Monday, February 28, 2005

Iranian Blogging the Key?

I was watching Special Report's nightly roundtable tonight when Mara Liasson said something I thought was foolish. They were talking about the possible collapse of Syria now that Lebanon had defied Syria's order to stop protesting. I'm paraphrasing a little here but essentially she said "There's no evidence that there's an uprising waiting to happen in Tehran."
Back in 2003, students started protests in Iran against the mullahs, leading author Michael Ledeen to write several columns about toppling Iran without firing a shot by simply covertly supporting the rebellion.
All this got me thinking about an article I read recently about the role blogging is having on Iranian youth. After a little digging, I found it. Here's some of the quotes I found most noteworthy.
Words are weapons for Iranian bloggers
By Jason Motlagh
Washington, DC
Feb. 17, 2005
Iran is already under attack. The opposition is at work both within & beyond its borders, restless, coordinating & sharing intelligence. Its ranks number in the tens of thousands, most of whom are young & savvy with experience in clandestine activity. Their arsenal, however, includes neither guns nor grenades, but keyboards & flat-screen monitors. In a country where free speech has price, Iranian bloggers are having a bonanza & the hardliners have begun to take notice. The blogging phenomenon has exploded in the Islamic Republic.

At the time, I thought that this 'revolution' was a good way to start rebellion against the mullahs. In light of what's happening in Lebanon & what Charles Krauthammer is predicting will happen in Syria if Lebanon frees itself, I'm starting to think that blogging might start the dominoes toppling in Iran.

"Individuality, self-expression, tolerance are new values which are quite obvious through a quick study of the content of Persian Web logs," said Hossein Derakhshan, a Canadian-based Iranian journalist, in an interview with the BBC. "The underground lives that Iranian youth have these days. Things like girlfriends, boyfriends, the music they listen to, the films they see." A random survey of blogs showed that taboo topics, ranging from Valentine's Day celebrations to the assets of actress Angelina Jolie, are discussed in passionate detail. This variety is itself a significant development in a closed society like Iran, where women are forbidden to expose their hair, let alone air their grievances against the ruling powers.

If this persists, the mullahs won't be able to control the youth rebellion in their own country. If this persists, fatwas from out-of-touch mullahs won't mean much.

Reformists lost control of Parliament a year ago after conservative clerics declared most candidates ineligible to run for election & voters skipped the polls. But the political debate raged on in the "blogosphere," the term used to describe the worldwide network of Web logs, from Tehran to Talahassee, & the hyperlinks that connect them.
Some observers say the gathering revolution will be blogged, not televised, in the country Reporters Without Borders, which advocates for press freedom, has called "the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East."

I really really love how that 's worded. Seriously, though, it's true that blogging has a chance to break the control of the mullahs. Dissidents like Natan Sharansky have said that a man can't be imprisoned if his mind stays active. He said that Soviet dissidents were more free in the gulags than the guards who guarded them. That makes sense.

"Iranian society is very dynamic, with a literary tradition valued for centuries," said one prominent civil society activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Blogs have enabled the opposition to express themselves & buy into those values."

The ability to express him or herself is key to breaking oppression because the right to free speech is the power to dissent or agree. It's a fundamental part of liberty. With liberty comes confidence & with confidence comes the absense of fear. A people who don't fear is a nation that can't be intimidated, which is terrorism's biggest weapon.

"Through arrests & intimidation, the Iranian authorities are now trying to spread terror among online journalists," Reporters Without Borders said on their Web site. Tehran has harshly cracked down on the online press as of late. Nearly 20 people have been arrested over the past three months, & two Web journalists, Arash Sigarchi & Mojtaba Saminejad, remain in prison.

A number of Web journalists released from prison have confirmed allegations of coercion. Nevertheless, the fact that some hardliners in Iran have recently taken a more aggressive stance toward the blogging community shows it's finally recognized its Achilles' heel. "The way the regime has treated journalists & bloggers by jailing, torturing, & silencing has backfired," said Jafarzadeh. "The regime can' successful in shutting the door. But their ongoing attempts to do so have created even more thirst among youth for social freedom."

"But their ongoing attempts to do so have created even more thirst among youth for social freedom." Once people who've been deprived of a fundamental part of life long enough decide that they won't be denied the basics in life, the floodgates are as good as open.

Once Iraqis were deprived of the right to vote. When the U.S. & coalition forces made it possible to vote, the floodgates opened. Threats of death didn't stop them or intimidate them.

When the Lebanese people ignored the orders of the puppet regime to stop protesting, the floodgates opened & the regime resigned in shame.

According to one source, the solidarity that the bloggers have demonstrated in the face of recent persecution has moved superiors in the state judiciary to investigate unlawful treatment of detainees at the hands of lesser officials. This may or may not be a sign the government is starting to back off.
Paradoxically, it could be argued that hardliners undermine their own power by stifling Internet commentary in Iran. The buzz in Washington created by Seymour Hersh's January New Yorker article has only been deafened by the volume of debate among Iranians in response to rumors of a possible U.S. military strike.

That people are defying the mullahs by talking about Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article is a sign that the people of Iran aren't willing to let the mullahs have power over them. That's nearing the tipping point of power. Let's hope this rebellion continues because that's the most feasible way to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The conventional neo-con wisdom, that reform-minded Iranians would seize the momentum of an American or Israeli offensive to topple the authoritarian regime, is discussed with contempt in the Iranian blogosphere.
"Obviously you have no real understanding of the Iranian psyche," wrote one blogger at the blogspot. "We'd rather live & die under the Mullah's flag than to get 'liberated' by Americans. President Bush has already sabotaged the Iranian people's movement toward democracy once by branding Iran as part of an 'axis of evil,' giving the hardliners enough pretext & justification to prosecute activists & reformers even more vigorously than before."
This was corroborated by the activist, who noted that shutting down "open spaces" is easier under the pretense of national security.

A 27-year-old translator from Tehran, posted at the blogspot, wrote, "Should I believe you worry about human rights in my country? Should I believe you care about the discriminations in my country? Huh! We all know that all these (wars) are just to get closer to oil resources. We all know that these matters can easily be resolved by diplomatic ways...Stop killing the 'human beings' in the name of 'human rights.' And let us choose our way of life by ourselves."

Something tells me that bloggers who express these anti-American views might be part of the 'mullahcracy' & don't represent the mainstream thinking in Iran. While I'm sure that some people think this way, I don't believe it's a majority opinion.

At this critical juncture, blogs have the capacity to serve as an outward-facing window into the grassroots sentiments of Iranians, who appear to be in consensus that self-determination must trump violent upheaval.
If blogs are appraised at face value, there's good reason to believe the movement-in-progress against Iran's authoritarian regime is less a revolution of sticks & stones, never mind bombs, & more an erosion of tyrannical power in which words are the weapons of choice.

The power of the mullahs has been the power to dictate what thoughts are allowed & which ones aren't. They're losing that battle because of blogs. Once they lose that battle, the beginning of the end of the rule of mullahs is near.

"Blogging is a win-win situation for the young movement in Iran & a lose-lose situation for the regime," Jafarzadeh concluded. "If the regime would allow bloggers to operate with total freedom, this message would encourage people to seek regime change through increased activity. On the other hand, cracking down on bloggers further convinces the population that this regime is absolutely against personal freedom, & there's no alternative but regime change...that Iranians must do themselves."

