanges with Hezbollah in Lebanon convinced Hezbollah to raid for hostages across the Lebanon-Israel border this past July, an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Shalit can only encourage the Palestinians to attempt more such hostage-taking raids in the future.

Ridiculing Religion the Andrew Sullivan Way

Andrew Sullivan (photo at left) is a well-known pundit. Recently he has taken after Mitt Romney, probably because Romney has been an ardent advocate of preventing the courts from imposing gay marriage on the country. To Sullivan, it seems, a politician's stand on gay marriage trumps all other aspects of the candidate's existence.

Lately Sullivan has become very prolific in his attacks on Romney and his Mormon religion, and at Article 6 Blog today we try to put together some thoughts and links on that subject. It's hard to keep up with Sullivan, but we'll make an effort.

The best summary of all this comes from Ann Althouse:
"The attack on Romney is different. This is an attempt to weaken him by saying he is a member of a particular group and laying out the reasons why people should feel revulsion toward that group. That is a terrible, terrible thing."
Kind of hard to disagree with that, isn't it?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Maybe Rangel is Joking Too?

Thanks to Hot Air for this Charlie Rangel quote:
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
You can watch the video here. As Glenn Reynolds says, Karl Rove has got to be hoping Rangel is on TV a lot from now on.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Kill the Filibuster

Here is another guest column from the iconoclastic Paul Kujawsky, a Vice President of Democrats for Israel, and a member of the California Democratic Central Committee. We suspect that Paul slums here in the Hedgehog Blog when he has columns that his Democratic Party colleagues won't enjoy reading. Whatever Paul's motives, his contributions are welcome.


Suddenly the filibuster can't be looking so good to Democrats.

When Republicans controlled the Senate, Democrats claimed that the filibuster is a critical tool for maintaining the checks and balances at the heart of a liberal democracy. Today, Democrats are looking forward to a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and the bloom is off the filibuster rose. Nothing has changed, except who gets to use the filibuster against whom.

Discussion and debate are essential to the life and vitality of a deliberative body like the Senate. However, the filibuster is like a cancer—uncontrolled speechifying that gradually shuts down and kills the Senate's ability to transact business. Moreover, the requirement of a supermajority to end any filibuster (that is, the fact that a minority can keep the filibuster rolling along) makes the maneuver inherently undemocratic.

This tradition of unbuttoned, obstructionist talk is just that—mere tradition. There is nothing in our Constitution hinting that a minority of senators should have the power to hold the majority hostage. It's hard to imagine any principled argument in favor of the filibuster, except perhaps the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" argument: The Senate is so corrupt that it's better for one honest senator to throw sand into the gears than let it continue its malignant work. But however much you may like Jimmy Stewart, that's not a serious contention. Democracy has its own way of punishing corrupt or otherwise unpopular senators. It's called "elections," and as we just saw, it works pretty well.

The real reason for the unreasonable vigor and longevity of the filibuster is that it requires the cooperation of the minority to kill it. Senate Rule XXII requires a three-fifths supermajority to end a filibuster. Moreover, the same rule says that a supermajority of two-thirds is needed to end debate on amending the rule. (A truly dumb provision.) In short, a minority can filibuster any attempt to do away with the filibuster.

Another approach was proposed not long ago, one that would bypass Rule XXII. After the 2000 election, Democrats were blocking President Bush's judicial nominations. The Republican plan was to raise a point of order asserting that it is unconstitutional to filibuster presidential nominees under the "Advice and Consent" clause. The presiding officer would rule favorably. The Democrats could have appealed the ruling, but - and here's the key point - the chair's ruling could be sustained by a simple majority. (The bipartisan "Gang of 14" ultimately derailed this scheme.)

This so-called "nuclear option" is not optimal, however, because it would only apply to presidential nominees, leaving the filibuster alive to hinder the rest of the legislative agenda. In a properly functioning liberal democracy, extraconstitutional restraints on the democratic character of the legislature are unjustifiable. In the coming months, Senate Democrats and Republicans will have plenty of political issues with which to beat each other bloody. How refreshing it would be if they would begin the new term by agreeing to a simple good-government reform. Kill the filibuster.

The Post-2006 Republican Party

They say that good comedy makes us laugh because it is true; which is why this Cox and Forkum cartoon has me laughing, although not happily.

Friday, November 24, 2006

On This Day in 1776

On November 24, 1776, the Continental Army was camped in Newark, New Jersey, pausing in its headlong retreat from New York. Since August, the army under the command of General George Washington had suffered disaster after disaster. The defeats had begun with the army's first large-scale battle, at Brooklyn, in which 300 American soldiers had been killed, and over 1000 taken prisoner, out of an army of only 20,000 men. In the months that followed, Washington had lost three more battles, at Kips Bay, White Plains and Fort Washington, and had given up Fort Lee without a fight. Through casualties, disease, desertion and expired enlistments, the Continental Army was down to about 35oo soldiers.

Encamped that day with the Rhode Island volunteers was Thomas Paine (pictured at the upper right), the author of Common Sense, who had recently volunteered as a civilian aide on the staff of General Nathaniel Greene. The following account comes from David McCullough's history of that fateful time, 1776:

"Sick at heart over the suffering and despair he saw, but inspired by the undaunted resolution of many around him, Paine is said to have committed his thoughts to paper during the retreat, writing at night on a drumhead by the light of a campfire. He himself, however, said it was not until later, at Philadelphia, that in a "passion of patriotism," he began what he called The Crisis, with the immortal opening lines:
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
A month later, on Christmas night, General Washington crossed the Delaware River with some 2200 troops, practically all of his command that remained fit for duty, and defeated the Hessian forces at Trenton. Though undoubtedly a turning point, years of suffering, privation and defeats, lay ahead for the Continental Army, before the surrender of the British at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. A year later would come the terrible winter encampment at Valley Forge. Yet, it is not for nothing that we refer to the "Spirit of '76."

In contrast today, we have in America the "Spirit of 2006," when the nation has been thoroughly demoralized by the loss of around 3000 U.S. soldiers since March 23, 2003, a period of three years and seven months. Of course, Washington also had his critics in the media and the populace in 1776, and then as now New York City was a center of opposition to the war. In those days, they were called "Tories."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Poster Girl on The Wrong Side of The World

As an American I've always felt a kinship with Australians and New Zealanders because of our common Anglo-Saxon foundations (settlers, language, legal system, and so forth); so I especially enjoyed this music video by Beccy Cole, an Australian recording star. Interestingly, the video topped the Australian charts. Note the intelligent, frank and matter-of-fact tone of her song, as opposed to the adolescent breast-beating we get so often from American pop stars with something political to say.

Is there an American counterpart to Ms. Cole? Do we have any anti-Dixie Chicks?

(HT: InstaPundit.)

The Desolate Wilderness And The Fair Land

Continuing the special Thanksgiving edition of The Hedgehog Blog, we note that annually on Thanksgiving, since 1961, The Wall Street Journal has published two editorials. "The Desolate Wilderness" is the opening passage from "the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof," whose bust appears at the upper right.

