The Command Post
Iraq
December 31, 2004
The Day I Felt Helpless In A Big Earthquake

(This was originally posted on Joe Gandelman’s weblog The Moderate Voice)

I’ve been haunted the past few nights by videos of the tsunami that has killed some 116,000 people in Asia.

I woke up about 6 times last night and know it was due to one particular piece of video.

It was of a beach in Sri Lanka on a seemingly ideal, sunny day, showing families there, with a large number of happy, wide-eyed little kids. The announcer noted that the first time the water started acting strange people reacted with curiosity.

The video then showed women and kids running towards the suddenly weird-looking shore, puzzled, perhaps in a bit of shock — but excited. They had no idea.

And, the announcer noted, when the waves struck there a few seconds later they had no chance.

Of course, we’ll never know what happened to  each person in that video…but chances are most (if not all) didn’t make it.

I think about those poor people — many of them villagers living near the coast, or tourists — but especially about the fact that one-third of the victims of this Clutching Hand from the Sea were CHILDREN. They barely experienced life.

That haunts me…but especially realizing they must have had an overpowering sense of helplessness among the shock as the worst happened.

I lived through it…on a smaller scale…during the second act of a tragedy in Mexico City.

It was September 19, 1985 when, at 7:19 a.m. a 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck in Mexico City, burying thousands of people. I was then a reporter for the San Diego Union, assigned to the border/immigration beat. I was listening to the voice of an elderly Jackie Gleason on a MasterCard radio commercial when I got a call to come in early — that there had been an earthquake and to get down to Tijuana immediately to interview people coming off airplanes. I was told to bring my passport and corporate credit card with me, just in case.

And, yes, they wound up sending me and other reporters who spoke Spanish. First one reporter, then another, then another. There was no grand plan; they just did what they had to do.

My brush with near-death came the second day.

I was in a church interviewing displaced people. I was talking to a lady who didn’t know where her husband was. Some sobbed. Others drank coffee. They were mostly women and kids. The room was dimly lit, with one lightbulb, no fixture, hanging from a wire. The room was a makeshift shelter.

Suddenly the woman I was interviewing stopped sobbing and looked at me and said in Spanish:"Oh, my GOD it’s happening again!"

I had experienced some minor earthquakes in California but always knew that a California earthquake was generally a back and forth movement, sort of like in a shaky train. I didn’t feel that. And perhaps I was in shock.

"What do you mean it’s happening again?" I asker her. "I don’t feel anything."

She pointed to the light: "Look!"

The light was frantically swinging side to side.

People almost instantaneously ran out of the room in a panic from the 7.6 magnitude aftershock. I get sea sick and I felt a big motion — almost like a swirling motion as if I was sitting on a swirling top. Everyone ran out of the room in a panic — and we joined hundreds of others…outside…on the streets of downtown Mexico City.

With no place to run or hide.

Because we had no where to go. We all stood there. In the middle of a downtown quad. The buildings looming over us seemed like enemies and we could hear creaking.They were framed by tall power lines that were wobbling.

So if a buildling didn’t fall on us, a live powerline could.

I had one thought as I quickly moved my press pass from my wallet to my chest pocket and felt a feeling of resignation, of stunned helplessness, coupled with a feeling that my blood had turned to icewater: Please, God, let them be able to identify my body so my family will know.

But I was a lucky one. It passed.

For at least a year I’d wake up several times a night due to nightmares that the room was shaking. Once I woke up and I was standing under the frame of a door.

But I was allowed to go out into the world for some 20 more years.

The tourists, villagers and kids in Asia swallowed up by the waves weren’t as lucky.

I mourn for everyone who died. The tourists on a holiday. Asia’s wonderful villagers — I visited many villages when I lived in South Asia as a freelance journalist and the adults would give you everything they had (which was not much) and the kids were infused with an endearing innocence lost in Western culture.

The thousands of kids wiped out this week barely had time to know life. And I bet they felt the same sense of stunned hopelessness that I felt — plus the ultimate terror I was spared on that day in Mexico City. 

If I could flip a switch now and trade my life for one of those kids right now, I would. But I can’t.

Asia — and the world — has lost a chunk of a whole generation. And if you multiply the loved ones who mourn, there are hundreds of thousands of broken hearts.

And now? I’ll put this on the site, grieve some  more…and take a sleeping pill tonight.

But it won’t help much.

And certainly not in the morning.

December 29, 2004
Sadaam's Bad Choice

(This also appears on Joe Gandelman’s weblog The Moderate Voice)

Sadaam Hussein will hang in the morning…guaranteed…due to this:

Former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark is to join Saddam Hussein’s defense team, a spokesman for the ousted Iraqi president’s lawyers says.

Ziad Khasawna said on Wednesday that Clark, who held the office of attorney-general under US president Lyndon Johnson, had "honored and inspired" the legal team by agreeing to help defend Saddam.

The former top US justice official, who arrived on Tuesday in Jordan where the defense team is based, has become known as a left-wing lawyer and firm critic of US foreign policy since leaving office.

Clark’s selection means that the trial more than ever will be highly politicized, playing to "world opinion" more than the actual courtroom. The jury Clark will be truly trying to convince will be European world opinion. In effect, as far as the courtroom is concerned, his client can go hang…which (seriously) he probably will: Sadaam is unlikely to face a sympathetic judge, jury, or even populace. More on Clark:

He visited Saddam in Baghdad in February 2003 just before the US-lead invasion and has also been involved with the defense of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, on trial for war crimes at a UN court in The Hague.

Clark said in the Jordanian capital Amman that his principle concern was protecting the former president’s rights, who only saw a lawyer for the first time this month - a year after his capture.

"In international law, anyone accused of crime has the right to be tried by a confident, independent and impartial court, and there can be no fair trail without those qualities," he said. "The special court in Iraq was created by the Iraqi governing council, which is nothing more than a creation of the US military occupation and has no authority in law as a criminal court," he said.

In other words, he’s labeling the trial illegitimate before it has even started. Again, note that his focus will be on opinion OUTSIDE the courtroom, shifting the focus to U.S. policy versus Sadaam’s deeds in office. More:

The Iraq Special Tribunal was established by the US-led administration in Iraq last December to try members of the former government. Clark also said the US itself must be tried for the November assault on Falluja, destruction of houses, torture in prisons and its role in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis in the war.

Another shift of attention. In the end Clark could well use the trial as a mega-microphone for his larger point….but all of this is bad news for his client’s longevity.

It Could Have Been Worse

Cross-posted from AEBrain, the blog.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami could have been worse. A lot worse.

That’s a particularly cold-blooded thing to say about an event that’s caused at least half a million casualties (injured and killed), with 70,000 confirmed dead at the moment.

Nonetheless it’s true. Just have a look at a graphic of the event.

Indian Ocean Tsunami
Click on graphic to show animation

As you can see from this simulation (Animation provided by Kenji Satake, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan, via ITSU), the Tsunami was focussed mainly to the West, with a slightly lesser wave to the East, and relatively little North and South. especially North.

Indian Ocean Tsunami RadiiNow please look North. The “crinkly bits” to the right of the Indian subcontinent represent the deltas of Bangladesh. Population 141 Million. Most of whom live within 2 metres of sea level. The Maldives only had a population of 280,000, and they were badly hit, with some parts rendered permanently uninhabitable. Bangladesh is at almost exactly the same distance from the epicentre as the Maldives, and are equally low-lying, 2/3 of the country being river delta within a metre or two of sea level.

When the first reports came in, it wasn’t clear how big the seismic event was. One source said 6.8, another 8.0, another 8.5. When I saw that last figure, I immediately thought about Bangladesh. Why?

From WorldInfo :

The 1970 cyclone killed over five hundred thousand people. In the 1991 cyclones over two hundred thousand people drowned and many millions of homes were destroyed….
In 1991 a tsunami wave killed one hundred and thirty-eight thousand people in Bangladesh.

That was a small one, and there was plenty of time to see it coming - much smaller than the one that hit the Maldives with no warning.

I’d been thinking about Indian Ocean Tsunamis for a day or two, due to Friday the 13th and Jay Manifold’s calculations about an Indian Ocean Impact.

So when the news came that the quake was 8.9 on the Richter Scale (soon to be upgraded to 9.0), I feared the worst. But as the hours ticked by, it soon became more likely that the reason there were no reports of devastation in Bangladesh was because there was no devastation, not because there was no Bangladesh.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for parts of Aceh province in Indonesia, whole towns and villages are on maps, but from aeriel reconnaisance, no longer exist.

