Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sunnis revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq

AP reports that U.S. troops were battling Al Qaeda terrorists in the West Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah, a Sunni neighborhood, after Sunni Arab residents challenged the militants and called for American help to end furious gunfire that kept students from final exams and forced people in the neighborhood to huddle indoors.
The fight reflects a trend that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trumpeting recently to the west in Anbar province, once considered the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. Many Sunni tribes in the province have banded together to fight al-Qaida, claiming the terrorist group is more dangerous than American forces.
This story is obviously good news for the U.S. effort in Iraq. It will be interesting to see how the Los Angeles Times manages to spin it into bad news in the Friday morning edition.

Update 6/1/2007: The Los Angeles Times, finding itself not up to the challenge of portraying this story as bad news, simply chose to ignore it.

How to Get Olmert to Leave Office? Dry Bones Finds the Way!

The previous post discussed how difficult it has been for Israel to oust its current Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. Sort of like the old country hit, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away." The problem is that Israel has a parliamentary government, and it is therefore stuck with the Kadima-led, thoroughly discredited government of Ehud Olmert until the next scheduled Knesset elections, or until the present Knesset passes a vote of no confidence, forcing early elections, whichever comes first. Because the parties that make up the ruling coalition know that early elections will mean their downfall from power, to quote Bob Dylan, "They ain't goin' nowhere."

Dry Bones proposes the perfect solution. The President of Israel is the ceremonial head of state, elected by the Knesset. It is a purely symbolic post, usually awarded as a valedictory position to some elder statesman. Kirschen brilliantly suggests offering Olmert a face-saving exit to a position where he probably can do no more harm.

The more closely one follows the Israeli political scene, the funnier this idea is. Just this week, Shimon Peres let it be known that he wants to finish his career as Israel's President. Peres has never led his political party to victory in a national election. Every time he headed the Labor Party slate, Labor lost. He has been an unelected Prime Minister three times; first, after Yitchak Rabin was forced to resign in a scandal; a second time, pursuant to an office rotation agreement in a coalition agreement between Labor and Likud; and the final time after Rabin's assassination. Each time he stood for re-election as Prime Minister, he lost. In 2000, after being ousted as the head of the Labor Party, he campaigned for the Presidency, against an underdog candidate from Likud, Moshe Katsav, and lost. Last week, Prime Minister Olmert endorsed Peres' latest quest for the Presidency of Israel, saying that he, Olmert, would do everything in his power to make Peres President.

Won't it be the sad-sack culmination of Peres' disastrous record in elections if Olmert changes his mind, runs for the post of President, and defeats Peres?

Waiting for Bibi

In Samuel Beckett's most famous stage play, "Waiting for Godot," two characters, Estragon and Vladimir, spend two days waiting for a Mr. Godot, who never shows up. Godot only sends a boy messenger, who informs Estragon and Vladimir, "Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow. "

Much of the Israeli public feels that it is waiting for Godot, in the person of former Likud Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. The current Prime Minister, Kadima's Ehud Olmert, has a rating in the polls so low that it may be within the statistical margin of error from a zero approval rating. Yet, because Olmert refuses to resign, and because the minority party coalition partners of Kadima relentlessly cling to their small shares of power, Likud and the opposition parties have been unable to muster a majority of Knesset members to pass a no-confidence motion.

In the wings waits Benjamin Netanyahu. As Hillel Halkin writes in The New York Sun, in a column entitled "Welcome Back Netanyahu," whoever wins the ongoing election for leadership of Israel's Labor Party, whether it is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak or the former head of the General Security Service, Ami Ayalon, "is likely to have one main goal: To hang on to his own and Labor's place within the present coalition government while doing everything to avoid new elections, which he could not possibly win and in which he would be badly trounced by the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu." As for the current ruling party, Kadima, it may not even survive the end of the current Olmert-"led" government.

Halkin notes that Netanyahu's renewed popularity is the result of Bibi having been proven correct on two issues, the economy and the Gaza disengagement. In the case of the economy, Israel has prospered and still prospers from the free-market reforms instituted by Netanyahu during his stint as Finance Minister in the government of Ariel Sharon:

"[T]hey have been, if anything, an even more spectacular success than Mr. Netanyahu predicted they would be. With unemployment sharply down, gross national product sharply up, the budget balanced for the first time in Israel's history, the shekel one of the world's stronger currencies, and Israel's growth rate among the highest in the developed world, it is hard for Israelis to deny that Mr. Netanyahu, whatever his faults, was one of the best finance ministers — perhaps the best — that Israel ever had."

Israel benefited from following Netanyahu's course of action on the economy, but has suffered miserably from not heeding his warnings about the Gaza disengagement, which led Bibi to belatedly resign as Finance Minister and leave the Sharon government. On this point, Halkin writes:

At the time he seemed to many Israelis who agreed with him about other things to be wrong both strategically and tactically: Strategically, because the Gaza disengagement was in itself a good thing, and tactically, because splitting the Likud was a bad thing. And indeed, splitting the Likud was a bad thing. But so, it is necessary to say two years later, was disengagement. Those who were for it, like myself, were wrong. Those who were against it, like Mr. Netanyahu, were right.

And not only was he right, he was right for the right reasons — which is to say, not because he was ideologically opposed to any Israeli retreat from any part of "the land of Israel" (he wasn't and isn't), and not because he thought Israel should remain in Gaza forever (he didn't and doesn't), but because he thought the timing and manner of Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan was misconceived.

What sensible person, two years later, can quarrel with that? The facts speak for themselves. At great economic cost and at the price of a deep inner rift in Israeli society that still has not healed, 8,000 Jewish settlers were uprooted from their homes in return for supposed benefits, none of which has materialized.

Gaza has become more, not less, of a military menace to Israel; Palestinian politics and the Palestinian street have become more, not less, radicalized; Israel's public image as an occupying country has not significantly improved in the world; and further unilateral disengagement in the West Bank as a possible way of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has turned out to be a chimera, in large measure because of the failure of what was supposed to be its Gazan first stage.

[Please note that the Kosher Hedgehog does not concur with the rationale that Halkin attributes to Netanyahu for why the Gaza disengagement was wrong. In my view, as a matter of uncompromisable principle, Jews should have the right to live in peace and security in Gaza and anywhere else in the Land of Israel, just as Arabs can and do live peacefully and with civil rights in the State of Israel.]

Perhaps the prospect of strong, competent leadership in the person of Netanyahu is just another illusion to which the long-suffering Israeli public is grasping. If Kadima, Labor, and their coalition allies have their way, it will be a long time before we find out. And so the Israeli voter waits, with the prospects of renewed war with the Palestinians, Hezbollah, and Syria, and the Iranian nuclear threat, looming in the future. "Mr. Netanyahu told me to tell you he won't come this month, but surely next month."

[HT to Jewish Current Issues, for alerting me to the Halkin column. Rick Richman at Jewish Current Issues has high hopes for a new Netanyahu government, and as evidence provides links to two recent video interviews with Bibi, one on the British academic boycott of Israel, and one on Bibi's campaign for divestiture of investments in Iran.]

A Nixon Commercial from 1968

I actually remember that election. This is interesting for several reasons, including the question of whether a similar approach by any candidate would work with voters. Jonah Goldberg sees a lot of differences this time, however.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fred Thompson: The Next Reagan?

