Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Useless Nattering

U.N. agency pressures Ban on climate crisis summit

The U.N. environment agency pressured Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday to call an emergency climate summit amid dire reports about the risks from global warming.
We can hope this receives the same emergency attention from the UN as has the genocide in Darfur. Even Kofi Annan has acknowledged this UN failure, though he felt obliged to simultaneously spew non sequitur criticisms of the United States - the only country actually trying to get the UN off its backside.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Times waddles in

It seems the Supreme Court is going to revisit campaign finance reform. A group called Wisconsin Right to Life is arguing that banning free speech is unconstitutional because it was prevented from sponsoring TV ads in 2004.

Even the Los Angeles Times now can see where money might be speech. Its editorial, Liberate Free Speech, offers a bunch of caveats, indicating it still does not understand the underlying principle. No one expects the LAT to be able to understand the First Amendment. They are starting to detect a threat to newspapers.

... if the court isn't willing to go back to the drawing board, Congress should. An advertisement praising or criticizing a politician * even one seeking reelection * has more in common with the endorsement editorials that appear on this page than it does with the campaign contributions (in hard or soft dollars) that have received only minimal 1st Amendment protection from the courts.

The "bright line" that needs to be drawn is the one between financing someone else's message and articulating your own.
Emphasis mine.

That "bright line" seems a little blinding to the Times. The "bright line" that needs to be drawn is, of course, between free speech and restricted speech. It matters not whether I choose to finance the message of the NRA or of the ACLU while also articulating my own; or if they want to fund each other's. I don't care that George Soros does it personally and with impunity. The entirety of McCain-Feingold needs to be assigned to the ash heap of history, not just pieces the LA Times finds objectionable because it cuts too close to their own privilege.

The LA Times had a different take in 2003:

Quite simply, the [Washington] Post editorialist declared, the decision represented the laudable culmination of "years of Supreme Court precedent" and guarantees that "American democracy is not defenseless and that purchased access to the powerful is not protected by the right of free speech."

Similar comments dominated the editorial pages of America's great dailies, with many encouraging Congress and the federal courts to look for new ways of expanding regulation of political speech in the interest of preventing the appearance of an alleged evil. The decision, claimed the Los Angeles Times, "signals an overdue recognition of the power and the danger big money poses in federal elections and public policy . . . the high court's clear affirmation of the measure, shifting the balance a bit away from free-speech absolutism, should provide the momentum for further reform."
Further reform, indeed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

From the front

Better reporting from Iraq than you'll get from your local newspaper:

Bill Roggio
Iraqi Army battles Shia cult, Sunni insurgents in Najaf

Michael Yon
Desolate roads

Today is Milton Friedman Day

Milton Friedman Day

Dr. Milton Friedman was perhaps the most influential economist of the 20th Century, and the impact of his ideas will extend far into the future. To honor the man, January 29th is declared as Milton Friedman Day – a celebration of the economist’s positive impact on American life and business, and the spread of the benefits of free markets to nations around the globe. Milton Friedman Day will include a host of activities, including a “Day of National Debate” at universities across the country, a live online discussion on The Economist’s Free Exchange blog, and the premiere of the PBS special, “The Power of Choice: The Life and Ideas of Milton Friedman”
Local listings.

Update: 5:41PM
Plato's Republic or Milton Friedman's Market?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stupid YouTube tricks

There is a video at YouTube proving conclusively that Hillary Clinton can't sing any better than I can. So what?

It is sad that this will, not may, affect votes among the mental equivalent of high school sophomores, whatever their chronological age. People who cannot name the Vice President, 3 members of SCOTUS, or the 3 branches of government, for example. Probably every person who watches MTV.

I don't like Hillary, but for this to form any part of a voter's decision is deleterious to freedom. It isn't a problem for democracy - all those who think Obama is a better singer can vote on that basis. The problem is that they will.

At least Hillary is singing. Could be worse. I wonder about Sheila Jackson Lee and Cynthia McKinney, for example.

The video is not recommended, but for completeness, it's here.

Surging news

In case you have not been following my advice to check out Iraq the Model for first hand commentary about changes in Baghdad security:

Baghdad Plan Update.

It looked quiet from my place...

This post offers a nice view of what actually occurred in the parliamentary debate, which was described very differently by the New York Times.

Sources: Operation Baghdad starts on February 5.

Update: 4:39PM The Democracy Project nails it:

No, the “surge” is not a magic bullet. Indeed, far more is needed, all up and down the line from military to diplomatic force. But, it is having some important results, even now when just starting. We should be demanding the far more that is needed.

Instead, many are folding their tents and by their silence deserting into the night. Instead, the line must be held against the counterproductive various resolutions in Congress, which only work for politicians catering to weak will for their own personal interests in holding office, and which only serve the enemy that depends on surrenders and spinelessness in Washington for what they can’t and won’t achieve on the battlefield or in the hearts and minds of the locals.

Arguments for conscience and sense that neither serve conscience or sense, because they spell defeat and worse consequences, are smokescreens.

It’s that clear.

Politics, not science

U.N. climate report will shock the world - chairman

I hope so. The world should be shocked - shocked and appalled. The media hype for this propaganda is as much an insult to science as is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's history of pretending political snake-oil is science.

Politics first, science second

These policymakers' summaries have a troubled history. One was once altered at the last minute to change wording that had already been approved by scientists. The summary release format also makes it clear that climate is a political issue first and a science issue second.

Another U.S. official says next week's summary will be an "iconic statement" rather than a sound science document. No surprise there. The policymakers' summary of the last report in 2001 highlighted the greatest climate icon of all, the 1,000-year hockey-stick graph. There it sits on page 3, the first graph, allegedly proof that 1998 was the warmest year of the millennium.

Today, the IPCC says the 1,000-year graph, the focal point of the February, 2001, summary, was a very minor part of the climate-science effort. The hockey stick, they say, played no big scientific role. But it played a major political role as part of the IPCC's campaign, which will be the sole purpose of next Friday's over-hyped event.
I do not think this is the sort of shock IPCC chairman Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri has in mind, though. I think he means shocked as in, "Be afraid. Be very afraid. If we do not implement Kyoto, and more, we are doomed. This is your LAST WARNING:"

Scientists say rising greenhouses gases will make climate change unstoppable in a decade

THE world has just 10 years to reverse surging greenhouse gas emissions or risk runaway climate change that could make many parts of the planet uninhabitable.

The stark warning comes from scientists who are working on the final draft of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
That's actually the good news, because if it is true we must focus on mitigation, not prevention. Achieving the targets Kyoto requires has proven impossible for the signatories, and now we're told it is probably insufficient to the task. If bankrupting western economies won't do it, what can they propose next?

