June 2006, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Follow Up:  After Zarqawi's death, we and the Iraqi authorities acted quickly.
Zarqawi's death allowed coalition forces to go after his network - those people who had been used to establish his movements, patterns and habits, Gen Caldwell said.

Coalition and Iraqi forces moved quickly, conducting 17 simultaneous raids in and around Baghdad within hours of Zarqawi's death.

"And in those 17 raids last night a tremendous amount of information and intelligence was collected.   It is presently being exploited and utilised for further use.  I mean it was a treasure trove, no question," the general said.
Sounds as though they found addresses after the air strike and didn't hesitate to visit Zarqawi's friends.  And if these raids were as successful as he says, we may be able to destroy Zarqawi's organization within the next few weeks.
- 2:43 PM, 8 June 2006   [link]

What Intelligence Led To The Strike On Zarqawi?  Stories differ.   Here's what CENTCOM said:
Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates . . .
Here's what President Bush said:
At 6:15 p.m. Baghdad time, special operation forces, acting on tips and intelligence from Iraqis, confirmed Zarqawi's location, and delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq.
Which is compatible with the CENTCOM statement, but not identical.

Here's what the BBC said, quoting an American officer:
A man described as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "spiritual adviser" inadvertently led US forces to the spot where the militant leader was finally located and killed, the US military says.
. . .
He said a tip from someone in Zarqawi's network put US forces on the trail of Sheikh Abd-al-Rahman, the militant's "spiritual adviser".
That's reasonably coherent; a tip led us to Abd-al-Rahman and we followed him to Zarqawi.

Here's what MSNBC says:
[Iraqi Prime Minister] Al-Maliki said the Wednesday night airstrike by U.S. forces was based on intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by area residents.
Which is compatible with what President Bush said, but not necessarily with the other explanations.   But that's not all; MSNBC also credited another group:
A Jordanian official said the kingdom also provided the U.S. military with information that helped track down al-Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for a November triple suicide bombing against Amman hotels that killed 60.
And other reports credited a special forces group, and even the CIA.

How do I feel about the confusion in these reports?  Pleased.  And I will go farther.  This may seem strange, but I hope that some of those official reports are deceptive.  That may seem strange because many of us have forgotten that, in war, you want to deceive your enemy.  And whenever we locate one of the bad guys, we want to keep secret, if possible, just how we found him — just in case we can find more bad guys with the same methods.
- 2:15 PM, 8 June 2006
More:  The New York Times has the most extensive account of how we found Zarqawi that I have seen.  And Christopher Hitchens, like me, hopes that the accounts we are hearing are deceptive, that the story that we were tipped off is "clever black propaganda".  The possibility that one of them is a spy would tend to spoil the mood at meetings of survivors from Zarqawi's organization.
- 6:00 AM, 9 June 2006 [link]

Zarqawi Dead!  And at least as important, some of his top aides.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, was killed Wednesday evening by an air strike northwest of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born high-school dropout whose leadership of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq made him the most wanted man in the country, was killed along with seven aides near the city of Baqubah, the officials said.
The death of the aides may be, as I said, even more important, since the loss of those men may make it difficult for the organization to regroup.

It was a victory for our intelligence operations — as almost all victories in the war on terror are.

A little Gilbert and Sullivan seems appropriate.
I've got a little list — I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
And Zarqawi was close to the top of that list.
- 7:19 AM, 8 June 2006
More:  Jack Kelly, who has extensive military experience, agrees that getting Zarqawi's top aides may have been just as important as getting Zarqawi.
- 6:23 AM, 9 June 2006   [link]

Bellwether Election?  That's what many in the "mainstream" media are calling the race in California's 50th House district.  (Here's an example from the Washington Post.)   I haven't used the term because I know the original meaning of bellwether, which you can find at the end of this Wikipedia entry.  I think too much of my fellow voters to think the analogy is a good one for elections — at least most elections.
- 4:02 PM, 7 June 2006   [link]