That's a great position the Iranians find themselves in. Either option that the mullahs take, they lose. May that form of governance die a quick death.

CBS VP Resigns Over Rathergate

The AP is reporting the resignation of CBS News VP Betsy West. Here's their story.

Feb. 28, 2005
CBS News Veep Quits Over 'Rathergate'
The top CBS News executive asked to resign for her role in the network's discredited report on President Bush's military service has quit, CBS said on Monday. Betsy West, formerly senior vice president of prime time for CBS News, resigned nearly two months after being asked to.
"I’m proud of my 25-year career in television & of my track record at CBS News, & I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my professional life," West said. Neither West's spokesman, Tom Goodman, nor CBS News would discuss whether the two parties had reached a settlement or why it took so long for her to quit.
CBS fired the report's producer, Mary Mapes. Besides West, the network had asked for the resignations of "60 Minutes Wednesday" executive producer Josh Howard & his top deputy, Mary Murphy. Murphy resigned Friday; Howard remains a CBS News employee.

Two days after last September's report on Bush had aired, CBS News President Andrew Heyward ordered West to review the opinions of document experts & confidential sources who’d supported the story. But no investigation was done, said the independent panel chaired by fmr. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh & retired AP President Lou Boccardi. If it had, CBS might’ve avoided its embarrassing 10-day defense of the story, the report concluded.

That's an incredible statement of hubris. I'm guessing that they didn't investigate because they knew what they'd find. It wasn't a smart idea to run the story but that's the price you pay when following political agendas are more important than following the facts wherever they take you.
In a statement Monday, CBS said West had "served with integrity, professionalism & talent. CBS recognizes Ms. West's many positive contributions to the CBS News division & wishes her well."

Dan Rather, who narrated the report & is stepping down as "CBS Evening News" anchor next week, told The New Yorker magazine that he’d testified before the Boccardi & Thornburgh panel for 11 hours. "I told the panel that if I had to move this afternoon on a big story, one that had the potential of being controversial, I'd be very happy to go on that story with the same people, each & every one," Rather said.

Bush's GOP Plan

Russ Baker writes in today's USA Today about Bush's plans to turn the GOP into the dominant party for a generation. Here are some of his opinions.
A Republican dominance in 2005 & beyond might well produce more conservative social legislation, a relaxation of regulations on business & environmental rules & more truculent policy toward countries that sponsor terrorism. If he could pull it off, Bush would find himself in the select company of such presidents as Jefferson, Lincoln & FDR, all of whom engineered realignments.
A realignment of that significance would be breathtaking. If Bush were able to accomplish all that, he'd deserve the recognition the current media so grudgingly gives him.
With the capture of both houses of Congress that year, some scholars & pundits proclaimed the realignment complete. But with Bill Clinton winning a second term in 1996 & Democrats still claiming the loyalty of as many voters as Republicans, a realignment akin to those of the past still seemed beyond the Republican Party's reach.
Reality #1: In the past, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in registration by 3-5 percentage points. That they're now even isn't good news for Democrats.
As for the upcoming battles over Social Security, further tort reform & immigration, each will be fought on its own merits. As Bush's father learned, military triumphs don't automatically translate to success in other spheres. And on each of these issues, there are divisions in the ranks of Republicans. So, while the signs for Bush have been auspicious, what we may have been seeing is more of a personal success than a long-term triumph for his party.
There we see the bias. It isn't that Bush's strategies or policies reflect the will of the American people, it's that he's better packaged than Gore or Kerry.
Reality #2: Bush the elder's Gulf War victory was followed by passivity & a total lack of an agenda to use his political capital on. That isn't something that this President Bush will worry about. He's too busy getting important legislation enacted while forging ahead with his plans to transform the Middle East.
Reality #3: When Bush campaigned on Social Security reform in 2000, no one took him seriously. After all, wasn't it known as the "Third rail of American politics"? This year, after campaigning on the issue again, Bush is pressing the issue. That there's "divisions in the ranks of Republicans" isn't news. There's divisions anytime big issues are debated. When the Bush administration gets around to lobbying specific senators & representatives, things will firm up in a hurry. When that happens, there will be a number of moderate Democratic senators will change positions.

Allawi's Plea

The Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed piece by Iyad Allawi well worth reading. Here's the article.
The Task Ahead
Now we need the media's help in Iraq.
February 28, 2005
Barely a month ago, Iraqis voted in their first ever fully democratic elections. It was an exciting & proud moment for all Iraqis, free at last after decades of tyranny. There was never any doubt, despite the intimidation & terrorism, that millions of Iraqis would take their chance to play their part in history. The new & freely elected Iraqi Parliament has already been formed. We’re now in the process of shaping the new Executive. When this is achieved, the role of the Interim Government will be complete. For me, personally, it’s been a great honor to have played my part in laying the foundations for a free & prosperous Iraq, at peace with itself & with its neighbors.
We faced many challenges, not least in ensuring the Iraqi people had this chance to take control of their own future. But the challenges for the next government are just as many & as daunting. Above all, we must continue the process of national reconciliation which has, in truth, only just begun. It’s now clear that early decisions to disband the army & to engage in a doctrinal, as opposed to a more pragmatic, de-Ba’athification process have made the task harder. They were, I accept, taken for the best of motives but their impact has been to increase suspicions among ethnic & religious groups & to make it harder to improve security.
We have to work hard to tackle these challenges. Most important, we must ensure that all views & constituencies are included & reflected as we build the new government & security forces, in the appointment of ministers & officials & as we continue to build new & stronger relationships with our neighbors.
It’s why the drafting of the new constitution, the main task of the new Parliament, is so crucial to the future of our country. The task of writing this constitution is as critical for us as the task performed by your country's Founding Fathers. Our Founding Fathers must ensure the constitution guarantees basic rights for all Iraqis, safeguards our hard-won democracy & reflects fairly, & is seen to reflect, the views of Iraq's diverse population. If we can meet this challenge, the new constitution will provide a huge opportunity to heal the divisions across Iraqi society which were deliberately deepened by Saddam Hussein. It’ll be of immense practical & symbolic importance, showing just how determined we are to heal the wounds & to live as brothers & sisters in our own country.
The Shia Islamist community who engaged with such enthusiasm in January's elections must show they won’t exploit their parliamentary strength to the exclusion & detriment of other groups. They should invite the full participation of the Iraqi community & this invitation must be warm & genuine. If it is, the Sunni, liberal Shiites, Christians & others must respond with equal sincerity. Having been reassured that they won’t face collective retaliation for the crimes of the predominantly Sunni Ba’athist regime, they now need to engage fully and without hesitation in the political process.
We have a better chance of getting this right if the constitutional debate is as broad & public as possible. The whole of Iraqi society needs to be engaged in both the debate & the reconciliation which it should bring. This places a big responsibility on the new, free media in Iraq. But the pan-Arab media has a big role to play as well, something it already appeared to relish during the election campaign. Arabic satellite TV stations such as Al Arabiya were obviously excited & inspired by the sight of real democracy in the heart of the Arab world. By reporting fairly on the elections, they in turn inspired their Arab audience across the Middle East & beyond. Iraqis were proud to see their country dominating the region's airwaves, & indeed the media of the world, for reasons not of war or conflict, but for the fascinating sight of real democracy at work.
The elections were a big turning point, not just in Iraq but also internationally. In Iraq, we’re relieved that the much-needed reconciliation between pro-war & antiwar powers has now been achieved. Now that the differences about the past have been confined to history, we can all focus on the needs of the future. I’m delighted to see that more European countries & others are now coming forward to help us in the huge task of rebuilding our country.
Beyond these political challenges, two other familiar & no less formidable challenges remain: Iraq's security & Iraq's economy. We need to continue to build Iraq's security forces & security apparatus in a transparent & accountable, as well as effective, manner. This will both improve security & allow the multinational forces to leave Iraq. Grateful as we are to the international community for the help & their sacrifices to date, Iraqis should be able to start taking over more & more security responsibilities very soon. But we’ll continue to need & to seek assistance for some time to come.
Security is also absolutely essential to rebuild the economy, to create the jobs that Iraqis need & to start the slow process of spreading prosperity. We were once one of the most prosperous countries in the region. We can be again. Our natural resources remain, as do the skills & energy of the Iraqi people. Many of the building blocks, domestic & international, are in place for a real explosion in Iraq's production & productivity. But the real effects won’t be felt until better security unlocks much of the dormant capital & the potential investment waiting to come in.
The period ahead will be no less fascinating than the last 20 months in Iraq. The pace & the extent of change will be no less rapid or far-reaching. Some of the focus of the international community, at least the non-Arab community, may shift away now that we have reached & passed as critical a milestone as January's elections. And that will, frankly, be welcome: The unremitting glare of the world's spotlights all trained on Iraq has made our job at times even harder than it otherwise would have been.
But our enthusiasm, & my enthusiasm, for the job ahead is no less today than it was in April 2003. In Iraq, as we build our future, we make history. The support of our allies, who’ve already given so much, will remain crucial to our success. But that future first & foremost depends on our own commitment & efforts. I can assure you that no one wants to see a successful Iraq more than the Iraqis themselves. And I’m confident that we have both the ability & the determination to succeed.
Dr. Allawi is interim prime minister of Iraq.