When I first started posting about the event over at The Command Post, I feared that the death toll would be in Millions, or even tens of Millions in Bangladesh, with another fifty or a hundred thousand everywhere else combined. Not just feared, I figured that if either the waves were unfocussed and omnidirectional, or focussed North-South, then at least a Million people had just died. I could see no way around it. It would have taken an extraordinary focussing of the energy East-West to keep the toll below that. But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, such a focussing happened.

Never in my entire life have I been so glad to be wrong.

So now when I see the heartrending pictures - a man cradling the lifeless body of his infant son; a mother with terrible wounds searching desperately for her children; or even think of the gay couple Carmel and I know well (they live not far from us) who were in Phuket and are still unnacounted for - I can’t help thinking how much worse it could have been, by a factor of not just 10, but 100.

My favourite Marxist, Norman Geras, discusses with sympathy those whose faith in an Omnibenevolent God has been shaken by this event. Well, there are 10 Million reasons why my agnosticism, and unbelief in a God who participates in human affairs has been shaken. There aren’t 10 Million corpses, mainly children, in the Bay of Bengal today. As I write this, I still can’t believe that we dodged this particular bullet. When I first posted the alert over at TCP, I had an icy pit in my stomach. Now I’m quite literally shedding a few tears of relief as I type this.

Oh yes, after a steady increase to a chance as high as 1 in 32, it looks like 2004 MN 04 won’t be hitting us after all.

It could have been worse.

December 21, 2004
Nork-Loving Dorks

The Wages of Wuss-ism

Today Mr. Minority says we need to stomp North Korea. They have nuclear weapons (given to them by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton), their leader is a wacked-out dictator who teases his hair, and they hate absolutely EVERYONE. They threaten the U.S. about three times a week, and the Japanese are concerned that a day will come when the Norks decide to pay them back for centuries of having their asses kicked.

Will we attack North Korea? Yes, probably. The day after they nuke Tokyo or San Francisco. Until then, the Norks can relax and give us and the rest of the world the finger.

Why? Because of Democrats and the Axis of Weasel.

Back in 2002, all the big international players agreed that Iraq was a serious threat, as did most Democrats here in America. People whine now about bad WMD information, but when Bush and Powell were making their case to the UN, everyone thought the information was sound. In fact, some of it came from the very weasels we were trying to persuade to help us. And even without it, the case for invasion was powerful.

The question wasn’t whether Saddam needed to be deposed. The question was whether our pals at the UN wanted to help take out the trash. And they declined, mostly because many of them were making huge money by dealing with Saddam. I don’t just mean the Oil for Food disgrace. The French, Germans, and Russians traded with Iraq on an enormous scale.

We invaded anyway, partly because the people who gathered intelligence exaggerated the Iraq threat, but also because our President isn’t a weasel. He understood the political value of knocking this bum off; if you kick the crap out of the biggest bully in school, everyone else leaves you alone. At the time of the invasion, Democrats overwhelmingly supported it, and months later, John Kerry said it was the right thing to do regardless of whether the WMD’s existed.

Then the election drew nearer, and assbites like Terry McAuliffe and Paul Begala and Joe Trippi and Dan Rather realized the only way to get rid of George Bush was to make Iraq look like Vietnam. Or rather, like the distorted picture of Vietnam we have come to accept after decades of liberal propagandizing. They had to make it look like a gratuitous waste of human life. A vanity project. A personal vendetta organized by a small-minded man who wanted to make his buddies rich and get back at Saddam for trying to kill his father.

None of it was true; Kerry’s remark reveals how Democrats saw the war before the WMD search turned out to be disappointing. They thought the war was necessary. WMD’s weren’t the sole motivation, nor were they essential to the decision to go to war. They were just one important part of a big, complex picture.

Unfortunately, many citizens are stupid, and many who are not stupid are so biased they’ll propagate and pretend to accept a lie in order to serve their comparatively petty political goals. So now a lot of people think the invasion was wrong. George Bush survived the election, but now he knows that if he goes to war again and things don’t turn out perfectly—in other words, if the war is the way wars always are, except in the minds of deluded liberals—the GOP is going to pay a price that could last for decades. And he also knows the backstabbing parasites abroad who refused to help us are likely to shaft us again, because they were rewarded politically after screwing us in Iraq.

So now it’s going to be harder to get the U.S. to go to war, regardless of the justification. We know the Syrians and Iranians are keeping the terrorism campaign going, and we know the Iranians are building nuclear weapons to use against Israel and possibly inside the US. We know the Norks are twitchy and bloodthirsty, and that there is a very real possibility that one day they’re going to lob a missile at L.A. out of sheer craziness. But preemptive war is out of style, so the next American invasion will probably be launched in reaction to an unprovoked act of terrorism that kills thousands of people.

Funny, when we let that happen in 2001, people—including liberal New Yorkers—were outraged. “How did we let this happen?”, they whined. Well, brace yourselves, whiners. It’s probably going to happen again, largely because you won’t support the President’s proactive policies.

In a sane world, every nation on earth would be united against North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Their borders would be sealed, and international forces would be poised to enter and kill everyone who resists. But this is the weasel world. The world of Janeane Garofalo and John Kerry and Jacques Chirac. If the U.S. goes in before a huge act of aggression takes place, we’ll be subjected to the same whining and treachery we face now over Iraq.

So I agree with Mr. Minority, to the extent that I think it’s time to be very, very tough with the Norks and Syrians and Iranians. But I think we’re going to have to sacrifice thousands of American civilians before that happens.

When the nuke lands in San Diego, will that be provocation enough, or will it be proof—to opportunistic liberals—that George Bush made the world a more dangerous place?

When you aren’t a doormat—when you fight back—you always make your world more dangerous in the short term. We should be taking the long view. But liberalism, almost by definition, is the philosophy of sacrificing the future for short term gain. Appease now; pay later.

I agree, Mr. Minority. I really do. But I don’t think folks in California and New York and Illinois will agree until they look up and see mushroom clouds.

Egypt & Democracy: What Should America Do?

Way back when in Does Islam Need a Reformation? praktike asked what I thought of this article: Egyptian Intellectuals Vow To End Mubarak Presidency - and what the U.S. approach to this good news/bad news item ought to be:

bq.. “Some 689 people, ranging from Islamists to Communists and including 30 lawmakers, signed a petition Saturday in the name of The Popular Campaign for Reforms, an umbrella group formed last month to try to amend Egypt’s constitution to limit a president to holding two terms only.

Among the signatories, including 26 human rights and civil society groups and opposition political parties, was the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group, which has 17 members represented in the Egyptian parliament as independents.”

I was hoping our Cairo correspondent Tarek Heggy might comment, but with everything going on that hasn’t been possible. Nathan Hamm addressed similar issues in Central Asia very recently, and I thought I’d build on that to offer a full briefing on Egypt as I see it - the situation, the stakes, and my answer to praktike’s question re: what the USA should do.

Illegal Immigrant Smugglers' New Love: CASINOS

(This also appears on Joe Gandelman’s blog The Moderate Voice)

So-called coyotes, those who smuggle illegal aliens across the border, are known to be resilient and adaptable and now they’ve found a new source to help them secretly get their human cargo secretly into the United States from Mexico: casinos.

Why? Because:

  • Casinos have a lot of financially strapped people who need to recoup some lost money (or get more to gamble).
  • The crowded casinos are good settings for coyotes to do their business since they can fade into the usually huge wad of crowds and cars.
  • Casinos are great places to launder money.

All of this underscores the perpetually challenging job faced by Border Patrol agents and those who want to stem the flow at the border: the rules of the game are constantly changing. And the changes aren’t always made by American Border Patrol agents.

Details about the casinos’ new role can be found in a fascinating San Diego Union-Tribune article (linked above). Some highlights:

The casinos that have sprung up throughout San Diego County are islands of light and activity tucked into the backcountry, attracting seniors, tourists, even truckers with Vegas-style gambling, buffets and shows.

But thanks to their locations near the border, some casinos in recent years have attracted another element found in the region’s deserts and mountains: immigrant smugglers, who take advantage of the crowds and the easy come, easy go of money to recruit down-and-out gamblers.

Federal agents say smugglers look for people who appear down on their luck to drive undocumented immigrants across the border or pick up those who crossed on foot. The smugglers promise quick cash and a slim chance of prosecution, an offer some gamblers find hard to resist.

This is just one way these groups have used some casinos as convenient places for conducting business. The parking lots of casinos such as the Golden Acorn and Viejas, favored because of their proximity to Interstate 8, have been used as staging areas for smuggling operations, according to federal agents and court documents.