I think Hugh Hewitt has the answer to that question:
One reason I suspect the Fred boom may be over before it has even really begun is the recognition that on the stump Fred will be seen as the southerner he is --slow, folksy, plain spoken. In a year when an anti-Bush may be needed, a Brookyln-born Mob-busting tough guy, or the hyper-intelligent, hyper-eloquent investment banker turnaround executive may emerge quickly as far more likely to be the "something completely different " that Reagan was in 1980 . . . .
I think that what excites the GOP base about Thompson (and that base is not enough to win a general election) is that he is a tough-talking Southerner. Well, we've had one of those for the last 6 years, and although "W" is not nearly as articulate as Fred, I wonder if the rest of the country wants a replay.

A lot of people also see Thompson as Arthur Branch, the D.A. on "Law and Order."

What I see is a man who served one full (and undistinguished) term in the U.S. Senate; who has never run anything other than his Senate office and committees; who voted for McCain-Feingold; who was McCain's 2000 presidential campaign co-chair; who is a protege of Howard Baker -- no conservative, he; and who had an American Conservative Union rating, in his final year in the Senate, of 86-- placing him in the same neighborhood as such conservative lions as Mike DeWine (83), Chuck Hagel (84), John McCain (84) Robert Bennett (88), Frank Murkowski (83) Charles Grassley (83) and Peter Fitzgerald (87).

I may be wrong, but I am not sure how well this candidate is is going to fare in the intense light of media and voter scrutiny -- which he has so far avoided.

We'll see.

Update: More at Evangelicals for Mitt.

And here's a more statesmanlike take from K-Lo:
Romney and Thompson will wind up in the same administration — one of them as president, the other as...something important and influential. It's a relatively fearless prediction because I'm not making any public bet on who comes out on top. But they strike me as leaders. I think they probably both get it — conservatism, the war, what's important in life (including life). And they both probably have the interest of the country seriously weighing on their minds. As do their families. They both strike me as good men who believe in a lot of the same things and neither is particularly keen on attacking the other. They both will have very good people who will work for them — and conservative people at that. If Romney and Thompson are what it comes down to for the GOP, that will be a good thing for America.
And Hugh Hewitt comments on whether Thompson is Reagan's heir:
Fred Thompson arrives with many on the sidelines whispering Reagan. Perhaps, but just perhaps. President Reagan was a Californian, not a southerner, an upbeat and sunny optimist who had spent 16 years on the chicken circuit helping the party, and having made one unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination. Few Republicans every thought to raise questions about Reagan’s fire in the belly.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Honda Supplies Every Engine at the Indy 500

At one time, the Indianapolis 500 symbolized America's pre-eminent role in the automobile industry. Americans Harry Miller and Fred Offenhauser started the companies whose engines dominated the Indy 500 race year after year, not because of any official sponsorship arrangement, but because cars powered by their engines beat the competition.

This year, by arrangement with the Indy Racing League (IRL), Honda supplied every one of the engines for the 33 competitors--as it did in 2006. All but three entries utilized a chassis manufactured by Dallara Automobili, Italy. All tires are supplied by Firestone. (That may seem to be a vestige of Indy's American heritage, until one recalls that Firestone is now a susidiary of Bridgestone, a Japanese company.)

By way of comparison, take a look at the eclectic mix of makes and models that made up the 1971 Indy 500 field, won by Al Unser in a Ford-powered P.J. Colt chassis.

While exclusive supplier arrangements certainly level the playing field and arguably focus the race into a true competition of racing teams and drivers, it nevertheless shows how things have changed in the good old USA, even at the Brickyard. In any event, congratulations to the winner, Dario Franchitti, driving--sigh--like practically everyone else in the race, a Dallara Automobili/Honda car.

Dry Bones Blog Sweeps Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere Awards!

There are prize winners--and then there are prize winners! Let's leave Jimmy Carter alone with his Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps savoring the memory of his beloved and admired fellow Peace Price Winner, Yasser Arafat. We would rather extend congratulations and mazel tov to our blogging friend, Yaakov Kirschen, whose Dry Bones Blog has just won 2007 Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere Awards for Best Overall Jewish Blog, Best Jewish Humor Blog, Best Political/Current Events Blog, Best Jewish Culture Blog, and Best Pro-Israel Advocacy Blog. That's like winning 5 Oscars!

Lowell adds: For those who have been living in a cave for the last week or so, our friend Yaakov's typically droll commentary refers to former President Carter's latest howler.

Who Fights for Freedom in Iraq? Who is Guilty of Torture?

On the eve of this Memorial Day, if one chooses not to wear blinders, it is not difficult to discern who is fighting for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who the real torturers are. AP reports from Baghdad:
American forces freed 42 kidnapped Iraqis — some of whom had been hung from ceilings and tortured for months — in a raid Sunday on an al-Qaida hideout north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Pajamas Media surveys the blogosphere's reaction to a grusome Al Qaeda torture manual captured by U.S. troops in Iraq. Readers are forewarned that violent images accompany this story and those linked to it. Newsbusters, quoted by Pajamas Media, asks the obvious rhetorical question:
"Given the media’s fascination with what American soldiers were doing at Abu Ghraib, is it safe to assume that the same level of attention will be given to what our enemy is doing? Or, would that be too much like journalism?”

Sadly, already this weekend, American soldiers have given their lives fighting to protect the freedom that so many Americans take for granted, and which so many Iraqis have never known. Faced with their sacrifice, the sacrifice of so many who came before, and all those who will come after, what can one say or do? Perhaps President Abraham Lincoln gave the most eloquent answer, on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

What do Female Suicide Bombers in Gaza, a Missouri Paternity Suit and the Immigration Bill Have in Common?

Mark Steyn ties it all together, here.

Iran Holds Iranian-Americans Hostage

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary regime apparently has imprisioned two American citizens who were visiting family in Iran. In the most recent incident, Ali Shakeri, who runs a mortgage company and advises UC Irvine's Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, had gone to Tehran to visit his dying mother. Shakeri was scheduled to leave Iran and fly to Europe May 13. He never arrived at his destination, according to Human Rights Watch. Instead, his ticket had been canceled and his luggage taken from the airline's possession, the group said. As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, May 26:
Iranian officials have not commented publicly on Shakeri's whereabouts. But in recent weeks, two Iran American scholars have been imprisoned while visiting Iran and a reporter, also a dual national, has had her passport confiscated and has been unable to leave the country.

Iran's Ministry of Intelligence recently issued a statement alleging that American and Iranian intellectuals were forming "informal communication networks" to back the "soft toppling" of Iran.

Shakeri's abduction by Iranian secret police follows the pattern set previously, in the diappearance of Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year old grandmother who is a researcher based at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. As related by in her husband, in a May 25, 2007 Op-Ed column in the Los Angeles Times:

[Ms. Esfandiari] went to Iran in late December to visit her 93-year-old mother, a trip she has made almost twice each year for a decade or more. On Dec. 30, on her way to the airport to fly back to Washington, she was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men who took all her belongings, including her Iranian and U.S. passports. In retrospect, it was clearly an inside job; Iran's Ministry of Intelligence fielding "highwaymen" against Iran's own citizens.

Without a passport, Haleh was forced to return to her mother's apartment. When she tried to apply for a new one, a member of the Ministry of Intelligence took her aside. Over the next six weeks, Haleh was subjected to 50 hours of interrogation.

