Fox News reports.
Bill Roggio reports:
Coalition special operations forces captured two members of the Iranian-supported Hezbollah Brigades during a raid in eastern Baghdad on early Thursday morning. The intelligence-driven raid targeted the home of a propaganda cell member, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. The cell member was responsible for videotaping Hezbollah Brigades attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad.
“This propaganda cell is suspected of making, videos of attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces, which are then used to raise funds and resources for additional attacks against Coalition forces and Iraqis,” the US military stated in a press release. The cell member was responsible for videotaping Hezbollah Brigades attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad.
While the exact neighborhood in Baghdad was not identified, Multinational Forces Iraq often referred to the New Baghdad district as east Baghdad. On July 21, Coalition forces captured a member of a Hezbollah Brigades propaganda cell who was responsible for uploading attack videos to the Internet in New Baghdad.
Power Line catches the latest Obama gaffe:
Barack Obama is a lot like Sean Penn or George Clooney. If you give him a script, he can deliver it pretty well. But if he tries to talk without a script that has been written for him by others, he quickly reveals that he is poorly-informed if not downright ignorant. Today he delivered another classic, by claiming that if only we would all properly inflate our tires, we could save as much gasoline as “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.” . . .
The stunned silence with which the crowd greets this howler suggests that most Americans have a more practical understanding of energy consumption than Obama.
Just for fun, I did the math. . . [Calculations omitted.] So, on the above assumptions, it would take only 11,308 years of proper tire inflation to equal “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.”
Obama is a curious case. He gives the impression of being an intelligent guy, but through his unscripted comments we have learned that he knows little about history, science or mathematics. He also seems rather shockingly short on common sense, as this most recent gaffe illustrates.
It’s no wonder why Obama cut off debating Hillary Clinton when people started paying attention, and is now dodging debates with McCain. Will the media be able to protect him until Election Day? Time will tell.
UPDATE (8/6): ABC takes Obama’s claim more seriously, but still finds it wanting. They’re bending over backward to be charitable to Obama, taking into account only the continental shelf (not Alaska) and assuming, implicitly, that we could only double oil production there. Even with those assumptions, they still come up with a full order of magnitude between drilling and tire inflation. (Via Instapundit.)
The latest Chinese oppression shows that farce need not wait for the tragedy to end:
Polishing up Beijing for the Olympics has extended to the city government telling residents what not to wear, advising against too many colors, white socks with black shoes, and parading in pajamas.
The advice, on top of campaigns to cut out public spitting and promote orderly lining up, was handed out in booklets to 4 million households ahead of the Olympics, an official said Thursday.
The etiquette book giving advice on everything from shaking hands to how to stand is part of a slew of admonitions on manners, said Zheng Mojie, deputy director of the Office of Capital Spiritual Civilization Construction Commission.
“The level of civility of the whole city has improved and a sound cultural and social environment has been assured for the success of the Beijing Olympic Games,” she said.
There should be no more than three color groups in your clothing, the book published by Zheng’s committee advises, and wearing pajamas and slippers to visit neighbors, as some elderly Beijing residents like to do, is also out. It recommends dark-colored socks, and says white socks should never be worn with black leather shoes.
In the last few years, the government has educated people on how to prepare for the Olympics under the slogan: “I participate, I contribute, I enjoy.”
(Via Hot Air.)
Imagine my shock and dismay at learning that terrorists don’t make good governments:
Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas and Fatah have both carried out serious human rights abuses over the past year, including arbitrary arrests and torture, according to a report on the bitter power struggle between the groups.
Human Rights Watch, in the report released on Wednesday, cited a pattern of politically motivated arrests, mock executions and severe beatings in detention centers run by Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip and President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction in the West Bank.
It faulted the United States and other donors, who have bankrolled Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and Fatah-dominated security forces, for “not paying adequate attention to the systematic abuses by those forces.” . . .
According to Human Rights Watch, masked Fatah security men in the West Bank have arrested hundreds of Hamas members and supporters without warrants.
The report said Fatah forces often tortured detainees during interrogation, apparently resulting in one death. Torture methods included mock executions, kicks and punches, and beatings with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses, it said.
The most common form of torture was forcing detainees to stay in “stress” positions, a practice known in Arabic as shabah, which causes intense pain and sometimes internal injury but leaves no physical mark, Human Rights Watch said.
Hamas forces in Gaza committed many of the same abuses, including arbitrary detentions accompanied by severe beatings and, in two cases, multiple gunshots at close range to the legs, Human Rights Watch said. In at least three cases, individuals died in custody, apparently from torture, the report said.
Human Rights Watch said Hamas and Fatah have both largely failed to hold accountable security men implicated in abuses.
Another report due to be released shortly reveals that the sun rises in the east, the Pope is Catholic, and water is wet.
The AP reports:
Democrat Barack Obama, the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House, says John McCain and his Republican allies will try to scare them by saying Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”
Stumping in an economically challenged battleground state, Obama argued Wednesday that President Bush and McCain will resort to scare tactics to maintain their hold on the White House because they have little else to offer voters.
“Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name, you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”
(ASIDE: Setting the race card aside, “other people” might be more apt than “other presidents”, since Obama is not a president, and neither were Hamilton or Franklin.)