Worth Repeating:  Andrew McCarthy makes a point that has been made before, but one that deserves repeating.
Over the weekend, Canadian authorities apparently smashed a frightening plot involving Islamic terrorists who planned a series of bombings against sites in southern Ontario.  Instinctively, the mainstream media went into its now-familiar coverage template, Phase One of which avoids like the plague any mention of the fact that accused terrorists are Muslims.
. . .
Yes, public discussion of Koranic verse and all things Islamic is permissible only when the coverage template moves into Phase Two.  This phase is basically the group hug for Muslims&mdashmodern journalism's act of contrition for reluctantly having to report on all these pesky arrests and plots and ANFO [ammonium nitrate fuel oil] bombs.
One thing puzzles me about the kind of coverage he describes: Do these "mainstream" reporters and editors realize just how silly these stories sound?  Are they so politically correct that they miss that?

(For a hilarious example from a Toronto paper, see this post by Charles Johnson.)
- 1:28 PM, 7 June 2006   [link]

Sorry For The Lack Of Posts in the last few days.  I have been a little sick (you don't want the details), and have not felt like doing much of anything.  But I'm feeling better and expect to be back to normal by this weekend, if not sooner.
- 11:59 AM, 7 June 2006   [link]

That Special Election In California's 50th District:  Republican Brian Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby for the seat left empty by Duke Cunningham's resignation.   Since Busby came closer this time than in 2004 when she ran against Duke Cunningham, some on the left are seeing this as a good sign for the fall campaign.

Here's an example from Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly.
As Stuart Rothenberg noted yesterday, before results were available, "The National Republican Congressional Committee is pouring resources into this race at an astonishing rate in hopes of saving the seat.   But the NRCC will not be able to put $5 million into every contest this fall, so a Bilbray victory, if it happens, should not mislead observers into thinking that Democratic prospects in the fall have been exaggerated."

Ultimately, coming close isn't good enough, and it's Bilbray who's going to take the oath of office.   But if this race was a bellwether election, Republicans can't be at all pleased with how this year is shaping up.
Well, this Republican is mildly pleased by the result.  First, it is better to win than to lose.   Second, the polls were showing this race to be even, but Bilbray won by four points, which suggests that other polls may be giving too much encouragement to the Democrats.

Third, if we look at the details of the race, we can see that Bilbray had handicaps most Republicans will not have in this fall's election.  To begin with, there was the lingering scandal from Duke Cunningham's misdeeds, which could not have helped the Republican candidate.  Then there is the inconvenient fact that Bilbray moved to the district for the election, while Busby had real roots in the district and had run once before.

There were actually two elections yesterday in the district, the special election and the usual party primaries.  Both Bilbray and Busby had opposition in their party's primaries, but the Bilbray's opposition was much stronger.  So he did not have a completely united party behind him.  

And that's not all.  It was a four way race, with a Libertarian and an independent, anti-immigration candidate.  It is hard to know where the Libertarian votes would have gone, but it is almost certain that the independent, William Griffith, took more votes from Bilbray than Bushby.

Cook's Report rates the 50th district as being +5 Republican, which means that a Republican would be expected to beat a Democrat, everything else being equal, by 10 points.  (Which is about what Bush won the district by in 2000 and 2004.)  Given all Bilbray's handicaps in the race, it is not surprising to see him win with a smaller margin this time.  But I can't think of another House district, off hand, where there will be so many factors working against the Republican.

Finally, upsets in off year elections are likely to come when one party's voters are more energized than the other party's voters.  There is no doubt that the left wing activists are energized, but yesterday's mediocre turnout — just 35 percent — tells me that Democratic voters are not.  And that's not surprising because the economy is doing very well.  (It is sometimes forgotten that the Republican victory in 1994 came at a time when most voters saw the economy as still in a recession, and with unemployment at about 6 percent then, they had reason to think that, even if economists might disagree.)
- 8:01 AM, 7 June 2006
More:  Here are the returns for the primaries, if you want to check my claim that Bilbray faced more opposition from other Republicans than Busby did from other Democrats.
- 12:56 PM, 7 June 2006   [link]

"The Dark Night Of Fascism", Tom Wolfe wrote, "is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe".  That "unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy" may well occur during the World Cup for that most international of sports, soccer.
Players and antiracism experts said they expected offensive behavior during the tournament, including monkey-like chanting; derisive singing; the hanging of banners that reflect neofascist and racist beliefs; and perhaps the tossing of bananas or banana peels, all familiar occurrences during matches in Spain, Italy, eastern Germany and eastern Europe.
But not in George Bush's America.  Or in Bill Clinton's America, for that matter.

