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Monday, February 28, 2005

Mel Gibson's Next Film: Fatima

I doubt that Mel Gibson will have as difficult a time in finding a willing distributor for his next film - even if it will upset secular Hollywood again. I will make the early prediction that it takes Best Picture in 2006. Mel Gibson recently bought the rights to the book, “Stealing from Angels,” which involves the three secrets of Fatima. The last surviving witness to whom the Virgin Mary appeared near Fatima, Sister Lucia de Jesus de Santos, died two weeks ago at age 97 in Portugal.

In this week's Weekly Standard, Joseph Bottom discusses Fatima by stating:

Here's a curious thought.. Maybe the single most important person in the 20th century's long struggle against communism wasn't Ronald Reagan. Maybe it wasn't Karol Wojtyla or Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa or Václav Havel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Mikhail Gorbachev. Maybe it wasn't anyone whose name might leap to a cold warrior's mind--for the most important figure in that long, dark struggle might have been a 10-year-old girl named Lucia dos Santos.

The first two parts of the three Fatima prophecies have been known for decades and are interpreted as predicting World War I and World War II. The third prophecy was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most intriguing mysteries of modern times.” In the year 2000 the Catholic Church revealed the third vision of Fatima.

Vatican officials concluded that the third Fatima prophecy was at least partly related to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 1981. Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, stated on May 13, 2000:

The vision of Fatima concerns above all the war waged by atheist systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses to the faith in the last century of the second millennium. It is an interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth century.

According to the interpretation of the 'little shepherds,' which was also recently confirmed by Sister Lucia, the 'bishop clothed in white' who prays for all the faithful is the Pope. As he makes his way with great effort towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred (bishops, priests, men and women religious and many lay persons), he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire.

During the 1985 trial of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish would-be assassin, Agca made the statement that his assassination attempt was "connected to the third secret of the Madonna of Fatima." (Agca made his attack on May 13, 1981. The apparition at Fatima first occurred on May 13, 1917, exactly 64 years to the day earlier).

This day, the 13th day, seemed to follow all through the prophecy and its aftermath. On that day in May of 1917, and on the 13th of every month thereafter, until October of 1917, the visions appeared to Lucia and the other two schoolchildren with her. Pope John Paul's assassination attempt on May 13, 1981 added to the public interest of the prophecy and now Lucia's own death on February 13, 2005 provides for a very convincing article of faith.

Anyone want to bet that this movie will be in the $500 million range?

Will the UN step up in Lebanon?

If the United Nations is to prove that it is good for something…anything, now is the time to prove it in Lebanon. Rather than list the multitude of U.N. failures (which is not difficult – see Sudan, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, East Timor, Angola, Somalia, Bosnia, Israel, Columbia), I would simply like to see the U.N. take some immediate action to ensure that the resignation of the puppet Syrian government in Lebanon does not leave a political vacuum. Instead, the U.N. should make supportive statements about Lebanon’s sovereignty and right to free elections and begin to make preparations for democratic elections.

The U.N. now has an opportunity to promote democracy at a critical location in the Middle East. Let’s see how well it peforms. Fortunately, the Bush administration will be pulling the democratic strings if the U.N. does not step up.

NBC Blasphemes Catholics

Last week, NBC’s sitcom “Committed” decided that it was acceptable to trivialize and denigrate the Holy Eucharist and Catholic beliefs. I haven’t heard much about it until I read Michelle Malkin’s column – probably because there aren’t enough people who watch the show to complain about it.

At one point, the priest, who is portrayed as not knowing the difference between the Host and a cracker, goes to grab the “cracker” from a tray of appetizers; he initially balks when he discovers that it is the last one. Then he changes his mind, saying, “Oh, what the hell.” By far the most offensive scene occurs when Nate and Bowie accidentally flush what they think is the Host down the toilet.

It will be interesting to hear NBC’s excuse, if they decide to offer one. Perhaps they will just tell Catholics to relax and develop a sense of humor. If NBC acted this way towards Islam, Buddhism, or Scientology, there would be resignations flying.

Almost Another Kobe Bryant Case

On the lighter side: in a peculiar story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 39 year-old Iris Rivera filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court last week against the Gorilla Foundation. Rivera claims she was forced to partially strip for Koko the “talking” ape several times because of pressure from her supervisor.

One of Koko's handlers told Rivera that the loquacious primate -- best- known for her purported 1,000-word American Sign Language vocabulary -- indicated that she wanted to be alone with Rivera.

"My client was getting some rudimentary signing from Koko," he said by phone from his Redwood City office. " 'Let down your hair. Lie down on the floor. Show your breasts again. Close your eyes.' My client peeped out and saw Koko slowly kneel down and start squatting and breathing heavily. My client got spooked and ran out of the trailer."

Although Koko was confined to a wire cage, her behavior was suggestive to the point that Rivera didn't want to wait around and find out what might come next, Adams said.

I’m surprised PETA hasn’t filed a countersuit alleging psychological abuse of the gorilla..

Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrgh....More Howard Dean

Howard Dean seems to be trying to give away a filibuster-proof majority to Republicans by 2006. I love this guy as DNC chair - I'm hoping for a lifetime appointment. In his vitriolic, say-anything approach, Dean stated, "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant." He then shows his tolerance for all viewpoints by concluding, "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."