Lebanese Puppet Regime Resigns

Here's the breaking news story:
Lebanese Government Resigns Amid Protests
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami announced the resignation of his pro-Syrian government Monday, two weeks after the assassination of his predecessor, Rafik Hariri, triggered protests in the streets & calls for Syria to withdraw its thousands of troops.
"I'm keen that the government won't be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country. I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honor to head. May God preserve Lebanon," Karami said.
Karami made the announcement during a parliamentary debate called to discuss Hariri's Feb. 14 assassination in a bomb blast that killed 16 others. The announcement prompted cheers from more than 25,000 flag-waving demonstrators protesting against the government and its Syrian backers outside.
The resignation was the most dramatic moment yet in the series of protests & political maneuvers that have shaken Lebanon since Hariri's killing.
Many in Lebanon blame Syria for being behind Hariri's slaying & have pressed hard since then for the resignation of the pro-Syrian Lebanese government & for Syria to withdraw its 15,000 troops positioned in Lebanon.
Both governments have denied involvement in Hariri's assassination.
Earlier Monday, Karami asked the legislature to renew its confidence in his Cabinet, which took power in October after Hariri's resignation in a dispute with Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon.
The 'Democracy Revolution keeps marching on. Next up: Cairo.

President Bush's Winning Road Trip

Behind the Prez's Winning Road Trip
By Dick Morris
Feb. 28, 2005
AFTER a week of touring western & eastern Europe, it couldn’t be more evident to me that the balance of power on this continent is shifting in President Bush's favor. The change is evident in the way he’s received on his tour & in the internal developments with which each nation of "Old" Europe has to deal. Nobody here expected Bush to be re-elected. Subjected to 24/7 of liberal propaganda, the European man in the street felt that Bush was going to crash & burn in the U.S. election. Western Europe was happy about it.
Eastern Europe, unhappy. But nobody felt the he would pull it out. That he did, & expanded his control of both houses of Congress, without compromising on Iraq or withdrawing our troops, sent a message that the American people are behind their president. Then few people expected the Iraqi elections to come off without a hitch. The vivid demonstration of democracy, purple fingers & all, by-passed the cynical & jaded Euro-media & showed that the people of that beleaguered nation really want the democracy the U.S. has won for them.
Bush's second inaugural address has also played a role in tipping the balance. By defining American policy in such idealistic terms, he took the high ground & left his European partners bickering in the dust.
His trip to Europe highlights Bush's new appeal. His name & photo dominate all the front pages & his speeches, newly eloquent & increasingly idealistic, are being heard by all. He’s going over the heads of the leftist European media & speaking directly to eastern & Western Europe. It's not quite Woodrow Wilson arriving in the wake of the World War I victory or JFK bringing his charisma to the continent, but Bush & Condi Rice are cutting a swath through the Continent. No doubt about it. It's the same in the U.S. The Democrats are in disarray with their putative candidate, Hillary, moving to the center, while the party elects leftist Howard Dean as its chairman. More & more, Democrats aren’t merely inconsistent, wrong and/or misguided, they’re the worst of all possible things you can be in Washington: irrelevant. And Europe has noticed.
Finally, internal developments throughout Europe are also playing into the president's hands. Tony Blair is winning his election in the U.K., having trailed for most of last year, because of the increasing success in Iraq. What once doomed him to defeat. cooperation with Bush, now boosts him to re-election.
In France, Jacques Chirac faces the embarrassment of trying to rescind the 35-hour work week, the foremost achievement of his previous four years in office. It isn’t stimulating employment, as he’d hoped, & its repeal is igniting an anti-Chirac sentiment all over France. German Chancellor Schroeder just got trounced in the local elections in Sedgwick-Holstein, & his failure to push through many of his labor-law reforms is looming larger in domestic German politics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was upended in Ukraine & has faced an increasingly restive & demonstrating Russian public. And his oil production is way down because of the collapse of Yukos, the oil-production giant. Putin’s betting on Gazprom, the old Soviet state company, to fill the void, and it's not happening.
Finally, Europe feels itself beset by the worst form of anti-Muslim prejudice. Assailed by self-doubt over their failure to do anything positive about Iraq, they watch the growth of neo-Nazi forces attacking the massive migration of Muslims into the E.U.
Fanning this sentiment are doubts about the wisdom of admitting Turkey to the E.U., thereby opening the floodgates to massive immigration. The statesmen of Old Europe seem to have lost their way in the thicket of self-interest, while Bush is holding out a clarifying lantern of idealism and commitment to democracy.
It's a good time to be an American in Paris.
It's fun seeing Europe stumbling over themselves while the cowboy president looks polished & confident. It's got to bother elites like Jacque Chirac & Gerhard Shroder to see this happening.