The left is getting on the bandwagon, as witnessed by this Josh Marshall post, where he argues that John McCain’s “Celebrity” ad’s allusions to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are presumptively racist, and that criticizing Obama for pretending he’s the president when he’s not is also presumptively racist:
I note with interest today, John McCain’s new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women. . . Presumably, a la Harold Ford 2006, this will be one of those strategies that will be a matter of deep dispute during the campaign and later treated as transparent and obvious once the campaign is concluded.
But what I’m most interested in today is the new meme the McCain campaign has been pushing for the last few weeks that Obama is presumptuous, arrogant and well … just a bit uppity.
(Via the Corner.)
When the left is willing to see racism in cases like this, where there is not a hint of it, the game plan is clear. Any criticism of Obama will be castigated as racism. There’s no reason it will end with the election either. If Obama is elected president, for the next eight-to-ten years anyone who opposes to his radical program will be charged with racism. Naturally, many will still oppose him — particularly when his policies bring disaster — and the ensuing racism charges will leave America much more racially divided than today.
UPDATE: The Obama campaign tries to backpedal:
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the senator was not referring to race.
“What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington,” Gibbs said. “There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. He was referring to the fact that he didn’t come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race.”
Obama often makes references to his distinctions as a candidate, such as saying there are doubts among some voters because he has “a funny name.” At times he refers to his race as well, saying he looks different from any previous candidate but then adding that the differences are not just about race. Addressing supporters Wednesday night at a fundraiser in Springfield, Mo., he said, “It’s a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama.”
UPDATE: In case anyone takes this seriously, this was Obama last month:
The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?
This is the same riff, almost point for point: Republicans have no ideas, they’ll try to scare you, funny name, black. If it weren’t obvious from his actual remarks that he was referring to race, it is certainly obvious from the way he’s phrased those same remarks in the past.
(Via the Corner.)
UPDATE: The Obama campaign finally concedes the obvious.
The Telegraph reports:
The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia’s history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer.
She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss. . .
The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.
“If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.
Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.
According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.
(Via Hot Air.)
Here’s a shocker:
With the 2008 Olympic Games due to open in the shining Bird’s Nest Stadium on Aug. 8, [Amnesty International] on Tuesday gave a scathing assessment of China’s record, saying many of its citizens’ protections and freedoms have shrunk, not expanded, in the seven years since Beijing won the right to hold the Games.
The country has not honored vows to improve rights that officials made in lobbying for the Games, and was not living up to commitments as an Olympic host, the group stated in the report released in Hong Kong.
“There has been no progress towards fulfilling these promises, only continued deterioration,” it said in the report, titled “The Olympics countdown — broken promises.”
“The authorities have used the Olympic Games as pretext to continue, and in some respects, intensify existing policies and practices which have led to serious and widespread violations of human rights,” it said in the report released in Hong Kong.
Amnesty said that in the past year alone, thousands of petitioners, reformists and others were arrested as part of a government campaign to “clean up” Beijing before the games. It said many of those arrested have been sentenced to manual labor without trial.
And then there’s this related item:
Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive Web sites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted on Wednesday. . .
China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have this week complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked. . .
China has backed away from a promise to lift all Internet blocks on foreign media. . . Chinese officials assured news organizations “complete freedom to report” when bidding for the games seven years ago. The International Olympic Committee received further such assurances in April. But Kevan Gosper, a senior member of the IOC, said this week that the promise will apply only to sites related to “Olympic competitions.”
Palestinian officials from the Gaza Strip have distributed a set of carefully-staged photographs they say are evidence that the smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border are for milk and other essential goods, not weapons.
The photographs show masked Palestinian militants lifting jugs of milk and sacks of baby food from the entrance to one of the tunnels on the Gaza side of the border.
Israel insists that the tunnels, of which intelligence estimates indicate there are hundreds, are used to import small arms and advanced weapons like heavy mortar shells, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. The tunnels are also said to be the conduit via which the Palestinians receive the material used to build their Kassam rockets.
(Via Power Line.)
No surprise here:
China has installed Internet-spying equipment in all the major hotel chains serving the 2008 Summer Olympics, a U.S. senator charged on Tuesday. “The Chinese government has put in place a system to spy on and gather information about every guest at hotels where Olympic visitors are staying,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.
The conservative Republican from Kansas, citing hotel documents he received, added that journalists, athletes’ families and others attending the Olympics next month “will be subjected to invasive intelligence-gathering” by China’s Public Security Bureau. He said the agency will be monitoring Internet communications at the hotels.
The U.S. senator made a similar charge a few months ago but said that since then, hotels have come forward with detailed information on the monitoring systems that have been required by Beijing.
How to steal a state:
This November, voters in Michigan may be asked to consider a lengthy ballot initiative to revise the state’s constitution. Proposed by a group called Reform Michigan Government Now, the initiative’s ostensible purpose is to restore efficiency and accountability to Michigan government. A look at the fine print, and a recently disclosed strategy document, reveals something altogether different: A stealth campaign to restructure all three branches of government, including the state judiciary, for partisan advantage. . .
