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« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

July 31, 2006


With Fidel Castro undergoing surgery and turning over powers to his brother for the duration, I thought it might be fun to revisit his, er, greatest hits.

I don't want to become too dependent on YouTube. But I could watch this over and over.

July 29, 2006

Motzei Shabbat Pick-Me-Up

A while back, I wanted to know why we weren't making more fun of the Iranians. After all, lack of a sense of humor is a sure sign you're losing (ask any Democrat).

July 28, 2006

Seattle Jewish Federation Shooting

The Seattle Allied Jewish Federation was attacked today, apparently by a lone Pakistani gunman with a criminal history, who identified hiimself as an American Muslim angry at Israel.

Federation and the local ADL here in Denver are responding by paying for security tomorrow morning at all area synagogues. I'm sure that west coast synagogues will also be able to take appropriate measures, but since the attack happened at about 7:00 PM Eastern Time, it may be up to New York City to do something about the shuls there.

There's no word on the man's citizenship status or the nature of his criminal background, but there's only one combination of events that shouldn't have resulted in his deportation - if his crimes were committed after he became a citizen. Anything else would be another reminder of the suicidal nature of our immigration policies.

Time to finish getting that concealed carry permit, I suppose. Sigh.

All Hugs and Kisses

Why is it that the normally-sensible Rocky goes all weak-kneed and gooey-eyed when the subject is Israel and its neighbors right now?

A few dozen Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab, and Palestinian schoolgirls are coming to Denver to meet each other and you know, like, have a dialogue.

Seeking Common Ground requested that the teens' last names not be published for safety reasons.

No comment necessary.


"I'm so completely confused," said Lily, 18, of Guerneville, Calif....


"There's no right on either side," said Lily...

QED! I promise, any lack of context here is entirely the fault of the reporter.

"Any time you get Palestinians and Israelis in the same room together, it's a success," she said.

Unless it's a deli, schoolbus, shopping mall, pizzeria, bar, or ice cream stand. Then it's only a partial success.

When the Israeli girls talk about understanding someone else and discovering similarities, and the Arab girls "have their opinions" and are "ready to talk about differences," it says a lot about the relative confidence of their cultures.

These kinds of things have been going on for as long as I can remember, along with mushy NPR-speak about "building bridges" and "breaking down barriers." That's all well and good as long as the enemy isn't using them for resupply and cover.

The Great Amalgamator


The Left likes to peddle stereotypes. CEOs are large, overstuffed, pre-Splenda sugar barons smoking cigars as the white horses carry their carriage to the ball. Immigrants are, by definition, pooranddowntrodden products of failure-oriented cultures. Southerners this. New Yorkers that. Never can one be the other - at least as more than a token - and the Mason-Dixon line apparently still separates smart from backwater.

So explain to me how the senior management of an S&P 1500 company is named Gregorian, Melendrez, Ghaderi, and Le. Another company whose conference call I listened in on had a CFO who sounded like he grew up a couple of miles from the Duke Law School he attended (he did) and a CEO who sounded as though he had the same speech coach as Robert Loggia (he probably didn't).

I suspect all of this was accomplished without busing, although some forms of long-range transport were involved somewhere in the process. Contrary to liberal obsessions, most people just don't think about race on a moment-to-moment basis. Give 'em a decent education, an internal combustion engine, and some pavement, a reason to use them, and people are bound to mix.

July 26, 2006

Who Is Raeed Tayeh?

Last Friday, the Colorado Muslim Society held a prayer service cum press conference to attack Israel for defending itself, and to defend terrorists and jihadists for attacking Israel. Among the participants was one Raeed (also Raed) Tayeh, apparently representing the Muslim American Society. Here's how the Rocky described Mr. Tayeh:

Raeed Tayeh, who will lead today’s event, is former head of the public relations office of the Muslim American Society, a national civil rights group. He also served as a speechwriter for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia. His articles have appeared in major newspapers and magazines, and he has been a guest speaker on several radio and television programs including, "The O'Reilly Factor." Tayeh is also the author of "A Muslim's Guide to American Politics and Government."

I glad the reporter from the Rocky knew how to type, so she could transcribe this from the press release word for word. Either that, or she can cut-and-paste with great aplomb, with the same great skill I used to bring it to you.

Harmless enough, "national civil rights group," probably gave Congresscreature McKinney lessons in how to use a cell phone for self-defense (hint: it doesn't seem to involve dialing 9-1-1, you know, the Capitol Police). Sacrificial lamb for O'Reilly.

Turns out he probably wouldn't want to use McKinney as a reference, and not just because she doesn't carry much weight in the part of the world not labeled "Criminally Psychotic." Congressthing McKinney fired him after he wrote a letter to The Hill objecting to some Representatives' support for Israel:

What is more disturbing to me is that many of these pro-Israeli lawmakers sit on the House International Relations Committee despite the obvious conflict of interest that their emotional attachments to Israel cause.

The Israeli occupation of all territories must end, including Congress.

He fancies himself an Arab-American Walt Whitman, as well:

Oh how I dream of that wonderful day, when our flags are raised, and when the marching bands will play. When the young will cheer, and when the old will cry. When the refugees return, and when Zionism will die.

He has prior connections to the Islamic Association for Palestine and the American Muslims for Jerusalem, both tied together by the Holy Land Foundation, an American fundraising arm for Hamas. (He was in town to promote a new "Children Crisis Fund" for Lebanon and the West Bank & Gaza. One guess as to where that money ends up.)

But what of his job with MAS? Well, for one thing, he was dispatched to Cleveland to patch things up between a radical cleric convicted of naturalizatin fraud and his understandably nervous congregants. This same Imam's later conviction of being Jerry Lewis to Islamic Jihad's Suicide Kids doesn't seem to have hurt Tayeh's status any, which should tell you something right there. (It should also tell you something that after said conviction, it took 18 months to start deportation proceedings. That's a year and a half we hosted this bacillus after we knew he had infected us. And they say we're not serious. But I digress.)

Currently, MAS is planning a jihad march on Washington on August 12. Take a look at the co-conspirators, and see if you notice a pattern.

Tayeh would probably say he just wants non-Muslims to understand them better. That's ok, Mr. Tayeh. I think we understand you plenty well. At least, if we don't write for the Rocky.

The deeper concern here is that the Denver Muslim community has developed a recent and disturbing pattern of inviting out-of-state radicals to come speak on political matters. A community with a history of assimilation and getting along is being routinely exposed by its religious leadership to people who want to see me dead.

I understand Nonnie Darwish is going to be in town again on August 6. Maybe they can make some room for her.