"And The Fair Land" is an essay written in 1961 by Vermont Royster, who was then the editor of the Wall Street Journal. He noted that despite the obvious bounty of our nation, its citizens were afflicted with "an air of unease." Despite the passage of 45 years, many if not all of the sources of that unease will feel familiar to us all. "Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue."

Yet, while not promising easy solutions, Mr. Royster nonetheless offered solace and hope:

"But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere--in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land."

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hedgehog, his family, my family, our readers and their families as well. Thank you, God, for our countless blessings, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving from the Hedgehog Blog

It seems appropriate to reproduce here Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or ufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Abraham Lincoln


The current issue of Los Angeles Magazine describes Arianna Huffington as "one of L.A.'s idea generators." Enough said?

Lowell adds: I didn't know Arianna lived here in Los Angeles . . . .

Hamas Calls for Israel to Disengage from Sederot

World Net Daily reports that Hamas has called for all Israelis to evacuate the town of Sederot, a town of 20,000 located some three miles within the border between Israel and Gaza.

"Only the departure of residents from Sderot will stop the rocket fire," Abu Abaida, spokesman for Hamas' so-called military wing, said in a statement to reporters.
"There are no limits on our rocket attacks and we will prove that in coming days. We advise residents of Sderot to evacuate," the Hamas spokesman said.
Who can argue with the logic of Hamas? The call for Israel to give up Sederot follows very consistently from the whole "land for peace" concept, and with the disengagement from Gaza implemented by the Sharon-Olmert governments. As a Palestinian once said, "Land for peace means that as long as you keep giving us land you'll have peace." This is how the Arabs have always understood "land for peace."

True, the application of the concept to land within the 1967 borders of Israel may seem novel to the "Peace Now" camp in Israel and the United States. However, soon they will get used to the idea, and even advocate it. After all, if Israel is willing to "disengage" from Gaza after 38 years, why stop there? The current "border" is no more than the 1949 ceasefire line, following Israel's War of Independence, marking the line of advance of the invading Egyptian army at the moment the ceasefire took effect. Why should southern Israel be sacrosanct? The Arabs regard Sederot, and Tel Aviv for that matter, as land stolen from the Palestinian Arabs, no less than Gaza. Already one occasionally comes across opinion columns by mainstream pundits, such as this piece by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, stating that the creation of the State of Israel was a mistake.

It is hardly a giant step from that position to disengagement from Sederot, from Beersheva, from Asheklon, from Ashdod, from Jerusalem, from Haifa, from Tel Aviv, from the entire land that God promised to the Jewish people as their eternal possession. Because if Israelis and the Jewish people as a whole cease to believe that the land of Israel is the God-given inheritance of the Children of Israel, then Israel will not have the spiritual strength to resist Hamas.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Iran and Syria Press Ahead to Form Line of Confrontation States

Consider the events of the day while studying the map at the left. In Lebanon, Pierre Gemayel is assassinated and a second anti-Syrian politician and cabinet minister in the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora narrowly escapes an assassination attempt. Hezbollah is calling its followers out into the streets, threatening to overthrow the Saniora Government. This is a coup in progress.

The government of Iraq--the very government that the American Left and Al Qaida accuse of being an American puppet regime--restores diplomatic relations with Syria for the first time in 14 years. The Presidents of Iraq and Syria are invited by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a weekend summit in Tehran.

It seems clear that the Syria-Iran axis is applying a full-court press to achieve its strategic objective--the creation of a solid line of confrontation states ranging from Lebanon on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, through Syria and Iraq, to Iran on the Persian Gulf. This alliance would create a continuous hostile front aimed at America's allies in the region: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States. The real target is America's influence in the region.

Why now? What has changed since the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, when Lebanon asserted its independence following the Syrian-inspired assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005?

First came Israel's failure to fully defeat Hezbollah during the war this past summer. Then came United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1701, which essentially handed South Lebanon back to Hezbollah, which regrouped and rearmed following its incomplete thrashing by Israel. Finally came the mounting opposition in the United States to staying the course in Iraq, culminating in the midterm elections that brought Democratic majorities into both houses of Congress. Rarely have the results of an American election had a more immediate impact on international affairs. Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have closely studied the developments on the American polticial scene, and have concluded that the United States has lost the will to defy their advance.

Unfortunately, they may be right.

BREAKING NEWS: Lebanese Christian Leader Pierre Gemayel Assassinated; Syria Suspected; Civil War Looms

Lebanese Christian leader Pierre Gemayel was assassinated today in Beirut. Syria is suspected of being behind the carefully orchestrated attack by gunmen that took the life of the popular anti-Syrian politician. The son of former Lebanese President Amir Gemayel, Pierre Gemayel is the fifth anti-Syrian politician to be killed in the past two years, and the fifth member of his prominent Phalangist family to be murdered.

His uncle, Bashir Gemayel, Bashir, was elected president in 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the expulsion of Yassir Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Bashir was expected to advance peace and normal relations between Lebanon and Israel, which have been technically at war since the birth of Israel in May 1948. However, Bashir was assassinated just days before taking office. Two of Amin Gemayel's nephews and Bashir's daughter were killed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although both Syria and Hezbollah condemned the assassination, many anti-Syrian politicians pointed at Syria as the culprit. Gemayel's death is expected to heighten the already serious confrontation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fuad Sanoira, in which Pierre Gemayel was a minister. On Sunday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah threatened a wave of street protests aimed at bringing down the government if it ignores the group's demand to form a national unity Cabinet, in which Hezbollah and its allies would have considerable influence and would be able to block major decisions.

On November 13, the Hedgehog Blog noted the looming threat from Hezbollah against the Sanoira government. This assassination could be the first move by Hezbollah and its patron Syria to take power in Lebanon. Further analysis of the crisis may be found in the Jerusalem Post online.

An Intra-Hedgehog Debate: Judicial Confirmations

In a post below I referred to Hugh Hewitt's position on John McCain's "Gang of 14." Hugh repeated his argument in greater detail on ABC News Politics.

My brother Hedgehog Ralph disagreed (yes, we do that sometimes!) and posted a comment to my post, concluding that to reject the Gang of 14 compromise "would have likewise led to a brave, glorious and principled defeat, as opposed to two conservative seats on the Supreme Court."

This is clearly an issue on which reasonable people can disagree. To me, the essence of the matter is that because of the Gang of 14 deal, a filibuster to deny a Supreme Court nominee a floor vote is still viable. Had the Republicans in the Senate pressed the matter, they would have had 51 votes (the 50 senators committed plus the Vice President) to change the Senate rules so that a majority vote can send a nomination the floor. Because that didn't happen, only 40 senators can stop any nomination. Such obstruction is unprecedented in U.S. history. Hugh summarizes:
[H]ad the John McCain-led Gang not interfered with the GOP's majority's desire to move to a vote on the use of the filibuster with judicial nominees, a precedent would have been established that it is out of order to allow 40 senators to stop nominees from receiving a vote. Instead, McCain undercut the Senate's leadership. A few quality nominees were confirmed, Judges Brown, Owen, Pryor and Kavanaugh among them but others were thrown under the bus. No precedent was set, and still the obstructionism has continued.
That, dear Ralph, is what bugs me about the Gang of 14, and by extension, about John McCain. He describes himself as a "proud conservative," but he thwarts truly conservative efforts all too often. When President Bush presented legislation on the detainee issue, for example, McCain stepped forward at a critical moment and gave the Democrats political cover from a fight they did not want to face. Some people call that the gutsy behavior of a maverick; to me, it's unforgivable narcissism.


