Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shock and Awe and Then What?

With a friend still serving in the Middle East, I cannot forget about Iraq, even if it no longer tops the lead stories in the news. From Friday's Financial-Times:

The US administration has quietly reversed its goal from whittling down troop numbers in Iraq. A Pentagon spokesman on Friday confirmed that US troop levels in Iraq rose to 132,000 during the past week – the highest since late May – from 127,000 at the start of the week.

However, analysts said an increase in troop numbers was more likely than a reduction because the number of sectarian killings in Iraq had almost doubled since the start of the year. The rise will prompt fears that the US is becoming increasingly bogged down in an unwinnable conflict. There were 3,169 Iraqis killed in June, compared with 1,778 in January.

However, US officials deny that the new campaign to stabilise Baghdad undermines Mr Bush’s promise that “as the Iraqis stand up we will stand down” – a phrase he has almost stopped using. In a departure from Mr Bush’s normally upbeat language, he this week said the violence in Baghdad was “terrible”.

Although the violence has shifted from an anti-US insurgency to a sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia groups, Iraq experts fear Shia militias will see US troops as an easy target. There are also concerns that the combined US-Iraqi force of 75,000 will be insufficient to regain control of Baghdad.


Ok. Now we're back to increasing troop levels. It's odd how the administration is very vocal when it talks about reducing the number of troops serving in Iraq. But when more troops are sent to Iraq, there's hardly a word and it's done when other stories occupy the headlines.

I just don't have it in me to rail today against the continually awful planning of this war by Bush, Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld. Sadly, I think history will tell that story well by itself. "Shock and awe" may not be the way to win a war or a peace, afterall. Israel may be learning that lesson these days too. And, Georgie Boy, I'm still waiting for those Iraqis to stand up. Oh yeah, I forgot. They did stand up....for Hezbollah.


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Thursday, July 27, 2006

That Radical Bolton

Only recently has Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) come around from his inexplicable opposition to the confirmation of John R. Bolton as the United States' ambassador to the United Nations.

Some of you may recall that Voinovich spent the early months of 2005 lambasting Bolton, with said lambasting being the primary obstacle to his confirmation to the above post. Bolton's only crime, mind you, was that he was not part of the tea-and-crumpet, pro-socialism crowd that dominates at the State Department. Bolton had (and has) the audacity to favor the promotion of democratic reform, the protection of nations' sovereignty, a general hostility to terrorism and pro-terrorist regimes worldwide, and proposals for reform of a blatantly corrupt United Nations (which is best symbolized by its corrupt secretary general, Kofi Annan).

While I am thrilled that Voinovich has finally come around, and I anticipate that this shift will ultimately lead to Bolton's confirmation, I continue to be amused by Democrats who think Bolton is dangerous.

Dangerous? Please.

I ask you out there, those of you who find Bolton to be troubling, for whatever reason: what specific reason(s) can you give that demonstrate him to be a poor choice to represent the United States in the United Nations?

(Ground rules: (a) you have until 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; (b) your answers must be germane -- no Deuce-like non sequiturs; and (c) anyone who lapses into a discussion of either (i) how Bush stole the election, (ii) how Bush is evil, or (iii) neo-conservatism generally is automatically disqualified. My challenge, my rules.)


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Food for Thought

While I rarely agree with the politics of the various contributors over at NRO’s The Corner, I nevertheless find myself intrigued by a couple of statements posted over there in the last couple of days.

The first, by Ramesh Ponnuru, regards the use of the term “murder” in the stem-cell and abortion context. Ramesh states that the term “murder” in these contexts is incorrect because “it is a legal concept with technical definitions, and these are not uniform across jurisdictions.” Very true, though not in and of itself convincing, however, his second point, that “murder” even when simply used in a non-legal “ordinary parlance,” “connotes a malicious homicide” and “[e]ven those of us who oppose certain forms of stem-cell research because they involve what we regard as the unjust taking of human life do not believe these unjust acts to be malicious in motivation. (For the same reason, I think it a mistake to describe abortion as ‘murder.’).”

I think this is absolutely true as a matter of both law and language, but as to the political rhetoric, I think it only holds true for reasonable scholars/commentators like Ramesh and others say like my friends here on TPS. I don’t think it is necessarily true of the “rank and file” members of the pro-life movement who have had, to be perfectly honest, considerable success with the phrase “abortion is murder” and aren’t about to stop now because a bunch of lawyers try to tell them there statement is far from accurate. Nonetheless, I appreciate Ramesh’s sentiment and commend him and others for trying their best at tamping down the rhetoric and making a more reasoned and perhaps ultimately more persuasive argument against activities like stem-cell research and abortion. (I should point out that while I’m not personally persuaded by these arguments; I can both see and admit how they are objectively more persuasive than the “abortion is murder” line of rhetoric).