July 25, 2006

Political Markets Tighten

Well, if you report the good news, you have to report the bad. Otherwise you turn into the MSM without the ad revenue. Like the New York Times.

Tradesports, after having run the Republicans Hold the House contract up to 0.55, has settled back in at even money, and the Iowa Electronic Markets are back to almost even between Hold and Lose. Given that the "Gain" contract is now up to .09, though, it's running 53-47 in favor of the Republicans. I'm not sure that all the people buying that contract know what they're buying, or maybe they just like a 10-1 shot to rise a little in the interim on some unknown news before they dump it.

Right now, if you could short in Iowa Markets, there'd be an arbitrage opportunity there, since the sum of the three contracts is a little over $1.

Luttwak's Realpolitik

Edward Luttwak was one of the great Cold War strategists. His book, Strategy, is still a classic of multi-layed military thinking and analysis. But his strategies revolved around fighting, and since the whole point of the Cold War was to not fight, his strategies were therefore not designed to win. They were designed to deter, to allow the professionals to manage. Ironic, then, that one of the great military strategists was more or less blindsided by Reagan's philosophy of victory, and economic strategy to that end.

"Managing the conflict" is exactly what's gotten Israel into the state that it's in now, giving away land for the promise not to be killed. Well, not today, anyway. And Luttwak, once again, is fighitng the last non-war. In today's Wall Street Journal, Luttwak invites Syria back into Lebanon, this time to tame its own client-militia (Come Back, Bashar).

Then there is the horrible-to-contemplate but irresistibly seductive diplomatic option: to invite the Syrians to disarm Hezbollah and persuade it to follow the political path. Hezbollah already has two ministers in the Lebanese cabinet and might claim more.

Naturally that would imply the recognition of Syrian suzerainty over Lebanon, and of course the thoroughly unworthy Bashar Assad would have to be treated as a leader of regional importance. Only that could tempt Mr. Assad to abandon his alliance with Iran -- along with the important rewards that would come his way more or less spontaneously. These rewards would include gifts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, all three of which now fear Iran as the most dangerous threat they face; they would also include the approval -- or at least the diminished hostility -- of Syria's Sunni majority, which vehemently dislikes the alliance with Shiite Iran, especially now that the Iranians are supporting Iraq's Shiites in their bloody fight with the Sunnis.

Back to the same game with the same faces, balancing one against the other, and then multiples against the one. Spending time and energy and treasure to stay in the same place. A perfect, realpolitik solution where nothing changes and the diplomats can manage the crises as they arise.

Or, we can disarm Hezbollah ourselves, permit the Lebanese to give democracy a try, relieve the pressure on Israel's north. Perhaps - perhaps - the Syrian generals will ditch Assad and the Iranians, realizing that alliance is a dead end, and then they can come to us on our terms, rather than our trying yet again to go to an Assad on his. At which point, with Iran isolated, we can look for an endgame there as well.

Now tell me, which one do you want to see? Of course you do. Because this time, there is a difference among the Arab players. This time, it's not one faceless dictator against another, but a democracy (Israel) defending itself, and helping to give another (Lebanon's) enough breathing room to make a go of it.

Luttwak's is a little game for little men, and if it's what the Arabs choose for themselves again, we have to let them play it out. Unfortunately, Islamofascism has bigger dreams, and the only way to counter them in the long run is to offer big dreams of your own. It's that component of strategy Luttwak has never seemed to grasp.

July 24, 2006

Shrine Pass Photoblogging

This week's Jeep Adventure was at Shrine Pass, an easy but dreadfully potholed little trail, running from I-70 just east of Vail Pass to Red Cliff, on US-24 just south of Minturn.

The Shrine Ridge Trail that runs from the parking lot at the Pass has some nice views looking back towards the east. Unfortunately, the day was hazy, and I got a later start than I would have liked, so you may have to use your imagination:


The trail itself has a ton of wildflowers.


I can't tell you how hard it is to photograph fields of wildflowers. When you're standing there, all you see is the flower, and when you look at the picture, all you see is the grass. It doesn't help that the dog likes to eat the flowers, leaving even fewer to photograph.

The marquee attraction of the Pass road is Mt. Holy Cross. The gouges in the side of the mountain form a cross, and the snow stays there for most of the year. Apparently, it used to stay there for the whole year in most years, but to the simultaneous chagrin and joy of environmentalists, the drier, warmer weather has it looking more like an upside-down sword this time of year.


The end of the trail, the Red Cliff Bridge, which carries US-24.

Red Cliff itself is a tiny little town, with a bunch of run-down houses and a dog that likes to chase Jeeps. Even here, though, there is a "New Red Cliff," with vacation cabins on the road above the town, on the way out. I'm not sure why they don't buy up the dilapidated mobile homes in the main part of town and build over them. It's not as though there's a lot of mining activity supporting the local economy, and the one touristy restaurant can't possibly provide more than a full-time job or two.

Redevelop Red Cliff!

Lebanese Flypaper

Counterterrorism Blog is reporting that a relatively small number of South Asian fanatics are headed to Lebanon to cash in and collect their virgins (or raisins). This strikes me as a terrible idea, militarily.

Militaries work when they're coordinated and cohesive. These guys have elan oozing out of their pores, but they have no operational history with Hezbollah. They don't know tactics, communications, and God only knows what weaponry they've trained on. Their command of the local dialect has got to be uncertain, and while I don't know very much Arabic, the risk of accidentally forming a circular firing squad in the heat of battle, by mistaking one word for another, has got to be uncomfortably high. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are making the opposite choice, heading north or into Syria, and that probably includes a fair number of Hezbollah leadership. So there's no plan on where to plug these guys into the order of battle.

Israel has found a small number of Hezbollah operatives in the West Bank and Gaza. These guys might effectively take advantage of the relative disorder to infiltrate and conduct suicide missions. But their physical features and their dialect differences will make it hard to hide for very long.

Add Indonesia and Malaysia to the list of governments who are quietly thankful for Israel's doing their heavy lifting.

July 23, 2006

Kazerooni Archives

I mentioned today on Backbone Radio that our local Imam Kazrooni had been chosen to translate a speech by the execrable Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, and promised to link to the sound file and to my attempt to transcribe it. Here's the sound file, and here's the transcription.

If anyone can help out with the missing parts on the transcription, or can provide any corrections to errors I may have made, that would be greatly appreciated.

