Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Too late! Iraq, England, Philadelphia, Miami ...

I had my next post planned. Terrorist activity in England cannot be stopped (the U.S. has maintained a military presence there, but radical Islam continues to grow in Great Britain), so it's time to bring our troops home now.

Rush Limbaugh beat me to it, and then some.

On today's show, Limbaugh noted the death rate in Philadephia, using the occasion to call for benchmarks for the largely Democratic leaders and suggested that all federal funds be cut off if those leaders do not hew to the benchmarks.

Then he outdid himself.

Referring to the Super Bowl, Limbaugh said that he supports the Bears, but he wishes they were not playing in the Super Bowl.
Support the Bears! Bring them home now!

Funny stuff, Mr. Limbaugh.

I'm also enjoying the fact that the Democratic presidential candidates are taking swipes at one another on Iraq--at last the Democrats are at the point where they are forced to do something other than criticize Republican policies.

Limbaugh took note of that as well on his program, and made appropriate fun of Senator Joe Biden, who hilariously referred to Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Talk about stumbling out of the blocks! Biden just formally announced his candidacy, and Editor & Publisher is already speculating that the comment will tank his chances of securing the nomination.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Conspiracy clown "Tono Rondone" in spam mode

Certifiable nutcase "Tono Rondone"--I can't be certain it's really him, but the tone (no pun intended) seems dead on--dropped by for comment very recently.
I'm not going to leave this comment in the commentary section since it's equal parts advertisement for Tono's conspiracy theory and a threat.

The message:
Tono Rondone said...

bush and cheney orchestrated 9/11. profit over people. lennon was murdered by acid agents for dissent, an early American tradition. rfk done in by sirhan sirhan acid agents, while being shot in the back. vietnam about 30,000 bell helicopters. iraq about oil. the military industrial complex. our economy fueled by drug money. MK Ultra, LSD assassins, stay off the media, let's start realizing that we are victims unless we are protesters, and what are you guys doing? fanning the flames of fear and paranoia. i was a brainwashed cadet in West Point in '69, until i saw on the front pages or the NY Times with bodies of women and children lying dead in the mud, murdered by us. you innocent bloggers are tantamount to complicators and will be held accountable. you may have held firm in the right, but others like me will hit you from the left.

Innocent bloggers will held accountable.
How precious.
Tono failed, unfortunately, to post anything that remained relevant to the post he replied to, which was a discussion about comments Rush Limbaugh made about liberal reaction to a flier instructing Democrats to vote on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, along with my intention to pan Pandagon at Bad Blogs Blood at some future date.

That'll happen if Tono doesn't get to me, first.

The irony, of couse, is that Pandagon was fanning the flames of fear and paranoia by unfairly demonizing Rush Limbaugh. They suggested that he was advocating deliberate disenfrachisement of Democrat voters.

Tono himself bases his whole appeal on fanning flames of fear and paranoia.

I guess it really is him, or at least the Internet identity fits.
Here's the image Mr. Rondone attached to his profile:

Okay, nevermind (maybe later). Blogger is throwing its upload tantrum again. I'll be lucky if I can post this message.

Heh. Maybe Tono's own cadre of LSD assassins is secretly at work in the Blogger hallways, stifling the free expression of innocent bloggers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I voted for it after I voted against it?

Powerline points out how John Kerry has given us a reminder of why he's not a good presidential candidate--close on the heels of Kerry's own declaration that he won't be running this cycle.

Kerry was in Davos, Switzerland, talking down his country.

Here's an excerpt from the excellent take from Powerline:
“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.

Speaking of duplicity and hypocrisy...Kerry himself has actually had the opportunity to vote on the Kyoto carbon emissions treaty. Forum member ironman administers the coup de grace:

this says it all…

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 105th Congress - 1st Session

Vote Date: July 25, 1997, 11:37 AM

Question: On the Resolution (s.res.98 )

Declares that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997 or thereafter which would: (1) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex 1 Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period; or (2) result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.

YEAs 95
NAYs 0
Not Voting 5

Kerry (D-MA), Yea

(read more)

Jimmy Carter update

During a speaking engagement at Brandeis University, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter offered an apology for a statement in his recent book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."
In response to a question criticizing a section of his book that appears to justify the use of terrorism, Carter admitted it was a mistake.

Calling the wording "stupid," Carter said, "I apologize to you personally and to everyone here." He said he has asked his publishers to change the wording in future editions.
(Jewish Review)

That hardly atones for the work as a whole, unfortunately, but at least credit Carter for owning up to the extremely unfortunate choice of words in this particular case. Especially see the comments of Alan Dershowitz in the linked article.

EU Referendum has some of the coolest posts on military tech

Check this stuff out.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thomas Jefferson said what?

I've stumbled across another quotation that appears to be bogus. In this case, it appears to be a quotation misattributed to Thomas Jefferson.