The second post was from Jonah Goldberg (Paul’s reported favorite columnist) who touches on a subject near and dear to my mind and way of thinking about politics, law, and philosophy, namely, the tension between liberalism (note the little l) and democracy. The first of course being both a philosophy as well as a system of thought that leads to a type of government, while the latter is, as Winston Churchill famously stated, “the worst form of government except for all of the others.” I’ll let Jonah’s point speak for itself, but he is as correct as correct can be when he says that “[democracy-boosters] use democracy as an umbrella term for liberalism. The problem is that this leads to a corruption of rhetoric and, eventually, thinking. I think it's pretty clear that liberalism and democracy go together in the long run. But I think it is obviously false that democracy automatically yields liberalism.” He’s right; nothing in liberalism or a government based on a liberal philosophy requires or in any way mandates democracy. In fact, it is possible to argue, and many have, that democracy actually harms liberalism and prevents liberal government as true democracy more often than not leads to other forms of government like tyranny and fascism. This is why people like Paul, GC, and I nearly always point out that the United States is best described as a “liberal republic” and not a democracy, despite what many politicians and commentators from both sides of the spectrum would have people believe. (I know I shouldn’t speak for Paul and GC, but this is a main reason why I make this distinction quite often and I’m pretty sure they agree, and I don’t for a second think if they don’t that they will correct me)

Anyway, I thought I would call attention to these two excellent points, and see what, if any, discussion we might have about them.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A picture is worth...



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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Disproportionate Obsession

If there was one consistent theme among the enemies of Israel (i.e., Hezbollah, supporters of radical Islam, European socialists, and the United Nations) over the last couple of weeks, it is that Israel's response to Hezbollah's assault on its soldiers and civilians has been "disproportionate." Use of the term "disproportionate" is meant to conjure images of abuse and excess. One is supposed to get the impression, based on the mere use of the word, that Israel is somehow violating deeply rooted principles of civilization and humanity by (gasp!) defending its sovereignty, protecting its borders, and having zero tolerance for the murder of its citizens.

Please allow me to translate: whenever you hear someone say that Israel's response has been "disproportionate," what they are really saying is that Israel's use of force against Hezbollah has been quite effective -- so effective, in fact, that Hezbollah (through its proxies) has been pushed into the awkward position of having to publicly call for a ceasefire (during which Hezbollah would, of course, regroup, rearm, and renew its assault on Israel).

I just hope Israel has the courage of its convictions to ignore the calls of the absurd to stand down in this hour of approaching victory.


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Monday, July 24, 2006

Soft and Hot

Don't worry. Despite the suggestive title, this post is rather tame. I'm even going to step away from my 1st and 2nd loves of foreign affairs & Bush bashing. Instead, I want to comment on the latest heat wave, the resulting power crunch in California, and the implications of both.

I live in SW Florida, so I must confess that I prefer it hot. I happen to like a 80 degree Christmas Day where I can do some fishing before sunset. And I'm fine with 98 degrees and 100% humidity around here in July. As a teenager I sometimes worked in a palm grove on such summer days and, while it was a little rough, I survived and even earned some extra cash "Mexican" style too. Only during a trip to what is just about my favorite place in the world, Costa Rica, did I begin to find it uncomfortably hot as the temeprature neared 110. But even then - amidst such beautiful distractions - the sun was far from being the hottest thing around!

So personally I'm fine with this global warming thing. However, I realize the issue is much broader than my personal hope of never seeing snow again. And I'm starting to wonder if there isn't something to the ideas that people like Al Gore have been talking about for years afterall. I haven't seen his movie, nor have I seriously studied the research. Therefore, I won't offer an uninformed opinion. Yet, as a layman, it does seem like I've witnessed a real climate change during my short lifetime.

OK - that's the hot part. Now for the soft. Watching the news makes me consider how soft we've become here in America in general. California is facing rolling blackouts once again in the wake of a heat wave. With temperatures today expected to reach 106 in Sacramento and 110 in the San Fernando Valley, Southern California Edison is reporting record energy use. Officials say they have no choice but to turn the power off if individuals won't turn the power down. In fact, Monday's usage was 15% higher than the peak day of use in 2005 and 26% higher than the peak day of use during the California energy crisis of 2000-2001.

Why is it that Americans (I'm not going to single out Californians) can't turn down the A/C when Israelis and Lebanese can live for weeks in small, smelly, and hot underground bomb shelters? Why is it that we have more problems going the 5 minute drive drive to the grocery store without running our car's A/C on high than Iraqis do making the life-or-death walk to the outdoor market during daily bombings?

I think it must be merely because we can. It's the same reason gasoline consumption hasn't dropped in spite of record high pump prices. And although we're not alone, we are probably the world's leader in this department. This is even a sore subject in my own household. Whereas I tend to keep the thermostat around 82, my wife prefers it at 78....if I'm lucky. She is 7 months pregnant, so I usually let her win that little argument. But still I occasionally consider the thousands of Israeli, Lebanese, and Iraqi pregnant women who only dream of a cool night of good sleep and feel just slightly guilty.

It also reminds me of a recent visit to my son's pediatrician. While we waited to get his school physical, I overheard a fellow parent complain to the receptionist of how uncomfortably hot it was in the waiting room. The staffer walked around the counter to examine the thermostat which was on the wall near our seats. It was set to 77 degrees. As she then lowered the setting to 72 degrees, the receptionist apologized to us suffering parents, "That's why it's hot so hot in here. Someone must have raised it. I'm sorry about that."