Changing Minds

Changing Minds
Michael Barone
February 28, 2005
Nearly two years ago, I wrote that the liberation of Iraq was changing minds in the Middle East. Before March 2003, the authoritarian regimes & media elites of the Middle East focused the discontents of their people on the U.S. & Israel. I thought the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime was directing their minds to a different question, how to build a decent government & a decent society. I think I overestimated how much progress was being made at the time. But the spectacle of 8 million Iraqis braving terrorists to vote on Jan. 30 seems to have moved things up to be changing minds now at breakneck speed.
Evidence abounds. Consider what’s happening in Lebanon, long under Syrian control, in response to the assassination, almost certainly by Syrian agents, of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Protesters have taken to the streets day after day, demanding Syrian withdrawal.
The Washington Post's David Ignatius, who covered Lebanon in the 1980s & has kept in touch since, has been skeptical that the Bush administration's policy would change things for the better. But reporting from Beirut last week, he wrote movingly of "the movement for political change that’s suddenly coalesced in Lebanon & is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world."
Ignatius interviewed Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader long a critic of the U.S. Jumblatt's words are striking: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." As Middle East expert Daniel Pipes writes, "For the first time in three decades, Lebanon now seems within reach of regaining its independence."
Minds are changing in Europe, too. In the left-wing Guardian, Martin Kettle reassures his readers that the Iraq war was "a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance", the usual stuff. "But," he concedes, "it’s nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which wouldn’t have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects."
Or read Claus Christian Malzahn in Der Spiegel. "Maybe the peoples of Syria, Iraq or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did," he writes. "Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was."
And minds are changing in the U.S. On "Nightline," The New York Times' Thomas Friedman &, with caveats, The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell agreed that the Iraqi election was a "tipping point" (the title of one of Gladwell’s books) & declined Ted Koppel's invitation to say things could easily tip back the other way. In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Yale's John Lewis Gaddis credited George W. Bush with "the most sweeping of U.S. grand strategy since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt," criticized Bush's implementation of that strategy in measured tones and called for a "renewed strategic bipartisanship."
One Democrat so inclined is the party's most likely 2008 nominee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She voted for the Iraq war & hasn’t wavered in her support, she avoided voting for the $87 billion before voting against it.
She’s kept clear of the Michael Moore left & its shrill denunciations of Bush & has kept her criticisms well within the bounds of normal partisan discourse.
"Where we stand right now, there can be no doubt that it isn’t in America's interests for the Iraqi government, the experiment in freedom & democracy, to fail," she said on "Meet the Press" on Feb. 20. "So I hope that Americans understand that & that we’ll have as united a front as is possible in our country at this time to keep our troops safe, make sure they have everything they need and try to support this new Iraqi government." may want to keep shrieking about WMD, but Clinton is moving on.
George W. Bush gambled that actions can change minds. So far, he's winning.

Lebanon Update

Since the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, the Lebanese people have rebeled against the puppet government that the Syrians installed. Walid Jumblatt has been the face of this anti- government rally. Now news media report that the rallies aren't ending anytime soon. Here's the article that talk about it.
Lebanon Opposition Vows to Defy Protest Ban
28 February 2005
BEIRUT: Lebanon's Syrian-backed government banned protests planned for Monday (local time) but a main opposition figure vowed the Lebanese would take to the streets to demand who killed former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. Interior minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday "to take all necessary steps to preserve security & order & prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday".
Opposition groups have called a protest at the central Martyrs Square by Hariri's grave & a one-day strike to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the killing that for many recalled Lebanon's bitter 1975-90 civil war. Government & Syrian loyalists, meanwhile, planned to descend on central Beirut to protest against U.S. deputy secretary of state David Satterfield's visit to Lebanon as part of growing international pressure. Clashes between the two sides were feared.
An army statement asked the Lebanese people not to gather, particularly in the streets around parliament. Scores of security forces blocked those streets all day Sunday ahead of what is widely expected to be a fiery debate. But opposition figure Walid Jumblatt promised there would be defiance on Monday, two weeks to the day after the killing that shocked Lebanon.
"We’re going ahead. They can’t prevent us from going down peacefully, democratically & paying tributes to Rafik al-Hariri on the day of the national parliamentary debate where our main aim is to ask who killed Hariri," he said. "We'll do our best. The army has banned it, it wasn’t a surprise from a Lebanese regime that was somehow responsible for the killing of Rafik al-Hariri," he said by telephone from his palace in Lebanon's Chouf mountains.
Opposition deputies & many ordinary Lebanese have held Syria & the Lebanese authorities either directly or indirectly responsible for Hariri's killing, along with 17 other people, on February 14. They pledged last week to call a government no-confidence vote in the session & said security chiefs should be sacked and put on trial. "I hope all the MPs will stand by their duty, defending the interests of the people in confronting this tyrannical fascist regime, because it's no more than two weeks since Hariri was killed," Jumblatt said.
The Druze chieftain, an outspoken critic of Syria's dominance of Lebanon, accused the authorities of hampering a U.N. fact-finding mission on Hariri's killing. "They threatened him, then they killed him, then they did huge damage to the site of the explosion to prevent the international fact-finding mission from having clear-cut evidence," Jumblatt said. "And tomorrow they’re preventing people from praying & asking who killed Hariri." Lebanon has launched an investigation but rejected calls for a full international probe.
Figures from across Lebanon's disparate opposition movement have seized on public fury at Hariri's killing to demand that Syria pull out its troops & intelligence services & that the Beirut government it backs resigns. Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets since Hariri's death to make the same demands. About 200,000 marched through central Beirut in a mass outpouring of grief & anger at Hariri's funeral. Even before a huge bomb blew apart Hariri's motorcade, tensions were building before May elections expected to focus on Syria's presence in its tiny neighbor.
Jumblatt acknowledged the government had a sound majority in parliament & would probably win the no-confidence vote. "The government, I think, will have the majority but day by day they’re losing popular confidence. But they’ll go to the end, it's a struggle for their survival. "Our continuous struggle is for peaceful democratic change."
Washington & France have led growing international pressure on Damascus to pull out & were the main sponsors of a U.N. resolution on the issue. Syria said last week it planned to redeploy its 14,000 troops to the eastern Bekaa valley in line with the 16-year-old Taif agreement that ended Lebanon's war, but specified no time.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Why SS Reform isn't Hillarycare