I ran across this issue in the course of examining the David Paszkiewicz/Matthew LaClair issue.

New Jersey History teacher Paszkiewicz submitted a letter to his local paper in the midst of the fracas, resulting in considerable noise from his critics.

In his letter, Paszkiewicz stated something to the effect that "separation of church and state" was only mentioned once--I won't get into any argument at present over the proper context in which to understand that statement.

In reaction, a number of critics derided Paszkiewicz's understanding of history.

The following quotation appeared a number of times as though to contradict Paszkiewicz.
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
(no peeking yet)

The passage, we are told, comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to Virginia Baptists on November 21, 1808.

But you won't find it here.

And you won't find it in the text of the Jefferson's letter to the Virginia Baptists, either.

To the General Meeting of Correspondence of the Six Baptist Associations Represented at Chesterfield, Virginia. Washington, November 21, 1808.

Thank you, fellow citizens, for your affectionate address, and I receive with satisfaction your approbation of my motives for retirement. In reviewing the history of the times through which we have passed, no portion of it gives greater satisfaction, on reflection, than that which presents the efforts of the friends of religious freedom, and the success with which they were crowned. We have solved by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government, and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason, and the serious convictions of his own inquiries. It is a source of great contentment to me to learn that the measures which have been pursued in the administration of your affairs have met your approbation. Too often we have had but a choice among difficulties; and this situation characterizes remarkably the present moment. But, fellow citizens, if we are faithful to our country, if we acquiesce, with good will, in the decisions of the majority, and the nation moves in mass in the same direction, although it may not be that which every individual thinks best, we have nothing to fear from any quarter.
I thank you sincerely for your kind wishes for my welfare, and with equal sincerity implore the favor of a protecting Providence for yourselves.
So what's going on?
As I was doing my research, I discovered that Jim Allison had beaten me to it, and Jim did an excellent job of it.
Jim found the quotation in a collection of Jefferson's material, but in the form of a later author's commentary (now go check what you weren't supposed to peek at). He surmised that somebody lifted what they supposed was the letter to the Virginia Baptists from that source and subsequently the quotation was taken as Jefferson's work.

So, it looks as though Paszkiewicz was correct about the letter to the Danbury Baptist being the sole (Jeffersonian, at least) source of the "wall of separation" imagery.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More on the worst ex-president of the U.S.

Another hat-tip goes out to Powerline for pointing out former Carter Center director Kenneth Stein's critique of Carter's latest book, "Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid."

Stein resigned because of the partisan nature of Carter's book. In the critique he effectively explains why he resigned.
While Carter says that he wrote the book to educate and provoke debate, the narrative aims its attack toward Israel, Israeli politicians, and Israel's supporters. It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter's credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.
(read it all)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bush's SOTU speech, 2007

I decided on the ABC version.

First, the speech.

Bush was more composed and effective for this one compared to the speech outlining the troop surge from a couple of weeks ago. Other commentators (including Cap'n Ed over at Captain's Quarters and an ABC correspondent whose name I missed) note that Bush tends to perform better in front of a live audience.

Cap'n Ed covered the details of the speech pretty well. To his comments I just want to add that I see the biographical sketches and guest appearances as being intended to illustrate the American will to get things done even where sacrifice is required.

It was a somewhat unexpected way of illustrating the ability of this nation to achieve notable and difficult goals--a subtle way of shaming those who would undercut support for the effort to stand Iraq firmly on its feet.

Those stories were each very effective in their own way, and Bush's appeal on the war gained considerable appeal based on that message.

I find myself wondering how those who call the war lost can have such unshakable faith in the inability of the United States to succeed in something.

When I ask, I tend to get thin answers.

Nancy Pelosi carried herself well, I think. Hillary came off better than usual, after the first shot of her, anyway. Our first ABC glimpse of the wind-testing senator from New York found her with a pinched mouth and disparaging expression.

Gotta love the aptitude of cameramen for catching folks at their worst.

Hillary cleaned up her act after that--but Barack Obama, sitting just in front of her, looked like a student falling asleep in class at times.

On the whole, I found the Democrat response to war issues discouraging. Key lines on national defense and security drew standing ovations on the right side of the aisle, with a smattering of polite applause from seated figures on the left.

Is it coherent to think that the US cannot win the war in Iraq while also thinking that Iraq will have a better shot at stability after we leave?

I don't see it. Not unless the stability is under the booted heel of Iran.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Congrats to a third former Buccaneer coach

The Pittsburgh Steelers went ahead and hired Mike Tomlin as their head football coach, after Tomlin's hiring was announced and denied (by Tomlin) over the weekend.

