Tuesday, May 30, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/30/2006

1) KNOWING JACK – A few readers sent me the comments made by Republican Representative John Kline in regards to what happened in Haditha. Kline said, “I was saddened, surprised and outraged that this could happen… (It was) a horrific aberration…This was not an accident. This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity.” Some of you wrote in demanding to know why I had attacked Murtha while giving Kline a free pass.

Without parsing Kline’s comments (i.e., note the word “would”), let’s just posit for the sake of argument that Kline meant to say exactly what Jack Murtha said yesterday. For those of you with short memories, Murtha said that troops shot one woman "in cold blood" who was bending over her child begging for mercy.

A couple of initial thoughts: If you’re a regular reader of this blog and just discovering that I’m somewhat partisan, your deduction skills fail to impress. Besides, for what it’s worth, I wasn’t aware of Kline’s comments until they were brought to my attention. This would be where Andrew Sullivan would salute his audience for being the smartest collection of people in the universe. Me, I’ll just confess to blogging while in a partial state of ignorance. Wasn’t the first time, doubtlessly won’t be the last.

As we move on, let’s leave Kline out of this since, as I’ve already confessed, I wouldn’t know him if I stumbled over him. He may be the finest voice of leadership in the House; he may be an irredeemable ass-hat. Not really knowing anything about the man, I can’t comment in an educated fashion, not that such a limitation has stopped me in the past.

But about Murtha – there are two aspects of his comments that are loathesome. First, there is his rush to convict the Marines in Haditha. I stand by what I said yesterday – until all the evidence is in, the Marines deserve both the benfit of the doubt and the presumption of innocence.

But there’s another aspect of Murtha’s comments that rankles. The left wing has been eager to discredit the Iraqi war effort by any means necessary since 2003. Yes, there were some people who legitimately felt Abu Ghraib was the biggest scandal in generations. But most of the people riding the Abu Ghraib hobby-horse (like seasoned veteran John Kerry) knew that even the worst accusations associated with Abu Ghraib were pretty tame as far as war-time atrocities.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t atrocious, but anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of warfare knows that even the “good guys” in wars past did stuff a lot worse than what happened at Abu Ghraib. For more reading on the subject, I urge you to check out Rick Atkinson’s “An Army at Dawn” that in a few passages deals with some of American’s atrocities from the second world war.

Murtha’s rush to judgment over Haditha and other signs of barely concealed joy from leftward precincts has shown that people like the erstwhile representative can’t wait to use Haditha to taint the entire war effort, blast the administration, and once again urge retreat. Murtha said this morning, “I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened…Now we've lost that war, and now it is time to redeploy…The reason we've lost the hearts and minds [is] these troops are under tremendous stress.”

What may have happened in Haditha is outrageous and disturbing. But it is not shocking. There has never been a major war without atrocities committed by both sides. Such events in war are sadly inevitable. Someone as familiar with warfare as Murtha doubtlessly knows this.
That’s what makes his shameless and cynical opportunism so stomach churning. Alas, Murtha’s actions also fail to shock. His antics have become as sadly predictable as they are pathetic.

2) FEEL GOOD BLOG ENTRY OF THE DAY – I know I said I’m a Dixie Chicks fan, and that the juvenile politics of pop-singers and other assorted deep thinkers have lost the ability to anger me in the slightest. Being a big John Mellencamp fan for 25 years I guess has effectively immunized me from show biz idiocy.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it when a big star does something good. With very little fanfare, country superstar Toby Keith visited Iraq over the weekend. The blog entry I linked to is written by a soldier who got to see Keith up close and personal. Among his other virtues, this blogging soldier can really write.

His entry wins today’s “read the whole thing” prize.

3) HELL FREEZES OVER – The normally astute Wall Street Journal editorial board today writes a counter-intuitive piece in which it castigates the administration for having the audacity to barge into Representative William Jefferson’s criminal lair. Give the Journal credit, though – even when spectacularly wrong-headed, a single Journal editorial still possesses more wit than a month worth of the Grey Lady’s finger wagging. The Journal summarizes a portion of Jefferson’s criminal enterprises thusly:

“In the case of Mr. Jefferson, Justice clearly had reason to consider a search. The Congressman is suspected of taking bribes, individuals have already pleaded guilty to paying him and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and a search of his home found $90,000 in his freezer. Mr. Jefferson says he has done nothing wrong, but we doubt he has found the miracle of an icebox that pays interest on deposits.”

4) FOR THE OTHER SIDE OF THINGS…Be sure to check out Andy McCarthy’s summary of the matter on National Review Online. I haven’t seen a more informative or thorough discussion of the matter anywhere.

5) WISHING WON’T MAKE IT SO…Here’s the reason why I so enjoy the Boston Globe’s op-ed pages: The contributors (Jeff Jacoby excepted, of course) so believe in their fantasy world views, when the real world doesn’t provide supporting evidence they just make stuff up.

Writing today on Europe’s problems with its Muslim populations which include rioting, honor killing, and a failure to assimilate, the Globe’s H.D.S. Greenway nonetheless concludes, “The major problem that both Europe and America face, as far as their Muslim populations are concerned, is not to let vigilance against terrorism spill over into undermining civil rights and discriminating against the 99.9 percent of Muslims who just want to get along.”

Okay, let’s crunch some numbers: In Holland, the epicenter of Europe’s Islamic unrest, there are 750,000 Muslims. That means, according to Greenway’s “99.9 %” assertion, only 750 Muslims are a problem. Given all the rioting, hate crimes, the Theo van Gogh murder, etc., that sounds kind of low.

One wonders what aspect of Greenway’s reportage compelled him to arrive at this figure. Or was it just wishful thinking?

6) TOLD YOU SO – Last week I documented how a movement was bubbling up to commit enough troops to Iraq’s most troubled regions to finally rout the insurgency. This meant adding more troops when politicians across the political spectrum have been demanding a timetable for bringing the troops home. First Bill Kristol floated the notion, then Max Boot, and finally the WSJ editorial page.

Today it became official – a 3500 member brigade is re-deploying from the comfort of Kuwait to the hornet’s nest of the Anbar province. The Bush administration is often maddening, sometimes incredibly so. But admit it – this is the right thing to do, and few past administrations would have done it.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Monday, May 29, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/29/2006

1) DURANTY WATCH AT THE TIMES – On Saturday, the New York Times ran what appeared at first blush to be a frightening front page story on how Mahmoud Ahmadenijad is consolidating power in an unprecedented manner in Iran. But it’s not frightening at all; the Times points out that although sometimes rough-around-the-edges, Ahmadenijad is actually a pretty swell guy:

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was elected last June, has adopted an ideologically flexible strategy. He has called for restoring the conservative values of the Islamic Revolution, yet at the same time has relaxed enforcement of strict Islamic social codes on the street. During the spring, when the warm weather sets in, young women are often harassed by the volunteer vigilantes known as the Basiji for their dress, but not this year. More music seems to be available in stores than in the past — small but telling changes, people here say.

If there is one consistent theme to his actions, it is the concept of seeking justice, reflecting a central characteristic of Shiite Islam.

So don’t be like one of those cold-war kooks, focusing on the otherness of the other. Set aside all that death-to-infidels talk and the pledge to wipe Israel off the map. All the man wants is justice. If we wind up having difficulties with such a clearly flexible humanist, it will be yet another testimony to the unilateral belligerence that so lamentably characterizes the Bush administration.

(By the way, the picture above is the one the Times ran on its website accompanying its story. So lovable is Ahmadenijad, doves flock to him. I guess if anyone still paid attention to the Times, this would be a scandal.)

2) “THE 8TH OF NOVEMBER” – I first heard this song by the country duo Big & Rich on the car radio a couple of days ago. It’s a moving tribute to a soldier who served in Vietnam, survived with scars, but lost most of his comrades. It’s powerful and memorable. It’s inarguably perfect for Memorial Day. Check it out.

3) WHAT HAPPENED IN HADITHA? – It sounds like something pretty bad. Until all the facts are out, though, I will give our troops not only the benefit of the doubt but also their legally and morally deserved presumption of innocence.

Predictably, Jack Murtha will do otherwise. The Duranty Times reports:

Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former marine who has become a fierce critic of the Iraq war, said he had no doubt marines killed innocent civilians in Haditha and tried to cover up the deaths. Marine Corps officials, he said on the same television program, have told him that troops shot one woman "in cold blood" who was bending over her child begging for mercy.

To be perfectly clear, if that last detail doesn’t prove accurate to the letter, I hope that everyone in a position to do so will hold Murtha fully accountable for the calumny. This includes the members of the media who so enthusiastically enable Murtha.