July 20, 2006

Setback for Socialism

In a story inexplicably buried on page B2, the Wall Street Journal reports that a federal judge in Maryland has ruled that the state legislature there may not run Wal-Mart's budgeting process:

The Maryland law sought to require employers with more than 10,000 workers in the state to pay a penalty to the state's health-insurance program if they fell short of spending a specific amount on health-care coverage for their employees. That threshold was an amount equal to 8% of the employer's payroll in the state.

Only eight nongovernment entities in Maryland employ more than 10,000 workers. Of those, only Wal-Mart fell short of the 8% threshold for for-profit businesses.

In February, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a group of 400 large retailers, sued Maryland's secretary of labor, licensing and regulation in U.S. District Court, arguing that the Maryland law encroaches on the purview of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz agreed with the trade group and granted its request for summary judgment.

In his ruling, Judge Motz found that the law sought not to generate revenue for the state but to force employers to provide a specific level of health-care coverage for their workers, an area governed by Erisa. "The act violates Erisa's fundamental purpose of permitting multistate employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration," the judge wrote in his opinion.

The unions are pushing similar bills in 23 other states, and this ruling is going to make it tough sledding for those should they become law.

On the other hand, the fact that the judge ruled that spending other peoples' money this way is the exclusive province of the Federal government is less than comforting.

Once again: how do they know 8% is "right?" And if it isn't, why are they so sure it's not too low?

The Company You Keep

Denver's favorite Imam, Ibrahim Kazerooni, translator of Ayatollah Mezbah-Yazdi and now head of the local Episcopal Church's "Ibrahimic Initiative," er, "Abrahamic Initiative," is keeping some interesting company these days. Appearing at a forum in New York, Kazerooni shared the stage with:

The conference featured five guest speakers as well as renowned linguist and author Dr. Noam Chomsky.


...Amy Goodman, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, "DemocracyNow!"

Annas Shallal, a Sunni Iraqi artist who does intra-faith and inter-faith work with different groups, was the first to address the audience. He spoke about the targeted killing and torture of Iraqi civilians by American troops.

Dr. Anisa Abdul-Fattah, an African-American Shi'a activist and scholar, followed Shallal and echoed his sentiments, criticizing the premise of the war, which was to liberate Iraqis from an oppressive dictator. Instead, she said, the Iraqis find themselves in a similar, if not worse, situation.

A Shi'a Iraqi imam from Denver was the third panelist to discuss the current situation in Iraq. Ibrahim Kazerooni was held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and was tortured by Saddam's troops when he was 15. He added that Abu Ghraib was originally built to accommodate 4,000 inmates and was currently holding close to 16,000 prisoners, who have mostly been picked up randomly and detained without access to legal counsel.

The most passionate talk was given by Salma Yaqoob, a British Sunni Muslim who was the head of the Birmingham, England-based "Stop the War Coalition" and was recently elected to Birmingham's city council. Yaqoob spoke about the stigma and fear that Muslims have of speaking out for political and controversial causes that affect the Muslim community and her own struggle to overcome this.

Last winter, Kazerooni spoke at a panel discussion comparing the warlike passages in the Tanach, the New Testament, and the Koran. Kazerooni's comments were less enlightening than obfuscating, whitewashing the manifest violence done to spread Islam over the centuries. Whether he's being honest, or just too weak to stand up to the radicals among his community, American Muslims need better leaders than this guy.

Stockholm Syndrome

From this morning's Washington Post:

In Sweden, another country with a long history of neutrality, prosecutors last month convened a top-secret closed trial of three terrorism suspects in the southern city of Malmo. Authorities have not identified the suspects or disclosed any evidence. But Swedish media have reported that the arrests were made at the request of British counterterrorism investigators.

Someone tell Justice Ginsberg!

July 19, 2006

Howard Dean Is Right

If the Democrats were in power, we might not be seeing an effective Israeli defanging of Iran's Catspaws-on-the-Med. We'd be seeing much more lethal displays by those catspaws five years from now. They had their chance with these exact players ten years ago.

The Center for Security Policy, at the time:

Rarely has there been a more brazen display of contempt for the President of the United States and his Secretary of State than has been evident over the past few days in Damascus: Hafez Assad kept Warren Christopher waiting for two hours on Tuesday while the Syrian despot met with his old KGB contact, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Then Assad declined to meet with Mr. Christopher at all when the Secretary of State returned to Syria on the following day.

While the Syrian did deign to see the United States' top diplomat today, the message conveyed by his earlier conduct was unmistakable: The Clinton-Christopher team's pandering to a ruthless thug -- evident in the twenty pilgrimages Secretary Christopher has made to Damascus since taking over the State Department -- has only served to embolden Assad. Worse yet, if recent experience is any guide, Assad's behavior will likely be met with unjustifiable concessions on the part of the U.S. and its friends (in this case, Israel).


Meanwhile, events in Lebanon over the past fortnight have amply demonstrated the folly of the so-called Middle East "peace process" in which Messrs. Clinton and Christopher -- among many others -- have massively overinvested. Syria's direct complicity in the lethal operations of Hezbollah terrorists, a complicity made manifest by the U.S. shuttle diplomacy to Damascus, proves the error of relying upon one group of Arabs unreconciled to Israel's existence to curb another group. The denunciations of actions taken by Israel in self-defense that have been heard throughout the Arab world also serve to reinforce fears that there has been no real change in the attitudes of those considered to be the Jewish State's erstwhile enemies.

If Secretary Christopher does ultimately broker a cease-fire between Syria and Israel temporarily suspending Hezbollah's terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, its impermanence will be a further reminder of the wisdom of America's traditional support for a free and independent Lebanon. As long as Syria calls the shots (literally) in Lebanon, Hezbollah will be able to resume hostilities at will. As long as Israel believes it can safely "contract-out" its security interests in Lebanon to Hafez Assad, its northern communities will know no peace.

The WSJ is reporting that when Condi Rice goes to the region, it will be to isolate the bad actors, not to put them on life-support. Let's hope she keeps the jet keys in the ignition.

Hezbollah and Arab Democracy

Rich Lowry quotes Tom Friedman as claiming that Hezbollah's war is killing prospects for Arab democracy:

First, Nasrallah has set back the whole fledgling Arab democracy movement. That movement, by the way, was being used by Islamist parties — like Hezbollah and Hamas — to peacefully ascend to power. Hezbollah, for the first time, had two ministers in the Lebanese cabinet. Hamas, through a U.S.-sponsored election, took over the Palestinian Authority. And in both cases, as well as in Iraq, these Islamist parties were allowed to sit in government and maintain their own militias outside.

What both Hamas and Nasrallah have done — by dragging their nations into unnecessary wars with Israel — is to prove that Islamists will not be made more accountable by political power. Just the opposite; not only will they not fix the potholes, they will start wars, whenever they choose, that will lead to even bigger potholes.

