Search This Blog
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Instead, I like to think that the men and women of United 93 had their souls set upon, in those last moments, the refusal to die as passive victims with seatbelts fastened as the monsters in the cockpit pushed their evil mission to its appointed end.
In a film of brief but telling moments, there's one moment towards the end where you see one man reach down and remove his seatbelt. In that moment you can sense that he goes from being a passive victim to a man who has decided to stand up and engage the evil that has taken control of his life; to take the controls back from thugs and the cut-throats and the mumbling fanatics of a wretched and burnt-out god.
Many reformers -- Galbraith is not alone in this -- have as their basic objection to a free market that it frustrates them in achieving their reforms, because it enables people to have what they want, not what the reformers want.
It will be interesting (to use a euphemism) to read the flood of commentary, most of which will be glowing if not apotheosizing, on the death of John Kenneth Galbraith, especially from the new wave of ultra-liberal would-be central planner economists such as Robert Frank and Paul Krugman.
(SIDEBAR: Galbraith was literally a central planner -- he ran the Office of Price Administration during World War II ... and failed miserably at it. He was the closest this country ever came to a real-life Wesley Mouch. See also this post.)
I can't curse or damn Galbraith the way he probably deserves to be cursed and damned. Yes, he was about as radical a leftist as one can be in polite society. Yes he legitimized Keynesian interventionism to Washington in the 1950s. Yes he designed and propagandized the Great Society. Yes he was just plain wrong in just about everything he believed as an economist.
But he was no Paul Krugman and he was no Robert Frank.
Galbraith was a liberal in the sense that Danial Patrick Moynihan was, rather than the way Ted Kennedy is today. He saw economic and sociological trends that were completely new and that had admittedly ominous implications. He sought to understand and explain -- and warn about, if necessary -- the modern world that was emerging around him. He did what too few economists do: he looked forward rather than backward.
If you were to shoot one and only arrow into Galbraith's theories, it should be this: He lamented the supposed foolhardiness of consumers, who in his view are too easily manipulated by advertising and are innately controlled by the need to "keep up with the Joneses," yet he ignored the ability of politicians to engage in the very manipulation that he accused corporate America of committing. He bought into the Big Lie and fell into the trap of the "politician as enlightened public servant" combating the "corporate executive as soulless agent of greed and exploitation." And in the process inspired two generations of liberals to do likewise.
Once you start down that road of "some preferences are more legitimate than others" and "consumers are stupid," then all the rest follows. Soon you are dismissing some preferences as illegitimate, or unimportant, or counterproductive. Then come the targeted taxes, the subsidies, the regulations -- and the Politics of Pull.
To his credit, Galbraith was not a fan of the mathematization of economics; that entitles him to at least some level of redemption. One wonders, though, whether all those who will now idolize him as an "iconoclast" will afford others who also denounce the elevation of economic models over economic ideas the same respect.
Today's news brings an unusually thoughtful wire story from Alfred de Montesquio of the Associate Press bearing the title "Rift Grows Between al-Qaida, Muslim Groups." The article is interesting for the point made by the title -- that Islamist groups are rejecting and even denouncing the tactics of the violent jihadis
Al Qaeda -- by which I mean the organization itself and its networked allied groups -- is an ideological movement with a deep philosophical history. It seeks to establish an oppressive regime run on roughly the same basis as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan -- anything less is "apostate." This “Caliphate” is to extend to the high water mark of Islamic conquest in ages past. In al Qaeda's vision, the Caliphate’s lands embrace essentially the entire world from al Andalus (you might call it “Spain”) in the west to East Timor in the east. In the extended version, the Caliphate eventually rules the entire world. (The most accessible book-length treatment of this subject is Mary Habeck's Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, which I highly recommend.)
Al Qaeda’s ideology has roots that go back a long time. This ideology has significant support throughout the Muslim world and some support in the West. This should not surprise us. Communism also long enjoyed considerable support in the non-communist world, until it was discredited. We should assume that al Qaeda's support will persist until its ideology is discredited.
Today's Muslim regimes cannot win this war in the long term. Most of them are absurd governments of kings and princes or brutal generals whose idea of succession planning is primogeniture. (Kings?!? How often do we Americans, who institutionalized lèse-majesté, consider how idiotic a system monarchy really is?) These kings, princes, sheikhs and generals-for-life are clowns, and anybody who views any of them -- even the "moderate" ones -- as better than contemptible is seriously deranged. History is against them, and every thoughtful person in the world knows it. The question is, what will replace them? The jihadis are fighting to install a Caliphate and lower a dark curtain over a fifth of the world. The United States and its courageous allies are fighting to create room for modern democratic governments based on popular sovereignty.
We need Average Abdul to stop cooperating with al Qaeda and to start turning in the jihadis in the back of the mosque. Unfortunately, he won't turn in the jihadis because he is more afraid of them than the local regime and he will not bear any risk to defend the clown regime. The jihadis will kill him and his family for blowing the whistle, but the clown regime will neither punish him for keeping silent or induce him to fight the jihadis out of patriotism. Average Abdul, simply put, is unwilling to risk his life for the clown regime, which has not earned his devotion, even for money.
Average Abdul will, however, risk his life for an idea, just as al Qaeda's jihadis do. Once, that idea was pan-Arabism, or Communism. Today, both are discredited. "Moderate Islam," whatever that means in a dusty town in Syria, Jordan or Egypt, obviously does not have the fire to motivate Abdul to risk his life to fight the Islamists. The only idea with the juice to do the job is popular sovereignty. Democracy. This is the realist case for the Bush administration's "democratization strategy" (although it is not entirely clear how many people inside the Bush administration understand the realist case for their most important strategy).
The jihadis understand this, and fight against democracy in the Arab world with everything they've got, even if it costs them their Ba'athist allies.
April 30, 2006: Despite the many brickbats of the media, al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can. If it can. Just over four and a half years, al Qaeda has gone from being the dominant terrorist group in the world to a defeated shell of its former self. In trying to defeat the United States, al Qaeda made three big mistakes: They fought the last information war, they underestimated the American leadership, and they also managed to anger the Iraqi people.
Also on the media front, the Internet was already becoming a major player. In 1998, Matt Drudge was showing that one person with a web site could break a major story. In 2004, a few bloggers were able to start the chain of events that led to Dan Rather's retirement from CBS. In 2006, bloggers are now an acknowledged player on the media battlefield. These efforts were dismissed by al Qaeda, and as a result, while al Qaeda hit its target, the effect was grossly minimized due to the fact that the "silent majority" now had tools by which they could be heard. The media created a false picture after the 1968 Tet Offensive, but was unable to do the same in Iraq.
These three mistakes resulted in the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, a defeat has left that group largely discredited. Osama bin Laden is now reduced to making audio tapes with grand pronouncements which have little or no likelihood of ever becoming reality, since al Qaeda has no safe havens where they can train new recruits, nor countries willing to support them. In less than five years, al Qaeda has gone from being feared by the world, to little more than a sideshow in the long war that the United States is now fighting.
The grand ayatollah said only the government should have weapons, and its forces should be loyal to the nation - not to individual political parties.
Very Good news for Iraq
John Kerry announced this week's John Kerry Iraq Policy of the Week the other day: "Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to deal with these intransigent issues and at last put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military."
With a sulky pout perhaps? With hands on hips and a full flip of the hair?
Did he get that from Churchill? "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, at least until May 15, when I have a windsurfing engagement off Nantucket."
Actually, no. He got it from Thomas Jefferson. "This is not the first time in American history when patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation," warned Sen. Kerry, placing his courage in the broader historical context. "No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: 'Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.' "
Close enough. According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "
Read the whole thing..
Over in Sweden, they've been investigating the Grand Mosque of Stockholm. Apparently, it's the one-stop shop for all your jihad needs: you can buy audio cassettes at the mosque encouraging you to become a martyr and sally forth to kill "the brothers of pigs and apes" -- i.e. Jews. So somebody filed a racial-incitement complaint and the coppers started looking into it, and then Sweden's chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, stepped in. And Mr. Lambertz decided to close down the investigation on the grounds that, even though the porcine-sibling stuff is "highly degrading," this kind of chit-chat "should be judged differently -- and therefore be regarded as permissible -- because they were used by one side in an ongoing and far-reaching conflict where calls to arms and insults are part of the everyday climate in the rhetoric that surrounds this conflict."