While watching Sunday's edition of Fox's Weekend Live, I was reminded that the Social Security debate isn't anything like the debate over Hillarycare.
Democratic strategist Bob Beckel pronounced the President's reform plans dead in the water, though he didn't use those exact words. This is the same Bob Beckel that said this year's presidential election was over & that Republicans should get used to a President Kerry. This is the same Bob Beckel that managed the juggernaut once called the Mondale for President campaign. Needless to say, I don't take his pronouncements as etched in stone.
Beckel's objections (& the Washington Post's objections, too) notwithstanding, there's some stark contrasts between SS reform & Hillarycare worth noting, in my opinion.
1. When Hillarycare was introduced, much of what she proposed wasn't familiar with people, specifically a single payer option. When President Bush announced his intention to reform Social Security with PRA's being part of the reform, people were familiar with the notion of PRA's because millions of Americans have 401 (k)'s or similar accounts.
2. When President Clinton charged her with reforming the healthcare system, he'd just been elected with 43% of the vote. President Bush campaigned on reforming Social Security & including PRA's as part of that reform. He garnered 51% of the vote. He also garnered the most votes of any president in history with over 62 million votes.
3. When Hillarycare was introduced, Democrats assumed that congressional leaders like Daniel Rostenkowski & Pat Moynihan would guide it through committees, with little need of grassroots support or pressure. Ken Mehlman, the RNC chairman, has said that the volunteer army from the GOP GOTV effort will be mobilized on pending legislation. It's logical that Social Security will be one of the most intense lobbying efforts of this session of Congress.
This 'volunteer army' shouldn't be misunderestimated. Look at the difference between the 2000 election & the 2004 election, where President Bush's vote total rose 36% in 2004. The 'army' that got the vote out is the same army that will make their presense felt in town hall meetings & in letters to their representatives & their senators.
Of course, none of this will be covered by the MSM. They'll likely focus on comments by Democratic strategists, senators & representatives. What's the basis for this opinion? Look at what their focus was throughout the presidential campaign.
Did we hear anything about Republican voter registration drives? How about the GOP's GOTV efforts? A little begrudging & passing comment here or there. Was the GOTV effort effective? Yes. After all, President Bush's vote total jumped by 36% from his 2000 vote total.
4. Look how far the Dems have already come. It still figures to be a fight for every vote but it isn't as daunting as it once was mischaracterized by Harry Reid's & Nancy Pelosi's response to President Bush's State of the Union Address. Now senators like Jon Corzine are saying that there's a problem & that it needs fixing.
When Hillarycare was introduced, Dems like Dan Rostenkowski gushed with praise for Mrs. Clinton. The Republicans asked questions of her in committee but were reserved. Bit by bit, they exposed the weaknesses to her legislation. They didn't swoon over it. They didn't change their opinions on it. They still disliked it.

GOP Outreach

Ken Mehlman, the RNC chairman recently was the keynote speaker for the National Black Chamber Of Commerce in another in a series of outreach programs titled "Conversations With The Community.”
Here are some of the more noteable quotes from the speech.
"Chairman Mehlman spoke about the RNC’s plans to reach out to minority communities & how President Bush’s policies ranging from education reform to small business incentives & strengthening Social Security, are empowering people of color. “I can’t speak for the party that’s taken you for granted, but I can tell you as the national chairman of the GOP, we intend to compete hard for your support & to earn it. Give us a chance & we’ll give you a choice in politics, so that both parties are listening & learning & earning your support.”
It's safe to say that this is the most agressive outreach the GOP has had with the black community & that this will be the pattern of Mr. Mehlman's chairmanship.
The RNC’s “Conversations With The Community” series was launched in commemoration of Black History Month, but will continue through Chairman Mehlman’s tenure. His next stop is Howard University in Washington D.C.
It'll be interesting to see what impact this will have in the 2006 midterm elections & in the 2008 elections.

The Iraqi Turning Point

In this week's Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol opines that the Iraqi election is a turning point in the war & in the politics in the region.
...listen to Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze Muslim leader & member of parliament, formerly an accommodator of the Syrian occupation & no friend of the Bush administration or its predecessors.
On February 21, Jumblatt, in Beirut, told the Washington Post's David Ignatius that he’s determined to work to get the current Syrian-stooge government out of office & to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon. What accounts for his new sentiment, echoing & echoed by millions of others, in Lebanon & elsewhere in the Middle East? Here's Jumblatt:
It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world...The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.
Yes, Mr. Jumblatt, we can see it. We can see it, partly because of President Bush's vision, partly because of our military's recent successes & partly because of the Iraqi people's growing confidence in self-governance.
Europeans today, just like the Europeans of 1987, can’t imagine that the world might change. Maybe we don't want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the U.S., one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas Americans strive for the world of tomorrow...
That's a great bit of analysis by Claus Christian Malzahn of Der Spiegel. He's right in that Americans believe in improving the quality of life. This idealism was found in liberal doses in the presidencies of JFK, Truman, Reagan & now Bush. We sometimes get in trouble for thinking 'outside the box' but our triumphs make it worth it most of the time.
Bill Kristol concludes "The Bush short-sellers, in the Middle East, in Europe & here at home, are being squeezed. But now's no time for the president to let up, or to cash in. Now that Bush has gathered momentum, he needs to forge ahead. There will be bumps & setbacks. But if Bush can succeed in Iraq, force Syria out of Lebanon & undermine the mullahs in Iran, then historians will say: Bush was willing to fight & Bush was right.
Indeed they'll know he's right, even if the praise comes both belatedly & grudgingly. That's expected considering the political climate. Still, history will write a different tale than the current politicians will.


Syria Hands Saddam's Half-Brother to Iraq
By SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syrian authorities captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother in Syria & handed him over to Iraq in an apparent goodwill gesture.
Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who was also a former adviser suspected of financing insurgents after U.S. troops ousted the former dictator, was captured in Hasakah in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border, two senior Iraqi officials told The AP on condition of anonymity. The officials didn't specify when al-Hassan was captured, only saying he was detained following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in a blast that killed 16 others.
Syria has come under intense scrutiny following Hariri's death, with many in Lebanon blaming Damascus & Beirut's pro-Syrian government for the killing. The U.S. & France also have called on Damascus to withdraw 15,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Washington has long accused Syria of harboring & aiding former members of Saddam's toppled Ba’athist regime suspected of involvement in the deadly insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
"The capture appeared to be a goodwill gesture by the Syrians to show that they're cooperating," one Iraqi official told the AP.
Anyone thinking that President Bush's regional strategy in pursuing terrorists didn't play a big part in Saddam's half-brother being captured is kidding themselves. I'm also skeptical that Saddam's half-brother was captured, too, especially considering how friendly Syria has been with Ba'athists & other elements of Saddam's regime.

Creating A 9/11 Republican

Columnist Cinnamon Stillwell's Thursday column is one worth reading. It talks about his transformation from a Left Coast liberal to a 9/11 conservative. It can be found here:
Here's a few noteworthy paragraphs:
So, what happened to change all that? In a nutshell, 9/11. The terrorist attacks on this country were not only an act of war but also a crime against humanity. It seemed glaringly obvious to me at the time & it still does today. But the reaction of my former comrades on the left bespoke a different perspective. The day after the attacks, I dragged myself into work, still in a state of shock, & the first thing I heard was one of my co-workers bellowing triumphantly, "Bush got his war!" There was little sympathy for the victims of this horrific attack, only an irrational hatred for their own country.

This commentary definitely casts liberals of that ilk in a bad light. What turns my stomach is that, even if they didn't like President Bush, this columnist's co-workers should've shown alot more compassion for the innocent victims.

As I spent months grieving the losses, others around me wrapped themselves in the comfortable shell of cynicism & acted as if nothing had changed. I soon began to recognize in them an inability to view America or its people as victims, born of years of indoctrination in which we were always presented as the bad guys.
Never mind that every country in the world acts in its own self-interest, forms alliances with unsavory countries, some of which change later, & are forced to act militarily at times. America was singled out as the sole guilty party on the globe
. I, on the other hand, for the first time in my life, had come to truly appreciate my country & all that it encompassed, as well as the bravery & sacrifices of those who fight to protect it.

While I know that it isn't news anymore to find America-bashing here in the land of liberty, I still find it amazing. As the columnist notes, every country acts in their own self-interest. America just happens to be better at it than others.