Don't misinterpret my intentions. I'm not bashing America. Afterall, no nation is perfect and most others have problems that dwarf our own. And I still thank God that I was born an American (that is, if I couldn't be a Costa Rican Tico!). But I do think there's something to the idea that we've become soft as a people. And not being able to turn down the A/C or live without that 8 cyclinder gas-guzzler might indeed be signs.

In conclusion, Tom Brokaw's simple, yet excellent, book The Greatest Generation comes to mind. The author's thesis was that the hardships of the Great Depression made American society strong enough to overcome the greatest challenge Western Civilization ever faced in World War 2. Makes sense. But will such a book ever be written about this generation? Or about the previous one? Or the next one? I dunno. Time will tell. I do know that this slow dial-up connection is really pissing me off and I wish Starbucks was still open because I'm thirsty. However, I'm not sure those inconveniences are book-worthy!


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Sunday, July 23, 2006

In The Best of Company

In the past 2 years I've been taunted and teased by family and friends alike for jumping off the Bush ship and describing our President's administration as an utter failure. But I have to smile on those occasions when I realize that I'm far from being alone. Just yesterday the father of modern American conservatism said this to CBS News:

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign."

Tough words. Our presidential system is indeed different than Europe. But political history tells me someone will still have to pay for this administration's failures. And it can no longer be Bush himself. That's why I've called for non-RINO Congressional Republicans and 2008 candidiates to run as distanced from Bush as possible. It appears Buckley would echo that call. He continued:

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress. And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Well said, WFB. So I suppose I'll just continue to be a left-winger along with George Will, Pat Buchanan, and now William F. Buckley. In such esteemed company, I feel better already.


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Saturday, July 22, 2006

On A Lighter Note

Recent TPS posts (not to mention recent TPS comments) have reflected the seriousness of recent news. Talk of imminent war and global conflagration tends to do that. For a moment, I would encourage everyone to step back from the parapets and join in common cause against our true enemy: BAR/BRI.

In case you lawyers haven't been checking your mail, it seems a few enterprising bar-takers in several states have filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit against BAR/BRI and another infamous test preparation company, Kaplan, Inc. Why?

In a nutshell, the lawsuit alleges not only that BAR/BRI used its dominant position to absorb or crush regional and local bar examination preparation competition, but also that BAR/BRI and Kaplan committed the joint sin of colluding to not tread in each others' territory (i.e., BAR/BRI agreed to not intervene in Kaplan's areas of expertise -- non-bar examination preparation, such as for the SATs, LSATs, GMATs, and MCATs -- and Kaplan agreed not to try and make a name for itself in the bar examination preparation field). (The full slate of allegations against BAR/BRI and Kaplan can be found here. Kaplan's answer to the plaintiffs' first amended complaint can be found here. The answers and affirmative defenses of West Publishing Corporation, the current parent company of BAR/BRI, can be found here. I encourage you to read these filings at your leisure.)

I will let Sherman Act experts duke it out as to whether or not there were actual, technical violations of the Sherman Act (although, if Kate DuBose Tomassi of the American Lawyer is to be believed, certain claims, such as BAR/BRI's approximate 95% market share of the national bar examination preparation market, coupled with shady anecdotal evidence indicating BAR/BRI may have paid off Louisiana State University to drop its university-sponsored bar prep program so that BAR/BRI could eliminate the last remaining local competition and dramatically raise its rates in Louisiana, make it appear as if the allegations are not without substance). I would only point out (as someone who actually took Antitrust Law in law school) that there is a common-sense element to the application of antitrust law, that certain situations simply scream monopoly, and that a company that has a virtual stranglehold on market share nationwide and can therefore raise prices pretty much at will can reasonably be labeled a monopoly and dealt with accordingly. (The plaintiffs themselves say it best on page three of their amended complaint: "Absorption of West Bar's business into the already dominant BAR/BRI eliminated substantial actual competition from the bar review course market, and, in fact, made BAR/BRI the only company providing bar review courses preparing for virtually every state in the United States. Without substantial competition, BAR/BRI's net prices per student then increased substantially in most states.")

I, along with all my fellow BAR/BRI alumni who do not opt out of this class action lawsuit (find out how to opt out here), literally have a stake in the outcome of this suit. I am already thinking of ways to spend my share of the pot, which, according to the lawsuit, is in the vicinity of $1,000 (before taxes, of course).

But seriously, I am curious what my fellow alums think of this suit, and the prospects of victory for us downtrodden former bar-preppers. Put another way, does anyone think this suit has no merit? (I realize I'm totally tipping my hand as to where I stand on the validity of the suit, but I think you probably knew that from the start of this post.) Input, please.


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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fear Not, Hizballah. Iraq's Got Your Back.

This time the news out of Iraq doesn't concern more American troops being slaughtered. That's a welcomed change. But I'm saddened to realize that it will likely prove to be short lived. Furthermore, the news similarly doesn't concern the ever-growing victims of the Iraqi civil war, even though another 100+ civilians were killed in Iraq on this very day. Let's forget about all that stuff like good pro-war, pro-Bush supporters, ok?