There are nasty fans in the United States, and there are, from time to time, racist incidents.   But they are much rarer here than they are in Europe.  And I can not recall ever hearing of fans hanging neofascist banners.

(The Tom Wolfe line is from his essay, "The Intelligent Coed's Guide to America".}
- 11:30 AM, 4 June 2006   [link]

Should You Take Press Releases From Greenpeace Seriously?  Probably not.
- 7:10 AM, 2 June 2006   [link]

French Muslims, French Criminals:  There's a correlation.
Half of those being detained in French prisons are said to be Muslims.

A Le Monde news article wrote that according to a poll run by "Religions World" magazine, although Muslims constitute 7-8 percent of the French population, 50 percent of all prisoners are Muslim immigrants.
And the same correlation can be found in every Western country for which I have seen statistics.

You can find an extended discussion of the likely reasons for that correlation in this post.

(By way of the American Thinker.)
- 6:54 AM, 2 June 2006   [link]

A Poor Choice Of Metaphors:  At least in my humble opinion
State Comptroller Alan Hevesi publicly apologized Thursday for a "beyond dumb" remark about a fellow Democrat [Senator Charles Schumer] putting "a bullet between the president's eyes."

Hevesi called a mea culpa press conference hours after putting his foot in his mouth at the Queens College commencement.
. ..
According to a videotape of the speech, Hevesi said:

"The man who, how do I phrase this diplomatically, who will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it.  The toughest senator, the best representative.  A great, great member of the Congress of the United States."

Hevesi said he hadn't been in touch with the White House but he hoped his apology reached President Bush
Maybe he should try calling the White House?  I understand that they have people there who can take messages, even if President Bush is busy.

Senator Schumer is not generally considered to be a violent man — as long as you are not between him and a TV camera.  If you do plan to be in that situation, you would be wise to wear protective gear.

For those who are wondering what Hevesi says when he is not being diplomatic, there's this clue: Hevesi was "a longtime professor of government and politics at Queens College before becoming comptroller".   Our professors tend to be somewhat more, shall we say, vigorous, in their ways of speaking than they once were.

(Being serious for a moment, I have to wonder whether Hevesi, in private talks with Democratic activists, may not have said something like this before.  It is a strange metaphor.)
- 7:05 PM, 1 June 2006   [link]

It Took More Than One Try, but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid finally figured out that accepting free boxing tickets does not appear ethical.

He tried this explanation first.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says it's his official duty to attend boxing matches in Nevada and that he did nothing wrong when he accepted complimentary ringside seats from a state agency that was lobbying him.

Reid says he would have been criticized for not going to the fight because he has an obligation to make sure the sport kept clean.
When that didn't work, he promised not to do it again.
Within hours of being questioned by AP about the ethics experts' assertions, Reid's office abruptly reversed course and acknowledged Wednesday night he had misspoken about the ethics rules.

The Senate leader also has decided not to take free boxing seats in the future even though he still believes it was ethical to do so in 2004 and 2005, Reid's office said.
Even though he had done nothing wrong.

(This Nevada journalist believes that Senator Reid would not be influenced by free tickets — and I have seen no reason to disagree.  But he still shouldn't have taken the tickets.)
- 4:24 PM, 1 June 2006   [link]

Legislators And Math Reform:  It will be easier to reform math education in Washington state if we can gain the support of a majority of the state's legislators.  (The support is not essential, since the Washington constitution provides ways to go around the legislature.)  Two legislators attended the math forum sponsored by Where's the Math? that I described here and here.

The reactions of Democrat Ross Hunter (on the left) and Republican Fred Jarrett gave me some reason to hope.  Both seemed open to the arguments made at the forum.  (Or most of the arguments.  Hunter took exception when one man in the audience said that all legislators are bribed by special interests.)  But only some, because reform will be opposed by what William Bennett called the "Blob", the bloated education bureacracy.

