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January 31, 2006

The Point of Tonight's State of the Union Address...

To get an inside look at the major points of the State of the Union Address, just look at the First Lady's Guest List for her viewing box tonight (via K-Lo, over at The Corner on NRO earlier):

"GUEST LIST FOR THE FIRST LADY'S BOX
AT THE 2006 STATE OF THE UNION

Mrs. Laura Bush

Fawzia Koofi, Second Deputy Speaker, Wolesi Jirga (Badakhshan, Afghanistan)
Ms. Koofi, 30, is a widowed, single mother of two young children who was elected Second Deputy Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, which is the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly and is made up of 249 members. Ms. Koofi was elected on September 18, 2005, from Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan. Ms. Koofi’s father was a member of Afghanistan’s last democratically elected Parliament more than thirty years ago, but he was killed when she was young. After attending universities in Kabul and Pakistan, ultimately receiving a Masters Degree in Business and Management from Preston University in Pakistan, Ms. Koofi returned to Badakhshan. Before the fall of the Taliban, she managed an orphanage for a Norwegian non-governmental organization. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate for children’s and women’s rights, working for UNICEF as a Child Protection Officer from 2002 through 2004.

Sayed Hamed Gailani, First Deputy Speaker, Meshrano Jirga (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Sayed Hamed Gailani, 51, comes from a prominent family whose reputation as religious leaders in Afghanistan goes back centuries. His father is the Honorable Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani. In December 2005, Mr. Gailani was appointed by President Karzai to serve as a member of the 102-seat Meshrano Jirga, which is the upper house of the Afghan National Assembly. Shortly after the inauguration of the Afghan Parliament on December 19, 2005, Mr. Gailani was elected by his peers to serve as the First Deputy Speaker of the Meshrano Jirga.

Rebecca Garang de Mabior, Minister of Roads and Transport, Government of South Sudan; Wife of the late Dr. John Garang (Juba, Sudan)
Rebecca Garang was born in 1956 in Panyagor, in southeastern Jonglei State. She is a member of the Bor subgroup of the Dinka tribe, the south's largest ethnic group. She has several children, including two sons who were born in the U.S. while she accompanied her husband to the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia (1974-75), and then to graduate studies at Iowa State University (1976-81). She traveled widely with her husband and was active on behalf of an NGO she headed, Widows, Orphans, and the Disabled Rehabilitation of the New Sudan. In addition to her native Dinka, Garang speaks fluent English and some Arabic.

Clarence W. “Bud” Clay Jr., Father of Fallen Marine (Pensacola, Florida)
Bud Clay’s son, Staff Sergeant Dan Clay, 27, was killed on December 1, 2005, in Fallujah. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, of Twentynine Palms, California, attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Staff Sergeant Clay was a member of the Junior ROTC program and enlisted shortly after his high school graduation in 1996. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sara Jo Clay, Mother of Fallen Marine (Pensacola, Florida)
Sara Jo Clay is the mother of Staff Sergeant Clay and the wife of Bud Clay.

Lisa Clay, Wife of Fallen Marine (Aurora, Ohio)
Lisa Clay is the wife of Staff Sergeant Clay.

Technical Sergeant Jamie Dana and Rex, USAF (Smethport, Pennsylvania)
Technical Sergeant Dana joined the Air Force in 1998 and is stationed at Peterson Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her dog, Rex, is a 5-year-old German shepherd former working military dog. Technical Sergeant Dana and Rex trained together for three years before deploying as a team first to Pakistan and then to Iraq. While in Iraq, their assignments included supporting Army personnel by clearing vehicles at checkpoints and searching buildings for booby traps and explosives. On June 25, 2005, the pair was riding in a Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded, wounding Technical Sergeant Dana. Later, as she recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she sought to adopt Rex. A law prohibited the adoption of working dogs before the end of their useful lives, but this prohibition was lifted as a result of the Defense Appropriations Bill that the President signed into law on December 30, 2005, and the Air Force granted her permission to adopt Rex.

Sergeant Wasim Khan, USA (New York, New York)
Born and raised in Pakistan, Sergeant Khan and his family moved to the United States in 1997. He entered the U.S. Army in 1998 and subsequently deployed with the 2/3 Field Artillery Battalion to Iraq. He was wounded during an RPG attack and is receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Sergeant Khan’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation, Army Achievement (6), Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Air Assault Badge. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and Mathematics and speaks five languages.

Commander Kimberly Evans, USN (Mason, Ohio)
Commander Evans has served in the U.S. Navy since 1988. She served seven-and-a-half months commanding a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan in 2004-2005, becoming the first female Navy officer to command such a team. She oversaw 80 U.S. Army soldiers and 90 Afghans and directed operations in a physically demanding environment that spanned three provinces in western Afghanistan. Commander Evans’ awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal. She and her husband Michael have two sons, ages fifteen and ten.