As reported Saturday by The Los Angeles Times:

[Ms. Esfandiari] was interrogated extensively and, earlier this month, imprisoned. The Iranian government this week announced she was being charged with setting up a network to overthrow the Islamic establishment. Her husband, Shaul Bakhash, denied the allegations as "totally without foundation."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

For Memorial Day Weekend: The Ploesti Oil Fields Raid

This Deseret News article tells part of the story of the pilot, and the plane's role in the pivotal Ploesti oil fields raid on August 1, 1943 (artist's rendition at left). It was a harrowing low-altitude bombing mission.

An inspiring 1-hour documentary film is available on DVD. You can buy it here.

It's called "Wing and a Prayer: The Saga of Utah Man," and is advertised as "the story of, and tribute to, the 1,700 men who flew this mission, told from the point of view of Walter T. Stewart." Walter T. Stewart is a University of Utah alumnus who named his B-24 bomber "Utah Man," after his alma mater's fight song. Utah Man was the sole surviving bomber in the first wave of the attack, and dropped the first bombs of Operation Tidal Wave on the massive Ploesti refinery.

The mission is summed up here:
In all, of the 163 bombers from the five bomb groups that reached their target, only 89 made it back to Benghazi. (The following day only thirty-three of these were pronounced "fit to fly.") Casualties for the 1,726-man force that had flown into hell were heart-rending. Nearly a third of the crews failed to return with more than 300 known dead and 140 captured. Of those who did come home, more than 440 were wounded.

The smoke and flame of burning oil lit the night skies of Ploesti and [German] General Gerstenberg marveled at the American strike. In less than half-an-hour the Axis had lost 40% of its critical oil production. Though devastating, he understood that it could have been worse. He was also acutely aware that while the bombs had been falling over Ploesti that day, the Allies had painted a bulls eye over his domain. He was certain they would be back.

I happened to come across this Medal of Honor citation, also from the Ploesti raid. If you can read it without getting at least the beginning of a lump in your throat, you're a tougher guy than I am:
KINGSLEY, DAVID R. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.
Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944.
Entered service at. Portland, Oreg.
Birth: Oregon. G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft. On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner's parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible. Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner's harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crewmembers he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.
David Kingsley was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, along with 45 other World War II recipients of that honor..

Let's think about him this weekend. Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

TV War: Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasslebeck

I have never watched "The View," but this is certainly an entertaining YouTube clip. I'm not sure I could stand this stuff on a regular basis (meaning more than once a year).

How To Salvage the Immigration Bill

Hugh Hewitt has a prescription that would ensure the bill's passage and that would cost nothing politically to either side:
To keep their hope alive, the proponents of the compromise should not leave D.C. without mandating that the entire fence will be built before any Z visa issues, that the Border Patrol will be dramatically expanded and pay and training improved before any Z visa issues, by detailing the expanision in the staffs of the DHS and FBI charged with processing and investigating the Z visa applicants and by declining to extend to any illegal alien from "countries of special interest" any status whatsoever. The national security arguments against the bill are the most powerful, and the Senate is simply not responding in a serious way to those arguments and thus losing the opportunity to salvage the bill.
It remains to be seen if any of this will happen. I am not optimistic. My guess is, the bill will pass narrowly, even if not amended, and the 2008 issue will be how to amend the flawed law.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The advantages of having a dad who was a U.S. Senator

It looks like having one's father in the Senate for just over a single term can be very beneficial to a guy's business. Especially if your dad is a man of the people named Fred Thompson.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Did Romney Take McCain's Bait?

Looks like he did not.

For Those Who Have Questions About Mormons

Here's an interview with Glenn Beck, who I recently learned is . . . a Mormon. I don't watch Beck's show, but this is interesting.

Remember Me

This video is well worth the 5 minutes and 23 seconds required to watch it.

BBC Journalist Kidnapping in Gaza--Has the BBC Reaped What It Sowed?

In today's Wall Street Journal online, Bret Stephens, a member of the Journal's editorial board and former chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, reflects on his personal experiences with kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnson. Asking why the BBC felt secure in keeping Mr. Johnson in Gaza, when kidnapping of foreign journalists had become increasingly frequent, Stephens notes:

Yet the BBC also seemed to operate in the Palestinian Authority with a sense of political impunity. Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti described Mr. Johnston as someone who "has done a lot for our cause"--not the sort of endorsement one imagines the BBC welcoming from an equivalent figure on the Israeli side. Other BBC correspondents were notorious for making their politics known to their viewers: Barbara Plett confessed to breaking into tears when Arafat was airlifted to a Parisian hospital in October 2004; Orla Guerin treated Israel's capture of a living, wired teenage suicide bomber that March as nothing more than a PR stunt--"a picture that Israel wants the world to see."

Though doubtlessly sincere, these views also conferred institutional advantages for the BBC in terms of access and protection, one reason why the broadcaster might have felt relatively comfortable posting Mr. Johnston in a place no other news agency dared to go.

By contrast, reporters who displeased Palestinian authorities could be made to pay a price. In one notorious case in October 2000, Italian reporter Riccardo Cristiano of RAI published a letter in a Palestinian newspaper insisting he had not been the one who had broadcast images of two Israeli soldiers being lynched in Ramallah. "We respect the journalistic regulations of the Palestinian Authority," he wrote, blaming rival Mediaset for the transgression. I had a similar experience when I quoted a Palestinian journalist describing as "riff-raff" those of his neighbors celebrating the attacks of Sept. 11. Within a day, the journalist was chided and threatened by Palestinian officials for having spoken to me. They were keeping close tabs.

Still, whatever the benefits of staying on the right side of the Palestinian powers-that-be, they have begun to wane. For years, the BBC had invariably covered Palestinian affairs within the context of Israel's occupation--the core truth from which all manifestations of conflict supposedly derived. Developments within Gaza following Israel's withdrawal showed the hollowness of that analysis. Domestic Palestinian politics, it turned out, were shot through with their own discontents, contradictions and divisions, not just between Hamas and Fatah but between scores of clans, gangs, factions and personalities. Opposition to Israel helped in some ways to mute this reality, but it could not suppress it.

Stephens' account mirrors this May 7 post in The Hedgehog Blog.

The Kosher Hedgehog is leaving off blogging tomorrow and Wednesday in observance of the Jewish festival of Shavuot. Lowell, the Hedgehog, will presumably hold down the fort with continuing coverage of the Immigration Bill debate and the ancillary McCain-Romney confrontation.

Mount McCain

As this Real Clear Politics entry notes, one result of John McCain's bursts of temper is that they "give . . . the press a chance to recycle all the stories about McCain's temper that have been sitting on the shelf since 2000."

Here's an example from the L.A. Times piece on that very issue today:
"In McCain's world, there aren't legitimate differences of opinions," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which differs with McCain on some issues. "There is his way and there is evil. That is how he approaches issues. That is one of the reasons for conservative nervousness about him."
And, from the same story, here's an example of how the Democrats will use the issue:
"We have had eight years of cowboy diplomacy, and McCain is even more of a cowboy than the current president," said Roger Salazar, a Democratic political consultant who worked for John Edwards in 2004. "The public wants somebody who is strong but can sit across from allies and adversaries without lunging at them."
Some McCain supporters have been cackling for the last 24 hours over McCain's personal attack on Mitt Romney yesterday. They think the story will reverberate around the web and the MSM for a long time and will do to Romney what Lloyd Bentsen's infamous "You're no Jack Kennedy" did to Dan Quayle in 1988.