Smugglers use the cover of crowded lots to meet, to wait for immigrants to arrive, or to switch vehicles to avoid detection. They often gamble themselves to launder profits, federal agents say.

And while they’re at it, they sometimes scout for hired help.

"The smugglers have been around for a long time. It’s just that now that you’ve got the casinos, some of the smugglers are at the casinos," said Johnny Martin, a human-trafficking supervisory agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "And you have people who are down and out at the casinos."

Smugglers typically approach a gambler who has been observed losing money – "someone who has bought a huge stack of chips and now they’re all gone," as Martin put it – or who is spotted making frequent trips to the ATM or borrowing money from friends.

Sometimes those approached simply look as if they could use some money. Or it could be just a matter of having the right kind of face, as one man said he was told last summer at the Sycuan casino outside El Cajon by a young woman who offered him $1,600 to drive two people across the border.

The casinos have cooperated with those trying to control illegal immigration at the border, the article notes. It also notes that "security along the county’s urban border areas has increasingly tightened. In the past 10 years, the federal government has added fences, surveillance equipment and more than 1,000 Border Patrol agents." More:

This enforcement has turned human trafficking into a growth industry. Where many undocumented immigrants once crossed into the San Diego area on foot alone or with inexpensive guides, illegal border crossers are now charged thousands of dollars to be brought into the country, often through remote areas where the border remains porous.

As smuggling organizations have grown, so has their need for places near the border where they can do business inconspicuously. Open 24 hours, the casinos are seen as convenient.

Basically, controlling illegal immigration is a problem various administrations have grappled with. I covered the immigration reform beat for San Diego Union  during the Reagan administration’s amnesty program which promised to legalize some people already here and couple that with tough sanctions for companies continuing to hire workers who didn’t have proper papers. In the end, the amnesty was granted  — but the tough sanctions fell by the wayside. This is a complex issue, one that both proponents and opponents of a clampdown usually oversimplify.

Is that overstating the problem? No. Who would have ever thought that casinos would become unwitting employment agencies for smugglers looking for staff to help them out?

December 20, 2004
Osama's Big Lie

(This is also posted on Joe Gandelman’s blog The Moderate Voice)

Those who think negotiation with terrorist chief Osama bin Laden is possible — that some kinds of concessions might defuse the carnage for which he is famous — are deluding themselves, a terrorism expert writes.

In fact, he warns, the light at end of ObL’s terrorism tunnel is a dark expansionist pit.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross a senior terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based terrorism research center, notes that bin Laden isn’t interested in just taking care of current business and more local issues such as what goes on in Saudia Arabia. In fact, he writes, bin Laden he actually seeks to build a massive Muslim state — a state that would have to be built in blood. And some of it, American blood.

He makes his convincing, carefully researched case in an article in FrontPage Magazine. His chilling conclusion:

There is nothing new about al-Qaeda’s use of deception to weaken the West’s resolve.  In 1996, bin Laden told Robert Fisk that the Afghan mujahideen who had accompanied him to Sudan were definitely not engaged in training for future jihads.  Fisk recounts bin Laden’s repudiation of this suggestion:  ‘The rubbish of the media and the embassies,’ he calls it.  ‘I am a construction engineer and an agriculturist.  If I had training camps here in  Sudan I couldn’t possibly do this job.’  And ‘this job’ is certainly an ambitious one: a brand-new highway stretching from Khartoum to Port Sudan, a distance of 1,200km (745 miles) on the old road, now shortened to 800km by the new Bin Laden route that will turn the coastal run from the capital into a mere day’s journey.”  We now know this denial to be absolutely false.  In fact, during his time in Sudan bin Laden laid the groundwork for his current global terrorist network.

            

Al-Qaeda has again turned to deception as a means of gaining a strategic advantage in its war against the West.  Although many continue to fall for the terrorists’ claims of reasonableness and a limited agenda, al-Qaeda has repeatedly made its true endgame clear:  re-establishing a caliphate ruled according to Taliban-style Islamic law, re-conquering all formerly Muslim lands, and preparing Islamic super-state for perpetual conflict with the West.  Ignore their true agenda at your own peril.

Indeed, the comparison of bin Laden’s recent less bloodthirsty pronouncements — suggesting some kind of accomation may ultimately be possible — and the documented baloney assurances of Adolph Hitler as he gobbled up pre-World War II lands is unmistakeable. Gartenstein-Ross warns uis not to be deceived by ObL sounding (for him) more like an aspiring Arab politician than an actual butcher of innocent men, women and children. He points to a previous article in which he warned Westerners about pondering some kind of negotiation with ObL.

Those who favor negotiation and appeasement generally overlook the theological dimension of al-Qaeda’s thought. Rather, the network views this pull-out as a necessary prerequisite to the attainment of its ultimate goal:  the establishment of an Islamist super-state ruled by the harshest version of Islamic law, primed to re-conquer formerly Muslim lands and pursue an aggressive expansionist agenda.

Gartenstein-Ross documents how ObL and his group have constently advocated establishing this big state or caliphate as their end goal. As he notes, that in itself is not the problem; the problem is that the kind of state bin Laden has in mind is similar to the fanatical state the Taliban ran in Afghanistan. And ObL praised that state (which basically gave him a base from which he could operate openly) to the hilt.

But wouldn’t the U.S. still be unimpacted by that? Not at all, he writes — because ObL has indicated grander designs:

Al-Qaeda’s caliphate would not be limited to the present-day Muslim world. Rather, its rule would properly encompass all those lands that had once been a part of the Islamic world…Thus, al-Qaeda’s vision necessitates the takeover of governments throughout the Muslim world. All lands that were once part of dar al-Islam remain legitimate targets of jihad. In a March 1997 interview with Peter Arnett, bin Laden was asked about veterans of the Afghan war against the Soviets who had gone on to fight in scattered regions of the globe. Bin Laden explained, “Their going to Bosnia, Chechnya, Tajikistan and other countries is but a fulfillment of a duty, because we believe that these states are part of the Islamic World.” …

And the US?

Al-Qaeda’s new caliphate would affect not only those forced to toil under its repressive government and residents of formerly Muslim lands who would be its targets; ultimately, it would mean bloodshed in the West, as well.  Bin Laden has already stated that he is prepared to fight “against the Kuffar [unbelievers] in every part of the world.”  According to al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the group has “the right to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children.”

Indeed, bin Laden has publically stated that reforming American is on his agenda. Writes Gartenstein-Ross:

Bin Laden’s ultimate aim is to forcibly impose his theocratic vision on the West.  As his November 2002 “Letter to America,” began, “The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.”  Second, he demanded that America“stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you.”  Bin Laden had an ambitious vision for ending the United States’ immorality and debauchery, including “reject[ing] the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest.”

This article is a MUST READ.

Is There A Shake-Up In The Post Election Blog World?

(This was originally posted on Dean’s World during Joe Gandelman’s stint as Guest Blogger)

Blogs are abuzz these days with suggestions or predictions that election day meant more than an end to the endless 2004 Presidential campaign — but perhaps a shake-up in the blog world.

Some bloggers exchanged emails (I got some) saying that with the elections their hits were going down. Some blogs started to change course. Some blogs notably stopped updates.

The blog The Politburo Diktat looks at this issue, and details (with links) some changes on some blogs. Here’s an excerpt (but it’s worth reading the entire post):


War and politics, the staples of so many bloggers, have reached a downturn in their blog-ability. With an American presidential election behind us, that downturn is obvious. While the war in Iraq continues, and even picks up with this week’s attack on Fallujah, it’s largely a guerilla war, punctuated with overly familiar car bombings, official declarations of progress, beheadings, boldly named Operations, and flak-jacketed flaks on cable news. There’s less to blog about, less to argue about than “Should we go to war at all?” The war in Iraq is by no means unimportant, huge differences of opinion remain, not merely on how to proceed, but on the war’s broader legitimacy.

What is next? First, the shake-out will continue. Blogging, as voluntary and individualistic as it might seem, can be profoundly draining and distracting. People burn out; others step in. The post-election winter is a natural time for that. Secondly, there will be stronger mix of the personal, a little less Karl Rove, a little more cat-blogging, if you will. I think these will be mixed together, less straight news (although there will always be a place for the Drudge fire alarm items), and more reflective discussions of events outside our lives and internal to them. There’ll be an uptick in technology interest (aided in the upcoming year by the inevitable move away from Movable Type to open source, i.e free, platforms). Maybe more photo and multi-media blogging, as people play and learn more. Then again, maybe we’ll all just do soft-core porn and celebrity trials.

