Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Michael Yon's latest report on the Battle for Baqubah

Michael Yon's report offers a fascinating glimpse of the social setting for the Iraq War. Al Qaeda exploits the sectarian divide, and our side tries to minimize the effects.

Yon covers everything from the effort to minimize civilian casualties to the attempt to jump-start civil services--and it's far from dry.

IA soldiers with the Mayor of Baqubah (on the right).

blog it

Before the Battle for Baqubah (Operation Arrowhead Ripper), thousands of refugees had streamed out of Baqubah and the surrounding towns. I’ve heard Iraqis throw around a number of 17,000 IDPs [Internally Displaced Iraqis], although I have no idea how accurate that is, if at all. Two weeks after the start of Arrowhead Ripper, 3-2 SBCT was tracking just over a thousand IDPs, and since I shared a tent with the soldiers who did most of the counting (C-52), I put stock in that number and believe it to be roughly accurate. I saw many of the IDPs with my own eyes.

Some of the fleeing families had kept out of the sun by moving inside Baqubah’s electrical plant. The plant had been captured by C-52, a group of 54 soldiers who have fought all over Iraq. I accompanied C-52 on the night of 19 June.
(read more, from the beginning)

Edwards' foreign policy for one America

Democrat John Edwards said the Bush administration's plan to sell $20 billion worth of weapons to friendly Arab states amounted to a foreign policy of convenience and he will take a tougher stance with Saudi Arabia if elected president.

Edwards said the United States should require the Saudi government to shut down the movement of terrorists across its borders, help stabilize the Iraqi government and participate more seriously in regional security before they are offered weapons.
(San Francisco Examiner, Associated Press)
Hmmm. Edwards wants to unilaterally push other countries around.

Seriously, if Edwards thinks that Iraq is a lost cause then what does he care if Saudi Arabians go to Iraq by the thousands? Does he just want to protect American lives and who cares about the Sunni minority in Iraq? How does that help Saudi Arabia if Edwards is going to make good on his promise to withdraw American troops?

Saudi Arabia is dominated by Sunnis. They have no desire to see an Iraq dominated by Shiites and even less so if Iraq is pulling the strings--and that's almost certainly what will happen if the U.S. leaves Iraq without establishing a unified Iraqi government representing each of the main factions.

So what does Edwards propose? Leave Saudi Arabia with its current armaments as a hostile Shia state cozies up next door? We'll sell them arms after Iran attacks? And they can train with the new equipment on-the-fly?

If the Democrats in Congress weren't intent on losing Iraq, then the arms deals for Saudi Arabia and Egypt wouldn't be so critical. An Iraq aligned against Iran's extremist tendencies provides Saudi Arabia a measure of security.

The threat of a U.S. pullout leading to a sectarian genocide in Iraq accentuates Saudi Arabian insecurity.

It's about that simple.

Maybe somebody should tell them about "evolving standards"?

Iran has sentenced two dissident journalists from its ethnic Kurdish minority for being "enemies of God".

Rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), says Adnan Hassanpour and Hiva Boutimar were sentenced by a court in the eastern city of Marivan.

The two journalists have 20 days to appeal against their sentences, but if their cases are rejected by the Supreme Court the sentence will be carried out.
(BBC News)
It's a miserable time to be a moderate in Iran.

Revolution (as peaceful as possible, preferably) remains one of the better hopes for restraining Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Guantanamo prisoner fights to stay

AN inmate of Guantanamo Bay who spends 22 hours each day in an isolation cell is fighting for the right to stay in the notorious internment camp.
(the Australian)
The poor guy must be addicted to torture.

Ahmed Belbacha fears he will be tortured or killed if the US goes ahead with plans to return him to his native Algeria.

Mr Belbacha, who lived in Britain for three years, has filed an emergency motion at the US Court of Appeals in Washington asking for his transfer out of Guantanamo to be halted.

Oh, nevermind about the torture addiction theory.
The guy is afraid he'll be treated worse in his native country. As his representative put it, "[H]e is really, really scared about what might happen to him in Algeria."

This does suggest a way that the liberals' plans for the war on terror might work. Just make Guantanamo Bay so attractive to radical Muslims that they can't resist going there instead of committing acts of terrorism.

If we can just send enough virgins to that little section of Cuba ...

A bad day for Islamist "miscreants"

MIRANSHAH: Pakistan troops backed by helicopter gunships killed at least 10 miscreants in a five-hour battle in North Waziristan on Tuesday.
(The News)
President Musharraf is keeping the heat on the Talibanesque rebels, but he has run into a complication regarding his attempt to enhance the unity of Pakistan's government.

Musharraf forged an alliance with Pakistan People's Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto in an attempt to solidify his government as it pursues, but Bhutto threw a spanner in the works when she insisted on an early show of good faith by Musharraf: She insisted that he divest himself of his military uniform as long as he acts as president.

Musharraf's position as the head of the military accounts for much of his job security.

Correction: mea culpa on MySpace identity confusion

In an earlier post I drew a connection between Elspeth Reeve and the MySpace account of "a real spicy braudra."

Further investigation appears to show that I was very probably wrong in making that connection, having allowed myself to be misled by a couple of unlikely coincidences.

I'd also probably be out the $20 that I was willing to bet on a line of prose.

Corrections will be made where appropriate.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Reporter John Burns on the proposed timetable for withdrawal

Hugh Hewitt interviewed New York Times reporter John Burns last Friday and broadcast the interview over the first two hours of his radio show tonight.

It was a great interview, with plenty to chew on both good and bad.

Hewitt posted to his blog the same response I would have emphasized:

HH: One of the arguments for those favoring a timeline for withdrawal that’s written in stone is that it will oblige the Iraqi political class to get serious about such things as the oil revenue division. Do you believe that’s an accurate argument?

JB: Well, you would think it would be so, wouldn’t you, that the threat of withdrawal of American troops, and the risk of a slide into catastrophic levels of violence, much higher than we’ve already seen, would impel the Iraqi leadership to move forward. But there’s a conundrum here. There’s a paradox. That’s to say the more that the Democrats in the Congress lead the push for an early withdrawal, the more Iraqi political leaders, particularly the Shiite political leaders, but the Sunnis as well, and the Kurds, are inclined to think that this is going to be settled, eventually, in an outright civil war, in consequence of which they are very, very unlikely or reluctant, at present, to make major concessions. They’re much more inclined to kind of hunker down. So in effect, the threats from Washington about a withdrawal, which we might have hoped would have brought about greater political cooperation in face of the threat that would ensue from that to the entire political establishment here, has had, as best we can gauge it, much more the opposite effect, of an effect that persuading people well, if the Americans are going, there’s absolutely no…and we’re going to have to settle this by a civil war, why should we make concessions on that matter right now?