Ralph's Response

As noted in my comment, to which I refer the discerning reader (and those few non-discerning ones as well), back in April-May 2005, I favored bringing the "constitutional option" to change the Senate rules to a vote. I even posted a call for such a vote on this blog, citing the historic precedent of the breaking of the Democrats' "Silent Filibuster" in the House of Representatives by Speaker Reed, around the turn of the century, as recounted by Barbara Tuchman in "The Proud Tower." However, in retrospect, I doubt whether the Republican majority in the Senate really had the 50 votes that, combined with Vice President Cheney's tie-breaker, would have approved the Senate rule change on filibusters. The validity of the argument advanced by Lowell and Hugh Hewitt rests largely on the very questionable assumption that the GOP would have succeeded in changing the Senate filibuster rules. I believe that Senators McCain and Graham recognized the risk of losing a vote to change the rules, and acted to achieve the Gang of 14 compromise for that reason. I also think that Hugh fudges the facts a little when he says, "A few quality nominees were confirmed," and then fails to mention Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito on that list. They sailed through their confirmations, precisely because of the Gang of 14 compromise, which nipped in the bud any possibility of a Democratic filibuster of their confirmation votes. Senators McCain and Graham let it be clearly known to the Democrats that they would view any attempt to filibuster those nominations to be a breach of the Gang of 14 agreement, thereby providing grounds for a GOP vote to change the Senate filibuster rules.

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's College Football "Rivalry Game" Time Again

And although my beloved Utes are 11- to 12-point underdogs to the BYU Cougars, I remain an optimist, like all good Reagan Republicans. Hence two of my my favorite sports graphics. (Yes, I know the one below is a basketball graphic. But I like it, and this is my blog.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Republicans should stick to principles, lose the gloom

Jack Kelly describes the path to a GOP comeback at [HT: RealClearPolitics.] His conclusion:
"Republicans should retain their social conservatism and regain their economic conservatism. But the conservatism that wins elections is a conservatism of optimism and inclusion, not doom, gloom and ethnic division. Republicans will not regain their majority without fidelity to Ronald Reagan's principles. But they may need Mr. Reagan's attitude even more."

Among Kelly's intriguing observations:

The Republicans lost in part because they strayed from economic conservatism:
"A survey taken last month by Onmessage Inc. of 12 swing districts held by Republicans indicated [that] Democrats were viewed as more likely to cut taxes for the middle class, more likely to reduce the federal budget deficit and more likely to control federal spending. Democrats won eight of those seats."

Virulent anti-immigration sentiments are a loser for the GOP:
"No party running on a nativist platform has been successful nationally. When House Republicans traded in the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan for the sour crabbiness of Pat Buchanan, their fate was sealed.

"President Bush understands that unless the GOP regains the Hispanic votes that House Republicans drove away, their future will be bleak. This is behind his otherwise unfortunate choice of the undistinguished Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida to be chairman of the Republican National Committee, over the very capable Michael Steele, who is African American. (Interestingly, blacks were the only ethnic group among whom Republicans recorded gains in 2006.)"
The midterm elections were not a repudiation of social conservatism:
"Liberals engaged in wishful thinking say the election was a repudiation of social conservatism. The results of referenda around the country make it clear this is not so.

"A ban on racial preferences passed easily in Michigan. Initiatives defining marriage as the union of one man with one woman passed easily in seven states, failing narrowly only in Arizona (49 to 51 percent), and only because that initiative would have banned civil unions, too. (Americans want to preserve the institution of marriage, but they don't want to discriminate against gays.) And while Arizonans were turning out Republicans who ran on enforcement-only immigration platforms, they approved (74 to 26 percent) a measure making English the state's official language."

Gee, Jack Kelly sounds alot like the Hedgehog.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

If You Care About Federal Judicial Nominations

Then read every word of Hugh Hewitt's blistering attack Gang of 14. It is compelling, and should make any real conservative very worried about a President McCain.

Oil from Oil Shale at $17 A Barrel?

Holy energy independence, Batman! It remains to be seen, but if this is true, it's huge, as InstaPundit says.

A couple of ironies here:
  • The extraction technique is discovered by an Israeli, from the only land in the Middle East without any oil reserves;
  • If it pans out, the discovery may weaken the economic power of the other Middle Eastern state who have sworn the destruction of Israel.
More power to the Israeli innovators.


A close associate who is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at a major western research university says:

Unfortunately, they don't give much of a hint as to the attributes of their methodology, other than it is a lower-temperature process than traditional techniques. The economic claim seems a bit optimistic to me, but it is hard to know without more details on their process. We have had one or two individuals . . . who have made similar claims (on the order of $15/bbl) for their processes, and it gets into the newspapers and excites the venture capitalists, but when approached on the topic I have advised caution. There are many things that can be missed in an economic analysis (even unintentionally); in particular, when individuals are "working out the numbers" and are not really experienced at doing such thing for large scale processes.

One major item that . . . may be less of an issue in Israel, is the opposition of environmentalist groups. All of these low-cost methods are based on extracting the shale and then processing them through some sort of furnace or retort. Although details were not given, the Israeli process appears to also require extraction of the material. In most cases, this would involve strip-mining, which is highly unpopular in the U.S. Even promisses of reclamation, with gorgeous photographs of reclaimed regions that are more picturesque than before, does not quell the fire.

I attended a recent . . . workshop . . . that included attendees from as far away as Tokyo . . . . Amid various presentations on the nature of the fuel resource, problems unique to processing this fuel, emerging technologies, economic issues, etc. was a presentation by an attorney representing [an envirnomentalist group] that could be summed up in one sentence: "It is really bad - don't do it." In addition to environmental concerns, he discussed the economics at length to demonstrate that in his view, it makes no sense to develop such an industry in [the West]. Although he conceded that there are between 12-20 billion barrels of oil locked up in oil sands . . . , his analysis indicated that only 1/5 of those reserves were recoverable and therefore it is not worth pursuing. From my perspective (as a Chemical Engineer), if true, this just means we have a technology shortage and thus an opportunity to develop new methods (as the Israelis appear to have done).

Another presentation . . . focused on a range of issues that would need to be addressed, such as the observation of a Mexican Spotted Owl in a canyon nearby one of the reserves, which therefore qualified the area as a habitat for an endangered species.

Anyway, these are the kinds of things we face in the U.S. that may or may not be as pronounced in Israel (I am guessing much of the populace is concerned about more immediate threats to their well-being).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Opens D.C. Office

From the website Islamic Voice:

Muslim Brotherhood Office in US
Washington DC
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB), in alliance with the ex-vice- president of Syria, Abdul Halim Khaddam, a staunch Ba’athist, have opened an office in Washington DC. The aim of the office is to infiltrate the US government and influence its apathy towards political Islam. Ammar Abdul Hamid, a Syrian intellectual who works at Brookings Institute, will be running the office for the National Salvation Front. His duties are to sell political Islam and Ba’athism to reluctant US government officials and to give the Muslim Brotherhood a platform in the Think Tank community of Washington from which they can preach democracy.