Lebanese Government Falls

And the next domino in the Middle East seems to have fallen today. According to Caveman in Beirut,

Prime Minister Omar Karami just did it - he resigned right in front of the Parliament after a lengthy speech introduction in which he complained of personal attacks in the local Lebanese media. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri objected, saying that proper procedure required that Karami notify him first, but it looks like what's done is done.

The government has fallen. And now the fun begins.

And there's also this email, courtesy of the Belgravia Dispatch.

Why an Attack on Iran is Imminent

I believe that a U.S. attack on Iran is no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ In stating my reasons for such an attack, I will ask three simple questions.

1) Is Iran intent on building a nuclear weapon?

2) Can Iran’s nuclear program be stopped peacefully?

3) Is George Bush firmly dedicated to preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon?

1) Is Iran intent on building a nuclear weapon?

Based on the words and secretive actions of Iran’s mullahs, there is very little doubt that Iran is intent on building a nuclear weapon. For example, last year Iran claimed that it was not using Pakistani-designed P-2 centrifuges to enrich uranium. IAEA inspectors found these P-2 centrifuges with traces of enriched uranium in the nuclear facility at Natanz. Iran had also promised the IAEA that it would stop work on the heavy water to manufacture plutonium that it had been operating. IAEA inspectors discovered that the heavy water plant at Arak was still operating. The argument that the nuclear reactors are intended only for peaceful energy purposes is also ridiculous when one examines at the costs of producing nuclear energy versus the cost of mining its vast oil reserves.

Richard Russell, Professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense University’s Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, wrote an excellent paper in 2004 on the Iran problem. He discusses Iran’s basic strategy:

The Iranians have learned that the road to nuclear weapons is best paved with ambiguity. The Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, and apparently the North Koreans successfully acquired nuclear weapons by cloaking their research, development, procurement, and deployment efforts with cover stories that their efforts were all geared to civilian nuclear energy programs, not to be harnessed for military applications. Tehran could not have failed to notice that once these states acquired nuclear weapons mated with aircraft and missile delivery systems, they escaped—so far, at least—military preemptive and preventive action by rival states. In marked contrast, the Iraqis suffered as the result of Israeli and American preventive military actions, in part because Baghdad was not fast enough in acquiring nuclear weapons. The Israeli strike on an Iraqi nuclear research plant in 1981 and the American wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 might have been deterred had Iraq managed to acquire nuclear weapons.

In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that Iran is at an advanced stage in its nuclear program. As expected and over the objections of President Bush, Iran signed an agreement with Russia on Sunday for Russia to supply nuclear fuel to Iran’s nuclear reactor in Bushehr.

2) Can Iran’s nuclear program be stopped peacefully?

According to the Russian deal, Iran is supposed to return spent its fuel rods to Russia over a set time frame, although the time frame is being kept secret. I don’t think anyone truly believes that this “safeguard” is going to prevent Iran from using the fuel for weapon purposes. Based upon the history of the UN and IAEA failures to recognize nuclear programs, a multinational body to monitor the safeguards will not add much confidence.

After all, both Iraq and North Korea were both officially in good standing with the IAEA while they were building sophisticated nuclear programs. North Korea’s program was only discovered after U.S. intelligence caught Pyongyang working clandestinely on a uranium enrichment program. Iraq’s program was discovered after the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Meanwhile, it is clear that Europeans have no real stomach for confronting Iran in any substantial manner. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer stated earlier this month that a nuclear program for civilian purpose is the legitimate right of Iran’s mullahs. In a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Fischer said that Germany supports Iran`s nuclear program. Additionally, IAEA Director Mohammed El-Baradei insists that there is no new evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear program. In an interview with the Washington Post, El-Baradei stated, "If I look at the big picture, there is no enrichment in Iran, and this is quite satisfactory, and I hope it keeps this way until we reach an agreement,” If the IAEA works in a similarly accommodating fashion that Hans Blix did in the run up to the Iraq War, there is no doubt that Iran can and will do whatever it wishes and still get a clean bill of health.

Even if Europe agrees to bring Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council, the end result would be to give Iran additional time to continue its clandestine program. We have also already seen how effective the U.N. economic sanctions were in Iraq at hurting Saddam’s regime.

Is George Bush firmly dedicated to preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon?

This is probably the easiest question to answer. President Bush has stated openly that Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. After Afghanistan and Iraq, I don’t think there are many people in the world who doubt his words. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer also agreed that President Bush would not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon. European actions currently underway will only delay the ultimate decision, not prevent it.

Other Options

Israel could beat the U.S. to the punch and attack unilaterally as it did in 1981 when it destroyed the Osirak facility in Iraq. However, Israel would face a greater challenge in Iran than it did with Osirak. Iran’s facilities are much farther away from Israel and are also located hundreds of miles from each other, which makes them more difficult to attack simultaneously. Additionally, many of the facilities are likely in areas deep underground or in areas with heavy civilian populations. It is unlikely that such a complex strike could take place without U.S. agreement in any event.

There is also hope that recent pro-democracy demonstrations will effect a regime change in Iran, but the reality of such an event taking place before Iran has a nuclear weapon are more hope than reality at this point.

When European negotiations and/or the U.N. Security Council do nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear programs, George Bush will again be forced to act – with or without world support. The only action available will be to attack Iran’s facilities. It’s no longer a question of if, but when – and how.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Iraq: All But Won

Jack Kelly had a great editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning, in which he discusses the embarrassing failures of terrorists in Iraq and the inevitability of complete victory. In an interview with The Spectator earlier in February, Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, compared one story with the movie “Dumb and Dumber:”

"There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off."