If the catastrophe is a done deal, the question is how we cope with it. Instead, we will have renewed calls for implementing Kyoto; the only discernible effect of which would be to destroy the economic strength needed to mitigate the catastrophe. Honest assessment of whether anthropogenic global warming is a threat, and if it is what can be done about it, is not the purpose of the "scientists" working for the IPCC.

Dr. Pachauri has been refreshingly honest about the purpose of the IPCC, and about the utility of Kyoto. In a 2002 interview granted to the BBC he said:

"If you go back to the record, I have been very critical of some elements of the oil industry."

He defends the Kyoto Protocol - designed to reduce human influence on the global climate - as being better than nothing, and says the panel's job is to provide compelling evidence for the need for countries to make new commitments to fight global warming.
Dr. Pachauri has indeed been "very critical" of the oil industry.

In 2001 he supported a consumer boycott of ExxonMobil for its stance on global warming, saying it was "a good way to put economic pressure on the US."
So the Kyoto protocol is "better than nothing" in aiding the IPPC's goal of providing "compelling evidence for the need for countries to make new commitments to fight global warming." I.e., The IPCC assumes global warming is both caused by humans and correctable by humans. It further assumes that the Kyoto protocols are an important aid to this mission whether or not the signatories live up to their commitments, or even if Kyoto requires wasting so much treasure as to render us unable to respond to global warming problems if we have to.

Assuming a theory is correct, boycotting contrary ideas and claiming your job is to provide compelling evidence for some policy or other is not science. This latest IPCC report is one of a series of political statements and should be treated as such.

Some other TOC references to the politics of global warming can be found at the following links:

Thursday, April 13, 2006
The heat goes on

Sunday, May 07, 2006
Anthropomorphic leftwing insults

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Hokey Stuck

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Climate Chumps

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Sellers remorse?

In the interest of unfairness, we'll give the final word to Al Gore:

Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.
Emphasis mine. This is Clinton-speak for lying about it.

Update: 4:32PM
Enron's Green-Fingered Successors
Global warming as corporate welfare, why some megacorps like the hockey stick and the UAW does not.

Climate change a 'questionable truth'

Policy. Politics. Science?

Carter's heir apparent

You've probably already heard about the botched joke, John Kerry. Told in Davos the other day.

But just in case. Kerry rips Bush in front of former Iranian president at Davos

Update: 5:34PM Kerry on Kyoto.

Friday, January 26, 2007


On January 12th TOC predicted how MSM headlines would spin any good news coming out of "the surge."

"The fragile Iraqi government is threatened by...", "Al_Sadr vows to bring down Maliki government...", "Bush's plan foundering on the rock of al-Sadr..."

We didn't have to wait long. Yesterday, the Iraqi government gave its assent to a crackdown on insurgent death squads - basically meaning Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Since al-Sadr has been a major political ally of the al-Maliki government, the debate on this item was, shall we say, spirited.

The New York Times uses 914 words, not counting the headline, to make sure we appreciate the acrimony. A sample follows.

Iraq Leader and Sunni Officials in Clash on Security

BAGHDAD, Jan. 25 Iraq's Shiite prime minister and Sunni lawmakers hurled insults at one another during a raucous session of Parliament on Thursday, with the prime minister threatening a Sunni lawmaker with arrest and the Sunni speaker of Parliament threatening to quit.

The uproar revolved around the new Baghdad security plan, but it came as the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, is under increasing pressure to demonstrate evenhandedness. President Bush's new strategy for Iraq hinges in large measure on the Iraqi government*s ability to rein in both Shiite and Sunni militants.

In Parliament on Thursday, Mr. Maliki focused his anger on Sunni lawmakers, accusing one of being involved in sectarian kidnappings. The confrontation erupted after Mr. Maliki described the outlines of the new Baghdad security plan and pledged there would be no 'safe haven' for militants.

The leader of a powerful Sunni bloc, Abdul Nasir al-Janabi, provoked Mr. Maliki, saying over jeers from Shiite politicians, 'We cannot trust the office of the prime minister.'

His microphone was quickly shut off, and Mr. Maliki lashed into him, essentially accusing him of being one of the outlaws he had just said would not be granted sanctuary.

Sounds like Ted Kennedy in an argument with Dennis Kucinich to me.

After 914 words the Times does note:

Eventually, though, the tensions eased and Parliament approved the security plan.

After 914 words.

Seems to me the opening para could have been; "The Iraqi Parliament today overcame serious factional conflict to approve a crackdown on sectarian violence in Baghdad. This was an endorsement of President Bush's plan to increase US troop levels. The agreement may or may not be honored in the breach, but without its passage chances for success of the President's plan would have been severely reduced."

After 9 words, counting the dateline, we know who, what, when and where. This is the lede, the burying of which is a journalistic faux pas.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thanks, Senator. That clears things up nicely.

You must read this account of Chuck Schumer's answer to a question by David Gregory: "But how can the public really buy the Democrats support the troops but don't support the mission? How can you do both?"

Schumer Lets Slip: 'We Support The Troops' a Sham

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


A press release from the National Center for Public Policy Research sees the President's SOTU health care reform proposals as positive:

"That is the best idea for health insurance since the enactment of health savings accounts," said NCPPR senior policy analyst David Hogberg. "This really helps level the playing field for the tax treatment of health insurance."

Presently the tax code favors employees receiving their health insurance through their employer. "That really puts individuals at a disadvantage," said Hogberg. "This change will help lower the cost for those people who purchase insurance on the individual market."

The proposal to limit the tax deduction also deserves praise. With the current unlimited tax deduction, employees have more incentive to demand higher cost insurance policies that cover every little health expense. This leads to higher demand for health care, which leads to higher health care costs. That, in turn, boosts costs for health insurance. "The limit on the tax deduction will reduce the incentive to buy expensive, wasteful policies," said Hogberg. "That will result in lower health insurance costs for everyone."
There's no question that government intervention increases the cost of health care, both through direct subsidy and taxation policy, but what really caught my attention were these comments from Congresscritters Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Pete Stark (D-CA):

Rangel: "This is a dangerous policy that ultimately shifts cost and risk from employers to employees and could result in a higher number of uninsured."

Stark: "Under the guise of tax breaks, the president is pursuing a policy designed to destroy the employer-based health care system through which 160 million people receive coverage."
The "employer-based health care system" is itself a result of government interference. Because the Feds imposed wage and price controls during WWII, employers competed for employees by offering benefits through loopholes in those controls - paying for employee health care, for example. "Employer-based health care" originated from doubly inept government intervention. Fifty years later, General Motors, and Michigan, are suffering from that government intervention.

So is everyone else. ALL health care costs are higher because the government fiddles with it. Bush proposes to allow health insurance tax deductions for the self-employed and the "progressives" freak. How reactionary.

That Rangel and Stark think employers owe employees health care is unsurprising, that they act as if it appears in the Bill of Rights is populist paternalism, that they have no interest in affordable health care is obvious. They would prefer a government run health care system; and unless employers are kept shackled to the responsibility, and employees to the dependency, true socialist health care is less likely to happen. Employers currently function as proxies.