The glee with which Murtha eagerly has pounced on his fellow Marines is nothing short of sickening. Jack Murtha may once have been a hero, but he is now just another congressman who has no moral bearings whatsoever. The media give him a pass because of what he did 40 years ago - they believe he enjoys moral infallibility because of those long ago heroics.

One doubts the men who currently wear the uniform that Murtha once wore view him with similar deference or fondness.

4) HOW JAMES CARROLL WON THE COLD WAR – James Carroll used to be a great writer and a decent thinker. Now, he’s just an addled anti-war agitator whose grip on reality loosens seemingly by the hour. In today’s Memorial Day column in which he predictably tells us to honor the soldiers but not the war, Carroll makes several breathtakingly stupid assertions. But beyond his habitual idiocy, I honestly don’t have the foggiest idea of what he’s trying to say in this column. It sounds like he’s saying those who are against war are always right and were always right. But then again, I may be wrong. Like I said, I can no longer decipher what the once gifted writer is trying to communicate.

If you want to read the column and explain it to me, feel free to drop me a line. Then again, don’t we both have better things to do?

5) READ THE WHOLE THING – When Christopher Hitchens has his mojo working, there are few better. Today he has a moving article on the Opinion Journal site about Memorial Day. His article concludes:

"Always think of it: never speak of it." That was the stoic French injunction during the time when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine had been lost. This resolution might serve us well at the present time, when we are in midconflict with a hideous foe, and when it is too soon to be thinking of memorials to a war not yet won. This Memorial Day, one might think particularly of those of our fallen who also guarded polling-places, opened schools and clinics, and excavated mass graves. They represent the highest form of the citizen, and every man and woman among them was a volunteer. This plain statement requires no further rhetoric.

If for some reason you followed the link to James Carroll, Hitch will wash the taste right out of your mouth. Simply brilliant stuff. Whatever he drinks, I should begin trying it, also.

6) AND A WORD ABOUT CONGRESS…I was on my way down to New York on Saturday when I heard Bush-hating GWU law professor Jonathan Turley on CNN decry the threatened actions of Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Meuller, both of whom allegedly threatened to resign if the administration went wobbly and gave back the stuff seized in the raid of super-corrupt Congressman William Jefferson’s office. Turley viewed these threats as another sign of how reckless the Bushies are.

That means Turley is perhaps the only citizen in the Union beyond the congressmen themselves who seems inclined to see this thing Congress’ way – that Congress-people should be above justice. What I find especially rich about this story is how the Republicans in the House, led by the ever-increasingly obtuse Dennis Hastert, have shown an even larger tin ear than normal and have heaped scorn and abuse on the administration for the raid. Hell, even Bill Frist had the good sense to ultimately come down on the right side of this one.

Robert Turner writing in the Wall Street Journal aptly characterized the nature of this particular hubbub:

“It is increasingly rare to find a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress these days. So a display of the spirit would have been a good thing to see--especially in a time of war--but for the fact that the issue now uniting Republican and Democratic leaders is an outrageous assertion that members of Congress are above the law, and that the Constitution immunizes legislators who betray their public trust in return for bribes from investigation by the executive branch.”

It’s almost as if congressional Republicans are playing some perverse game to see how many seats they can lose in the midterm elections in spite of a booming economy. They seem so determined to make history, even mine and Hugh Hewitt’s combined efforts may well not be enough to save them.

Back to full-time blogging tomorrow. See you then.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Thursday, May 25, 2006



There’s another penumbra emanating around the corridors of power in Washington, and it isn’t a pretty sight.

Denny Hastert and Bill Frist have their knickers in a constitutional twist over the recent “raid” on Representative William J. Jefferson’s office, the very same Mr. Jefferson who ignored Justice Department subpoenas for more than nine months. The “raid” was pursuant to a judicially approved search warrant.

Messrs. Hastert and gang have floated the vague notion that the execution of the warrant violates the “separation of powers” doctrine, a doctrine which, careful readers may note, is not actually mentioned in the Constitution. Proof of the lameness of Hastert’s argument is corroborated by the fact that even some Democrats are willing to defend it. Noted strict constructionist Rep. Hoyer has stated that "no member is above the law, but the institution has a right to protect itself against the executive department going into our offices." I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Hoyer’s logic, and am quite sure that the average pothead--his door just kicked down because of his hash stash--wouldn’t either.

Obviously, the Constitution implies the separation of powers. Law Professor Erwin Cherminsky—almost as reclusive as Alan Dershowitz-- has noted that “[t]he Constitution is based on the simple but elegant notion that checks and balances require that all important government actions require concurrence of at least two branches of government… Searching or arresting a person requires a request by the executive branch and approval by the judiciary.”

Cherminsky’s quote is from a column criticizing the Bush Administation, and for ignoring the separation of powers doctrine no less. Others like NRO’s Andy McCarthy have been less kind and called Hastert’s argument frivolous: “[A congressmen] can be investigated and prosecuted just like anyone else, with two exceptions: (a) they presumptively may not be placed under arrest during a session of congress — although arrest is perfectly proper if a felony (or treason or breach of the peace) is involved; and (b) the evidence used to prosecute them cannot include anything contained in a speech or debate during a session. So the privilege against arrest is limited, and the privilege against being investigated is non-existent (anyone out there remember Abscam?).”

Of course, after Roe v. Wade, we are all painfully aware that our nation’s founding document contains emanating penumbras lurking in the Constitution’s nooks and crannies, waiting for a Supreme Court justice to conjure them. Naively perhaps, I had hoped to pass through this life without being subjected to such conjuring from leading Republicans--leaders who, by the way, have also threatened that this issue “may end up in front of the Supreme Court.”

Let us hope and pray this issue goes to the Supreme Court, as that is about the only crew in Washington with its head screwed on straight nowadays. Denny Hastert may have searched the nooks and crannies of the Constitution and discovered his inner Harry Blackmun, but my guess is that Chief Justice Roberts will have no part of it.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/24/2006

Al Gore fighting for the environment

1) ANGRY READER MAIL – Yesterday I beseeched you to send no more “you just don’t care enough about immigration” letters my way. Much to my surprise, everyone in the vast Soxblog Nation respected this wish save one plucky reader. I will reprint her letter in full:

If the rapid demographic transformation of a (once) great nation caused by the invasion of a people with irredentist aims and enabled by a corrupt elite at every institution of American society is "no big deal" to you, then you are the definition of someone who is either willfully ignorant or fearful of facing the truth. Does the term "hiding one's head in the sand" have any resonance?Your Harvard education notwithstanding, there are no insights that you could provide that would make reading this blog worth my time anymore.

While I hate to lose readers who can toss around big words like “irredentist,” life will go on. For the rest of you, can we not agree to disagree until the time comes where I come around to your way of thinking or you come around to mine? (Special note to William: “Irredentist” has nothing to do with teeth.)

The only thing about the letter that I found interesting was what I assume was the sarcastic reference to my Harvard degree. Since the writer won’t be reading this blog anymore, we’ll never know what he/she really meant, but it sounds sarcastic to me. Just for the record, I’m proud of having overcome my Harvard education. More on that below.

2) YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL A HARVARD MAN…Matthew Yglesias is a writer for The American Prospect, the nation’s leading liberal journal of opinion (which is a bit like being Antarctica’s leading falafel stand). He’s also a 25 year old graduate of Harvard. It seems like Yglesias hit the books with considerably more vigor than I did during my stay in Cambridge; he graduated with all sorts of honors and was able to land a hot gig at America’s leading liberal journal of opinion while I had to slink off to a law school across the river in order to feed my addiction to afternoon naps for another three years.

The problem with hot young Harvard grads like Yglesias isn’t that they process things wrong or have been indoctrinated into the professoriate’s intellectually exhausted brand of liberalism. The bigger problem is that, thinking they’re very bright and well read, they’re not conditioned to recognize what they DON’T know. Thus, they rush to make conclusions on important matters without possessing the fundamental knowledge necessary to make an informed analysis.

Very early this morning, Yglesias offered this view of the situation with Iran:

“It seems to me that this has been pretty clear for a while, but now it's explicit -- the Iranian government wants to engage in talks about the various US-Iranian issues, including Teheran's nuclear program. If you're concerned with things like America's interests, not getting lots of people killed, and preventing Iran from going nuclear you'd take them up on the offer. I honestly don't think this is even remotely a hard question. It might not work, of course, but even that would leave us better off than we are now as the weird kid sulking in the corner refusing to talk to Billy.”