The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police.

Stockmoe heard so many similar stories that he created an Iraqi version of the “Darwin Awards.” Another paragraph in The Spectator interview that has gone unreported by the mainstream media is the following:

Zarkawi’s organisation is riddled with paranoia and division. Some of the guards who held Ken Bigley broke ranks and tried to help him escape. There was bitter dissent when Zarkawi and other insurgent leaders fled Fallujah and left their underlings to fight. Fear of betrayal has led to smaller cells operating ever more independently, preventing an overall insurgent strategy from developing.

Kelly goes on to comment about the poor performance of the general media (although I don’t think CNN or BBC will be issuing apologies anytime soon):

Those who get their news from the "mainstream" media are surprised by developments in Iraq, as they were surprised by our swift victory in Afghanistan, the sudden fall of Saddam Hussein, the success of the Afghan election and the success of the Iraqi election.

Journalists demand accountability from political leaders for "quagmires" which exist chiefly in the imagination of journalists. But when will journalists be held to account for getting every major development in the war on terror wrong?

Saddam's Half-Brother Caught

Iraqi security forces captured Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan on Sunday, no. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis (and the six of diamonds if any of you are playing along at home). Al-Hassan was the half-brother of Saddam Hussein (they had the same mother but different father) and former adviser to Hussein. Details are still sparse on how the operation and capture was carried out.

While the insurgency continues to shrink in numbers, Iraqi authorities said Saturday that they were close to capturing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the country's most wanted terrorist. This confirms General Myers statement earlier this week in an interview with Brit Hume, when Myers stated that U.S. and Iraqi forces are getting very close to Zarqawi's capture.


It now appears that Syria handed over al-Hassan as a gesture of goodwill. I just wonder how many other terrorists are living in Syria under the protection of the Baathist government there. I highly doubt that al-Hassan is the only one.

As for the mainstream media's canard that Iraqis are actually supporting the insurgency, the following quotes from Iraqi citizens sum it up pretty well:

"I hope all the terrorists will be arrested soon and we can live in peace," said Safiya Nasser Sood, a 54-year-old Baghdad housewife. "Those criminals deserve death for the crimes they committed against the Iraqi people."

"I consider this day as a victory for Iraqis," said Adnan al-Mousawi, a resident in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. "By God's will Saddam will stand in court with his officials and this will be the end of the unjust dictatorship."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bloggers Save a Life

Thanks to Hundred Percenter for the following link. Yet another reason to read some of your favorite blogs -- I wonder if Dan Rather has ever....oh, never mind.

Thanks to the efforts of members and lurkers on Free Republic and their friends with pro-life email lists around the country, a baby's life was saved last August.

An urgent request for adoption by a sidewalk counselor in Glendale California was posted here August 24, 2004 (original post). The single mother was told her baby had Downs Syndrome and for that reason no one would want to adopt her baby.

Our Blessed friend in Glendale was eventually flooded with over 600 emails from Freepers and their friends willing to adopt the baby. The mother was so overwhelmed that she decided to carry the baby to term, and eventually decided to keep her baby.

The little girl was born January 5th and the mother and grandparents adore her.

Great France Quotes

Now that Bush has completed his successful European trip, we have a little more time to reflect on our allies and what they mean to us. Specifically, I found some great quotes regarding the French. A couple of my favorites:

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." --- General George S. Patton

"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." ----Marge Simpson

"As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure" ---Jacques Chirac, President of France; and...

"As far as France is concerned, you're right." ---Rush Limbaugh

"The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag." ---David Letterman

If anyone has any others they would like to share, I’d love to hear them.

Media Bias in Europe

Bill Sammon’s report in the Washington Times should come as no surprise that there is liberal, anti-Bush media bias in Europe. It is refreshing, however, to hear Slovakia Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda explicitly blaming the news media for unfairly turning the public against President Bush with its biased news coverage. At a news conference, Dzurinda was reminded that, even though some European governments may have supported the Iraq War, the public often did not.

Mr. Dzurinda responded by telling the journalists, including one from CNN, that he was "shocked" to see media outlets like CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) showing "only American soldiers killing people. But nobody was able to show Saddam Hussein, who killed many, many thousands of Iraqi people." "It was impossible to see a real picture of this regime," he lamented. "And the result is the public is one day strongly against Bush. 'Bush loves war,' he's 'new terrorist,' and so on and so on."

Looks like another opening for Fox News.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Democrats Would Go Nuclear

Quick question: Does anyone truly believe that if Democrats were in power, they wouldn’t have already confirmed their liberal judges through the Senate nomination process? After all of the election shenanigans we have read about (unless we were listening to the Mainstream Media, of course), I have no doubt that they would stop at nothing to pass through their agenda if they had the power to achieve it.

Think of just a couple of examples – 1) The unprecedented filibustering of Bush’s judicial nominees; 2) slashing Republican vans and numerous other voter fraud examples on Election Day to swing Wisconsin to Kerry (see Washington Post article); 3) Barbara “Lightweight” Boxer’s halting of Bush’s election certification in the Senate while Democrats questioned the validity of the election; 4) Nancy “Botox” Pelosi, who stated on Election Day, “I'm going to mark the occasion by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republicans' destructive agenda.”