Does this mean Hamas and Hezbollah will never get another vote? Of course not. Their followers will always follow. What it does mean is that if the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or Islamists in Jordan or the gulf, had any hopes of taking power through electoral means, they can forget about it. I don't see their governments ever allowing elections that might bring Islamist parties to power, and I don't see the U.S. promoting any more elections in the region, for now. The Arab democracy experiment is on hold — because if Islamist parties can't be trusted to rule, elections can't be trusted to be held.


Friedman seems to assume that once a Hamas voter (or a Muslim Brotherhood voter, or a Hezbollah voter), always so. That a Hamas voter is a Hamas follower. Hasn’t it been accepted (esp. by Friedman himself) that “moderates,” or at least, non-Islamists, have voted for or supported these parties for other reasons, fully expecting them to be domesticated by power. Why wouldn’t these independents then abandon these parties once they see that isn’t happening? And wouldn’t that make Arab elections less risky? (This argues, of course, for holding voters responsible for their choices, not insulating them from those consequences.)

Electoral politics aside, Israel’s goal seems to be to eliminate Hezbollah as an effective fighting force, and permit the Lebanese government – now Democratic – to toss them out of the Cabinet and for the Lebanese army to reassert its authority in the south.

In short, why does this do more damage to Lebanon’s democracy than to Hezbollah?

L'Affair Frisch

As I mentioned, I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until she started in on Jeff Goldstein. While I'm glad - I suppose - that the lunacy of one bad hire by Arizona's higher-ed system has come to light, perhaps helping them to patch some holes in their pre-hire psych profiling - I think it's a mistake to cast this too much in Left-Right terms.

On the other hand, the Left does seem much more deranged these days. I like Jed Babbin, but to stay awake on the drive home, I switched over the Air America for a moment, and was struck by the content-free nature of the broadcast. I'm sure Randi Rhodes (she of the machine-gun sound effects) thought that 15 minutes on Newt Gingrich calling the GWOT, "World War III," while Michael Ledeen called it "World War IV" was the talk-radio equivalent of Scrappleface, which says a lot about the left-wing sense of humor. (The fact that she referred to Michael Ledeen as a "world-champion warmonger" just shows that she's off her AADD meds.)

There are ranting right-wing local talk shows, and pro-war types with nothing interesting to say. They don't tend to be national personalities or in line to be Speaker of the House.

July 18, 2006

Canada Finds Spine - Globe and Mail Perplexed

The Anglosphere's Northern Front used to be known for more than peacekeeping. It used to be known for peace-making, something it's practicing again with great success in Afghanistan. A decade-plus of Liberal rule pushed much of that history into the old-age home, but now Stephen Harper has decided that it's time for Canada to rejoin the rest of the English-speaking world.

Harper was one of the G-8 countries backing the US in its support of Israel.

Harper, on his first major international foray, hadn't even touched down in Europe before aligning himself firmly with the United States and Israel in the latest conflagration.

"Israel has the right to defend itself," the prime minister told reporters aboard a Canadian Forces Airbus en route to London, where he's starting a week-long diplomatic mission.

"I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured."

Naturally, the Canadian MSM (Can-MSM) doesn't get it.

That same pre-G8 summit article quoted above continues:

Harper's unabashed pro-Israel stance, is sure to prove divisive at the G8 summit this weekend in St. Petersburg, Russia, which anchors Harper's first major overseas foray as prime minister.

Russia and France have both criticized Israel for using disproportionate force in its attacks on Lebanon.

So Russia and France find something to agree on other than hemming in Germany, but when Canada takes the opposition position, by definition, it's the one being divisive. To paraphrase a famous politician from south of the 48th parallel, divisiveness in the defense of liberty is no divice.

Naturally, the Canadian Left doesn't quite see it that way:

Canada is in danger of losing its role as a mediator and peacemaker in the Middle East, Liberal Leader Bill Graham said Tuesday. Graham,a former foreign affairs minister, told a Vancouver news conference that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has moved Canada away from its traditional non-aligned stance, and said while he supports Israel's right to defend itself from attack, be believes Canada needs to keep some distance so it can be part of a diplomatic solution to the current Mideast conflict.

"Canada has always had a proud tradition in the Middle East of being able to work with all parties in a way to establish the conditions of a long and lasting peace," Graham said.

I can understand why Graham wouldn't want to abandon a position that's shown such success up until this point, After all, where would we be without Canadian leadership in establishing lasting peace?

"If we act in a way that interferes with our credibility in that respect, we will not be able to be an effective ally of Israel or of Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East where we call have an extraordinary stake."

In other words, if we want to be Israel's ally, we can't really be Israel's ally. The NDP - the "Democratic" being optional - has a similar point of view:

He also said it was "regrettable" that Canada is still in the process of planning the evacuation of Canadian nationals from Lebanon, while a number of other western countries have already begun bringing people out.

NDP Leader Jack Layton echoed Graham’s sentiments, saying his party called for an evacuation to begin Friday and is disappointed with the government’s response so far.

"We’re particularly concerned with the situation facing Canadians in south Lebanon and this has not been adequately addressed," Layton told a news conference in Ottawa.

"The prime minister must insist that Israel provide safe passage for civilians attempting to escape the south and must ensure that evacuation efforts by Canada reach the south," he said.

Well, if the Liberals and the NDP hadn't spent the last 10 years breaking helicopters into subsidized plowshares, Canada might have the lift capacity to do something about its citizens caught in the cross-fire. In the meantime, that last plaintive bleat for Israel to do something - maybe air-drop IFF beacons with little maple leaves on them - is ironic in light of this story:

The IDF has found that Hizbullah is preventing civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon. Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out.

Seems Hezbollah's hostage-taking skills aren't limited to actual hostages, but extend to most of the civiliam population south of the Litani.

At the moment, the Globe and Mail can't decide whether Prime Minister Harper is guilty of good policy and bad politics, or good politics and bad policy. To the extent that it's catering to the "lower-income" "evangelical Christians" who were foolish enough to vote for him, Harper's policy isn't "nuanced" enough.

Although a more nuanced position might be to suggest that Israel react with more restraint, Mr. Harper almost certainly believes that the more easily understood message is to back the country that reflects the mores of Canadian society.

By doing so, he probably appeals to a portion of the lower-income mainstream that voted for his party earlier this year, say his supporters.

I'm sure the Globe and Mail would be happy for Mr. Harper to nuance himself right out of office on lack of principle, but why is the moral equation of the murderers and the murdered more satisfying to the paper? And note that it's not right to back Israel, just "more easily understood."