Instead, the disheartening news from Iraq reveals that (surprise, surprise) perhaps this new "democratically-elected" Iraqi government isn't all it's cracked out to be afterall.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's US backed government denounced Israel's "criminal" raids on Lebanon and Gaza and the prime minister warned of the risk of an escalation of violence.

In a rare public foray into affairs beyond its borders, the premier's office said in a statement: "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki denounces the Israeli raids on Lebanon and warns of the consequences of escalation in the region."

"The prime minister calls on Arab foreign ministers to meet to take a clear stand that condemns the criminal acts in Lebanon and Gaza and affirms this assault will make Lebanon's people more united and cohesive in the face of the Israeli challenge."


You mean the very government the US created isn't echoing our own sentiments on the fighting in Israel? You mean this Maliki guy is actually sounding like Bashar Assad of Syria or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran? Wow. But wait, that's not all. There's more! Not only does Maliki condemn Israel, the Iraqi Sunnis who oppose him are chiming in too. The speaker of Iraqi parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, accused "Jewish Israeli Zionists" this week of fomenting sectarian unrest in Iraq to thwart efforts by Sunnis and Shiites to build an Islamic state!

Yeah, it's not like the Israelis have anything better to do these days, right? They're secretly over there in Iraq trying to prevent the formation of an Islamic state. But wait! I thought the new Iraq was going to be an American-friendly democracy? What's this stuff about building an Islamic state? I never heard Bush, Cheney, and half the people here at TPS mention any of that. You mean Prime Minister Malaki's position on the war in Lebanon is kind of like, say, Saddam Hussein's?

Boy, $500 billion dollars (and 2,550+ dead troops) sure doesn't buy what it used to!


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Snark

Too busy to breathe, but I can't let this one go:

"It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it," Bush told backers at a White House event.

First, as a more than general rule, "backers" are the only people that King Bush every appears in front of...taking 5.5 years in office to acknowledge blacks exist doesn't count.

Second, when did executive fiat become a substitute for democracy? I think I saw a West Wing episode about this once...Jed realized, and rightfully so, that his personal preference really doesn't cut the mustard in this respect. Of course, we've learned from our buddy Vlad that when democracy doesn't yield the results we want it to, that a strong Executive is just what it needs to show it the way.

Considering the shamelessly low number of cavemen that support Bush on this particular legislation (noted, not the issue as whole (i.e., those susceptible to Admistration propoganda that the Revenge of the Sith resulteth from stem cell research) it really is sad that W is that hard up to give the religious right wet dreams of a coming of a 21st century Inquisition celebration...after which of course they'd all have to arrest each other for homicide. Even the Video Doctor, err Bill Frist, supports the bill for God's sake...

I think our eminent Vice President, Dick "Shooter" Cheney, said it best..."Go fuck yourself" Mr. President.

Rant over.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who Needs A Message When You Can Give A Massage?

By now everyone has heard about Bush's dropping of an s-bomb during the G-8 summit. Personally, I think the sight of Bush talking with his mouth open and stuffed full of food was much more offensive than the use of the word itself. I'm a pretty big redneck too, but even I had to cringe when seeing such "cowboy diplomacy" at work. Reminds me of that recent hit song by Jake Owen Yee-haw!

However, continuing on the lighter note, the story getting much less airplay is how Bush strangely attempted to give new German chancellor Angela Merkle a back massage during the summit. Needless to say, Merkle was not impressed by those Texas ham hands. The pictures of her facial gestures hoping he'll soon stop are only topped in humor by the embarrassed expression on Bush's face as he realizes he just made an unwelcomed touch.

C'mon Georgie Boy, we already know you're enjoying even lower approval ratings than Bill Clinton during his impeachment, but do you have to try to steal his moves as well? Is Laura not giving you any until you get your ratings up? Talk about furthering the image of the ugly American. Check out TPS reader MQA's Blog to see the priceless footage Bush's unexpected and inappropriate massage.


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Monday, July 17, 2006

News from the war

Despite initial concern that the adminsitration was not being forceful enough in its support for Israel, it should be clear that the United States is unequivocally supportive of Israel's military actions. (More below the fold)

President Bush on Saturday abandoned his earlier calls for Israeli restraint in its escalating conflict with Hezbollah, instead calling on Syria to rein in the Shiite Muslim militant group.

Bush and his aides had for several days balanced demands for Hezbollah to stop firing rockets at northern Israel with muted declarations that Israel needed to try to avoid civilian casualties as it retaliated.

"The best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place," Bush said at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on the eve of a summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in this suburb of St. Petersburg. "And that's because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel, and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. That's why we have violence.

"And the best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms, and to stop attacking," he said, adding, "I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah."

That's a bit of refreshing moral clarity, and of course that doesn't sit well with our worthless so-called allies.

President Jacques Chirac of France characterized the statement issued here as a call for a cease-fire — a word the Bush administration has sidestepped at every turn over the last few days. The host of the summit meeting, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, told reporters that “we do get the impression that the aims of Israel go beyond just recovering their kidnapped soldiers.’’