Second Class Aviation Survival Technician Joel Sayers, USCG (Dublin, Virginia)
AST2 Sayers has served in the U.S. Coast Guard since 1994. He is credited with heroic efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, organizing the rescue of 167 people in New Orleans. In one instance, AST2 Sayers descended from a helicopter to rescue a woman from a rooftop and subsequently returned to the roof with an ax to free her physically handicapped husband who was trapped in the attic. AST2 Sayers is stationed at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.

Sergeant Nicholas “Nick” Graff, USMC (Webster Groves, Missouri)
Sergeant Graff served in Iraq as a Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System Vehicle Commander during Operations Al Fajr and Matador and various other Operation Iraqi Freedom missions. He is a highly proficient Arabic linguist and has applied his linguistic skills, operational knowledge, and combat experience to developing a comprehensive training package for the 2nd Radio Battalion Signals Intelligence Support Detachments. While serving in Iraq, he suffered injuries during Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah. He was awarded a Purple Heart and volunteered to return to Iraq after his recovery. Presently, he is stationed at Camp Lejeune conducting training and skill development for his battalion.

Gary Slutkin, M.D., Executive Director, The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention (Chicago, Illinois)
Dr. Slutkin is the executive director of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He founded CeaseFire Chicago, a strategic public health initiative that organizes the collaboration of law enforcement, residents, clergy, medical professionals, and youth to take the lead in developing comprehensive strategic plans for reducing violence. Dr. Slutkin was a featured speaker at the 2005 White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth and believes that community mobilization, outreach, involvement by faith-based leaders, participation by those who work in criminal justice, and public education are all key components to stopping violent crime on our streets and encouraging positive outcomes, particularly for our youth.

Alba Esparza, Student (Clint, Texas )
Ms. Esparza, 20, is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin. She began her college career studying engineering and architecture, but she has since become a math major in the UTeach Program at the University. Ms. Esparza attended Clint High School, where she took Advanced Placement (AP) government, economics, English, and calculus classes. She feels strongly that her AP classes prepared her well for her college courses. Upon graduation, she intends to teach middle school math.

Pernessa C. Seele, Founder and CEO, The Balm in Gilead, Inc. (Yonkers, New York)
Ms. Seele founded The Balm in Gilead, Inc., in 1989. After working for years in medical research, including at Rockefeller University in New York, she decided to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and founded her organization to educate people in New York, especially the heavily affected African-American community, about the devastating disease. The Balm in Gilead has since grown and now works to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the Nation and around the world. It has partnered with faith communities in Africa to develop HIV/AIDS education and support networks. Domestically, The Balm in Gilead has a faith-based HIV/AIDS National Training and Technical Assistance Center that enhances the ability of black churches to respond to domestic HIV/AIDS. Ms. Seele is the recipient of numerous Congressional citations, honors, and awards for her success in mobilizing the leadership of faith communities to acknowledge and combat the devastation of AIDS.

Jason Kamras, 2005 Teacher of the Year (Washington, D.C.)
Mr. Kamras received the 2005 National Teacher of the Year award from President Bush. He is a math teacher at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C. After receiving degrees from Princeton and Harvard, Mr. Kamras began his teaching career through the Teach for America program. He successfully doubled the instructional time allotted for math and redesigned the math curriculum in his classes at Sousa to better prepare students to use technology and apply math skills in a real-world context. Mr. Kamras’ students have met the school district’s Adequate Yearly Progress target for math each year since No Child Left Behind went into effect, and he is now working to expand the program to the entire school.

Jeff Lyng, Student Project Manager, 2005 Solar Decathlon Winning Team (Golden, Colorado)
Mr. Lyng, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, led the winning team at the 2005 Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a unique educational project for college-level architects and engineers to highlight the importance of clean energy and renewable energy technologies. Eighteen schools competed in the 2005 contest. Each team had three-and-a-half months to raise about $500,000 to design and build an 800-square-foot house that was completely solar-powered. Mr. Lyng, who helped found the University of Colorado Renewable Energy Club, serves on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Alliance for a Sustainable Future. He is pursuing his Masters in Civil Engineering in the Building Systems program at the University of Colorado and will graduate in May 2006.

Dr. Deborah “Debbie” Jin, Physicist, National Institute of Standards and Technology; JILA Fellow; and Associate Professor Adjoint, Physics Department, University of Colorado (Boulder, Colorado)
Dr. Jin created a new quantum gas in 1999 that was one of the top scientific advances of the year. Dr. Jin received the MacArthur Award in 2003, and in 2000, she received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers – the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government in this field. Dr. Jin graduated from Princeton in 1990 and received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1995.