I recommend reading Arnold Kling's articles Insulation vs. Insurance, and The President’s Plan at Cato Unbound for further perspective.

Serendipitous Update: 8:12PM
Thanks to Bizzy Blog for this link

America's biggest motor manufacturers are negotiating a revolutionary plan to rid themselves of tens of billions of dollars of healthcare liabilities by transferring the responsibility to employees' unions.

General Motors and Ford have opened talks with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union about a scheme that would see the union run a massive fund to pay the healthcare bills for tens of thousands of retired car plant employees. In return for a one-off payment into the new UAW fund, the car makers could, with one bound, be free of liabilities they say are crippling them.
Technically, this would be an employEE sponsored health plan, would it not? Though, if I were a UAW member, I'd much rather run my personal plan myself. Second choice is - leave it with GM until SarBox applies to Unions. Thanks anyway.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Da best of Dhimmi

The Question of Carter’s Cash
In which our reporter follows the money

A Comprehensive Collection of Jimmy Carter's Errors

H/T Power Line

...every other advanced country

Amy Ridenour at National Center blog has posted a couple of interesting thoughts (here and here) on health care in the last 2 days. In one case, she noted the disingenuity (or simple ignorance) displayed by New York Times fifth-columnist Paul Krugman, pointing out that if (as Krugman states), "...every other advanced country somehow manages to provide all its citizens with essential care", that Canada is necessarily included. Taking Krugman at his word, she provides some evidence that he is unaware of the meaning of the word "essential,"

Krugman could try telling that to the 50 Canadians who once lived in southern Ontario and were on a waiting list to receive a cardiac catheterization, but they are now dead. Maybe he could tell it to the 59 other Canadians on that waiting list who suffered a serious heart attack.
This is only scratching the surface as TOC has noted in previous posts. (See the end of this post for a partial list.)

I wrote, in an email Amy was kind enough to append to her post that,

Actually, Canada is but one example.

Mr. Krugman apparently has overlooked the fine health care provided to Fidel Castro. Fidel has to have received the finest free health care available. Imagine how well this works for the common man in Cuba. Of course, this would not be any big deal except for the refrain we hear from the far left about how good health care is in Cuba.
I was thinking of this earlier today when I read,

A new study shows a double standard between the full coverage drug plans that politicians and bureaucrats enjoy and the partial coverage that is given to Canadians under public plans.

CARP, Canada's Association for the Fifty Plus, commissioned the study which compared prescription drug plans of elected and public officials to public drug plans in British Columbia and Ontario and those managed by the federal government for aboriginals, veterans and soldiers.

Canada's politicians are not different from our own in regard to providing themselves with benefits that far exceed those available to ordinary citizens, but in a country where uttering "two-tier health care system" can get you genteely lynched, this is quite a story.

I will need to explain "two-tier health care system." In Canada, outside the Province of Quebec, it is illegal for health care to be offered except through the government. This is not so strictly enforced as the more statist breed of Canadian would like, but it is the law. It's why many Canadians come to the US for care when they cannot get it at home.

Two-tier health care is a form of national health care system that is used in most developed countries. It is a system in which a guaranteed public health care system exists, but where a private system operates in parallel. The private system has the benefit of shorter waiting times and more luxurious treatment, but costs far more than the public one for patients. Thus there are two tiers of health care, one for the public at large and another for those who can afford to pay for better care. Most advanced countries in the world have two-tier primary health care to varying degrees, except for Canada outside Quebec where officially, but not in practice, it is illegal.
In Quebec, because of interminable waiting times for treatment, the "one-tier" concept has been declared unconstitutional.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Orthopaedic Association (COA) stated today that the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the landmark Chaoulli/Zeliotis case represents a stinging indictment of the failure of governments to respond to the mountains of studies and years of research with real action for our health care system.

"In essence, the Court has agreed with (the CMA/COA's) fundamental position that Canadians have the right to timely access to health services," said Dr. Albert Schumacher, President of the CMA. "They have gone as far as ruling that prohibiting patients from using private financing and private insurance where wait times are excessive, at least under the Quebec Charter, is unconstitutional."

"One thing that is certain is that we physicians will continue to put our patients first," said Dr. Schumacher. "I took an oath to do my best for my patients - as did all my fellow doctors - and that will not change just because our national health insurance program now faces important changes."

The Supreme Court struck down a Quebec prohibition that banned the use of private health insurance to provide medically necessary services. Although the ruling applies only in Quebec, since the prohibition was found to violate Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it could open the door to similar litigation in other provinces.

Previous TOC posts on Canada's health care system.

Saturday, December 23, 2006
Lessons from Canada

Friday, December 15, 200
Socialized health care choices

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Previewing Hillarycare

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Socialist health care

Friday, May 05, 2006
Free health care

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The cost of free health care

Saturday, April 22, 2006
Universal Health Care Update

Thursday, April 20, 2006
Universal Health Care

Friday, January 13, 2006
Things we can learn from Canada

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Social Change in the United States: A Canadian anal -ysis

Thursday, August 18, 2005
Ob-Gyns with 10 Month Waiting Lists

Thursday, July 14, 2005
You don't always get what you pay for

Monday, July 11, 2005
Brave New World meets Animal Farm

Thursday, June 30, 2005
Medicine Cabinet Minister

Friday, June 17, 2005
45 Million Myths Continued

Thursday, June 16, 2005
45 Million Myths

Monday, April 04, 2005
Canadian Health Care. You'll Get Old Just Waiting.

This is what Hillarycare would bring here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Creeping Islamism

Here is an old lefty criticizing a younger righty. There is also a response to the criticism. Both are civil and constructive, very unlike the rhetoric we get in the daily round of sound-bites from the second and third tier thinkers. The phrase "Classic Liberal" springs to mind.

Christopher Hitchens writes a thoughtful review of Mark Steyn's America Alone (highly recommended).

This bit of Hitchen's piece should be read aloud by those cabbies in Minnesota and especially by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota fatwa apologists.