But then the Can-MSM, demostrating a lamentable lack of independence from its US brethren, argues that the position it doesn't like isn't even good politics:

One senior Tory believes that Mr. Harper has made a bad calculation.

There are not, for example, enough votes among Canadians of Jewish background to make up for those other voters who are upset with the idea that Canada has given up some of its independence by hewing to the U.S. line.

But to believe that Mr. Harper didn't say what he meant is to ignore several years of evolving conservative ideology.

"I don't think it's positive growth material," said the source. ". . . But this isn't necessarily winning politics. It's sound policy."

Unlike the Globe's article, at least Harper's position and statements have the virtue of coherence. Harper believes in democracy and doesn't believe in genocide. He believes that this is another front in the same war Canada's fighting in Afghanistan, and doesn't believe it's good policy to abandon allies who are doing your heavy lifting for you. He happens to head a party that also believes these things, and has for some time. And he happens to think that a democracy like Canada is more likely to sympathize with another democracy than with theocratic butchers whose ideological cousins just tried to decapitate that country's parliament - literally.

What, exactly, is so hard for the Globe or the Liberals to understand about this?

Series 86

Two down, one to go.

The 86, while it only has 150 questions (as opposed to the Series 7's 250 questions), actually took longer than the 7 to finish. That's because you actually have to calculate numbers and think about the questions, unlike the 7, which is essentially a 1930s vocabulary test. A friend of mine suggested that the number of the exam is actually the last year in which the subject matter was relevant.

I was actually a little worried about this one, since I was scoring in the low 70s on the practice exams, with my own calculator and all the coffee I could want. Turns out the practice exams are harder than the real thing.

Next up - Series 87, "Best Practices," or, "How to Make Sure People Should Believe What You're Telling Them."

July 17, 2006

Israel Rally Report

I wasn't able to be there, but from all reports, the rally Sunday evening was a success. We got 1500 people - so many that the main sanctuary couldn't hold them all, and they had to open the doors to include the social hall in the back.

The speeches were, by and large, uncompromising, more concerned with winning than with a false peace, which is a real change in tenor for some of the speakers involved.

The Rocky's report this morning was fairly accurate as far as the rally went, and fairly negligent in terms of the local Muslim response.

Mohammad Noorzai, executive director of the Colorado Muslim Council, cautioned Sunday against a herd mentality that supports any one side in the conflict.

"If everyone sticks with their own clan - no matter what they do - we'll never get anywhere," he said.

Noorzai said the vastly stronger Israeli military should "restrain itself" and make a concerted effort to stop killing and hurting Lebanese civilians who have nothing to do with the conflict.

Armando Elkhoury, a native of Lebanon and pastor of St. Rafka's Maronite Catholic Church in Englewood, faulted both sides.

""What Hezbollah did is not acceptable: crossing into Israel and attacking Israelis."

But Elkhoury criticized Israeli military leaders as well.

"The response by Israel is disproportionate," he said. "They've taken a whole country hostage."

Now, Noorzai may have said something like, "Hezbollah needs to disarms and place itself under the control of the Lebanese government that it's joined. Coordinated rocket artillery barrages and kidnappings against a country that's not occupying any Lebanese territory doesn't help matters. Hezbollah needs to realize that Jews have a right to their own country, too. If everyone sticks with their own clan - no matter what they do - we'll never get anywhere."

But I don't think so.

In the meantime, the Rocky completely fails to mention that Hezbollah has been using private patios as rocket launching pads, and that the Israelis have been dropping leaflets trying to get civilians to move the hell out the way. And of course, there's no contrast with Katushyas and other rockets that are only good for hitting cities and killing civilians.

Carnival of the Capitalists

This week's Carnival is up.

Some of the highlights:

  • The Skeptical Optimist points out that the national debt really is necessary for decent growth. Hmm, seems to me I've heard that argument made somewhere before.
  • Econbrowser suggests that while the economy is more oil-resilient in the past, it's not infinitely so.
  • Sophistipundit praises one of my favorite books.
  • Frugal Wisdom has a post on consumer inflation-fighting that reads as though it's from the 1970s
  • The Sharpener discusses SOXian extra-territoriality. With capital fleeing the US in part because of SOX, this can't be good news for Britain.
  • And because it's always good to read the opposition, Lip-Sticking tries to make the case that a school system where boys score lower, test lower, graduate at lower rates, attend & graduate from college at lower rates, is actually not bad for boys. Now, if all that were reversed....

Tim Lynch Chimes In

Tim Lynch, the Afghanistan country manager fo r World Security Initiatives, chimes in with his assessment of the differences between Bill Roggio's and Barry McCaffrey's, information-gathering techniques:

Excellent post and a most accurate analysis of the widely divergent views of Bill Roggio and Gen McCaffrey. I hosted Bill during his stay in Kabul and have been in Afghanistan for the past 18 months. I agree with Bill’s assessment and thus have no idea what the good General was talking about. I did not have much of a clue what he was talking about when he was active duty and during his drug warrior years either so no surprise there. As a guy who makes his living providing security assessments to NGO and other business’s operating throughout Afghanistan I can tell you that Bill’s take on things is spot on. That is probably due to the fact that Bill actually embeds and lives the local experience. The good General flies in on private air and stays at the Serena – the only times he sees the real Afghanistan is when his convoy of armored SUV’s slows down on the way to and from the airport. Easy to get fooled when you live that way and as a former grunt McCaffrey should know better.

Lest you think that Tim is an Afghanistan equivalent of the mythical Green-Zone-Dweller, he gets out a lot himself, as this post from Roggio shows.

July 16, 2006

Georgia (Pass) On My Mind

Finally, taking the Jeep someplace that my Contour couldn't go: Georgia Pass, formerly a connector between South Park and Breckenridge, now a playground for ATVs. It's on the same road as Jefferson Lake.

I noticed, approaching the mountains from the east, that the road behind me was straight back, so I thought I'd get a little artistic.

Don't worry: there's no more of that.

Here are the mountain as God intended them to be seen:


Obligatory I-Was-Here Pass Sign:

Once you get there, there are some fantastic vistas both of the mountains to the west, and back at South Park. The pictures don't really do them justice, and one of the dogs had a hip that wouldn't let him climb the mountain with a full 360-degree view, so these will have to suffice.


July 14, 2006

If You're Looking to Help

If you're hoping to do something a little more concrete, there are ways to help directly.

The Magen David Adom, the Red Star of David, has an American friends arm. This is the Israeli emergency services, like the Red Cross, only because it's not a cross, they wouldn't let them into the ICRC for decades. They're in now.