The blog is dead. Long live the blog.

And, of course, readers being readers who often lose subtlety (like this joke: Nellie Rose sat on a tack. Nellie rose.), The Commissioner had to add this as an update:


The blogosphere is undergoing a cyclic process, a changing of the guard, a slight shifting of subjects. That last line paralleled the English “The (old) King is dead. Long live the (new) King,” a phrase which celebrated the monarchy’s continuity, even as one king passed away.

Indeed. I worked on a newspaper and one of the key features of newspapers is that they at least attempt to be adaptable. They see what readers want and try to at least adjust to some of that. Similarly, blogs, although highly personal, can (and should) undergo some adaptations.

I know that now many blogs find their hits diminishing as compared with election week highs. record blog readerships overall, and then a drop afterwards (people burned out by reading political commentary or just needing a break from the election). But the general trend for a good number of blogs (such as Dean’s World and my own The Moderate Voice, which seems to be enjoying moderate steady readership with an increasingly loyal group of readers from both parties) remains steady overall growth.

What’s amazing as we head into this post-election era is the number of blogs that have simply been abandoned. I have an extensive blogroll on my blog which I personally use all the time. I have had to remove at least four blogs in recent weeks because they were still dated early November. And this week I’ll go through the whole blogroll and remove some more. It’s a pity because these people had SOMETHING TO SAY that probably could be said after the election, too — and I’m talking about people in the right and on the left, not just one ideology.

Indeed, there had been a phrase before the election about blogs “likely to be around after the election” and I used to dismiss it, figuring people wouldn’t let the end of the election end their ability to use this incredible new communication form which allows people to write without an editor’s intervention or a corporate publisher’s forum. But I was wrong.

What does it mean in the post-election world? Well, with more than a million weblogs, it means that each person has to make their own decision about what they want to write about what other want to read. This likely means more diverse subjects…which is not a bad idea. The polarized, partisan nature of the blogosphere probably won’t change, although it will be muted somewhat until major battles emerge (and return full force during mid-term elections).

In my own case, I’ve made no secret to email friends that this election could not be over soon enough for me, since to do a credible weblog I had to write about main campaign issues and developments to keep the site updated and relevant…which meant ignoring some other big interests (such as foreign affairs, popular culture and serious media issues). I don’t mourn the end of the campaign; I truly celebrate it — because it opens up more opportunity for writing and more challenges to work to expand and broaden readership.

Of course, some argue that writing about blogs has become something of a cliche and that blogs may be old news. Hey: that”d make a great blog post topic!

Chevy Chase Commits Career Suicide

(This was originally posted on Joe Gandelman’s blog The Moderate voice)

Chevy Chase’s career has been up, down, then recently it seemed to be poised to perhaps go up again — but his f-word-laced performance at an awards ceremony has probably put the final nail in his professional coffin…and NOT for political reasons.

The bottom line is: even though there is a certain threshold for language once considered taboo, it’s not just in the recesses of FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s mind where there is a clamor for cleaner entertainment. Many comedy clubs now prefer comedians who play clean. Corporate clients make a point of insisting entertainers to keep it G or PG rated. Meanwhile, filmed family entertainment is booming at the box office.

If you read this Washington Post item the bottom line is that Chase bombed….and badly… when he hosted an awards ceremony staged by People for the American Way. Chris Rock he ain’t:

After actors Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon delivered speeches accepting their Defender of Democracy awards, Chase took the stage a final time and unleashed a rant against President Bush that stunned the crowd. He deployed the four-letter word that got Vice President Cheney in hot water, using it as a noun. Chase called the prez a "dumb [expletive]." He also used it as an adjective, assuring the audience, "I’m no [expletive] clown either. . . . This guy started a jihad."

Chase also said: "This guy in office is an uneducated, real lying schmuck . . . and we still couldn’t beat him with a bore like Kerry."

People for the American Way distanced itself yesterday from the actor’s rant. "Chevy Chase’s improvised remarks caught everyone off guard, and were inappropriate and offensive," Ralph Neas, the liberal advocacy group’s president, said in a statement. "It was not what I would have said, and certainly not the language People for the American Way would ever use in discussing any president of the United States."

Founder Norman Lear agreed, telling us: "I thought it was utterly untoward, obviously unexpected and unscripted and all that stuff. And, uh — it was Chevy Chase. He’ll live with it, I won’t."

Sen. Tom Daschle, the former minority leader, looked taken aback when he went on directly after Chase. His opening line: "I’ve had to follow a lot of speakers, but — "

The movie star didn’t return for a curtain call or to savor dessert at the reception after the event. We were told he hurt his back and needed to call it a night by 9. Chase’s PR rep told us yesterday she was unable to reach him.

YEAH, RIGHT…His own PR rep can’t reach him after a controversy like this. And Chase was unreachable due to a backache.

More likely: he was unreachable after he possibly concluded that even those with whom he agreed with politically in the audience considered him a pain in the ass. If you read this book on Saturday Night Live it recounts how Chase has long been highly unpopular among his peers. Onetime he reportedly almost got into a fist fight with Bill Murray.

So what were his big mistakes?

  1. Political humor can be brutal if it contains wit. His didn’t.
  2. A joke with foul language CAN get huge laughs if the underlying humor is solid — an observation on something that Hollywood comedy coach Greg Dean notes must shatter an assumption. A clever surprise.
  3. All Chase did was do a political rant packed with the f-word. There was no wit or humor in it.
  4. Chase had no reservoir of automatic good-will built up for him, since he is, at best, not widely beloved in Hollywood. So he lost the conservatives or moderates in the audience and the embarrassed liberals. Why were they embarrassed? Due to the lack of wit; that part of Chase’s gig simply bombed…bigtime.

But the bottom line is that the days when someone getting up and spouting a bunch of four letter words and perhaps getting away with it by seeming to be cutting edge are, it not over, fewer. George Carlin, Chris Rock and the late Red Foxx had wit; Chase — sounding more like Andrew Dice Clay than someone hosting a major awards show — did not.

Chase bombed hideously when he had a high-profile Fox late night show several years ago and it almost ended his career. Now, this time, he committed a huge comedic sin:

It helps if a comedian is funny, not just angry. It’s doubtful if we’ll be seeing Chase in many high profile moves or TV programs, for a while at least,

Suffer the Children

From the Telegraph :

As one young woman awaits sentence and another faces death this week, Alasdair Palmer reveals the Iranian legal system’s shocking barbarity towards children

“My mother doesn’t visit me in prison. If you see her, tell her she promised to bring me cheese curls and chocolate. And she shouldn’t forget to bring my red dress.”

Those pathetic words may be among the last utterances of a 19-year-old girl, identified only as Leila M, who has been condemned to death in Iran for “acts incompatible with chastity”.

According to Amnesty International, Leila has a mental age of eight. What evidence there is of her life so far records an existence of unrelieved misery and brutality.

She was sold into prostitution at the age of eight by her parents.
[…]
There is every indication that the Supreme Court will decide that Leila must die. Earlier this year, they upheld a sentence of death on 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi. Atefeh had also been convicted of “acts incompatible with chastity”.

In her defence, she said she had been sexually assaulted by an older man. The judges did not care. So, on August 16, at 6am, Atefeh was taken from her cell and hanged from a crane in the main square of the town of Neka.

Witnesses report that she begged for her life as she was dragged kicking and screaming to the makeshift gallows. She shouted “repentance” over and over again – a gesture which, according to Islamic law, is supposed to grant the accused the right to an immediate stay of execution while an appeal is heard.

Atefeh’s cries were in vain. Haji Rezaie, the judge who presided over her trial, put the noose around her neck himself.
[…]
In the case of Hajieh Esmailvand, a young woman found guilty of adultery with an unnamed 17-year-old boy, the Supreme Court has not only confirmed the death sentence imposed by the lower court, but changed the means of death from hanging to execution by stoning.

Hajieh’s original sentence had been for five years’ imprisonment followed by death by hanging. A month ago, the Supreme Court annulled her jail sentence – but only so that Hajieh could be stoned before December 21, and with the recommendation that she should be.

In the next two days, it seems likely that Hajieh will die from wounds caused by stones thrown by “executioners”. The Iranian Penal Code states that women should be buried up to their breasts before being stoned. Article 104 is specific about the type of stones that should be used when a woman is to be punished for adultery. They “should not be large enough to kill the woman by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”. Hajieh will die slowly, in agony, buried in sand, as officials lob correctly sized stones at her head.