Ja’Detrus Hamilton, USA Freedom Corps Volunteer (Leakesville, Mississippi)
Mr. Hamilton, 16, and his family left their mobile home and found shelter in a local church during Hurricane Katrina. Their home suffered minimal damage, but the experience encouraged him to help others in the Gulf Coast whose lives were devastated by the storm. As a member of Youth Engaged in Service (YES!), a program that helps high school students serve their schools and communities, Mr. Hamilton collected and delivered school supplies and backpacks to affected elementary school students, helped a family begin repairs on their damaged home, and interviewed Gulf Coast residents to document their stories of hope and courage. He continues to lead other youth volunteers in rebuilding and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast area. Mr. Hamilton is in eleventh grade at Green County High School in Leakesville, Mississippi. Mr. Hamilton is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Teri Shamlian, USA Freedom Corps Volunteer (Houston, Texas)
Ms. Shamlian has devoted herself to volunteering full-time as a member of the Harris County Citizen Corps. She has volunteered in a myriad of roles since 2004 and has logged over 750 hours of service. In the two weeks immediately following Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Shamlian devoted 113 hours to relief efforts. She was among the first volunteers to report to the Astrodome in Houston when the request for volunteers went out. As busloads of people arrived, she set up cots, helped people come in, registered their names, helped to reunite separated family members, and provided food and clothing to those in need. She continues to volunteer through Citizen Corps, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, and other organizations. Ms. Shamlian is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

James “Jim” Kelly, CEO, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (Mandeville, Louisiana)
Mr. Kelly has been the CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2002. Catholic Charities aims to reduce poverty, support families, and empower communities. Mr. Kelly directs the organization’s response to the Gulf Coast disasters. Since the hurricanes, Catholic Charities has helped to evacuate people, distribute more than 40 million pounds of food, and rebuild devastated homes and communities. The organization has mobilized over 3,000 volunteers to participate in Operation Helping Hands, a project to help the neediest homeowners restore their homes and clean up their neighborhoods. Catholic Charities runs seven community centers that offer case management and assistance with personal recovery plans for people impacted by the disasters.

Mayor Anthony Williams, District of Columbia

The Honorable Claude A. Allen, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy

The Honorable Candida Wolff, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs

The Honorable Anita McBride, Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady"

January 30, 2006

WaPo's Science Section Does It Again

Another political attack disguised as science in this morning's Washington Post in an article by Shankar Vedantam. Like the psychology study in 2004 that determined that conservatism is a mental disorder, this study tries to say that conservatives and Republicans are mentally wired to be racists, among other things:

"Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.

Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes -- subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did."

Remarkable. Just because I think that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakan are buffoons -   well, that means that I'm smart and can spot con-men a mile away, not that I'm a racist!

Senator Chafee is a "No" on Alito

According to National Review Online, my Senator, Lincoln Chafee, has decided, after much ponderous thinking, to vote "No" on Judge Alito's confirmation vote for the Supreme Court. The surprise would have been if he voted "Yes". The benefit of Chafee's membership in the Republican column is limited to his voting for the Senate Majority Leader. On every other substantive issue he is a liberal Democrat. His plea for lower spending, often pointed to as one of his 'conservative' and 'Republican' credentials, is nothing of the sort. If a hugely expensive spending bill came before him that had to do with one of his pet causes, such as environmentalism, Chafee would knock over Robert Byrd in his sprint to his desk to vote "yes".

In this particular case with Alito, Chafee's puppet-masters spoke, and Chafee listened. Last year Chafee was the head speaker at a NARAL convention. He has tied up the majority of the abortion lobby's monies in this year's Senate campaign - if he was honorable and voted for Alito, the money would go to his probable Democrat opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse. Chafee will probably make some statement about Alito threatening Roe v Wade, which is a canard. Even if Roe came back up, and even if Alito voted to overturn it, it would still be 6-3 to retain Roe based on previous votes and public statements by the other Justices. And even if Roe is someday overturned, it doesn't mean that abortion would be illegal. It just means that the decision on Roe would be sent back to the states to decide. If Chafee really took a close look at Alito's public record and statements, and his answers during his confirmation hearing, the only reason why Chafee would vote "no" is as a response to his paymasters.

As I've said before, I've met Chafee and like him. I know people who know him well. Lincoln Chafee is a good and honest man at heart. I'm certain he views himself as an enlightened liberal. He was a great mayor. He would be a great governor. But his liberal eccentricities (such as voting for Bush's father in the last Presidential election) does not translate well into deciding national issues in the Senate. I had high hopes for him, at the beginning. But you can't look at Alito's real record (not the talking points put out by People for the American Way, NOW, NARAL) without coming out with the feeling that Alito is about as apolitical a nominee as we've had. Alito has the highest rating from the ABA, which is hardly a conservative organization. And among his most vocal supporters, and those most disturbed by the allegations against Alito during the hearings, were his Democrat colleagues on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that he has served with since April 1990. If there were anyone who could see unfairness or an ideological bent to Alito or his rulings it would be them. And they came to the hearings en masse to support him. Chafee knows better than they?