Well, maybe. The first fact to note is that Lloyd Bentsen lost that election and Dan Quayle ended up Vice President of the United States. But more currently, McCain already has the "angry man with a mean streak" image. How does it help him to utter a nasty personal slam against Romney in response to Romney's criticism of his policy positions?

The episode clearly highlights the temperamental difference in the two men. When presented with a policy question or difference, Romney will address the substantive issue, the argument, not the man. McCain attacks the man. Ad hominem argument in its starkest form. Whatever happened to Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican?"

Which approach do the American people want? I'm betting they'll go for the sunny optimism of Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan, not the dark nastiness of John McCain and Bob Dole.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Romney on Immigration: Where's The Flip? Where's The Flop?

McCainiacs and Thompson Kool-Aid drinkers eagerly claim Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on illegal immigration. Reviewing the basis for that claim compels the conclusion that it is very empty indeed.

The Washington Times reported on March 15, 2006:
An enthusiastic supporter of legal immigration, Mr. Romney not only opposes illegal immigration, but he told National Review that he is also "against an amnesty and against anything that provides an incentive for people to come here illegally."
What exactly did Romney tell National Review in late 2005?
In the future, Romney may want to pick some battles he can win. Perhaps illegal immigration will be one of them, given its rising importance among grassroots conservatives. "I'm very much in favor of legal immigration and I'm opposed to illegal immigration," says Romney. "We're in a race for the best minds, and I wish we could bring in more of these people." Last year, the governor threatened to veto a bill that would have allowed illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses, but the legislation never made it to his desk. He actually did veto a bill that would have given illegal aliens the right to in-state tuition at public universities. He hasn't taken a formal position on any of the federal immigration plans. "I'm against an amnesty and against anything that provides an incentive for people to come here illegally." [Emphasis added.]
That was in NR's cover story for the December 14, 2005 issue.

Some are claiming that this 49-second bit of audio, supposedly from a Boston Globe interview with Romney at about the same time, on November 30, 2005, establishes him as pro-amnesty. I defy any reader to listen to this clip and draw a firm, supportable conclusion from it. Nothing he says in this Globe clip is inconsistent with what he told National Review. Romney is simply quoted as describing McCain's proposal as "reasonable" and perhaps "not amnesty." He does not say he is endorsing the proposal.

That is a flip-flop? That is an endorsement of McCain-Kennedy?

Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts also belies any claim that he is soft on immigration:
2003 - Eliminates Bilingual Education, Enacts English Immersion
2004 - Vetoes College Tuition For Illegals
2004 - Opposes Driver's License's For Illegals
7/2006 - Supports Building A Wall Along The Entire Border
9/2006 - Works To Enact Program For State To Cooperate With Feds To Enforce Immigration Laws
I found all this information in about 30 minutes of basic Google research.

So please, everyone, remember: If you fall too deeply in love with the "Romney is a flip-flopper" meme, you may find flips-- or flops-- where none exist.

Evidence that John McCain is Quite Worried About Mitt Romney

Jim Geraghty of National Review Online reports this exchange on McCain's latest blogger conference call:

Ryan Sager of the New York Sun: Romney and Thompson trying to use immigration against you.

McCain: A little disappointed in Fred, he had a different position not long ago, but he's not an official candidate. As for Romney, maybe I should wait a few weeks and see if it changes. Maybe his solution will be to get his "small varmant [sic] gun" and drive those Guatamalans [sic] off his lawn.

Jim's reaction: Holy crap, that was a slam.

Wow. McCain does hit hard when he wants to, doesn't he? I suspect one of his staffers had that one written down for him. This could be interesting, because I am not sure McCain really wants to get into spitting match with Romney over inconsistency. Romney will probably just laugh this off and McCain will end up looking, well, angry. According to many reports, McCain is really good at getting angry.

Update: K-Lo comments:

Yikes. And it's only May 2007.

That's actually much more exciting than the fing Cornyn fight.
Full disclosure: I am a deeply committed Romney supporter.

Update 2: More K-Lo, with a link to audio of the McCain triple-slam.

Update 3: Romney's response, through his spokesman Kevin Madden:

“Governor Romney has been very clear that he opposes this immigration agreement, which clearly falls short of the American public’s expectations. It seems that certain candidates who brokered this flawed plan are having a very difficult time grappling with or coming to terms with the political fallout that has ensued in a substantive manner.”
Ouch. In other words, maybe it would be a good idea to respond to criticisms of your actions instead of attacking the critics personally?

Update 4: Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt have more. Dean:
Aaah, as Robert Duvall said in Apocalypse Now, I love the smell of a campaign imploding in the morning. At least I think that was the quote.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Illegal Immigration: One Candidate with A Concrete Idea

Is there anyone else willing to put forth a specific idea, rather than simply stating a "principle?"

Update: Commenter Robert, below, refers to Captain Ed's suggestion that Romney's prior statements on immigration line up with McCain-Kennedy. Ed is wrong on this one, as NRO's Jim Geraghty seems to concede here. Poor Governor Romney has so many people eager to catch him changing his position on every issue that they seem to find position changes under every bed. It's going to take Romney a while to get past that-- and it may stick, if the MSM and his opponents are successful in making that happen.

Here's the basis for Captain Ed's suggestion, from the first televised Republican debate:

MR. WALLACE: Governor Romney, you have also called Senator McCain's immigration plan amnesty. Are you prepared to say that sharing the stage with him tonight? And how do you explain your statement to the Lowell Sun last year in which you said, quote, "Those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process toward application for citizenship as they would from their home country." Why isn't that amnesty as well, sir?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, my view is this. People should have no advantage by having come here illegally.

MR. WALLACE: But you're not telling them to go home, sir.

MR. ROMNEY: I am going to tell them to go home, but they start by beginning the process of applying for citizenship. But I do not believe -- or applying for permanent residency. They're not going to be barred from doing that, but they do not get any advantage by having come here illegally. That's the key part of what I objected to in McCain-Kennedy.

McCain-Kennedy, what it did is said that people who are here illegally get a special pathway. They're not like all the other immigrants in the world that want to come to this great country; they get a special pathway. That's what's wrong about it. If you're here illegally, you should not have a special pathway to become a permanent resident.My view, you have to secure the border, number one, have an employment verification system, number two, and number three, say to those that are there illegally, get in line with everybody else; you're not going to have a special doorway, any particular advantage, by having come here illegally, to become a permanent resident. [Emphasis added.]

Captain Ed asks:

Well, if this bill has the touchback provision, and it has the Z-visa and the formal guest-worker program, and really secures the border, then it meets his requirements . . . doesn't it?

Well, no. Romney's web site spells out his current position:

I strongly oppose today's bill going through the Senate. It is the wrong approach. Any legislation that allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country indefinitely, as the new 'Z-Visa' does, is a form of amnesty. That is unfair to the millions of people who have applied to legally immigrate to the U.S.

That's always been Romney's position. Geraghty quotes an e-mailer on this:

In the debate (as quoted by Ed), Governor Romney said, 'If you're here illegally, you should not have a special pathway to become a permanent resident.' An indefinitely renewable Z-visa is precisely such a special pathway to permanent residency.