It is a fate that also awaits Zhila Izadyar, a 13-year-old girl from the northern province of Mazandaran. She has been sentenced to be stoned to death after her parents reported that she had had an incestuous relationship with her 15-year-old brother and had become pregnant by him.

Zhila has already received a “preliminary punishment” of 53 lashes.
[…]
The barbarity towards children of the Iranian legal system is all the more surprising in that it contradicts the international legal obligations on the treatment of children, which the Iranian government has adopted. Iran is a signatory both to the International Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which explicitly forbid the execution of minors - let alone their killing by stoning.
[…]
There are no plans to change any of the provisions of the Penal Code that relate to children, and which state that girls as young as nine can be executed (boys have to reach the age of 14 before they can be killed).
[…]
…those who are disgusted by judicial decisions cannot even safely express their condemnation of a system that not only hangs children, but beats them to death in public: Kaveh Habibi-Nejad, a 14-year-old boy, suffered this fate on November 12 for eating on the streets during Ramadan. A witnesses said that they thought he died because “the metal cable being used to flog him hit his head”.

Ok, how many people thing it would be a good idea to let these people have nuclear weapons? How many people think that an act of war - a pre-emptive strike - against their nuclear weapons facilities would not just be justified, but essential, should they start weapons manufacture? Alternatively, how many people think that this regime won’t use nukes to fry Jews and Americans at the earliest possible opportunity?

We have to be serious about stopping the Mullahs from getting nukes by peaceful means, because if we don’t, we’ll have to do it by force.
We’re losing the close race between the Iranian Nuclear program, and the revolution that will sweep the mullahs out.

December 17, 2004
Strategic Communications & "Blogger Diplomacy"

[by Tim Oren]

In the US government, Strategic Communications is the overall name for the combination of public affairs and public diplomacy. Public diplomacy, which I have discussed before, is the government communicating directly to citizens overseas, without the interference of their own governments. Public affairs is the interface of the military, department of state, and other civilian arms of the government to the formal media, both foreign and domestic.

Strategic communications is then the attempt to forge a unified and effectively persuasive message across these functions, and others closely related, such as in-theatre military psychology operations. Unfortunately, at a time when communicating our message has become essential to victory in the war against Islamofascism, our government’s practice is so badly behind the times that it may require direct action by the citizenry via blogs and other “citizens’ media” to make up the gap.

It is generally accepted that US strategic communications since the beginning of WWIV has been nearly as impotent as our military has been effective. Even Those participating in the effort agree. A notorious recent study by the DOD’s Defense Science Board, written by a panel drawn from both State and Defense, stated:

“Strategic communication is a vital component of U.S. national security. It is in crisis, and it must be transformed with a strength of purpose that matches our commitment to diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security…. To succeed, we must understand the United States is engaged in a generational and global struggle about ideas, not a war between the West and Islam. It is more than a war against the tactic of terrorism. We must think in terms of global networks, both government and non-government.” (p. 2)

Read the Rest…

December 14, 2004
Mahmoud Abbas, Liar

Just in case you’re thinking that Mahmoud “Abu Mazen” Abbas is genuine about saying that the armed intifada is a mistake, be sure to check out the following December 1 of Abbas in his office:

I believe that’s the Palestinian flag surrounded by two Fateh party flags.

Among other symbols, the Fateh party emblem contains two rifles on it, crossed above a grenade. Until I see “The Joy of Cooking With Rifles and Grenades” I’m going to assume those are weapons instead of handy kitchen implements.

The talk may change, but the symbols and intent remains the same. And the Mainstream Media is just lapping it up, not bothering to do any in-depth questioning of what they’re willingly propagating down the wire.

Hillary Clinton Rocks!

Wow, did I actually say that? Has your lovely Digger lost his mind? Well not entirely but I may have for one day liked Hillary Clinton. It's the end of the world I tell ya'.

Why would I ever like Hillary Clinton? Well while the rest of the Conservative Blogosphere takes off their gloves on Hillary claiming she's pandering to the Conservative base with here recent hard line stance on immigration -- I welcome it. Yesterday in a Washington Times article they showed how Hillary is trying to shake the liberal label.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking out a position on illegal immigration that is more conservative than President Bush, a strategy that supporters and detractors alike see as a way for the New York Democrat to shake the "liberal" label and appeal to traditionally Republican states.

Mrs. Clinton — who is tagged as a liberal because of her plan for nationalized health care and various remarks during her husband's presidency — is taking an increasingly vocal and hard-line stance on an issue that ranks among the highest concerns for voters, particularly Republicans.

...

In an interview on WABC radio, she said: "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants."

"Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we're going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let's have a system that keeps track of them," she said.

Now before you bonk me on the head for easily being bamboozled by a leftie just trying to look like a good guy to us on the right, let me say that neither President Bush, Asa Hutchinson, David Drier nor a majority of the Republican Congress and Senators ever have uttered such words. Not one of them has ever said "I am adamantly against Illegal Immigrants". On the contrary they have only continued their ridiculous rant of giving amnesty for these lawbreakers. If anything Hillary has put the whole sack of stinky beans on the table and dared the Republicans to take a stand on something they don't seem to want to address.
"People have to stop employing illegal immigrants," she said. "I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You're going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work."

...

Moving to the right of even some Republicans, the former first lady told WABC she favors "at least a visa ID, some kind of entry-and-exit ID. And ... perhaps, although I'm not a big fan of it, we might have to move towards an ID system even for citizens."

Is she actually endorsing a Patriot Act solution here? It seems so. While most on the left would decry such an invasion into citizens civil rights it seems that Hillary believes that the situation is dire enough to sacrifice some civil rights in order to have a drastic increase in security.

Of course all anyone focuses on is the political ramifications of her move. How she's trying to just pander to the right and increase her chances of a 2008 presidential election I think they miss the point. Take Dick Morris' position on her recent comments.

"I think she is trying to move to the right, and immigration is one of the ways she is using to do it," said political strategist Dick Morris, who has a history of working with former President Clinton.

"I think this is a particularly misguided choice on her part, however, since two-thirds of Bush's margin this time was due to his closure of the Democratic margin of victory among Hispanics."

Always looking for the negative, those political analysts are.

Here's David Limbaugh's comments on it.

... How about continuing to be progressive while pretending to move to the right for electability purposes? With Hillary tacking to the right on national security and now immigration issues, that seems to be the wave of the future.

But Hillary's smarter (and more calculating) than Tom Daschle. Daschle didn't start moving to the right (inside his home state) until late in the campaign when he knew he was in trouble. Hillary has started wearing her combat fatigues and her border patrol costume already so that when the campaign comes it will look like she actually believes in these things.

Then we have the sad opinion by Hindrocket over at Powerline

It's interesting that she apparently doesn't believe that going conservative on immigration will hurt her among Democratic primary voters--another indication that immigration reform is a bipartisan issue. Looking toward the general election, assuming Hillary were to win the nomination, her opponent, obviously, won't be President Bush. So being to his right on immigration is of limited relevance.

Even Michelle Malkin totally misses the good in her statements.

I myself would never vote for Hillary. But the Republican establishment takes for granted at its peril the significant number of party faithful who may be sorely tempted to do so if the Bush betrayal at the border continues.
Yes, Michelle totally overlooks anything beneficial in the statmenets by the hated Hillary Clinton.

Rob over at Say Anything kinda gets where I'm headed with all of this in a backhanded compliment sort of way.

Its great that she’s giving this issue lip service, but would she follow through? I’m guessing no.

It's just so hard for people leaning to the right to say "Good job Hillary!". Well I'm saying now. I really, really welcome her statements. There are only a handful of people, Tom Tancredo and James Sensenbrenner, who take this is as serious. The rest just continue to blather on about how it's an impossible issue to handle and therefore we should just live with it via amnesty or some other lame excuse way of dealing with the problem.

While I probably would never vote for Hillary Clinton (imagine if she was running against Charlie Rangel as the Republican nominee *chortle*) the fact that she has dropped this issue wholeheartedly into the middle of these people who are taking a lame stance on it makes me smile. Just maybe these issue dodgers will actually look at the issue as a serious threat to their current positions and do something about it.

As most of the Citizens in this country want something to be done about illegal immigration there should be a big shout from the mountaintop that Hillary Clinton's comments do actually mirror the majority in this country. Whether we would vote for her or not the people who won't address it need to get off their butts and take a stance.

Thank You Hillary!

Now was that so hard to do?

Other Commentary:

PrestoPundit, California Soujourn, Parableman, The Cassandra Page,

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

* The trackback links below are probably to people who are ripping me apart. Have at it!