...Steyn is much more definite about the cultural side of his argument, in other words, than about the counterterrorist dimension. If I wanted to sharpen both prongs of his thesis, I would also propose the following:

1. An end to one-way multiculturalism and to the cultural masochism that goes with it. The Koran does not mandate the wearing of veils or genital mutilation, and until recently only those who apostasized from Islam faced the threat of punishment by death. Now, though, all manner of antisocial practices find themselves validated in the name of religion, and mullahs have begun to issue threats even against non-Muslims for criticism of Islam. This creeping Islamism must cease at once, and those responsible must feel the full weight of the law. Meanwhile, we should insist on reciprocity at all times. We should not allow a single Saudi dollar to pay for propaganda within the U.S., for example, until Saudi Arabia also permits Jewish and Christian and secular practices. No Wahhabi-printed Korans anywhere in our prison system. No Salafist imams in our armed forces.
There are 7 more specific suggestions. If you read the whole thing, you'll better understand Mark Steyn's response:

Christopher Hitchens has a somewhat critical review of my book. I disagree with him strongly about a common "Euro-Muslim identity". I think there is one, and that it transcends differences between German Turks and French Algerians, and that there are already signs that it's more authentically pan-Continental than ersatz EU "Europeanness". However, his criticisms in this and other matters are worth pondering.
TOC commentary on the Minneapolis Islamo-cabbie controversy can be found here
here and here, .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sanctimonious Malignant Narcissist - lusting after himself

H/T LGF Idiotarian Gets Defensive

Dhimmi Carter notes that he has been called liar, anti-Semite, bigot, plagiarist, and coward.

Not only has he been called these things, they're all true. To the list should be added hypocrite, dupe and traitor.

Treason is a serious charge. Here's why I make it: In 1991 Carter privately lobbied Arab leaders to withdraw from the Gulf War coalition. In time of war, an ex-President attempted to subvert our alliances. There are other examples, but this one is straightforward and it predates Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Joshua Muravchik has a nicely written examination of Carter's slimy trail here: Our Worst Ex-President Recommended..

Free speech dodges a bullet

Last Thursday the Senate voted, 55 to 43, "To strike a provision relating to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying."

This attempt to require political bloggers to register as lobbyists was contained in Bill S.1, the "LEGISLATIVE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2007." S.1's purpose was stated as - "to provide greater transparency in the legislative process."

George Orwell would have been proud.

These are all the Senators who voted to keep the speech imped-amendment. The list is alphabetical, but you may be interested seeing it organized by party. That's easily done; these are all Democrats except for Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a Socialist.

Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Even John McCain voted in favor of preserving free speech on this one.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It is unfair to demand the impossible

I recommend keeping up to date with Iraq the Model as "the surge" progresses. It's linked at the left for your convenience.

An excerpt from an example of why you should make regular visits:

...Sadr made direct orders for the ranks of his militia to avoid open war with the US military:

Commanders of the Mehdi army in Baghdad received strict orders not to fire a single bullet during the American military campaign in Baghdad…an informed source told Azzaman that the meeting was held in a place in sector 42 of Sadr city and many of the Mehdi army leaders attended it while others missed it because they were already in Iran since last week. The top lieutenants as well didn’t show up because they were ordered a few days ago to abandon Sadr city and spread in the southern provinces and other parts of the capital…the source explained that the orders were given to show full cooperation with the American forces during the raids and show no resistance even when arrests are made. The commanders were promised that the police would take care of releasing any detainees once "the storm is gone"…

What options will the Iraqi and US military have when the militia melt and avoid the confrontation? We know that the Mehdi army does not have camps or barracks or any solid foundations that can be targeted; the militia is merely a network of civilian-looking people who can turn into a deadly force at any time they choose to do so.

However, what troops can do is to target the top leaders and lieutenants of the militia who have a criminal history and made mistakes (whether by physical act or statements) for which they can be legally prosecuted. When this is done the network will be dealt a serious blow and will be weakened by the subsequent loss of command and financial support and then the wide network would disintegrate into isolated gangs that can be dealt with through limited operations following the main operations.
Since we telegraphed the punch the Mahdis are hiding. We can still get the leaders, and we know who they are. Al-Sadr should be arrested if he so much as waves to an Iranian spy.

Can't we all just get along?

Writing in USA Today, a spokesman for the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, one Khalid Elmasry, wonders:

Whatever happened to tolerance in America? International media attention has focused on Muslim cab drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport after many, based on their religious beliefs, refused to transport passengers carrying alcohol. It is forbidden in Islam to consume or transport alcohol. [Note, the former is true, the latter is the local sectarian interpretation of the Muslim American Society. Most Muslims do not believe it.]

… intolerance has forced the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport commission to cancel an agreement with the cab drivers and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, which has acted as a mediator. We believe the commission is bowing to public pressure based on bigotry toward Muslims.
Unfortunately, I was drinking some tea at the time I read that the “Muslim American Society was acting as a mediator.” It took me ten minutes to clean my keyboard and monitor. The fatwa in question was issued by the Muslim American Society on June 6, 2006.

Elmasry claims his organization is acting as mediator in a dispute they initiated. (For some history of MAS see also.)

One response to Elmasry’s disingenuity would be to point out that insofar as tolerance goes, non-Muslims are waiting to be able to hail a cab in Mecca, possess a Bible in Saudi Arabia, or draw cartoons of Mohammed without being targeted for execution. To be fair, while these are reasonable points to make to an Islamic fundamentalist complaining about a lack of religious tolerance, this response ignores Elmasry’s point: America is not living up to her ideals.

So, put the institutional bigotry of Islamists aside. Just because they act that way doesn’t mean we have to, right? In fact, maybe we can lead by example and let them have their color coded cabs. We can even pretend this fatwa was issued in good faith, centuries after the first Muslim cabbie hauled an ethanol (no E85 for these cabbies) bearing passenger around and decades after it occurred in Minneapolis. Tolerance demands that we accede to the quirks of every cultural practice. Next - suttee.

If we let the Minnesota cabbies have their little bit of sharia it will help avoid the embarrassment attendant upon refusing to transport a disabled person with a service dog. It will let homosexuals and transgendered individuals avoid uncomfortable situations. For some reason, Khalid Elmasry chooses not to address those elements of the MAS fatwa. Perhaps that acknowledgement would have prevented him from writing “[Some say]...declining to transport alcohol is only the beginning and that Muslims are trying to impose their religious beliefs on others. That’s false.”

Writing in the Pakistan Daily Times, Muqtedar Khan, Assistant Professor at University of Delaware and a Senior Non-resident Fellow with the Saban Centre at Brookings Institution, gives us some insight into the piety being displayed by Elmasry’s organization:

Muslim scholars and most Muslims of Minnesota say the fatwa is without merit. And indeed many Muslim voices, present writer included, have already condemned and ridiculed this position. Even in Saudi Arabia, which is usually the champion when it comes to extremely narrow, irrational and intolerant interpretations of Islam, non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol, and even carry them on flights.

The alcohol issue is not really the problem. It is just a tip of the iceberg. It raises a fundamental and critical issue: can Muslims who live in free and democratic societies, simultaneously demand freedom and tolerance for Islam while denying others the same. Can we, and should we, demand freedom to practice Islam and then turn around and use these same freedoms to impose anachronistic understandings of Islam on others.