You see what he did there? Not knowing the first thing about Ahmadenijad and the religion that he and the mullahs practice, Yglesias shoe-horned the situation into something he does know something about, in this case weird sulking kids. It would be hard to imagine a less apt analogy or a more frightfully wrong conclusion.

Yglesias goes on to conclude that Iran has been trying to “set the stage for possibly ratcheting tensions with the United States down.” Not surprisingly, he offers this assertion without evidence as there is none.

If he were willing to educate himself and not fearful of facing the truth, Yglesias would realize that Ahmadinejad’s letter was practically a declaration of war, not an overture for peace. If that’s ratcheting things down, what would ratcheting things up? Testing a long range missile?

3) IT’S NOT MATT’S FAULT – He’s only listening to the Boston Globe. Smart people think a response to Ahmadenijad’s letter would be a huge mistake in itself. It would irrevocably raise his prestige in the Islamic world. But not everyone.

“US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said government specialists have exerted mounting pressure on the Bush administration to reply to the letter, seconding public urgings from commentators and former officials.”

“Government specialists?” Huh? What on earth is a “government specialist?” And why is the Globe always able to unearth such specialists when a Globe writer feels his view needs parroting? And why are these “government specialists” invariably never identified?

4) IT’S NOT MATT’S FAULT, PART II – The Opinion Journal site reviews the new book by Harvard Professor Harry Lewis on a Harvard education titled, “Excellence Without a Soul”:

Mr. Lewis finds American universities "soulless" and argues that they rarely speak as "proponents of high ideals for future American leaders." He bluntly states that Harvard "has lost, indeed willingly surrendered, its moral authority to shape the souls of its students. . . . Harvard articulates no ideals of what it means to be a good person."

And it costs way too much, also.

5) AND WHO ARE THOSE EXPERTS ANYWAY? – National Review’s Byron York has a must-read profile of the left’s favorite “terrorism expert,” Larry Johnson. Johnson became the left’s favorite terrorism expert not because of particular knowledge or Nostradamus like skills in forecasting the future. Indeed, quite the contrary – in a July 10, 2001 op-ed piece for the New York Times (who else?) Johnson chided his countrymen for their boobish ignorance:

Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism. None of these beliefs are based in fact.

Whoops! So why is Johnson the left’s favorite terror expert? Because he really dislikes the Bush administration. But here’s the punch-line – his government experience with terrorism and intelligence is remarkably slim. Although he’s routinely trotted out as an expert analyst, Johnson’s principal claim to expertise is the four years he spent working for the CIA between 1985 -1989. Studying Central America.

So why do the networks keep trotting him out as the possessor of some special knowledge? “He’s willing to say very bold things,” says a former intelligence official. “If you say things that are balanced and reasoned and calm, they’re less likely to ask you back than if you throw some bombs.”

6) AN AGE OF TERROR ROHRSCHACH TEST – As you’ve probably heard by now, some of the steel that collapsed in the Twin Towers has been incorporated into a U.S. Navy vessel, the USS New York. 24 tons of the destroyed buildings are going into The New York.

Some people will think this shows the indomitable will of the American people and is a fitting way to remember that day. And on the other hand, there are irritating European columnists. Martin Samuel of The Times of London writes, “The 2,800 souls that perished as an indirect result of an interventionist foreign policy that achieved the exact opposite of its stated aims can be honoured by a vessel built to ensure that this flawed cycle of violence continues. The USS New York will carry 360 soldiers and 700 combat-ready Marines. It puts to sea with the motto: ‘Never forget.’ Except they do. They always do.”

Aah, the cycle of violence. Which reminds me – Hamas and Fatah seem stuck in a cycle of violence, and yet it never seems to be referred to as such. One can only wonder why.

7) BUBBLING UP – On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol (a.k.a. The Boss) suggested that America commit more troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and make a final push for victory. Juan Williams almost spit out his coffee. Today, May Boot who knows more than a thing or two about small wars and counter-insurgencies, makes precisely the same suggestion. Boot’s column is must reading. I’m not convinced that we actually need more troops to pacify Baghdad or, to be more precise, that we can’t get those additional troops from elsewhere in the Iraqi theatre.

Regardless of where they come from, putting more troops into Baghdad means putting more troops into harm’s way. If ever we needed political will for the fight in Iraq, now is the time.

8) AND FINALLY A WORD ABOUT AMERICAN IDOL – First off, I should come out and admit that this was the first season I had ever watched of American Idol. I loved it. Second, I must confess that I was distraught when Chris Daughtry was voted off the show. I hadn’t felt so ridiculous about being angry over nothing since I was actually saddened when Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat defeated Macho Man Randy Savage in Wrestlemania III and the great Macho Man was pelted by garbage by the 90,000 Silverdome hooligans in attendance as he despondently left the squared circle.

Anyway, the New York Times has this interesting profile of Ryan Seacrest who is building an entertainment empire while showing a business acumen worthy of a Fortune 100 CEO.

And Taylor Hicks deserves to win tonight.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com



Just when I thought I had carved out a principled and well-reasoned position of breezy ambivalence about the Great Immigration Issue of Our Time, the Senate does its best impression of the Black Widows, the hapless motorcycle gang in the underappreciated classic film Any Which Way You Can, and awakens me from a cautious slumber.

I am referring to last week’s decision by the Senate to allow illegal immigrants the right to collect Social Security benefits relating to their past illegal employment. Proving himself to be the Steynway of all columnists once again, Mark Steyn has put the Senate’s action in proper perspective: “Well, I think that's the kind of moderate compromise ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ package all Americans can support, don't you? Some mean-spirited extremist House Republicans had proposed that illegal aliens should only receive 75 percent of the benefits to which they're illegally entitled for having broken the law. On the other hand, President Bush had proposed that illegal aliens should also be able to collect Social Security benefits for any work they'd done in Mexico (assuming, for the purposes of argument, there is any work to be done in Mexico).”

A point well made, but my concern with this provision is not just the fact that it is an idiotic idea, but relates more to the symbolic importance of this nation’s laws. Just for grins, this morning I ran a Westlaw (www.westlaw.com/) search relating to the terms “fraud” and “ill-gotten gains,” and, in about 30 seconds, came up with 346 court decisions that discuss the significance of this legal doctrine. Without putting too fine a point on it, the law generally does not allow somebody who cheats to be rewarded by their cheating. This principle, believe it or not, keeps people from having an incentive to cheat. This principle applies to churning stockbrokers, embezzling accountants, employees who compete with their employers, and any number of other possible wrongdoers who suffer, in the Senate’s eyes at least, from the legal defect of not being illegal aliens.

I happened to be in Little Rock last week, and toured the Central High School Museum, dedicated to the events of 1957 in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. The Museum does an outstanding job of portraying the courage of nine black high-school teenagers who braved death threats, physical abuse, and national attention for the simple right to receive the same schooling as white teenagers. The Little Rock Nine did not want special treatment; they (merely) want to be treated equally. One cannot view that Central High School or tour its museum without having a deepened appreciation for the symbolic significance of the law. In the long run, our nation can live with laws that aim to treat everybody equally, even if the price is some tumult and chaos.

It is one thing to talk about a real compromise on the Great Immigration Issue of Our Time, but it is quite another to rub salt in the wound and confer illegal immigrants with benefits that American citizens would not even presume to think they are entitled to. The McCains and the Brownbacks ignore the symbolic significance of this issue at their peril.

Like our friends the Black Widows, the Senate is fast turning into a motorcycle gang that can’t shoot straight. Where is Philo Beddoe when you need him?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/23/2006

1) MAKING SENSE OF THE WORLD, PART I: The Weekly Standard shoots and scores this week with a remarkable analysis of last week’s Ahmadinejad letter. It’s vital reading, and the winner of the first “read the whole thing prize” I’ve given out in a while.

It also brings up an interesting point. Few Americans have the vaguest conception of what we’re dealing with in Ahmadenijad and his fellow crackpots located in that part of the world. I’ve devised a little test, sort of along the lines of Jeff Foxworthy’s super-annoying “you know you’re a redneck shtick.”

If you don’t know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, you need to do some reading. If you don’t know what a dhimmi is, you need to do seem reading. If you don’t know how Khomenism transformed Shiism, you need to do some reading. If the Hidden Imam is a stranger to you, you need to do some reading. If you don’t know about the Koranic calls for Jihad, you need to some reading.

If you do know all of these things and you’re not gravely concerned or you think the Bush administration is the world’s biggest problem, you need to get some counseling.

Or a sabbatical from the New York Times.

2) UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD, PART II: My friend Andy Bostom, a.k.a Dr. Jihad, has an outstanding piece in the American Thinker in which he reproaches America’s Jewish leadership for insisting on analyzing Iran simply on a “how do does the situation in Iran compare to Nazi Germany?” basis. As Bostom points out, the history of Persia is unique to itself and Nazi Germany is an irrelevancy.