I think this decision more than any other by Chafee (remember Chafee pleading with Secretary of State Rice to be nicer to Hugo Chavez during her confirmation hearing?) will get conservative money pouring into the Republican primary. Much of the Republican hierarchy in Rhode Island is made up of RINOs such as Chafee, so they won't be happy, and will fight back hard and dirty. The Providence Journal will cooperate with those Republicans, and they will try to destroy Chafee's challenger Steve Laffey. But Laffey's a tough guy. He's been attacked on a daily basis by Democrats on Cranston's City Council, and he's survived that fairly well. If Laffey gets his message out I think he will win the Republican primary for Senate in Rhode Island.

In a perfect world, that would mean that Chafee would congratulate Laffey and perhaps run for governor next time, or challenge Jack Reed for the other RI Senate seat (Chafee's father did the same thing - he ran and lost to Claiborne Pell, and then ran and won the other Senate seat). But I think that Chafee and his supporters think that Chafee's Senate seat is literally Chafee's Senate seat - he owns it. So Chafee will probably run as an Independent. That would mean that it would be a three way race - Laffey, Chafee, and Whitehouse. Chafee and Whitehouse would split the same vote - they would vote in the Senate virtually the same way, and Whitehouse can't tarnish Chafee as being a Bush supporter. It would be close, but in that scenario Laffey could win with a plurality of the vote (as Clinton did against Bush and Perot in 1992). If Laffey loses, I would recommend that he burnish his conservative credentials, try to reform the Rhode Island Republican Party by bringing into it some real conservative ideas, and run against Reed next time. That's if Laffey loses in the primary or in the general election. I would not recommend that Laffey run as an Independent. Unless, of course, he vows to declare himself a Republican post-election. But that could be too Machiavellian, even for conspiracysquirrels.com!

Reform What?

Reform is in the air these days. There is understandable rage at lobbyists because of the Abramoff scandal. But lobbyists have been around for ages, and the act of lobbying (attempting to persuade someone to support your cause) is a constitutional right, protected under free speech. Bribery, on the other hand, which is what Abramoff is accused of doing, is not constitutionally protected, and in fact is a serious crime. Mark L. Levin has a good post on his blog over at NRO about this, reminding us that chief reformer John McCain was also a member of the Keating 5, a scandal that the media, in its fawning coverage of McCain, conveniently forgets. The anger that many people, including myself, feel at Congress is not because of lobbying, or because of the scandal. This stuff happens occasionally, and when it does we should punish the perpetrators. In fact, I actually feel good in a way about this particular Abramoff scandal. Abramoff's a Republican with major Republican ties. Many of the politicians involved are Republicans. And it is a Republican Administration, and a Republican Justice Department, that is going full bore after everyone involved. If is a far cry from the Clinton Administration, where Janet Reno actively subverted full investigations into schemes like the fund-raising scandals. Remember "no controlling legal authority" anyone? So the Bush Administration is pretty effectively policing its own, no matter who is involved. The issue that has all of us furious is not the scandal but out of control federal spending.

And Bob Novak has a good column today on something that really does have to be addressed, earmarks. Under the current system, special project funding can be inserted secretly into spending bills by Senators, sometimes literally in the dead of night. No one knows who is inserting the spending provision, it isn't presented publicly to the full Senate for review, and it isn't voted on in the usual manner. Earmarks are usually inserted into a piece of major legislation that looks as if it will pass overwhelmingly and is veto proof. I feel that if a project is good enough to funded by the federal government, then the Senate should be able to discuss its merits, have the project defended by its sponsor, and voted on by the full Senate. Anything less is just a shell game. From Novak's column:

"Make no mistake that Republicans McCain and Coburn are climbing uphill against a bipartisan pork coalition, as was made clear from both sides of the aisle this week. "Who knows best where to put a bridge or a highway or a red light in their district?" said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, defending earmarks on the Michael Reagan radio program. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on PBS: "There's nothing basically wrong with the earmarks. They've been going on since we were a country."

Coburn disputes Reid's history. "Contrary to conventional Beltway wisdom," the freshman senator said, "the pork process is not an ancient tradition that is impossible to change." The 1982 highway bill contained 10 earmarked pork projects; 150 earmarks in the 1987 bill helped provoke a veto by President Reagan; the number rose to 1,400 in 1998, and to 6,300 in 2005.

In an age of polarization, addiction to pork cuts across party lines. The $2 million for a public park in the Presidio of San Francisco added to Defense spending benefits the district of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a leading attacker of Republican fiscal irresponsibility."

There were 15,268 earmarked pork projects last year! Many, if not most of them, are probably projects that would get wide public support prior to passage. What the public objects to is the opaque process that's involved - that's what has to change.

January 29, 2006

The Hamas Victory - A Good Thing

Last week the terrorist organization Hamas won a pretty decisive victory in the Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas is an interesting group, to say the least. It has perfected the combination of a terrorist organization committed to the murder of innocents (all Jews everywhere, as a matter of fact) with a social organization that has promoted welfare programs and health care for the Palestinians. The social programs provide cover for the terrorist core of the group. It makes it easy for people to support the extermination of Israel while claiming that they are actually supporting positive programs for the welfare of the Palestinian people. It's not a new tactic, all the other terrorist entities are doing it. It is the culmination of the theory of moral equivalence.