I could go on forever, but you get the point – Democrats have clearly stated, both through their actions and words, they will stop at nothing from achieving their goals. For this reason, I simply cannot understand why Arlen Specter is so wary about using the “nuclear option.” Specter said at a press conference yesterday, "If we have the nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell." (Also see Ankle Biting Pundits for an excellent piece on the subject.)

As David Limbaugh clearly points out, this is not a “nuclear” option at all – it is merely “a necessary corrective measure to remedy the Democrat minority's unprecedented abuse of power over the president's judicial appointments.” He continues,

Up until this president's tenure, there was an understanding that Senate minorities wouldn't filibuster his judicial nominees, because to do so, in effect, upsets the Constitution's prescribed separation of powers -- one of the most important bulwarks in the Constitution designed to limit government by preventing any one branch from gaining too much power.

Republicans need to quit squandering their own prosperity and adopting the timid approach every time they get in power. The voters elected them, and they have the right -- indeed the duty -- to attempt to implement their agenda fairly and squarely under the rules. To do so would be neither an act of extremism nor an abuse of power, but the fulfillment of what they promised the voters when running for office.

The Democrats have already clearly stated their goals and demonstrated their means of achieving them. It is time for Specter to do what is necessary to maintain the balance.

Kansas Democratic Governor Snubs Dean

Captain’s Quarters has a great piece on the reception Dean is getting from Democrats within the red states. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius decided not to attend any of Dean's events. As Captain's Quarters notes:

So the highest-ranking Democrat in Kansas has no plans to be seen in public with the leader of her party? That certainly sends a message, and not the one Dean intended when he embarked on his red-state tour. Sebelius knows that any indication of support for Dean and his MoveOn-sponsored agenda would be the kiss of death for her political career in Kansas and wants to stay far away from Mad How.

Now I’m convinced – Karl Rove was behind the Dean nomination…

Dutch Finally Getting Serious

The latest news coming from our friends in the Netherlands about sending a commando force to Afghanistan to work alongside U.S. and British soldiers is a positive step. I understand the Netherlands is not going to stomp out terrorism on its own, but it shows that the Dutch people are looking to do more in the worldwide fight against terrorism.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) has an excellent piece on the Dutch Intelligence’s examination of the radical Islamic threat within its country. The result has been to question Netherlands’ culture of "gedoogcultuur," or “culture of permissiveness,” which has helped foster the rise of radical Islam in its country. The report also proposes certain measures to combat radical Islam, including medium and long-term strategies (including military measures). The JCPA ponders:

One may wonder whether the ministry would have found it politically convenient to publish the report had not Muslim radical Mohammed Boyeri cruelly murdered provocative Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in an Amsterdam street on November 2, 2004. In the following weeks there were tens of arson attempts against Muslim institutions and Christian churches. Prior to the murder, it was almost unthinkable for a government agency report to single out the Muslim community. The AIVD [Dutch Intelligence] justified its publication by noting that it was responding to complaints by local authorities that they did not have enough information about radical Islam.

It doesn’t really matter whether it took a tragic event to face the realities of extremism; in the U.S. it took the murder of 3,000 people to come to the same conclusion.

Welcome to the fight.

Reagan and Bush

After Bush’s return from Europe this week, I have heard more discussion than usual of people using Bush in Reagan in the same sentence. I have thought about the similarities for a few years – and to most people, it’s not an illogical comparison.

This week, Der Spiegel, German’s left-wing newspaper, asked the important question, “Could Bush Be Right?” While many people will ask why it’s taken an educated society so long to ask this question, I prefer the adage, “Better late than never.” This morning’s WSJ discussed the topic as well (sorry, I believe the link is a subscriber service, but the thoughts are not new):

The Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy,” Der Spiegel writes. “When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate -- and the Berlin Wall -- and demanded that Gorbachev 'tear down this Wall,' he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. ... But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination -- a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany."

A complete view of Bush’s legacy will not come until the history books are written after Bush has left office and people have an opportunity to view what has happened to the Middle East and terrorism. Unfortunately, based on some of the books that discuss Reagan, I don’t think Bush will ever get much credit – even if all goes exactly according to plan. After reading Douglas Brinkley & Stephen Ambrose’s “Rise to Globalism” chapter on Reagan again, it is clear that liberals don’t want to give Reagan credit for anything. The final section on Reagan states:

But it also indicates that Reagan, despite the sneers of sophisticated critics, who regarded him as an object of ridicule, was somehow doing something right. Or perhaps he was just lucky.”

Nothing like giving credit where credit is due. I won’t be surprised to hear the same thing written about Bush someday.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Iranian Mullahs Getting Nervous

The Iranian mullahs must be getting extremely anxious these days. In addition to U.S. forces literally closing in all around them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Uzbekistan, mullahs are facing internal dissention as well.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Iranian bloggers are being jailed for their potentially dissident views. Iranian weblogger and journalist Arash Sigarchi, who was interviewed by Radio Farda, a U.S.-financed radio station broadcasting in Persian to Iran, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on February 22 by a revolutionary tribunal in Gilan, Iran. This seems to signal a desperate attempt on the part of the government to prevent solidarity movements from taking hold.

In addition, today’s Debkafile is reporting that intelligence sources reveal “a high-placed Iranian mole has been caught in Iranian president Mohammed Khatami’s office in Tehran.”

Hossein Marashai, head of Iran’s cultural heritage council, was caught using a sophisticated US-manufactured listening-long-distance-transmitting device at top-level Iranian leadership meetings. Debkafile’s sources call this the deepest foreign intelligence penetration in all 26 years of Iran's Islamic regime.