Tomlin did great work with the Bucs replacing Herman Edwards as the Bucs' secondary coach before leaving last year to take over the defensive coordinator position with the Minnesota Vikings. Tomlin had the Vikings defense performing well, but I had thought him an odd fit in Minnesota because Pittsburgh is not fitted to run the Tampa2.
That problem was addressed by the fact that Dick Lebeau is staying on to run the Pittsburgh defense.

I don't like the Steelers, but I'll hate them slightly less with Tomlin running the team (even if they do well!).

Monday, January 22, 2007

Congrats to two former Bucs coaches

Of course that's Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith.
Dungy was Tampa Bay's head coach prior to being fired in favor of Bill Parcells--oops.
In favor of Steve Spurrier--oops.
In favor of Marvin Lewis--oops.

In favor of Jon Gruden, actually.

Lovie Smith coached linebackers with the Bucs under Dungy until he was lured away by St. Louis in 2001 to improve their erratic defense.

Both coaches are class guys. I was sorry to see each one leave Tampa Bay (and if Parcells had been given the coaching job after Dungy I'd have been wearing Colts gear to the games).

I can't stand the Bears, which is a carryover from the Bucs' years in the NFC Central.
The Bears have the better defense, but they're vulnerable to the pass.
If the Colts--especially Peyton Manning--avoid turnovers, they should win the game as the Saints were unable to do this past Sunday.
The Bears have a decent shot to win if they keep the turnover pipeline open. The Colts played well against New England's running game; I think that the Bears will give them a better test in that department.
Go Colts.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter: The liability that keeps on taking

One of the past mysteries respecting Sith blogroller "Barnum's Baileywick" (Wick o' the Bailey) has been his stated esteem for former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

With another hat-tip to Powerline, I recommend reading a review of Carter that places Carter as the worst ex-president.

With an interest toward fairness, I spot-checked one of the most startling claims in the story:
As for the “general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups,” they too need to make it clear that they “will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism”—but only “when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel.” In other words, it is all right for terrorism against Israel to continue.

And here it is in Carter's words:
An important fact to remember is that President Mahmoud Abbas retains all presidential authority that was exercised by Yasir Arafat when he negotiated the Oslo Agreement, and the Hamas prime minister has stated that his government supports peace talks between Israel and Abbas. He added that Hamas would modify its rejection of Israel if there is a negotiated agreement that Palestinians can approve (as specified in the Camp David Accords). It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel.
Earlier in his summary, Carter says

There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:

  1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and
  2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.

So, at least Carter recognizes terrorism against Israel as something of a problem. It's as though he lives a dreamworld concerning Palestinian attitudes, however.
Regarding other modes of violence, following the war, there is no change in Palestinians’ support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel. 56% of the Palestinians supported it before the war in March 2006, compared to 57% who support it now.
(Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
Add to this the erosion of support for Carter from his organization's advisory board ... I wonder what Barnum's Baileywick thinks of all this?

Those rumblin' stumblin' bumblin' Democrats

Sometimes I just can't believe what I see from the Democrat leadership.

From Powerline:
First there was Nancy Pelosi on Good Morning America, accusing President Bush of playing politics with the lives of our soldiers:
The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way.

Pelosi's charge was not only patently false, it bordered on incomprehensible. Is she really suggesting that any time the President intends to send troops anywhere, he should wait until the next Congressional budget cycle to find out whether funds have been appropriated for that particular mission? She can't possibly mean that, but I can't think of any other interpretation.

Next was Harry Reid, who offered this legal opinion in a speech to the National Press Club:

The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization.

As a proposition of Constitutional law, that is simply wrong. The President obviously does have such authority as commander in chief; the only sense that can be attached to Reid's comment is that he doesn't think the President should do it. At this point, we have no reason to think that President Bush disagrees. But why would Reid grandstand for headlines in this way, and at this time? He must know that the Iranians will read news stories about his speech and take it to mean that the President has no credible threat of military action. This is a perverse signal to send to an enemy while it is in the process of killing American soldiers in Iraq and while one of our aircraft carriers has been ordered to the Middle East.

What can Reid's motive possibly be, other than to aid our enemies and contribute to our problems in Iraq? I can't think of one. A credible threat of military action is obviously vital to our dealings with Iran.

(John Hinderaker, Powerline)
The majority party in Congress seems poised to seize its identity as the Defeatocrats. I had hoped for better from the party that gave us Joe Lieberman.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Pact reached in Nepal's religious war

Excuse the confused English. The story comes to us from a Pakistani news service.
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Maoists dissolved on Thursday their “people’s government” which had controlled large swathes of the Himalayan nation, as part of a peace deal to end a bloody decade-long insurgency.

“As per the agreement reached with the government, our party declares that the people’s governments and people’s courts run by our party in the past have been dissolved from today,” Maoist chairman Prachanda said. The announcement followed the entry by the Maoists into parliament alongside the seven main political parties on Monday, after a new temporary constitution was approved stripping King Gyanendra of his status as head of state.