While entities like the American Jewish Congress rightly got their collective undies in a twist over last week’s speculated Iranian legislation that would require Jewsto wear identifying badges, the fact is that between 1580 and 1920, Iran had similar laws. The inapt comparison to Nazis omits the fact that other infidels like Christians and the Zoroastrians (who have really had a rough go of it with Islam the past 13 centuries) would also have humiliating dress codes, as they previously also had for centuries.

Bostom rightly chastises America’s Jewish leadership for heaving a sigh of relief because it doesn’t seem like Iranian Jews will have to wear badges just yet (although the planned annihilation of Israel remains on the table), while enjoying a blissful ignorance regarding Persian history. He concludes his article by directing five pointed questions to America’s leading Jewish organizations regarding their awareness of the uniqueness of the Iranian threat, saying “It is my fervent hope that I receive serious, informed responses to the five queries posed to the American Jewish Congress so as not to squander this ‘teachable moment.’”

As I said in an email to Andy, the only way America’s Jewish leaders will pay any attention to this fundamental matter is if Mel Gibson’s dad converts to Islam and becomes a prominent mullah.

3) A NOTE FROM THE REALITY BASED COMMUNITY – Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe thinks John Kerry could be a serious contender for the throne in 2008. He likens his situation to that of Nixon’s in 1968. Lehigh is just a little off. Kerry’s chances are actually more comparable to Nixon’s in 2000 when Nixon had been dead for six years. Regardless, I’m sure this embarrassingly fawning effort on Lehigh’s part will get the Senator to return his phone calls for the foreseeable future.

4) ALSO FROM THE REALITY BASED COMMITTEE – The Daily Kos is doing one of its monthly straw polls and guess who has 68% of the vote. Al Gore! I believe this is the same Al Gore who ran such an inept campaign in 2000 that he was actually out-debated three times by the perennially tongue-tied George W. Bush, but maybe a new one has appeared on the scene while I wasn’t paying attention the last few days. Note to Scott Lehigh: Checking in with a robust 0% of the vote is John Kerry.

5) UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD, PART III: Everyone else is linking to this piece from Opinion Journal, and with good cause. I’m officially joining the party. The piece debunks the prime myths regarding the Iraq war, and does so effectively. It is must reading for your youthful relative who keeps showing up at family functions shrieking “Bush lied, people died” and then launches into an irrelevant and inappropriate defense of Oval Office fellatio performed by zaftig but eager interns.

The fact is, though, the half-truths and untruths told about the Iraq war have hardened into fact because they have been repeated so often and so forcefully. Such is the way with lies, especially when they’re not refuted in a timely manner

6) SPEAKING OF YOUNG FIREBRANDS – Take a look at these radical Boston College students who protested Condi Rice’s commencement address at B.C. yesterday. Apparently the spirit of the 60’s remains alive and well on our campuses.

Wait a minute! Look again – all those people are old. They’re actually faculty members. The Boston Globe’s report on the speech implies that the only people so classless as to turn their back on Rice as she spoke were members of the professoriate. The students, in spite of four years of apparent attempted mind-warping, behaved in a dignified manner.

7) DIXIE CHICKS UPDATE – They’re on the cover of Time Magazine, the New York Times had a fawning article on them on Sunday, and their politics remain as juvenile as ever. But, that being said, I’ll buy their new album – they’re a great band, and that obnoxious lead singer has a voice for the ages.

I’ve been able to tolerate the silly and half-informed (to be generous) politics of John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle for the past twenty years; I can stomach pretty much anything the Chicks can dish out. So long as they’re not issuing fatwas, I’ll keep buying their albums.

If you restrict your artistic purchases to respectably conservative artists, then you’ll be playing a lot of Brooks & Dunn on your I-Pod. I take my politics pretty seriously, but there are some sacrifices that I’m just not willing to make.

8) LISTEN TO THE MAN – Unlike me, Ralph Peters detests Donald Rumsfeld. Also unlike me, he bears little goodwill to the Bush administration.

Continuing our lack of similarities, Peters also has been to Iraq. So when he says that we’re winning there and accomplishing some pretty amazing stuff, it warrants some attention:

Plenty remains to be done. We must see our Iraq mission through to the end - unless the Iraqis fail themselves. We must restore integrity and common sense to our foreign policy by ceasing to pretend that the Saudis are our friends and by living up to our rhetoric about support for democracy. And we need to take a very hard line on China's currency manipulation and cheating on trade.

Still, any fair-minded review of the last several years of American engagement abroad would conclude that, despite painful mistakes, we've changed the world for the better. The results have been imperfect, as such results always will be. But the bewildering sense of gloom and doom fostered my many in the media is as unjustified as it is corrosive.

Our global report card right now? A for effort. B for results. C for consistency. D for media integrity. And F for domestic political responsibility.

9) NOW ON A PERSONAL NOTE – I’m sorry for the relatively light posting the past couple of weeks. The transition from Florida to Boston is always a really busy time, and it left less time for Soxblog than I would have liked.

It’s really a shame. With the Sox spanking the Yankees and so many of you putting way too much emphasis on immigration (please, no letters on the matter, or at least no new letters that just repeat what you’ve already said), I’ve had a lot I wanted to say. Oh well.

Anyway, things around here should be back to normal, so let the good times roll.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Sunday, May 21, 2006


As careful readers may have noticed, the past seven days was the first-ever “Piss Off the Readers” week at Soxblog. Not satisfied with irritating only 80% of you by admitting a lack of passion over the immigration issue, I then proceeded to annoy the remainder of you by writing a piece on Bill O’Reilly that turned out to be insufficiently worshipful for the big guy’s fans

Trust me, all of this was inadvertent. Truly, I aim to please. With that in mind, please read on as I shift to more hospitable terrain – mocking the New York Times and, yes, openly questioning its editorial board’s patriotism. I have every hope that by the time I’m finished with this piece, all will be forgiven.

On Saturday, one Katherine Ellison wrote an op-ed piece for the Times on the encroaching menace that is global warming. Ellison, the author of “The Mommy Brain,” apparently has special standing to weigh in on environmental concerns being a mother and all. After all, those of us without children really don’t care whether this creaking planet can hold out for more than another generation or two.

In her piece, Ellison lamented the sad fact that “at last count, China, India and the United States were building a total of 850 new coal-fired power plants.” As every liberal “knows”, this is awful because coal wreaks more havoc on the environment than a Kennedy does on an innocent automobile.

Anyway, Ellison’s assertion about the collective harm being wrought by America, India and China got me to wondering what portion of the putative damage each country is responsible for. Ellison’s article doesn’t address the issue.

A brief Google search unearthed the column that I’m reasonably sure Ellison based her research on. It’s very timely – it appeared in the Christian Science Monitor a scant 17 months ago.

The 850 is a rounded off figure; the fact that Ellison and The Monitor use the same rounded off figure as well as the same careless (and irrelevant) lumping together of China, India and America is why I figure this CSM column was her source. If she used a more recent source, I’ll be glad to partially apologize.

Anyway, of the some 850 new-coal fired power plants being planned (as of December 2004), guess how many were to be America’s doing? 72. India was planning 213 such plants, while China was chipping in a mere 562, or roughly 8 times the amount contemplated by the U.S. according to the ancient CSM story.

I UNDERSTAND IT WOULD UPSET the world view of some people if the U.S. were not the root of all global evils. But since Ellison presumably read the Christian Science Monitor story, her reportage of it is disingenuous at best.

What the hell – let’s call a spade a spade. It’s a lie. Ellison’s clear insinuation is that the U.S., India and China bear comparable measures of culpability. This simply isn’t the case and, being a pro writer and all, she doubtlessly knew what she was doing with her careless wording. After all, if I told a blind date who knew little about baseball that Barry Bonds and I have combined for 715 career homeruns, while technically true the obvious purpose of such a comment would be to deceive the lass (and maybe get her to come home with me).

But let us not limit our wrath to Ellison. Ellison was just doing what dishonest pundits do – distorting facts to better fit a pre-existing worldview. She obviously doesn’t get a pass, but it does make one wonder where the Times’ editors were.

When I read the column, my first thought was to wonder how many of the plants were American, but not for a reason that the all-knowing Ellison would respect, presumably. I think it’s a scandal how America has under-invested in coal and nuclear power while our oil dependency funds our enemies in the Middle East, but I figured if we were building 1/3 of 850 coal plants we’ve been a lot more active than I had figured and that would be a good thing.