Maybe this is the reason for the recent crackdown.

Hinchey: The Latest Democrat Wacko

It gets more difficult each day for Democrats to top themselves with saying something completely over the top. Alas, the latest of the nut cases is Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). As pointed out on Little Green Footballs earlier this week, at a community meeting in Ithaca, NY, Hinchey entered into a diatribe about how the infamous Rathergate memos were actually planted by Karl Rove as part of a massive conspiracy.

In an audiotape recorded by a reader of Little Green Footballs at the townhall meeting, Hinchey first claimed to have direct evidence of Rove’s involvement, but then backtracked from this statement.

Audience Member: Do you have any evidence for that?

Congressman Hinchey: Yes I do. Once they did that —

Audience: [Murmuring]

Congressman Hinchey: ...once they did that, then it undermined everything else about Bush’s draft dodging. Once they were able to say, ‘This is false! These papers are not accurate, they’re, they’re, they’re false, they’ve been falsified.’ That had the effect of taking the whole issue away.

Audience Member: So you have evidence that the papers came from the Bush administration?

Congressman Hinchey: No. I — that’s my belief.

Hinchey’s lunacy continued on Hannity & Colmes last night when Hinchey again claimed he had evidence of Rove’s work. The whole transcript is here, but I've summarized the key exchange:

HANNITY: Where is the proof, sir?

HINCHEY: The proof? There's a whole host of proof.

HANNITY: Give it to us right now. Where's the proof?

HINCHEY: A host of circumstantial proof. You say you don't want to talk about the past, but the past is indicative of the present and the future. And if you look in the past here you find that Mr. Rove has a history of dirty tricks...

So there you have it. If someone has a purported history of “dirty tricks,” it is OK for one of our lawmakers to accuse a Presidential advisor of a federal crime. It’s interesting that despite being a Congressman, Hinchey doesn’t quite comprehend the definition of proof.

By Hinchey’s definition of proof, I can prove that Senator Ted Kennedy was complicit in the assassination of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. After all, based on Kennedy’s history in Chappaquiddick…

Canada Opts out of U.S. Defense Shield

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday that Canada will opt out of the U.S. missile defense program. The decision will surely satisfy Canadians who believe that self-defense is not a requirement in today’s world. I can hear the Canuck liberals now: “Instead of building a defense shield, why not build a shield of friendship with our enemies?”

But seriously, this decision makes no sense – as a U.S. citizen, I would jump at the chance if Mexico or Canada were willing (and capable) of building a defense shield for us. Even if I didn’t place much reliance on them, there is nothing to lose by joining (apart from political pandering).

If and when a missile is in the air headed towards Canada, we will be sure to wave goodbye and wish you luck. And we will also think of you after the missile lands and we officially expand Alaska’s lands.

The Great American Economy

Courtesy of Larry Kudlow, who always offers some helpful perspective after major market selloffs and excessive negativism about the economy:

Have I told you how strong the American economy really is? We had a market scare yesterday. Please ignore it. Pessimists and declinists are out there all the time. Please ignore them.

A few key points: once again lower tax-rates have worked to promote faster growth, increase jobs, and raise equity values. No surprise here. It's called supply-side.

Want some data points? Consumers are spending and companies are producing at a 4 percent rate. Balanced and excellent. Wages and salaries are up 5 percent. Strong. Unemployment at 5.2 percent and weekly jobless claims just above 300,000. Strong. Business cap-ex? 14 percent. Strong. S&P profits? 23 percent. Really strong. Worried about inflation? Today's chained CPI ex food and energy? Only 1.9 percent. Right where we want it. Low. Long-term interest rates for housing, mortgages and investors? Low. The fabled Treasury yield curve? It's positively sloped, so there's no recession out there. But it has flattened by half, meaning inflation worries are getting, well, less worrisome.

What's wrong with this picture? Not much. It takes a lot of work to be a nitpicking negativist who never believes in business or free markets. Don't even listen to 'em.

He's right.

The Deepening Latin American Problem

With much of the focus of the Administration geared towards solving the world’s Iranian, Syrian and North Korean problems, we have a deepening problem in our own backyard. As Robert Novak points out, Chavez is using his power to install new friendly regimes in neighboring countries.

The installation of Gen. Omar Halleslevens, a hard-line Sandinista, as chief of the Nicaraguan army, shows how strongly the Sandinistas are in control of the country. It now appears that the Sandinistas are using strong-armed parliamentary tactics to return former president Daniel Ortega to power. According to Novak,

Ortega is collaborating with the disgraced President Arnoldo Aleman, the Liberal Party stalwart convicted of massive corruption who is under house arrest and is virtually a free man. They have combined to thwart the efforts of the Bolanos government to destroy the Soviet surface-to-air missiles Nicaragua collected during Sandinista rule.

The Sandinistas, the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party repeatedly rejected by Nicaraguan voters, are on the verge of accomplishing what U.S. officials call a "golpe technico" (technical coup), stripping President Enrique Bolanos of power. It is no isolated event restricted to a small Central American country. The Sandinistas have a rich and powerful ally in Hugo Chavez, the Marxist president of Venezuela.