I was not surprised by Hamas' win. Contrary to the media's spin, neither was the Bush Administration, nor was any intelligent observer of the Middle East. Hamas has been doing well in local elections for years. The only reason it never ran in the last legislative election was because of a deal it had brokered with Yasser Arafat. It was necessary for the defacto Palestinian leader and the leader's party (Fatah) to give the appearance of wanting peace, and of recognizing Israel's right to exist, in order to bring in millions of dollars of foreign aid to the Palestinians. At the same time, Arafat and Fatah gave their explicit approval to Hamas and organizations like it to continue their war against Israel, only declaring 'truce' in order to gain time to rebuild after being weakened by Israeli attacks. As transparently deceitful as Arafat and his desire for 'peace' with Israel was, it was nothing in comparison with the corruption prevalent in Arafat's Palestinian Authority. As Palestinians are now realizing, the PA was designed to enrich Arafat and his cronies and to support terrorism - not to benefit ordinary Palestinians. That the Palestinians turned away from Fatah and towards Hamas, even though it is not in their best interest, is logical and understandable.

Critics of President Bush acknowledge that the United States shouldn't recognize Hamas until it disavows their desire to destroy Israel, but they say that Bush should have stated this before the election. I disagree. If Bush did, he would have been accused of meddling with the Palestinian election - and Hamas would have won anyway. Now the Palestinians have what they wanted, for better or for worse, and can blame no-one other than themselves for the results.

In fact I think that Hamas' victory will ultimately be seen as a good thing for the Mideast Peace Process, although not in the way that Hamas itself might see it. Hamas' charter states that Jews must be killed and vanquished from the earth, and that "there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.". For years the Palestinians have hidden their real agenda behind a ruling party that 'supported' the peace process, while also supporting the goals of terrorist organizations like Hamas. Now, with Hamas in charge, there will be no more facade. Critics of Israel and of the United States always said that the Palestinians support peace with Israel and that they should not be punished for the actions of the terrorists in the background. They no longer have that opportunity. The true enemy of peace is in the forefront for everyone to see.

Now it will not be a shadowy terrorist organization that will be launching suicide attacks against Israel, it will be the official state entity of the Palestinians. It is an opportunity for the real supporters of a two-state solution and enduring peace to finally tell the Palestinians that the international community is no longer going to tolerate the games that Arafat and his ilk used to play. Hamas has already attacked Egyptian forces at the Gaza checkpoint after the Israeli pullout. I would imagine that Egypt would like to make sure that those skirmishes don't spread. There will probably be some sort of an internal civil war between Hamas and Fatah. I imagine Jordan doesn't want to see much of that happening on its border. In fact, the only true allies of a Hamas-led Palestine will be Syria and Iran. This could be once in a lifetime chance for not only Israel and the United States, but the international community including most Arab nations, to draw draw the line with Syria, Iran, and their sponsored terrorist entities in Palestine. Choose peace with Israel and a real state, complete with internationally recognized borders. Chose anything else, and you will be crushed, and the international community will install a peaceful government. Self-determination or suicide, Hamas. Your decision.

January 27, 2006

Another #$@%^ Poll!

There's another poll out, this time by NYT/CBS concerning the NSA wiretaps, and again it is pretty much useless. Polling has gotten so bad that I don't even pay that much attention to any poll (except Rasmussen, who I know does it right) without first reading the methodology and the questions. Most of the time, the poll and its results are good for little more than toilet paper. Ed at Captain's Quarters does his usual excellent job dissecting this particular poll - once again the Democrats are oversampled and the questions are suspect - it's almost as if the pollsters wanted a particular outcome! This time, however, it may have backfired. Even with trick questions, the poll still showed that Americans support doing whatever it takes to block terrorist plots:

"SPLIT HALF – ASK EITHER 62 OR 63.

62. After 9/11, President Bush authorized government wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants, saying this was necessary in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Do you approve or disapprove of the President doing this?

Approve Disapprove DK/NA
1/20-25/06 53 46 1

63. After 9/11, George W. Bush authorized government wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants. Do you approve or disapprove of George W. Bush doing this?

Approve Disapprove DK/NA
1/20-25/06 46 50 3

Neither form of the question mentions two salient facts: the monitoring involved only international communications and were initiated by other evidence showing at least one of the participants had connections to terrorist organizations. Do you suppose those numbers would have been significantly different under that context? I suspect that both the NYT and CBS knows it would have been -- which is why they asked the questions above instead."

The above questions so misrepresent what is actually occurring that it is laughable. AnkleBitingPundits has more on the truly horrendous methodology and questioning used in this poll. This is a thinly disguised "push poll", nothing more, nothing less.

Drug Dealers are the Real Threat to Children, Not Alito...