What next? Will Muslim doctors working in ER refuse to administer to patients brought in from an accident site or with a heart attack because they have alcohol on their breath? Will Muslim doctors refuse to serve an HIV-positive patient because he or she is gay? Will Muslim fire fighters refuse to save people who are caught in a fire in a place that sells alcohol? Will Muslim cops refuse to protect women who do not wear Hijab [head scarf]? Will Muslim teachers refuse to educate children because their mothers do not wear the veil? All of the above would entail supporting sin according to popular Muslim beliefs.
If Islamo-cabbies in Minneapolis are experiencing a backlash, they are experiencing it because of the Muslim American Society’s specious fatwa, not a lack of tolerance on the part of those they are supposed to be serving. And, if there is a backlash, the last thing these drivers want on their cab is a light broadcasting their fundamental lack of tolerance.

Friday, January 19, 2007

More good news

If the story below is true, and if what it represents continues, it is a sign "the surge" will vastly improve conditions in Iraq. It is entirely possible we are getting a string of these stories because the Iraqi government is temporarily complying with a perceived threat from George Bush. Moreover, it would have been much, much better if we just commenced squashing the Mahdi Army instead of having to telegraph it. Still, it's hopeful. It certainly says al-Maliki can see the line Bush has finally drawn in the sand. Not having done so earlier could reasonably be described as diplomacy, that cure-all the Democrats keep urging.

There is another clear implication: if this is mere compliance, or if it does stop, if the thugs we're arresting are put on catch-and-release, or if pressure is not maintained on al-Sadr, then we need to begin the drawback (not drawdown) as proposed here last Friday:

If al-Sadr is destroyed, we are almost certain to win. If he is marginalized, victory is very likely. Failing either of those occurrences, we need to withdraw into our laagers and tell al-Maliki that he has two years of intelligence, logistics and air support left in which to solve his problem.
It seems as if al-Maliki is operating from just such a perspective: Muqtada Al-Sadr Aide Arrested in Baghdad

(AP) U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increases on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security sweep aimed at stemming the sectarian violence ransacking the capital.

Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured Friday and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.
This is what we want to see.

While we're on the topic of the necessity for squashing al-Sadr, it is worth reading Charles Krauthammer's A Plausible Plan B for Iraq:

...In this high-stakes game of chess, what is missing is some intermediate move on our part -- some Plan B that Maliki believes Bush might actually carry out -- the threat of which will induce him to fully support us in this battle for Baghdad. He won't believe the Bush threat to abandon Iraq. He will believe a U.S. threat of an intermediate redeployment within Iraq that might prove fatal to him but not necessarily to the U.S. interest there.

...If we had zero American casualties a day, there would be as little need to withdraw from Iraq as there is to withdraw from the Balkans.

We need to find a redeployment strategy that maintains as much latent American strength as possible, but with minimal exposure. We say to Maliki: you let us down and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you fend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your Baghdad civil war without us. We will be around to pick up the pieces as best we can.
This is notably different from Jack Murtha's ignorant suggestion that we redeploy to Okinawa. Which, so far as we've been informed, represents the best Democrat plan. Their plans of lesser merit all involve redeployment to Fort Benning and Camp Lejeune, combined with a reinstitution of conscription.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good news

Four stories I'm glad to hear.

1- Abu Sayyaf rebel leader killed in Philippines

A top al-Qaida-linked militant, accused of the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001 and of masterminding one of Southeast Asia's worst terror attacks three years later, has been killed, the Philippine military said Wednesday.

Jainal Antel Sali Jr., popularly known as Abu Sulaiman -- a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group --died in a fierce gunbattle Tuesday with army special forces, military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said.
2- SAS seizes Taliban leader in secret war

A team of SAS soldiers captured a key Taliban commander yesterday in a lightning raid on a heavily-fortified compound in southern Afghanistan.

Without a shot being fired, the force of fewer than 30 elite soldiers, backed by Afghan troops, achieved "total surprise" and seized Mohammad Nabi in the early hours of the morning near Gereshk, in Helmand province.
3- Shiite Fighters Are Arrested, Iraq Says

Facing intense pressure from the Bush administration to show progress in securing Iraq, senior Iraqi officials announced Wednesday that they had moved against the country’s most powerful Shiite militia, arresting several dozen senior members in the past few weeks.

It was the first time the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had claimed significant action against the militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the most intractable problems facing his administration. The militia’s leader, the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, helped put Mr. Maliki in power, but pressure to crack down on the group has mounted as its killings in the capital have driven a wedge into efforts to keep the country together.

Although the announcement seemed timed to deflect growing scrutiny by an American administration that has grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Maliki, American officers here offered some support for the government’s claims, saying that at least half a dozen senior militia leaders had been taken into custody in recent weeks.

In perhaps the most surprising development, the Americans said, none of the members had been prematurely released, a chronic problem as this government has frequently shielded Shiite fighters.

“There was definitely a change in attitudes,” in the past three to four weeks, a senior American military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Maliki, in a meeting with foreign journalists on Wednesday, said 400 Mahdi militiamen had been arrested “within the last few days,” according to a tape of the interview made available to The New York Times. A senior government official said later by telephone that the total number arrested was 420 and that they had been detained in 56 operations beginning in October. Several dozen senior leaders have been detained in the past several weeks, the senior official said on condition of anonymity. He said the total number of senior commanders did not exceed 100.

Still, some American military officials remained skeptical that the effort was more than just a short-term attempt to appease them at a time when American government support for Mr. Maliki appeared to have sunk to an all-time low.

“The question is whether it will be sustained,” another American military official said. “This shouldn’t be done to weather some short-term political storm. This has to stick in the long run.”

Whatever the case, changes have been felt on the street. In Shiite neighborhoods across the capital, militia members seem to have dropped from view in recent weeks, residents and militia members say. Shiite foot soldiers have tucked away their machine guns and have melted back into bustling city blocks, preparing for what they say they believe will be an American military onslaught against them.
The Other Club noted on Friday that a sign of whether "the surge" would succeed would be:

...the fate of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr in the next several months. Al-Sadr is a client-state-in-waiting of the Iranians, a virulent anti-American, the leader of the largest group of "insurgent" sectarian murderers in Baghdad and a key supporter of State Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. He's a litmus test.

If al-Sadr is destroyed, we are almost certain to win. If he is marginalized, victory is very likely. Failing either of those occurrences, we need to withdraw into our laagers and tell al-Maliki that he has two years of intelligence, logistics and air support left in which to solve his problem.
Maybe that's just what Bush told al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki has been a bit petulant lately.

In the Times [UK] interview, Mr Maliki criticised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who recently suggested his government was living on "borrowed time". Such comments could only give "moral boosts" to the insurgents, he said.
That these arrests of Shiite thugs apparently started some time ago is heartening, and I wouldn't have expected it to be reported, or even leaked by the New York Times. I admit to some skepticism regarding al-Maliki's government, though less than the NYT article pushes, but if the Iraqis continue this crackdown it is a very positive sign. If they are getting ready to directly press al-Sadr it will be excellent.