While Nicaragua seems to be going down a troubling path to the U.S., the risks are also rising to the shaky reigns of President Gutierrez of Ecuador and President Toledo of Peru. Bush’s domino theory towards spreading democracy in the Middle East seems to be showing real signs of taking effect. However, I also fear that with Chavez’s anti-democratic meddling in an attempt to spread “Bolivarian Revolutions” in Latin America, the domino theory might also work in reverse. I hope that the recent actions in Nicaragua shed a spotlight on the need for action in Latin America in the very near future.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Scumball in Hawaii

Although I don’t like wasting my time or breath on discussing the rantings of a scumball like Ward Churchill, I think this article from Col. Bratton in the Hawaii Reporter sums up my views pretty well. It is quite ironic that the people at the University of Hawaii gave a standing ovation to a man who, by his own arguments, implied that those killed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 deserved to die.

If Churchill's argument that 9/11 victims got what they deserved, then it goes without saying that the military and civilians killed in the Pearl Harbor massacre deserved to die too. “They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire" -- the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved -- and they did so willingly and knowingly." And, or course “they” supported the capitalistic bastions of American and the American way of life.

Taking Churchill's twisted logic and applying it to the current world today, I wonder if the students, professors and Hawaii public understand that “Auntie Mahealani” should die since she has a 401 K (as does a majority of Americans) and after all, she supports our troops in the current war against the sworn enemies of our nation. Yes, Auntie, you’re wrong, you support the American way of life, you deserve to die, and the terrorists are justified.

Read the whole thing.

Don't Forget About Our Tax Cuts

With all the talk about social security reform these days, I hope that everyone in Congress takes John Kyl’s (R-AZ) lead and starts talking about extending our current tax cuts as a top priority. If Congress does nothing in the next few years, then tax rates will automatically revert to the levels they were before Bush’s tax cuts in 2001. As Kyl points out, when Bush passed the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, Senate Democrats used the threat of a filibuster to prevent those cuts from being permanently written into law, so the cuts had to be limited to the lifespan of the President's original budget -10 years.

The effect will be the largest tax hike in American history, including a return to the 60% death tax. In addition to being a major drag on our economy by reducing the after-tax income of virtually every American taxpayer, this has major repercussions for our elderly who are trying to act responsibly about estate planning. Without being too insensitive, if an elderly person wishes to leave an estate to his heirs, he will not pay any taxes if he dies in 2010 but will pay a 60% rate if he dies in 2011! Does anyone believe this is fair (besides Democrats)?

Likewise, if nothing is done, capital gains taxes and dividend taxes will also rise. The government typically says that it is important for individuals to save and properly plan for their retirements, but when the government itself hasn’t decided how much of your money they are going to be taking, how can we properly plan? Does anyone else think this is fair (besides Democrats)?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Middle School Aiding and Abetting Enemies

It's not a surprise that students are being taught liberalism and anti-war propaganda at a young age. It is quite surprising, however, that they are being taught and encouraged to aid and abet the enemy in a time of war. That's right - students are encouraged to aid and abet the enemy during a time of war by attempting to demoralize our soldiers around the world. (I had to write it twice to make sure you read it correctly.)

David Andreatta of the New York Post wrote in an article on Monday about Pfc. Rob Jacobs. Jacobs is a soldier based about 10 miles from the North Korean border. Being a native of New Jersey, he was excited to receive several letters from sixth-grade students at JHS 51 in Park Slope, near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He was quite startled and disappointed (to say the least) when he started reading the letters. The students' teacher and chief propagandist, Alex Kunhardt, encouraged his students to write letters filled with anti-war, anti-Bush, left-wing rhetoric.

Excerpts from the letters included: "Even thoe [sic] you are risking your life for our country, have you seen how many civilians you or some other soldier killed?" and "I know your [sic] trying to save our country and kill the terrorists but you are also destroying holy places like Mosques."

I wonder what would have happened if a student wanted to send a prayer to Pfc. Jacobs - my guess is he would have been reprimanded for not respecting the rights of aetheists..

Writing letters to our soldiers in an attempt to demoralize them is a new low of the American left. With teachers like this, who needs teachers?

Belgium (along with France) can "Piss Off"

Weekly Standard writer Paul Belien has an
article about Beligium's latest anti-American salvo. In the offices of Belgium's Vice Prime Minister, the urinals are decorated with stickers that show an American flag and the head of George W. Bush saying, "Go ahead. Piss on me."

While I typically care less about the lives of Belgians than I do about the lives of dust mites, I think this is an obvious slap in the face to both our President and the U.S. as a whole. It's unfortunate that Bush didn't drop his drawers while speaking in Belgium and piss on Prime Minister Verhofstadt.

Or, instead of his speech, Bush should have read the following letter (thanks to Powerline for posting it) from Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers." The letter is written by Corporal Walter Gordon, who was paralyzed in brutal front-line combat at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Gordon wrote the letter to the Mayor of Eindhoven in 1991 upon reading that the Eindhoven mayor refused to meet with General Schwarzkopf because, as general of the forces that participated in the Gulf War, Schwarzkopf "had too much blood on his hands."

Gordon's letter is as follows:

"On September 17, 1944 I participated in the large airborne operation which was conducted to liberate your country. As a member of company E, 506th PIR [parachute infantry regiment], I landed near the small town of Son. The following day we moved south and liberated Eindhoven. While carrying out our assignment, we suffered casualties. That is war talk for bleeding. We occupied various defense positions for over two months. Like animals, we lived in holes, barns, and as best we could. The weather was cold and wet. In spite of the adverse conditions, we held the ground we had fought so hard to capture.