I know it's shocking that the French are being so weak-kneed in response.  Perhaps if Assad calls Chirac's mother a name that will get the French to act like men for once.

Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt as to who was pulling the strings behind all this, you might want to read this.

But battles—and battle lines—are rarely if ever simple in the Middle East. Nasrallah knows that. So do the Israelis, who saw hidden hands behind the Lebanese and Palestinian militants. They accused Syria, which harbors the Hamas leadership in exile and has a longstanding alliance with Hizbullah in Lebanon, of complicity. But they also saw the long arm of their ultimate enemy, Iran—the creator of Hizbullah, a patron of Hamas, the ally of Syria, the provider of rockets that struck 22 miles deep into Israel last week and a missile that crippled an Israeli warship. Iran, developer of nuclear technology and eventually, perhaps, nuclear weapons.

In an exclusive interview with NEWSWEEK's Richard Wolffe, President George W. Bush said he thinks those suspicions are legitimate: "There's a lot of people who believe that the Iranians are trying to exert more and more influence over the entire region and the use of Hizbullah is to create more chaos to advance their strategy." He called that "a theory that's got some legs to it as far as I'm concerned."

As usual, our supposed "chimp in chief" demonstrates more foreign policy savvy than the very people who criticize him, but that's another matter. 

Matters are getting serious indeed as Hezbollah now seems to be in control of the country.

After moderating their stance in recent years, the guerrillas surged back to the war front with a surprise attack on Israel and a sophisticated arsenal, leaving Lebanon's politicians and army looking nearly powerless. The government seems paralyzed over how to deal with Hezbollah, whose Shiite Muslim fighters have had near autonomy in the south for more than a decade.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah acted Sunday like the man holding Lebanon's reins, though he looked tired and stressed as he vowed that his group had only begun to fight.

"We are in our full strength and power," he said on the group's Al-Manar TV. "Hezbollah is not fighting a battle for Hezbollah or even for Lebanon. We are now fighting a battle for the (Islamic) nation."

Israel states that it currently has no intention of attacking Iran or Syria, and indeed I don't doubt they'd rather avoid opening up another front.  But something tells me that they might not have another choice.


H/t to Dan Darling for the many links.



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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Paging Gavrilo Princip

What was going on in the Middle East did not really hit me until one evening last week, when I flipped on my television set and became glued to news reports recounting Israel's offensives against Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon and Gaza. Prior to that, I had been peripherally aware that Israel and Hezbollah were fighting again, and that there had been military engagements triggered by Hezbollah's initial abduction of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and its lesser-publicized but no less true (or problematic) launching of short- and medium-range rockets into Israeli territory. The more I watched these reports, the more concerned I became.

A lot is going on, and things are in tremendous flux, but I would like to take this moment to lay out some simple, unadulterated facts (in abbreviated form) pertaining to the current situation.

- What started Israel's offensive against Hezbollah and its regional supporters were the two incidents stated above: Hezbollah's abduction of IDF soldiers and its launching of missiles into Israeli territory.

- Hezbollah's inflammatory conduct happened on the exact same day that the United States and European nations had set as the deadline for Iran to respond to "demands" (I say "demands" in quotes because it is hard to take demands seriously when they are accompanied by incentive packages) that it suspend its uranium enrichment program or face possible United Nations sanctions.

- Hezbollah is an organization that receives substantial and undeniable support -- in the form of funding, training, shelter, and weaponry of all kinds -- from Iran. Iran's tangible support, including weaponry, is generally flown into Syria and is from there dispatched to Lebanon via ground transportation.

- Hezbollah's headquarters are (or, prior to 48 hours ago, were) located in southern Lebanon, within easy reach of Israel's northern border.

- The current missile strikes being undertaken by Hezbollah are longer than any previously witnessed, indicating the use of longer-range missile technology not previously available to Hezbollah.

- Many of the specific weapons, including the medium-range rockets currently being lobbed into Israel, are either of Iranian design or have been manufactured in, or improved by, Iran. In addition, several technical aspects of other rockets being used against the Israelis indicate that they have either been produced or modified by Syria.

- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made frequent and unequivocal statements indicating his government's hostility to the continued existence of Israel.

The above are facts. Facts.

It has become quite apparent that Iran is prepared to do whatever it has to do to distract the West while it rushes headlong to the completion of its own atomic weapons program. Given its historic, and historically strong, links to the terrorist organization Hezbollah, it seems painfully obvious that Ahmadinejad has taken this struggle with the West to the next level by using Hezbollah to carry out a proxy war against Israel and distract the world in the process. Both Syria (the only nation left in the world with a functioning Baath Party) and Iran have shown their respective hands, and it is clear that they are both involved in supporting Hezbollah.

Israel, as usual, is doing what it has to do to survive, and deserves full American support. In fact, not only do they deserve our full support, but they deserve our total respect. This tiny nation, surrounded by hundreds of millions of Islamo-fascists that openly seek Israel's end, is the only one in the world that has the fortitude to stand up the civilization's true enemies. In essence, Israel is currently waging the war that we claim to be waging, against terror, and when the time comes to join them, we should, without hesitation. We may not have a choice.