Buried in the text of the 19,500-word ballot initiative are provisions designed to shift partisan control of every branch of Michigan government, including the state courts. Among other things, the initiative would eliminate two seats on the Michigan supreme court and several more seats on the state Courts of Appeals. The constitutional revisions would also cut the size of the Michigan legislature, rewrite the standards for legislative districting, and adopt controversial election reforms, such as no-excuse absentee voting, which has the potential to increase voter fraud within the state. In all, the initiative would rewrite over two dozen provisions in the Michigan state constitution.
Proponents proclaim the ballot initiative is a bipartisan effort to improve Michigan government, but a recently disclosed strategy document revealed a more partisan agenda. According to a PowerPoint presentation drafted by political consultants working for initiative proponents, the ballot initiative’s primary virtue is its potential to hand control of Michigan government over to the Democratic party for at least a decade.
The presentation was delivered to a union leadership conference this past spring. A graduate student intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based free-market think tank, discovered the slides on the United Auto Workers Region 1-C website. This discovery revealed a breathtakingly cynical stealth campaign to rewrite the state constitution. As the title slide explains, the plan’s true purpose is “Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.”
Reform Michigan Government Now presents itself as a bipartisan good government initiative that seeks to make government more accountable and efficient. Yet according to the presentation, the real problem facing Michigan is not bloated or inefficient government, but the Democratic Party’s failure to control the state legislature and governor’s office.
In order to ensure pro-Democrat redistricting in 2011-12, the presentation explains, the Democratic party will need to control all three branches of government: the governor’s office, state legislature and the judiciary. According to one slide, control of the supreme court is the “most important,” as the court “can overturn redistricting” done by the political branches. It seems judicial oversight is a particular concern because the traditional state redistricting criteria, such as keeping communities together, are “systematically biased against Democrats.”
Most distressing, and revealing, is how the Reform Michigan Government Now plan “reforms” the state judiciary. Specifically, the ballot initiative selectively alters the composition of Michigan state courts at every level — trial courts, appellate courts, and the supreme court — each by a different standard. The only unifying theme is that each reform will increase the proportion of Democrat-appointed judges.
As in many states, Michigan’s supreme court justices are subject to re-election, giving court critics ample opportunity to seek change through traditional political means. But, the presentation explains, defeating incumbent justices would be costly and difficult. So, rather than promote candidates for the Court who would rubber stamp a pro-Democrat redistricting effort, and seek to have them elected fair and square, initiative proponents want to seize partisan control of the Court in one fell swoop by eliminating two seats and removing two Republican appointees from the Court. This is no accident, as the presentation makes clear when describing the relevant plank in the proposal: “Reduce the number of Supreme Court justices from seven to five; two GOP justices eliminated” (emphasis added).
(Via the Volokh Conspiracy.)
China is looking likely to be embarrassed by its failure to curb pollution in advance of the Olympics:
China has gone to Olympian lengths to try to ensure that its skies are clear for the Summer Games, which formally kick off in 10 days. It has spent $17 billion on antipollution measures in recent years. Last week, it forced more than a million cars off the streets, halted construction in and around the city, and temporarily closed hundreds of factories in surrounding provinces.
But despite these measures, the Chinese capital remains mired in a gray haze, and the government’s pollution readings have exceeded its own safe levels four out of the past eight days.
Now, with the prospect of international embarrassment looming, officials are considering even tougher measures, including shutting more factories. They might also ban as many as 90% of Beijing’s private vehicles on especially bad days during the Games, a government adviser said Monday. Special lanes for Olympic VIPs may be abandoned because officials say they’re causing extra congestion and making the air worse.
I hope they are embarrassed. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of totalitarian thugs. But the key point is this one:
The success or failure of Beijing’s efforts in the coming days could help determine whether China’s most important international event in modern times is itself a success. But it also has implications that go beyond the ability of the city to host a clean Games.
Scientists from around the world are studying the antipollution efforts to see what, if anything, succeeds — and what the costs are. These conclusions could affect policies in countries like India. . .
China’s authoritarian government can compel companies and citizens to comply with regulations more easily than other countries can. The government’s antipollution measures have disrupted workday commutes for hundreds of thousands of residents, and caused tens of thousands of workers to go on forced holiday, with reduced pay.
So if Beijing can’t succeed — even in the short term — the current experiment could bode ill for the ability of other industrializing countries to curb pollution.
If authoritarian environmentalism can’t make it in China, it can’t make it anywhere.
The LA city council is displeased with the verdict of the market:
In the impoverished neighborhood of South Los Angeles, fast food is the easiest cuisine to find — and that’s a problem for elected officials who see it as an unhealthy source of calories and cholesterol.
The City Council was poised to vote Tuesday on a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a swath of the city where a proliferation of such eateries goes hand-in-hand with obesity.
“Our communities have an extreme shortage of quality foods,” City Councilman Bernard Parks said. . .
Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the measure and represents much of South Los Angeles in her 9th District, says that’s no accident. South LA residents lack healthy food options, including grocery stores, fresh produce markets — and full-service restaurants with wait staff and food prepared to order.
A report by the Community Health Councils found 73 percent of South L.A. restaurants were fast food, compared to 42 percent in West Los Angeles.