In other words, if you threaten to kill people often enough, it will be seen as part of your vibrant cultural tradition -- and, by definition, we're all cool with that.
Signora Fallaci then moves on to the livelier examples of contemporary Islam -- for example, Ayatollah Khomeini's "Blue Book" and its helpful advice on romantic matters: "If a man marries a minor who has reached the age of nine and if during the defloration he immediately breaks the hymen, he cannot enjoy her any longer." I'll say. I know it always ruins my evening. Also: "A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin." Indeed. A quiet cigarette afterwards as you listen to your favourite Johnny Mathis LP and then a promise to call her next week and swing by the pasture is by far the best way. It may also be a sin to roast your nine-year-old wife, but the Ayatollah's not clear on that.
Read the rest.
The Pilot favors censors because a Rabbi was going to refer to the Hamas terrorists as having “blood stained hands” in a prayer before a session of the Virginia Senate.
The Pilot editors objected because they considered referring to terrorist as having blood stained hands controversial! Well, yes, they admit that Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization (they noted that this was merely the opinion of the State Department ) and is responsible for “its share of violence,” (I suppose that Hitler was responsible for his share in World War 2) but … to say this is to be “inflammatory” and “divisive.”
Well, yes, I suppose if you are a terrorist or side with terrorists, you may not go along with the rabbi's description. But if you are a normal person, informed of any moral sense, calling cold stone killers bloody is not controversial.
There is something so wrong, so morally repugnant about the editorial attitude that it virtually defies classification. Has moral relativism has so invaded the shriveled souls of people who write these words that they now wish to withhold judgment on groups who regularly bomb civilian buses, stores and restaurants. Who proclaim their desire to finish what Hitler started?
It is rare that one witnesses self emasculation, leaving us with moral eunuchs, but the war we are in has provided us the opportunity to see more than one example. And this one happened right here in our home town.
I have had several e-mail communications from the Rabbi since then and he has pointed out that not all members of the press are as cowardly or as craven as the editors of the Virginian Pilot. The following appeared in The Richmond Times Disptach on Tuesday, March 7, 2006.
A rabbi personifies wisdom. Last week Michael Panitz, rabbi of Norfolk's Temple Israel, delivered the opening prayer to a session of the Virginia Senate. He spoke of the values upon which true democracy rests, and said the democratic process is not an end in itself or "a cure for all that ails the human spirit." Panitz implicitly warned against succumbing to the temptation to treat democracy with idolatry.
His spoken words were excellent; his written but unsaid text was better yet.
A the request of the Senate Clerk, Panitz deleted this passage from his invocation:
"Most recently, we have seen voters in Gaza go to the polls and democratically elect a terrorist organization to be their parliamentary representation. The people were proud to display ink-stained thumbs as a proof of their democratic breakthrough, but they voted for the party of blood-stained hands. What was their ultimate accomplishment?" Most recently, we have seen voters in Gaza go to the polls and democratically elect a terrorist organization to be their parliamentary representation. The people were proud to display ink-stained thumbs as a proof of their democratic breakthrough, but they voted for the party of blood-stained hands. What was their ultimate accomplishment?
Hamas does not deny its tactics or its goals. It wants to drive Israel into the sea. Panitz paid Hamas the compliment of taking the organization seriously. His honest statement deserved to be heard in the upper chamber of a legislative body considering itself the oldest and most distinguished in the New World.
Thank you Rabbi Panitz and the Richmond Times Dispatch..
Just to show how far Dutch tolerance goes: Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s neighbors have sued the Dutch state in order to get her to be removed from the apartment complex in which she is living under police protection. The request was initially rejected, but following an appeal a higher court has now ordered Hirsi Ali to leave her house within four months, I translate:
The court considers in its ruling that the neighbors have been put into a situation that has contributed to them feeling less safe in their own house. That feeling is extended to the communal living spaces of the apartment complex, but also to their own apartments. The court argues that this is a severe violation of one’s private life (as per Article 8 of the European Treaty for Human Rights).
A few things. Firstly, it should be noted that Hirsi Ali is now booted out of her own house by virtue of the European Treaty for Human Rights which does indeed supersede Dutch law. Many cases are adjudicated by referring to this treaty, but given the subject matter here I would say: Euroskeptics, go knock yourselves out.
Secondly, and this is the one that really bothers me, is that somehow Hirsi Ali’s neighbors self-interest runs so deep that they are prepared to use the court system to throw someone whose life is in danger out of her own house. It goes like this: we’re tolerant, we support free speech and a critical attitude, but if it comes too close to our front porch, sorry, we are no longer interested. On the contrary, self-interest is the deciding motivator. True, Hirsi Ali’s flatmates do have a reasonable point in arguing that the Dutch State has an obligation to ensure that their security measures benefit the entire complex. If the State has dropped the ball in that respect, they should be compelled by the courts to correct this, but to put the burden on Hirsi Ali is a very disturbing precedent. Yet, the plaintiffs are quite happy with the ruling:
Read the whole thing...
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Last week on my blog I posted some examples of the wildly varying reactions to United 93. I had predicted that the fault line would be one's understanding of the terrorist threat: People who believe we need to counter this threat aggressively, with war if necessary, are using the film to strengthen their resolve. Those who think war is a wrongheaded response understand the role the film plays for "warmongers," and want to undermine its power by finding fault with its fidelity to facts and its treatment of heroism.
One could call these the Mars and Venus approaches to United 93.
Boys like explosions and car chases. Girls like complicated movies about relationships, which proves they are sophisticated. And if you actually get off on all this heroism stuff, then you are just a dumb jock.
Here is what one reviewer thinks SHOULD be the movie:
I would like to see a movie showing a passenger--of whatever gender, race or age--sitting in his seat in anguish and terror, at times weeping for his precious life, sitting in anger and terror over the possibility of never seeing the people he loves again, of not living beyond that moment. That would be the film.
Read the whole thing...
Newly released and translated documents tell us more about the plans that Saddam had in place for the Iraqi insurgency and the elements of his regime that are instrumental in the violence that now grips parts of Iraq.
This small sample of documents on bomb-making in Saddam's Iraq is a reminder of what the regime did while in power -- specifically, that the business of Saddam's Iraq was killing and destruction. I won't delineate, here, its acts of aggression, genocide, terrorism, environmental destruction and daily degradations -- I'll leave that, for another time and place. In sum, though, Saddam's reign of terror is responsible for killing two to five million people (trailing only Stalin, Hitler and Mao), including an average of hundreds of prisoners executed a day.
Iraqis are in no doubt that Saddam's people are behind the major deeds of destruction of the past three years -- that they, alone, know in detail the terrain and where the sensitive points are. Indeed, maps of electrical and water grids have turned up among insurgent caches, marked with the choke-points most likely to cripple Baghdad.
Thirty-plus years of controlling nearly every inch of the country -- with the concomitant true-believers, spies and complicit criminals -- did not evaporate, overnight. Last October, Saddam's deputy, Izzat al-Duri, took pride in the "enormous accomplishment" made "in less than two and a half years," and exhorted "mujahideen" of the "holy jihad." A year ago, a Baathist statement took responsibility for assassinating politician Mithal Alusi's two sons, and vowed they wouldn't miss him, next time.
For kidnappings, only regime insiders know which people to target, where they live and work and where their children go to school. Plus, the regime possesses a ready-made network of neighborhood spotters. The February bombing of the shrine in Samarra required detailed knowledge of the site. Regime elements know where policemen breakfast. Thirty-five years of being in control of the populace's lives, with files on all, assured such knowledge and resources.
Before I left Iraq one year ago, a television program showed a video clip of Saddam's Fedayeen cutting out the tongues and chopping of the heads of three men in Nasiriyah in 1998. Saddam made an art of terrorizing and intimidating Iraqis, knowing which buttons to push.