The time has also come to dispense with the notion that Iran and Syria can be dealt with through peaceful means. Stop all this nonsensical talk about incentive packages and shuttle diplomacy. Iran does not want to stop its uranium enrichment. Palestine does not want peaceful coexistence with Israel. Syria does not want an autonomous and democratic Lebanon. Use the only language that these terroristic peoples understand and respect: the language of force.

While I do fear that this conflict has the potential to spin out of control, I nevertheless think that this conflict is very necessary. World War III is certainly not an inevitability here. Socialists in Europe (and this country) are calling on Israel to calm down and stand back, but I encourage Israel to drop more bombs and launch more rockets. I encourage them to kill as many members of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Syrian and Iranian armies as they can. God willing, if and when the time comes, America will fight with you.


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Friday, July 14, 2006

More of Those Damn Polls

More bad news today for Republican chances of retaining control of Congress after the November 2006 elections. I know I'm likely to be reminded how polls don't matter. But with all due respect, I like polls and think they're a great tool. I think it's important that our elected leaders always keep a snapshot of popular opinion in mind.

Before I'm further reminded how we have a republic not a democracy, I should say that I too don't want our politicans to govern strictly by polling. However, why should our leaders also govern with a blind eye towards popular opinion, but for those fake, lie-filled months before an election? I want my leaders to be continually AWARE of what average joes think and I just don't think letter-writers to Congress are sufficient. The Bush administration and GOP Congress have buried their collective heads in the sand and ignored public opinion since Election Day 2004. Let them do so at their own risk.

Anyway, back to the poll. The July 10-12 AP-Ipsos poll put President Bush's approval rating at 36%. That's hardly news - Bush's numbers appear to have bottomed out and I'd be surprised to see them go any lower. The AP poll also showed its sample pool of "persuadable voters" (or moderates, if you will) to favor giving Democrats control of Congress by a 51% to 40% margin. However, the most revealing part of this poll is what the data reveals about the thoughts of Republicans, like me. The survey showed a respectable 24% of self-described "conservatives" plan to vote Democrat this fall.

Naturally I continue to feel vindicated by such poll results. Afterall, I too am a self-described conservative who plans to vote Democrat this fall to punish the GOP. Because the Republicans just don't seem to be listening yet. Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah), a strong supporter of Bush's plans for giving amnesty to illegal-immigrants, recently defeated his primary challenger, conservative John Jacob, by a healthy 56%to 44% margin. Cannon will likely be returned to Washington this fall. Aware of the tendency that two-term presidents have to lose Congressional seats in year 6, this voter hopes RINO Cannon will soon sit in the minority.


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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The End of Cowboy Diplomacy

Time has an interesting cover story this week entitled "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy." The sub headline poses, "What North Korea, Iraq and Iran teach us about the limits of going it alone."

I won't make this post a review of the article. But I do think the essay and its broader points are worthy of consideration, even by some of Bush's biggest supporters around here. The article's co-authors hit on the very same subjects that turned me off to Bush several years ago. For all his good intentions and his many failures, Bush's primary error will prove to taking those actions (both in domestic and foreign policy) in direct contrast to the principles by which he first campaigned.

Few television talking heads speak more to my own voice than MSNBC's Tucker Carlson. Tucker recently summed up Bush's legacy stating, "George W. Bush is no conservative and will be remembered by history much closer to Woodrow Wilson than to Ronald Reagan." A good point, I think. Both presidents were indeed inspired by great visions for the world. But Wilson was stubborn and Reagan was flexible. Wilson's policies failed and Reagan's worked. Into which category do we put Bush?

The Time article concludes by offering, "Global leadership can't be based on optimism alone. Until recently, Bush failed to acknowledge how much Iraq has eroded U.S. credibility or show that he takes seriously the criticism lodged against his policies by U.S. allies."

I agree. Iraq has put us in a difficult position to deal with Iran and North Korea. Optimism alone isn't going to work this time - but that's what we dealt in Iraq and it's all we ever get from these cards of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. It's hard to talk tough to the rest of the world with one voice and no ears on Iraq, but then sit down at a big table and hold hands with Kim Il Jong. Even someone whose never played poker can see this bluff coming: we got nothing. A sad, but probably fitting end to such "cowboy diplomacy." Hopefully we'll have a new president and much different direction in our foreign (and domestic) policy before we "bust."


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Monday, July 10, 2006

Imagine Those "Your Mama Is So Ugly" Jokes?

LONDON — A 62-year-old child psychologist has given birth to a boy, becoming the oldest British woman to have a baby. Patti Farrant delivered her son, J.J., by Caesarean section on Wednesday. The baby was conceived after fertility treatments. Farrant has three grown children from a previous marriage. It is the first child for her husband, John, 60, an education management consultant.

Other older British mothers include Liz Buttle who was 60 when she gave birth to a son in 1997. The oldest woman in the world to give birth is believed to be Romanian Adriana Iliescu, who was 66 when she had a daughter in Bucharest in January 2005.