The U.N.'s Unaccountable Inquisitors

Belmont Club has been on fire lately covering the “United Nations”, which is facing growing questions in America’s legislature and even bills that would stop payment of dues.

Whatever you think of the U.N., it’s worth looking at Belmont Club’s revealing analyses. He touches on many subjects: UNSCAM, Kofi Annan, legitimacy, the roots of U.N. failure; even the nature of the U.N.’s most prominent paradox. In that paradox, he says, lies the answer to the riddle of the U.N. itself.

We’ll start with the U.N.’s essential failures in UNSCAM. These include corruption, but were not limited to it.

Read the Rest…

December 12, 2004
Tim Oren: Machine Translation & the Global Blogosphere

(This post is a more formal version, with links, of my rant about machine translation (MT) at the Global Voices session at the Harvard Berkman conference. There’s an earlier backgrounder on the marketplace on my home blog, Due Diligence, and also see this general background at Wikipedia.)

An obviously valuable addition to the global blogosphere would be automatic language translation. The good news is that more non-English tools like Spirit of America’s Arabic blogging tool are popping up, enabling those who don’t speak English to join the blogosphere. One downside is the potential for creating language islands, isolating those without bilingual skills.

So, what are the prospects for the blogosphere getting access to state of the art machine translation (MT) technology on reasonable (preferably free) terms? Better than you might think.

Continue Reading “Machine Translation & the Global Blogosphere”

December 10, 2004
Judge Gives Go Ahead For Governor Janet Napolitano To Sign Proposition 200 In Arizona

Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona has been given the go ahead to sign into law and implement portions of Proposition 200 that was passed by Arizona voters this November despite major opposition. From an earlier entry of mine on Prop 200.

Even with businesses, politicians and churches against the Proposition in Arizona, which requires proof of citizenship when seeking public benefits or registering to vote, it was passed with a fifty-six percent vote approval. An astounding statistic within that approval percentage is that forty-seven percent of Hispanic voters voted in favor of the proposition. This reinforces the fact that the legal Hispanic community is sick of the bad name illegal aliens are giving them and that they are also sick of their taxes being wasted and people jumping ahead of those trying to come to the United States through legal channels.

Arizona Daily Star

A federal judge has given the OK for Gov. Janet Napolitano to officially proclaim approval of Proposition 200.

Judge David Bury, in an order released Wednesday, said Napolitano is free to declare that voters approved sections of the initiative which require proof of citizenship to register to vote and mandate that those seeking to cast a ballot must first present identification.

Hey great! This is a step forward right? I mean checking voter ID's, even though the voting season is over for the most part. Wrong
But Bury left intact part of his original Nov. 30 order which bars the state from enforcing the section of Proposition 200 which says government employees must get proof that applicants for public benefits are here legally and are required to report illegal entrants to federal officials. That order also precludes proclaiming voter approval of that section of the initiative.
See, they totally bypassed the major portion of the proposition that voters agreed upon in November. I mean after all it would be racist to require someone to prove they are entitled to benefits before they receive them right? We don't require citizens to provide proof do we? Of course we do. I've heard so many stories of those in actual need of temporary services who have been denied because they tell the whole truth on the forms -- even though they are legal citizens who have paid massive amounts of tax in the past.

Out here in California if you own a car that's worth more than $3000 or so you are not qualified to receive benefits. So in order to get the benefits you have to ditch your car, which pretty much prevents you from getting a job. Out here in California a car is almost a necessity for any really reliable job.

If you lie however, you can get all the benefits and services and keep your car and apparently the state is none the wiser since they can't ask you for any proof.

Janet Napolitano is no friend of immigration reform. For instance here's a little blurb for you.

On June 26, Napolitano, in front of a cheering Hispanic audience at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual convention, vetoed H.B. 2345, a bill that would have required voters to show identification at polling places.

... Napolitano and her cronies claim carrying ID is inconvenient and burdensome for the elderly!

So I'm sure she was thrilled at signing Prop 200 into law. I'm also sure they aren't too worried since they have about 800 million lawyers already working on getting this thing repealed as soon as possible before the next election, when showing an ID will actually mean something.

Burdensome for the elderly indeed! They might break their hip carrying around that cumbersome drivers license.

They stopped the more important measure that would have saved Arizona's social services by getting rid of the fraud and now they'll get rid of this little speedbump as well.

California had a proposition similar to proposition 200 that passed by 59% of the vote in 1994. Proposition 187 would have required proof of legality for getting benefits and serices in California. To see what happened to it see my entry California Looking At It's Own Proposition Restricting Illegal Aliens From Services

Tipped by: Lonewacko

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

December 08, 2004
California's Illegal Aliens Cost Taxpayers Nearly $9 Billion A Year


FAIR has released their latest report on the costs of illegal aliens to taxpayers. The main costs are in education, health care and prison costs for illegal aliens in jail.


North County Times


California’s nearly 3 million illegal immigrants cost taxpayers nearly $9 billion each year, according to a new report released last week by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes stricter immigration policies.


Educating the children of illegal immigrants is the largest cost, estimated at $7.7 billion each year, according to the report. Medical care for illegal immigrants and incarceration of those who have committed crimes are the next two largest expenses measured in the study, the author said.




Jack Martin, who wrote the report, said Thursday that the $9 billion figure does not include other expenses that are difficult to measure, such as special English instruction, school lunch programs, and welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal immigrant workers.


“It’s a bottom of the range number,” Martin said.

FAIR drew from the U.S. Census report and other sources. This study matches an earlier study By the Center for Immigration Reform (CIS) that I reported on (see: “Latest Report: Illegal Aliens Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion A Year” from Sep. 4, 2004). Of course you can’t do any straight reporting on this issue without having some pro illegal alien advocate group playing the race card once again to justify the illegal behavior of these people who suck dry our tax system and run emergency rooms into bankruptcy.


Gerardo Gonzalez, director of Cal State San Marcos’ National Latino Research Center, which compiles data on Latinos, criticized the report. He said it does not measure some of the contributions that immigrants make to the state’s economy.


“Beyond taxes, these workers’ production and spending contribute to California’s economy, especially the agricultural sector,” Gonzalez said.


Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are the backbone of the state’s nearly $28 billion-a-year agricultural industry, Gonzalez and other researchers say.


More than two-thirds of the estimated 340,000 agriculture workers in California are noncitizens, most of whom are believed to be illegal immigrants, according to a 1998 study on farmworkers prepared for the state Legislature.


Local farmers say migrant farmworkers are critical to their businesses, and without them they would have to close their farms or move their operations overseas.

These advocate groups really don’t have a leg to stand on. The only arguments they ever try to use is racism or that all these fact based reports are wrong and that the production of these illegal aliens is higher than if a legal worker earning a decent wage and didn’t require all the tax sucking benefits.


Martin disagrees. He said illegal immigrants displace American workers by taking low-skilled jobs, keep wages low by creating an overabundance of workers and stifle innovation by reducing the need for mechanized labor.


“The product of the illegal immigrant is not included (in the report) because if that is an essential product it will get done one way or another,” Martin said. Employers “would have to pay better wages or invest money on mechanization.”


Martin’s study looks specifically at the costs of educating illegal immigrants’ children, providing medical care to illegal immigrants and jailing those convicted of committing crimes. The report estimates the total cost at $10.5 billion each year, but that is offset by about $1.7 billion in taxes that illegal immigrants pay.

OK, sounds pretty backed up by facts. Sounds reasonable. So what could the advocates for illegal aliens possibly say about this report and its facts?


“I think FAIR is without doubt an extremist organization that tries to portray itself as a mainstream group,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, an advocate group for legal and illegal immigrants.
Good rebuttal there by a representative for illegal aliens.


The article goes on to break down the numbers in the report further. Go read it for specific numbers. One that stands out though is the estimated $7.7 billion in education spending for illegal alien children. Having kid in Californian schools I can attest to the huge class sizes, low student-to-teacher interaction and the extraordinary amount of time wasted on those students who can’t speak English fluently enough. So while the dollar number is $7.7 billion, the overall costs to actual legal citizens of this country’s children who pay for these schools is immeasurable.


Martin said states bear most of the cost of illegal immigration.


“State costs are much higher on a per capita basis because of the fact that the largest expenses are medical care and education and those are borne at the local level, not the federal,” Martin said.

In this time of California’s budget crisis this should be priority one in reducing expenses in the state.


Tipped by: La Shawn Barber. Go read her take on the report and some of the comments at her entry.


Originally Posted at Diggers Realm where there may be more comments.