One of the arguments against Alito used by the Dems and the Left that I found most infuriating was that he supported the warrantless searches of 10 year old children. It involved the Democrats misrepresenting a case called Doe v. Groody, where the real issue was whether or not a warrant, and an attached affidavit, was sufficient to search all of the occupants of the premises of a known drug dealer. In short, the original warrant said search the premises, the affidavit said all occupants. The defense claimed that the warrant didn't allow for the search of the 10 year old child present in the house for drugs, it just allowed for the search of the suspect. The Appeals Court agreed. Alito dissented because he viewed the attached affidavit as a sufficient modification of the search warrant to allow the search of all occupants, including the child. He also noted how personally disgusted he was that it would be necessary that a 10 year old child be searched at all - but that wasn't the subject of the appeal.

The Left misrepresented this as Alito supporting the random searches of innocent 10 year old girls. And Senator Pat Leahy, among others, invoked the canard in Alito's confirmation questioning. And the MSM went along with it, for the most part.

Let me again invite reality into the debate - it is a fact that drug dealers, when raided, will hide their stash anywhere, including in the orifices of 10 year old girls, in the hope that the police won't find the drugs and the dealer will go free. I know for a fact that this happens - an ex-acquaintance of mine did it with her daughter several times, and bragged about it afterward. The villain in this is the drug dealer - not the police forced to do the search. And as Wendy Long posts over at NRO's Bench Memo, sometimes the dealer's actions can have tragic consequences:

"As we look forward to the inevitable confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court next week, an overlooked heartbreaking story out of New York City this morning drives home the real tragedy that underlies one of the outrageous distortions of Judge Alito's record by the liberal Left.

It became one of THE Main Talking Points of the Left, from Maureen Dowd to Howard Dean to Senator Pat Leahy: Judge Alito condones searches of children by police! Americans' civil liberties are under attack!

In fact, it is children who are under attack — by drug dealers — and it is the liberals who don't care and won't protect them.

The Left's misrepresentation involved Doe v. Groody, a case in which Judge Alito dissented over a technicality about whether a police affidavit attached to a search warrant authorized the search of a drug dealer's daughter in his home. Liberals have reacted with great drama and feigned horror over the search of a 10 year-old girl.

The fact is, drug dealers use children — their bedrooms, their clothing, their bodies — to hide drugs.

The latest tragedy, according to news reports: a two year-old girl, Sherlyn Polonia, died after her body was burning with fever, she was vomiting a white substance, and emergency medical workers found her in her home not breathing.

The hospital contacted police to report that Sherlyn was exposed to narcotics before dying. Several ounces of cocaine were found in her bedroom. Her mother and live-in boyfriend have been arrested on drug possession charges, and reports state that they used the little girl's bedroom as a place to stash cocaine and prepare it for sale. News reports indicate that the little girl likely ingested the cocaine, thinking it was candy in her room.


The santimonious liberals braying in their liberal bubble about the horrors of searching children — i.e., protecting children — were not able to kill the nomination of Judge Alito. But how many more children will be abused or even killed by drug dealers?"

Iraq's WMD in Syria?

The conventional wisdom, supported 100% by the MSM, is that there were no WMDs in Iraq. As readers of this blog know, I don't buy it. While we did not find any of the stockpiles that we sought, I've long thought that any real WMDs were spirited out of the country prior to the start of the Iraq War. During the buildup to war, there were numerous accounts of massive transfers of material, by air and by land, to Lebanon and Syria. No-one had denied that such activity occurred (we have satellite photos, for example) - we just don't know what was transported. It could be money, riches, and antiquities (Saddam's booty) - or it could have had something to do with the WMD program.

The problem that we always had with overthrowing Saddam was that it was telegraphed - It was about a year between the "last" ultimatum from the United Nations and the US and the actual invasion. What happened afterward the ultimatum was merely stall tactics on behalf of Saddam. The Oil-For-Food scandal proves that the UN and members of the Security Council were essentially on Saddam's payroll - the UN was never going to take action against Iraq. It was also obvious that the Bush Administration was going to take action when the UN declined. If I were Saddam, I would have gotten my wealth and anything incriminating out of the country ASAP. If the UN was successful in blocking action, I'd just move it back in. At that point the international community would insist that sanctions be lifted, so I'd be able to do whatever I wanted anyway. If the US did invade, the United States quickly get bogged down and would be so weakened and embarrassed by not finding WMDs that it would open the door for the Bathists to continue to run Iraq, and America would be neutered politically and militarily in the eyes of the world. Oh, and I'd plan the insurgency as well to make sure the US was defeated. If I live, fine. If I don't, I become stronger as a martyr and my sons would benefit.

So Saddam had the time to hide whatever WMDs he had until the fuss blew over. The contention that he destroyed everything doesn't fly - where's the proof? According to all contemporary accounts the WMDs and evidence of such programs just vanished into thin air. Now if they were destroyed, fine. But let's find the proof. And the fact is we can't find the proof.