The citizens of Holland at that time did not share your aversion to bloodshed when the blood being shed was that of the German ocupiers of your city. How soon we forget. History has proven more than once that Holland could again be conquered if your neighbor, the Germans, are having a dull weekend and the golf links are crowded.

Please don't allow your country to be swallowed up by Liechtenstein or the Vatican as I don't plan to return. As of now, you are on your own."

In addition to Belgium, I can think of a few other countries that would do well to be reminded of that message also.

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Mark Steyn in an article in UK's Daily Telegraph, on the change in tone (rather than substance) coming from U.S. and European diplomats this week:

International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific -the-way-we're-able-to-be-such -great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.

Steyn has a good point on NATO. Whether or not the alliance is still around in ten years doesn't really matter. It will be dramatically different than it exists today and everyone knows it. Another one of my favorite passages:

America and Europe both face security threats. But the difference is America's are external, and require hard choices in tough neighbourhoods around the world, while the EU's are internal and, as they see it, unlikely to be lessened by the sight of European soldiers joining the Great Satan in liberating, say, Syria. That's not exactly going to help keep the lid on the noisier Continental mosques.

Read the whole article.

Media Rule #1: If Good News, Simply Ignore

Captain's Quarters points out some good news from Afghanistan (the first war that worked out so well that it doesn't get any media coverage):

The Taliban, who once embodied the ideal of Islamofascism in their brutal tyranny over the Afghan people, have all but stopped their terrorist war against the Hamid Karzai democracy. In fact, thanks to a high-ranking and popular defector from the previous regime, the Taliban remnants have surrendered in order to join an amnesty program that promises to end the civil war and secure the Afghani democracy.

Read the whole thing here.

The Social Security "Transition Cost" Myth

If you are wondering why the Administration has decided to label the short-term measures of Social Security reform as "transition costs," that makes two of us. As Jeff Johnson points out in his article,

The trillion dollar totals that Democrats cite as "transition costs" are actually the amount the government is borrowing to pay current Social Security benefits combined with the massive debt already owed to the so-called Social Security "Trust Fund."

Unfortunately, the most important point regarding Social Security costs is often misunderstood. As Arizona State University professor and 2004 Economics Nobel Prize winner Edward Prescott says, "Re-labeling debt is not a cost." Lawrence Hunter, senior research fellow with the Institute for Policy Innovation, agrees with Prescott and sums up the situation rather well:

The so-called "transition costs" are, according to Hunter, really just the money Congress has to find elsewhere to pay for current Social Security benefits, the other programs it has been funding with FICA tax revenues and the amount already borrowed from the Social Security "Trust Fund."

Under a partially privatized Social Security system, "the balance sheet looks better because they're borrowing less money," Hunter explained. "But, in the short term, because they're not borrowing the [FICA tax] money, that means they've got a cash flow problem.

"If the government turns around and borrows money to alleviate that cash flow problem, it hasn't borrowed 'new money,'" Hunter continued, "because, by putting the [FICA tax] money in personal accounts, it's borrowed a dollar less [from current taxpayers]. Now, if it turns around and borrows a dollar [from another source] to cover the cash flow problem, all it's done is to replace that dollar in debt.

I know the Administration doesn't always use perfect phrases, but this is one situation where it's critical that people understand the true nature of the problem. President Bush could do better to help his own cause by not using misleading terms such as "transition costs."

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Dangers of Blogging (in the Middle East)

Unfortunately for Iranians (along with citizens of other dictatorial and freedom-suppressing regimes), blogging is not as easy or safe as it is in Western democracies - "inappropriate" Internet use is being met by a serious crackdown in Iran. Let's hope that the arrests of bloggers help to shed light on the need for change within Iran and other regimes - it would be great to see another domino in the Middle East fall. Unfortunately I think it will take more acts of defiance from within Iran before the outside world (read: Europeans) actually begin to care.

Meanwhile, the Instapundit notes massive anti-Syria demonstrations in Lebanon. Could Bush's domino theory actually be starting to take hold?

Larry Kudlow addresses George Bush's "flexibility" on raising the Social Security cap figure. For a president who knows very well the importance of marginal tax cuts (and increases), this is indeed a change of heart. He was either caught off guard and began negotiating with himself (which he claimed he would not do) or he is hoping that his statement will force Democrats to jump onboard to help the reform process. Unfortunately I think they will simply seize on Bush's willingness to increase the cap amount rather than other positive changes Bush truly wants.

According to Kudlow:

Ironically, Harvard’s Feldstein argued that hiking the wage cap would create a dead-weight loss on the economy and would lead to significant tax evasion by small-business owners who have chartered as S-Corps or LLCs. Consequently, the net revenue gain from a wage-cap increase might be only $14 billion if the cap were hiked to $110,000. While damaging the economy in terms of rolling back incentives to work, this small revenue yield would do virtually nothing to solve the pending Social Security financial problem.

Fortunately, House Majority Leader Tom Delay has publicly stated that the lower body will not pass a Social Security tax hike of any kind — including increased marginal tax rates or a higher wage cap. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rules Committee chairman David Dryer have indicated the same. They won’t touch a John Kerry tax-hike proposal, especially one that will inflict serious economic damage. This is good news.

So far that's the only good news regarding Social Security reform.

Doug Wead's ("Help Me Sell Books") Tapes

I think that
Doug Wead's release of the tapes are done entirely to help him sell books rather than to hurt Bush in any way. Of course that doesn't make it any less sleazy.