And here's a bonus I wasn't aware of before doing a little searching for content. Don't know how I missed it earlier.

4- The more things change, the more they...

...Perhaps it [surge] will work this time around, some say, due to one major difference:

Maliki's advisers publicly threatened Sadr in front of the media. According to Time magazine, "top Maliki adviser Sadiq al-Rikabi criticize Sadr: 'You cannot be in the government and working against the government at the same time. You cannot be a part of the government while breaking the law. If you're going to be a part of the government, you should respect the institutions of the government'". An AP article on Yahoo news goes even further: "Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday", it reads.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Congressman Stardust

Who said?

I am running for President of the United States to enable the Goddess of Peace to encircle within her arms all the children of this country and all the children of the world.

The energy of the stars becomes us. We become the energy of the stars. Stardust and spirit unite and we begin: one with the universe, whole and holy. From one source, endless creative energy, bursting forth, kinetic, elemental; we, the earth, air, water and fire-source of nearly fifteen billion years of cosmic spiraling.
That would be Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Yes, he has spent time in California. He is is about to become chair of a new House committee - the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. A mundane name - he probably would have named it the Cosmic Goddess of Newspeak Collective Consciousness, or if he was being whimsical, Sister Mary Elephant’s Ruler.

At the Free Press National Conference on Media Reform in Memphis, Tennessee, Kucinich announced that he has been named chair of the newly-formed Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, drawing cheers from the crowd. The subcommittee will have jurisdiction over all domestic agencies of the federal government, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

… Kucinich also pledged to hold hearings on restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
The "Fairness" Doctrine was abandoned by the FCC in 1987. Kucinich wants to revive it; involving the Federal government in deciding what speech you should hear. This is as bad an idea as we've heard since Campaign Finance Reform.

Market forces, of course, are not sufficient for determining what you listen to; if Rush Limbaugh has better ratings than Al Franken, there must be something wrong with your hearing. If Air America flops, the solution is to give equal time to Franken on a show somebody listens to, for however long that audience may endure. Kucinich doesn't understand that the left-statist media market is already overserviced by PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and the broadcast media in general.

The Fairness Doctrine purports to regulate the market based on the idea that the First Amendment says, "Congress shall pass no law ... abridging the freedom of the FCC to decide what you must hear.”

You must be given the “right” to listen to what the FCC determines is fair. That you are incapable of deciding that for yourself is evidenced by the fact that Al Franken has fewer listeners than… well, anybody.

When the Supreme Court upheld the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co.v. FCC, they affirmed the FCC's ability to determine what you could hear had primacy over what you could say:

There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.

SCOTUS decided that the First Amendment favors the listener over the speaker. Most of us read the First Amendment the other way around. I have the right to speak my opinions, but nobody should be forced to listen to them, and nobody should be forced to broadcast them. The Court decided that the FCC was a better judge of what I prefer to listen to than I am. Dennis Kucinich likes that idea, and he'd like to extend it to newspapers, though his target is passing strange:

"We know The New York Times played an unfortunate role" in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, Kucinich said. "The media reform movement is opening up holding the media to a higher standard of accountability."
He's not talking about Jayson Blair.

You can find more commentary on the Fairness Doctrine here, here and here.

It was a bad idea then. It's a worse idea now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Symbol, no substance

The Democrats are about to force a vote on non-binding resolutions opposing the President's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. The good news is that this is actually pulling back from Teddy Kennedy's anti-Constitutional legislation to require the President to gain Congressional approval before sending more troops to Iraq. Unlike the the Democrat leadership, Senator Kennedy at least has the courage of his affliction.

From the Democrat leadership we get a symbolic vote that will please Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Dennis Kuchinich. It will not discomfit Iran, Syria, Al-Quaeda, Hamas or Hizballah much either.

No matter the result, what does even holding this vote say? The common perception of the entities listed above will be that it reveals the weakness of the Great Satan. My view is that it reveals the Satan in the great weakness.

Have the Democrats offered a plan? Not so much. They do have a theme in line with Senator Kennedy's stalking points proposed legislation.

For example, Barack Obama's plan is to "constrain" the President:

I think we will get a majority of the Senate saying that this is a bad idea. That will give us, I think, the impetus and the political symbolism to then start pursuing a more concrete plan to constrain the president,” said Obama, who has called for the immediate drawdown of troops from Iraq.

Obama also acknowledged there’s some question as to “how binding” the Senate can make its resolution, given that the Bush administration already has started moving troops around.
Emphasis mine. This is, of course, a power and a duty the Constitution assigns to the Commander in Chief. Despite having crashed the marble ceiling, that's not Nancy Pelosi, but she is in dudgeon similar to Obama's:

Nancy Pelosi, returning to her hometown of San Francisco, strongly warned today that President Bush "should not abuse his power" with regard to troop escalation in the Iraq war and said it is the duty of Congress to "exercise oversight over his power.

The President has sole control over troop deployment. The answer to Senator Obama's
question about "how binding" the Senate can make its resolution is obvious even to Ted Kennedy. The only thing Congress can do to "exercise oversight" is to cut funding. So, rather than making these mewly noises, and wasting the time of the Senate and House with a "vote of no consequence", let us have that vote rather than this petty encouragement of our foes, foreign and domestic.

The spirit of Cowperthwaite

The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom rankings are worth checking out. Going into 2007 the US ranks 4th, behind Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

Canada is 10th, but it's a close run thing. The biggest surprise for me is the number of categories where Canada is ranked as more free than the US. The US has substantial leads in "Investment freedom", "Financial freedom", and "Labor freedom." "Freedom from government" makes a smaller contribution to the US lead. In six other categories the US trails, is tied, or is only slightly ahead.

Another interesting bit is that the top seven, and eight of the top ten, are former British colonies (or the UK itself). France is 45th, 4 ahead of Mexico. Venezuela is 144th. I predict this will go down next year. Guess who's last (157th)?

The exercise of determining the grouping of Communist, or formerly Communist countries, and/or examining the list based on the predominant religion is left to the student.

If you are interested in more information on methodology, don't miss the FAQ.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Things you haven't seen in the Lansing State Journal

The Lansing State Journal has a burr up their penchant for stories regarding the refusal of governments to release information to the public. They are foursquare against such restrictions.

Perhaps that's why we have heard so little from them regarding the "liberation" of restricted information from the clutches of the National Archives. Granted, it isn't as much in their wheelhouse as local cops keeping certain documents from the public while possible misconduct is being investigated. No, this is about a trusted individual preventing a government investigation from having access to relevant documents.

See the difference? I don't either. If Chief Mark Alley smuggled some documents out of LPD HQ related to possible police misconduct and hid them in a dumpster, I think Mayor Bernero would hear from the LSJ.