Thoroughly disgusted by the behavior of those on the left, I began to look elsewhere for support. To my astonishment, I found that the only voices that seemed to me to be intellectually & morally honest were on the right. Suddenly, I was listening to conservative talk-show hosts on the radio & reading conservative columnists, & they were making sense. When I actually met conservatives, I discovered that they didn't at all embody the stereotypes with which I'd been inculcated as a liberal.

Welcome to the world of what I sometimes refer to as 'a thinking man's politics'. While the stereotypes persist, they're about as inaccurate as the descriptions of evangelical Christians, which isn't accurate at all. Steve Martin's sarcastic line from his comedy album (no, CD's hadn't been invented yet) "Let's Get Small" where he encourages his listeners to "Criticize things you don't know about" fits this column perfectly. This intellectual laziness is rampant, it seems, in big city newspapers & at the networks.

In my search for like-minded individuals, I also gravitated toward the religiously observant. This was somewhat revolutionary, considering my former liberal discomfort with religious folk, but I found myself in agreement on a number of issues. When it came to support for Israel, Orthodox Jews & Christian Zionists were natural allies. As the left rained down vicious attacks on Israel, commentators on the right (with the exception of Pat Buchanan & his ilk) became staunch supporters of the nation. The fact that I'm not a particularly religious person myself had little bearing on this political relationship, for it's entirely possible to be secular & not be antireligious. Unlike the secular fundamentalists who make it their mission in life to destroy all vestiges of America's Judeo-Christian heritage, I have come to value this legacy.

This is a perspective that I can't picture someone like a Ted Kennedy or a Howard Dean having. It seems like, especially with Gov. Dean, that if you're for something, you've got to be against something equally vigorously. In Gov. Dean's world, if you don't like a Bush policy, then you can't like any of President Bush's policies. To me, that sounds childish, bordering on stupid.

Serious Business (With a Sense of Humor)

Jack Kelly's column in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is both informative & funny. Here's a few quotes worth reading.

Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, roared with laughter as he recalled the increasing missteps of the resistance in Iraq in an interview earlier this month with British journalist Toby Harnden, writing for The Spectator. "There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off."

This hardly sounds like the skilled band of insurgents that posed a serious threat to the U.S. military for all those months.

The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police," Stockmoe told Harnden, "It was like the movie 'Dumb & Dumber.' "

If this is becoming the typical reaction of the citizenry, then the insurgents have lost. If they've lost the ability to intimidate & scare, then the insurgency is doomed.

"The nine election day suicide bombers averaged about three victims each, a strike rate so bad that Allah might soon start rationing the virgins to show his displeasure," Harnden wrote.

Now that's a funny line, especially since military commanders aren't noted for this type of quip.
Stockmoe has heard so many similar stories that he created an Iraqi version of the "Darwin Awards." Created in 1993 by a student at Stanford University, the Darwin awards commemorate those who "contribute to our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a really stupid way."
The number of insurgent attacks has fallen off significantly since the Fallujah offensive last November & the attacks that are being made are less effective.
Right after the Fallujah offensive, there was a serious uptick in the violence & President Bush's critics let him know about it, mostly by saying that this proved that "the president didn't have a plan to win the peace." It now appears as though President Bush is on the verge of winning a big victory in Iraq.
With the insurgents being less & less effective, coupled with more Iraqi troops getting trained, maybe the U.S. forces will be able to be drawn down.
A victory in Iraq, coupled with the election reform now underway in Egypt & with the anti-Syrian uprisings in Lebanon, would be quite the masterstroke for the President.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Egyptian Election Reform

Egypt's Mubarak Orders Election Reform
By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday ordered a revision of the country's election laws & said multiple candidates could run in the nation's presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak hasn't faced since taking power in 1981. The surprise announcement, a response to critics' calls for political reform, comes shortly after historic elections in Iraq & the Palestinian territories, balloting that brought a taste of democracy to the region. It also comes amid a sharp dispute with the U.S. over Egypt's arrest of one of the strongest proponents of multi-candidate elections.
"The election of a president will be through direct, secret balloting, giving the chance for political parties to run for the presidential elections & providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to choose among them with their own will," Mubarak said in an address broadcast live on Egyptian television.
Mubarak, who's never faced an opponent since becoming president after the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, said his initiative came "out of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom & democracy." The audience before him at Menoufia University broke into applause & calls of support, some shouting, "Long live Mubarak, mentor of freedom & democracy!" Others spontaneously recited verses of poetry praising the government.
Mubarak said he asked parliament & the Shura Council to amend Article 76 of the constitution, which deals with presidential elections. Mohammed Kamal, a leading member of the ruling party's policy-making committee, said parliament would propose its amendment within two weeks. Mubarak said the amendment would then be put to a public referendum before the presidential polls, which are scheduled for September. Kamal said he expected the referendum to be held within nine weeks.
As recently as last month Mubarak had rejected opposition demands to open presidential balloting to other candidates, & he was obviously aware of the historic potential of his announcement. "If it happens, it would be the first time in the political history of Egypt that a chance is given to somebody who is capable of shouldering the responsibility to protect the people's achievements & future security to come forward for presidential elections with parliamentary & popular support," he said.
Egypt holds presidential referendums every six years in which people vote "yes" or "no" for a single candidate who's been approved by parliament. Mubarak has been nominated by his ruling National Democratic Party to stand in four presidential referendums, winning more than 90 percent of the vote each time. Mubarak hasn't officially announced his candidacy for a fifth term, though he's widely expected to be nominated by his ruling party.
Several opposition leaders have demanded that Mubarak amend the constitution to let more than one candidate compete for the presidency. In recent meetings between opposition groups & the government, it was agreed that an amendment would be discussed after September's presidential referendum, making Mubarak's announcement even more surprising.
The move also comes amid a dispute between Egypt & the U.S. over the recent detention of an opposition leader. Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad Party, was detained Jan. 29 on allegations of forging nearly 2,000 signatures to secure a license for his party last year. He's rejected the accusation, & human rights groups have said his detention was politically motivated. The prosecutor general has denied that charge.
His detention has been strongly criticized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice & Rice canceled a Mideast visit that'd been planned for next week, a decision believed to be in protest of Nour's detention. Hafez Abu Saada, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, praised Mubarak's "unexpected step," which he said reflected local, regional and international pressure. "It's an important step that gives the Egyptian society a strong push for more freedom & democracy," he said.
Activist Aida Seif el-Dawla was tentative in her praise. "This concession is made to the United States of America. It's better for him (Mubarak) if this decision came as a result of the national dialogue with the opposition parties & in response to the protests against the law," she said. "Let us wait & see, because a free campaign of more than one candidate requires more than a statement from the president."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Hillary Rebuked

Hillary Rebuked by Iraqi Leader

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has caused an international incident after she criticized Iraq's leading candidate to become prime minister as a result of last month's historic election, prompting a sharp rebuke."Hillary Clinton, as far as I know, doesn't represent any political decision or the American administration, & I don't know why she said this," Dr. Ibrahim Jafari, who's expected to become prime minister, told the Times of London on Thursday. "She knows nothing about the Iraqi situation," he added.
That's a serious shot at Sen. Clinton. She should know better than offering opinions about who should or shouldn't be prime minister. That's the reason for voting.
During an interview Sunday, Clinton complained about Jafari's nomination by the duly elected Shia coalition. "I think that there are grounds both for concern & for, you know, vigilance about this," she told NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's a historical fact that he, along with the Dawa Party, have had connections with Iran...There's also family ties & religious ties."