I don't see any inconsistency in Romney's position on this. In fact, Andrew McCarthy at NRO beleives Romney is "seizing the day" on the immigration issue.

Geraghty has more here.

Matt Lewis also tries to stick Romney with flip-flopping:

I also wanted to point out that, as recently as 2005, Gov. Mitt Romney essentially endorsed McCain's immigration stance. According to yesterday's Boston Globe, in 2005, Romney ... described immigration proposals by McCain and others as "quite different" from amnesty, because they required illegal immigrants to register with the government, work for years, pay taxes, not take public benefits, and pay a fine before applying for citizenship.

"That's very different than amnesty, where you literally say, 'OK, everybody here gets to stay,' " Romney said in the interview. "It's saying you could work your way into becoming a legal resident of the country by working here without taking benefits and then applying and then paying a fine."

I don't see Romney endorsing anything there. Nothing in that statement is necessarily inconsistent with his statement that "If you're here illegally, you should not have a special pathway to become a permanent resident." Please note: The Z-Visa idea dispenses with any requirement for an illegal to become a permanent resident other than showing up and applying. That's not what Romney is talking about in the quoted segment just above. People need to get over their "Romney is a flip-flopper" fetish.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bernard Lewis on Europe and Islam

On March 7th of this year, the esteemed Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis delivered the 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute. He presented his historical perspective on the 14-century struggle between Christianity and Islam, as played out in the past and now in Europe and the Middle East. His entire lecture may be read here. (HT: Jewish Current Issues.)

Quote of The Day: The Immigration Compromise

From John Fund in today's Opinion Journal Political Diary (subscription required):
The Senate is scheduled to take up the measure in lightning-fast time on Monday and have all members vote by next Thursday. But lawyers are still drafting key provisions, no actual bill yet exists and the betting is there will be no version posted anywhere online before the Senate votes on it. Is this any way to run a legislative process?
And, with Fund's comment in mind, take a look at this photo.

Illegal Immigration Bill: Some Sane Comments

Ruben Navarrette:
[A]s the full Senate argues over the compromise in the weeks to come, it should keep in mind that there's a much larger issue to be resolved first: the fate of the illegal immigrants already here.

The assumption had been that Republicans in Congress -- reluctant to offend the party's base -- would never go along with a path to legalization. They've learned to live with the idea. In the negotiations, a consensus emerged that such a concession is acceptable -- provided the path includes numerous conditions, unfolds over a substantial period of time, and comes with a renewed emphasis on border enforcement.

Republicans must see the writing on the wall. Americans have warmed up to the idea of giving illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal status. Look at the polls. There's been a radical shift in public opinion since this debate first started almost six years ago. In 2001, when President Bush floated the idea of legalizing the undocumented, polls showed about two-thirds of Americans opposed to the idea. Now, surveys show as much as 78 percent willing to go along with a conditional path to legal status.

Maybe the public has been worn down and it just wants the issue settled. Or maybe it got tired of waiting for a realistic counterproposal from the radical restrictionists on the right who offer sound bites in place of solutions. Whatever the reason, more and more Americans seem resigned to the idea that we're about to see a massive legalization program -- albeit one that is conditional on immigrants paying fines, learning English, perhaps even returning to their home country briefly in a "touchback'' before re-entering legally.

Incredibly, even that is too much effort for some on the radical left who refuse to acknowledge that these people broke the law and need to make restitution, and that step one is acknowledging the wrongdoing. For many Americans, though, this is all they want -- some humility and remorse by those who wiped their feet on our laws on their way in the door and then demanded rights once inside.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Immigration Deal

Looks like a deal has been reached. This will drive many of my fellow conservatives nuts, but based on the AP report's summary of the deal, this looks like decent compromise legislation to me. It looks like both sides walk away from the bill without some things they dearly wanted, which is frankly a good sign. I'll withhold further comment until I see the whole thing.

Update: I am quickly falling out of love with this legislation. Here's a summary of some things wrong with it. Yes, I am a Romney supporter, but I'd be troubled by these problems even if I were not.

An Article VI Exchange with Kevin McCullough

For those interested in such things, over at Article VI Blog my co-blogger John Schroeder and I had an interesting and cordial discussion with talk radio host and blogger Kevin McCullough (at left). Here's how it began: I had said this a few days ago about Kevin's comments on why Mormons are not Christian:

Here's another example. I think McCullough's piece is downright silly, but my real problem with this stuff is that it opens the door to bashing Romney because of his faith.

Kevin took exception to my calling his post "silly," and John and I had an e-mail exchange with him. He posts that exchange here.

I recommend Kevin's entire post as an example of respectful discussion between a Mormon and creedal Christian on a difficult subject. For my part, I apologized for calling Kevin's heartfelt comments "silly." I think everyone involved in the discussion learned something.

One subject that I think deserves more attention is the definition of terms we use in discussing Christianity. Many orthodox, or creedal, Christian commentator claim that Mormons are not Christian. As I note in the comments below, when such writers say "Christian" in that context, they mean orthodox, or creed-accepting Christians. Mormons are adamantly not orthodox or creedal or protestant, so there is no disagreement on that point.

The problem: What most people hear when Mormons are described as "not Christian" is "they don't believe in Jesus Christ." That, of course, cannot be said about Mormons. The entire discussion would benefit from more precision by creedal Christian commentators. We have a more detailed discussion of this issue at Article VI Blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fred Thompson to Michael Moore

And as long as we're posting video, here's one by Fred Thompson, responding to Michael Moore:

I am a died-in-the-wool Romney guy myself, but I love Fred Thompson. He'd make a terrific vice president.

(HT: Dean Barnett.)

How Not To Cover Religion As a Journalist

The BBC is apparently doing a report on Scientology. It appears that things got a little tense. In this clip the BBC's reporter, John Sweeney, is conducting an "interview" of sorts. (You may want to turn down your volume before watching.)

Sweeney offered an explanation for his melt-down here.

Actually, I think his explanation is credible. He seems to be in control of himself while he is screaming at his interviewee, and to be doing it for effect-- and to make a point.

Not that I am endorsing such an approach to interviewing . . . .

Monday, May 14, 2007

Barry Bonds - A Chemical Creation

According to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote "Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports," Mike Murphy, equipment manager of the San Francisco Giants, testified that since Bonds became a Giant in 1993, the size of his uniform jersey has gone from 42 to 52. His cap size has expanded from 7 1/8 to 7 1/4, even though while it was expanding he shaved his head. (Bonds reportedly shaved his head because his hair was falling out as a result of steroid use.) And Fainaru-Wada and Williams also say Murphy testified that Bonds's baseball shoe size has changed from 10½ to 13.
"Before and after" photos of Bonds are above.
Now, I know Will's not everyone's cup of tea, but he's a very serious and credible baseball fan. As far as the reputation and tradition of Major League Baseball goes, there are many who have participated in the sport's ruination; but I really think Barry Bonds deserves a special place in baseball hell for what he's done.

The Kosher Hedgehog Dissents, Sort Of:

Maybe because I grew up a Giant fan, because Barry Bond's godfather is my boyhood hero, Willie Mays, or because Barry played his college baseball for my home town school and law school alma mater, Arizona State University, but I beg to say some words on his behalf. Barry Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer had he played in any era of the game (setting aside, of course, the fact that Major League Baseball banned African American players from 1887 until 1947). There is no question that he is a great athlete and a superb hitter. George Will concedes as much in his Newsweek article.