Find the transcript of the entire interview here.

Thinning the Sith blogroll

After an extended period of inactivity, the Sith blog "Kele's Journey" has shifting to limiting access to invitees.

I can't have a cloistered site on the blogroll, can I?

Kele Cable's blog is coming off the Sith blogroll.

Dispatches from Michael Yon: Miniature UAVs

Go see the latest from independent journalist Michael Yon.


 blog it

Progress in Iraq: bad news for Democrats?

Special to the New York Times, via Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack of the (left-favoring) Brookings Institution:

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and

the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
(New York Times)

This is not the narrative that an ideologically left-tilted mainstream media wants to tell.

War-supporting Republicans and, I hope, Iraqis can take considerable comfort in the fact that left-biased news organizations are typically more interested in telling the truth than they are in pushing their ideological and political agendas. It's just that the agenda sometimes makes it challenging for them to tell the truth effectively.

The bigger conflict, here, is for the Democratic Party, which committed itself to defeat in Iraq. Declaring the surge strategy a "failure" within just a few weeks of the full complement of surge forces deploying is just one of the better examples.

So, how does the Democratic-controlled Congress react to the changing face of the ground situation in Iraq? Do they keep pushing for a vote to start a draw-down of forces prior to General Petraeus' September report?

It's possible. After all, the Democrats moved to signal retreat after receiving reports that the Iraqi government has made little progress despite some significant gains on the "benchmarks" concerning the security situation.

The big factor here, it seems, is the public perception angle. So long as the American people are convinced that things in Iraq are deteriorating, they may forgive Democrats for their retreatist/defeatist stance.

If the public perception changes--look out.

Hat tip to Powerline.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blumner on the high horse

Robyn Blumner had the week off; her editorial did not appear in this week's paper, nor on the St. Petersburg Times' Web site. So, I'm delving into the archives and picking on her July 1 screed on church-state separation.
When President Bush finally leaves office in January 2009, he will leave behind many legacies. One will be a nation stripped of its moral bearings. Where once we did not torture and were a nation of laws, that is no longer true. Bush will also leave us in far reduced international standing and with a disabled military. And he will leave an exhausted treasury with a national debt of many trillions of dollars more than he found it.
(St. Petersburg Times)
Stripped of its moral bearings on the basis of this "torture" issue?

On 60 Minutes, Michael Sheuer, a former CIA analyst who said he helped devise the rendition program during the Clinton presidency, said US authorities did ask officials in the countries to which suspects were taken not to torture them.

"But they don't have the same legal system we have; we know that going into it," Mr Sheuer said. "We ask them not to torture these people, but we aren't there to check on them."

Asked whether the CIA knew people were being tortured and whether this was acceptable, he said: "It's OK with me. Our role was to gather information. My job was to protect American lives."
(Sydney Morning Herald)
Clinton presidency, eh? But we can go back further than that ...

A second document obtained by The Sun, the 1963 KUBARK manual, shows that, at least during the 1960s, agents were free to use coercion during interrogation, provided they obtained approval in advance.

It offers a list of interrogation techniques, including threats, fear, "debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis [use of drugs] and induced regression."
(Baltimore Sun)
Undoubtedly Bush was president in 1963.

This is just the opening of Blumner's column. She allows this mess of disinformation to tumble out before even getting to her subject!

Reduced international standing? According to whom? The standing of the United States will certainly dip if we do not succeed in transforming the Iraq government in a manner that avoids a genocide. Congressional Democrats have taken the point position in trying to ensure that the Iraq mission fails--but certainly that's not what Blumner is talking about. Apparently, Bush reduced America's standing in the world by acting on intelligence data that our allies supported. By disbelieving the CIA and/or continuing to allow Saddam Hussein to jack the system, perhaps Bush could have maintained U.S. standing.

I doubt it. Let Blumner figure out what would have been minus the Bush presidency and make her case from there. I won't be holding my breath on that one.

An exhausted treasury? What is Blumner thinking, if she's thinking at all? It is normal for a nation to have debt, and standard operating procedure for most governments to run a deficit year by year. The current debt is not at all the highest in US history measured as a percentage of the GDP, and the deficit is likewise within historical norms. Blumner's news editorial could pass for a lie-filled election speech.

If we track every Blumner distortion we may be here all day, so let's try to sift out her point. This seems to sum it up:
In additional to all that, Bush will leave us with a system of church-state entanglements on an epic scale. By pouring billions of dollars into religiously affiliated social service providers, Bush will have accomplished precisely what the nation's founders warned against: a process by which people of many faiths and none at all are forced through compulsory taxation to underwrite other people's religious activities.
Blumner takes issue with the "faith-based initiatives" program instituted under the Bush administration, and the above paragraph contains the reason why her point of view is incorrect.

The founders of our nation would be appalled to see the federal government paying for social services, in fact. The original constitution made no particular allowance for social service programs, leaving such duties to the purview of the state governments.
The federal government has certain expressed powers (also called enumerated powers), including the right to levy taxes, declare war, and regulate interstate and foreign commerce. In addition, the so-called elastic clause gives the federal government the implied power to pass any law "necessary and proper" for the execution of its express powers. Powers that the Constitution does not delegate to the federal government or forbid to the states—the reserved powers—are reserved to the people or the states [1]
The Constitution forbade the federal government from establishing a national religion. In fact, the early congress paid a chaplain from federal funds, establishing an enduring tradition.
The constitutionality of the chaplains’ prayers was upheld in 1983 by the Supreme
Court (Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783) on the grounds of precedent and tradition. The Court cited the practice going back to the Continental Congress in 1774 and noted that the custom “is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country” from colonial times and the founding of the republic.
(Congressional Research Service, pdf)
Blumner doctors history in the name of ax-grinding.

As her column progresses, we find her doing the traditional liberal two-step of finding Supreme Court precedent inviolable unless she finds one of the precedents distasteful.
For this unique and historically portentous harm, the court in 1968 granted aggrieved taxpayers the ability to get into court and object.