[Hat Tip: LGF]

One admires the candor: "infiltrate the U.S. goverment." And the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, steeped as it is in political Islam and Ba'athism, has so much to teach us about democracy!

The Ba'ath Party is the Arab Nationalist party that has governed Syria as a totalitarian police state since 1963. Until the fall of Saddam Hussein, a Ba'athist regime governed Iraq as well (although the two Ba'athist regimes were frequently at each other's throats).

Among the interesting aspects of this press release is the tie-in of Ba'athism with political Islam. In the past, one rarely would have associated Ba'athism with Islam. Traditionally, Ba'athism was a secular Arab movement. A trend has arisen only very recently in Syria to tie Ba'athism to political Islam, as the formerly secular Ba'athist regime of Bashar al-Assad (pictured above) has warily viewed the rising power of polticial Islam in the Arab world, and has tried to coopt it. This development was noted in an article in the October 2, 2006 issue of The New Republic ["Syria's Road to Damascus," by Andrew Lee Butters]. It is a development that bears watching,as does the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood office in our nation's capital.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kassams Kill 1, Critically Wound Another, in Sederot Attack

The report on the Wednesday morning (Israel time) attack is in the Jerusalem Post. This time the Kassam barrage did not do "minimal damage," as the L.A. Times is fond of describing the Palestinian terrorist rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel. My word, how will the L.A Times manage to find words to describe this attack?

UPDATE, Wed. 11/15/06 8:15 p.m. PST: We have our answer to my question above. This afternoon the Los Angeles Times website published an Associated Press account of the attack, under the headline "Israel Vows to Respond to Rocket Attack." Note that from the headline one would not even know that a life was lost.

The Jerusalem Post provides some information about the victims of Wednesday's kassam rocket attack on Sederot. Ironically, perhaps, the woman slain in this attack by Islamic terrorists, Fatima Slutsker (photo above), was herself a Moslem. A native of the Caucausus Mountains, in the former Soviet Union, she had immigrated to Israel, with her Jewish husband, three years ago. The most seriously wounded victim, Meor Peretz, who lost his legs in the rocket blast, is a security guard at the Sederot home of Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz (no relation).

Time Magazine's Distortions During Lebanon War Revealed

Do you remember the above photos from the Israeli-Hezbollah War this past summer? Both depict a Hezbollah gunman in front of a smoking landscape. The closeup appeared in U.S. News; the panoramic shot appeared in TIME magazine. Both were taken by news photographer Bruno Stevens. To truly understand how TIME distorts the news, generally to the detriment of Israel, read his account of the photos and their captions, at Lightstalkers. Here is a summary to whet your appetite:

When Stevens submitted the photos to U.S. News, he provided this caption:
"“Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 An Israeli Air Force F16 has alledgedly been shot down while bombing a group of Hezbollah owned trucks, at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher.”

He worded it that way deliberately, because he had not been able to verify the Hezbollah claim that it had shot down an Israeli plane. Also, Stevens took pains to note that at least one of the targeted trucks was a legitimate military target.

When TIME published the photo, although it had Steven's original caption, here is how it captioned the photo:
“The wreckage of a downed Israeli jet that was targeting Hizballah trucks billows smoke behind a Hizballah gunman in Kfar Chima, near Beirut. Jet fuel set the surrounding area ablaze.”

Note how the word "allegedly" has disappeared, as has the description that makes clear the trucks were a legitimate military target. A description of the targets as "Hizballah trucks" allows the inference that these vehicles were being devoted to civilian uses, perhaps one of Hezbollah's many heartwarming humanitarian programs providing food and education.

Some days later, after returning to the site 3 more times and collecting evidence, Stevens rewrote the caption to read as follows:

“Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 The Israeli Air Force bombed a group of Hezbollah chartered trucks parked on the back of large Lebanese Army barracks , at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher, at least one missile was hit, misfiring high into the sky before falling down and starting a huge fire in the barracks’ parking lot.”
So Hezbollah had not shot down an Israeli plane. It made up a propaganda story to cover up the loss of its missiles.

Stevens also sent the American newsmagazines other photos of the Lebanese army base after the raid, including a photo of a destroyed truck, which clearly showed it had been used to hide a medium range ground to ground missile launcher (of the type Hezbollah used to attack northern Israeli towns and cities during the war). Please go to Lightstalkers to see those photos. Interestingly enough, TIME did not find those photos newsworthy enough to publish. Yet, as Stevens notes:

"This is a very important piece of evidence showing probable collusion between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, there is little doubt that the Lebanese Army was aware of the presence of at least one missile launcher and at least one large missile on their parking lot. The size of the launcher, destroyed a couple of days later from the ground by an unknown party suggest missiles 10 to 14 meters long."

Kudos to Bruno Stevens, an honest and hardworking photo journalist who put in the extra effort (probably at no small danger to himself) to get the entire story. Stevens points out that we cannot blame a field photographer for the caption attached to his photos, over which he has no control. Shame on TIME for not letting its readers know the whole story. And HT to Little Green Footballs.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Syria Pursues Nuclear Weapons

Caroline Glick, the Middle East Fellow at Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, writes in the Jerusalem Post that, according to Kuwaiti press reports, Syria is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program, which it began in September 2004. According to Ms. Glick:

The Kuwaiti report maintains that the Syrian nuclear program relies "on equipment and materials that the sons of the deposed Iraqi leader, Uday and Qusai… transfer[red] to Syria by using dozens of civilian trucks and trains, before and after the US-British invasion in March 2003." The report also asserts that the Syrian nuclear program is supported by the Iranians who are running the program, together with Iraqi nuclear scientists and Muslim nuclear specialists from Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

The program "was originally built on the remains of the Iraqi program after it was wholly transferred to Syria."

This report echoes warnings expressed by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in the months leading up to the US-led invasion of Iraq that suspicious convoys of trucks were traveling from Iraq to Syria. Sharon's warnings were later supported by statements from former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who said last year that Iraq had moved its unconventional arsenals to Syria in the lead-up to the invasion.

Fortunately, we now have Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden to lead us in confronting this latest WMD threat, to say nothing of the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran. Or perhaps not. Ms. Glick writes, "Iran, North Korea and al-Qaida have all been quick to interpret the Democratic victory in last Tuesday's Congressional elections as a sign that the US has chosen to turn its back on the threat they pose to America."

Surprise, surprise. Who wudda thunk it?

Hezbollah, Al Qaida Seek Regime Change in Lebanon

Day by day the democratic government in Lebanon begins to more and more resemble the Weimar Republic, whipsawed by competing anti-democratic forces that seek to either dominate the regime or topple it. Ominously, the past week has witenessed dual threats to the Lebanese government.