But the Times’ editors, if we give them the benefit of the doubt, never thought to ponder which nations were building how many. Why? Is it believable that they read the stuff that goes into their paper so credulously and with such a complete absence of common sense inquiry?

This Ellison op-ed piece shows the Times’ editors at their dishonest worst. The assertion that America is the root of some evil is so obviously true, no further questions need be asked.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Thursday, May 18, 2006


WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN? I’d wager not much. You probably don’t have a clue as to where he stood on gay marriage, illegal immigration, tax policy, or pork barrel spending. Let’s face it – there’s even a possibility then when it came to such matters, Neville Chamberlain was the most inspired leader in the history of the British Empire.

Of course, none of us would be aware of such accomplishments by Chamberlain because he booted the big one. He thought he could have peace with Hitler. He was wrong. Millions perished as a result of this grievous error. Even if his leadership was the picture of perfection in every other regard, Neville Chamberlain remains the personification of a failed leader because he was entirely mistaken on the biggest issue of his day.

MY VIRTUAL MENTOR, the great and good Hugh Hewitt, has invited me to participate in a little on-line dust-up over whether rock-ribbed Republicans should make their callow and disappointing leadership pay at the ballot box come November. From what I gather, Mark Tapscott has been the most eloquent voice in defense of the notion that the bums should be thrown out, especially if they’re Republican bums.

Skillfully mixing realpolitik with idealism, Tapscott concludes that Republican losses in 2006 will likely be offset by gains in 2008. But wait, there’s more! The Republicans who are swept in by 2008’s tidal wave of pro-conservative/anti-moonbat sentiment will be more reliable conservatives than the pathetic Chafee-types that currently stalk the halls of the Capitol forever seeking out ways to stick their collective thumb into conservative America’s collective eye.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty ably represents the opposition to Tapscott’s theory. At the risk of over-simplifying Geraghty’s thesis, Jim suggests that conservatives acting to throw the Republican bums out would be the political equivalent of biting their noses off to spite their face.

FOR ME, THE ANALYSIS GOES TO basic principles. Namely, what is the biggest issue of the day?

The biggest issue of the day from history’s viewpoint will undoubtedly be civilization’s struggle with radical Islam. We are at war with Radical Islam. If you don’t believe that, let me offer a less controversial assertion – Radical Islam is at war with us.

How grave is the threat that the Jihadis pose? Existential. In other words, if Ahmadenijad has his way, America will cease to exist in any recognizable form. Of course, Ahmadenijad is just the most prominent dangerously deranged wacko of the week. Bin Laden remains deadly; so too do hundreds of thousands of Salafist Saudis. So does a fifth column already in America.

The goal of our foes is not to be a murderous nuisance. The goal is not to get Israel to fall back to pre-1967 borders. The goal is global conquest.

What I admire about this administration is it understands the threat, and it wants to fight it. If John Kerry were president, you just know he’d be looking for a way to jawbone the issue out to 2013 while applying global tests that would give him permission not to fight. If Al Gore were president, we’d still be looking for the root causes of 9/11 and consulting Bill Maher on where the “Why They Hate Us” pavilion should be located at Ground Zero.

But here’s what I suspect about Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney – the three of them are trying to figure out a way to strike Iran right now in a manner that will destroy the enemy and be tolerated by the American body politic. After all, we’re going to have to deal with this menace eventually. Better to do it now before the mullahs have nuclear weapons at their disposal. If I didn’t believe that Bush and company were willing and ready to fight, I would be indifferent to November’s results as well.

In some ways, I sympathize with Tapscott’s formulation. It would be tough to shed any tears if Lincoln Chafee were sent packing. Hell, I’ll go all in – it would be tough to weep if the Republican Party got as a reward for its incompetent twelve year stewardship of the House the demotion to minority party that it has so completely earned.

But unfortunately, we don’t have time for party purification at the moment. History’s moving too fast. We can’t take two years off for John Conyers to mount impeachment proceedings while the liberal blogosphere does multiple victory laps.

Just think of all the important committees Ted Kennedy would be chairman of. And consider two more terrifying words – Speaker Pelosi. Does that sound like a solid wartime government to you?

Our enemies will not be taking the next two years off – of that you can be sure. Friends, we live in consequential times. To paraphrase a great man, you go to war with the Party you have, not the Party you wish you had.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Blogger Chris Bowers, perhaps the brightest light in the left wing blogosphere, has won elective office. Not particularly high elective office, but elective office nonetheless. In Pennsylvania’s primaries yesterday, the voice of the people was heard – Chris Bowers is now officially a member of the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee.

Showing the much-heralded modesty that the blogosphere is justly famous for, Bowers refuses to make much of his triumph. He settles for merely stating the obvious:

“I will now serve on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. The city, the state, and the nation will change as a result. I promise everyone that.”

See, you benighted nimrods out there thought the president, congress and the Supreme Court have been running things. And yet, the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee has been pulling the strings all along.

Seems kind of obvious now, doesn’t it?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com


You want to know my favorite part of the coverage of the President’s speech Monday evening? Come on – you’re just feigning indifference. You know and I know that now that I’ve raised the subject, the curiosity is nearly killing you.

As is my wont, I was watching the speech on Fox News. After the president had concluded, Britt Hume and the boys batted around the speech a little bit. And then Hume mused (and I’m quoting from memory here), “But what do the folks think about the speech? What are the folks thinking?” And with that he proceeded to query Bill O’Reilly, who Hume reminded us with a wicked glint in his eyes, is all-knowing in the ways of the folks.

If you’ve never watched O’Reilly before, O’Reilly refers to “the folks” as a shorthand for good American types who embody our nation’s virtue. O’Reilly is both the self appointed defender and spokesman for the mystical “folks.”

What I found thrilling about the exchange between Hume and O’Reilly is that they represent the two opposite polls of Fox news. Hume brings the network credibility; without the gravitas oozing Hume, Fox might well be all that its critics (who more often than not have hardly watched the channel) claim it to be.

Hume elevates the level of the discourse on Fox. There’s no doubt that he’s a conservative, but he’s also a newsman. Without the credibility that Hume (and a handful of others at Fox) provides, O’Reilly’s shtick never would have been able to take off.

So what exactly is O’Reilly’s shtick? Basically, the big guy has guests on who allow him to express his views. If the segment regards what should be done with child molesters, the guests’ presence merely serves as an aid by which O’Reilly can most effectively communicate his opinion on the matter.

It’s easy to underestimate O’Reilly given his occasional dips into blowhard territory, but consider this: He’s been doing his show for nearly a decade always walking a tightrope between speaking for the folks and falling into an abyss of self-parody. Sometimes he stumbles, but rarely. And he knows enough to keep you guessing. There are moments when you watch O’Reilly and can’t believe what an intelligent and fair conversation he’s just led.

Of course such times are the exception. O’Reilly’s true genius, and the reason why he’s so popular, is he speaks horse-sense that 80% of the public will agree with and yet no one else of his prominence is saying. Like when he said gay-pride parades that feature over the top flamboyance (to put it nicely) were inappropriate public displays – no one else with his TV audience says such things, and yet when he accompanies the assertion with the footage of the offending parade, the folks, indeed, almost unanimously support his position.

To some extent it’s an act – Bill’s in show business and he knows it. But it’s a really good act. If you’re a liberal and you’ve never watched his show, I guarantee you’ll be stunned at how many things he says that you agree with.

O’Reilly’s also a little hammy. All the talk of “the folks” and things like “Talking Points” which in O’Reilly-speak is a three syllable, two word substitute for “I”, are done a little tongue in cheek. And that’s what made it so funny to see Hume tweak O’Reilly on the matter.

When the camera swung to O’Reilly after Hume inquired what “the folks” might be making of the president’s speech, O’Reilly wasn’t amused but he wasn’t angry. He knows that speaking for the folks is his self chosen profession.

And he’s damn good at it.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com



Well, it turns out that a plane actually did crash into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

For some who may have missed it, certain factions within the Loony Left have been pushing the theory that the Pentagon was never really hit by a plane, but instead was hit by a “super-duper secret missile” or some other concoction from the D.C. equivalent of the Grassy Knoll. Just last week The Huffington Post gave prominent billing to a post about an Internet movie “Loose Change” on this subject [which, by the way, at least one blog has done an admirable job of debunking].

The implication of the movie, those who have pushed the movie, and those who have provided a haven for those who have pushed the movie is, of course, that 9/11 was a government conspiracy used to consolidate government power, enrich Halliburton, provide a pretext for nabbing our library cards, etc. As breathless HuffPo correspondent Mr. Jason Pollack stated:

“Another thing that has been hotly contested but virtually proven in this film is that the Pentagon was not hit by a regular-sized passenger plane. What did hit the Pentagon then? Was it a missile? I ask you to watch this [Loose Change] and make your own conclusions.”