But the court in 2007 has shut the courthouse door with a slam. The majority made some nonsensical distinction between the 1968 case that involved a congressional appropriation, and the fact that FFRF was seeking to challenge a discretionary expenditure of the executive branch. The four-member dissent accurately summed up the distinction as lacking any basis in "logic or precedent."
Got it? Precedent she likes good (1968), others bad (2007). And that's the whole problem of liberal interpretation of the Constitution. If the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means, then that includes the decisions that Robyn Blumner doesn't like.

The adoption of constructionist interpretation, on the other hand, allows a principled objection to the decisions of the Supreme Court. Yet Blumner would rather not see strict constructionist judges on the court.

Convenient, isn't it?

The courts have long been an implicit arm of political action on the left. Lately, that aspect of the liberal judiciary philosophy has been more explicit, as when Charles Schumer announced that the Democrats would permit no more justices in the mold of Roberts or Alito to be confirmed--apparently regardless of their ABA ratings.

Iraqi team captures Asian Cup

Iraq defied the odds to win the Asian Cup football (soccer) title.
JAKARTA: Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 on Sunday to win their first Asian Cup and provide a fairytale ending to the continental soccer championship.

Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud scored the winner in the 71st minute when he climbed above the defence at the far post and headed a perfectly-weighted corner from Hawar Mulla Mohammed into the net.
(The News)

This may be an important event beyond its importance in the world of sports.

The Iraqi team is made up of the same factions that comprise the nation: Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. Football (soccer) is absolutely huge in Iraq. A victory like this, while nothing like an Olympic gold medal, may have a powerful symbolic effect that may aid the effects of General Petraeus' surge strategy.

Good thing, if it does.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New PM Brown affirms importance of ties with the United States

LONDON: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Saturday gave the surest sign yet there will be no move to distance London from Washington under his watch, even suggesting ties could get stronger.

Ahead of his first meeting as prime minister with George W. Bush, Brown gave no relief to critics in his centre-left Labour Party unhappy at the close ties his predecessor Tony Blair forged with the right-wing Republican president.

"It is in the British national interest that the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship," Brown said in a statement.
(The News)

That's about the first good thing that the new British Prime Minister has done, by my reckoning. Jedi blogrollers EU Referendum have been relentlessly critical of Brown's treatment of the European Union issue.

They certainly keep a closer watch on UK events than I do.

Michael J. Totten in Baghdad

Michael Totten reports on the failure of the surge strategy in Baghdad ...
Only kidding.

“This is not what I expected in Baghdad,” I said.

“Most of what we’re doing doesn’t get reported in the media,” he said. “We’re not fighting a war here anymore, not in this area. We’ve moved way beyond that stage. We built a soccer field for the kids, bought all kinds of equipment, bought them school books and even chalk. Soon we’re installing 1,500 solar street lamps so they have light at night and can take some of the load off the power grid. The media only covers the gruesome stuff. We go to the sheiks and say hey man, what kind of projects do you want in this area? They give us a list and we submit the paperwork. When the projects get approved, we give them the money and help them buy stuff."
(Middle East Journal)
The story is lavishly illustrated with Totten's photography. Read it all.

Totten, like Michael Yon, is an independent journalist. While Yon has focused on Iraq, Totten has moved about the Middle East.

Both men provide a valuable service, and both are supported by the generosity of their readers.

Michael Totten's Paypal tip jar

Update on the Elspeth Reeve MySpace link Updated

In an earlier post, I suggested that I had probably identified Elspeth Reeve's MySpace account, based on the timing and content of some comments posted to Scott Beauchamp's MySpace page near the time the two married.

I still think that "a real spicy braudra" is probably an account used by Elspeth Reeve, but it is apparent that the "mouse" account was intended as her primary MySpace identity.
Jun 11 2007 7:48P

Happy Birthday Elle! Sorry about the lateness, but I hope you have a good one!
Without going into the details, I think that the photo of "a real spicy audra" is a body-painting by an artist named Audra using Elspeth's back as her canvas (or maybe her midriff if she lacks a navel). The nickname ends up being a pun on the artist's name.
This hypothesis is by no means certain. Though Audra is rare as names go, there is an Audra involved in the arts in NYC (in addition to the artist already mentioned, that is), and she also has ties to the city of Atlanta.

clipped from profile.myspace.com

"Squirrels are how God punishes us."


25 years old

Washington DC

United States

Last Login:

View My:
| Videos

blog it

Nobody should consider harassing her via either of these accounts, by the way. There's no evidence that she did anything wrong.

Update: The "a real spicy braudra" MySpace account probably doesn't have anything to do with Elspeth Reeve, despite the coincidences that led me to conclude otherwise.

UN to renovate building at Turtle Bay

STOCKHOLM: A $1 billion, seven-year renovation of the aging United Nations headquarters in New York will start this fall, according to the Swedish construction company that said it had won the bid to manage the project.

The sprawling 39-story glass-and-steel complex, overlooking the East River, has not seen a major overhaul since it was built more than half a century ago and now violates safety and fire codes.
(The News)
One billion dollars, eh? Expect it to eventually cost twice that much.

It's time we reviewed Donald Trump's Senate testimony on the UN's intention to renovate the old building.

And another plug for Eye on the UN.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Filling in some of the history on Scott Thomas Beauchamp

Over the past year Scott Thomas Beauchamp appears to have gone AWOL, as well as dumping a girl to whom he was engaged in favor of the union with Elspeth Reeve of the New Republic.

A member of the jilted girl's family offered an account of Beauchamp that had him shipping out for Iraq in September of 2006, after entering into an engagement relationship with "Priscilla" (as she is called on Beauchamp's MySpace page).

In April, according to this source, Beauchamp was granted two weeks of R&R. He used the time to travel to Germany, without informing his fiancee in spite of their proximity. Beauchamp apparently married Elspeth Reeve during this span of time, and evidently his failure to report for duty on time resulted in his demotion from SP4 to PV2.

Yo Champ, let me know where your at, moon said you should have been back already. well just let me know. later
("majmaj", at the Beauchamp Myspace page, May 16 2007 8:51 a.m.)
Know as little as I do about military rank?