First,as reported here
, came the resignation of the government ministers loyal to Hezbollah and its allied Druse faction Amal, after Prime Minister Fuad Saniora refused the Hezbollah demand to form a "government of national unity," in which the guerrilla group would have veto power. It is widely assumed that Iran and Syria are behind the political maneuvering of Hezbollah and Amal. The departure of Hezbollah and Amal from the government is an unsubtle threat to use their militias, which are well-armed and well-financed by Syria and Iran, to overthrow the government, achieving by attack from without what Hezbollah so far has been unable to achieve by subversion and intimidation from within. The present government led by Prime Minister Saniora came to power on an anti-Syrian platform, during the "Cedar Revolution" that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syrian agents are widely believed to have perpetrated the bombing that murdered Hariri. The photo above depicts the now nearly forgotten optimism of the Cedar Revolution.

Now, today, on top of the threat from the Shiite Hezbollah, comes a threat of coup by the Sunni-dominated, anti-Shiite Al Qaida, as reported here.

If the Lebanese government falls, a renewal of the Lebanese civil war will surely follow, with the very real danger of armed confrontation between Israel and Syria.

Rumsfeld's Critics Hated Him as a Foreign Policy Realist and Hate Him Now as a Neo-Con

The famous photograph at the right was taken on December 20, 1983. As recounted by Michael Rubin of The American Enterprise Institute, in today's OpinionJournal, it shows Donald Rumsfeld, then the Reagan Administration's Middle East envoy, meeting with Saddam Hussein in Bagdad. Concerned about countering growing Iranian influence in the region, under the aegis of the Ayatollah Khomeini regime, President Reagan sought to restore long-severed diplomatic relations with Hussein's Iraq. Although the United States intelligence was already aware that Hussein had used chemical weapons, Rumsfeld did not broach the subject with Hussein, in a triumph of the outlook commonly known as foreign policy realism. Rubin relates the long-term result of this policy:

"Iran and Iraq would fight for five more years, leaving hundreds of thousands dead on the battlefield. Then, two years after a ceasefire ended the war, Saddam invaded Kuwait. In subsequent years, he would subsidize waves of Palestinian suicide-bombers, effectively ending the Oslo peace process. Saddam's career is a model of realist blowback."

Fast forward to November 2006. By invading Iraq, President George W. Bush, with Donald Rumsfeld as his Secretary of Defense, had implemented a neoconservative policy of regime change in Iraq that was anathema to the foreign policy realists and many traditional conservatives (e.g., George Will). Now, following the GOP losses in the midterm Congressional elections, Rumsfeld has resigned. His resignation is cheered not only by the foreign policy realists on the right, but by the so-called progressives on the left, who welcome the re-ascendency of the archetypal foreign policy realist,James Baker. Rumors abound that the report of the Baker-Hamilton Commission will advocate a realpolitik accommodation with Iran and Syria in order to allow the U.S. to extract itself from Iraq. The very progressives who pilloried Rumsfeld, when he was in the realist camp in the 1980's, for turning a blind eye to Hussein's chemical weapon program now are urging the same policy toward Iran, which is rushing toward the development of nuclear weapons, and Syria, whose agents were captured in September 2004 by Jordanian security trying to smuggle 20 tons of chemical weapons into Jordan for attacks on Amman.

According to Rubin, this is a glaring inconsistency fueled by, among other factors, a personal hatred of Don Rumsfeld by the left: "Today, progressivism places personal vendetta above principle. Mr. Rumsfeld is bad, Mr. Baker is good, and consistency irrelevant." Rumsfeld could be excused for thinking, "I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't."

I disagree with Rubin in one significant respect. The failure of Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration in Iraq has not been the decision to invade Iraq and overturn the Hussein regime. Their tragic shortcoming was the failure to properly appreciate the difficulty of midwifing a democratic regime in a totalitarian society. The Bush Administration should have devoted far more pre-war planning for the post-invasion period, listened to cautionary reports from the State Department, and committed many thousands more troops for police and security duty during the occupation. They should have prepared the American public in advance of the war for the necessity of a lengthy occupation, a significant troop commitment, and the likelihood of a low-intensity insurgency. In light of the wars and genocides that have plagued Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo since the collapse of Tito's Yugoslavia, and the skepticism regarding the difficulty of nation building expressed by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice during the 2000 Presidential campaign, their lack of foresight on this point is truly disappointing.

The intervening event of the 9/11 attacks offers no excuse--9/11 may have demonstrated the necessity of removal of rogue regimes that might pursue WMD; it did not justify poor planning and implementation of regime change.

This is not mere 20-20 hindsight. The hope for setting our Iraq policy aright and still salvaging a positive result from the invasion of Iraq lies in now doing what is necessary to restore security and stop the mounting civil strife. That may well require more troops, not less, and certainly not the staged withdrawal advocated by many Democrats. (See "Democratic lawmakers will seek a phased withdrawal from Iraq"
in today's LA Times.

In summary, I believe that the criticism of the handling of the post-invasion period by Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration is well-justified, completely apart from the obvious animus displayed toward them by the Left and MSM. However, that does not negate the warning posed by Mr. Rubin of the dangers of a realpolitik embrace of Iran and Syria.

Read Dry Bones!

Our regular readers know that the Kosher Hedgehog frequently links to the Dry Bones comic strip. We recently heard from Yaakov Kirschen, Dry Bones' creator, who wonders why we have never exchanged links. We have wondered the same thing, and hereby announce the new Dry Bones link in the left column of this blog.

Yaakov tells us a little about Dry Bones:

We are American/Israeli, Neocon, and Zionist and, according to Technorati, we've just broken into the top 5,000 (Rank 4,984, 920 links from 252 sites). We just won FOUR first place Gold Medals at the second annual JIB (Jewish & Israeli Blog) Awards: Best Blog (overall), Best Politics & Current Events Blog, Best Humor Blog, and Best New Blog of 2005.
We welcome Dry Bones to the Hedgehog family and are delighted to be part of his.

Article 6 Blog Interviews John McIntrye of Real Clear Politics

In the six short years since 2000, when Real Clear Politics was founded, that site has rocketed to the top of everyone's daily "must read" list. People like Brit Hume, Peter Beinart, and Michael Barone say they check Real Clear Politics every day, and the site's own authors describe it as the place to go for intelligent and broad political commentary and analysis.

On Article 6 Blog, which I co-author with John Schroeder, we're posting today an interview with John McIntyre, Managing Editor of Real Clear Politics. Mr. McIntyre covers a broad range of topics related to the 2008 presidential election, with a particular focus on Mitt Romney's candidacy and the issues surrounding Romney's religion. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Religion and Presidential Politics: A Modest Proposal

Chris Cillizza's Friday Line has re-appeared. If you've forgotten what the Line is, it's a weekly handicapping of the presidential candidates' ups and downs. Here's what he said about Mitt Romney:
The Massachusetts governor had a nice year of his own, unfortunately capped off by broad Republican losses in gubernatorial races, including in his home state. While McCain has released the names of his '08 supporters in drips and drabs, Romney has gone for shock and awe with his announcements -- massive lists in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan filled with impressive and influential names. Romney is the best raw candidate in the Republican field and he is the equal of Obama and Edwards when it comes to charisma. He still must answer doubts among conservatives about his time in Massachusetts and seeming flip-flops on some social questions. And then there is the Mormon question to which we have no answer just yet. (Emphasis added.)
In response, a commenter to the post named "bmart" had this precious nugget for us:
Mitt Romney is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief because his bizarre religious beliefs demonstrate he can't be counted on to be a rational decision-maker. Carrying the logic a step further, any candidate who accepts supernatural religious notions from 2000 years ago is equally incompetent.