OTOH, if it's about a violation of national security and destruction of the historical record the LSJ can't get interested. Here's the story they're not covering: Sandy Berger: What Did He Take and Why Did He Take It? Here's an excerpt, but I urge you to read the whole thing:

...Mr. Berger's willingness to risk everything to suppress the information goes well beyond ordinary concerns against excessive disclosure.

...maybe there is more to the story. Maybe there is something far worse than we can imagine that is worth having his [Clinton's] chief security aide risk his reputation, his career, and his liberty to cover up.
This is a very good look at Mr. Berger's transgressions, which are far more serious than you've been led to believe. I recommend that you click the link.

On the same topic, but on a humorous note, Mark Steyn weighs in with his response to a lyrics contest from Bill Bennett's Morning in America:

(from the film Slick Willie Wonka And The Shop-Lift Factory)

Hey, everybody! Gather round, the Sandy Pants is here! What kind of archival material do you want? Classified documents? Confidential minutes? Intelligence briefings? Cables? You’ve come to the right place, because I’m the Sandy Pants!


Who can take the memo
Stuff it in his sock
Take it out the building
And then walk it up the block
The Sandy Pants (The Sandy Pants)
Oh, the Sandy Pants can (The Sandy Pants can)
The Sandy Pants can ‘cause he fixes it for Bill
And makes his boss look good (Makes his boss look good)

Who can take the secrets
Out the door at night
Slide them under trailers
On a dark construction site
The Sandy Pants (The Sandy Pants)
Oh, the Sandy Pants can (The Sandy Pants can)
The Sandy Pants can ‘cause he fixes it for Bill
And makes his boss look good (Makes his boss look good)
Read the rest at Power Line, along with Steyn's 2 other entries. ;)

Friday, January 12, 2007

The surge

The single most important indicator (that will be visible to us) of whether "the surge" will succeed will be the fate of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr in the next several months.
Al-Sadr is a client-state-in-waiting of the Iranians, a virulent anti-American, the leader of the largest group of "insurgent" sectarian murderers in Baghdad and a key supporter of State Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. He's a litmus test.

If al-Sadr is destroyed, we are almost certain to win. If he is marginalized, victory is very likely. Failing either of those occurrences, we need to withdraw into our laagers and tell al-Maliki that he has two years of intelligence, logistics and air support left in which to solve his problem.

Because his power is a crucial indicator, look for the MSM to downplay, or agonize over, any slap-down of al-Sadr. A preview of the headlines: "The fragile Iraqi government is threatened by...", "Al_Sadr vows to bring down Maliki government...", "Bush's plan foundering on the rock of al-Sadr...", "Mahdi Army kills 6 US soldiers in pitched battle...". The fact that al-Sadr is the one really threatened will be ignored, as will the likelihood in the last example that the Mahdi Army would experience 150 killed.

The President must not go wobbly on his own words:

In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods.
Rules of engagement based on the politics of al-Maliki's government must change. If we are not there to win, we should not be there. Lack of a commitment to win is a parallel to Vietnam and we should not stand for it. Killing the Mahdi Army is a strategic objective.

Victor Davis Hanson has a fine article on this. An excerpt:

[Will this work?] Only if the Maliki government is honest when he promises that there will be no sanctuaries for the militias and terrorists. So when the killing of terrorists causes hysteria — and it will, both in Iraq and back here at home — the Iraqi-American units must escalate their operations rather than stand down.

The American people will support success and an effort to win, whatever the risks, but not stasis. We saw that with the silent approval of Ethiopia’s brutal rout of the Islamists in Somalia, and our own attack on al Qaeda there.

The subtext of the president’s speech was that our sacrifices to offer freedom and constitutional government are the only solution for the Middle East — but that our commitments are not open-ended if the Iraqis themselves don’t want success as much as we do.

But why believe that this latest gamble will work? First, things are by agreement coming to a head: this new strategy will work, or, given the current politics, nothing will. Second, the Iraqis in government know this time Sadr City and Baghdad are to be secured, or it is to be “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya,” and they will be on planes to Dearborn. Finally, note the pathetic Democratic reply by Sen. Durbin, last in the public eye for his libel of American troops (as analogous to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others”). There was no response.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Next Ambassador to the UN?

Britain and France under scrutiny.

Ted Nugent, Rock-n-Roll legend and devoted hunter, was being interviewed by a British journalist. The conversation turned to Nugent's love of outdoor pursuits:

The journalist asked, "What do these deer think when they see you coming?" ... "Here comes the nice guy who puts out our dinner? Or, there's the man that shot my brother?"

"I don't think they're capable of either of those thoughts, you Limey asshole. They're only interested in three things: the best place to eat, having sex and how quickly they can run away. Much like the French."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Malign neglect?

His disclaimer notwithstanding, I think Barney Frank is unaware that "ethnic cleansing" most definitely means killing people. His frivolous, partisan use of the term demeans the memory of those who died of it. Suppose he had said, "It's not a holocaust in terms of actually killing people."?

Frank's real complaint is more mundane, if no more substantial, redistricting by other means.

The interesting part is the absolute contempt Frank has for the people he's supposedly defending. He's given the soft bigotry of low expectations a whole new hardness. This is bigotry in a velvet glove
frayed at the choke points.

Whole thing here: Katrina 'Ethnic Cleansing' Remarks Causes Stir
By Fred Lucas Staff Writer
January 09, 2007

A Democrat's allegation that the Bush administration engaged in a calculated policy of ethnic cleansing after Hurricane Katrina to make Louisiana "whiter" has sparked outrage.

Addressing a group of bloggers at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., last week, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) renewed his criticism of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, particularly the housing crisis that ensued after the hurricane hit.

"At this point, you're not talking about incompetence, you're talking about ethical values," he said.

"In a calculated way, you refuse to do anything for well over a year after the disaster. The policy, I think, is ethnic cleansing by inaction," Frank added...

...Frank said during the speech, "it's not ethnic cleansing in the sense of killing people." But, he went on to say, "What they [Republicans] recognize is they're in this happy position for them where if the federal government does nothing, Louisiana will become whiter and richer."
Emphasis mine. One could tweak Frank by asking if he actually favors that blacks be poor in Louisiana, or by pointing out that we'd all become richer if the federal government did nothing. But that would miss the point, no clearer racist statement has been made by an Congressperson since Senator Byrd quit the KKK. Barney Frank has just said he's convinced that black people don't have the what? ... Intelligence? Moral values? Work ethic? Pride? Sense of community? ... to survive without the Federal government. Contrariwise, the evidence all points to people getting richer, whatever their melanin content, when the federal government does nothing.

For example, Mr. Frank's federal government did nothing for Hong Kong for decade upon decade upon decade - through typhoon after typhoon - yet all those yellow people were able to create an economic engine that was the envy of the world. Of course, that's mostly because their own government pretty much didn't do anything. And, of course, because the inhabitants didn't sit around waiting for the government not to do it.