That resistance poses political problems for both Democrats like Hunter, and Republicans like Jarrett.  Republicans who confront the education bureacracy (or, more correctly, bureacracies) can get a reputation for being extreme, or even opposed to schools.  Democrats are often dependent on support from a powerful union, the Washington Education Association, a union that is both generous with campaign contributions and, at best, careless about following election laws.  (For an example of that carelessness, see this article.)   Judging only by their reactions at the forum — which is not much to go on — I would say that those political problems are worse for Democrat Hunter than for Republican Jarrett.

Those of us who support reform should understand those political problems.  As well as making the academic argument for reform, we should be willing to give political support to the legislators who are willing to take on the Blob, on this important issue.  And I intend to do just that — where I can.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I did not choose that unflattering picture of Democrat Ross Hunter on purpose.  In fact, I waited for some time after I took the picture, hoping he would relax a bit.  But I could not wait forever since I was being both a photographer and a reporter.)
- 3:01 PM, 1 June 2006   [link]

Julia Gorin repeats some gossip about Jimmy Carter, which I will skip, and then reminds us about the tactics Carter used in his first big victory.
Carter won the governorship of Georgia in 1970 via a race-baiting campaign.  In his 2004 book The Real Jimmy Carter, Steven Hayward writes that Carter's campaign staff sent an anonymous mailer "to barbershops, country churches, and rural law enforcement officers containing a grainy photo of [his Democratic opponent Carl] Sanders, part owner of the Atlanta Hawks NBA franchise, at an after-game locker room victory celebration.  Two black players were pouring champagne over Sanders's head.  The Atlanta Constitution noted, 'In the context of the sports pages, it was a routine shot ... But in the context of this political campaign it was a dangerous smear that injected both race, alcohol, and high fiving into the campaign.'  Carter's senior campaign aides Bill Pope, Hamilton Jordan, and Jerry Rafshoon were behind the mailing; Pope was even spotted passing out the flyers at a Ku Klux Klan rally ... The Carter campaign also produced a leaflet noting that Sanders had paid tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
And there was much more in the same line from Carter's campaign.

And then when elected, Carter switched.
Upon getting elected governor, however, Carter shocked Georgia when he included in his inauguration speech that the time for discrimination was over.  It was a race bait-and-switch, and though it was a cynical approach to victory, one can make the argument that it was the only way to win Georgia in 1970, and change it.
One could make that argument, but I am not sure it would be correct.  After all, Carter's opponent, Carl Sanders, was widely known as a moderate on racial issues, and had a real chance of being elected governor — before Carter ran his smear campaign.

Those who knew about this bit of history found Carter's 1976 promise never to lie to the voters just a little hard to believe.  Somehow Carter was able to combine dirty politics and sanctimony, and get away with it — at least for a time.  (Could he get away with that combination now, with bloggers checking everything politicians do?  Maybe not.)

(Gorin goes on to argue that Carter has always been prejudiced against Jews, and that his record shows that in many ways.)
- 9:38 AM, 1 June 2006   [link]

Max Boot says we should send mercenaries to Darfur.
If the so-called civilization nations of the world were serious about ending what the U.S. government has described as genocide, they would not fob off the job on the U.N.  They would send their own troops.  But of course they're not serious.  At least not that serious.

But perhaps there is a way to stop the killing even without sending an American or European army.   Send a private army.  A number of commercial security firms such as Blackwater USA are willing, for the right price, to send their own forces, made up in large part of veterans of Western militaries, to stop the genocide.

We know from experience that such private units would be far more effective than any U.N. peacekeepers.  In the 1990s, the South African firm Executive Outcomes and the British firm Sandline made quick work of rebel movements in Angola and Sierra Leone.  Critics complain that these mercenaries offered only a temporary respite from the violence, but that was all they were hired to do.  Presumably longer-term contracts could create longer-term security, and at a fraction of the cost of a U.N. mission.
(He means "civilized nations", not "civilization nations", I would guess.)

If his argument seems familiar, that may be because you saw it here in April.  And I should repeat a point I made then: Using mercenaries in Darfur, and other African civil wars, is not a good solution, but it is the least bad solution that is possible, given the political realities.
- 8:41 AM, 1 June 2006   [link]