In fact, since most of the worlds' religions are based on, founded on, or tolerate beliefs that cannot be proven in a court of law or by science, no individual of any religious persuasion should occupy the Oval Office. That leaves us a pool of Atheists from which to draw for prospective Presidents.

But alas, what if there really is a God of some sort--then to have shown such poor judgement on such an important topic should certainly disqualify non-believers. Perhaps the only answer is a constitutional amendment removing the entire office of the Presidency and leave the running of the country to Congress and the Courts. The Presidency is too dangerous a position to have either a religious or non-religious person therein.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Bush Press Conference

I happened to be out running when President Bush gave his press conference the day after the election, and I must admit I was taken aback by the way the president handled the question of the Rumsfeld resignation and its timing. He pretty much admitted that he intentionally misled the press (and thus the nation) about his intentions:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.

He later spent 5-10 minutes backpedaling from that answer.

I agree with what Newt Gingrich said about this:
"If the president had decided to replace Secretary Rumsfeld he should have told us two weeks ago," Gingrich said. "I think that we would today control the Senate and probably have 10 to15 more House seats. And I found it very disturbing yesterday in the press conference, the explanation that the President gave.

"We need candor, we need directness," said Gingrich, a potential 2008 presidential candidate."We need to understand the threats we faced with are so frightening and so real, the danger that we'll lose two to three American cities so great, that we cannot play games with each other, cannot manipulate each other, we have to have an open and honest dialogue, and I found yesterday's statements at the press conference frankly very disturbing."

He condemned Bush's admission that in making last week's statement about Rumsfeld, he had known he was being misleading.

"It's inappropriate to cleverly come out the day after an election to do something we were told before the election would not be done," Gingrich said. "I think the timing was exactly backwards and I hope the President will rethink how he engages the American people and how he communicates with candor."
I am willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt on this one, but I am frankly growing weary of doing that.

I Hate When That Happens

From Mike Shelton at the Orange County Register. With our thanks to Real Clear Politics.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Illegal Immigration: Resolvable Issue or Unbreakable Principle?

From today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Republicans on Tuesday managed both to lose their majority in Congress and alienate a fast-growing bloc of Latino swing voters. Other than that, the House GOP strategy of trying to save itself by bucking President Bush and using immigration as a wedge issue worked pretty well.
Ouch. After reading the transcript of Hugh Hewitt's on-air interview yesterday with Tony Snow, I am more convinced than ever that the Republican Party's response to illegal immigration will be a key to keeping the White House in 2008 and to regaining control of Congress. If the GOP doesn't come up with a coherent approach, they'll end up totally out of power.

Why? Because the political realities right now are these:

  • The conservative base (notice I did not say "Republican" base) admantly opposes any approach to immigration that includes "amnesty." To this small slice of the electorate, anything short of sending all illegals home is amnesty.
  • President Bush is equally adamant that any immigration reform must be "comprehensive," meaning combining serious enforcement with some path towards citizenship for those 12 million or so illegals already here. If you're uncertain about this, take a look at the excerpts from the Hugh Hewitt - Tony Snow interview below.
  • The majority of Americans also favor a comprehensive approach, but when you get down to details (what to do with criminals who are here, whether to have guest workers, whether to require immigrants to learn English), this group is all over the map, and does not have the single-minded commitment of the "enforcement only" group. Thus the hard-liners are a much more formidable political force.
  • Hispanics are a voting bloc that is here to stay and that the GOP needs in order to remain a competitive American political party.
  • In other words, the GOP has to find a way to keep that conservative base "in the tent" while still fashioning a policy that appeals to the broader electorate and does not alienate Hispanics.

    That's not going to be easy. The evidence so far is that the "no amnesty" approach to this issue has become a litmus test for the hard right. In other words, a large bloc of conservatives are saying that opposition to amnesty is not merely a position or an issue, but a principle-- right up there in importance with conservative principles like no new taxes, a strong defense, and judicial restraint.

    A solution? How about taking the issue on in this order:

    1. Secure the border and enforce the law. Get serious about this. Build the 700-mile fence, and be quick about it. Enforce employer sanctions. This will put pressure on the restrictionists to play ball, or look like obstructionists or even nativists.

    2. Propose a truly serious approach to regularization that includes at least the following:
  • No blanket amnesty.
  • A way for some illegals already here to remain here and become citizens.
  • A way for those who want to stay here to demonstrate their desire by their actions. Paying a fine and going to the back of the line for citizenship makes sense, for example.
  • Identify everyone. Start with a tamper-proof ID card for resident aliens may be essential.
  • Deport all criminal illegals who are here.

    That's at least a start.

    3. Call on the no-amnesty bloc to be a constructive part of the process. Their spokesmen (Laura Ingraham, for example) have always said "enforce the border, then we'll talk about what to do with illegals already here." They need to be pressured to honor that promise in good faith and to be part of a solution, rather than sinking in their heels and refusing to compromise.

    If the above doesn't happen, disaster lurks:

  • The diehard "no amnesty" group will stay home from the polls; many who do vote will support fringe candidates;
  • The GOP in Congress will be incoherent in its approach, as some try desperately to please the hard-core anti-immigration base and others try to please the broader electorate;
  • Someone like Tom Tancredo will try to run for president as a protest candidate on the issue. The shrill rhetoric emanating that camp will be music to the ears of the MSM, which will amplify it everywhere. I can hear it now: "The Know-Nothing bloc of the Republican party made its voice heard today in a rally in San Antonio . . . ."
  • Republicans generally will be painted as mean-spirited. Many will try to escape that classification, and the party will become even more divided on the issue.
  • Most important, any evential GOP presidential nominee who does not pay close attention to the base on this issue will not have that group's support.
  • Any candidate who takes only the "no amnesty" approach will lose the general election.
Rock, meet hard place.

So a coherent approach is essential. I hope the GOP can find the leadership to develop that approach. The Wall Street Journal editorial today is recommended reading; it's scathing indeed.

Update: Called As Seen includes a fascinating comment from an Arizona reader that underscores how oddly this issue plays out:

We had four ballot propositions dealing directly or indirectly with the
immigration issue:

1. Prop 100 - No bail for illegal immigrants arrested
for a serious felony [passed 78-22]

2. Prop 102 - No punitive damages
awarded to illegal immigrants in civil lawsuits [passed 74-26]

3. Prop
103 - English as the state's official language [passed 74-26]

4. Prop
300 - Limit state services/subsidies for illegal immigrants (including in-state
tuition for Universities) [passed 72-28]

Whether or not these
propositions make any real difference, it clearly shows that a good portion of
the citizens in Arizona want something done about illegal immigration.


1. Our Democrat Governor who openly supports giving
driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and was against all the propositions
mentioned, wins re-election by a wide margin [63%].

2. Dem Attorney
General who fought implementation of the last illegal immigrant related
proposition, wins re-election by a wide margin [60%].