These stories always catch my attention when one comes along in the news seemingly every month or so. Does anyone have any particular feelings on the subject of the new wave of older parents? It used to be funny to hear about old geezers like Cary Grant, Anthony Quinn, and Tony Randall having kids later in life. As always, however, science has leveled the gender playing field. With the help of fertility treatments, a woman seemingly can carry a child and give birth to it well into her 60's. Even with my own third child on the way, I guess I need another "birds and bees" lesson because I don't get it. What about that whole menopause thing?

Anyway, the libertarian in me says there's nothing we can do to prevent this. Surely child birth is a protected freedom, even though society naturally has an interest in physical the well-being of the children. But what about the emotional well-being of that child? I'd love to see the science regulate itself by only helping younger couples who can't have children and not 62 year-olds who want one more to celebrate a new marriage. But I know that's not going to happen. Money talks, even to doctors. And once the cat is out of the bag, it's gone.

Yet I still feel uncertain about a child coming into the world with a pair of senior citizen parents. Sure, kids are raised by an older dad or even by their grandparents all the time. And I know that such children usually turn out fine in those situations. However, should science be encouraging that it be done this way intentionally? I lost my mother to cancer when I was 15 and that was hard enough. I couldn't imagine the idea of my mom fighting Alzheimer's when I was in middle school.

Hopefully, baby J.J. Farrant will have a happy childhood with his parents. I won't judge them to be unfit simply because they wanted a child late in life. But I must admit that I wouldn't want to be J.J. Farrant myself. He's going to have a tough time in many ways. Remember how cruel we are as 7 year-olds on the playground? That said, I'm sure this will continue to become more common so we'll just have to get used to it. Just another part of this brave new world.


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Friday, July 07, 2006

Attempted Election Shenanigans

Perhaps one might have missed it yesterday, but a George H.W. Bush appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas ruled that Tom DeLay must remain on the November 2006 ballot for his now-vacated seat in the House of Representatives. You can read the opinion for yourself here. Simply put, the Judge relied on a very straight forward interpretation of the Qualifications Clause of the Constitution, Art. 1, § 2, cl. 2, which states that:
No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen (emphasis added).

The facts of the case are rather simple, DeLay ran for and won, in a much tougher race than expected, the primary election for his seat from the Texas 22nd district, thereby placing him on the ballot for November. Subsequently, after reviewing polling and other data that suggested he might loose the general election, he withdrew from the race, moved his permanent residence to Alexandria, Virginia and resigned his seat in the House. The question that remained was did these actions make him ineligible for his seat in the Texas 22nd and, therefore, allow the Texas Republican party to select a new candidate for the general election. Texas Republicans thought so; however, the Texas Democratic Party disagreed and filed a lawsuit seeking to permanently enjoin the GOP from replacing Mr. DeLay on the November ballot.

The Judge indicated that the only date that mattered for eligibility was “Election Day” or in this case November 6, 2006. Texas election law, which appears to permit the withdrawal and replacement of candidates for ineligibility even after a primary election, does not apply to federal office holders because to do so would create a qualifications requirement in addition to what the Constitution permits. See generally, US Term Limits v. Thornton. Should Mr. DeLay, remain a non-Texas resident on Election Day, he would then, and only then, be considered ineligible to receive his seat. The remedy for this situation, properly lies with the House of Representatives, who pursuant to Art. I, § 5, cl. 1 are to be “the judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.” This means that should Mr. DeLay prevail in the general election, the House could simply declare him ineligible because he was not an inhabitant of the state from which he was chosen, refuse to seat him, and thus create a vacant seat by which the state of Texas could hold a special election pursuant to its own election laws. Seems pretty consistent and straightforward to me, but the Texas GOP has said they will appeal to the Fifth Circuit, so we shall see what happens. (As an aside, it is times like these where we will sorely miss our resident 5th Circuit expert Unconfirmable, as he could potentially have handicapped what the appellate court might do with such a decision.)

While the decision itself may have been, in my opinion, unremarkable, what really burned me about it were a couple of footnotes included by the judge about testimony by both Mr. DeLay himself and the Chairwoman of the Texas GOP. According to the opinion, all of these steps were taken by Mr. DeLay after extensive consultation with Texas GOP lawyers and with the advice of the party chairmen. The court even notes that the letter which notified the Texas GOP of Mr. DeLay’s intentions was reviewed, edited and pre-cleared by the state party chair and legal counsel. This to me suggests that even in resignation there was a blatant attempt to control the future of the politics in the District. Mr. DeLay resigned, voluntarily I might add. In other words, no one forced him to leave, and I don’t believe for one second that he would have lost his race in November. Be that as it may, if his decision was to quit and resign, than fine, leave and walk away; don’t then try to manipulate a political result that you like better on your way out the door. The hubris that both Mr. DeLay and the Texas GOP have showed towards the election process and the voters in the Texas 22nd is, quite frankly, embarrassing, and I’d say that if this were Democrats pulling a stunt like this and not Republicans. (Note, before anyone mentions the 2000 New Jersey Senate Race as a example of Democrats playing fast and loose with election law, I’ll only say that I opposed that at the time, not because it was illegal (something of which I am still uncertain of not being an expert in New Jersey election law), but because it was, and remains, bad politics).