I have little doubt that Barry Bonds used performance-enhancing substances. What is greatly in doubt, however, is whether his use of those substances violated either the law or the rules of Major League Baseball. If Barry Bonds violated the rules of Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball should present its evidence of those violations and discipline him accordingly. If not, then Bonds apparently did only what other players of his era--Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, and probably countless others--did to advance their careers.

George Will writes, "But cold, covert attempts to alter unfairly the conditions of competition subvert the essence of sport, which is the principle that participants shall compete under identical rules and conditions." Bonds did exactly that--he competed against other contemporary athletes who could and did use performance-enhancing drugs. Contrary to what Mr. Will seems to be arguing, Bonds was not competing against Henry Aaron or Babe Ruth under "identical rules and conditions"; indeed, it would be impossible for him to have done so.

Babe Ruth was able to hit 60 home runs in a season, and 714 in his career, because at the outset of his playing career baseball introduced the "rabbit" ball that sprung off a bat with more velocity than the baseball of the earlier "dead ball" era. Who can say whether Ruth would have been as successful as Henry Aaron batting against the likes of Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal and Gibson? Ruth, Aaron and Bonds all dealt with different strike zones. Bonds has played in the era of the "closer," the relief specialist who comes in fresh and rested for one or two late innings and throws nothing but smoke. No baseball players of different eras, even 10 years apart, can be said to be competing under Will's ideal of "identical rules and conditions."

People don't like Barry Bonds. They say he is arrogant. Well, people did not always like Henry Aaron as well. And as for arrogance, Bonds probably has nothing on the Babe. As for the "depravity" of using steroids, has Bonds' behavior set a worse example than the boozing and womanizing of Babe Ruth? In an era when the consumption of alcohol was illegal, Ruth was a fixture in the speakeasies, where he associated with known figures in organized crime and gambling. The public loved it.

Cap Anson forced baseball to ban black players, because he refused to play with or against them. Ty Cobb was by every account a despicable human being. If, as the Hedgehog insists, there is a place in baseball hell for Barry Bonds, then he will have lots of company, and the devil will be able to put together an incredible lineup.

The Hedgehog responds: Clearly my dear colleague Kosher has a bad case of Giantitis. Simply because many others cheat does not justify the blatant serial cheating and lying in which Mr. Bonds has engaged. After all, we are talking about baseball, the Great American Pastime, where men are men and are guided by truth, justice, and the American Way. Haven't you ever watched Pride of the Yankees? Wink And speaking of the (hated) Yankees, it seems to me that if Babe Ruth had caroused a little less he would have hit more home runs. The only significant similarity between Bonds and Ruth is that when all is said and done, both men probably will have died young as a result of their choices.

Having said that, I must concede that we are talking about a game here. But when I was ten years old, baseball was life! It's difficult for the boy inside me to forgive the likes of Bonds, McGuire, and the rest.

Rebuttal by the Kosher Hedgehog: Who's on first, What's on second and at third base is Idontknow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Terror and Trauma in Sderot

Ten rockets were launched at Israel from Gaza between Friday and Monday. Three more were fired at Israel yesterday morning. The Olmert government, paralyzed by the Winograd Commission report, has not responded. If the first job of government is to protect its citizens, one may say that today Israel has no government.

As of the end of 2006, Palestinian terrorists had launched 1916 rockets at Israel from Gaza, since the withdrawal of the Israeli settlements there. Please read this post by Rick Richman at Jewish Current Issues, and then ask yourself, from Oslo through the Gaza withdrawal, what have concessions to the Palestinian terrorists brought Israel, other than more terror, injury and death?

Richman concludes, "Sderot is only one hour [drive time] from Tel Aviv and one hour from Jerusalem. Rockets will eventually get there in less time. Olmert has yet to visit Sderot."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Does Jewish Law Really Hold About Abortion?

To hear the reactions of certain liberal Jewish organizations in the wake of the decision of the United States Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal statutory ban on partial birth abortion, one might be misled into thinking that Jewish law (halacha) permits this heinous procedure, or even sanctions "reproductive choice" (the liberal code phrase for abortion on demand) in general. In an opinion column in The Forward, entitled "Misusing Judaism in the Service of Roe," Rabbi Avi Shafran, the Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a leading Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization (photo right), sets the record straight on both points.

Responding to a communication from a professor who tried to argue that the statute upheld in Gonzales v. Carhart offended the concept in Jewish law of primacy of the mother's life over fetal life, Rabbi Shafran notes:
The professor is correct about Jewish religious law’s placement of the life of a Jewish mother before that of her unborn child. The Jewish legal metaphor for the fetus is a “rodef,” or “pursuer” — someone in the act of threatening a life, thereby forfeiting all rights to legal protection. But the professor, like many others who reacted with outrage to the Supreme Court’s ruling, had several facts about the particular case in question very wrong.

If a mother’s health is endangered during labor, even a late-term fetus can be legally dispatched in utero; it need never be partially extracted alive and then killed. What is more, the partial-birth abortion law contains an explicit exception in a case — if, in fact, any exists — where a physician feels it necessary to kill a partially emerged baby to save its mother’s life.

But beyond all that, my correspondent had simply not comprehended the most salient aspect of the procedure at issue: The baby has been born.

At least that is how Jewish religious law — which was what the professor invoked — views a baby whose “entire… head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother,” in the federal law’s words.

The distortion of the Torah view of abortion stems largely from decades of public relations efforts by organizations such as the Reform Jewish movement (which has sometimes been described as the Democratic Party with holidays) and the American Jewish Congress to misrepresent traditional Jewish teachings concerning abortion, both to the Jewish community and the non-Jewish world. Rabbi Shafran observes:

They insist on viewing the world through a tunnel called “Roe,” and are not beyond misrepresenting Judaism in the service of their myopia.

The Summer 2003 issue of Hadassah Magazine, to take one example, quotes unnamed authorities to maintain that Jewish law “implicitly assumes that a woman has the right to make her own reproductive choices.” The supplement’s “Jewish Law” section goes on to claim that “restricting access to reproductive services… undermines basic tenets of Judaism.” None of this is true.

Rabbi Shafran goes on to provide an excellent summary of the Torah-true perspective on abortion. Thank you, Rabbi Shafran, for helping to dispel the carnard promoted for too long by so-called "progressive" or "liberal" Jewish groups, that the Torah freely permits abortion.

It Was Only A Matter of Time

Democrats Fail in Battle Against Islamism

In a column that appeared Tuesday in the Los Angeles Daily News online, Paul Kujawsky, a member of the Democratic Party Central Committee, and an occasional guest columnist on The Hedgehog Blog, writes that the recent California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego proved that the Democrats have failed to seriously address the fight against Islamism. Here are some excerpts:

"So it seems that in 2008 voters will choose between a Republican Party which is serious about the war against Islamism but isn't very good at it, and a Democratic Party which has little or nothing to say about it beyond 'Bush lied.'"...

"The Islamists have declared war against the U.S., the other liberal democracies, even Muslim governments that don't toe their line. Appeasement is impossible; concessions simply whet their appetites. Fleeing Iraq would demonstrate that we don't have the stomach for this long-term fight. Moreover, it would win new recruits for Islamism, as fence-sitters always come down on the side that seems to be prevailing. Our own security would inevitably suffer.