After his downfall, Saddam created Jaysh [the Army of] Muhammad, and instructed supporters who wanted "to fight the jihad for the sake of God" to join the Army. Other known Baathist groups include the Army of the Mujahideen, the Ansar al-Sunna Army, the Islamic Army, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the National Islamic Resistance. Former regime clerics Ahmed al-Kubaysi, Harith al-Dhari, and Mehdi il-Sumayda'i lead the Association of Muslim Scholars.
Muhammad Abu Nasr, a prominent regime propagandist, issues a daily newsletter of resistance activities called Mafkarat [Diary of] al-Islam, reporting on "explosive-laden cars" and "Iraqi resistance fida'i fighters" by Mecca time. They are joined by Quds [Jerusalem] Press, Islam Memo, al-Moharer (the Liberator), Free Arab Voice, albasrah.net and uruknet.info. Americans may perceive many of these entities as "Islamic," but they are all essentially Baathist.
Just past its second birthday, Air America, the Left’s great hope to defeat the Right in the talk radio wars, has no reason to celebrate. Winter 2006 Arbitron ratings, leaked to Matt Drudge earlier this week and reported in greater detail by the invaluable Radio Equalizer blog, show Air America registering a weak 1.0 share in Los Angeles, an even tinier share in Chicago, and a catastrophic drop in New York City, where flagship station WLIB hemorrhaged nearly half its listenership over the last ratings period, falling from a mediocre 1.4 to a pathetic 0.8 share. That’s smaller than the all-Caribbean format the network replaced when it first launched in New York and nowhere near the ratings of conservative heavyweights like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in the city. Air America’s Gotham numbers are so dismal that WLIB is booting the network off the station later this summer, industry publication Mediaweek has just announced.
You’d think that the public’s growing dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Iraq War would translate into lots of listeners for Air America’s “progressive” talk, especially with the fawning free publicity the network and its top host, comedian Al Franken, have enjoyed from the mainstream press. But even hard-core liberals (who make up only about one-fifth of the American electorate, it’s important to remember) must find Air America’s incessant and often moronic Bush bashing monotonous and unentertaining—the kiss of death for talk radio.
Further, liberals already have NPR—and for that matter, the New York Times, network newscasts, CNN, and most of the mainstream media. Conservative and libertarian voices dominate the radio dial because they offer a much-needed response to the liberal media mainstream. The Right has done well on cable television and in the blogosphere for the same reason. Air America, created and kept afloat by a handful of wealthy liberal financiers, meets no such market demand.
Even as Air America’s hosts snicker about President Bush’s plummeting approval ratings, the network seems destined to disappear from the radio dial before the president leaves the White House.
US soldiers "noticed the two men video taping their convoy as they conducted a security patrol in the city," the statement said.
It added, "As soon as the Soldiers began to move towards the camera crew, the two individuals scrambled in an attempt to flee. Effective maneuvering allowed the troops to box in the men without incident." According to the statement, weapons and an initiating improvised explosive device was found in the vehicle of the camera crew.
George P. Shultz was the secretary of state of the United States during the years that the Soviet Union was led, successively, by Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev. During those years, 1982 to 1989, the United States was led by Ronald Reagan. At the end of our interview, as he was showing me out of his apartment, Mr. Shultz invited me to stop in the dining room. "I want you to see something," he said. We walked over to a table. "Have a look at that. It arrived in the mail the other day." It looked like a polished brass cylinder, open at either end. It was the 14th artillery shell from the 21-gun salute at Ronald Reagan's funeral in 2004. "Isn't that something?"
George Shultz is an intellectual, an MIT economist who in his career held two other cabinet posts, labor and Treasury, under Richard Nixon. And clearly he is awed by Ronald Reagan, the "actor" President, and the years he spent serving as Reagan's minister to the world. But I had come to San Francisco because I wanted to talk about the here and now. So did he. Above all, the Revolt of the Generals and the leaks out of the CIA. He's upset.
"I always had a good experience dealing with the career people in government," Mr. Shultz said. "But I have to say it's almost as if there is an insurrection taking place. Particularly what is going on in the military is astonishing and fundamentally intolerable. There has to be a sense of discipline. This is something new, and for everybody's good it has to be dealt with."
I asked about the place of dissent in government. "Look," the former secretary said, "in our system some people get elected and what you get out of that is the right to call the shots, and the full-time career people are entitled to have their views listened to. But it is very important to see that what is going on now is a problem that goes beyond whether someone likes Don Rumsfeld or not."
Read the rest...
Friday, April 28, 2006
It startled me from the air. Whoa, I thought, as I looked out the window of the plane over the suburbs of Tel Aviv. If the border were open I could drive down there in a short couple of hours from my Beirut apartment. But this place looked nothing like Lebanon. My Lebanese friend Hassan calls Israel Disneyland. I thought about that and laughed when I watched it roll by from above.
Trim houses sprawled in Western-style suburban rows like white versions of little green Monopoly board pieces. Red-tiled roofs somehow looked more Southern California than Mediterranean. Swimming pools sparkled in sunlight. I felt that I had been whisked to the other side of the planet in no time.
The airport shocked me as well, although it probably wouldn’t shock you. There were more straight lines and right angles than I was used to. There were more women, children, and families around than I had seen for some time. Obvious tourists from places like suburban Kansas City were everywhere.
Arab countries have a certain feel. They’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish. I knew I had been away from home a long time when being around Arabs and Muslims felt comfortably normal and Jews seemed exotic.
Most supposedly dangerous countries in the Middle East are considerably safer than they appear from far away. The region is not one never-ending explosion. Even so, suicide bomb operations are far more terrifying and traumatizing than car crashes. They're murderous. They’re malevolent. They’re on purpose.
“It’s especially disturbing when you know what those bombs do to the human body,” she said.
“Do I want to know?” I said. I was not sure I did.
She shrugged and raised her eyebrows.
“Okay,” I said. “Just tell me.”
“Arms and legs go flying in every direction,” she said. “Heads pop off like champagne corks. You just can’t believe anyone hates you that much."
A German brothel seeking to drum up business during the World Cup has been forced to remove the national flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran from an array of flags on its facade after threats from Muslims saying it was insulting their faith....
We are becoming sadly used to the spectacle of gangs of Muslims threatening violence to demand that non-Muslims retract speech that is otherwise protected under Western law. While Border's, Comedy Central and Jyllands-Posten probably won't appreciate being lumped in with the Pascha brothel in Cologne, they have all confronted and, with the exception of the newspaper, capitulated to the same threat. With each victory the Muslim vigilantes that punish lawful speech will be emboldened, so we must be prepared for this story to repeat itself many times.
There is more here, though, than fodder for another rant about the willingness of Muslim extremists -- if that is what they are -- to threaten speakers. One of the huge differences between Islam and modern Christianity is the former's insistance that the state and the religion should be integrated, or at the very least mutually reinforcing under law. This idea is not only alien to modern Westerners, but most of us (including religious Americans) believe that separation of the state and religion is a fundamental requirement for the liberty of individuals. However similar patriotism and religion may seem in their derivation from faith and emotion, Westerners consider them to be very different. The brothel incident reveals the extent to which even European Muslims disagree.
The "cartoon intifada" fought depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. The masked men behind the brothel shakedown claim that the unflattering deployment of the Saudi and Iranian national flags are tantamount to the same thing. If we imagine that many Muslims (whether or not a small percentage of the whole) share this point of view, the political and policy implications are more than a little troubling. Several come to mind.
First, if it is blasphemous in the minds of Muslims to denigrate the flag of Iran, how will Muslims the world over react to Western criticism of the government of that country? Yes, we have always expected that Muslims will to some degree naturally rally to the side of Muslim governments that stand up to the United States. What will we do if large numbers of Muslims living in the West claim that criticism of Muslim governments is blasphemous? Will that fact undermine the ability of the West to contain Iran and other Muslim powers?
Second, what are the implications of this for the American legal system, particularly civil rights laws? For better or for worse, American law usually defines discrimination according to the sensitivities of the plaintiff. If an employer expresses the political opinion that "We should bomb Iran to kingdom come," has he just created a hostile work environment for his Muslim employees, actionable under U.S. law? Under the logic of the brothel vigilantes, why not?