Friends of the IDF provides rec tents, care packages, and canteens (Stage Door-type, not metal, water-bearing-type) for the soldiers. This may sound trivial, but if you haven't been in the military, you may have no idea how important this sort of morale-booster is.

This may sound even more trivial, but you can have pizza delivered to soldiers or units. I have this image of the delivery guy dodging incoming Katushyas, getting to the foxhole, and then collecting a combat-pay enhanced tip for his efforts. Seriously, this stuff matters to kids getting shot at.

And for those of you who want to buy a tank, whose wish right is that the last thing some Hezbollah cockroach sees is your name spinning at him on the tip of a rifled artillery shell, well, you can't do that. At least not directly. But you can buy Israel Bonds, which help support the state. They're real bonds, with real coupons (except for the zero-coupon bonds), and they've never missed a payment, which probably means there are some United employees wishing they had invested in those instead.

Thank you for your support.

Israel Solidarity Rally

This Sunday, at the BMH-BJ Congregation here in Denver, there's going to be an Israel Solidarity Rally, organized by the local Jewish community. The rally will be 6:30-7:30 pm, and the shul is located at 560 South Monaco Pkwy.

I'm not going to go on about how important it is to be there, since you already know that. I will point out that there's plenty of room, and plenty of parking. (Not only do the synagogue and GW High School have large lots, it's right across the street from my house; if those lots get filled up, I have two spots in my driveway, and I won't charge. Or at least, not very much.)

I'm going to be on air with John Andrews, but I'll be looking for pictures, so if anyone has a camera, feel free to send them to me, and I'll be happy to post them.

OK, I lied. Guys, it's game on now. This is serious business, with Haifa and now a ship getting hit. The Air Force is, ah, preparing the battlefield, as they say, but eventually it's going to take boots on the ground to play Orkin Man to Hezbollah's cockroaches. We need to make sure that Israel has the time it needs to do the job it needs to do.

Be there.

Palestinians Enter Gaza From Egypt


Hundreds of people poured into the Gaza Strip from Egypt on Friday after Palestinians blew a hole in the border wall separating the two places, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.

People carrying suitcases crossed into Gaza through the hole. Some walked through on crutches, others ran and walked.

The border has largely been closed since June 25 when Palestinian militants carried out a cross-border raid on a military outpost, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing one. Hundreds of people have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the border, unable to get to their homes in Gaza.

(Hat Tip: Pajamas Media)

Gee, how much you want to bet that some of those suitcases contained dinars, riyals, shekels, dollars, and whatever the Palestinians are using for cash these days - seashells, maybe?

This seems to happen with some regularity, reinforcing the impression that Egypt's border patrol has been taking lesson from ICE. Or maybe, they're just carrying on their tradition to aiding whatever enemy of Israel happens to be most useful.

The Palestinian government is cash-poor but HX rich, so this would have been a fairly simple thing to orchestrate. I'm not certain what the Egyptian side of the border looks like - it looks as though Rafah may be a divided city -, but it still seems unlikely that this was, "spontaneous."

UPDATE: On the other hand, makes you wonder why they just didn't use the tunnels.

July 13, 2006

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Blames the Jews

The Iraqi Parliament speaker has decided that the US and "the Jews," are conspiring to keep Iraq under US control:

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani hinted that the Americans and Israelis did not want to see officials of Sunni and Shi'ite parties running the country because "this is not their agenda."

"They will say that we brought you in a democratic way to the government but you are sectarian people. One of you is killing the other and you don't deserve to become leaders because you are war lords," al-Mashhadani told reporters after a parliament meeting.

Al-Mashhadani is a member of the Sunni Muslim Iraqi Accordance Front while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member of the Shi'ite Dawa party.

"Some people say 'we saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,"' al-Mashhadani said. "These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."

"I can tell you about these Jewish, Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq and come with the agent and cheap project."

"No one deserves to rule Iraq other than Islamists," he said.

Emphasis added, of course.

Some were hoping that the Sunni decision to join the political process meant that they were committed to that process. Apparently they, like Mookie al-Sadr on the other side, joined it in order to hijack it for their own ends. (This is also the logical conclusion of not insisting that Iraq be Israel-friendly from the beginning.)

The notion that Islamists - Sunni or Shiite - were going to join the government, and then, having gotten comfortable with "the process," were going to abandon religious fanatacism in favor of budget earmarks was naive beyond belief. Now, the wolf is in the fold. We can't leave, because we can't let the Islamists run the country. We can't throw this monster and his whole party in Abu Ghraib, because they part of the Legitimately-Elected-Government-Of-Iraq.

This isn't some backbencher looking for a headline. This is the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, people.

July 12, 2006

The Political Markets Rebound

Tradesports has the chances of the Republicans retaining the House at 55%, up from an intraday low of 43.2. (The official low of 30 occurred when the contract was trading at about 51, and looks like someone ham-handedly trying to drive the price down.)

The Iowa Electronic Markets have the combined chances of the Republicans holding the majority or gaining seats at 59%, about where they've been for most of the season.

10-K Activism

In running through the 10-Ks for some companies, I came across this paragraph in the Risks section of Alloy, Inc.'s 10-K:

We also face risks due to a failure to enforce or legislate, particularly in the area of network neutrality, where governments might fail to protect the Internet’s basic neutrality as to the services and sites that users can access through the network. Such a failure could limit our ability to innovate and deliver new features and services, which could harm our business. The U.S. Congress is currently considering changes to the existing regulatory regime, including bills to prohibit broadband network discrimination. This proposed legislation would prevent broadband network operators from interfering with the ability of consumers to access the Internet, as well as from charging businesses for the distribution and carriage of online content and services over their networks. No assurances can be given that this or any other legislation prohibiting or otherwise limiting broadband network discrimination will be adopted.

Whatever one thinks of Net Neutrality (I happen to lean against it, at least in terms of Federal legislation), this paragraph is clearly argumentative, essentially an editorial in favor of Net Neutrality. There's nothing wrong with this, but it is an interesting development. Usually, the Risks section highlights issues without taking a position on them. "The United States may adopt the Kyoto protocols which would hamper our ability to develop new energy resources by reducing the demand for our product." Not, "The US may commit economic suicide by adopting Kyoto restrictions designed to force everyone onto bicycles."

Alloy may or may not engage in direct lobbying activities, although it almost certainly does so through trade associations. As a content provider, it has almost certainly let Congress know of its support for Net Neutrality. Despite that, Alloy believes that it's important that 1) the market know of the legislative effects on its business, and 2) the market know of its position on the issue. Whether Alloy intends it or not, its shareholders may be encouraged to pick up the phone and call their Congressmen.