"Frankly, it's a mystery why the most imperialistic, malevolent political force in the world arouses so little passion among my fellow Democrats. Hostility toward Islamism should come as naturally to us as hostility towards Nazism. If we adopted this war for civilization and freedom as our own, we would surely do better than Bush has done. Instead, the only merchandise we offer voters is "out of Iraq." It's very disappointing."

Foiled Terrorist Attack at Fort Dix Proves Bush Supporters Wrong

Dry Bones' Yaakov Kirshcen predicts how the Democrat-led critics of the Bush Administration's anti-terrorism policy will deal with the foiled attack on Fort Dix. The sad reality is that truth will probably imitate Kirschen's fiction. Let's wait and see.

Captain, Scott Here, We're Having Some Problems reports:
The search for the UP Aerospace payload of experiments and the cremated remains of some 200 people - including "Scotty" of Star Trek fame, as well as pioneeering NASA Mercury astronaut, Gordon Cooper - continues within rugged New Mexico mountain landscape. After a successful blastoff from New Mexico's Spaceport America on April 28th, the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket and its payload nosed into space on a suborbital trajectory. As part of launch operations, the rocket was tracked by specialists at the neighboring White Sands Missile Range.
While all went well with the flight, the rocket components parachuted into rough and tumble terrain. Repeated searches within the landing zone have come up empty.

How many of you, who read the original news story that the ashes of James Doohan, who played Scotty, were being launched into space at his request, assumed, as I did, that this was a permanent disposal of his ashes, not merely a suborbital flight? I think there was some good old-fashioned Hollywood flim flam going on. Read the original story, linked in this paragraph, and judge for yourself.

Scotty, I don't care what it takes; you have to recover that payload!

Rev Sharpton On Romney's Religion

Here's a recording of the, ah, controversial statement by that paragon of tolerance, The Reverend Sharpton.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sharpton Denies He Attacked Romney's Faith

The Reverend Al Sharpton denied yesterday that he was attacking Mitt Romney's religious faith when he said in a debate with Christopher Hitchens:

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation."

Sharpton now says that he was contrasting himself with Hitchens, his debate opponent, an outspoken atheist. You have to hand it to Sharpton; for a big man, he is fast on his feet.

Lowell is not convinced by the Reverend Al's explanation. See more complete coverage at the Article VI Blog.

Israel is Repeating the Mistakes of Lebanon in Gaza

One of the objectives of the recently released Winograd Report on Israel's 2006 Lebanon War is educational--to avoid a similar debacle in the future. However, according to a paper by an Israel Defense Forces intelligence expert, Israel is now making the same mistakes dealing with Hamas in Gaza that it made with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The paper by Major General (ret.) Amirdror, entitled "Strategic Lessons of the Winograd Commission Report," was published this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which is headed by Israel's former Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Dore Gold.

As reported by Israel National News:

Amidror notes, based on the Winograd report, that after then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak unilaterally withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel "declared that any violation of Israeli sovereignty would bring about a harsh and immediate Israeli response. These declarations stipulated that in the event of any assault on Israeli soldiers or civilians, all of Lebanon, Syria, and Hizbullah would be affected. The purpose of these statements was to build up Israeli deterrence in the aftermath of the withdrawal."

However, Amirdror continues, Israel did not follow through on these declarations with actions. Instead, it ignored the Hezbollah build-up of weapons and fortifications on the border, and provocations such as the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in October 2000.
"Israel knew that Hizbullah was gaining strength and acquiring weaponry," Amidror concludes after studying the Winograd findings, "but it preferred to turn a blind eye. As a result, Israel did not prepare for war with an enemy that was far more powerful than it had been in the past."

Now the same process is reoccurring in Gaza:

Amidror extrapolates: "In the Gaza Strip, a similar process is underway. Hamas is getting stronger as it organizes itself, digs fortifications underground, and builds up its military capabilities." While Israel delays the confrontation with Hamas because of a temporary truce or some other illusory understanding, "we are likely to find ourselves in exactly the same position in Gaza that we created with respect to Lebanon."

One might add that the same mistakes are being repeated in Lebanon as well, where, under the shield of the U.N. multi-national force, Hezbollah has rebuilt its fortifications and weapons stores, including weapons smuggled in from Syria, that may include even more advanced Iranian missiles than those that struck Israel's cities in the summer of 2006. Even the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, this past Monday stated that he is "deeply worried" about the arms smuggling by Hezbollah from Syria, as reported in Ha'Aretz.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hebrew University Archeologists Discover King Herod's Tomb

Ha'Aretz reports here on the discovery at Herodium, which was one of the King's desert fortress palaces. (Photo above--I have been there.)

Palestinian Kidnapping of BBC Reporter Alan Johnson Results in British Journalists Union Boycott--Of Israel!

Political cartoonists are conventionally given considerable license to exaggerate. However, recent events in Israel, Gaza and Britain did not require any exaggeration by Yaakov Kirschen in Dry Bones. All he had to do was draw what has actually happened.

Back on March 12, 2007, BBC journalist Alan Johnson was kidnapped in Gaza by a Palestinian gang. Despite claims by one terroist group to have murdered Johnson, the Palestinian Authority has said that it has evidence that he is still alive. Some reports state that he is being held for ransom by a Gaza tribal clan that is well armed enough to defy both the Fatah security forces and the Hamas militias.

Aspects of the story provided a great deal of proof (if any more was needed) of the pro-Palestinian bias of the BBC. I first noticed that angle of Johnson's kidnapping when I heard BBC World News one evening read an e-mail from a listener: "Please come back to us, Alan, the Palestinian people need you." It would appear that Johnson viewed the function of his journalism to be Palestinian advocacy, rather than reporting the news. Only that would explain this statement by Palestinian Authority Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti: "We are opposed to the kidnapping of foreign journalists who serve the Palestinian cause." Apparently, for those reporters not perceived to be serving the Palestinian cause, it is open season, with the good Minister's blessing.

The Palestinian Journalists Union in Gaza held a 24-hour strike to protest the Johnson kidnapping on March 20. In a gracious display of gratitude by Britain's largest journalists union for that show of support, as reported here:

The National Union of Journalists voted at its annual meeting April 13 for "a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions and for the Trades Union Congress to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government and the United Nations."
The motion also condemned the "slaughter of civilians by Israeli troops in Gaza and the Israeli Defense Forces' continued attacks inside Lebanon following the defeat of its army by Hezbollah," and called for the end of "Israeli aggression in Gaza and other occupied territories."
The measure -- toned down from earlier proposals [RBK: !!!!!!] -- passed by a 66-54 margin.

Nor does Dry Bones imagine the connection between the Johnson kidnapping and the boycott of Israel voted by the British journalists:

Tim Gopsill, the union's press spokesman, said the move was partially a reward to Palestinian journalists for cooperating with a campaign to free Alan Johnston, a BBC reporter kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

"The Palestinian journalists' union has given huge support to the campaign for his release -- holding demonstrations and strikes against the Palestinian Authority to demand more action from them," wrote Gopsill. "The boycott call was a gesture of support for the Palestinian people -- notably those suffering in the siege of Gaza, the community Alan Johnston has been so keen to help through his reporting."