Charles Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group's Iraq WMD Report discovered an awful lot of things that should give opponents of the war pause. While the media has focused on the "no WMDs" portion, the report actually found out that Iraq was ready, willing, and able to restart all of its programs as soon as either the sanctions were lifted (which was inevitable if Saddam wasn't overthrown) or if the UN succeeded in stopping the US permanently. David Kay, Duelfer's predecessor, famously told Congress that what he found made him more frightened of Iraq than he was before the war, and made an even stronger case for Saddam's overthrow. You wouldn't know that because the MSM didn't report it. In the 2005 Addendum to the Duelfer Report, the CIA dealt with WMD transfer suggestions. They thought that the theory was worth investigating, but with the info that they had discovered to date (3/05), they couldn't prove that it had happened.

New information, documents, and human intel is being discovered every day. Contrary to conventional wisdom that we have investigated everything, there are millions of Iraqi documents that the United States has in its possession that has not been translated. The more distant the memory of Saddam becomes, and the more the Iraqis turn against the terrorists, the more human intel comes to the forefront. Now there is an article by Ira Stoll in the New York Sun (reproduced at Frontpagemag.com) that could be key in finding out what happened with the WMDs:

"The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, "It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong."

Said Mr. Bush, "We did not find those weapons.""

Is this a smoking gun? I don't know. But I'm certain that the real story of Iraq's WMDs has not been told yet. The Bush Administration has quickly conceded far too much to their opponents far too quickly (i.e. the Niger/Yellowcake, "16 words in the State of the Union Speech" issue) when the Administration was actually correct. I have know idea why they do - bad political advice, I think. They've started to fight back, finally. I think that the WMD issue still hold some surprises for all of us.

What's With the Democrat Party?

Over the past few days I've been reading a few posts by Stephen Spruiell at his Media Blog on NRO about some attacks that the Left, especially Marcos (Kos) at the blog DailyKos, have been making against people like Chris Matthews of MSNBC and Tim Russert of NBC complaining that those folks aren't left enough. Amazing! So now the Left is going after the MSM saying that the media skews too far to the right?

I have a theory. I think that the Democrat Party is imploding. With actual leaders like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, and spiritual advisers like DailyKos, MoveOn.org, and Al Gore, the Democrat Party is raging leftward at a time where it should be getting more towards the center. But the money that comes into the party comes in not from the centrists, but from the far left and from people like George Soros. And people like Markos are demanding to get what they pay for. This is going to make it very hard for any moderate Democrat voter in the future to vote for the candidate that the money supports, other than from blind Party loyalty.

Kos is convinced that he represented a sea change in the Democrat base. He has a new book coming out which describes his fight to win the soul of the Party. I look at it differently. Kos represents the new money coming into the Party, not the soul of the Party. And that might not be the best thing for the Democrats. I sent the following e-mail to Media Blog that further expounds on this idea:

I understand Kos' desire to write the definitive history of what happened after the campaign finance reform law of 2002, describing himself as one of the first leaders of this huge groundswell of grassroots activists, but it's in conflict with the real history of what happened. Kos' 'success' as a blogger, a pundit, and a Democrat king-maker is intertwined with the advent of campaign finance reform, the rise of the 527, and the infusion of huge sums of outside money into the political process during 2003 and 2004.

The primary moving force behind campaign finance reform, which led to Kos' political capital, was money - George Soros' money. While the media trumpets the courage of McCain and company in the campaign finance reform wars, they were dupes. The way the Democrats were financing national campaigns before 2002 and 2004 was mock-able - the Dems primary way of raising funds was by getting unions and some very rich folks to give millions to the party and campaigns. While the Dems liked to portray themselves as "of the common people", they were actually far more "of the elite and rich" than were the Republicans. And it was starting to hurt them p.r.-wise in the media.

Because of the excesses of campaign financing in the 90s, some sort of "reform" was bound to happen. I think that Soros read the writing on the wall and vowed that if there was going to be reform, it would be done in a manner that he and his friends on the left would be able to take advantage of. So he bankrolled the reform groups, turned McCain into a useful idiot, and actively sought to subvert the same reform that he was "supporting" by coming up with the 527 "grassroots" scheme.

Soros felt that Republicans would rightly look at the 527s as a way of circumventing the new law, and would spend their time trying to the right thing and legally stop them during the last Presidential campaign. And, if it were up to John McCain, that's all the Republicans would have done during 2004. Soros and his friends were smart enough to know that they had a very small window of opportunity to use the 527s to alter the national elections - just the 2004 cycle. But that's all they wanted. After 2004, they knew, either 527s would be illegal, Republicans would have their own 527s, or McCain-Feingold would be shot down. But the Democrats would be in power.