December 07, 2004
Oppose sham "intelligence reform"

The immigration-related provisions might have been removed from the Intelligence Reform Bill. If the bill passes, illegal aliens could continue to get driver’s licenses and could continue to use foreign IDs that are only of use to illegal aliens. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had a combined total of 63 driver’s licenses from various states.
  • The FBI and the DOJ call those foreign ID cards - including Mexico’s Matricula Consular - a security threat.
  • From Chapter 3 of the 9/11 Commission Staff Report: “…abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity…”
  • The news media barely covers the immigration-related provisions. The news media rarely mentions that there’s more than one group of 9/11 families, and that the “9/11 Families for a Secure America” opposes this bill unless it includes immigration-related provisions. (See also “9/11 Families Back Sensenbrenner in Intel Fight”)

What you can do:

Please contact your representatives and tell them: don’t pass this bill unless it includes those immigration-related provisions.

You can send free FAXes here.

And, here are some phone numbers:

Sen. Collins(R-ME) at (202) 224-2523

Sen. Lieberman (D-CT) at (202) 224-4041

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA)
Glendora 626-852-2626
DC 202-225-2305

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) at (202) 225-2976

Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) at (202) 225-4401

Rep. Harman (D-CA) at (202) 225-8220

(According to KFI’s John & Ken, David Dreier might have found religion: due to Political Human Sacrifice, he might have supported these immigration-related provisions.)

December 06, 2004
Oil Infrastructure: The Next Terror Target?

Armed Liberal linked to some good articles yesterday. Global Guerillas and even the Christian Science Monitor have run a number of analysis pieces, noting that the recent attacks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia may be preliminary or “shaping” attacks for a more sustained assault on Saudi infrastructure.

As Terror’s Next Target explained back in January 2004, there’s a lot to recommend this view - and Gal Luft noted that the consequences could be immense:

“…About two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil is processed in a single enormous facility called Abqaiq, 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Bahrain. On the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia has just two primary oil export terminals: Ras Tanura - the world’s largest offshore oil loading facility, through which a tenth of global oil supply flows daily - and Ras al-Ju’aymah. On the Red Sea, a terminal called Yanbu is connected to Abqaiq via the 750-mile East–West pipeline. A terrorist attack on each one of these hubs of the Saudi oil complex or a simultaneous attack on few of them is not a fictional scenario. A single terrorist cell hijacking an airplane in Kuwait or Dubai and crashing it into Abqaiq or Ras Tanura, could turn the complex into an inferno. This could take up to 50% of Saudi oil off the market for at least six months and with it most of the world’s spare capacity, sending oil prices through the ceiling. “Such an attack would be more economically damaging than a dirty nuclear bomb set off in midtown Manhattan or across from the White House in Lafayette Square,” wrote former CIA Middle East field officer Robert Baer.”

This is especially serious if the oil market is losing its shock absorbers - a critical economic role that the Saudis have traditionally played. Meanwhile, we know that Islamic radicalism retains a strong foothold in Saudi Arabia. We also know that it’s hard to protect this kind of infrastructure.

So, why haven’t these attacks happened yet?

Continue Reading “Oil Infrastructure: The Next Terror Target?”

Milstuff for Dummies: Force Structure

There’s an amazing amount of military detail available on the net, from wikipedia entries to the services’ sites to the invaluable StrategyPage. There’s also an increasing amount of timely interpretation of events from the milbloggers, and chewy analysis from the likes of Wretchard. What I’ve missed (and that might be my fault) are backgrounders that pull together the details, events, and forecasts into patterns that are recognizable by the novice.

Mission

So, with hat tip and apologies to the titles of the book series, this is my first attempt at “Milstuff for Dummies”, a crowd in which I include myself. My goal is to pull together a set of basic consensus facts into an understandable – and short - narrative, as a common base for further discussion. I desire and encourage admonishment on any factual errors by those in the know, while suggesting that debate on consequences might be better on another thread.

This first attempt explores the topic of the size of the military, and how it’s put together. This week’s force increase in Iraq makes it a timely issue, and if I survive this experience more or less intact, other subjects may follow sporadically. Without further ado:

bq. Continue Reading “Milstuff for Dummies: Force Structure”

December 04, 2004
Charges Dropped Against Hassan al-Turabi

The details are still very sketchy, but Turabi’s lawyers have confirmed that the government of Sudan has dismissed the charges that have been the basis for imprisoning Hassan al-Turabi in Khartoum.

Quick background: Hassan al-Turabi, sometimes known as the “Pope of Terror,” is viewed by many Southern Sudanese as the architect of the destruction of the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-present). He was released from prison in 1977 by President Nimairi, who was in the process of co-opting the Islamic agenda to strengthen his own power base. Shortly there after, he became the Sudan’s attorney general, using the position as a bully-pulpit to Islamize the country. He is closely linked with the “September Laws” of 1983 that imposed Sharia on wide swaths of the Southern Sudan, and he is also linked to many of Nimairi’s policies of trying to divide the South into smaller, weaker regions easier for the Khartoum government to exploit.

When Nimairi got the boot, Turabi began to organize what became known as the National Islamic Front: a political party devoted to Islamizing the Sudan, and to exporting virulently intolerant strains of Islam abroad. When Omar al-Bashir seized power in July 1989 coup, he was capitalizing on the dissatisfaction of the NIF with President Sadiq al-Mahdi’s decision to suspend Islamic law in the Sudan, and to open negotiations with the SPLA- the main rebel group led by John Garang.

Turabi was paid back for his loyalty to Bashir with a position has head of the ulama (the parliament), and more or less unquestioned power- so long as he didn’t start stepping on Bashir’s toes. Turabi’s ulama, in January 1992, issued a fatwa declaring the civil war against Southern rebels a “jihad against unbelievers and apostates.” If you look at the charts I’ve done explaining violence in the Sudan, you can see that this is the period in the country’s history when violence is at its most primordial. Resource mobilization and the existence of large numbers of dislocated, alienated and itinerant peoples still contribute, as does the presence of conflict entrepreneurs, but there is also the unquestioned influence of the NIF’s Islamism.

Throughout the 1990’s, Turabi’s continued support for Islamic revolution abroad, and his willingness to harbor Islamic terrorists within Sudan (like Osama bin Laden), turned the Sudan into an international pariah. Turabi, though, was undeterred. When the state began to go bankrupt, Turabi was the one who engineered the land parcel schemes- with money laundered through the elaborate and confusing network of Islamic banks- that resulted in the dislocation of the entire Nuba Mountain population in the 1990’s, and the beginnings of the ethnic cleansing policy in Darfur. That money was sufficient to keep things going long enough for the government to fortify its position South of Bentiu and start pumping oil along the pipe line to the Red Sea.

In 1999, though, Turabi started to push for even stronger power. He proposed amendments to the constitution that would have increased his power relative to Bashir’s. Bashir was able to beat these measures back, and a spat between the two continued until Turabi aligned with Garang and the SPLA against Bashir’s government in February 2001. Turabi was promptly thrown in prison, as were 20 or so of his colleagues. Since then, Turabi has been between prison and house arrest (his health is failing), and has been believed to be involved in a number of attempts to overthrow Bashir’s government. The charges in question are related to a coup attempt last March that Turabi denies being involved in.

So what are we to conclude from the decision of the government to drop the charges against Bashir? The interesting thing is that the government is saying they were unable to find any evidence of Turabi’s guilt. That is hard to believe. Garang- the SPLA leader with whom Turabi made a pact- has been adamant about the agreement he made with Turabi, partly because Turabi didn’t deliver a lot of the things he said he would (including a fighting force to aid Garang’s armies). We know there was a “memorandum of intent” that Turabi signed with Garang, and the whole episode from early 2001 has been widely reported in literature about the Sudan. It is not as if a prosecutor couldn’t find enough evidence to bring this case before a jury. A decision was made by someone- presumably Bashir- to drop the charges.

Turabi has been very critical of Bashir’s policy in Darfur, so this can’t be considered a “reward” for coming around to Bashir’s position. Because the government of Sudan is so closed, it is difficult to assess how strong Bashir is at any given moment, but most accounts would have us believe he is doing well right now. Indeed, China and Russia, and to a lesser extent France, have stomached his violence in Darfur when debating at the United Nations Security Council, and have continued helping to prop Bashir up to maintain the Sudan’s oil output. But, in the past, Sudanese leaders cater to Islamists only when they feel they are weak and need to expand their base of political support. Nimairi let Turabi out of prison in 1977 for the exact same reason, and Bashir rose to power, in many respects, due to Turabi’s base of support. One crucial detail in these emerging events is that Bashir hasn’t actually released Turabi from prison. That could happen in the future pending a “political decree.” Is Bashir creating the framework for Turabi’s potential return to politics? By providing Turabi with some reason to be hopeful, Bashir may have calculated that he can get Turabi to agree to play ball. That still doesn’t answer the question of what Bashir gets out of all this, and I really am having a hard time figuring that one out.