If the moratorium is passed, Perry wants to lure restaurateurs and grocery retailers to area.
Evidently, “healthy food options” have generally found South LA (formerly known as South Central LA) an unprofitable place to locate, otherwise there would be more of them there already. The LA city council did not explain how banning profitable businesses would make the area more attractive to unprofitable ones.
MSNBC has a profile on Cuil, which debuts today. They claim to be able to build a database as large or larger than Google’s with a fraction of the computing power.
I’ve often wished for a plausible alternative to Google. Is Cuil it? Well, it’s not starting well. After successfully processing one search for me, their page is now failing to load. The terrible font they use for displaying their results has to go, too.
It’s no secret that the EU’s preferred strategy for dealing with the Irish no vote on Lisbon is for Ireland to vote again, and get it right this time. That’s now looking unlikely:
Almost three-quarters of Irish voters are opposed to a second referendum on the EU’s new reform treaty, a new poll published yesterday (27 July) revealed, dealing a blow to EU leaders’ hopes of rescuing the text.
71% said they do not want to vote again on the reform treaty, while only 24% are in favour, according to the Red C poll conducted for the eurosceptic Open Europe think tank.
Of those who voiced an opinion, 62% said they would vote no in a second referendum, while 34% said they would back the treaty, which aims to overhaul the Union’s institutions and procedures.
Another thing Hugo Chavez has to answer for is a horrific surge in Venezuela’s murder rate:
ONE of Hugo Chávez’s lesser-known feats since taking over as Venezuela’s leader in 1999 is to have presided over a tripling of the annual homicide rate—and that’s according to the official statistics. Last year more than 13,000 people were killed in a country of 27m, producing a murder rate of 48 per 100,000, the second highest in the world (after El Salvador). In neighbouring Colombia, a country plagued by guerrilla war and drug violence, the rate was 40 per 100,000.
Not surprisingly, violent crime far outweighs the other worries of Venezuelans. Three-quarters of them describe it as the worst problem now facing the country, polls show. “The first thing we need to do”, says José Vicente Rangel, Mr Chávez’s former vice-president, “is confess our failure.”
He claims that the government, opposition, media and criminologists are all equally to blame. But, as critics point out, Mr Chávez controls most of the security forces, as well as the prisons; the courts and the prosecution service are in effect branches of the executive, too. Luis Cedeño, head of Incosec, a public-security think-tank, accuses the government of showing a “total lack of political interest” in tackling crime. . .
Many homicides never get into the official statistics. They include those killed while supposedly “resisting arrest”. Yet in exchanges of fire between police and alleged criminals, 39 suspects are killed for every policeman, suggesting not much “resistance” is taking place. Another large (and growing) group of suspicious deaths excluded from the official data are those that have not yet been categorised—and probably never will be—though most are likely to result from murder. . .
Caracas is currently the second most dangerous city in the Americas (after San Salvador). Even by the official figures, the murder rate is 130 per 100,000; Mr Cedeño says the true figure is a staggering 166. One reason, he argues, is impunity. On average, only three of every 100 murderers are actually sentenced, he points out. Another is a presidential discourse that emphasises class warfare and has sometimes excused crime as a response to social inequality.
For perspective, the murder rate in Detroit, the worst in America, was 47.3 in 2006, so Venezuela as a whole is more dangerous than America’s worst city. Caracas is over three times worse. The annualized rate of death-by-violence in Baghdad for the first nine months of 2006 (near the height of the sectarian violence) was around 300. So Caracas is about half as bad as Baghdad at its worst. In the first half of 2008, Iraq had an annualized death-by-violence rate of 27.6.
(ASIDE: The Iraq 2008 figure is computed from the Brookings Institution report of 18Jul2008. Reliable figures on Baghdad are hard to find. I did my Baghdad 2006 calculation by subtracting the cumulative figures in two Brookings Institution reports, 23Feb2006 and 31May2007. I was unable to find any figures on Baghdad 2008.)
The article also reports that Venezuela’s latest interior minister has “achieved” a 27% drop in homicides in the traditional way, by changing the way the figures are calculated.
The suffering people of Zimbabwe are responding rationally to hyperinflation, conducting transactions in anything but Zimbabwean dollars:
Zimbabweans spend their local dollars as fast as possible or change them into hard currency on the black market. A parallel system is thriving in back offices and parking lots. Ronald was a civil servant but became a money dealer about a year ago to feed his family. He now makes about $100 a month, whereas his former colleagues earn the equivalent of less than $2 a month, enough to buy two loaves of bread. On a recent trip, this correspondent changed money from a central-bank employee running an illegal foreign-exchange business in his own office.
With a strict daily limit (currently less than $1.40) on bank withdrawals, people shun banks as much as possible and are returning to a cash economy. Petrol and rents are now charged mainly in American dollars or South African rand, but since some landlords have been taken to court, rents are increasingly often paid for in groceries. People buying overpriced cooking oil or sugar on the black market, since those items have long vanished from shops due to official price controls, are charged more if they pay in local dollars. Petrol coupons have become a virtual currency.