Of course, the same American lefties who attack Fox News for its conservative bias--such as the recent boycott by John Edwards and Barack Obama of a Fox News televised debate between the Democratic Presidential candidates--hold up the BBC as the paragon of objective journalism.

AP Puts Words in Sarkozy's Mouth

Sometimes the lefties in the Mainstream Media are so no-plussed by the actual news that they have to make something up. Apparently, the Associated Press couldn't handle the truth about the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France. As reported below, Sarkozy's first speech declared the renewed friendship of France and the United States. Not happy with the implications of what Sarkozy actually said, the AP decided to make up a quote. And so, AP writer Angela Charlton reports what she would like the story to be:

By urging the United States to take the lead on fighting global warming, Sarkozy also signaled that an invigorated friendship with Washington would not mean subservience. His speech Sunday provided comfort to a populace worried that France's global voice is fading.
"The message was, 'Don't take me for granted,'" said Francois Heisbourg, a leading expert on French strategic and foreign policy. "This was wise in terms of domestic policies but also in terms of the overall relationship. He was saying, 'I'm not going to be a poodle.'"

And either Yahoo or AP headlined the story, "Sarkozy's message: I won't be a poodle," as if the newly elected French President, known in France as "Sarko the American" for his open admiration of the U.S. support of the free market and entrepreneurial capitalism, actually said those words instead of the pro-American comments that actually hightlighted his first speech after his election.

FRENCH FRIES ARE BACK! Sarkozy Pledges Friendship with the U.S.

In his first public speech following his election as President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, signaled a shift in tone in France's foreign policy, pledging ``friendship'' with the United States and closer ties with Europe. According to
``I want to call out to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship,'' said Sarkozy, 52, half hour after he was declared the winner.
In celebration of the revival of French-American friendship, I immediately rushed to Orange Delite, a Kosher restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, and ordered French Fries. Sunday morning, some French toast I think. This turnabout may be good for the world, but bad for my health.
While the White House was overjoyed by the results of the French election, Islamic jihadists living on the dole in France were less happy. Late Sunday, small bands of youths hurled stones and other objects at police at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, who fired volleys of tear gas. Two police unions said firebombs targeted schools and recreation centers in several towns in the Essonne region just south of Paris. As in the past, the rioters are French-born offspring of Arab and African immigrants. The reason for their unhappiness is understandable. During rioting in 2005, Sarkozy, himself the son of a Hungarian refugee, who apparently taught Sokozy to raise himself up by the bootstraps through hard work, rather than living on government handouts, called the rioters "scum."
Perhaps some French onion soup this evening, with a white Bordeaux.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Documents Reportedly Tie Iraqi PM Maliki to Iranian Revolutionary Guards

An Egyptian Government weekly has published photos of documents that link Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
According to the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which translates publications in Arab-language media:

An investigative article by journalist Mahdi Mustafa, published March 31, 2007 in the Egyptian government weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, featured photographs of documents indicating that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has ties with Muqtada Al-Sadr and with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The first document, labeled "secret, personal, and urgent," is a January 2007 letter from Al-Maliki's office to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, with copies to the presidency of the [Shi'ite party] Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and to the Al-Shahid Al-Sadr organization." In it, Al-Maliki requests that the commanders of the Mahdi Army, who have ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, be pulled off the Iraqi frontlines, in order to protect them from being arrested or killed.

The two other documents presented in the article reveal that Al-Maliki ordered that Iranians who entered Iraq illegally be released from prison.

If accurate, this revelation could have serious implications for the success of U.S. endeavors in to create a diverse democratic government in Iraq. The first document ties Al-Maliki to both the Iranian regime and to anti-American Shi'ite militant leader Muqtada Al-Sadr, who founded and heads the Al-Shahid Al-Sadr organization.

However, one must insert a note of caution--in Egypt the press only publishes what the Egyptian government wants to be read. That is true even of privately owned media, and is all the more true of the government-owned the Al-Ahram Al Arabi. The Mubarak regime in Egypt is greatly disturbed by the domination of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq by Shi'ite Moslems. Whether genuine or not, Al-Ahram Al Arabi published these documents to embarrass Al-Maliki and Iran, and to strengthen the hand of the Sunni Iraqi resistance to his government.

All of which goes to further evidence the complexity of America's role in Iraq and the Middle East at large.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Massive Israeli Demonstration Calls for Olmert Government to Resign

Even if Ehud Olmert has not had enough, the people of Israel have. A crowd estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 Israelis, from across the political spectrum, crowded Rabin Square in Tel Aviv tonight, calling on the Olmert Government to resign. Here are links to the reports on the demonstration from the Jerusalem Post, Ynet, and Haaretz.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kadima Party Leaders Struggle For Power

The Kadima Party has never stood for anything but the attainment of political power. Today, with its government in tatters and its Prime Minister's popularity flirting in polls with zero percent, Kadima's leaders, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, are locked in a power struggle for the leadership of the party and the post of Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon founded the party when it became obvious that the rank and file of the Likud Party rejected his program of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon repeatedly presented his program for approval at Party conventions, and was repeatedly rebuffed. Already Prime Minister by virtue of a Likud election victory, based on a political platform that was diametrically opposed to the unitlateral withdrawals that he now advocated, Sharon resigned from the Likud Party but held on to the office of Prime Minister and the reigns of government. In a parliamentary democracy, this amounted to an internal coup d'etat. However, since the Israeli Left, which always pushes for territorial concessions to the Palestinians, controls the Labor Party and the Israeli Supreme Court system, and with a handful of other disaffected Likud Knesset members following him into Kadima, Sharon had no fear of either a parliamentary or a judicial challenge to his extra-constitutional putsch, so long has he adhered to his plan of giving up Gaza.

Sharon was followed into Kadima by politicians from Likud and Labor, like Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who were frustrated by their inability to obtain leadership positions in their own parties. Kadima has only participated in one election, in March 2006, just months after Sharon suffered a disabling stroke. The Israeli public, shaken by the loss of Sharon, backed his replacement as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and gave Kadima 29 seats in the Knesset. Kadima formed a governing coalition with Labor, with Olmert fatefully giving Labor Party leader Amir Peretz, a man with no military background, the post of Defense Minister. Once again, political ambition and the lust for power triumphed over all other considerations.

Perhaps not surprisingly from a government that stands for nothing but the perpetuation of its own power, governing disaster followed upon disaster, culminating with the fiasco of the Summer 2006 Lebanon War. This week, the Winograd Commission, formed to study what went wrong, issued a report that put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. Halutz had already resigned by this time. Peretz, who was a cinch to lose his position as Labor Party leader, and therefore his right to a Cabinet seat, was therefore already on the way out, and has indicated that he will resign as well.

That just left Olmert, who, adhering to his Party's formative principal--holding onto power at all costs--has refused to resign. His once-loyal facotum, Tzipi Livni, whom he had rewarded for her faithfulness with the post of Foreign Minister, is now also demonstrating that her highest loyalty is to the Kadima Party ideal of grasping for political power. As reported today in the Jerusalem Post, Ms. Livni announced that her own resignation would not advance any of the recommendations of the Winograd Report; however, she has recommended to Olmert that he resign. That, of course, would leave the path open for her to be interim Prime Minister. In reaction, an Olmert associate suggested to the press that Olmert would soon fire Livni.

And so as the Kadima Party ship of state continues to sink, its officers struggle for control of the submerging bridge.