Look, just let the voters decide for heaven’s sake. If they want to continue to elect a person who has for all intensive purposes, abandoned them, fine, that’s there choice, as silly as it may be. The problem here was Mr. DeLay remaining in the race through the primary, plain and simple. Had he indicated he was not going to run for reelection prior to that we wouldn’t even be talking about this. Instead, he tested the waters and didn’t like the temperature so he got out, leaving a mass of election confusion behind and embarrassing himself and his party even further.


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WP's Michael Kinsley on Stem Cell Research

As the GOP die-hards bring out their golden oldies (let's just say I thank my lucky stars I'm not a gay Muslim with a degenerative disease!), it was inevitable that the "debate" on stem cell research would come up again. While we have certainly considered the issue ad nauseum here on TPS, generally anyway, the Post's Michael Kinsley--whom is afflicted with Parkinson's, offers a thought-provoking perspective (and IMHO an irreproachable one) in this Op-Ed.


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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sore Loserman Redux

Senator Joe Lieberman has suggested that he would run as an independent if he loses the August 8 primary to Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate who has received the backing of many far left, anti-war individuals. The leading moonbat blogs are agog over Lamnont, and no doubt would relish seeing the very hawkish Lieberman go down to defeat.

I've seen some commentary on the right-side blogosphere decrying this state of affairs, and this morning the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed (paper edition only) stating that throwing over someone who just six years ago was on the national ticket is another sign that the Democratic party has been taken over by the far left. For the moment I'll put aside that point and just ask, what is so wrong with an ideological group wanting its party to nominate someone more to their liking?

Most conservatives would just love to see Stephen Laffey kick Lincoln Chaffee's ass in the Rhode Island Republican Senatorial primary. In fact, many conservatives are up in arms over the RSCC''s funding on behalf of Chaffee and the negative ads they've run attacking Laffey. So what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If the leftists want to run a more hard-core leftist who shares their preferences on the war, so be it.

Perhaps the major difference between Chaffee and Lieberman is that Chaffee is far more to his party's left than Lieberman is to his party's right. Despite his hawkish foreign policy preferences, Lieberman is a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats on most other issues. Chaffee, on the other hand, can hardly ever be counted on to vote in line with conservative preferences. Nevertheless, I find nothing wrong with the left seeking to ditch Lieberman. It's unfortunate because I personally like Lieberman more than almost any other Democrat. And if I like him, isn't that enough justification for almost any left-winger to vote against him?


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Monday, July 03, 2006

Get Out Now

I hated to learn of yet another tragedy from the War on Iraq on this day before our Independence Day celebrations. But it's a story that must be told if we believe in those things that we'll commemorate on the 4th of July.

This morning, discharged soldier Steven Green of the Army's famed 101st Airborne Division, was charged with the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager after killing her parents and young sister while serving as a soldier in Iraq. Three other troops are alleged to have been part of the crime occurring in March 2006. Abeer Qasim Hamza was apparently 16 years old when she was raped and killed.

And guess what? The family's killing was first attributed to the insurgency, naturally. That was the same modus operandi of the alleged killing of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha from 2005. The bodies in this case were discovered burned. Abeer's sister Hadeel is believed to have been between 7 and 10 years old. Neighbor Omar Janabi was quoted by the Washington Post as saying Abeer Qasim's mother told him on March 10 the young woman had complained about advances made toward her by U.S. soldiers at a nearby checkpoint.

Last month alone, 12 other troops were charged with murder in two other cases, more than doubling the number of such charges during the war.

Before I get anyone too fired up, I want to say that I'm confident those who are pro-war in Iraq are equally appalled by this violence. I'm also confident that if Green and his conspirators are found guilty, they too will call for the same punishment of death for which I would seek. However, I have a broader question for those who remain in favor of this war. Is this and other recent appalling incidents not a sign that our troops are growing war-weary? That perhaps we've reached a point of diminishing returns in Iraq and redeployment is necessary?

On this Independence Day, I salute our troops and the fine work they generally do. I honor the bravery of those who have served in Iraq, and especially of those who died there. In fact, I applied for a commission to the U.S. Army J.A.G. Corps following law school and was prepared to go myself in that capacity. I respect our military more than any other institution of our government. But I also do not pretend our fighting forces are something they're not. I know personally several soldiers who have gone to Iraq. They're generally good people, but not perfect. They're probably capable of making mistakes under overwhelming pressure too, while hopefully not ones of this shame and magnitude. Because of the respect I have for our troops, I say let's stop putting them in a position in Iraq where they cannot win. Let's not pretend they're invincible and can defeat an enemy they cannot see for a cause that's not clear while winning the support of natives who have come to fear them. Our boys deserve better.

If you are guilty, Steven Green, may you die a painful death just like your victims. Because your crime is worse than that of any insurrgent. July 4, 1776 proved America would always hold itself to a higher standard. And the sacrifices of millions of American soldiers since have more than proved that true. May that those sacrifices always be for the health of this great nation. Happy 4th of July, America!


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