John Robertson, a local economist, reckons that the informal economy has probably become larger than the formal one. Though estimates are fuzzy, he believes that money sent by Zimbabweans abroad to friends and relatives at home, which used barely to register on Zimbabwe’s foreign-exchange radar screen, now accounts for probably a third or so of the country’s foreign-exchange inflows.
Turning to foreign exchange or barter is what you would expect in countries that have had inflation of more than a few hundred per cent a year. At the height of its inflation crisis, shops in Argentina were no longer able to price their goods. In some cases, Peruvians started using lavatory paper, then in short supply, as currency.
Buchanan has a new book, the central thesis of which is (I gather) that WW2 need not have happened, and was only the result of the Allies’ unwise security guarantee to Poland. Buchanan argues that absent that guarantee, Poland would have been willing to negotiate with Germany over Danzig and war could have been averted.
Sheer idiocy. One does not have to be a military historian to recognize that Danzig was merely the latest in a series of increasingly unacceptable German territorial demands, and if granted, the demands would only have continued until Hitler ruled the entire world.
Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens, who are military historians, take on Buchanan and the WW2 revisionists on NRO TV’s Uncommon Knowledge.
Jim Geraghty has uncovered the truth behind Obama’s cancelled visit to the Landstuhl Medical Center. (Obama has confirmed the principal facts himself.) To be fair, the truth looks a little better than the story did before. I think Obama still looks bad, but you can decide for yourself.
Apparently it was not a matter of bringing reporters and photographer to Landstuhl, but one specific campaign aide, Jonathan Gration, a retired general. General Gration, being campaign staff, not legislative or personal staff, was not permitted to attend. Gration “got torqued” (generals aren’t used to being told no) and shortly thereafter the visit was cancelled. The campaign has not revealed whether they considered the possibility of going without Gration.
The original story put out by the campaign, that the visit was cancelled because they didn’t want it to appear political, was misleading at best. If there is any truth to that story at all, their sudden concern about appearing political arose only after Gration got angry that he wouldn’t be able to go.
A second story put out later by the campaign was an outright lie. Gration himself, who was certainly in command of the facts, put out the false statement that the visit was scuttled by the Pentagon.
Will General Gration keep his job after causing this debacle and then lying about it to the press? We’ll see.
I wish I could believe this London Times report:
THE president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been warned by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, that he faces prosecution for the crimes he has committed during his 28 years in office unless he signs a deal to give up all effective power.
Mbeki, who has done all he can to shield and support Mugabe for the past eight years, has come under overwhelming western pressure and has had to tell Mugabe that he could no longer protect him and his key cronies from being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The power-sharing talks between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are shrouded in secrecy. But The Sunday Times has learnt that Mugabe, who has vowed that Tsvangirai will never be in government and that “only God can remove me from power”, faces humiliation over the terms of the deal that he will be forced to sign next month.
He will remain as president in name only and all real power will be held by a 20-member cabinet under Tsvangirai as prime minister. The opposition MDC will have 11 cabinet posts to nine for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
All Mugabe’s senior officials in the army, police and intelligence services, who have unleashed a campaign of terror since the MDC won a disputed victory in the elections held in March, will be dismissed.
(Via Hot Air.)
Let’s recall another war that could not be won: the Cold War. Nearly everyone thought that the Soviet Union could not be beaten, that the best thing we could do was to come to an accommodation with them. Ronald Reagan thought differently. He said the Soviet Union could be defeated, if only we would stop propping up their regime and actively compete with them instead. (ASIDE: I heartily recommend Peter Schweizer’s excellent book on the subject.)
Reagan proved to be right, and was fortunate to live long enough to see the fruits of his labors. But not, alas, to see his critics admit they were wrong. Where once they called the Soviet Union’s defeat impossible, now they say it was inevitable. Where once they mocked Reagan’s claims that his strategy would bring down the Soviets, they now say his strategy wasn’t even necessary.
The turnaround of the Iraq conflict shows the same pattern. Where once the left said that the US could not win (indeed, had already lost), and that the surge would only worsen matters, now they say that victory in Iraq was already underway and the surge wasn’t even necessary.
An AP analysis piece admits what can no longer be denied:
The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.
Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.
Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government. . .
This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan.
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the AP on Thursday that the insurgency as a whole has withered to the point where it is no longer a threat to Iraq’s future.
“Very clearly, the insurgency is in no position to overthrow the government or, really, even to challenge it,” Crocker said. “It’s actually almost in no position to try to confront it. By and large, what’s left of the insurgency is just trying to hang on.”
Shiite militias, notably the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have lost their power bases in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. An important step was the routing of Shiite extremists in the Sadr City slums of eastern Baghdad this spring — now a quiet though not fully secure district. Al-Sadr and top lieutenants are now in Iran. . .
Statistics show violence at a four-year low. The monthly American death toll appears to be at its lowest of the war — four killed in action so far this month as of Friday, compared with 66 in July a year ago. From a daily average of 160 insurgent attacks in July 2007, the average has plummeted to about two dozen a day this month. On Wednesday the nationwide total was 13. . .
Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer. In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged.
Still, they can’t resist one cheap and inaccurate shot:
That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had.