Sen. Clinton shouldn't meddle in other nation's elections as long as the elections were on the up & up. Rigged elections are another thing. She should hold her opinions to herself in these situations.

The comments angered Dr. Jafari, a physician from Karbala who fled to Iran only after Saddam Hussein had members of his party killed. He blasted Mrs. Clinton as ill-informed. "We aren't at an American traffic light to be given a red or green signal," Jafari told the Times. "I'm speaking on behalf of a collective decision. I'll stop when the Iraqi people say to stop."
Ouch!!! That's a real shot at Mrs. Clinton. She hasn't learned when she's overstepping her boundaries. She's never shown any foreign policy instincts, either.

The Bush administration hasn't expressed concerns similar to Mrs. Clinton's, said the New York Sun, which first reported Dr. Jafari's comments in the U.S.
That's because the Bush administration understands that Iraqis will pick a government that represents their values. They also know that they can't dictate policy to Iraq. They can advise or suggest, but they can't dictate.

Lynn Swann for PA Governor

Feb. 24, 2005
Swann Takes First Step Toward Pa. Gov. Run
Former Steelers star Lynn Swann has filed papers forming a campaign committee for governor, his first official step toward a possible campaign for the Pennsylvania governorship in 2006. Swann's filing allows him to begin raising money for a campaign. He filed the papers yesterday. Swann, who's worked as a broadcaster since his retirement as a wide receiver, promised to begin "a conversation with the people of Pennsylvania."
Swann's candidacy would be troublesome, to say the least, to Gov. Rendell's re-election because he could seriously cut into Rendell's support amongst African Americans. He's also articulate & would pose a challenge to Rendell in debates. Rendell's no idiot but he often comes across as too hard-nosed. Swann comes across as optimistic & upbeat. That can't be underestimated.
"Ill spend time introducing myself to communities across the commonwealth," he said in a statement. "As I consider my personal decision regarding the upcoming gubernatorial race, we'll also explore the potential political & financial support for my candidacy."

Swann named his committee Team 88, the number he wore during his Hall of Fame career.
Swann faces at least two prospective opponents for the GOP nomination next year, state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola of Harrisburg & former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III. The nominee is expected to take on Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in his bid for a second term.
I can't say that I know much about Mssrs. Piccola & Scranton but I'd have to think they'd have a serious challenge matching Swann's starpower & fundraising ability. I'd also have to think that Karl Rove would love seeing a conservative African American challenging Gov. Rendell. I'd also bet that President Bush would throw his fundraising & campaigning support behind Mr. Swann.
I'd think of this candidacy as furtherance of the Bush/Rove/Mehlman outreach to African Americans. Sooner or later, this will take root in the African American vote.

The 'New Democratic Party'

Shortly after getting their heads handed to them in the 2004 election, Hillary, Ted Kennedy & other agressively pro choice Dems spoke about the need to reach out to pro life voters. I was skeptical of this tactic. Now, based on this story, I'm feeling vindicated.
Liberal groups also signaled no letup in their campaign against conservative judges.
"Rather than starting a new Congress with judicial nominees commanding bipartisan support, they immediately renew the judicial wars with polarizing nominees who were blocked in the previous Congress," said Ralph G. Neas, head of People for the American Way."
Boy doesn't that sound like they're moderating their position??? Mr. Neas, you'd better learn that winning presidential elections matters. It gives that person the right to nominate judges that believe the way he does.
Mr. Neas, what's so polarizing about these nominees??? Are they polarizing because they're pro life? I thought Democrats were going to reach out to pro life voters. If that's the case, they're off to a pathetic start.
This is also symbolic of why so many people don't trust them. They pay lip service to a demographic group in a press conference, then stab those same voters in the back when legislation that affects those voters is introduced. Voters notice this doublespeak.
Here's Hugh Hewitt's take on this type of tactic:
"The 45 Senate Democrats of 2005 are as united in opposition to conservative judges as Southern Senate Democrats of 1964 were united in opposition to civil rights. (Republican senators voted by a margin of 27 to 6 to end the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democrats voted 44 to 23 to end the filibuster. Then, as now, reactionary Democrats used the filibuster to thwart majoritarian positions. Interestingly, Robert Byrd appears to me to be the only supporter of filibusters against both civil rights & majority-supported judicial nominees, which may well earn him the title of most reactionary senator in history.)
This fundamental & irreconcilable chasm, Democrats don't believe that any nominee who can be suspected of believing in the personhood of the unborn or of other "deeply held beliefs," to quote Senator Schumer, is qualified to sit on the federal bench, can't be bridged, & given its importance, shouldn't be avoided. Senators Leahy, Schumer, Kennedy, Boxer, Clinton & Reid have in essence imposed a prohibited "religious test" on nominees for office.
If this isn't doublespeak of the worst order, then doublespeak & lying don't exist. The key part of this paragraph is that Democrats still think that pro life judges can't be trusted. As long as they vote that way, they won't win over any pro life voters.
What makes this so important is that more people are siding with pro life positions. Even pro choice voters are moderating their positions. That accounts for the passing of the ban on partial birth abortions or the so-called Laci & Conner Act, which recognizes the common sense fact that unborn babies are people, the passage of legislation that mandates parental notification when minors are seeking an abortion.
If Dems don't make genuine changes in their treatment of pro lifers, they can expect to be a minority party for quite awhile.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Heaven Forbid

Der Spiegel splashed a most horrifying headline on its front page today. It's safe to say that many Europeans are in shock just thinking it might be accurate. The headline??? Read for yourself.
Could George W. Bush Be Right?
By Claus Christian Malzahn in Berlin
Feb. 23, 2005
Germany loves to criticize U.S. President George W. Bush's Middle East policies, just like Germany loved to criticize former President Ronald Reagan. But Reagan, when he demanded that Gorbachev remove the Berlin Wall, turned out to be right. Could history repeat itself?
Quick quiz. He was re-elected as president of the U.S. despite being largely disliked in the world, particularly in Europe. The Europeans considered him to be a war-monger & liked to accuse him of allowing his deep religious beliefs to become the motor behind his foreign policy. Easy right?
Actually, the answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush's visit, Reagan's trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president & his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate, & the Berlin Wall & demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this Wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He’s a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.
But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination, a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany. Those who spoke of reunification were labeled as nationalists & the German left was completely uninterested in a unified Germany.
When George W. Bush requests that Chancellor Schroeder, who, by the way, also wasn’t entirely complimentary of Reagan's 1987 speech, & Germany become more engaged in the Middle East, everybody on the German side will nod affably. But despite all of the sugar coating the trans-Atlantic relationship has received in recent days, Germany's foreign policy depends on differentiating itself from the U.S. And when Bush leaves Europe, the differences will remain. Indeed, Bush's idea of a Middle Eastern democracy imported at the tip of a bayonet is, for Schroeder's Social Democratic Party & his coalition partner the Green Party, the hysterical offspring off the American neo-cons. Even German conservatives find the idea that Arabic countries could transform themselves into enlightened democracies somewhat absurd.
This, in fact, is likely the largest point of disagreement between Europe & the U.S. & one that a President John Kerry likely wouldn’t have made smaller: Europeans today, just like the Europeans of 1987, can’t imagine that the world might change. Maybe we don't want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the U.S., one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.
President Bush's dad admitted that he lacked "the vision thing." The current President Bush & Ronald Reagan share in much the same visions. They see freedom as the single most powerful force in transforming the lives of the oppressed & the dissidents.
During the Cold War, these differences were covered up by clearly shared security & political interests; now, the gaps are becoming visible. The two continents will continue to drift apart despite all of the smiles exchanged today in Mainz, yesterday in Brussels & tomorrow in Bratislava.