Under a historic peace pact in November, the Maoists agreed to end their “people’s war” to install a communist republic, in which at least 12,500 people were killed, and join mainstream politics.
(The News, Pakistan)

Apparently adherents of the Chinese religion "Maoism" had conducted a bloody insurgency over the past decade.

Yes, of course I'm kidding about religion being behind it.

I've heard that argument so many times, but those who argue for it usually end up redefining religion in hilarious ways ("Stalin thought he was god," for example).

Update: I think I misread the meaning of one of the somewhat ambiguous sentences in the news report. The report was not intended to suggest that the communists had achieved the goal of a communist republic, but that the insurgents have placed that aim aside in favor of participating in the existing government.
That seems to be a good thing.

Apologies to anyone who was misled because of my report, which has now been edited to avoid misleading anyone else.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Schlafly in context

In a post here, I began to examine the background of a quotation attributed to Phyllis Schlafly of the conservative group Eagle Forum.

I promised an update following my investigation of the source used by Michael Lienesch, and my investigation went smoothly and quickly, with results exceeding my expectations.

Michael Lienesch emerges with a bit of a black eye to his reputation. I located his book and looked up his reference. Here's the relevant excerpt from "Redeeming America":
Phyllis Schlafly takes the argument to its logical conclusion. The atomic bomb, she said as recently as 1979, is "a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."
(Lienesch, "Redeeming America")
The problem for Lienesch is not the manner in which he used the quotation (though I shouldn't rule out questionable use of Schlafly's statement by Lienesch--it just wasn't my focus, here). The problem is that Lienesch drew the quotation from a secondary source, specifically Carol Felsenthal's "The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority: The Biography of Phyllis Schlafly."

Good researchers avoid using secondhand sourcing.

Felsenthal provided no bibliographic references in her work.

This is how she employed the quotation:
In 1979, calling it essential that the United States remain the number one nuclear power, she described the atomic bomb as "a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."
(Felsenthal, "Sweetheart of the Silent Majority" p. 51)
Returning to periodical research, the earliest reference I could find was in a 1982 New York Times story by Lynn Rosselini.

Stymied by the poor documentation by these authors, I contacted Phyllis Schlafly directly (how's that for initiative?).
The statement is more or less true; I don't remember when I said it. But the context was speculation about how different the world would have been if the Germans or the Soviets had gotten the bomb first -- and both countries were working on it. In U.S. hands, the world could have peace. If the Germans or the Soviets had gotten it, they would have used it for world conquest. I don't know how anyone could dispute the fact that it was one of history's most important events that the bomb came to America first and not to a world conqueror. And, yes, I do think America has been divinely blessed, in so many ways. Count our getting the bomb first as one of those ways.
(Phyllis Schlafly, January 2007)
This explanation, if it accounts for the context of the statement, seems at odds with way Joseph S. Nye Jr handles it in his book "Understanding International Conflicts."
Moral arguments are not all the same. Some are more compelling than others. We ask whether they are logical and consistent. For instance, when the activist Phyllis Schlafly argued that nuclear weapons are a good thing because God gave them to the free world, we should wonder why God also gave them to Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China. Moral arguments are not all equal.
(Nye, "Understanding International Conflicts" p. 21)
Nye, in what appears to be a well-reasoned book overall, seems to have constructed a straw man version of Schlafly's argument for his purpose of illustrating a flawed moral argument--though a clear reference to the original context would settle the matter more definitively.

There seems little reason to doubt Schlafly's account, however. Unless and until the full context of the quotation comes to light, a handling such as Nye's should be regarded with skepticism.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A quotation of Phyllis Schlafly?

I've run across a statement attributed to Phyllis Schlafly (noted conservative writer and ERA opponent):

"The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."

I found the statement embedded in the context of moral argumentation, where it was suggested that Schlafly was in effect arguing that the bomb was good because it was given.

More on that in the future--what I'm interested in at the moment is tracking the quotation down to the original.
I got a few hits through Lexis Nexis, but nothing that mentions a source, so I can't examine the context just yet.

A-ha! I actually got better results from Google.

One intrepid author cited the source: Mother Jones magazine, well-known for espousing left-wing views.

Unfortunately, Mother Jones doesn't really get us any closer to the context of the alleged comment. Here's the way they present it (the goofy appearance of the page, if such it is, is the fault of Mother Jones--the page is somewhat garbled when viewed with either Firefox or Internet Explorer):
Phyllis Schlafly, one of the religious rights few female leaders despite its large number of women, led fights against the ERA and a nuclear freeze, once saying, "The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God."
(Mother Jones)
Doesn't that leave you wanting more information?

Another author sourced the quotation to Michael Lienesch's book "Redeeming America."
His book is one of those for which Amazon allows some minimal search capability--a pity that it doesn't encompass the bibliographical material for the work (but understandable since the notes apparently go on for pages and pages).

Lienesch appears to be a reputable scholar, so it is to be expected that he provides a proper citation for the quotation of Schlafly.

I've got a bead on it in a local library. An update should follow within the week.

Martin Luther King Day

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

While I'm not certain that King rates his own day compared to one lump day for all U.S. presidents past, his ideal of a colorblind society resonates and is worthy goal that benefits from an annual reminder.

I'm not that crazy about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's politics (he leaned to the left once you get past his advocacy of colorblindness), and he certainly had some significant personal failings (which are just as well forgotten on the day chosen to commemorate the man), but such is common to the great and significant men (and women) of history.

Here's to MLK.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Durbin response

President Bush gave his speech on the new strategy for Iraq.

Senator Dick Durbin (D, Ill.) gave the response. I found a full transcript at CNN.
What's with the Reader's Digest version that the Southwest News-Herald (Chicago area) provided on its Web site, anyway?
Good evening.

At the end of October, President Bush told the American people: Absolutely, we're winning the war in Iraq. He spoke those words near the end of the bloodiest month of 2006 for U.S. troops.

Tonight, President Bush acknowledged what most Americans know: We are not winning in Iraq, despite the courage and immense sacrifice of our military.

Indeed, the situation is grave and deteriorating.

The president's response to the challenge of Iraq is to send more American soldiers into the crossfire of the civil war that has engulfed that nation.

Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election. Instead of a new direction, the president's plan moves the American commitment in Iraq in the wrong direction.

In ordering more troops to Iraq, the president is ignoring the strong advice of most of his own top generals. Gen. John Abizaid -- until recently the commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan -- said, and I quote, "More American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future," end of quote.

Twenty-thousand American soldiers are too few to end this civil war in Iraq and too many American lives to risk on top of those we've already lost.

It's time for President Bush to face the reality of Iraq. And the reality is this: America has paid a heavy price. We have paid with the lives of more than 3,000 of our soldiers. We have paid with the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. And we've paid with the hard-earned tax dollars of the families of America.

And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government.

We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.

Now, in the fourth year of this war, it is time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation.

The government of Iraq must now prove that it will make the hard political decisions which will bring an end to this bloody civil war, disband the militias and death squads, create an environment of safety and opportunity for every Iraqi, and begin to restore the basics of electricity and water and health care that define the quality of life.

The Iraqis must understand that they alone can lead their nation to freedom. They alone must meet the challenges that lie ahead. And they must know that, every time they call 911, we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers.

As Congress considers our future course in Iraq, we remain committed, on a bipartisan basis, to providing our soldiers every resource they need to fight effectively and come home safely.

But it's time to begin the orderly redeployment of our troops so that they can begin coming home soon.

When the Iraqis understand that America is not giving an open-ended commitment of support, when they understand that our troops indeed are coming home, then they will understand the day has come to face their own responsibility to protect and defend their nation.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Senator Durbin, when you were at White House yesterday talking to the president, did you actually use the term "civil war" with him? And, if so, did he react to you using that term?

DURBIN: I used the term. I talked to him about -- I said exactly what I said here. I think 20,000 troops are not enough to end this civil war in Iraq, and they're too many lives to put at risk. He didn't address that particular issue.

I don't think very many people dispute the fact that this is a civil war; one that finds its roots in 14 centuries of sectarian strife.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] this idea? Do you think that the White House might actually change its position on it or scale it back?

DURBIN: I don't know. But I'll tell you this: I think that it's important that we finally have a voice.

It's been four years since we voted on the use-of-force resolution. If you look at the purpose of our invasion of Iraq, frankly every single element is unnecessary today. There is no Saddam Hussein. There are no weapons of mass destruction.

What we're talking about now is to really bring Congress into the debate, the American debate, about what's going to happen next in Iraq.

And we believe that if we can bring forward a resolution that really brings the president's policy before Congress [to] ask for bipartisan support; that's a debate that's long overdue.

QUESTION: Senator, isn't the argument that Democrats -- you guys are making over and over again that the American people voted in November [inaudible] not just debate, not just to talk, but actually to do something? And you have the power now in some ways to actually do something.

So how will you use that -- not just talk, not just debate, not just have a [inaudible] of the Congress or Senate resolution -- but actually use your powers?

DURBIN: There are limited opportunities for Congress to act. A commander in chief has extraordinary authority to move troops to certain places in the world, and the president is going to use that authority.

First, we're going to bring before the Congress this question about the policy and try to have a bipartisan debate and a conclusion as to whether this policy is supported by Congress, and then watch for the reaction from the American people and from the president.

In the meantime, there will be oversight by our committees.

I won't rule out further action by Congress. I hope I've made it clear here -- and all of us have made clear -- that whatever action we take will not be at the expense of the safety of our troops who are in the field.

But there may be a way to engage the White House on a policy debate at a new level past the first resolution.

QUESTION: But as a practical point, these brigades could be [inaudible]?

DURBIN: Oh yes, yes. That's right. And it probably will happen right away. [Democratic Sen.] Jack Reed, who of course has some background on this, says that it's likely that several thousand troops are going to move in a few days and then, maybe a week or two, another thousand troops will move.

So that's going to happen, even while Congress is in the midst of this debate.

The thought that we could stop this in its tracks, I don't believe is practical. ...

QUESTION: In addition to withdrawal, the Iraq Study Group ... said that the U.S. should talk to Iran and Syria...


QUESTION: ... you know, bring them into the fold with Iraq. And President Bush said -- he basically refuted that recommendation as well. How do you respond?

DURBIN: I think that's a mistake. If there's any surge that we need, it's a surge in diplomacy.

We need to have countries in that region, in the Middle East, who are interested in the stability, ultimate stability of Iraq, to get involved in its future.

We can't do this alone. The Iraqis, as I've said in this statement, have to really resolve that they're going to make their own nation strong and defend it.

But for its long-term future and the stability of its borders, we really need to engage other countries. I don't know how we can boycott countries in that region.

We need to at least sit at a table and find out if there is some common ground. That's the only way that I think we're going to find any long-term stability.

QUESTION: Was there any part of the plan that you thought was useful [inaudible]?

DURBIN: Well, the best part of the plan is that, now, finally, [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki] is engaged, according to the president. Now, finally, he is making a commitment.

That's long overdue. many of us, for a long period of time, said to the White House, you can't keep telling this man we're going to stand with him regardless of what he does.

And I sensed today, in my meeting with the president, as well as in his statement now, that they are getting a little impatient with Maliki. I think it's about time.

Thank you, everybody.

Fact-checking Durbin.

Bush said we were "absolutely" winning the war in Iraq? The context suggests that Bush was answering in terms of the war on terrorism generally.

Q Are we winning?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely, we're winning. Al Qaeda is on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account. Most of al Qaeda that planned the attacks on September the 11th have been brought to justice.

Extremists have now played their hand; the world can clearly see their ambitions. You know, when a Palestinian state began to show progress, extremists attacked Israel to stop the advance of a Palestinian state. They can't stand democracies. Extremists and radicals want to undermine fragile democracy because it's a defeat for their way of life, their ideology.

People now understand the stakes. We're winning, and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle right now is Iraq. And as I said in my statement, I understand how tough it is, really tough. It's tough for a reason; because people understand the stakes of success in Iraq. And my point to the American people is, is that we're constantly adjusting our tactics to achieve victory.

Criticize the President for ducking the question if you like (it's clear from the broader context that the reporter very probably meant the Iraq war rather than the war on terror), but to claim that Bush referred to the Iraq war with his answer seems either dishonest or just silly (in a politically calculating manner, admittedly).

Crossfire of a civil war that "has engulfed that nation"?
I'll let that one slide as hyperbole. The violence remains primarily in the Sunni Triangle region and al-Anbar (in western Iraq), the two areas for which the troop level increases have been planned.

The American people didn't vote for escalation? The war wasn't on the ballot. People voted for a variety of reasons, and most pundits thought that the Foley scandal and the border issue hurt specific Republican candidates. Polls indicate majority disapproval for the handling of the war, but results concerning the strategy that is on the table are close.
Durbin's spinning.


(CBS/AP poll, Jan 2007)
Durbin calls the 20,000-plus troop surge "the wrong direction," but offered no alternative (keeping levels the same or reducing them are directions other than increasing the troop levels, but Durbin doesn't narrow down his preference). The hole in Durbin's speech recalls a portion of the president's speech, where Bush called on the opposition to offer a better plan to accompany criticism.

The truth is that "Americans" did not vote for any particular direction on the Iraq war. The left wing of the Democratic Party prefers withdrawal, but Lieberman didn't beat Lamont in Vermont by advocating withdrawal (for example).

Durbin's quotation of General Abizaid is accurate, but should be considered out of context.

Here is why:

MCCAIN: Did you note that General Zinny who opposed of the invasion now thinks that we should have more troops? Did you notice that General Batise, who was opposed to the conduct of this conflict also says that we may need tens and thousands of additional troops. I don’t understand General. When you have a part of Iraq that is not under our control and yet we still — as Al Anbar province is — I don’t know how many American lives have been sacrificed in Al Anbar province — but we still have enough and we will rely on the ability to train the Iraqi military when the Iraqi army hasn’t send the requested number of battalions into Baghdad.

ABIZAID: Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the core commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

(Think Progress)

Abizaid's comments were not made in the context of a different strategy. The new strategy calls for smaller groups of U.S. servicemen to accompany Iraqi troops in pacifying hot districts in Baghdad. The plan itself encourages an increased Iraqi role in controlling sectarian violence.

The past problem was that Iraqi forces have not performed their role sufficiently well in stopping the violence. Yet Durbin thinks it's fine to give them the job right now anyway.
Apparently Durbin uses a completely different measure in judging the competence of the Iraqi military as compared to the U.S. military.

The other issue is that the Iraqi armed forces are not as well equipped as U.S. forces. Not even close. That's going to take time to change.

Durbin says that 20,000 U.S. soldiers cannot end the "civil war" in Iraq. Isn't that a straw man?

The additional troops are intended to help Iraqi troops, whose numbers continue to gradually increase, hold and pacify the worst parts of Baghdad (and al-Anbar), while cutting supply lines to the insurgents from Syria and Iran.

Could it be that 20,000 is sufficient for that task, Senator Durbin?

Durbin wants Mr. Bush to face the reality in Iraq. Then Durbin goes beating around the bush with talk about American sacrifice and all manner of other things that Bush has long since acknowledged. Is that the reality that Durbin is talking about?

I don't think so, somehow. I think he was getting at what followed several sentences afterward:
The government of Iraq must now prove that it will make the hard political decisions which will bring an end to this bloody civil war, disband the militias and death squads, create an environment of safety and opportunity for every Iraqi, and begin to restore the basics of electricity and water and health care that define the quality of life.
Well, isn't that exactly what this troop surge is designed to do? Wasn't Durbin paying attention?

This effort was made based on Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki's decision to permit U.S. forces to engage the militias where necessary. The plan has carrot and stick.

Durbin, I suspect, has only stick for our Iraqi allies (our enemies in Iraq might discern a carrot for themselves in Durbin's speech, however): You're on your own. We're leaving. Sink or swim. Toodles.

But it's time to begin the orderly redeployment of our troops so that they can begin coming home soon.
So, Durbin would not be in favor of sending troops to help with relief efforts if Iraq sinks into a civil war reminiscent of the one in Congo? The troops will never be deployed if Iran manages to seize control of Iraq's oil reserves? There will be no deployment to Turkey or Saudi Arabia if those nations are threatened by an ascendant Iran?

Or is Durbin just planning a furlough for the troops before sending them out in even greater numbers into more dangerous conflicts? Maybe via a draft, as proposed by Charlie Rangel (D, NY)?
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. Charles Rangel, a fierce opponent of the Iraq war, on Thursday called for a new military draft, saying everyone between 18 and 42 should be asked to share the burden of wartime responsibilities.
That one's hot off the presses, by the way. January 11, 2007.

Democrats: Pathetic on war issues.

The most hopeful sign so far that the Democrats will be serious about militant Islam ...

Not counting Joe Lieberman.

Dec. 29, 2006 - In a highly unusual move, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has rescinded an award to an Islamic activist in her home state because of the man’s connections to a major American Muslim organization that recently has been courted by leading political figures and even the FBI.
CAIR, indeed, has a dicey reputation. If only Boxer's reaction were more symptomatic of the Democratic Party on the whole.

Hat tip to Powerline.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The most underreported story of 2006 drags on into 2007

The Powerline folks have stayed after this one; I continue to agree that it's a potentially huge story that isn't getting the attention it probably deserves.

That is, the resistance within the executive branch of the federal government to the executive office. Agencies such as the CIA have apparently intentionally leaked information damaging to the administration where whistle-blower statutes seem to offer no protection--and they're getting away with it.
In today's New York Sun Josh Gerstein reports on the government's reponse to his Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Justice Department's leak investigations: "Leak probes stymied, FBI memos show." The story is mystifying. As I read it I wondered why no grand jury has been convened and evidence gathered the old-fashioned way.
(Powerline permalink)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The need for American economic imperialism

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit in the title to draw attention. So sue me.

Fall of 2006 was fairly busy for me, so I missed reading some stuff from my top Sith Blogroller, Orson Scott Card.

Card is allegedly a Democrat, but he cites Mark Steyn with some degree of approval in making an argument for the United States as the stabilizing force in the modern world.

Card did a great job of summarizing and adding to my idea of the role the United States plays in the world, along with the role of energy supplies.

Here's a nice cross-section, but read the whole thing.

America has not been imperial -- we have not been stripping other countries. On the contrary, those nations that were able to sustain the internal peace necessary for production, and that have joined the economy presided over by America, have all been able to join in the prosperity as equals.

We don't tax them -- quite the opposite. We have taxed ourselves to pay for the military protection that maintained the safety and perception of safety that allowed the European community and Japan to flourish. Their welfare economies are only possible because they did not have to pay for their own defense at anything like the levels we have paid.

People talk about America's enormous defense budget as if it were a menace to the world. But our enormous defense budget has allowed Japan and Europe -- and Taiwan and South Korea -- to thrive without having to invest much of their gross domestic product in defense.
(The Ornery American)

Happy New Year, with Bucs post-mortem

It's 2007, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are done with the 2006 season--failing to make the playoffs and finishing in the division cellar after winning the division title in 2005.

What happened?
Injuries at key positions happened--positions where the backup couldn't adequately fill the void.

Chris Simms, who was already a bit of question mark since his starting experience was so limited, went down with a ruptured spleen in the third game of the season. Simms' listed backup, Luke McCown, was lost for most of the season with an ACL injury (McCown returned to the roster late in the season but did not play).

Coach Gruden chose rookie Bruce Gradkowski to fill in for Simms, and Gradkowski showed some real flashes of talent ... but that's where other injuries figured in.

The offensive line.

After having a consistent lineup on the offensive line for most of the preseason, the offensive line was juggled from the start as rookie starting right guard Davin Joseph missed several games with a strained knee.
Kenyatta Walker played pretty well early in the season but was lost after just three games to a season-ending knee injury.

That forced the team to start two rookies on the right side of the offensive line, blocking for a rookie quarterback.

This added up to a disastrous season.

Gradkowski struggled throwing the ball accurately downfield, and opposing defenses noticed this.
They stacked up against the run (it worked, by and large), and clamped down on the short passing game.
Gradkowski did not have sufficient field vision to see the open man and get the ball to where it needed to be.

Tim Rattay, who made the roster primarily because of the injury to Luke McCown, showed that he can serve as a capable backup after all. Rattay had the rap for looking terrible on the practice field, but on three NFL weekends he showed that he can take what the defense offers--including the deep ball--and move a West Coast offense. Ending the season, the Bucs put an overtime scare into the Chicago Bears and put a beating on the Cleveland Browns before falling 23-7 to the Seattle Seahawks in a game where the Bucs' offense left 17 points on the field.

I'm not going to sugar-coat the record, since 4-12 is horrible. There's no getting around it.

However, I will advocate hope for Buccaneer fans for next season.

1) The defense isn't as bad as you think it is, especially in the defensive backfield. The pass rush exposed the secondary repeatedly, usually giving quarterbacks all the time they could dream of to find open receivers. The Dallas Cowboys threw at will against the Bucs, allowing them to put quite a Thanksgiving thumping on the pewter pirates. Fix the pass rush and you fix the secondary. Juran Bolden played head and shoulders above what Tim Wansley and Mario Edwards had offered the team a nickel, and he filled in for injured starting cornerback Brian Kelly reasonably well (every defensive back gets burned). The defense finished with the #17 ranking, and that would have been better if the offense hadn't been one of the league leaders in three-and-out. Time of possession has a huge impact on yardage allowed.
The fix: Acquire a solid pass-rushing end and a defensive tackle who can disrupt the pocket 80% as well as Warren Sapp did it in his prime. Do that and the defense is top ten again even with a below-average offense. Ellis Wyms gets a tip of the hat for playing okay once Booger McFarland was traded to the Colts, but he's had injury problems throughout his career and he doesn't do quite enough to start at under tackle. He's a quality backup who has earned some snaps, however.

2) Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Whoever the starter is, he needs to find what the defense is giving up and get the ball where it needs to go.
Tim Rattay has some of that ability. You'd like to see it out of Chris Simms, because Simms has a monster arm. Unfortunately, Simms seems to have a slower release that allows the defenses a better opportunity to defend his passes. Luke McCown drew raves for his play on the practice field, but we haven't seen much because of his knee injury. He has the type of mobility that Gruden loves, and throws the ball pretty well (allegedly). Gradkowski has some good physical tools and great leadership skills, but he simply lacks the experience in reading defenses and then getting the job done at NFL speed. The Bucs need at least two of those guys to be able to read a defense and get the ball to the right spot for this offense to hum. Keeping a third guy based on potential is okay. That was probably the plan for Gradkowski last year.

3) Kick returns. Kick returns for the Bucs did not generate enough positive yardage. Some of that had to do with shuffled personnel, but even if Mark Jones was healthy all year I don't think he's the answer. Philip Buchanon is a more serious threat returning punts, and Torrie Cox has the best knack for finding seam on kickoff returns (though he turned in a bad audition early in the year). Those are the best options now assuming they don't fumble, but adding a truly fearsome return guy would boost starting field position and inflate the points put on board for sure.

Take care of 1-3 and the Bucs make the playoffs next year.

The Bucs pick high in the draft, have the cap space to add some solid veterans (even a star or two, if available), and a favorable schedule for next year. Gotta beat the division opponents, however (0-6 in 2006--Ouch!).