Although President Bush clearly did not foresee a five-year counterinsurgency, he never declared that the “combat phase” had ended (whatever that means). He deliberately avoided language implying that the war was over, referring instead to the end of “major combat operations” (i.e., the invasion). Nevertheless, even with the cheap shot, it’s a good milestone for the AP.
Also, the New York Times has a new piece on Iraq. They are not quite ready to admit that the US is winning, but they acknowledge that the militias are losing:
The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.
It is a remarkable change from years past, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of Baghdad, including local governments and police forces. But its use of extortion and violence began alienating much of the Shiite population to the point that many quietly supported American military sweeps against the group. . .
The shift, if it holds, would solidify a transfer of power from Mr. Sadr, who had lorded his once broad political support over the government, to Mr. Maliki, who is increasingly seen as a true national leader.
Has anyone told Time?
Here’s a shocker: Obama Says Overseas Trip Confirmed Foreign Policy Views.
It covers the John Edwards sex scandal. I ignored this story as long as it was only in the National Enquirer, but now the Times has confirmed a key element of the story:
Every supermarket shopper knows that the preternaturally youthful former senator for North Carolina may have fathered a love child with a film-maker while Elizabeth, his saintly wife, is dying of cancer. There are sensational new details on the National Enquirer website, although most of the media have done their best to ignore them.
The tabloid magazine cornered Edwards, 55, leaving a Los Angeles hotel where Rielle Hunter, his alleged mistress, and her baby were staying, at 2.40am last Tuesday. He ran down a hallway and dived into the men’s bathroom. A hotel security guard confirmed the encounter. “His face just went totally white,” the guard said.
The most interesting aspect of this has been the US media’s treatment of the story:
Tony Pierce, editor of the Los Angeles Times, issued an edict to the paper’s own bloggers to stay off the subject. “Because the only source has been the National Enquirer, we have decided not to cover the rumours or salacious speculations,” he wrote.
Mickey Kaus, a blogger for Slate magazine, leaked the memo. He noted: “This was a sensational scandal that the Los Angeles Times and other mainstream papers passionately did not want to uncover when Edwards was a formal candidate and now that the Enquirer seems to have done the job for them it looks like they want everyone to shut up while they fail to uncover it again.”
The New York Times has not deigned to touch the story, although it recently ran thousands of words on a relationship between McCain and a female lobbyist, which appeared to be based more on innuendo than fact.
Byron York, a conservative journalist, finally broke the silence in The Hill, a reputable, non-partisan congressional newspaper. “The media looks down on the National Enquirer but you look at the Edwards story and say, ‘Wow! There appears to be a lot of knowledge there’. It is darned fishy,” York said.
Now that the London Times has picked up the story, the LA Times will need a new excuse.
As far as Edwards is concerned, it’s been perfectly obvious for years that he is as phony as a $3 bill. For example:
Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he’d never told anyone else—that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he’d do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade’s ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before—and with the same preface, that he’d never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn’t pick Edwards unless he met with him again.
A look at the tactics used to keep race-neutrality and other voter initiatives off the ballot:
“The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place,” says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). “That’s the only way we’re going to win.” . . .
The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. “BAMN’s tactics,” she concluded, “resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics.”
But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. “If you give me your signatures, we’ll leave you alone,” says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who’s earning money by circulating several different petitions. . .
The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 12% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.
Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another “voter educator” hired by the state’s Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.
Or else the FCC won’t approve their merger, according to a press release by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, who is suing:
A demand by a federal agency that two companies agree to a race-based set aside as a condition to approval of their merger today drew a warning that the provision is unconstitutional from a western, nonprofit, public-interest law firm known for civil rights litigation. In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) warned the agency that its demand that, as a condition to its approval of a proposed merger between XM and Sirius satellite radio companies, the companies set aside 8 percent, or 24 channels, for “educational and minority broadcasters” violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. MSLF advised the FCC that, although the agency’s use of racial preferences to achieve “diversity” was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, that ruling was overturned in 1995. As a result, argues MSLF, the FCC has no legal basis to demand use of racial preferences or quotas.
(Via the Corner.)
This is weird:
One interesting detail from Le Figaro: The Obama-Sarkozy meeting will be conducted with a minimum of fuss, to mark it off clearly from the trappings of a presidential visit.
“Nicolas Sarkozy’s advisers received only one demand from the team of the Democratic candidate: no American flag for the press conference, because it’s a candidate being received, not the president of the United States.”
For a candidate with his own presidential seal, who is already planning his presidential transition, and who is holding a joint press conference with a foreign head of state, his sudden reticence to pretend to be president is a little odd. But that’s nothing compared to his strange belief — if this is being reported accurately — that the American flag is for the president only.
(Via Media Blog.)
CNN, as a professional news organization, is ordinarily able to locate members of a group it wishes to interview, but not, it seems, when that group is the College Republicans:
The president of the College Republicans at the University of Southern California is charging that CNN used a “fake College Republican” in its broadcast report today, claiming there was a lack of enthusiasm for the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain.
A CNN spokeswoman now says it was an inadvertent error.
In its Thursday morning report, according to a news release from the student organization, CNN interviewed someone identified as Eric Pearlmutter, who was said to be a USC student and College Republican.
“We try to get people out to our College Republican meetings, but we can’t seem to get the same amount of support,” he said.