3. JD Hayworth-R,
one of the loudest members of Congress on the illegal immigration front, looks
to have narrowly lost AZ-CD5 to Harry Mitchell-D [46-51].

4. Randy Graf-R, very vocal anti-illegal immigration, running in open seat AZ-CD8, which covers a good portion of Arizona's southern border, lost handily to Giffords-D

If you can explain all of this with a simple nostrum, then you're a better thinker than I am.

Tony Snow on Illegal Immigration

Want to know what President Bush is thinking about illegal immigration these days? Well, here's what White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday:

HH: All right, now, I want to talk about immigration, as obviously, the
President is a pro-regularization Republican, as I am, once the fence got passed. Now, it's all about regularization for me. However, a lot of conservatives are worried that he's just waiting to do the deal with Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, that is an amnesty deal, and that the fence will never get built. So question number one...

TS: No, the fence is going to be built. I mean, we've already made a committment to that.

When...that's...I wanted to bore in on that. Who's going to be the point person
on that? Because if it is not built in two years, Tony Snow, we'll get wiped

TS: Well, it's Michael Chertoff, and no...look, it's...some of these are going to take more than two years to build when you're talking about 700 miles of fence. I think, Hugh, when people start seeing A) fences going up, and B) guess what? We're going to provide plenty of metrics in terms of arrests, deportations, the kinds of legal activities that are going on, because we know a lot of people are watching.

HH: Tony, I'm going to bet you right now that it will be less than a hundred miles of fencing constructed by the time...

TS: No, I think...I don't have the charts in front of me, but they've laid out what is sort of their ambitions on this, and you're going to have, certainly, more than a hundred miles.

HH: Okay, well, we'll look for that. Now the second thing is, though, what about regularization? And will the President abandon the conservative concern over things like social security benefits for years worked here illegally, a path for citizenship in voting, as opposed to just permanent resident status? Who's going to protect the right flank on that?

TS: Well, look, the President's been pretty clear about this, and I think...let's walk through...let me reframe the issues, because you sort of spun it up in a way that makes it hard to answer. Let's look practically what we have in the United States. First, you want to deal with the border problems. Second, there are concerns in this country about people who are here illegally, or those who are here legally taking jobs from Americans. Well, how do you solve that? The thing the President's talked about is tamper-proof I.D. cards. Why? Because you have biometric I.D. there. You can't fake it. You can't go to your local convenience store, go in the back room, and have somebody cut a fake driver's license that will provide deniability on the part of an employer. So the first thing you need to do is to figure out ways to identify who's here, to have a way of tracking them, and having a way of knowing A) are they stealing a job from an American, B) have they broken the law, because as you know, under proposals that have been considered, and certainly we support, you've got people who are criminals, they get sent away. Bye. C-ya. Gone. Continuous employment,
rather than living strictly off of benefits. That has been proposed. You've got
a whole series of things where people can certainly work through and provide a
system that is going to make sure that of the 11 or 12 million people who are
here illegally, the question is how do you deal with it. And certainly, people
are going to agree if somebody's breaking the law, they should go. And if
somebody's not working, they should go. And if they don't learn English, they
should go. And if they've broken the law, they ought to be punished in terms of
taxes and fines, and so special consideration when it comes to citizenship. And
they shouldn't be taking jobs from Americans. And people who are employing them
ought to be subject to criminal sanctions and asset forfeiture, which is the
term we have made. It's no longer a...simply a fine. So you see, Hugh, you deal
with the issues in a series of ways. First, you deal with the border. Then you
deal with the taking jobs from Americans. Third, at the same time, you're also
trying to identify those who are criminals and committing crimes. You get rid of
those. And so, you want to weed out as many bad actors, and get them out of here
as quickly as possible.

HH: Okay, two follow-ups right there. One, is there a timetable for the border fence construction?

TS: No, I think you're going to have to take a look at what's in the budget. That's a technical budget issue.

HH: You see, that...but it really isn't, because that's...

TS: No, it really is, Hugh. I mean, that's the way it works, and don't...

HH: No, people...

TS: What you want to do is you want to have the fence spring up overnight, and guess what? And you can ask this...I mean, Republicans are signing off on these budgets, and they're the ones that signed the bill...

HH: No, people want to know that the President has eyeballed...

TS: ...that there is nothing...Hugh,

HH: The people want to know the President has eyeballed a schedule that has a metric on it, and a plan, and they expect him to see through it.

TS: Yeah, I mean, there is, because the Department of Homeland Security's putting a matter of fact, that the President is asking. It's not merely for the see, you're focusing on the fence, and guess what? There's still going to be hundreds of miles that are not going to be fenceable.

HH: Oh, I know that. I know that.

TS: And it won't...but let's deal with the whole problem, because also, you have an aggressive effort to go on, in terms of electronic surveillance, and also an aggressive program to get Border Patrol agents, and an aggressive program to make it impossible to get vehicles over the border in wild areas where you might be able to have all-terrain vehicles, or other such things getting across. So the point is not merely fence, because that's not good enough. You also have to have the ability to provide security in places that may be remote, and may not be fenceable, but still have to be defensible, and the President's working on that as well. So you've got us credit for a whole range of things.

HH: But Tony Snow, when people hear you say that, they think to themselves a walkaway. They're walking the dog back. They don't...

TS: No, they don't. No, you're saying that, because you apparently don't like the answer, but that's total spin, Hugh.

HH: No, it's not.

TS: Sure it is.

HH: Because you did what I do right now, and you got the e-mails that I'm going to get, and they're going to say you're not going to build the fence. I'm just saying, because I want regularization...

TS: Well, I'm telling you. You know what? Let me put it this way, Hugh. Then they are calling their advocates of the fence, the people who put that legislation in, they're calling Senator Sessions a liar. And they're calling Tom Tancredo a liar. And I don't think they want to say that.

HH: Did you see Mickey Kaus...Yeah, but no, the legislation is passed. It is up to the executive branch to get it built, and they're not trusting the idea that it will
show up. I want to move on, though, to the...

TS: Whoa, whoa, wait. I'm not letting you leave it at that, because what you do is you part by saying you guys are a bunch of liars, but I want to leave it at that.

HH: No, I'm not.

TS: Well, I'm not going to let you leave it at that. We're going to get the fence built.

HH: I'm not calling you a liar at all. I'm saying that the public does not believe the fence is going to happen. In fact, the doubt is...

TS: Well, wait. Let me tell you something. The public needs to know, I'm telling you right now, the fence is going to be built. But I'm also telling you if you take a look, because we did a lot of work on this, too, the public also expects the rest of the stuff to get done.

HH: I agree. I agree.

TS: Well, okay, because guess what? That's part of the problem here, is that you've got to take a look...the idea that everybody talks about a fence, and then turns a blind eye to 11 or 12 million, seems to me to be sort of missing the point here, and so...

HH: No, I think the first...

TS: ...what we're starting to do is to deal with all of them.

HH: I think the first allows the second to happen, and it should.

TS: Yeah.

HH: But you said in the course of an earlier answer, no special consideration when it comes to citizenship. Does the President believe that someone who entered the country illegally ought to be able to eventually vote in elections?