All that we can presume to know here is that there is more to this story then what is being reported. I suspect we’ll find out more in the next few weeks, but it would be a huge mistake to sweep this under the rug until then. A shake up in Khartoum would have a monumental impact on the violence in Darfur.

Cross-posted at Mayflower Hill.

December 03, 2004
Post-Presidential Pow-Wow for Pouting Palm Beach Pukes

Diapers and Thorazine Comped by Theresa Lepore

This is hilarious

Drudge links to a story that says the famous Palm Beach County Presidential Shell-Shock Brigade is now holding group therapy sessions over the Bush victory. Until now, I thought fainting Kerry fanboi Vincent D’Onofrio had the smallest cullions of any living mammal, but I guess I stand corrected.

Remember these idiots? They were so devastated, they ran to a shrink while the chads were still hanging. I thought they’d blow off a little steam and go home, but it looks like they plan to continue their collective tantrum well into the new year.

Okay, what is today? The THIRD OF DECEMBER. When were the election results announced? The SECOND OF NOVEMBER. How long have normal people who are not total wussies been getting over it and getting on with their lives? TWENTY-NINE DAYS. God built the WORLD in SIX.

This is why no one takes the Democrats seriously any more. The Democrats used to be the party of fairly sane blue-collar types who were worried about things like whether the goverment would send goons with clubs to break up their union meetings. Now the party is controlled by a bunch of far-left pants-wetting freaks who want to ban meat and impose forced registration for every citizen who owns a penis. And the limp-wristed loons currently rebirthing each other up in Palm Beach are excellent examples.

The quack running the show, Robert J. Gordon of the American Health Association, says, “It’s no joke. People with PEST [Post-Election Selection Trauma] were traumatized by the election. If you even mention religion, their faces turn blister-red as they shout at Bush.” I guess the party of little brown people has been taken over by little red-faced people.

I have some comforting words for these ninnies. Here’s a little therapy for you. You PANSIES. You snivelling PUNKS. You gutless, spineless sacks of limp tofu custard. Has anything REALLY bad ever happened to you in your worthless LIVES? I wish George Patton would come back to life and slap the snot out of you.

I wonder if ol’ Doc Gordon would mind selling me a DVD of the therapy sessions. Come on, you know it’s pants-crapping funny. A bunch of tie-dyed simpletons primal-screaming while curled in the fetal position on giant Wee-Wee Pads™? That beats the Stooges any day.

I wonder how seriously Doc Gordon takes PEST when he’s having a smoke in the staff lounge. He probably spends his time knocking back Margaritas and making up better acronyms, like Post-Election Neurotic Imbecile Syndrome and Acute Selection-Subsequent Hysterical Assmonkey Trauma. Or how about Profitable Election Sucker Therapy?

I swear to God, it’s enough to make me pay Phoenix University for an online counseling degree and apply for a job.

PATIENT: Doc, I feel like it’s the end of democracy in America.

DR. STEVE: You bet your sweet ass it is, Mr. Wimbish. Any day now, the digital brownshirts are going to strap their Lugers on over their pajamas, march into your gated community here at Vista Del Mierda and confiscate your Metamucil. But fear not. As your therapist, I think I can help you with some guided imagery.

PATIENT: Oh, I’ll try anything, Doc.

DR. STEVE: Okay, lean back and close your eyes and imagine yourself on a peaceful little island. You’re all alone, the sun is shining, the seagulls are calling…off in the distance, you can hear the surf gently breaking…you’re doing something you really love. What are you doing, Mr. Wimbish?

PATIENT: I’m admiring a beautiful government-sponsored Mapplethorpe photo of a bullwhip hanging out of a man’s anus.

DR. STEVE: Fantastic. You feel at ease. You’re safe. Martin Sheen is in the White House, signing a bill that will make the United States a French possession.

PATIENT: Doc…I’m sorting my garbage in the nude. Oh, Doc, it’s bliss.

DR. STEVE: But Mr. Wimbish…what’s that rustling sound in the grass behind you?

PATIENT: An endangered owl, digging a burrow?

DR. STEVE: NO, MR. WIMBISH, IT’S KARL ROVE! AND YOU‘LL NEVER GUESS WHO’S WITH HIM! IT’S THE WHOLE CREW FROM “UP WITH PEOPLE”! THEY‘RE SINGING “GOD BLESS AMERICA” AND WAVING PICTURES OF JESUS WEARING A GESTAPO UNIFORM! ROVE HAS AN ASSAULT WEAPON UNDER EACH ARM, MR. WIMBISH! HE’S MACHINE-GUNNING THE OWLS! OH, GOD! OWL GUTS ARE FLYING EVERYWHERE! THEY‘RE LANDING ON YOUR PONYTAIL! HE JUST SOLD THE ISLAND’S OIL RIGHTS TO KEN LAY! CLOUDS ARE APPEARING OVERHEAD! IT’S ACID RAIN, MR. WIMBISH! ACID RAIN, KILLING ALL THE FLOWERS AND EATING YOUR SKIN AND LOOK—IN THE LAGOON—THE FISH ARE ALL GOING TITS-UP! OH, NO, MR. WIMBISH! HERE COMES GEORGE BUSH! HE’S PULLING AT HIS FACE! IT’S COMING OFF, AND UNDERNEATH…MY GOD IT’S JERRY FALWELL!

PATIENT: AUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH! [flings self out of twentieth-story window & splats wetly on hood of own BMW]

DR. STEVE: Nurse? Lie down on my desk, pull those knees up, and tell my three o’clock I’ll be a little late.

In conclusion let me say this. Wussies, wussies, wussies. I hope you all end up in a mental ward and can’t get out to vote in 2008.

Armed Liberal: Terror & Liberalism, Will & Perspective

I’ve been pretty much away from the computer for the last two days, so I missed the first wave of responses to Peter Bienert’s piece on Liberals and Terrorism in TNR (registration required and well worth it).

In a sense, that makes me lucky, because not only do I get to comment in passing on an article that many of you will have read (and if you haven’t, just stop reading this right now and go read it), but I get to comment on the responses.

First, as to the article itself. Given what I’ve written and talked about for the last two years I’m the choir, and I’ll stand in back of him and sing harmony for as long as it takes.

His core point - that a left that sees the world only as a Manichean struggle with the forces of conservatism is a losing left - is certainly true.

Like the softs of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left. In its campaign against the Iraq war, MoveOn urged its supporters to participate in protests co-sponsored by International answer, a front for the World Workers Party, which has defended Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong Il. When George Packer, in The New York Times Magazine, asked Pariser about sharing the stage with apologists for dictators, he replied, “I’m personally against defending Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it’s just not relevant right now.”

Well, yes it is. It is both in terms of creating and defending a truly moral left - one that can stand without shame on it’s principles - and in terms of creating a left that is more than a political curiosity.

I’ve railed enough in the past (and surely will in the future) on the ideological failings that led the Democratic Party to this cliff.

Lots of smart people (Mickey Kaus, Kevin Drum) suggest that there’s really no cliff, because after all we’re just 3% away from taking back the White House.

They are mathematically right, and factually wrong.

GM gradually lost market share to Honda and Toyota; there was no single year when Honda suddenly leapt forward, just a gradual, inch by inch progression that left GM on the wrong side of the curve and headed south.

But if you looked at the product - at the cars they made - it was pretty clear who had a clue. GM tried everything; marketing, financial engineering, cost cutting - everything except making great cars efficiently. It wasn’t hard, back in 1984, to guess what the long-term trend was going to be.

Similarly, I don’t have a hard time guessing what the long-term trend is for the Democratic Party as it’s being run today. The Democratic Party isn’t only selling it’s soul to coke-addled Hollywood celebrities and telecom zillionaires by pandering to their corporate interests at the expense of - say - the working folks of the country. They are also mobilizing a base of activists and functionaries - really the bones of the party - who are consciously taking the party to a place where it will be unable to speak intelligently about defense for a generation.

…A.L. goes on to discuss Beinart’s supporters and enemies in the Democratic Party, and why this issue matters so. He also follows up with an article that points to a number of hopeful signs, including a collaborative wiki called “Liberals Against Terrorism”.