Ben Myers, the president of USC College Republicans, said, “I have never met Eric Pearlmutter. I have never seen him at a College Republican meeting. He is not on our membership roster. I don’t know why someone would think he speaks for us. As far as I know, he could be a Democrat.”
A CNN spokeswoman admitted the error this evening in an e-mailed response: ““Eric Perlmutter appeared on today’s ‘American Morning’ segment about young Republicans on college campuses. While he attends USC and says that he is a registered Republican, he was inadvertently identified on-screen as a member of the USC College Republicans organization.
(Via Hot Air.)
When I read that Obama had cancelled his planned visit to injured troops at the Landstuhl Medical Center because he thought it would be “inappropriate”, I was inclined to give him a break. In fact, I agreed that it would have been inappropriate to use our wounded troops as political props.
That was before this scoop from NBC News, who learned that preparations for Obama’s visit were already being made and that the visit was cancelled after the campaign learned they would not be able to bring the media:
A U.S. military official tells NBC News they were making preparations for Sen. Barack Obama to visit wounded troops at the Landstuhl Medical Center at Ramstein, Germany on Friday, but “for some reason the visit was called off.”
One military official who was working on the Obama visit said because political candidates are prohibited from using military installations as campaign backdrops, Obama’s representatives were told, “he could only bring two or three of his Senate staff member, no campaign officials or workers.” In addition, “Obama could not bring any media. Only military photographers would be permitted to record Obama’s visit.”
The official said “We didn’t know why” the request to visit the wounded troops was withdrawn. “He (Obama) was more than welcome. We were all ready for him.”
(Via Hot Air.)
This casts the cancellation in a rather different light. Rather than an exhibition of good taste and judgement, it’s just the opposite. It would seem that Obama cancelled, not because he saw it would be inappropriate to use wounded troops as political props, but because the military wouldn’t let him do so.
I’m sure Obama’s defenders will say this is merely coincidence; that his last-minute change of heart about visiting Landstuhl during a campaign trip had nothing to do with his being told he couldn’t make it a campaign stop. There’s to way to know for sure (given what we know now, anyway), but I have to say that if this was an instance of prudence and good taste, it was entirely out-of-character for this trip.
UPDATE: The facts are now known, and Obama looks a little bit better than this. Apparently it was a matter of certain campaign staff, not the media, that aborted the visit.
The Washington Post gets it:
THE INITIAL MEDIA coverage of Barack Obama’s visit to Iraq suggested that the Democratic candidate found agreement with his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat forces on a 16-month timetable. So it seems worthwhile to point out that, by Mr. Obama’s own account, neither U.S. commanders nor Iraq’s principal political leaders actually support his strategy. . .
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki’s timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama’s. More significant, it would be “a timetable which Iraqis set” — not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki “wants some flexibility in terms of how that’s carried out.” . . .
Yet Mr. Obama’s account of his strategic vision remains eccentric. He insists that Afghanistan is “the central front” for the United States, along with the border areas of Pakistan. But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country’s strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world’s largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama’s antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.
(Via Power Line.)
The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, successor to the Predator UAV, is entering service in Iraq. Unlike the Predator, the Reaper was designed from the start as a combat platform.
Fox News reports:
The International Olympic Committee confirmed its decision to ban Iraq from taking part in the Beijing Olympics because of the government’s interference with sports by disbanding the country’s National Olympic Committee, Reuters reported.
“This morning we were informed of the final decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee,” Hussein al-Amidi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, said.
The decision is a major blow to seven Iraqi athletes who hoped to travel to Beijing this summer, AFP reported.
During Saddam Hussein’s regime, the IOC didn’t act on Uday Hussein’s interference with sports:
In the history of the world, an expanse that covers Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler and other despots both past and present, there is no shortage of absolute rulers whose human rights records compare with that of today’s designated pariah, Saddam Hussein.
There may never have been a sports official, though, as brutal as his son, Uday.
As president of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, Uday allegedly tortures athletes for losing games. He sticks them in prison for days or months at a time. Has them beaten with iron bars. Caned on the soles of their feet. Chained to walls and left to stay in contorted positions for days. Dragged on pavement until their backs are bloody, then dunked in sewage to ensure the wounds become infected. If Uday stops by a player’s jail cell, he might urinate on his bowed, shaven head. Just to humiliate him.
This is the picture that emerges of Uday Saddam Hussein from ESPN.com interviews in the United States and England with former Iraqi national team athletes in several sports. Some of them claim they were personally tortured. All of them say they lived in fear that they would be punished at Uday’s whim. . .
The allegations in the ESPN.com report come on the heels of a formal complaint filed with the International Olympic Committee earlier this month. Indict, a London-based human rights group created in 1997 that seeks to bring criminal charges against the top leaders of the Iraqi regime, asked the IOC Ethics Commission earlier this month to suspend or expel the country from the Olympics based on violations of the IOC code of ethics. The IOC, which has no sway over a nation’s choice for its Olympic committee chief, is reviewing the request.
Didn’t act, that is, until a month after Saddam’s regime fell. Then, in May 2003, the IOC’s “ethics commission” called for the dissolution of Iraq’s national Olympic committee, the same action for which Iraq now finds itself banned from the 2008 Olympics.