E1. . . PV1 PVT. . . . . . Private
E2. . . PV2 PVT. . . . . . Private
E3. . . PFC . . . . . . . . Private First Class
E4. . . CPL SP4. . . . . . Corporal / Specialist Four
E5. . . SGT SP5. . . . . . Sergeant / Specialist Five

Fleshing out the Beauchamp-Reeve marriage hypothesis

My original post on the Beauchamp-Reeve marriage hypothesis was a bit lacking in detail in support of certain details. That was because I was posting late at night and mainly just wanted to publish the apparent connection between "a real spicy braudra" and Elspeth Reeve--a connection that hadn't been made in the reporting up through that time, from what I can tell. [Update: it turns out that a connection isn't likely after all]

Ace of Spades is still uncertain about the time-line, but he can be more confident in his reconstruction than he thought.
I'm not going to document each of these points, since the marriage has already been confirmed.

  • Ace noted the existence of a registry, anticipating an October wedding
  • Ace noted the connection between the two at a Missouri college
  • Beachamp's blogging contains a report of his marriage (apparently in Germany)
  • "a real spicy braudra" posts to Beauchamp's blog, expressing love and longing

Other comments indicate anger at Beauchamp, referring to him as an "asshole," for instance.
I considered that the complaints might have indicated anger at the early wedding; one post talked about how lousy of Beauchamp it was to do something during graduation week [actually before finals--BW].

All of the anger, however, seems to stem from one group of ladies.

And all of them seem to be in Germany.

So, I'm not sure what to make of it, but one possibility is that Beauchamp romanced "Priscilla" while he was away from Elspeth. Then he married Elspeth, with the result that Priscilla's family got torqued. Yeah, just guessing.

Mrs. Scott Beauchamp? Update: Hypothesis confirmed (Updated x3)

Various blogs have made the connection between Scott Thomas Beauchamp and Elspeth Reeve--the latter an employee of The New Republic.

Reeve is from Atlanta.
Reeve, BJ '05, earned degrees in magazine journalism and political science. From Atlanta, Ga., she received a certificate of merit for her article, "Behind the Bars." The article, which was printed in Vox, was part of a four-article series and examined the criminal justice system in the United States. Vox is an award-winning weekly city magazine that appears in the Missourian.

Upon graduation, Reeve interned at Time magazine and now works for the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C.

(Missouri School of Journalism)

And that helped put some context to some of Beauchamp's Myspace comments:

clipped from profile.myspace.com

Apr 3 2007 11:04A

what i wouldn't give for a long walk/talk around chimney springs.

i love you

i miss you

blog it

Where's Chimney Springs?

Southwest of Atlanta.

Chimney Springs was the fastest growing community in Atlanta from 1976 through the early 1980's.
(Chimney Springs Homeowners Association)
It seems that Beauchamp married Reeve earlier than they had planned (in Germany?). Braudra dropped a number of additional clues, by the way, indicating intimacy with Beauchamp.

Mar 23 2007 2:51P

too much space between.

how is life unfolding?

i miss you and i want to know everything.
TNR offices compared to Germany?

Mar 13 2007 10:57A

i miss you.
There are a few interesting comments from ARSB in various MySpace locations.

Anyhoo, the connection between Reeve and Beauchamp does appear to explain TNR's choice of Scott Thomas as their intrepid war correspondent.
Now let's see if his stories check out or not.

Update: Oh, and I'd bet $20 that the quotation used by "a real spicy braudra"

"stuffing her shadow in her mouth as she goes"

was written by Scott Beauchamp.

Update: Confirmation,
via Howard Kurtz (hat tip to Dean Barnett posting at HughHewitt.townhall.com):

The magazine's editor, Franklin Foer, disclosed in an interview that Beauchamp is married to a New Republic staffer, and that is "part of the reason why we found him to be a credible writer." Foer also said Beauchamp "has put himself in significant jeopardy" and "lost his lifeline to the rest of the world" because military officials have taken away his laptop, cellphone and e-mail privileges.

(the Washington Post)

Update II, Correction: Whether because of a faulty map or a temporary inability to properly read a map, Chimney Springs is northwestern suburb of Atlanta rather than to the city's southwest as I had earlier reported.

Update III: Correction: Though the reasoning that led to the conclusion that "a real spicy braudra" was Elspeth Reeve was reasonable, it seems safe to conclude that it was wrong. That MySpace identity appears to belong to a different friend of Scott Beauchamp who, like E. Reeve, was from Atlanta and living in the Northeastern United States.

THE Scott Beauchamp?

Found a bicycle racing team discussion board talking about Scott Beauchamp's auto accident and subsequent recovery.

Part of the explanation for the difficulties that prompted his enlistment (other than pursuing the Muse)?
Or is the Missouri location (Columbia) a coincidence?

Update: Coincidence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

US, Pakistan struggle to reach accord regarding N. Waziristan military action

ISLAMABAD: With little or no ground intelligence and complete lack of state-of-the-art surveillance devices, Pakistan finds itself in a difficult situation and is left with no choice but to rely on intelligence provided to it by the United States in North Waziristan and other sensitive areas within its borders.

Also, there is a growing pressure from Washington on Pakistan that it has to contain ‘emboldened Islamic extremists’, which in the worst-case scenario would lead to another attack on the US homeland.
(The News, Mariana Baabar)
Baabar (not Babar) provides an interesting take, and sticks with a writing approach that doesn't wander too far from the U.S. style of "objective" journalism.

The situation does seem best explained by conventional wisdom. Musharraf's government arose as a military dictatorship, and the president has moved toward significant democratic reforms--but the population of Pakistan contains quite a bit of sympathy for Islamic extremism. Indeed, Musharraf's government was about as tight with the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan as anybody.

In short, the grip of the sane on power in Pakistan isn't as firm as could be hoped.

Given the vulnerability of the government, Musharraf is caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows that he's at risk of being ousted by factions within his own country, and he fears that cooperating too deeply with the United States will ramp up the efforts to push him out of power. But I don't think his only concern is being pushed out of power.

I do think that Musharraf has the good of Pakistan in view. He knows that if radical factions gain control of the country it will fall into alignment against the West, and increase the chances that Pakistan will be pulled into a devastating war, or at least into an unpleasant imposition of economic sanctions.

With the long-term conflict with India still simmering, Pakistan call ill afford to cast aside potential friends.

Obama stumbles again

Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt (radio) Show and blog points to more evidence supporting my observation that Barack Obama appears to reveal his inexperience more with practically every opening of his mouth.
It has not been a good week for Barack Obama. The first term Senator of Illinois and chief thorn in the side of Hillary Clinton on her ascendance to the presidency tripped on a YouTube question in the Democratic debate a couple of nights ago by declaring that no dictator is above meeting with, regardless of the situation, raising the eyebrows of even some of the Beltway punditry. He tripped again today.