TS: Well, it depends if they have citizenship.

HH: But does he believe that someone who entered the country illegally should be able to get citizenship, without having returned to their home country first?

TS: Well, that's something that's been under discussion. And frankly, you know, there were conversations...for instance, Representative Pence had put together a bill. So there are a number of ways to deal with that, and we're perfectly willing to talk about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Israel Develops Laser to Destroy Roadside Bombs

The Kosher Hedgehog concludes his blogging for the evening with some good news. Israel National News reports:

"The Israeli Armaments Development Authority (Rafael) has developed a laser system to diffuse destroy roadside bombs, which have killed hundreds of US and Israeli soldiers in Iraq and Lebanon.
"Rafael and American defense contractor General Dynamics have produced and deployed the system, which is called Thor. It uses the concentrated energy of a high-powered laser to clear unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices.
"'The directed energy from the laser may also be used to ignite combustible materials, as a standoff cutting torch, and for other combat purposes,' General Dynamics said in a statement about the project ahead of US moves to purchase and deploy the system in its army."

Once again, Israel proves its value as an ally of the United States, here in the most tangible way: Joint development with an American company of a system that will save the lives and limbs of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Israel's Defense Minister Handcuffs IDF Artillery Response to Terrorist Rocket Attacks

Yesterday Israeli artillery fired back at the source of Kasam rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists at southern Israeli towns and cities. A technical failure in the targeting mechanism of the artillery's radar system caused seven shells to go astray, hitting a building in Beit Hanoun, killing 19 civilians.

Today, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz took actions that will do nothing to prevent a technical mishap such as occurred Wednesday, but will effectively handcuff the ability of the Israeli Defense Forces artillery to respond to terrorist kassam rocket attacks. As reported here in the Jerusalem Post, Peretz ordered that all artillery fire into the Gaza Strip must first be approved by the Southern Commander, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant.

Even if General Galant had approved the artillery strike on Wednesday, his approval could not have prevented a technical mishap from causing shells to go astray. More importantly, Palestinian terrorists probably do not wait around their launch sites after a rocket attack for the IDF's Southern Commander to approve an artillery counter strike. The Defense Minister's new policy virtually guarantees that the terrorists in Gaza may launch their rockets at Israel with impunity. This is precisely the type of political interference with military operations that caused the debacle in Lebanon this past summer.

For a soldier's view of these events, see "A Gunner's Nightmare," an article in the Jerusalem Post written by Steve Linde, and IDF artillery veteran. He points out that civilian casualties are almost an inevitable result of the deliberate choice by Palestinian gunment to launch their rockets from residential areas in Gaza. Here are some key excerpts:

"The Palestinian terrorists firing at civilian targets in Ashkelon, Sderot and other communities in the western Negev must know that the IDF can and will retaliate, and respond swiftly and strongly. "

"There's a key difference between the Hamas and Hizbullah fighters and Israel's. They intentionally fire rockets at civilian targets, hoping for maximum casualties and damage. We don't. The artillery troops who fired shells at Beit Hanun yesterday weren't hoping to hit civilians. They were targeting terrorists firing rockets."

"Stop the Kassams, and the artillery will stop, says the IDF. "

"But the basic lesson is this: War is a dangerous game, and once you start firing rockets or guns, people will get hurt, and not always the people you plan to hurt."

Why can't Mr. Linde be the IDF Defense Minister? Probably because his military knowledge and common sense disqualify him for the position.

Gay Rights Parade in Jerusalem Cancelled By Organizers

It is amazing to me how the same cultural war issues resonate in both Israel and the United States. Since the summer, the overarching Kulturkampt issue in Israel has been the gay pride parade planned for the city of Jerusalem as the culminating event of "Jerusalem World Pride," a "LGBT" [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] extravaganza to be held in the Holy City. This conclave was originally planned for August, but was delayed by the onset of the war with Hezbollah.

The prospect of a gay pride parade in a city holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam had united the clerics and faithful of all three religions in protest. The Vatican even appealed to the Government of Israel to stop the parade. That appeal fell on deaf ears, since the Government of Israel and its media are controlled by elites with the same leftist secular outlook found in the American Left and the MSM here. Predictably, the Supreme Court and the Attorney General of Israel rejected all attempts to stop the parade by Jerusalem's Mayor, an Orthodox Jew, and by the police authorities concerned about possible violent clashes.

Ironically, for the second time, Islamic terrorists have succeeded where entreaties by religious authorities failed. Israeli police warned the organizers of the event about the increased threat of bomb attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups, in retaliation for Israel's recent military campaign in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, which attempted to stop rocket attacks on Israel. Persuaded of the real security risk inherent in a parade, the organizers decided today to change the event to a public rally in a stadium at Hebrew University. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Read all about it in the Jerusalem Post and Israel National News.

Arsonists attack French Jewish school

This is the second arson attack on Merkaz Torah, in Gagny, a suburban community north of Paris.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Ambrose Bierce View Applicable to Recent . . . Developments

The following are from Ambrose Bierce's "The Devil's Dictionary:"

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

I know, those are pretty dark, but they kind of fit my mood today (not dark, but pretty darn tired of politics).

Does Yesterday's Debacle Help or Hurt Mitt Romney's Bid for the 2008 GOP Presidential Nomination?

I was taken aback this morning by this observation by the Mistress of Annika's Journal:
"I think yesterday eliminated four sure losers from running for the Republican nomination in '08. Santorum, Frist, Allen, and Romney. These guys all had their appeal for hopeful conservatives (maybe not Frist, who was an abysmal leader from the start), but none of them, in my view, had a snowball's chance against Hillary/Obama in today's environment. I'm glad they're off the table."
That took me sharply aback. I understood why Santorum, Frist, and Allen are toast, but why Romney? I therefore responded with a comment thusly:
"Ahnold's victory proves that the right GOP candidate can attract Democratic voters in Blue States. Massachusetts is the bluest of blue states, yet Mitt Romney is a popular GOP governor there. I think yesterday enhanced his chances of nomination."
Another Annika reader, Col. Steve, responded with this fact-driven explanation of why yesterday's election may have hurt Mitt Romney:
"Deval Patrick (who makes Mike Dukasis look like a centrist) won by a landslide over Romney's Lt-Governor. Given Massachusetts is already bluer than blue, the results reinforce the fact Romney has no coattails. He was elected in 2002 in the wake of 9/11 with less than 50% of the vote because of his outsider against the democratic Beacon Hill insiders image (and his opponent ran a terrible campaign). Note how the Rhode Island Republican Governor won re-election by touting his taking on the corrupt insiders image in spite of a democratic landslide (even the RHINO Lincoln Chaffee got booted by a guy who's only platform was Linc Chaffee = more George Bush friendly Senate). Romney = republican equivalent of nominating Mike Dukasis in 1988."
Annika, who is a libertarian on social issues (and perhaps a libertine as well) added that if Romney puts abortion and banning gay marriage on the front burner, he would certainly lose in a general election.

Readers who may want to read the entire set of comments on Annika's Journal should be forewarned that the site is unfettered, shall we say, in language and content.