Oops. In fairness to Mr. Pollack and his conspiracy theory, I guess he didn’t say “actually” proven, he said “virtually” proven.

Perhaps in another era, this sort of thing would not deserve attention of any kind, but there is a broader point here that speaks to the tenor of political discourse in this country, and in particular to those who have made a fetish of conspiracy theories, and especially those theories so dearly held by the Left.

In October 2002, Ron Rosenbaum wrote an article with the title “Goodbye, Left Wing Idiocy,” which is still one of the very best post 9/11 essays that have been written, and without question deserves a “read the whole” thing mention not just for today, but for this decade. In his essay, Rosenbaum renounces a number of the left wing idiocies that most of us are by now quite familiar with, and he gives them a good swift kick with the quote from Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That:

“So, for my part, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of “peace marches,” women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis…”

“Goodbye to the brilliant thinkers of the Left who believe it’s the very height of wit to make fun of George W. Bush’s intelligence—thereby establishing, of course, how very, very smart they are…”

“Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence…”

Rosenbaum then concludes his essay with probably the Left’s greatest blindspot, i.e., its unwillingness to adjust its worldview in the face of facts:

Goodbye to people who have demonstrated that what terror means to them is the terror of ever having to admit they were wrong, the terror of allowing the hideous facts of history to impinge upon their insulated ideology.

Goodbye to all those who have evidently adopted as their own, a version of the simpering motto of the movie Love Story. Remember “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?

I would like to think that somebody at HuffPo will have the stones to disown Mr. Pollack’s anthem to “Loose Change,” or maybe even “Loose Change” itself, but I am afraid the Ron Rosenbaums of this world are far and few between. The hideous facts demonstrated by the Pentagon’s video will not likely impinge on anybody’s ideology in those quarters. There will be no Goodbyes, and there will certainly be no Goodbyes To All That.

As Rosenbaum concluded his essay, today “Left means never having to say you’re sorry[.]”

DEAN ADDS: Note how Carl has made himself at home here, feeling welcome to not only dole out a "read the whole thing" prize but a super-duper-special "read the whole thing" prize. I might consider enforcing some discipline on the young upstart, but the fact is he has recommended one of the finest essays of recent years. Read the whole thing indeed.

By the way, it's been a travel day for me, but I will try to return this evening with some thoughts on Bill O'Reilly. No promises, but I will give it my level best.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2006



When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I've lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

Leonard Cohen, Partisan

Sometimes politics imitates Leonard Cohen. Having long ago given up on the jitters that accompany watching a live speech by President Bush, I decided to review the text of the speech, which can be found here.

I came away with the impression that this is a topic in which a little Cohen-esque incoherence is not only unavoidable, but perhaps even desirable.

There are, after all, two conflicting values woven into the immigration issue, and nobody has yet proposed a solution that does full justice to these values. First, there is the understandable goal of securing the border, which nobody in their right mind would dream of neglecting after 9/11, and which by the way, makes the following quote from Bush’s speech rather troubling: “we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that.” [Hmmm…4+ years after 9/11, one might legitimately ask why not, Mr. President?] If illegals continue to “pour across the border” are we not in effect surrendering? This we obviously cannot do. There is enough blame to go around about the status quo, but the status quo must change.

The second value tied up on this issue is the recognition that most who have come to this country illegally are decent people, and we as a society have benefited from the labor of these decent people. Some literally have lost their wife and children to come to this country, and, when juxtaposed against the fact that we can barely produce 50% of our populace to vote in a Presidential election, one must ask whether America could ever withstand the scandal of deporting (mass or otherwise) such people. I am aware, for instance, of a person who literally swam the Rio Grande River to get to this country. She works hard as a maid, all day long. I would dare say this person has done more to prove her bona fides as an American than most of the rest of us. If we are going to “round up” such people out of sacred respect for the law, then let’s start rounding up all of the waitresses who haven’t paid taxes on their tips, and every carpenter who has ever done weekend work and been paid under the table.

I am not a fan of fences, especially those that get straddled, but it is a fact that any solution to the illegal immigration problem in this country is going to require a compromise. A compromise regarding legitimate but competing values is not something to be ashamed of, and the Bush is to be commended for his efforts in this direction last night. The President is not expecting anybody’s values to vanish. He’s just asking the Partisans to put down their guns.

This seems like a fair request to me.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/16/2006

1) SO WHAT ABOUT THE SPEECH? – I liked it. I thought it was Bush at his best, one of those times where his basic decency was completely apparent.

When it comes to immigration, you should know something - I’m less passionate and less informed about immigration than I am about a lot of other issues. It just isn’t an issue that pushes my buttons. For those of you who are passionate about it, sorry. For any Minutemen in the audience, double-sorry.

What I saw last night seemed like a common sense approach to what’s become a big problem. For what it’s worth, the immigration conundrum is yet another issue that the neglect of previous administrations plopped in the current administration’s lap. It’s not like the border was impregnable before Bush took office.

The first step seems to secure the border. That’s a national security issue, but like protecting commercial airliners from shoulder launched missiles, it’s a national security issue that seems to have oddly failed to quicken the administration’s pulse. But better late than never.

What I liked most about the speech was the president’s good-hearted approach to our current 12 million or so illegal immigrants. Although I don’t generally give the subject much thought, it did have occasion to intrude on my consciousness yesterday afternoon. As we close Soxblog Manor South for the summer, we’re doing a busload of yard work. For those of you city folk, please know that things like transplanting a fully grown gardenia in the hot May Florida sun is hard work.

Or at least it seemed like hard work. I didn’t do it. I had a small army of Spanish speaking gardeners do it. Naturally given the political debate of the day, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the guys toiling away in the heat yesterday possessed documentation that was on the wrong side of legitimate.

But regardless, they embody the America spirit. They didn’t come here to loaf; they didn’t come here to make demands of the U.S. government. They came here to find a better life and are willing to work their asses off to make it happen.

For a long time, American immigration policy has been the equivalent of our speed limits. While the speed limit sign says 55 MPH, everyone knows you’re not going to get a ticket for driving 56. Hell, everyone knows you’re not really in the danger zone unless you get above 65 MPH.

When the written laws don’t jibe with the enforcement they receive, the situation invites a certain amount of skullduggery. Stepping back from this situation has to by necessity be done compassionately and sensibly. Ranting at the border or going Tancredo in the House may satisfy some primal urge, but it’s not productive.

I thought the president found a sensible middle yesterday. The easiest thing would have been for him to take a hard line and spew some fiery rhetoric. This president doesn’t roll that way. Even if the public isn’t grateful at the moment, history will be.

Now can we get back to planning a war with Iran?

2) DID SOMEONE MENTION IRAN? Bret Stephens has a characteristically insightful piece on the Journal’s site today about the kind of more muscular diplomacy the U.S. should employ in dealing with the nutocracy over there. Stephens’ ideas are compelling, and the approaches he urges would doubtlessly be more effective than the current plan of subbing out the problem to our weak-kneed and callow European allies. But then again, how could they possibly be less effective?

While Stephens’ suggestions are worth a crack, the sad fact remains that Ahmadenijad is spoiling for a fight. Part of the problem in dealing with unhinged mental cases is that when they’re spoiling for a fight, no amount of sweet talk can make them have a change of heart on the matter. The storm continues to gather, and the chances of dissipating it are slim.

3) SEVERAL OF YOU HAVE SENT THIS TO ME…and with good cause. One Steve Almond, an “adjunct professor of English” at Boston College is resigning his post because Boston College had the audacity to invite Condoleezza Rice to speak at B.C.’s commencement ceremonies.

I don’t have much to add to the obvious idiocy of Adjunct Professor Almond’s stance, but there are a few things worth mentioning. “Adjunct Professor” in the university setting invariably means part time, usually very part time. In other words, in spite of the suggestions of courage implicit in Adjunct Professor Almond’s resignation, I suspect that the blow to his wallet will be considerably less than ferocious.

Adjunct Professor Almond’s letter insists that his stance is not motivated by politics or antipathy to the Iraq war. Rather, his “concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.” He is quite agitated that B.C. “would entrust to Rice the role of moral exemplar…It is the content of one's character that matters here.” Given his taste, for heightened morality, one can be quite certain that if the moral pygmy Bill Clinton were invited in Rice’s stead, Almond would doubtlessly have written a similar screed. After all, this isn’t political.

Lastly, I found the following passage particularly edifying: “I would also urge (my students) to exercise their own First Amendment rights at her speech.” In other words, he urges his young charges to shout the Secretary of State down. And so thorough is his ignorance, he thinks they have a First Amendment to do so.

I understand that in the typical college, Adjunct Professor is a title as prestigious as (and less important than) assistant custodian. But nevertheless, if Almond is at all typical of the kind of man molding B.C.’s young minds, then Boston College definitely has some explaining to do.

4) THEY’RE OUT THERE – I know people who really liked “The West Wing.” I saw it twice, found the writing flabby and predictable. In my humble opinion, it was the state of the art for a late 90’s tele-drama – in other words, in my admittedly limited sample, it just wasn’t very good. I didn’t stick around long enough to get turned off by the liberal agitprop that apparently so dominated the show.

But I did find this nugget from the series finale funny. The first lady asked the President why Inauguration Day was in January; he responded that it was the will of the founding fathers. I would hazard a bet that at least a good portion of you know that Inaugural Day was in March until well into the 20th century.

Okay, writing a TV show isn’t the same as being a presidential scholar at Columbia. But given the show’s pretensions, isn’t it a rather embarrassing commentary that no one associated with the show recognized this glaring error?

5) DEMOCRATS’ INTRAMURAL FEUD CONTINUES – In the adoring eyes of the liberal blogs, Howard Dean can do no wrong. If Dean mugged an old woman and stole her purse, a bunch of Kos diarists would assume the woman was a Republican and pay tribute to Dean’s passion.

Dean’s commitment to running a 50 state campaign, however, has arched some eyebrows amongst the Democrats’ consulting class. After all, when a party like the Democrats has scarce resources, it wouldn’t seem to make much sense to expend those scarce resources building in infrastructure in places like Mississippi where liberalism is far from adored.

Paul Begala underscored the misguided nature of this policy, and did so with colorful if juvenile imagery. Decrying Dean’s spendthrift ways with hard-earned Democratic greenbacks, Begala piquantly concluded, “What he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose."

As day inevitably follows night, Begala’s comment has provoked a furious stream of commentary on the Daily Kos. Utah’s Democratic Party chief was clearly wounded, stating, “The ‘pick their nose’ comment is hurtful to Democrats who are truly on the frontline. An apology to my hardworking staff is in order.”

Let it be noted – they are not picking their noses. Contemplating their navels, maybe. But definitely not picking their noses.

6) THE MAN IS MAD – Bob Kuttner is angry because Hilary Clinton is allowing Rupert Murdoch to thrown a fund-raiser for her. Because Murdoch is right wing and Clinton is left wing, Kuttner simply cannot comprehend that the two might be able to share a room without spewing bile at one another.

Although Kuttner does most of his work with dead trees, this may be something of a non-sequitir, but I think his kind of attitude has become a lot more common since the advent of the blogosphere. I think the lay-person would be surprised by the amount of comity that usually exists between even the most determined political foes. That’s because most people, when you get right down to it, would rather converse amicably than spew bile at one another.

But in the blogs, where there’s no personal interaction, it’s easy to be on the non-stop offensive. It’s easy to be relentlessly hostile. But when you’re looking your opponent in the eyes, it becomes a lot harder to maintain such an angry edge.

In working for the Standard, I’ve interviewed everyone from Governors to a Nazi to James Carville to editors for the Boston Globe. In all that time, I’ve only had one unpleasant conversation and it wasn’t with the Nazi. (It was with a well-known mainstream media journalist in case you’re wondering.) In human interactions, civility is the order of the day.

The fact that Hilary Clinton would break bread with Rupert Murdoch after all his publications have said about her (including the Standard, I’m proud to say!) shocks Kuttner. That tells you a lot about him.

7) FOR WHATEVER REASON…there was a lot of talk about organ transplantation on the nation’s op-ed pages the last few days. Sally Satel, who just received a new kidney, boldly approaches the idea that people ought to be able to sell their organs (kidneys, lung-lobes, etc.) to help offset the gap between the need for organs and the availability. As Satel points out, 18 people die a day awaiting a new organ.

I have some skin in this game, seeing as I’m waiting for an organ or two myself, so I think I have the standing to say this is a simply wretched idea. Look, I love the free market, but if rich people were to begin to buy poor people’s organs, would that not be a clear sign of capitalism running amok? One can only imagine the fun John “Two Americas” Edwards and like-minded demagogues would have with such an arrangement. Oh, and that’s not even considering the poor people in need of organs who couldn’t afford to purchase them.

8) SORRY FOR THE LIGHT BLOGGING the last few days. Sometimes life intrudes. But it’s not like I left you completely high and dry. On Friday, I had a story in the Standard about a Harvard Business School professor who thinks we’re on the verge of a shooting Civil War. If you haven’t already, check it out

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Thursday, May 11, 2006


How is a fair person to react to the fact that “Reverend” Jesse Jackson has adopted Barry Bonds as one his pet causes? I think the only equitable response is to point out what a sad and pathetic figure Jesse Jackson has become. Take the following quote, which even by Jesse’s standards is incredibly idiotic:

''There are a lot of agendas here on this whole Barry watch. Hank had none of the perspective, or should I say the political baggage, of Barry in terms of how people perceive Barry to be. He faced the death threats. Somehow the magic mark of 714 had a lot of stuff in our culture all wrapped up in it. When he broke it, it was at least as dramatic a moment, at least as threatening as Jackie [Robinson] breaking in in 1947."

If I were Barry, I’d send Jesse packing and see if Al Sharpton is available.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

SPANNING THE WEB - 5/11/2006

1) THAT’S SORT OF WHAT I SAID – How does the CIA get most of its human intelligence (or HUMINT as the New York Times editorial board refers to it when it’s really trying to butch up)? If you said by training high level James Bond types to stealthily steal the secrets of foreign powers, I hereby banish you to the Daily Kos for a week where you will be responsible for reading not only the front page but all the “recommended diaries.”

In reality, the CIA gets most of its intelligence by putting a handful of CIA agents in a country’s embassy and then having those guys wait for the phone to ring or the doorbell to chime. For real. If you don’t believe me, check out this Reul Marc Gerecht column that I’m linking to. It has ever been thus. If you believe otherwise, you’ve read too many Robert Ludlum novels.

The hole in this strategy is that in some countries like Iran today or Iraq of yesteryear, we don’t have embassies. In such places, we have virtually no intelligence gathering ability, at least as far as HUMINT is concerned. We can still gather intelligence with gadgets like satellites and bugs and other neat stuff, but having an intrepid James Bond-type sleuth around Iran to learn the secrets of the mullahs’ nuclear program is a juvenile fantasy.

Is it not a reflection of the pampered narcissism of some people that they find nothing odd in demanding perfection in an area that they don’t understand and where perfection is in fact impossible?

2) INTERESTING STUFF FROM PEGGY – Ms. Noonan today writes on how the administration and congress have lost their way. Some indeed have lost the way; others never knew the way in the first place.

If you’re a John Kerry-type politician, you ran for office because that’s what you were programmed to do since you were 11. If anyone thinks John Kerry, had he been born in Montana, would be a liberal Democrat, you just don’t know John Kerry.

Both parties are full of people like John Kerry, although to be fair, Kerry represents a certain evolutionary perfection of a politician fueled purely by ambition, with no other concerns like ideology ever polluting matters. But there are lots of elected officials in Washington who are there because they’ve done well in their chosen field of professional office-seeking. It should come as little surprise when such people prove ideologically unmoored.

Peggy represents the Fall of Republicans from Grace as a great morality tale, because when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Peggy’s hammer is her own moral superiority and purity which she uses to bludgeon every nail in sight. That’s why she is often so gratingly preachy.

While she’s not completely wrong, the truth is actually far more banal. Many of our politicians were profoundly flawed people when they came to office. You want better office-holders, elect better people.

3) THE KENNEDYS ARE ASKING YOU…just how gullible are you? Okay, here’s the Kennedy account of things. Patrick Kennedy was on medication for gastroenteritis. He also took Ambien to help him fall asleep. Full disclosure: I love Ambien. Other than Mrs. Soxblog clubbing me over the head with a hammer (which I frequently deserve), it’s the most reliable way for me to get a good night’s sleep.

Patches’ Ambien and heartburn medicine had a toxic effect and combined to make him act like your typical drunken Kennedy. He then tooled around the Capitol at 3:00 a.m. without his lights on, almost hit a police cruiser, and concluded his journey by crashing into a jersey barrier. The Kennedy party line is that he did this purely because of the medication. And it’s true, some people have had bizarre reactions to the same meds; one guy began undressing on an airplane thinking he was the Incredible Hulk. (He wasn’t.)