H/T National Center Blog

Maybe it's not just me

Other views on stories recently noted on TOC:

Christopher Hitchens on Keith Ellison swearing in on Thomas Jefferson's Koran:

It was quite witty of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to short-circuit the hostility of those who criticized him for taking his oath on the Quran and to ask the Library of Congress for the loan of Thomas Jefferson's copy of that holy book. But the irony of this, which certainly made his stupid Christian fundamentalist critics look even stupider, ought to be partly at his own expense as well.

In the first place, concern over Ellison's political and religious background has little to do with his formal adherence to Islam. In his student days and subsequently, he was a supporter of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, a racist and crackpot cult organization that is in schism with the Muslim faith and even with the Sunni orthodoxy now preached by the son of the NOI's popularizer Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan's sect explicitly describes a large part of the human species—the so-called white part—as an invention of the devil and has issued tirades against the Jews that exceed what even the most fanatical Islamists have said.

John Stossel on the minimum wage:

...Only 2.5 percent of all hourly workers make $5.15 an hour (or less; some jobs are exempt from the law), says the Department of Labor. "Minimum wage workers tend to be young."

Few of them stay at the minimum wage for long. As they acquire skills, their productivity rises and they command higher wages. According to a study done for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "minimum wages have virtually no effect on the careers of most workers."

A small percentage of people do get stuck in minimum-wage jobs for a longer time. Since wages tend to rise with productivity, these are people whose productivity does not improve. A higher minimum wage will cost some of them their jobs. How does that help them?

Legal wage minimums kill all kinds of entry-level jobs, particularly those that would teach young people basic work habits and the benefits of effort. That's why there are no kids cleaning your windows at gas stations or working as ushers at movie theaters. Those jobs are extinct now because they are worth less than the legislated minimum. Who is helped by that?

It is recommended to click on the links and read all of both articles.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Road to Serfdom

A radio interview this morning involving a Michigan GOP apparatchik reminded me of the abysmal economic knowledge and preening disingenuity of the average politician. I think the perp was Senator Ron Jelinek, but I didn't actually note who this faceless ignoramus was. If I am wrong on this, I apologize. Whoever it was was from Three Oaks.

In any event, the looter in question was advocating floating the idea of an extension of the Michigan sales tax to include services, and a reduction in the rate to 5% from 6%. He attempted to make it sound confiscation revenue neutral, but was forced to acknowledge that it would represent a tax increase. The interviewer noted that advocating tax increases was an atypical Republican position. Wouldn't this increase costs for consumers, the host asked?

The response was (I paraphrase), "No, we're talking about a tax on business."

This does make sense if we assume that every service business required to charge the new 5% tax decides to cut its prices by 5%. Otherwise, I'm afraid consumers will be paying it.

I know it is fashionable for Liberals to talk about taxing business as if this was somehow entirely divorced from taxing individuals, but the fact is that businesses do not pay taxes - taxes simply form part of the cost of their products and services. You pay their taxes when you buy those products or services.

For example, all the services that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler buy in Michigan, including health care for retirees, will go up by 5%. Let's not expect the Shrinking-Three to absorb the increase.

The radio host noted that a services tax would hurt businesses in border communities. The response was that most Michiganders don't live close enough to a border to be able to avoid such a tax. That this contradicts the idea of a "business tax" went unremarked. that it holds Michigan citizens in contempt is obvious. Maybe a change of this nature could contribute to a more effective tax regime, but when discussed in the terms above it is obvious that that is not the objective.

I think the real question is how many Michiganders will decide to relocate to another side of the State border - or be forced to.

It is certainly disappointing to hear a putative Republican talk this way, but that's not the worst of it. At the National level we have the Democrats promising to raise both taxes and the minimum wage. A tax increase has the same effect at the National level as it does at the State level.

The increase in the minimum wage, however, has far more insidious effects. Minimum wages set above the value of the labor disproportionately damage small business, because small business provides most of those jobs. The truly damning point, though is this:

... only 5.3 percent of minimum wage earners are from households below the official poverty line; forty percent of minimum wage earners live in households with incomes $60,000 and higher; and, over 82 percent of minimum wage earners do not have dependents.
That last is excerpted from Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog. The whole thing is worth reading, and you can do so here.

Update: 8:42PM
H/T BizzyBlog

...states that lacked an income tax saw stronger economic growth, stronger personal income growth, stronger population growth, and stronger job growth, than states with the highest income tax rates. States without income taxes also, shockingly enough (not!), had fewer budget problems than the states with the highest income taxes.

But income taxes are just one part of the tax equation. Let's now turn to a comparison of the ten highest taxed states and the ten lowest taxed states. The Texas Public Policy Foundation crunched the numbers (.pdf), taking income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gasoline taxes, alcohol taxes, and all the other state and local taxes to determine the overall tax burden in each state.

Read it all, and find more at WILLisms:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Apropos of recent TOC posts

1-Captain's Quarters on the Minneapolis Islamo-cabbies:

Muslim Taxi Showdown In Twin Cities

...Why have we heard so few complaints about this attempt to impose Islam on cab customers? Because of oversensitivity to multicultural issues. The MSA [Muslim Society of America] and its apologists want us to consider the religious and cultural sensitivities of the cabdrivers, but again, no one forced them to take jobs where they could come in contact with people who have service dogs or bottles of wine. Should a restaurant end its alcohol sales if it hires a Muslim waiter? Should supermarkets ban service dogs if it hires a Muslim cashier?* No. It is the responsibility of the immigrant to assimilate into our culture and to obey our laws, not the other way around.

Most immigrants already know this. Most Muslim immigrants, I'd wager, believe it. It's organizations like the Muslim Society of America that insists on silly edicts and their weak-minded followers that cause all of the problem, and it's the failure of Americans to insist on assimilation that perpetuates it.

*As The Other Club pointed out in October, "Or wear a yarmulke, or go without a veil, or have an "unclean" seeing-eye dog, or carry a pound of bacon, or possess any depiction of the prophet, or... well you get the idea."

2-The New Hampshire Union Leader on Representative Keith Ellison swearing his Congressional oath on the Koran:

Keith Ellison's oath: The Koran and the Constitution

...Those who hoped to compel Ellison to swear on the Bible really wanted a religious test for national office, something the former owner of Ellison's Koran would have found horrifying.

People are asked to swear on the Bible not to show religious loyalty, but to subject themselves to a higher authority. The idea is that breaking an oath to the people is easy; breaking an oath to God is not. The people cannot see what you do behind closed doors. God can.

Making someone swear to a God in which he does not believe is as useful as making him swear to the Easter Bunny.

Ellison believes in Allah, and now he has sworn to Allah that he will uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Good. Now we know that he most likely took his oath seriously. Let's hope he takes the Constitution more seriously than did those who wanted to force him to swear on their religious book.
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