It will be interesting to see how the mainstream media tries to spin Bush's statements in the hope that they will hurt him. I tend to agree with Mickey Kaus that these tapes will actually help Bush, as they reveal the sincerity of the man.

The Polipundit also has a lot more stuff on the subject.

Then again, if this helps his popularity (which, after listening to the comments, I believe it will) - people will be asking whether Karl Rove was ultimately behind this...

Spain Votes Yes - When will its Embassies Close Down?

With George Bush visiting Europe this week, I think it makes sense to look at the referendum that occurred in Spain yesterday regarding the approval of the EU constitution. The issue will likely spurn further discussion and argument over the next year. But does it really mean that there will be an EU embassy in lieu of the French, English or Spanish embassies? Who is better informed – the Spanish Prime Minister or its citizens?

Yesterday Spanish citizens approved the European Union constitution in a national referendum. While voter turnout was relatively low (42% voted), approval of the constitution was backed by 77%, versus 17% who voted against approval.

The government used a broad media campaign in support of garnering widespread approval, but approximately 90% of Spaniards admitted they still have little knowledge of what the approval of the EU constitution actually means (I love those well-informed voters!).

According to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, European countries could eventually close their embassies if the constitution is approved by member states. "We will undoubtedly see European embassies in the world, not ones from each country, with European diplomats and a European foreign service," Zapatero said. He added, “We will see Europe with a single voice in security matters. We will have a single European voice within NATO. We want more European unity.”

Zapatero also claimed that Britain and France would also lose their voices in NATO and their seats on the U.N. Security Council. U.K. Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram reacted angrily to Zapatero’s statement, “Spain’s PM has made clear what Tony Blair has denied again and again — that the EU constitution is all about handing vast new powers to Brussels. “Now we know that, if we approve it, the EU will run foreign policy.” “It means another transfer of power to people in Brussels who are not elected and can’t be voted out."

On a positive note, if Europe does being closing down its embassies overseas in favor of a single EU embassy, it would open up some nice real estate on Embassy Row in Washington DC.

Note that the Barcepundit has a good roundup of European press reaction to Spain's turnout.

Commentary from U.S. Investor Bill Miller

Bill Miller’s fourth quarter 2004 market commentary is a must read for all investors. Miller is fund manager for the Legg Mason Value Trust, which has the incredible distinction of beating the return of the S&P 500 index for each of the past 13 years. When speaking about the world’s top investors, one must include Bill Miller at the top of the list.

His fourth quarter 2004 commentary on the U.S. stock market and economy are instructive. Although Miller is both too modest and too smart to attempt to predict where the U.S. equity markets are headed in the short-term, he is clearly bullish on future prospects. Investors would do well to listen to him, as those who have listened over the past 13 years have done quite well. I don’t believe that I could do justice to his words by summarizing his thoughts, so be sure to read the whole thing.

However, just a couple of passages that I particularly liked:

I am quite optimistic about 2005. Valuations are not demanding, especially in a world of low inflation and low nominal interest rates. Mergers and acquisitions should boom this year, providing windfalls for the shareholders of takeover targets. I would expect corporate share buybacks to accelerate and dividend growth to remain strong. High returns on equity and low nominal growth means lots of excess cash is available to be used for shareholders benefit.

If everything is so good, why are investors so glum? Well, being bearish or cautious always sounds smarter than being bullish. No one wants to be thought panglossian, in denial of evident problems and risks. Expressing concern, evincing skepticism, are signs of prudence, and being prudent is what we have all been instructed to be since the courts so held in the 1830’s.

Miller goes on to summarize his views that the investment alternatives in today’s economic environment are not as compelling as certain investments in equities:

My point is simple: this is just one of the things people are worrying about while the broad economic picture could hardly be better.

GE just reported strong earnings and is confident of double digit growth. IBM did the same. Citigroup CFO Sally Krawchek said recently on CNBC that it was “credit nirvana,” the best they had seen in almost 15 years, and Citigroup raised its dividend another 10%.

Who would park their money in cash at 2% and pay taxes when you could get 3.7% in tax-advantaged dividends in Citigroup stock, and own a piece of the world’s largest financial services firm, one that is perfectly well-positioned to be the banker to the developing world’s burgeoning consumers, at 11x earnings?

What are Miller’s largest investments today? According to public filings, his top ten holdings at December 31, 2004 are as follows:

Nextel Communications
Tyco International
UnitedHealth Group Incorporated, Inc.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
The AES Corportation
eBay, Inc.
Eastman Kodak Company
MGIC Investment Corporation

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Governor Warner and his Newest Tax Increase

Just when you thought that Governor Warner (D-VA) was finished raising taxes against his earlier pledge not to do so, he has found another tax to raise (surprise).

Despite admitting that Virginia’s record $1.6 billion tax increase in 2004 was unnecessary due to the recovering economy – and despite not knowing how to spend the surplus funds – Governor Warner has the nerve to institute another tax increase. He plans on increasing the toll on Route 267 by approximately 67% (50% increase for the on-ramps and 100% increase for the off-ramps).

If this is what happens when a state legislature is controlled by Republicans (and led by a lying Democrat), then we might as well have the Democrats in control. President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress should take note when Virginians vote the Republican legislature out of office (fortunately Gov. Warner cannot run again).

Feel free to send a message and sign the petition at