Transcript of the hissy fit White House press corps reporters had earlier today about TVs being tuned to Fox News (sent by reader John...by way of Hotline):
Q It's come to my attention that there's been requests -- this is a serious question -- to turn these TVs onto a station other than Fox, and that those have been denied. My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?
MR. McCLELLAN: Never heard of any such thing. My TVs are on fourdifferent channels at all times.
Q Because you have four different TVs. But every time I've ever been --
MR. McCLELLAN: Every TV in the White House also has channels every --has a split screen, where they can --
Q Well, they always seem to be tuned to Fox, and there's been requests,and these are paid for by taxpayer dollars. And my understanding is that you guys have to watch Fox on Air Force One. Is that true?
Read the rest...
What changed? And what did Dana Priest know and when did she know it? Evidently, not a terribly great deal changed from 2002 to 2005, given that many details of the program the WaPo broke in 2005 were actually published through a group reported piece in the WaPo in 2002.
And the most significant change over the years was the spin around the story. None of the balance, or support for the program reported in 2002 appears in the 2005 version. What was once a very pro-America, pro-GWOT story was spun around into a damning critique of the Bush administration. Apparently that gets more buzz and wins Pulitzers while simply reporting the news in 2002 went mostly un-noticed.
Read the rest...
...bin Laden's call to open a new front in Sudan highlights some underappreciated aspects of the jihadist mission. First, most of the people being slaughtered by Sudan's Arab-controlled government are Muslims. Bin Laden wants his holy warriors to fight for a Sudanese right to exterminate indigenous Muslim tribes. In this, bin Ladenism represents a perverse form of globalization.
In the West, we tend to talk about globalization as if it's a euphemism for Americanization. But there are many competing forms of globalization. Even anti-globalization activists favor the "right" kind of globalization, one driven by the U.N. and "progressives" instead of corporations and markets.
Radical Islam is globalization for losers. It appeals to those left out of modernization, industrialization and prosperity, particularly to young men desperate for order, meaning and pride amid the chaos of globalization. Radical Islam provides it, but at a terrible price.
Read the rest...
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
(April 25, 2006) -- Journalists are reviled by many for alleged negativism and over-focus on bad news in Iraq. Or perhaps the problem is: Their employers are just trying to do it on the cheap. Ironically, the same media that criticizes the U.S. for sending too few troops to stabilize Iraq send too few reporters to cover much more than the dramatic bombings around Baghdad.
“I hope we keep out of the post-Vietnam thing that the press lost the war,” Joe Galloway, soon to retire military editor for Knight Ridder, recently told me in an interview. But discrepancies in what’s reported, or an imbalance, are daily highlighted by military bloggers in Iraq and conservative commentators here at home.
Read the whole thing.
From J.D. Johannes:
Most of the reporters I met in Fallujah were only doing fly-ins.
They would catch a ride on one of the nightly helicopter flights from Baghdad, interview the Commanding General, or the Regimental Commander, spend a few hours in the city, usally around the CMOC and fly out again.
That is not embedding. That is the definition of the drive-by media.
The author, a German named Martin Waldseemuller, decided to publish makeshift maps of the new lands reached by these explorers. He dutifully researched all the reports and drew the assumed designs and locations of the new areas. Of course, he had to name them, so in his massive "Cosmographics Introductione" he applied a name to a large landmass in the Southern Hemisphere. He used the name of one of the men who had claimed to have visited it. No, it was not Christopher Columbus (he was busy renegotiating with the Spanish Court). Rather the budding cartographer used the name on a certain self-promotional pamphlet by a certain Italian Merchant named Amerigo Vespucci. The author called the potential continent - Amerigo. Unfortunately for Columbus, Waldseemuller's book was an instant hit.
And so the continent became known as America (later, South America when another continent further North was also discovered). And the other guy, Columbus, well he remained in litigation over Spanish rights to the treasures of this New World until he wound up in jail.
Traders had a tough time figuring out where they were yesterday.
Monday Meander Means Monday Malaise – Stocks were unable to capitalize on a dip in the yield on the ten year below 5%. They also couldn’t capitalize on a drop in oil prices. It looked less like inability and more like indifference. A look at a minute by minute intra-day chart portrays a narrow range nearly horizontal move. Traders chalked it up to a lack of new economic data and the temptation to leave the wallet on the hip awaiting Bernanke’s testimony later in the week.
Whatever the motivation (or non-motivation), the indices closed mixed to marginally lower on shrunken volume.
Contango Concerns And Confusions – As we noted yesterday, a contango is not a torrid dance in a prison. It is the condition where the prices of a commodity for future delivery are higher than the price for current deliveries. For most non-perishable commodities, prices are usually at a mild contango reflecting storage costs. If you want me to sell you a barrel of oil but don’t want delivery until October, you’ll have to pay me a premium to cover my costs of storing that barrel of oil for five months.
The opposite of contango is called backwardation. Here the price gets cheaper the further out you go. That would happen if today’s high price would be part of a temporary condition or that visible new supplies would be available shortly (or a falloff in demand was thought visible). As you might imagine, in an era marked by bouts of inflation a backwardation is not a very frequent sight.
Okay, that’s the regular lay of the land.
Sometimes, however, a contango can go to premiums. The price in the future is higher than the current price plus presumed storage costs. That could come from two forces. First is that there is a perception that the commodity, say oil, will be much scarcer months from now. It might be from a sudden shortage of supply (storms, wars) or a sudden surge in demand – or both.
The other force that might produce an outsize contango might come from speculators being long so much oil that they are forced to compete for storage. They would drive the storage costs higher and thus the future price since it is a combination of spot price and storage costs. We’ve heard this latter advanced but believe it would have to be a very short-lived phenomenon. Excess product fighting for storage should, we think, rather rapidly pressure the spot price.
Okay, if you are still awake, here’s why we started this – we think.
We think that structure suggests the oil markets see continued demand for the balance of the year. It does not suggest (to us, at least) that the markets see the current price as a temporary or aberrational price. We think monitoring the contango may help in sorting through the confusion in the headlines.
Is Washington Watching? – Bloomberg News carries a rather interesting and unusual story this morning. They report that the trading arm of Sinopec (the Chinese petroleum company) is offering to sell lots of oil on the spot market. The story says they are offering two million barrels of Russian oil and six billion barrels of West African oil.
Lest you think that this indicates China’s economy slammed on the breaks, the cause of the selling lies elsewhere. The Chinese government controls the price of the refined product. They allowed an increase in fuel prices back in March. It was not, however, high enough to allow Sinopec to make a profit refining crude at today’s prices. So, the company has decided to sell the oil rather than refine it. That could lead to shortages in refined product and force the government to allow much higher fuel adjustments or face a scarcity slowdown. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
Today – We get a look at home resales (maybe -3.1%) and Consumer Confidence (maybe 105.5). The Richmond Fed Index is said to look around 10.
Stock futures firmed as daylight hit New York, probably on some solid earnings reports. That changed the outlook from mixed to slightly lower to mixed to slightly higher.
Consensus – You know the drill – oil and rates. We’ll see if they really are waiting on Bernanke.
Today's Question - Are we there yet? On a late vacation trip Mitch tried to keep little Evan quiet by suggesting that Evan count all the oncoming busses. Evan did better. He noted that an oncoming bus passed them every 10 minutes. "Dad," he asked, "If a bus passes us every 10 minutes, how many busses arrive at our town bus station each hour?" "That's math, son. If there are 60 minutes in an hour about 6 busses must arrive." Skip the Ozzie and Harriet - is Mitch correct?
Bonus Question - Sure, but who takes out the garbage! Betty's brother has one more brother than he has sisters. How many more brothers than sisters does Betty have? (No you don't need to know the size of the family.)
Monday, April 24, 2006
...just a couple of (obvious) comments..libby and/or rove may indeed be'guilty' of cia-related 'leaks' - but the one thing we can say with completeconfidence is that a special prosecutor empowered to investigate such a leakhas not indicted ANYONE for 'leaking'...perjury; yes - release of classifiedinformation, no...so there is no 'legitimate' - pun intended - comparison...