Google's discussion of Net Neutrality, while briefer, uses some of the same language:

We also face risks due to failure to enforce or legislate, particularly in the area of network neutrality, where governments might fail to protect the Internet’s basic neutrality as to the services and sites that users can access through the network. Such a failure could limit Google’s ability to innovate and deliver new features and services, which could harm our business.

In Google's case, the matter is much more troubling. Google is calling for regulatory protection from the predations of private network operators, having folded like a cheap suit in the face of Chinese threats.

The use of 10-Ks to discuss political or legislative issues in more than bland terms bears watching.

The Island of Venezuela

Apparently in imitation of his hero, Hugo Chavez is slowly turning Venezuela into an island, or at least an economic one. Morgan Stanley is seeking consultation of the investment community as to the removal of Venezuela from its Emerging Market Index. Morgan Stanley gives three interrelated reasons for this proposal:

  1. The continued presence of investability restrictions linked to the foreign exchange regime put in place in the country in February 2003,
  2. The lack of liquidity of most of its constituents,
  3. The continued weight decrease of the MSCI Venezuela Index in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index over the last several years.

Point 2, for the Oakland Raiders fans, means that you can't sell if you want to get out, and you can't buy if you want to get in. The Point 3 means that Venezuela's market has collapsed relative to those of other Emerging Markets. It should be obvious, even to Diana DeGette, that (2) is a direct consequence of investment controls, and (3) is an indirect consequence.

How illiquid is Venezuela? Morgan-Stanley uses a measure called the "Annualized Traded Volume Ratio," which means, roughly, the average monthly dollar volume in a stock divided by its market cap at the end of that month. The Venezuelan securities in the index traded at an average of 1.5% ATVR as of February. That means that in a month, a stock only traded about 1.5% of its market cap. By comparison, Latin America traded at 37% ATVR, Argentina at 26%, and Columbia (heh) at 40%.

How poorly has Venezuela performed? Right now, Venezuela accounts for 0.085% (yes, you read that right) of the entire MSCI Emerging Market Index. Two-thirds of that is the national telephone company, the only Venezuelan company able to repatriate its dividends outside the country. It has been worse. At the end of 2005, the number was 0.07%. But don't get too excited.

At the end of 2001, Venezuela accounted for 0.28% of the Index. That's not terrific - it was 6th-worst - but it's better on both absolute and relative terms. Right now, the next-least-important country on the index is Morocco, at 0.22%. Venezuela's current relative value is about half of the last important country in 12/01, Columbia at 0.14%.

The potential removal is more than a sign that the Venezuela should join the Receding Market Index. It's also going to make it harder to attract capital by completely submerging the country's international investment profile.

Bolivia, take note.

July 10, 2006

Rather Obscure

Howard Kurtz, in a story so stunning in its implications that the Washington Post promoted it up all the way to page C7, that Dan Rather is set to make his reportorial comeback on Mark Cuban's dish-only HDNet:

"We are excited about it," Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said yesterday. He described the show as "an opportunity to do news in what I like to call 'fearless mode,' what Dan calls 'with guts.' Go out there and find the stories we think will have impact."

Well, hurricane season is almost upon us again.

He added: "Traditional broadcast and cable news is all about numbers. Get a pretty face, pay for it in the upfront," the annual conference for advertisers. " 'How does MSNBC beat Fox?' The lead story is never the reporting or news itself."

Funny. I thought the reason for Rather's being exiled in the first place was that the reporting became the story.

July 5, 2006

Barry McCaffrey, Meet Bill Roggio

In this morning's Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave summarizes an interview with former Clinton Administration Drug Czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey:

Three years ago the Taliban operated in squad sized units. Last year they operated in company sized units (100 or more men). This year the Taliban are operating in battalion-sized units (400-plus men). So reported retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, professor of international affairs at West Point, after his second trip to Afghanistan to assess the balance of forces.

The former Clinton administration drug czar and commander of the 24th Infantry Division in the Gulf war, Gen. McCaffrey concluded that in the last three years, Taliban has reconstituted the obscurantist movement that took Afghanistan back to the Middle Ages in the 1990s. "They are brutalizing the population," said the general's written report, "and they are now conducting a summer-fall campaign to knock NATO out of the war, capture the provincial capital of Kandahar, isolate the Americans, stop the developing Afghan educational system, stop the liberation of women, and penetrate the new police force and Afghan National Army (ANA)."

Taliban now have "excellent weapons" and "new field equipment" -- prized by the equipment-poor ANA -- and "new IED [improvised explosive devices] technology and commercial communications," Gen. McCaffrey said. "They appear to have received excellent tactical, camouflage and marksmanship training," and "they are very aggressive and smart in their tactics."

"The Afghan Army is miserably underresourced," the report concluded. "This is now a major morale factor for their soldiers. They have shoddy small arms -- described by Defense Minister [Abdul Rahim] Wardak as much worse than he had as a Mujahideen fighting the Soviets 20 years ago.

Contrast that rather gloomy report with Bill Roggio's observations from the front lines:

- The Taliban is unable to stand up against the Western militaries when they attempt to mass in large formations (100 to 300 fighters, equivalent to company or battalion sized units). Their advantage is they know the local terrain far better than the Coalition forces....

The levels of effectiveness of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police varies from unit to unit. The Canadian soldiers trust the army units, but are very wary of police units. Corruption is a major problem with local police formations, as is drug usage (this is also a problem within the Taliban). The ANA and ANP are often poorly armed and trained. But to a man, the Canadian soldiers are impressed with their enthusiasm and courage once a fight breaks out...

The Taliban's weapons are not as sophisticated as the media reports would lead you to believe. Their primary weapons are AK-47 assault rifles and RPG-7s (the old variant of the RPG). Rarely are mortars brought to bear on the battlefield. ... Roadside bombs (IEDs), while a threat, have yet to reach either the sophistication or intensity in deployment as they have in Iraq.

The strength of the Taliban lies in their ability to blend in with the local population, and intimidate or coerce the local population when they must. There are small pockets of Taliban safe havens in southeastern Afghanistan. The increase in airstrikes is related to striking at targets of opportunity and the increased operational tempo to weaken the Taliban prior to ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO mission) takes command of the region by the end of the summer.

Roggio spent a few weeks embedded with the Canadians in southeastern Afghanistan, and has more to say about the fighting here, here, and here.