Another reason to boycott them.
UPDATE (7/29): The IOC has relented.
A YouTube video criticizing the Obama messiah complex has been flagged as adult content, making it hard to view and crippling its traffic. (Via Instapundit.) I viewed the video, and although it’s silly, there’s nothing objectionable about it, other than its anti-Obama message.
One might argue (dubiously) that Google isn’t responsible for outsiders abusing its procedures, but that won’t get them off the hook. The flag has been in place for over a month, so Google has had more than enough time to review the flag, but according to the video’s author, they won’t even reply to his emails. That makes them complicit.
It was less than a month ago that Google suspended several anti-Obama blogs. We should be very concerned with how a company with clear ideological preferences and an increasing willingness to act on them is gaining an effective monopoly on access to information on the Internet.
I finally resolved (well, circumvented would be a better word) my problem with iPhone-Outlook calendar synchronization by switching to use an Exchange server for my calendar. There was one more gotcha, though. I found that events I added to the calendar on Exchange were appearing on the phone as invitations. This is bad because, for example, you can’t edit those events. A similar issue happens with events you create on the iPhone and then edit on Exchange.
It turns out that the iPhone uses the email address of the event originator to distinguish between appointments and invitations. If the email address you use when configuring the phone doesn’t match the email address verbatim (i.e., case-sensitively and ignoring aliases), you get this behavior.
More at Apple support article TS1865.
Lanny Davis, former White House Counsel, writes:
. . . And then in early 2007 came the surge, which so many of us in the anti-war left of the Democratic Party predicted would be a failure, throwing good men and women and billions of dollars after futility. We were wrong.
The surge did, in fact, lead to a reduction of violence, confirmed by media on the ground as well as our military leaders.
It did allow the Shi’ite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the last several months to show leadership by joining, if not leading, the military effort to clean out of Basra the masked Mahdi Army controlled by the anti-U.S. Shiite extremist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and in the Sadr City section of Baghdad he claimed to control.
This willingness by the Shi’ite–dominated Maliki government to move against the Sadr Shi’ite extremists won crucial credibility for the government among many Sunni leaders and Sunnis on the streets, who joined together with Shi’ites to turn against the Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Taliban–like extremists.
These are facts, not arguments.
I think there are a lot of anti-war Democrats who, like me, are impressed by these facts and who now see a moral obligation, after all the carnage and destruction wrought by our military intervention, not just to pick up and leave without looking over our shoulders.
Surely we owe the Iraqis who helped us, whose lives are in danger, immediate immigration rights to the U.S. Yet the shameful fact is that most are still not even close to having such rights.
Surely we owe the Maliki government and the Shiiite and Sunni soldiers who put their lives on the line against Shiite and Sunni extremists and terrorists at our behest some continuing presence and support and patience as they strive to find peace, political reconciliation — and maybe even the beginnings of a stable democracy.
Second quarter profits are down 82% at the NYT. They’re barely a for-profit enterprise any more; maybe they should become a 527 and take donations.
ASIDE: Okay, the profits a year ago included the sale of some television stations, so things aren’t quite so bad as the 82% would suggest, but they’re still looking at a 16.4% drop in advertising revenues.
On the anniversary of Obama’s meet-without-preconditions statement at the Democratic debate, Byron York notices that Obama is still rewriting his statement.
A popular pastime in the conservative blogosphere is the “name that party” game, which is based on the observation that, when reporting political corruption cases, the media almost always reports party affiliation when the politician in question is a Republican, but rarely when a Democrat. I don’t play the “name that party” game at Internet Scofflaw because it’s just too easy. I prefer to focus on actual media lies and misconduct rather than general observations of bias.
Now the AP has given me a chance to play, with this story on the latest Gary Condit development:
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by former Congressman Gary Condit claiming author Dominick Dunne slandered him over the death of a young female intern.
Condit claimed that Dunne falsely accused him on the “Larry King Live” show of involvement in the 2001 disappearance of government intern Chandra Levy, with whom Condit acknowledged having an affair. . .
Condit, a former Republican congressman from California’s Central Valley, has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Levy’s May 2001 disappearance at age 24, or her death. However, he acknowledged to investigators that they had an intimate relationship.
(Emphasis mine.) Condit was, in fact, a Democrat.
Patterico notes that that Der Spiegel admits to rewriting its Maliki interview, but stands by the essential accuracy of their account. (Fake but accurate!)
Also the NYT’s claim that Der Spiegel “provided” them the audio isn’t really true. Der Spiegel won’t release the audio, but will play it over the phone for a “journalist”. (Whatever that means in the Internet age.)
On the other hand, Patterico agrees with my point that the “mistranslation” is largely a red herring.
A good catch by Power Line:
Now, in terms of knowing my commitments, you don’t have to just look at my words, you can look at my deeds. Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon.
(Emphasis mine.) Obama is not a member of the Banking Committee.
What’s the deal with this? Is Obama confused about what committees he serves on? (After all, he doesn’t attend many committee meetings.) If not, why tell such an obvious lie? Is it because he knows the media won’t call him on it? So far, he’s right.