It was difficult not to cringe during Reagan's speech in 1987. He didn't leave a single Berlin cliché out of his script. At the end of it, most experts agreed that his demand for the removal of the Wall was inopportune, utopian & crazy.

President Reagan's own speechwriter took out the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall line several times, including the final draft. Reagan knew the importance & the potency of that sentence. That's why he included it in his speech.

Yet three years later, East Germany disappeared from the map. Gorbachev had a lot to do with it, but it was the East Germans who played the larger role. When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen.
And maybe history can repeat itself. Maybe the people of Syria, Iran or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes
just as the East Germans did. When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.
Freedom's force is powerful wherever it's unleashed. In post WWII Japan, the realists said that the Japanese people couldn't & wouldn't adapt to democracy. After all, they were used to an emporor. In 1987, realists thought that the wall couldn't crumble. After all, the Soviets were too powerful. In 2004, the realist crowd said Iraqi democracy was an unattainable pipedream. They were partially right. It was a dream, though it wasn't unattainable & it wasn't a pipedream.
Now we're on the verge of the return of democracy to Lebanon, the Palestinians have had their first real vote, Afghani women voted in large numbers & the Ukraine is a pro-Western country, freed from Russia's dictates. Give me the wise dreamers of the world any day.

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.
Chew on or choke on? It's Europe's option.

Indoctrination 401

HT to Polipundit & Ace of Spades

What Are They Teaching?
I was reminded by this post at Ace of Spades ab
out the story of the letters a sixth grade class sent to a soldier serving near the North Korea border. For those who haven't already heard the story, some of the letters to the soldier included questions about how many civilians he'd killed & about destroying mosques. The teacher sent the letters to the soldier in one large envelope with a cover letter. I watched the soldier’s father on Hannity & Colmes last night & he was, rightly, angry that the teacher had allowed some of the letters to be sent to his son, who's in a very dangerous part of the world risking his life, & doesn’t need to deal with crap like that. The father has the letters now, & I really hope he goes after the teacher that approved sending them.
This isn't a case of free speech, it's a matter of common sense, good taste, & filling young skulls full of mush with, well, liberal mush. Have these students been taught who makes war policy? Do they have any idea what those in the military do? If they did, they would've directed their anti-war remarks to the President or the Secretary of Defense, not some soldier who's following orders. Did the students know that the soldier (who was contacted ahead of time & asked if he'd be willing to receive letters from a class) was near N. Korea, not in Iraq? The letters say a lot more about what's being taught in the schools, not only with respect to biased, anti-war propaganda, but about whether they've even been taught the basics about how the military & the executive branch & the Defense Department work.
Though I don't have proof that the teacher told these kids what to say, I think it's quite reasonable to think that the teacher put the anti-war words in these kids' mouth.
Lorie at is exactly right in pointing out that this soldier has nothing to do with setting military policy. What makes it more disgusting is that this soldier is stationed in South Korea, not exactly a hotbed for Muslim mosques.
This teacher should be fired if his or her intent was to criticize this country's policies via these letters to an innocent soldier far from the Iraqi theater in the war on terror.

RNC "Off the Record" Interviews

The RNC has started interviewing members of the GOP. Thus far, they've interviewed Sen. John Thune & RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman. This week's interview is with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
These interviews can be viewed at You can select either viewing the video or reading the transcript. These interviews will be a weekly feature.

They Can't Help Themselves

From Hugh Hewitt: "Sen. Schumer is worried about the Dems losing three more seats in 2006, but he will no doubt be one of the Senators leading the charge against the eventual Bush nominee. The radicals on judicial nominations in the Democratic caucus, Leahy, Kennedy, Schumer, ought to know by now that the majority of Americans don't believe religious people to be "outside the mainstream" as Schumer intimated when he brought William Pryor's "deeply held beliefs" as a reason for opposing his confirmation to the federal circuit court.
But if they know, they can't help themselves. And so those three seats might actually be four or five.
Sen. Schumer was just picked to be the leader of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), where 2 pro lifers are challenging Republican incumbents. Will he tone down his rhetoric against pro life judicial nominees & praise the pro-life candidates he'll need to win elections? Or will he just blast away at pro-life judicial nominees & worry about the consequences later? I'm betting he'll be as bombastic as ever.

Imagine the Surprise! features an article by Mark Mellman, who writes about the Dems' "Hispanic problems." It's mostly polling numbers but some of those numbers jump out at me. Here's a sampling of the numbers.
Before November, public polls showed Sen. John Kerry with 65 percent of the Latino vote. “Kerry’s winning the Latino vote by a margin greater than Al Gore’s,” one analyst proclaimed. Then, on election night, the exit polls showed Kerry getting nine points less than Gore had among Latinos. (The Kerry campaign’s internal polling had revealed consistent subpar performance among Latinos.)
What's significant to me about this is that Kerry got a smaller percentage of the minority vote than Gore & that it was across the board. He got a smaller percentage of Jewish, Catholic, African American & Hispanic voters.
I think this points out the wisdom of the BC04 plan of highlighting religious values to these groups. Bush courted evangelical African American church pastors, he spoke to the staunchly pro-life Catholics, the pro-Israel Jewish community & pro-life Hispanics, many of whom are Catholic.
Shortly after the election, I wrote here that for too long Democrats had considered Latinos part of the base, failing to acknowledge changes & contradictions in their political views. For example, we found in 2002 that while Latinos identified as Democrats, unlike other partisans, they bore relatively little ill will toward Republicans, a dangerous situation for us.
A couple of weeks later, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus took an even stronger position, urging that the community no longer be treated as part of the base at all.
You can bet that Democratic political consultants have started planning how they can win more Hispanic voters. They can't ignore Republicans' increased popularity amongst Hispanics.
While polls still differ on the precise level of Kerry’s Latino support, they all converge on a decline of four to seven points compared to 2000. Over a longer period, the declines are even steeper. Dukakis garnered 65-69 percent of the Latino vote, a far cry from Kerry’s 57 percent.
Who would've thought that, at least in this aspect, that we'd be saying that Kerry is no Dukakis & that it'd be a negative? Kerry worked hard early in the runup to the general election to show he wasn't as wimpy as Gov. Dukakis. It turns out that he wasn't as appealing to Hispanics despite his toughness campaign.
Religiosity plays a role in this community, as in nearly all others. Kerry’s support was 26 points higher among Hispanics who go to church more than once a week, than among those who rarely attend.
I'm unwilling to believe this statistic without further proof. Sen. Kerry performed poorly amongst church goers in almost all other groups.