Secondly, as an ex-washpost reporter, I feel obligated to point out that thepost made an institutional judgment - not a dana priest judgment - aboutwhat it would publish about the 'european renditions/prisons'....dana had done a story on the planes allegedly carrying suspects/terrorists - replete with airplane ID numbers - and the post had been covering this aspect of the'beat' for quite some time......if this mccarthy person was, indeed, dana's source and she got caught, we need to return to the core issue of not merely whether this is a 'good' or a'bad' leak - truly one of the most stupidly framed dichotomies one can imagine - but whether the release of this information could put innocent lives at risk...
...this question is as fair to ask of the plame circumstances as it is for the 'prisons' - it can now, with benefit of hindsight, be said that we know of no individual harm that came of the plame 'leak'...she and her family seem to be doing quite well, god bless 'em...but as for those individuals who may or may not have been actively involved in aiding the US intransferring individuals from one country to another...we have no clue...however, it is now very easy to imagine scenarios under which the release of this information has made it far more dangerous for individuals, organizations and nation-states to choose to cooperate with the United States in the exchange of either terrorists or terrorist information...Their understandable reluctance to cooperate with the US - why should we if you can't guarantee our secrecy or discretion in helping you? - means that American individuals and organizations will likely be exposed to greater risks of harm...
...bottom line: the mccarthy 'leak' is different in degree and in kind fromthe plame 'leak'...we can talk about the ny times/nsa leak at another time:-)
Sunday, April 23, 2006
You'll note that many media accounts describe the leaker as an "analyst," suggesting that she was, at best, a mid-level staffer. That was hardly the case; few analysts make the jump from a regional desk at Langley to the White House. A "National Intelligence Officer" is the equivalent of a four-star general in the military, or a cardinal in the Catholic Church. There are only a handful of NIOs in the intelligence community; they are in charge of intelligence community efforts in a particular area.
As a senior officer for Warning, Ms. McCarthy was tasked, essentially, with preventing future Pearl Harbors. Observers will note that McCarthy's tenure in that role coincided with early strikes by Islamofacists against the United States, including the first World Trade Center bombing, and the Khobar Towers attack. It could be argued that Ms. McCarthy's performance in the warning directorate was mediocre, at best--but it clearly didn't affect her rise in a Democratic Administration.
Equally interesting is her meteoric rise within the intelligence community. According to her bio, she joined the CIA as an analyst in 1984. Within seven years, she had rise to a Deputy NIO position, and reached full NIO status by 1994. To reach that level, she literally catapulted over dozens of more senior officers--and I'm guessing that her political connections didn't hurt. By comparison, I know a current NIO, with a resume and academic credentials more impressive than Ms. McCarthy's, who reached the position after more than 20 years of extraordinarily distinguished service. McCarthy's rapid advancement speaks volumes about how the Clinton Administration did business, and sheds new light on the intelligence failures that set the stage for 9-11. We can only wonder how many other political hacks climbed the intel food chain under Clinton--and remain in place to this day.
Aside from her Democratic Party ties (she apparently wrote a check for $2000 to the Kerry campaign in 2004), I also detect the whiff of sour grapes in her motivation for leaking information to the Post. At the time she talked with reporter Dana Priest, Ms. McCarthy was apparently working in the CIA Inspector General's Office. The agency, citing the Privacy Act, hasn't divulged her pay grade or title at the time of her firing, but it seems certain that she was not at the NIO level. After the rarefied air of the Clinton White House, McCarthy had been banished to a relative backwater at Langley, and she was likely upset by the apparent demotion.
NTY Times Math. Question: Why Do Newspapers Lie About Easily Disproved Facts? Answer: Because They Can.
The reporters and editors who produce the New York Times seem pretty clearly to be word people, not numbers people. Of course, they often get the words wrong too. But their problems with numbers are hard to understand or excuse.
On April 20, the Times ran an article by Jennifer Steinhauer on the problems the City of Houston has experienced in coping with refugees from Hurricane Katrina. A principal theme of the article was that the federal government had failed to come through with needed or promised help:
Seven months after two powerful hurricanes blew through the Gulf Coast, elected officials, law enforcement agencies and many residents say Texas is nearing the end of its ability to play good neighbor without compensation.That theme, of course, fit well with the Times' "bash Bush" obsession. Today, however, the paper admitted in its corrections section that it had completely misrepresented the facts:
A front-page article on Thursday about strain on government services in Texas caused by hurricane evacuees misstated the number of evacuee children in Houston public schools and the amount of Federal aid the state has received. The most recent count, in late February, showed 5,475 students, not 30,000. The aid is $222 million, not $22 million.
There is no mention by the Post -- none -- that Mary McCarthy is a big Kerry campaign and Democratic Party contributor.
How can the WPost justify reporting one friend's mere impression that McCarthy is not biased and that it is very difficult even for those who know her well to understand why she would leak sensitive information, and yet not report the objective fact that -- after a meteoric professional rise in intelligence circles during a Democratic administration -- McCarthy, while a government official on a government salary, gave at least $7700 of her own money in a single year to Democratic political campaigns?
Given the Post's delicate posture in this case -- having been the recipient of at least one highly sensitive leak on a subject about which it chose to publish a story damaging to national security -- you would think they might perceive a special obligation to play it down the middle here. But apparently not.
This morning's story is said to have had no fewer than eight contributors -- it was written by R. Jeffrey Smith and Dafna Linzer, and lists as contributors Walter Pincus, Al Kamen, Howard Kurtz and Dan Morse, and research editor Lucy Shackelford and researcher Magda Jean-Louis.
Since campaign contribution information is available on-line -- you don't even need to draft star reporters and research editors to dig it out -- is it too much to suppose that at least one of these eight folks might have mentioned, at least in passing, that this purported non-ideologue of a leaker was giving lots of money to the effort to unseat the present administration?
Saturday, April 22, 2006
It does not get any better than this!
As Joscelyn relates, McCarthy initially opposed the bombing of al-Shiva because she wasn't convinced that the intelligence linking Iraq, al Qaeda and the production of nerve gas at that location was solid. She later changed her mind, as the Sept. 11 Commission related, and joined in the assessment by Richard Clarke and others that nerve gas was being produced at al-Shifa under an agreement between Saddam's Iraq, which supplied the technical expertise, and al Qaeda.
Now, of course, Clarke and Benjamin argue that: (a) the decision to strike al-Shifa was justified because (b) the intelligence connecting Iraqi chemical weapons experts to al Qaeda's chemical weapons efforts was sound, but (c) this doesn't mean that Iraq and al Qaeda had a significant relationship because (d) somehow this collaboration occurred without either party realizing that it was working with the other! Sound bizarre? It is.
In the lionization of Ms. McCarthy that is sure to come over the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether the Washington Post or any other news outlet mentions her involvement in the al-Shifa controversy.
I must say, however, that the media's sickening hypocrisy knows no bounds. They came to the defense of Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, who worked behind-the-scenes to get her husband that “fact-finding” trip to Niger. They demanded an investigation into who “leaked” Plame’s identity to Bob Novak — which ensnared their own reporters. They hoped they would critically wound the president, and they failed. Clearly Plame was not undercover and the revelation of her identity was not a crime. Lewis Libby now stands accused of lying about a crime that never occurred and the media think that’s a good thing.
Now comes Mary McCarthy, who apparently leaked real classified national-security secrets and the media largely dismiss it or defend it. They have no curiosity about McCarthy, the extent of her leaks, to whom she leaked (beyond Priest, did she leak to other reporters, members of Congress, other governments?), how she secured top security posts, and her ties to the Clinton administration. Surely there is every reason the government should pursue this investigation at least as vigorously as the Plame matter has been pursued. Dana Priest, among others, should have her day before a grand jury.
And watch the congressional Democrats follow the media’s lead. Long ago they put party and power above victory in this war. McCarthy’s ties to Clinton threaten to take attention from their unrelenting attack on the Bush administration and their claims of incompetence in the management of the war, which they see as their ticket to majority status in 2006.
Putting that aside, the discovery of McCarthy does make you wonder how many more of her ilk have squirreled themselves into the bureaucracy, from where they seek to undermine the country.
But mendacity - particularly when it is spat out from the sharp teeth of the malevolent - there is something beneath it that speaks of more than simple human weaknesses and missteps. Malevolent Mendacity arrived with a serpentine hisssssss - a flick of the forked tongue and a satisfied, superior sort of smile. It hisses still, but its smile seems plastered on, and it fails to pursuade.
Interestingly, the leak was about the “Secret Prisons” being run by the CIA overseas. You remember the “secret prisons” don’t you? You know, the ones no one seems to be able to find:
Can you say “sting?”
It is very, very tempting to connect those two dots. They are begging to be connected. One dot is going so far as to do a belly dance to entice the other. Alas, we have absolutely no evidence at this point so it is pure speculation to say that the entire “secret CIA prison” story was a plant and part of an internal agency leak investigation.
And poor Ms. Priest. What happens if it turns out her Pulitzer was for a story that never was?
Their gist - they have almost never spoken to the press, but when they do, it is in a good-faith attempt to correct egregious misinformation.
The judge seemed to be particularly irked by their quick release of Fitzgerald's correction letter (on Fitzgerald's mis-statement of Libby's NIE leak), so the defense also addresses that.
Fitzgerald also files a response which, in sum and substance, says we don't leak - never have, never will.
What would you say to the proposition that America's breaking point has been progressively declining since 1945? Looking back from the vantage of 2006, maybe the question is not why America capitulated to North Vietnam but how that generation of US politicians managed to hold out so long. Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, after six years of a conflict in which generated an average of 526 combat deaths per month for 90 months. The All-Volunteer Army and all the hi-tech weapons were in part intended to restore the freedom of initiative; to delay the onset of the breaking point at which the politicians would run, thereby making the military option available again. But for all of that, it can be argued that in the light of current experience the political breaking point actually fell, relative to Vietnam.
Osama Bin Laden's basic bet was that America's political breaking point was far too low for it to mount an effective resistance to the Jihad. Even after 9/11, even against an enemy who unlike the NVA can strike at the homeland, there are already the Dana Priests and the Mary McCarthys. So soon. So soon.
Richard Clarke, Sandy Berger, Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark, General Anthony Zinni, and more to come.
Here's very insightful commentary (read the whole thing) from Belmont Club:
Here's the problem as I see it. The leaky and politicized intelligence system has made it difficult to judge the truth value of any proposition. Did the Plame affair damage national security? Did Ms. McCarthy's actions damage national security? Is there someone lying dead in a gutter because somebody talked? The answer to those questions about the intelligence agencies is going to be answered by the intelligence agencies themselves. And so we come full circle to the modern version of the Cretan Paradox: which asserts that when a Cretan says 'all Cretans are liars' all logical roads lead to a contradiction. How then to know the truth about the lies? When intelligence agencies -- and I use that word broadly to encompass the press, which is the civilian intelligence system -- are politicized, then even our knowledge about our knowledge becomes uncertain. We are in a Wilderness of Mirrors indeed.
Here's an interesting observation from Hold the Mayo:
Compare And Contrast
Scenario 1: Government employee gives possibly classified information to a journalist who reprints the information with little or no impact to national security.
Result: Other journalists outraged over the leak demand an investigation to determine its source. This leads to Special Prosecutor investigation resulting in a procedural indictment unrelated to the original subject of the investigation. No charges filed in the investigation of the leak.
Scenario 2: Government employee gives journalist highly classified information regarding on-going anti-terrorist intelligence operation. Journalists print information causing significant national security impact.
Result: Journalists win coveted award.
And ACE OF SPADES makes this fearless forecast:
Here comes what I like to call "The Weekend of Important Distinctions."
Libby leaked something that hurt a Bush critic. Bad leak; one that was completely illegal and improper; he should rot in jail and/or Hell, not necessarily in that order.
McCarthy leaked something that hurt Bush himself. Good leak; one that was necessary for the public to fully understand the dirty and illegal actions the government is taking in its name; the investigation of McCarthy is nothing short of an, um, McCarthyesque witch-hunt, possibly to distract us from the war in Iraq and Bush's flagging popularity.
Everyone will be saying the same fucking thing.
And it's not the DNC talking points. There's no coordination here. The MSM just all think exactly alike, and precisely the same as the DNC's communication squad.
Comments from Strata-sphere:
Two days before the embassy bombings, Clarke’s staff wrote that Bin Ladin “has invested in and almost certainly has access toVX produced at a plant in Sudan.”43 Senior State Department officials believed that they had received a similar verdict independently, though they and Clarke’s staff were probably relying on the same report. Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director responsible for intelligence programs, initially cautioned Berger that the “bottom line” was that “we will need much better intelligence on this facility before we seriously consider any options.” She added that the link between Bin Ladin and al Shifa was “rather uncertain at this point.”
Michelle Malkin chimes in.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Word up whitebread, how you livin'?
Yeah, I been gettin' all your email haterade. All y'all infidels be texting and emailing, and it's all like "yo Zarks where u at? Al Qaeda cut off your TypePad account? LOL!!!"
Hey cuz, act like you know. Like the Zarkman got time to be blogging this bitch with the Q1 decapitation reports overdue, and Fatima all up in my grille wantin’ money for the kids' summer martyr camp, and Team Satan sendin’ another crew of laser-guided "downsizing consultants" every freaking day.
Fo real, you think Zarkman got time to play penpal with you chumps? Cracka, every damn morning I got an Outlook inbox full of fresh steaming dung to deal with. Meeting notices from Zawahiri. Overdue notices from the IED suppliers. Ads for Hoodia and boner pills. Six different NCAA pools. Then there's the tardmail from my Daily Kos fanboys:
Hey Zarkman!OMG u r teh ROXOR! Its like u r total Che Guervera and Fidel and Malcom X plus System of a Down!! Good luck against the Zionist neocon occupiers!!!! Ya,, SCREW those mercenaries!!! Everybody here at UCLA Ed school thinks u r total l33t HARDCORE!!!
Fight teh POWER bro!!!
Dr. Peter McLaren
Professor, Graduate School of EducationUniversity of California at Los Angeles
PS - check out this awesome flash movie!!! Its Bush turning into a fukkin nazi monkey!!!! LOL!!!!
Click on the link for the rest.
For the same reason, the Pulitzers are tainted. Douglas MacKinnon in the Washington Times:
Still not convinced that Columbia University and its Pulitzer committee uses a liberal checklist? Then I implore you to look at the names of this year's finalists. From Republican-hating fashion writers, to Republican-hating editorial cartoonists, to Republican-bashing editorial boards, you will find a wish list from the left, of politically correct, more than diverse, "journalists" who are driven solely by an agenda and not the responsibilities of a once noble profession.
I wonder if the Pulitzer committee will award a prize for "examining and exposing" the "blatant liberal bias" of the Pulitzer committee. I think I'll submit this column just in case.
I just wanted to let you all know that I'm still doing well and have been blessed with the Lord's protection every day. I finally got back to the 'rear' where I could get on the computer to email everyone. I don't have a lot of these opportunities, so if I get a second while I'm out operating, I'll write what I can and save it for when I can email it. That's what I've written below - an Easter weekend message. I hope you enjoy the update and I hope you enjoyed your Easter!
I am writing to wish you a wonderful Easter weekend (a bit late). It’s about 0300 the day after Easter right now and I’ve got a few minutes to write an email to all of you to update you. I’m writing this email on my “Toughbook” computer, one of the ones we bring out to conduct tactical communications and planning….it’s a really awesome piece of gear. Yep, I’m “outside the wire” right now, typing up an email to send later! Hard to believe isn’t it? Well, I haven’t had more than a few minutes to eat, or sleep over the past four days, so this is my first breather to be able to write, and I know that as soon as we get back “inside the wire” we’ll be prepping to turn around and come right back out…so that’s why I’m writing you an email from out here.
You’re probably wondering how I have power to run a laptop. We have power converters in our humvees that we run extension cords from, and just start the trucks every so often. This powers our computers, a single light for my platoon “ROC” - Recon Operations Center, and various radio equipment. Of course, we can operate without power, but it makes everything easier. Without going into great detail on our tactics, I’ll explain where I am. I’m currently in the house of an Iraqi family. Yes, it’s a shame, but we have to kick them out of their houses for periods of time in order to have a secure place to operate. Most of them know the deal by now, so it’s not too hard. I’m provided with lots of cash to compensate and I usually leave the place much cleaner than we found it and with some money waiting for the owner. We quickly turn a house into a defensive position and can operate out of it for long periods of time if required. If you’re wondering what the conditions are like I’ll paint a picture.
This is the house of a self proclaimed doctor. There are pills and needles everywhere and rotten food all over the house. We consolidate as much of the crap as we can and move it into an area where we set up a “portable-crapper” - a collapsible toilet seat and a bunch of trash bags. That’s the same place we store all our “piss bottles.” You see, we don’t go outside unless we need to, and we’re in full gear ready for a fight. We keep cans of Lysol around and lots of hand sanitizer to keep disease down, but it’s hard when you’re sleeping on the floor of an Iraqi house and you’re dragging in animal feces on your boots, etc. No telling what kinds of diseases the occupants had when you kicked them out either. ( I guess that’s why we get so many shots all the time.)
The Iraqis have electricity off and on for a few hours a day, so we shut off the breakers (if we can find them) to prevent lights from coming on, etc. Of course, there is no A/C, etc. This place where we live, once we’ve hardened it, is called our “firm base.”
Life in the “Firm Base” - once again, without getting into the details that I don’t want the bad guys knowing, I’ll fill you in on a common day. My platoon rotates Marines through guarding the firm base, conducting patrols, and being ready as part of the “QRF - quick reaction force.” As you can see, rest is not in the schedule. For a very small platoon (can't talk numbers over email) to accomplish all of this, is pretty difficult. Rest occurs when you’re on QRF….if you don’t have to react to something. I spend most of my time in my ROC, receiving and passing on information, analyzing information, and planning offensive and defensive actions.
At times I will get out to visit local sheiks or people to gather information from, usually in the middle of the night. My Marines usually get about 4-6 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, but it’s usually 2 to 3 hours at a time. Depending on how much offensive or defensive action is taking place, I may get between one hour and 6 hours of sleep per 24 hours, never at more than 2 to 3 hour lengths. It can get tiring, but you get used to it.
So far, I’ve been impressed with my platoon and their level of motivation and competence. Already they have been tested under fire and have performed well. I literally have to reel them in when we’re engaged in a firefight, which is much better than having to tell someone to stop ducking and shoot back.
The enemy has taken notice to my boys’ aggression as well, and have lately scaled back on their overt action against us. The first time they hit us it was with multiple machine guns at close range and they were quickly overwhelmed. Fortunately for us, after their first few inaccurate bursts, they had to fight the rest of the time by sticking the barrels around the corner and firing - which is generally inaccurate. Unfortunately for us, that makes them hard to hit. I was mad when we couldn’t find any blood, but understood that we did the best we could.
The people we’re fighting here are truly evil people. Many of them have lost every bit of humanity that a normal person possesses. They habitually kidnap and execute Iraqis for reasons varying from religious differences, to robbery, to vicious retribution for helping give us information, etc. This makes it very difficult to find these bad guys because they have such a grip on the people. (Although one platoon did recently rescue a hostage who was surely about to be killed - talk about a good feeling…KNOWING you saved someone’s life!)
As for the bad guys, imagine the MOB operating without the threat of any law enforcement and with every weapon and explosive they want at their disposal and the financial and moral assistance of fundamentalists and probably even other governments from around the globe. It’s a tough fight, but we’re winning. It’s just slow. As tired as I am of living the dirty life of an infantryman and having to constantly worry about the safety of my Marines, I still know that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in ridding the world of these evil people. If these people weren’t here trying to kill us, they’d be figuring out a way to get over to American and kill us there. The proliferation of the ideals that these people dedicate themselves to, present as great a threat to the world as those of Hitler. It’s too bad many people don’t realize that and the same Marines have to return time and again to the same places to kill these people instead of an entire generation standing up to fight evil. I can’t complain though, because even if there aren’t lines at the recruiting stations, at least we’re getting all the stuff we need out here and we know we have the support of the majority of the population back home. That makes all the difference in the world!
Perhaps the thing that makes the most difference is the prayers of everyone back home. I thank you for your prayers and I know that’s why my Marines have been kept safe so far. This past Easter weekend has been a time of lots of little miracles, and I’m sure that they’re do to all of the prayers from all of you back home. Personally, I look forward to future Easter weekends when I can watch kids running around hunting for Easter eggs instead of big kids running around hunting bad guys and looking for IEDs! In the meantime, I appreciate all your prayers, so that we can bring all these big kids home safe!
If you’re wondering what kinds of stuff we’d like to have out here, I’ll tell you that it’s different than the last two deployments. In the past we needed socks and batteries, and razors, and stuff that we couldn’t get out in Afghanistan or in the city of Fallujah. Well, because we’re stationed in a large camp this time (for the short periods of time that we’re actually in it) we have access to pretty much everything we need. Things that are great to have though, are those types of snacks from back home that you don’t get in your supply system and that don’t come in MREs. Some of these are: beef jerky (any kind), packs of tuna (esp. the different flavored kind!), sunflower seeds (There’s a really good “Jim Beam / BBQ” flavored variety out there!), protein bars or protein powder, multi-vitamins, cashews, dried fruit / trail mix, etc. You can see that this list is pretty healthy - we’re all out here trying not to let our bodies get too skinny and nasty while we’re out running around in the heat.
We’ve got a set of 25 lb dumbbells my guys stole from the base gym - that’s our platoon’s workout equipment….that and a deck of cards (you do the amount of pushups for the numeric value of each card, for ½ a deck or a whole deck each day). It’s kind of funny how when you go to war, it’s all the non-infantry people who come home looking like studs (or completely fat) and all the infantry guys and Recon guys who come home like skinny little weaklings.
There’s a certain amount of jealousy that we who leave the wire have for those people, every now and then….only every now and then. You see, the big fancy bases around Iraq and Afghanistan are referred to as a “Forward Operating Bases” or “FOBs” and throughout this theater of operations, the infantry have come to name the two types of people who occupy these FOBs - “FOBBITS” and “FOB GOBLINS.”
You see, a FOBBIT is a person who is a happy little being, who is completely content, knowing that every day he’ll get up, take a hot shower, go to the chow hall where he’ll request eggs over easy, or maybe an omelet with whatever he wants, or maybe anything from a wide array of donuts, pancakes, waffles, fruit, yogurt, and pretty much anything he could ever hope for in a chow hall. He’ll eat that food with a grin, knowing that if he wants, he can have any variety of Baskin Robins ice cream for dessert after every meal! Then he’ll go to work in an air conditioned trailer for however many hours his schedule says, and then go back to the nice chow hall, the nice hot shower, and the tidy little air conditioned FOBBIT-den that is his home, where he’ll get his scheduled FOBBIT beauty rest. His gut will never churn with fear nor very rarely from diarrhea. Yes, the FOBBIT lives the good life, and almost always, he lives. Perhaps he is the smartest of us all!
Now, the FOB GOBLIN is a different being. He is the guy who might be an infantryman, might be a “meat eater” of sorts, but for some reason, his current billet puts him in a position where he must endure all of the luxuries of the FOBBIT, when all he wants to do is get outside the wire and bring death to his nation’s enemies. For this sad state of existence, he is forever frustrated and jealous of both the FOBBIT and the guys who live outside the wire. This is perhaps the worst condition one might face….yes, the FOB GOBLIN gets a certain amount of sympathy from his brother meat eaters who get outside the wire.
So, as I close this email, I thank the Lord to have placed me in the privileged position of being one who lives outside the wire, letting me live the life of the FOBBIT for maybe a day or two every few weeks, and never relegating me to the frustration of the FOB GOBLIN. I thank you for the daily support and prayers you provide that give us our daily miracles and make our lives outside the wire as safe as they can be. I hope that you enjoy an email update every now and then and I hope to have a few more opportunities to write in the coming weeks and months.