What Soros didn't expect was that during 2004 the 527s would be determined to be legal, and that real independent 527s would rise on the other side so quickly - after intelligent people saw what Soros and his crew were trying to do. There were stark differences between the Democrat 527s and the Republican 527s. The Dems political campaigns (and their blogs like DailyKos) worked hand in hand with their 527s, even to the point of sharing officials and using the same seed money resources, which was really illegal (for the campaigns) and shows how much everyone on the Left were in cahoots with this scheme from the beginning. The Republicans, on the other hand, were made up of truly independent groups for the most part. The Swift Boat guys weren't something dreamed up in 2004. These guys had a longstanding feud with John Kerry. It was inevitable that they would get into the picture if Kerry was running for President. The 527 just gave them a perfect vehicle to do so.

Soros bet that the Republicans would believe the press (and the story that Kos is peddling in his book) that they had vastly superior fundraising capabilities over the Dems and lay back until it was too late. He, and the Democrats, lost the bet.

Kos and organizations like MoveOn.org are merely the beneficiaries of Soros and Co.'s largesse - part of a plan to game the system. Like John McCain, they are too self-infatuated to see that they were just tools to be used in a larger context. And, like John McCain, Kos and his ilk are staying around convinced of their own importance, and convinced that the future of their party centers on them. And the media plays them up as such.

By portraying himself as the soul of the Democrat Party, Kos will destroy the Democrats from within, eventually. There is nothing "grassroots" about his followers - they are the elite, the naive, and the self-righteous. On the other side, it is only a matter of time before McCain self-destructs. He is at his core a good and honorable man, but I don't think that he is as smart as he thinks he is. I don't think he thinks out some of the things that he proposes (like campaign finance reform), and I don't think he really understands the legislation that comes out of some of his ideas. And at his heart he is a populist. He would be a great person to have at your side in a fight as long as he was as convinced as you are that the fight is just. But the moment he thinks he can gain something by taking a different tact, watch out. His achilles heel is his temper. Push John McCain's buttons, he will explode, and at that time he can be defeated. The media might still lionize him and attack you, but in the end he will still be defeated.

This e-mail was going to be just on Kos and related issues. Sorry for the gratuitous shot at John McCain. I just couldn't help myself! He's as much of a product of George Soros right now as Kos is. He just doesn't know it.

I believe that what happened in 2004 to the Democrat Party was just the reaction of a portion of the Party's base to their new paymasters. Kos is representing it as the fight for the definition of what the "new" Democrat Party should stand for. That fight hasen't happened yet. If the Democrats do well in the next election, it will be because of the mistakes of the Republicans, not because of who or what the Democrats are. And if the Democrats don't find out who they are, what they stand for, and what their ideas for governing are, the next election will just be a small speedbump in the Republican control of the country. And the Democrats will continue to get a smaller and smaller percentage of the vote, becoming a long-term minority party. And that would be a shame.

While I like spanking the likes of Dean, Pelosi, and Reid every national election cycle, it would be nice to have a real choice for a change, with real competing ideas. At the very least, it would keep Republicans honest - get them to govern with the ideas they campaign on.

January 26, 2006

Bereavement Period Subsiding

It's been a week since my father died, and about time to get back to writing. People have been incredible - a wonderful tribute to my Dad. We're still getting cards and floral arrangements - just this morning we received a beautiful arrangement from his pulmonary doctor!

We expected that the local family and current friends would be around during this time. But family and friends from out of state came. We were stunned by how many old friends from as far back as my father's grammar school class stopped by. And the most surprising of all are have been the visits, calls, and remembrances from the doctors and nurses that cared for him - we got Mass Cards from the dialysis nurses at the hospital, for Pete's sake, and they only had treated him for a month!

It has been a wonderful tribute to a good and kind man. He was old school - not ruthless at all. When the retail business changed from being family oriented to cut-throat, he refused to change. And people recognized and respected that. In short, he could have made a ton of money if he decided to play the game as others sometimes played it against him. But that would have meant screwing people, and that my father would not do. He truly made the people around him better off for knowing him. The world is a better place for having had my father in it.

I'll give you one short story about my Dad's priorities. Many, many years ago he was a buyer for Jordan Marsh in Boston. He was the person that introduced Estee Lauder and her cosmetics line to New England. He became very good friends with her son, Leonard Lauder. My father believed in the products, thought the Lauders were great people, and brainstormed with them about marketing, territories, etc. A few years later when my father was working for Cherry & Webb, and after my father had met my mother (and I was on the way), Estee Lauder offered my father a job running their operations outside of New York and New England. It was a huge opportunity. There was talk of the family moving to Los Angeles or even Hawaii. But my father and mother's families were here, in and around Providence, RI. And here is where my father and mother wanted to raise the family, so he turned down the opportunity.

Today to many people that refusal seems foolish. It was an opportunity to make big, big, money. But that wasn't what was important to my Dad. It was a quality of life and family priority issue. It took guts for him to do that, but it was the right thing to do. Did things go perfectly since then? Of course not. But my parents had a comfortable life, they were respected and well regarded by everyone who knew them, they would have celebrated their 48th Wedding Anniversary this April 19th, and they had children, family, and friends that loved them dearly. Not a bad life at all.

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