But, purely coincidentally, Patches realized the day he crashed into the barrier that he has a completely unrelated substance abuse problem. Mind you, this substance abuse problem had nothing to do with the car crash – the Ambien and the heartburn medication were the culprits for that.

The Kennedys want you to believe all of this. So again – how gullible are you?

4) MUGGED BY REALITY – Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote a column that said Stephen Colbert wasn’t funny at the White House Correspondents dinner. This enraged the left wing blogosphere which sent him thousands of vulgar and vituperative emails to maturely express its disagreement with his sentiments. Cohen then wrote another column suggesting that he was shocked – shocked – at the nature of these emails and seemed profoundly wounded. He even went so far as to characterize his angry correspondents as a “digital lynch mob,” which is almost a Sullivan-esque phrase given the way it mixes self-pity with grandiose over-statement. Georgia10, the Daily Kos’ resident shopaholic, characterized Cohen’s second column eloquently with one word: “Yawn.”

The fact that the liberal blogosphere has given voice to the left wing’s inner child is not news. The further fact that the little brat now won’t shut up is also not news. The final fact that a ranking liberal poobah like Cohen seems shocked by these developments is perhaps newsworthy. Under what rock has he been hiding the past three years?

Not for nothing, I just feel like adding that as the Weekly Standard’s occasional beat-man on the Daily Kos, I am no stranger to hostile emails myself. I have perfected a response to these missives that is guaranteed to not only further anger the writer, but also provides me with hours of amusement. It has the added benefit of making the Moonbat in question soon disappear.

I have shared this secret with a few other bloggers who have also had great mirth with it. If you’re a blogger besieged by angry email, drop me a line. I’ll change your life.

5) CONSULTANT SPEAK FOR DUMMIES – Whenever the Boston Globe tries to write about the real world where actual commerce gets done, hilarity inevitably ensues. Take this passage from a story a couple of days ago: “While as yet little understood, micro-inequalities are an important challenge for companies seeking to diversify to become more innovative or better reflect their client base. Small wrongs help breed a hostile atmosphere and derail teamwork.”

What’s a micro-inequality? To fully understand the concept, you’ll have to have a consultant visit your company who charges $600 an hour. But it’s a bargain. After all, you wouldn’t want your teamwork derailed, would you?

6) HOW LOW CAN HE GO? The latest New York Times poll has President Bush’s approval rating at a Carter-esque (or Truman-esque, if you prefer the rose colored view) of 31%. I don’t put much stock in this figure; Rasmussen still has W. hovering around 40% and since Rasmussen has been a lot righter a lot more often than the Times, I’m more inclined to give Scottie’s robots the benefit of the doubt.

What is interesting in the Times’ poll is the fact that only 51% of conservatives approve of the president. That sounds about right. My inbox hasn’t exactly been flooded with tributes to the POTUS recently.

As far as how this will play out in November, a lot of people are trying to figure out how to relight the fires of the right. Bill O’Reilly wants to hermetically seal the border (fine with me); others want more tax cuts (also fine with me).

But it is my unshakable belief that events will motivate the right – events in the Middle East probably. And if that doesn’t work, surely the left will ride to our rescue and begin talking about impeachment and convictions and surrendering in Iraq. The Republicans’ best GOTV concept is to make sure they keep running against Democrats.

7) ANOTHER BOOK RECOMMENDATION – I read Mark Bowden’s lengthy account of the Iranian hostage crisis, “Guests of the Ayatollah” the last few days. It is truly spectacular and of course wonderfully timely. I’ll probably be back later in the day with a full length post on it. In the meantime, click over to Amazon and order the book. You’ll thank me.

8) TOUGH TO ARGUE WITH – Democratic blogger the Bull Moose says that “The left wing netroots (are) an infantile disorder.” Love to see what his inbox looks like today.

9) PROUD OF MY TOWN – If designer Philippe Starck thought he was going to breeze into the Hub of the Universe and dazzle us with his overdone designs and get us to lay out millions for condos so opulent they would make the Sun King blush, he had another thing coming. Evidence of what Starck was trying to peddle in the hub is nearby; he should have known our Yankee flintiness wouldn’t allow us to purchase an apartment with such a water closet. Even Boston’s surfeit of Eurotrash have apparently said “nón” to the units. According to the Globe, the condos are moving slower than Ted Kennedy at closing time.

Yet another reason to be proud of Boston, still the City of Champions.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


For kicks and giggles, let’s take a brief look at the recent history of our intelligence community.

Thanks to the efforts of certain well intentioned uber-moralists who once ran our government, we reached a national consensus on the need to debilitate our spooking abilities in the 1970’s. While the morality of this decision can be debated, its wisdom cannot. It was stupid.

This stupidity came back to bite us hard on 9/11. On that day, we came to realize not only our limitations regarding human intelligence (or HUMINT as those in the know prefer to call it), but that the analysts analyzing things for our intelligence agencies couldn’t analyze their way out of a proverbial paper bag.

As the CIA has progressively relaxed its standards for going public in order to better prosecute its war against the Bush administration, the reason for the Agency’s inability to insightfully deconstruct even the most basic fact patterns has become apparent. The CIA had and has in its employ an inordinate number of high ranking dolts. When you have guys like Ray McGovern and Michael Scheuer holding important positions, men who believe that all would be well if Israel would just have the common decency to disappear from the map, it is a sign that your Agency has hit the intellectual pits.

So woeful was the state of our intelligence agencies, the entire United States government basically threw up its hands and outsourced the problem to the former governor of New Jersey. After all, who would know more about building an intelligence agency from scratch than the former governor of New Jersey, especially when he’s being aided by wise and experienced espionage hands like Richard ben Veniste?

While the preceding may sound facetious, it accurately reflects reality. No politician had the guts to stand in the way of the all-knowing 9/11 Commission, especially after the media adopted any recommendation from the Commission as if it were wisdom handed down from Mount Ararat. So even if the Commission’s recommendation/decree would give birth to a bloated bureaucracy when everyone seemed to agree that what was most necessary was a greater facility for nimbleness, the political class rushed to embrace the 9/11 Commission’s Revelations.

The only lingering question regarding the folly of the 9/11 Commission is why the Bush Administration rolled over and played dead for this collection of former pols and current hacks (Lee Hamilton excepted). After all, the administration has never been known for doing things just to have an easy news cycle. Quite the contrary, this administration seems to go out of its way to do unpopular things.

Only now, the answer to the mystery has become clear. The introduction of an intelligence czar was the most expeditious way of finally putting the CIA out of its misery.

Putting the CIA out of its misery would prove to be a two-step process. The first step, still ongoing, is clearing the agency of its elements who consider themselves unanswerable to any authority other than their own none-too-powerful insights. Yes, the left has had a series of belly laughs the past few years as the agency has waged a pointy-headed Jihad at the White House, but if allowed to continue to exist in its current form, someday it will be the Democrats’ ox that gets gored.

The next step is to bring the Agency under capable adult supervision. This means the Agency must act in concert with the rest of the American government, not in opposition to it. In a sane world, the appointment of General Michael Hayden to run the CIA, an appointment which promises greater cooperation between the Pentagon, the Agency, and the Director of National Intelligence, would be universally hailed as a wise move. But certain parties have grown quite attached to the roguish nature of the 21st century CIA. Anything that promises to make the Agency a loyal member of the government when that government is being run by George W. Bush will displease the Bush bashers out there.

And then there’s the final critique about Hayden’s appointment, that he’s just not a true believer when it comes to HUMINT like the New York Times editorial board is. There’s this childish conceit out there that if we just put a little more elbow grease to it, we’ll be able to penetrate the highest ranks of our adversaries’ governments at will. A little more HUMINT, this fanciful thinking goes, and the Iranian nuclear program will no longer be shrouded in mystery.

This views betrays such a shocking ignorance of history, you’d have to be an editor for the New York Times to buy it. Even when the CIA was at its James Bond best, we still had very limited insight into the Soviet Union. Careful students of history will recall that the crumbling of the Soviet Union caught our intelligence agencies as much by surprise as did 9/11. So, for that matter, did the USSR’s foray into Afghanistan. The sad fact is, gathering intelligence on closed societies is pretty damn difficult. The difficulty is even greater when those closed societies refuse to communicate in English or to even have the common decency to look like us.

The fear with Hayden is that he’ll be too into gadgets and not enough into planting intrepid spies into the Mullah-ocracy. Alas, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, although one avenue is intrinsically more exciting while the more boring one is intrinsically more effective.

Is Michael Hayden the right guy for the CIA? Only time will tell. But we can all take some small measure of hope in the fact that the bar has been set very low.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com