About 8 hours after I typed this message, we got attacked again and were fortunate enough to get one of the bad guys. He (or someone else helped him) got into a car and got away, but probably didn't live too long judging by the blood trail. We were blessed again, as one of my Marines (one of my very few Catholic Marines) was actually praying while standing guard and had the first round of the firefight pass 8 inches from his head and lodge in the wall behind him. Those guardian angels have been working hard for us. We appreciate all your prayers that have been keeping us safe. I miss everyone and hope to be able to write to you all again next time I get back "inside the wire." If you would like to write back, please do so, eventually I will be able to read it and hopefully have a chance to write back.
You know what's great fun to do if you're on, say, a flight from Chicago to New York and you're getting a little bored? Why not play being President Ahmadinejad? Stand up and yell in a loud voice, "I've got a bomb!" Next thing you know the air marshal will be telling people, "It's OK, folks. Nothing to worry about. He hasn't got a bomb." And then the second marshal would say, "And even if he did have a bomb it's highly unlikely he'd ever use it." And then you threaten to kill the two Jews in row 12 and the stewardess says, "Relax, everyone. That's just a harmless rhetorical flourish." And then a group of passengers in rows 4 to 7 point out, "Yes, but it's entirely reasonable of him to have a bomb given the threatening behavior of the marshals and the cabin crew."
That's how it goes with the Iranians. The more they claim they've gone nuclear, the more U.S. intelligence experts -- oops, where are my quote marks? -- the more U.S. intelligence "experts" insist no, no, it won't be for another 10 years yet. The more they conclusively demonstrate their non-compliance with the IAEA, the more the international community warns sternly that, if it were proved that Iran were in non-compliance, that could have very grave consequences. But, fortunately, no matter how thoroughly the Iranians non-comply it's never quite non-compliant enough to rise to the level of grave consequences. You can't blame Ahmadinejad for thinking "our enemies cannot do a damned thing."
Here's the disgraceful part:
For an entire week the police, the authorities and most of the media have tried to downplay the fact that the killers are Muslim youths. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Cardinal Godfried Danneels addressed the indignation, but gave it a spin of their own. How was it possible for such an atrocity to take place in a crowd with no-one interfering, they asked. Both Verhofstadt and Danneels said that Joe was a victim of “indifference in Belgian society.” “Where were you last Wednesday at 4 pm?!” the Cardinal asked the congration in Brussels Cathedral during his Easter sermon on Sunday. The Cardinal blamed the murder on the materialism and greed of Western society “where people get killed for an MP3 player.”
Belgian citizens realize, however, that the murder has nothing to do with “indifference in Belgian society,” but everything with a group of North African youths terrorizing Brussels and the “indifference” of the authorities to eradicate this scourge. Last January five Moroccan youths slit the throat of a 16-year-old black boy and left him to bleed to death because he refused to buy a cell phone they had stolen. The murderers have not yet been found. Some Belgians doubt whether Joe’s murderers will ever be found, and if so, how long they will have to serve. In 1998 Patrick Mombaerts, a 32-year-old electrician, was murdered by a Moroccan youth who was after his money. The murderer spent only seven months in jail because he was a minor at the time of the murder. The Moroccan thugs do not care about life and they are used to slitting throats – a procedure they get to practise on sheep from a very young age.
Monday, April 17, 2006
At the Babalu blog there's a roundup of recollections of men who fought at the Bay of Pigs forty five years ago. It's an emotive subject in the Cuban-American community. Many survivors of the Cuban 2506 assault brigade believe to this day that they were betrayed by the Kennedy Adminstration. The memoirs emphasize that the operation had been planned under two US administrations but that key details -- the landing site and the provision of support -- were changed at the last moment. The Babalu blog reproduces this dialogue.
"Where are the PLANES?" kept crackling over the invasion ships' radios. That was their commander, Pepe San Roman, roaring into his radio from the beachhead between artillery concussions. Soviet howitzers were pounding 2,000 rounds into the desperately embattled men (and boys). "Send planes or we CAN'T LAST!" San Roman yelled while watching the Russian tanks close in, his ammo deplete and his casualties pile up.
The pleas made it to Navy Chief Admiral Arleigh Burke in Washington, D.C., who conveyed them in person to his commander in chief.
JFK was in a white tux and tails that fateful night of April 18, 1961, having just emerged from an elegant Beltway ball. For the closing act of the glittering occasion Jackie and her charming beau had spun around the dance floor, to the claps, coos and titters of the delighted guests. In the new president's honor, the band had struck up the Broadway smash "Mr. Wonderful."
"Two planes, Mr. President!" Burke sputtered into his commander in chief's face. The fighting admiral was livid, pleading for permission to allow just two of his jets to blaze off the carrier deck and support those desperately embattled freedom fighters on that shrinking beachhead.
"Burke, we can't get involved in this," replied Mr. Wonderful.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
A must read, but here is an excerpt from a great writer:
This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero, and the secondary benefit of being much, much safer than, say, sticking it to Islam, a faith that enforces its demands for respect with bombs and beheadings, and whose central message to all cowards is "Don't mess with Muhammad." The sad fact of our modern era is that if you denigrate Islam, you often have to bag up body parts and hose down the sidewalk, but when you denigrate Christianity the most you need to clean up after yourself is a warm washcloth.
It now appears that leftist activism is finally causing those who are reasonable to pull away and make a statement of principles that can form the basis for rational discussion between the Right and the Left in this country.
We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.
The present initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Internet, especially the "blogosphere". It is our perception, however, that this constituency is under-represented elsewhere — in much of the media and the other forums of contemporary political life.
The broad statement of principles that follows is a declaration of intent. It inaugurates a new Website, which will serve as a resource for the current of opinion it hopes to represent and the several foundation blogs and other sites that are behind this call for a progressive realignment.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Maryscott O'Connor says her liberal Web log, My Left Wing, is "one long, sustained scream." And scream it is.
Here are her opinions as she contemplates what she should blog about:
She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?
It would seem that Maryscott is not a very loving person. Certainly not ready to turn the other cheek.
But here is the amazing thing. The author of the piece ascribes her mental problems to the RIGHT! The author of the Washington Post article, David Finkel claims:
“What's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but also from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about."
Sorry, I am part of the Right, and my side in no way and at no time directed the kind of hatred and venom at the Left and at Liberals that is being mainstreamed on the Internet, at rallies and in public discourse today. To see hatred and venom, one needs to go back to the Viet Nam era when angry leftists and their hangers-on spat at returning vets, threw urine and feces at cops, took over campus buildings (and blew at least one of them up), and in general hijacked American society.
Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff rightly comments:
But the author, David Finkel, presents no evidence that the left was ever the "target of inflammatory rhetoric" (at least from anyone with an audience) that resembles the raving he depicts here. And the reference to Gingrich is laughable. Like him or not, the former Speaker was (and remains) a man of ideas, not invective.
Finkel also appears to credit the left's excuse for its lunacy --"powerlessness." But, again, there's no evidence of this level of hysteria by conservatives during the long periods when they were out of power. Instead of trying to outdo one another in dreaming up slow painful deaths for their adversaries, conservatives did things like develop the National Review, the Heritage Foundation, and the neo-conservative movement. These outlets too were about ideas, not invective.
Moreover, what level of power would it take for unhinged leftist bloggers to indulge in civility? And not just towards conservatives. Right now, these folks don't have much more use for Hillary Clinton than they do for President Bush. A Democratic president unwilling to commit political suicide by veering radically to the left with respect to foreign, domestic, and security policy can expect to incur the rage of left-wing bloggers, a rage that more likely stems from psychological imbalance and an authoritarian personality than from powerlessness. Indeed, if the Daily Kos "screw em" crowd ever achieves what it considers the appropriate level of power, these folks are more likely to begin trying to impose on the objects of their hatred the psychotic fantasies they blog about ("I just want to see these [expletive] swinging from their heels in the public square") than to behave with civility.
Hugh Hewitt comments:
The left has become disfigured because the excess that dominates the lefty blogs is absorbed by rank-and-file activists and encouraged by the Democratic Party leadership, which embraces, posts at and praises the blogs that are among the angriest and most vulgar/profane/hate-filled.
The collapse of the left's ability to engage in politics will continue and in fact accelerate unless and until the leaders of the Democratic Party rebuke the party's activist base and its spokesmen, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.