Obama found himself in the usually mundane role of Senate chair this afternoon while the Republicans used procedure to tie the Democrats in knots once again. And when put in the position to make a ruling, he gave the Democrats a short-term win, but a long-term loss on the immigration debate. He very well have given critics of his presidential campaign more fodder.
Obama settled an issue in the Senate by ruling from the chair that funding for border security could not "conceivably" be germane to homeland security.

Not presidential.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dems, Congress take next step in executive privilege showdown

July 25 (Bloomberg) -- A House panel cited President George W. Bush's top aide and former counsel for contempt of Congress over their refusal to cooperate with an investigation of the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys. The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee, on a 22-17 party-line vote, approved citations against Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, and former counsel Harriet Miers. Bolten refused to turn over documents related to the dismissals, and Miers disobeyed a subpoena to appear before the panel and answer questions about her role in the firings.

I can see the St. Petersburg Times' editorialist Robyn Blumner weighing in on this one within two weeks.

John Yoo comments succinctly in the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Clinton's personal recklessness undermined executive privilege for all future presidents. At worst, today's flap might ultimately show some lax management, or partisanship, but the hiring or firing of U.S. attorneys for any or no reason is squarely within a president's constitutional prerogative. Mr. Clinton's groundless claims of privilege don't invalidate assertions of executive privilege for all time. Pundits who imply otherwise are just blowing partisan smoke.
(Wall Street Journal)
Yoo correctly points out that Clinton invoked executive privilege in the case of a liability claim by Paula Jones. There is no wrongdoing that is being investigated, here. It is a fishing expedition hoping to find wrongdoing.

I had hoped to offer a counterpoint argument from Duke Law School, but their .pdf URLs were broken.

Let's just survey the news, then.
President Bush may have strong legal grounds for refusing congressional subpoenas, but the political price for asserting his executive privilege will be high, say lawyers who have worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents.
(The Washington Times)
The Washington Times tends conservative, but it seems like a good point so let's at least keep it in mind.
In theory, President Bush is sworn to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. In reality, he has treated federal law as a menu from which he picks and chooses those laws he likes, while ignoring those that do not suit his taste. That royalist attitude may soon inspire a constitutional confrontation unrivaled in U.S. history.
(the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Uh, yes, that was an editorial, not a news story.
Blumner's probaby jealous that Jay Bookman got his in print before she did. Odds are that she also makes a reference to royalty.

Did Bookman bother to wonder why Congress is issuing subpoenas in the apparent absence of a crime?
Does he offer any reason why this claim of executive privilege isn't as principled as any?

Apparently the royal commands of Congress supply the rationale.
In itself, that conflict is hardly unusual; it continues a traditional contest of wills between presidents and Congress that goes back to the earliest days of the Republic. The conflict is so standard that federal law lays out a clear process for resolving it. If witnesses refuse to honor congressional subpoenas and are found in contempt, the matter is referred to the U.S. attorney from Washington, D.C., "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."
Bookman appears to be making things up, here. The federal law in question was not composed to address conflicts between the executive and legislative branches on executive privilege, but to permit Congress the power to legislate effectively.
c) No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of Congress. P. 187.

(g) A congressional investigation into individual affairs is invalid if unrelated to any legislative purpose, because it is beyond the powers conferred upon Congress by the Constitution. Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168. P. 198.
(Watkins v. United States)
That means no fishing expeditions.

I can't wait for the Blumner version of this story.

Danes pare down forces in Iraq

COPENHAGEN: Denmark has withdrawn most of the 430 troops it has stationed in Iraq earlier than expected, a report said Wednesday quoting the Danish military.

The battalion, stationed in the southern city of Basra since 2003, under British command, was supposed to begin pulling out its soldiers on August 10.
(The News)

How significant is this move?

Not much, though the coalition effort in Basra is probably due to suffer a bit extra as the U.K. continues to implement a pull-down of its involvement in the Iraq coalition.

We heard quite a bit of criticism of our methods from the Brits--some of it apparently well-founded--but the British have had enduring difficulties in Basra, which should have been one of the easier regions to police aside from its proximity to neighboring Iran.

Regarding the nation as a whole, pacifying Baghdad is far more important. Basra may serve as tempting eye-candy for the Iranians, but Iraq can be stabilized successfully from the inside out. Basra is out.

The move may serve as a rallying point for peacenicks who think that the U.S. should take its cues from whatever European country is doing something the peacenicks like at the moment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A little background on Abdullah Mehsud

In the post linking to the story on the grenade suicide of Abdullah Mehsud, I wondered about his past, and what accounted for his role in terrorist operations in Pakistan. Pakistan's The News published a bio story.
He surrendered along with several thousand Taliban fighters to the forces of Uzbek warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum, in December 2001 in the northern Kunduz province following the US invasion of Afghanistan. Despite his promise to the Taliban commanders not to deliver them to the US, Dostum handed several of them to the American military authorities. Abdullah Mahsud too was turned over to the Americans, who subsequently transferred him to the specially-built US prison at the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

He was released in March 2004 after spending 25 months at Guantanamo Bay. Until then, he wasn[']t well-known even in his native South Waziristan. But the stint in an American jail and his artificial leg soon made him a household name in the area. His long hair and daredevil nature made him a colourful and interesting character. Stories were told as to how Abdullah Mahsud rides a camel or horse to visit his fighters in his mountainous abode. He started making speeches in mosques and madrassas preaching Jihad and exhorting the young people to fight against the US and its allies.
(The News)
I don't know the source of author Rahimullah Yusufzai's statement that Mehsud served with Taliban forces, or the account of his capture. If true, it suggests that Mehsud was properly designated as an unlawful enemy combatant if he wasn't fighting in a Taliban uniform. His release from Gitmo after 25 months played a part leading to the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers and the five deaths that occurred during a subsequent rescue attempt.

"Miscreants" keep up terror strikes in Pakistan

Pakistan's conflict with radical Islamist factions keeps heating up.

How long before the US Congress calls for Pakistan to withdraw its troops?
clipped from www.thenews.com.pk

BANU: Bannu City came under rocket attacks by unidentified miscreants; the total casualties so far are being said to be 50.
blog it

Gitmo grad gets his via grenade

How many innocents died because we released this guy?

Hopefully it was one of those deals where we transferred custody to his home country--so it's their fault. But I wouldn't bank on it.

On the other hand, certain liberals might argue that he would never have served the Taliban if we hadn't imprisoned him first ...
clipped from www.abcnews.go.com
Abdullah Mehsud
Abdullah Mehsud, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, talks to the media as his bodyguard stand guard near Chagmalai in South Waziristan along the Afghan border in this Oct 14, 2004 file photo. Mehsud, who led pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan after his release, died on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 when he blew himself up with a grenade to avoid arrest. Armed intelligence agents cornered Mehsud and three other men at the house of a leader of an Islamist political party in the southwestern town of Zhob, police officials said. (M. Sajjad/AP Photo)

Jul 24, 2007
 blog it

Parody of Joe Wilson's "What I Didn't Find in Africa"

I ran across this while researching my previous blog entry.
Fairly entertaining, but I half wish it reflected Wilson's intent to damage the administration with the tacit approval of the CIA instead of the Plame investigation that eventually resulted.
What I Didn’t Find in Africa a Bogus Investigation

What I Didn’t Find in Africa a Bogus Investigation

Did the Bush administration I manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs facts about my wife being outed to justify an invasion of Iraq a bogus investigation of a President’s administration?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war bogus investigation, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence all of my claims related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program my trip to Niger and my wife’s alleged outing as payback was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat lie.

blog it

There's plenty more to it. If you think the above is amusing, click the link reading texasrainmaker.com.

CIA sticking it to the administration, 2004

Because I think it's an important story, and because I see no shame in latching onto Powerline's coattails in order to update the reporting, here's more on the bureaucratic war within the executive branch of the US government:
Pillar's "management team" at the CIA, where he was employed as the national intelligence officer on the Near East/South Asia desk, approved the appearance. According to Novak, the ground rules for the speech were based on the "Lindley Rule," which holds that the speaker, his audience and the event are not to be disclosed, "but the substance of what he said can be reported." That substance, apparently, was a harsh assessment of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq.

Think about that: A senior, unelected CIA official--Paul Pillar--was given agency approval to anonymously attack Bush administration policies less than two months before the November 2, 2004, presidential election. That Pillar was among the most strident of these frequent critics--usually in off-the-record speeches to gatherings of foreign policy experts and business leaders--was well known to his colleagues in the intelligence community and to Bush administration policymakers. His was not an isolated case; CIA officials routinely trashed Bush administration policy decisions, often with official approval, in the months leading up to the Iraq War and again before the election. Pillar, who had complained to a CIA spokesman that someone had violated the ground rules by providing his name to Novak, simply got caught.

(Daily Standard)

So, the CIA set up background press conferences ("not for attribution"stuff) so that CIA officers could criticize the policies of their bosses in the Bush administration. That is a jaw-dropper of a story, but I haven't seen the mainstream media pick up on it at all. Even though they were no doubt present at the press conferences where it was being done.

Or most of them (except for the one who identified Paul Pillar's role) thought that secret was worth keeping.

To make the link to the most obvious parallell, Joe Wilson wrote his now-infamous New York Times op-ed piece, "What I didn't Find in Africa," with the permission of the CIA. You can't ordinarily just go on a clandestine CIA mission and later write a public story about it because you feel like it.

The CIA has issued an official statement regarding Rowan Scarborough's book about the bureaucratic war ("Sabotage").
Powerline sees it as a classic non-denial denial.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blumner goes to work with the pom-poms

Lame St. Petersburg Times editorial of the week goes to ... Robyn Blumner (again).

Blumner has accepted the fanciful notion--popular among progressives--that they lose elections because they don't communicate their (popular) policies effectively enough. Those rat-fink Republicans use a more effective appeal to emotion, placing those bursting-at-the-cerebrum Democrats at an unfair disadvantage.
In election after election, Democrats have been appealing to the dispassionate, rational, fact-sensitive voter. A being, apparently, who doesn't exist.
(St. Petersburg Times)
Well, black voters are apparently dispassionate, rational, and fact-sensitive. They turn out for the Democrats in droves.

blog it
But let's get back to Blumner's cheerleading.

Blumner has occasion to trot out this traditional Democrat story. Blumner says professor Drew Westen of Emory University has written a book explaining it all: "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotions in Deciding the Fate of the Nation."

Let's go, Democrats, let's go!
Let's go, Democrats, let's go!

Westen says bringing more passion into politics requires the use of storytelling narratives and other emotional cues that powerfully engage those circuits of the brain that recruit and reinforce beliefs.

Democrats keep losing presidential campaigns, not because the issues they stand for are unappealing, but because they tend to structure their campaigns to engage the brain's reasoning centers. And that just doesn't cut the synaptic mustard.

The results speak for themselves. In most polls Americans are demonstrably more supportive of the Democratic agenda, yet somehow Republicans keep winning.

"[T]here are two Americas ..."

"Now, I think that it's very important to understand that cutting benefits under Social Security means that people like Winifred Skinner from Des Moines, Iowa, who's here, would really have a much harder time."

The Bush Administration's economic policies are a mixed bag of sound tax and monetary policies offset by poor spending discipline and inconsistency on free trade. But there's nothing mixed about John Kerry's campaign criticisms: They're politically motivated economic myths.

Apparently the Democrats don't always appeal to reason.

The poll Blumner cites almost certainly is the modern poll-as-editorial technique. If Blumner had bothered to identify a poll, I'd take the time to debunk it.

Blumner's argument is yesterday's baloney--except the Westen angle. What has the Emory psychology professor got, exactly?
The evidence is overwhelming that three things determine how people vote, in this order: their feelings toward the parties and their principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven't decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates' policy positions.
(front flap, The Political Brain)
In the case of each of the three factors, the flap phrases it as "their feelings toward"--but isn't it possible that feeling toward something are influenced, perhaps predominantly, by reason?
Check the back cover of the book for clues as to the political party of the target audience.
Or just check the Westen section of the Huffington Post.

Westen's ideas are the natural companion of George Lakoff's. Don't buy any of it. There are two primary reasons for the current Democratic shift in politics (maybe three now that the Dems are painting themselves as the party that will do something effective to stop global warming):
1) Stalled progress in the Iraq War (a good outcome already in the books would otherwise defuse the Dems' bogus accusations against Bush).
2) Immigration. Mexican immigrants (legal and otherwise) tend to be politically liberal. That accounts at least in part for the stance of Democrats on illegal immigration.

One more quotation from the cheerleader:
Democrats have unilaterally disarmed like this by insisting on taking the high road and focusing on policy, fact and expertise, while Republicans willingly use unconscious emotional cues such as race baiting (Willie Horton, states' rights, etc.) to win by any means.
Does anybody really believe that?

I guess showing a picture of Willie Horton, a man who committed serious crimes while out of prison on furlough program under Governor Dukakis, equates with race baiting. The fact that the ad was true is irrelevant, I suppose.

Digging into that issue a bit, the ad featuring Willie Horton was not a Bush Campaign ad. The Bush Campaign ad ("Revolving Door") on the furlough program featured a number of prisoners, mostly white (George H. W. Bush did mention Horton by name in speeches--I doubt he bothered to identify his race).
Compare the Hubert Humphrey "Bomb" ad to confirm Democrats' ability to convey an emotional message (the Johnson "Daisy" ad is pretty famous, too).
And if you want to see Blumner's so-called "race-baiting" ad, go here.

What do we want?
White House!
Go, team, go!

Yanks wreak revenge, take last 3 of 4-game series

Ack! Just when I was in gloat mode over the Rays' fine 14-4 walloping of the Yanks in the series opener, the Yankees stormed back to take three straight in dominating fashion, 7-3, 17-5, and (ouch!) 21-4.

I was going to write something about how starting out with a 10-run win made it seem like one of those series where you might want to use some of those runs in one of the other games, but when you lose games by 12 and 17 runs, 10 runs isn't much good. Probably the Yankees are wishing they could apply a few of those 21 to the first game.

The Rays were out of the three games primarily because of pitching. Tampa Bay had more hits than New York in the second game, but a bad inning by reliever Jae Kuk Ryu (1.2 innings, 4 hits, 5 earned runs) gave the Yankees the win when combined with missed offensive opportunities (24 runners left on base compared to 12 for New York).

In the final two games, the Yankees' offense was just too much for the Rays' pitching. Starter J. P. Howell improved modestly on his previous start--a first-inning exit against Boston--as he allowed 7 runs on 10 hits in just 4 innings of work. Building confidence with that type of improvement can be a drawn-out process.

In the finale, Rays' ace James Shields came out flat. When Shields is on, he throws first-pitch strikes. Shields walked the first batter and was never able to regroup.

A tip of the hat to the hated Yankees. Raspberry to follow.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The tea leaves of scholarship

I wonder about the experts, sometimes.

I just stumbled across a Guardian column by Karen Armstrong, titled "An inability to tolerate Islam contradicts Western values."

Armstrong, according to Wikipedia, is a former nun and is now considered a religious scholar, anointed enough to participate in the Jesus Seminar experiment in truth by voting.

It's normal for editors to add the title to a column; after getting halfway through I suspected that maybe the editor had missed the point. Turns out, as revealed by the ninth paragraph, that Armstrong was referring to the objection Brits raised to the construction of a mosque in east London. To Armstrong, that constituted a repudiation of traditional Western values. The objections to the mosque, wrote Armstrong, sent a "grim message" to Muslims. Apparently the type of "grim message" that will exacerbate terrorism.
Gallup found there was as yet no blind hatred of the west in Muslim countries; only 8% of respondents condoned the 9/11 atrocities. But this could change if the extremists persuade the young that the west is bent on the destruction of their religion. When Gallup asked what the west could do to improve relations, most Muslims replied unhesitatingly that western countries must show greater respect for Islam, placing this ahead of economic aid and non-interference in their domestic affairs. Our inability to tolerate Islam not only contradicts our western values; it could also become a major security risk.
(the Guardian)
I'd like to respectfully disagree with Armstrong's analysis, except that the craziness of it bids me to offer it scant respect.

First, 8% of respondents condoning the 9/11 attacks is not "no blind hatred of the West." It's almost one out of 10 with some indication of blind hatred for the West. If one in ten Worshipers of the Almighty Pop-Up Toaster support barbaric acts of terrorism, you're right to be concerned if they want to put a Toasty Tabernacle in your neighborhood--with one caveat. If the WAPUTs in your town repudiate acts of terrorism and actively work to mend the damage that the extremists are wreaking on their reputation, then you'd be intolerant not to welcome them in your neighborhood.

Armstrong appears to buy into the notion that the poll result accurately reflects one of the principal root causes of terrorism--lack of respect for Islam. But the events of the past two weeks appear to undermine that thesis.

In Pakistan, as I've been noting in a series of posts, extremist Muslims were using a major mosque as a base of operations. When the nominally secular government (listed as a federal republic in the CIA World Fact Book) quashed the movement in the Red Mosque, extremist Muslim populations in the north of Pakistan began mounting suicide bombing attacks against their fellow Muslims. And that, unfortunately, is just the corner of the hole in Armstrong's thesis. Conflict between differing Islamic sects has been a dominant aspect of Islamic culture since the Sunni-Shia divide. And in Pakistan it's largely Sunni versus Sunni, though the radicals will abduct and kill Christians readily enough, as has apparently been the case with about 20 South Koreans in Pakistan this past week.

Would Armstrong have us believe that Muslims do not respect Islam?

As if Islam's own history of violence involving Muslim against Muslim weren't enough, there's another expansive genie that isn't going to get stuffed back into the bottle very easily: Cultural imperialism.

The West exports its culture. And we do a very good job of it. As it happens, the culture that we export is largely appalling to the Islamic mind. Let's face it: in a culture where women are expected to cover their bodies in an all-encompassing burka, even the 1970s version of "Charlie's Angels" is pretty shocking. Radical Islamists realize that open trade results in a type of war on their way of life. It is for that reason that Islamic leaders wish to restrict cultural interaction with the West, and part of the reason why radical Islamists want to bring the West down in smoking ruin.

The former we can work with, and most of us can respect it. The latter is a big problem.

Muslims who want respect for their religion will see the problem in their midst and do something about it. Those who tacitly approve do much to justify anti-Islamic skepticism.

About the Gallup poll cited by Armstrong

It's usually smart to put polls in their context. It helps in figuring out what the numbers mean (and what they don't).

The National Council on Public Polls listed four caveats with the Gallup poll (and the media coverage given the poll).
News stories based on the Gallup poll reported results in the aggregate without regard to the population of the countries they represent. Kuwait, with less than 2 million Muslims, was treated the same as Indonesia, which has over 200 million Muslims. The "aggregate" quoted in the media was actually the average for the countries surveyed regardless of the size of their populations.
(read the other three)
In other words, the results were not weighted in order to give a more accurate picture.
The NCPP also noted that Gallup did not randomize its poll in terms of choosing the countries in which the poll was conducted, and the survey did not exclude Muslims from answering the questions. Beyond that, the organization warned about additional problems stemming from the manner in which the media may have handled the data when presenting it to the general public.

In short, that 8 percent figure doesn't mean much. It could be much higher (or lower, FTM) worldwide.
The problem would be particularly worrisome if there were big differences in the results across the nine countries. And there were, at least on some key questions. For example, 36 percent of those interviewed in Kuwait said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were morally justifiable, compared to only 4 percent in Indonesia.
(the Washington Post)

Note: Armstrong may have referred to more than one Gallup poll in her column, but the recent poll was particular to U.K. Muslims, while any information extrapolated to apply to Islam generally was much more likely to have come from a 2002 Gallup poll. In the latter, there was a question regarding the justification of the 9/11 attacks. It isn't clear that any similar question occurred in the U.K. poll.

Barack Obama: Knucklehead?

The more he's forced to open his mouth on the campaign trail--taking positions on things instead of relying on a blank slate of a track record and his rock-star charisma, the less presidential Barack Obama appears.
SUNAPEE, N.H. - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.


What a dingbat.

Senator Obama, there is no Talibanesque power poised to seize control in the Congo, and the Congo isn't a convenient stepping-stone to increased power for a belligerent nation like Iran.

If you don't understand that, you're not presidential material.

Obama has also been in the news illegitimately criticizing the President Bush's understanding of civilian oversight of the military. During that speech, he acknowledged that U.S. troops would need to remain in Iraq for quite some time.

Apparently, Obama doesn't really have much problem leaving U.S. troops in the midst of a civil war, eh? He'd rather have fewer U.S. troops there at the risk of greater sectarian strife (civil war) than put in more U.S. troops to prevent the sectarian strife (civil war).

Does that make sense?

ID check for voting--why not?

I looked at a blog post by Michelle Malkin today, referring to a party-line vote on a voter ID law.

Malkin posted the vote breakdown, and not a single Democrat voted in favor of requiring a voter ID. I surmised there must be some principled (or supposedly principled) objection to such a law.

So what is it? I think this piece in Slate (by Richard L. Hasen) probably sums it up:
Republicans defend voter-identification laws as necessary to combat voter fraud. But Democrats and civil rights organizations see these laws as a way of gaining partisan advantage—because it's the poor who will have a more difficult time securing voter identification. Poor people tend to drive less (meaning they won't have a driver's license, which is the most common form of ID), and they may not have the money to secure certified copies of documents, such as the birth certificates necessary to obtain a state-issued voter identification. The poor also happen to be more likely to vote Democratic.
There's at least a kernel of a reasonable argument, there. Requiring voter ID might cause some potentially legitimate voters some difficulty in casting their votes. And it is reasonable to weigh the potential benefits of the law against that potential drawback.
The Slate story takes a stab at doing just that.
More important, it's not clear what the nonpartisan object of this exercise would be. Beyond a few isolated instances and anecdotes, there is precious little evidence of the kind of voter fraud a state voter ID card requirement would deter. I am aware of no studies finding evidence of any kind of systematic or serious problems with voters casting ballots in someone else's name, or with voters registering and actually voting using fictitious names. There is a great deal of registration fraud—such as when "Mickey Mouse" registers to vote. That problem is an artifact of paying bounty hunters to collect completed registration forms; some of those mercenaries will falsify information on registration forms. But, invariably, Mickey declines to vote on Election Day, so where is the fraud?
Should we accept the notion that registration fraud is limited to voter registration mercenaries?
At least eight people who died well before the November general election were credited with voting in King County, raising new questions about the integrity of the vote total in the narrow governor's race, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer review has found.
In principle, couldn't I register as three or four recently dead people near voting district, and then vote for each of them? How much would I have to know in order to fake a registration form? Here's what California currently requires.
6. ID Number When you register
to vote, you must provide your California driver’s license or California
identification card number, if you have one. If you do not have a driver’s license or ID card, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not include this information, you will be required to provide identification
when you vote.
Unfortunately, there are ways to obtain a full Social Security number, which inevitably includes the last four digits. Even more unfortunately, it's not difficult (forgive me if I don't explain how to do it).

So, unless I'm missing something, it should be pretty easy to perpetrate voter fraud by this method, if not others.

As it happens, a number of states have attempted to institute voter ID laws, and have had them struck down as discriminatory (apparently following the principle in the Slate piece that notes that poor folks might have more trouble securing identification).

The objection holds that the state has not justified the law by demonstrating a pattern of voter fraud that the measure would address. But how do you obtain evidence of this type of fraud, and do you really need more than the repeated examples of dead people voting?

It seems that the objection is a non-starter. An obvious loophole justifies correction regardless of any established pattern of abuse. Leaving the loophole in place cannot help but discourage confidence in the legitimacy of our voting systems--even more so than potentially discouraging poor people from voting because they could not afford to obtain identification.

The proposed state law in Georgia, I'll add, was amended to subsidize the costs of identification for poor people. It remains to be seen whether or not the courts will find that the mere requirement that would-be voters take one step beyond registering to vote discourages voting to the point that the law is unconstitutional.

I do have a proposal that might help. Take a thumb-print with every vote that is cast without an ID. The thumb print goes on the registration list and not the vote, so the vote remains anonymous. The thumb print provides a potential assurance that the same voter isn't voting in multiple locations. Not only that, it serves as evidence once a suspect is found.
It's common practice in banks, and shouldn't be expensive to implement. Lawmakers can then decide how to best use the system to prevent or punish voter fraud.

Identification requirements on the Federal form, which may be used in any state:
Federal law requires that states collect from each registrant
an identification number. You must refer to your state's specific instructions for item 6 regarding information
on what number is acceptable for your state. If you have neither a drivers license nor a social security number,
please indicate this on the form and a number will be assigned to you by your state.
Here's the relevant portion of the form used in Michigan:
ID Number check applicable box and provide appropriate number

I have a state issued driver license or personal ID card #

I do not have a state issued driver license or personal ID card. The last four digits of my Social Security Number are

I do not have a state issued driver license, a state issued personal ID card or a Social Security Number.
An ID number will be assigned to you for voter registration purposes.
The Michigan form makes it appear that it is possible to register to vote without having a Social Security number. I'd been under the impression that all U.S. citizens of voting age had assigned Social Security numbers. Evidently that isn't the case.