While Roggio and McCaffrey agree that the Taliban are now a Pakistan-based operation, the tenor of their reports is completely different. McCaffrey claims the Taliban operate in battalion-sized units. But Roggio reports that every time they try this, they get killed by the hundreds. McCaffrey reports sophisticated IEDs. Roggio doesn't report seeing any. McCaffrey doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of the NATO troops holding things down in the south. Roggio gives the Canadians there a very good report.

Weekly reports of substantial Taliban deaths and injuries, sustained in firefights that rarely take NATO or US life, would seem to support his take on things. If the Taliban are fighting an offensive to drive NATO out of Kandahar using such tactics, their success will be as delayed as the fearsome Afghan winter.

And McCaffrey's report is internally inconsistent. A summer/fall offensive that could dislodge the Americans from Kandahar would hardly be the tactic of choice for someone seeking to wait us out. (After 2001/02, do they still not think we can operate in the winter over there?) It would seem to require a great deal more operational capability than Roggio is reporting that he's seeing. Unless the Taliban are merely throwing thousands of their men down the disposal unit in order to ferret out NATO tactics.

The point here isn't that McCaffrey doesn't know what he's talking about. McCaffrey's an experienced military man, who fought in the first Gulf War against Saddam. But militaries almost always overestimate the enemy and underestimate our allies. It's good, sound, conservative thinking that keeps your men from getting killed. But it can also lead you to overcommit resources and move with undue caution, costing you opportunities.

Suppose we took Gen. McCaffrey's advice, and suppose we took it retroactively. Suppose we had committed 100,000 men to Afghanistan. What would that have accomplished? We still couldn't pursue them over the border into Pakistan, a border that the Pakistani government takes seriously with regard to our operations, even if the Pushtun don't. We wouldn't control Afghanistan any more firmly than we do now; we'd have a higher profile, possibly alienating the local Afghans.

In the meantime, Saddam would have gotten his bought-and-paid-for friends on the Security Council to remove the sanctions regime, he'd be back to manufacturing WMDs, possibly handing them out to non-state actors, and threatening worse if we didn't let him have the southern and northern thirds of his country back to practice on. We'd be too "tied down" in Afghanistan to respond, and we'd no doubt be hearing about our mistaken "quagmire" in Afghanistan that could have been averted with more subtle diplomacy.

Like, you know, getting the Europeans to help us track bank transactions.

July 4, 2006

Independence Day Picnic

What better place to go than Jefferson Lake?

No, we didn't read the Declaration out loud, but we did have it in mind.

Unfortunately, the much-prayed-for monsoon season appears to have arrived in time to douse this evening's fireworks displays. Ah, well, you can't have everything.

Independence Day Photoblogging

Sunday, I took the Jeep out across Weston Pass, which runs between Fairplay and Leadville. Here are the results:

Rich's Creek Trail's trailhead is on the Weston Pass Road, just after the pavement ends:

The South Fork of the South Platte runs down from the pass to near Fairplay. These pictures are facing up the river, towards Weston Peak:

And the obligatory Prove-You-Were-Here sign at the top of the pass:

The other side is where you get the mountain views. I think the one on the left is Mt. Massive, the one on the right is Mt. Elbert. Or the other way around:

Just before you hit US-24 going up to Leadville, there's a development called Mt. Massive Lakes. It's private, which is their right, but there's no sign on the map that the ponds are restricted, so if you get there and the dog starts blaming you because he hasn't gone for a swim yet, don't blame me. It's worth wading through the "No Trespassing - Private Land" signs, though, for this:

If the dog still wants a swim, there's Turquoise Lake, Leadville's main reservoir and recreation area, on the other side. I'd never been there, but now it looks like I'll have to stay overnight in Leadville sometime to get some sunrise pictures of the place:

One way back is over Fremont Pass, now dominated by a large Molybdenum mine, but former home to towns:

Happy Fourth!

July 3, 2006

Disrobed Unplugged

Last night, John and I interviewed Mark Smith, author of Disrobed, which he touts as an action plan for using the courts to advance the conservative agenda. Note that carefully. He does not want to "retake the courts." He wants to file targeted lawsuits in judge-shopped districts to find judges willing to impose the conervative agenda on the citizenry.

This is a profoundly bad idea, no matter how emotionally satisfying it may be.

The problem, the dispiriting truth, is that Smith is right in many of his premises. Liberals have misused the courts for 50 years. Liberals have refined judge-shopping and lawsuit-tailoring to a fine art. Conservatives have failed to make progress in reclaiming the courts, despite a generation of electoral success. So many core conservative agenda items - vouchers, repeal of racial quotas - are still annulled by the courts, no matter whether passed by referendum or by legislation, no matter how many times rewritten to satisfy the micromanagers in robes.

Facing this, and mindful that national moods may change over time, Smith sees an appeal to conservative judicial activism as the only way to play the game now. After all, if judges are going to be activists, they may as well be our activists. He sees this as raising the bar. It's actually just giving up.

First, it's lousy politics. Emotionally delicious as it might be to hang the leftist judiciary on the rope they've sold us, it's not the kind of thing most Americans are going to vote for. After all, if the best you can offer is a choice of dictators, that's not much of a menu. Principled conservatives - the majority of those who vote for a president based on the judges he'll apoint - will be confused by this kind of a U-turn. And surprising though it may be to some, while many conservative policies are quite popular, imposing them by fiat, not so much. Much conservative progress on judicial nominations has been won with the help of the vast middle who are persuaded not by this policy or that, but by democracy.

More importantly, though, Smith's proposal is essentially an abandonment of Constitutionalism, and it is the Constitution and the Declaration - not school vouchers - that is America's great gift to the world, and what sets us apart from what came before. Smith argues that "it will take 50 years of conservative judicial activism to undo the damage of 50 years of liberal activism." He might be right. But by then, we'll be 100 years removed from courts that behave Constitutionally, and really, do we think that conservatives, whatever that might mean 50 years from now, will give up that kind of power any more readily than liberals would today?

In fact, this reminds of nothing so much as the late Roman Republic, with greater and greater political forces being brought to bear on fewer and fewer offices with more and more power. The Founders were well aware of this history, and sought to distribute power in three ways: federalism, separation of powers, and enumeration of powers. To spend vast sums on a continuous poliical battle for the control of five seats on the Court is to invite lawlessness and violence in pursuit of that control, and to acquiesce in the lawlessness of Courts that rule at their whim.

There is one way in which Smith's ideas might conceivably work. If enough judges were to start imposing ideological quotas at law schools, affirmative action for conservatives, the liberals at those faculties might rediscover the virtues of Constitutionalism.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud