For months the main stream media has been giving us the story told by the residents in Haditha. According to them, U.S. Marines rampaged through the neighborhood, purposely killing women and children while they pleaded for their lives. Most of the media swallowed there stories uncritically, in spite of the facts that (1) we hadn't yet heard the Marines' version of events, (2) the Haditha neighborhood is a terrorist stronghold, and (3) there have been documented attempts by the terrorists to try to gin up a "human rights" incident in order to discredit our people (like this one).
Well, we have now heard from the Marines involved, through their attorneys. The story isn't pretty, but it sounds to me that the young Marines acted reasonably (and courageously) in the face of real dangers. And while woman and kids were killed, this is only because the terrorists involved put them in harms way.
This clearly isn't the end of the story, but it was good to finally hear the other side.
For example, the Democrats see this as a big win (in spite of the fact that they . . . well . . . lost) because their candidate got 45% of the vote this time out when she only got 36 % two years ago. As the folks at My DD put it, "this is a huge, seismic shift in our favor that bodes extremely
well for November. If we receive an 18% shift nationwide, we will win
the House easily." But over at Red State they are happy to let the left have all the moral victories they want, so long as the guy going to Washington has an "R" next to his name.
And then some people think the race was all about immigration. Bilbray was for strong enforcement of immigration laws and against the Senate's "Amnesty" bill. So much so that Sen. McCain dis-invited himself from a Bilbray fund raiser. And Busby committed a serious gaffe when she told a man who asked if he could help her campaign when he didn't have "papers" that “You don't need papers for voting." So you can say (a lot of people do) that this race shows that the Republicans should focus on immigration in the fall.
And then you have some people saying it's a mistake to try to draw too much of a trend from this election. As Smash points out, Busby was never very likely to win, given that she was never able to crack 45% in the race. And as The Moderate Voice points out in a detailed (and really smart) analysis, there were lots and lots of factors in the race. Such as:
No one knows how much Randy Cunningham's spectacular fall from grace hurt Bilbray;
Bilbray was actually pretty moderate, so much so that he had a third party candidate running to his right;
Bilbray was also an attractive, experienced candidate, with a lot of name recognition in San Diego; and
Busby's comment about not needing papers to vote was one of the more spectacular slip-ups by a candidate in recent memory.
In one sense TMV is right, the election was more about a good candidate who ran a smart campaign in friendly territory than it is about anything else. On the other hand, an awful lot of the smart campaign that Bilbray ran focused on immigration.
So, in spite of the danger in trying to find a trend out of a single event, I am going out on a limb. I think that in the upcoming election cycle immigration might become the new "third rail". The traditional wisdom is that candidates that want to win in national or (most) statewide elections can't afford to alienate the Hispanic vote. So they try to play both sides, i.e. the way the President and the Senate bill tries to be all things to all people.
But Hispanics actually make up a pretty small chunk of the actual registered voters in this Country (about 6%), and non-Hispanics are more focused on the immigration issue than ever before. Bilbray won in large part because he rejected the squishy middle and took a tough, pro-enforcement line. And so I think that pandering to the open borders, pro-amnesty crowd is very dangerous in this environment. You could find yourself--either Democrat or Republican--alienating a lot of folks who otherwise would be in your corner.
Which will make a lot of politicians very uncomfortable in the coming months, which ought to be fun to watch.
Opinions differ on the significance of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Regardless, we should all rejoice in the fact that this very evil man, who was our primary adversary in the war on terror, has been shuffled off this mortal coil.
Why can't these people take a moment to be happy about the fact that not only has justice been served to a monster, but America has won a victory (of some magnitude or other) in the war on terror? My guess is that the pathological hatred of George Bush has so blinded some of these people that, deep in their tiny little heart-of-hearts, they don't really want us to succeed.
As Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, a democracy will only survive until the people figure out they can vote themselves bread and circuses. There are times when I think we passed that point some time ago. However, I now have a bit of hope that my fellow citizens can occasionally rise up to vote something other than their self-interest.
Specifically, yesterday the California electorate was given an opportunity to vote on Proposition 82, sponsored and supported by Hollywood director and political activist Rob Reiner (aka "Meathead") . The "Preschool for All" initiative would have taxed people making more than 400 grand a year in order to provide "universal" preschool for the kids of California.
At its heart, the proposition was as cynical as all hell. It was premised on the facts that (1) everyone thinks preschool is swell, and (2) there are are lot more people in California making less than 400k than there are people making more. So we were all given an engraved invitation to vote to for free preschool, with the rich guys having to pay for it.
Reiner has had success at just this sort of thing in the past. In 1998 he sponsored Proposition 10, which imposed a 50 cent tax on a pack of ciggies, in order to fund "early education". Once again, who among us isn't in favor of "early education", and there are more non-smokers than smokers. So the tax passed (and my local cigar store went out of business, but who's complaining).
This is the same formula, offering up a big spoonful of gravy with someone else footing the bill. And if this had worked, you can be sure that in a couple of years Reiner would have offered up another initiative, mandating free food and health care for puppies (who doesn't love puppies, right?), funded through a tax on left-handed midgets.
Well, yesterday a significant majority of the California voters said no to pie-in-the-sky. A significant majority of California's refused to vote themselves a free bennie with some other slob having to pick up the tab. Hurray for the Republic!!
There is a whole hell of a lot that we don't know about the alleged massacre at Haditha. But there are a lot of things that we do know.
First, people like Congressman Murtha, who is accusing our guys of being war criminals based largely on press reports and leaks, need to be taken out and beaten. I mean, its all well and good to get out "in front" of the news cycle, but Murtha's unseemly haste to score political points out of what looks like a tragedy for all concerned has caused him to lose whatever respect I may have had for him.
Second, its like that old joke that starts out, "you can build a thousand bridges, and nobody ever calls you a bridge builder, but all you have to do is . . . . . (you either know how the joke goes, or you don't, this is a family blog). The Marines in Iraq have shown countless examples of restraint, valor, and compassion. Much of this sort of thing, for example the remarkable exploits of Brian Chontosh get virtually ignored in the press (for Heaven's sake, there are some people who think he is an urban legend). But everyone in the world knows who Lyndie England is.
Finally, whatever these kids might have done, there isn't anyone out there as alone and friendless right now. The anti-war left is prepared to crucify them, because it helps advance the agenda. The pro-war crowd is going after them too, as a damage control measure, in order to assure "world opinion" that there is accountability, and that these are just a few "bad apples".
Lets remember a couple of things, please. First off, these are not "bad apples". These guys are good Marines, as testified to by a CNN reporter that was embedded with them last year.
And remember that we gave these kids guns and taught them how to use them. We taught them to bond with each other like family, because that makes for an effective fighting unit. Then we put them out on patrol in a terrorist stronghold, where everyone hates them and where the bad guys don't wear uniform, are masters of the sneak attack and might be anywhere. And this is a place where their comrades have been killed in the not too distant past, amid much glee and rejoicing by the locals.
Then lets add in a sudden explosion that kills one of their number, and wounds a bunch more. Then all of a sudden there is gunfire, and you think someone is shooting at you or your buddies.
Well, okay, you are still not supposed to over-react, you are still supposed to be a "professional". And I am not suggesting that anyone condone war crimes, if this is what happened here. But these young Marines were put (by us) into an insanely dangerous situation. It would be nice if all the armchair critics could recognize that, and maybe recognize that they might not have done a whole lot better in the same situation.
But Monty Python had this sort of thing covered a long time ago. Inspector Gaskell was raiding a dirty book shop in modern London, and he suddenly found himself transformed into Sir Philip Sidney in Elizabethan England:
Good evening all, my love. I have returned safe from the Low Countries. (she hurriedly hides the book she is reading under some knitting and starts whistling) What are thou reading, fair one?
Oh, 'tis nothing, husband.
I can see 'tis something.
'Tis one of Shakespeare's latest works.
Gaskell picks up the book and reads the title.
Oh ...'Gay Boys in Bondage' What, is't - tragedy? Comedy?
'Tis a... er... 'tis a story of a man's great love for his... fellow men.
How fortunate we are indeed to have such a poet on these shores.
Indeed. How was the war, my lord?
The Spaniards were defeated thrice. Six dozen chests of hardcore captured.
(trying to look innocent) Hast brought home any spoils of war?
Yes, good my wife, this fair coat trimmed with ermine.
(without enthusiasm) Oh, lovely, nowt else?
No, no fair lady. The rest was too smutty.
He settles himself down in front of his lady's feet and the fire.
Now, my good wife. Whilst I rest, read to me a while from Shakespeare's 'Gay Boys in Bondage'.
The wife looks a trifle taken aback but reluctantly opens the book and starts to read with a resigned air.
Yes... my lord ... 'Gay Boys in Bondage' ... Ken, 25,
is a mounted policeman with a difference... and what a difference. Even
Roger is surprised and he's... (she looks slightly, sick with guilt) he's used to real men ...
'Tis like 'Hamlet' ... what a genius!
'But who's going to do the cooking tonight? Roddy's got a mouthful...'
And then the modern world intrudes. Very funny stuff. (And for fans, here is all the dialog from all the Monty Pythons)
At Slate, Amy Sullivan tells us that the "Christian Right" is shifting to the left, over issues such as global warming and third world poverty. This "trend" revealed itself to her when Republican Senator Rick Santorum was a no-show at a forum given at Christian "Messiah College" in Pennsylvania. Apparently the global warming scare film "The Great Warming", narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette was a big hit at the forum, as was Santorum's opponent, Democrat Bob Casey. And Santorum was ill-treated in absentium over his position on the environment. All this leads Ms. Sullivan to conclude that Christians are poised to desert the Republican party over its environmental policies.
You see this a lot, fabricating a trend out of a couple of data points (in this case, a single data point). But honestly, just how representative is what happened at Messiah College to the general relationship between Republicans, Democrats, and Christian Evangelicals? Not very, I think.
First, remember that Bob Casey is not just a Democrat, he is a pro-life democrat. The list of high profile pro-life democrats is pretty short, there is Bob Casey and . . . . well, pretty much there is just Bob Casey. The Democratic Party as a whole doesn't share his views on these sorts of issues; anybody besides me remember when his dad--also fiercely pro-life--was barred from speaking at the 1992 Dems convention because of these views?
Then there is the audience. Let us not forget that college kids are a lot dumber then people generally (sorry kids, but in 20 years you will probably agree with me), and also a lot less likely to vote. I doubt that these kids' moms and dads share their opinions on most things, and (fortunately for us all) kids do tend to grow up. And please note that neither Ms. Morissette nor Mr. Reeves are particularly big hits with the Christian community at large.
And, frankly, the notion that Christians are poised to support candidates who favor gay marriage and abortion-on-demand because of global warming is pretty silly. Al Gore and a bunch of college kids notwithstanding, the environment isn't that big an issue with people. Yes, if you ask people if global warming is an important, a lot of them will say yes. But most people don't favor immediate government action on the issue. And when you lump the environment in with issues like jobs and health care and ask people to prioritize, the environment is barely in the top ten. There is no reason to believe that Christians are more likely to be environmentalists than the average voter (in fact, one of the canards of the lefties is that Christians think the Rapture is right around the corner, and so couldn't care less about the environment).
So, Ms. Sullivan's thesis is--basically--that Christians are prepared to support democrats with positions they abhor on issues they care passionately about, because the democrats also support issues that barely register with them. Maybe, but I kinda doubt it.
Patterico has a post on how the Mexican government is threatening to file a lawsuit if the U.S. uses National Guard troops to help control the southern border. While the AP story about the threatened lawsuit is not specific, my guess is that the lawsuit will allege that the National Guard will be performing a law enforcement function in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. This Act is a general prohibition against use of the military for active law enforcement purposes.
I know a little about it, because I violated the law once, although entirely by accident. Back when I was in the Marines my squadron (VMO-1) was tasked with assisting Customs to help protect the border against drug smugglers. Part of this involved flying around the Bahamas, swooping down on sailboats to check them out (there were a lot of pretty girls on those sailboats) and sneaking up on civilian aircraft from behind so we could read their side numbers. That part was loads of fun. There was also a lot of night flying, some of it in dirty weather, which wasn't so much fun. (I remember once operating over water under a solid 1200 foot overcast. There wasn't a bit of ambient light, so the night vision stuff was useless, and there wasn't anything to see on the infrared. I soon pretty much forgot about the mission and spent the next three hours or so just trying to stay alive).
Anyway, one night we were vectored onto a drug smuggling aircraft that was coming in over the border. We used the infrared to follow him for a few hours, until he crashed while attempting to put down in a makeshift airfield.
My backseater saw a van pulling away from the crash sight in the infrared, so I figured "what the hell" and started to give chase. We terrorized the guy for about five minutes, until the van drove off into the woods and the occupants took off running. They didn't give off enough of a heat source for us to effectively track them on the infrared, so our fun was over for the night.
Anyway, years later while I was in law school I learned about the Posse Comitatus Act, and wondered why what we doing wasn't a violation. It turned out that Congress had passed a law right before the deployment, allowing the use of the military to track and monitor "air and sea traffic" in aid of the drug enforcement effort. That made it okay to follow boats and airplanes. But the van we chased wasn't on the land or sea, so I guess it was a violation. That was okay, nobody knew about it but me, and I wasn't talking. (Until now, I guess).
Anyway, the lawsuit doesn't sound like it will go anywhere. The Act doesn't apply to traditional military functions. And if protecting the nation's border isn't a traditional function, I don't know what is.
A Los Angeles Laker, Kwame Brown, has been accused of sexual assault. As with last week's rape allegation against a U.S.C. football player, there have been no calls for firing the Laker's coach or for the suspension of the Laker's continued participation in the playoffs. In fact, Phil Jackson seems to think the issue of whether one of his players raped a woman is only a distraction:
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said before the game that he had
spoken with Brown about the matter.
"I did say something to Kwame: 'You know we have three
priorities -- basketball, basketball and family. That's it.'"
Jackson said Brown would play his usual minutes in the game,
"if he can focus and play through this. I'm sure it's a
"We're not even going to discuss it," Jackson said. "It's a
basketball team and we've got to focus on what we need to do."
Can anyone imagine the reaction if the Duke lacrosse coach had said anything like this when his players were accused of rape? Does Phil get a pass just because he is Phil, or are there different rules for athletes depending on the sport, or what?
I was lucky enough to get tickets to the premiere of the new Dreamworks animated film, "Over the Hedge." It was the kind of movie that my seven year old daughter and I both thought was laugh-out-loud funny. (Unlike movies like this one, where the kids loved it and I was praying for a loss of consciousness).
The movie's sole weakness was the predictability of the plot. TJ, a smooth talking raccoon, has to gather up a wagon load of food to save his skin from a homicidal bear. TJ comes across a friendly but naive family of scavengers (turtle, porcupines, possums and a squirrel), and cons them into helping him collect the food. Of course, he is only setting them up for the inevitable betrayal. Or do you think he will have a "change of heart" when the time comes to actually steal the food? It wasn't hard to figure out how that would go.
Anyway, the voice acting was great. Bruce Willis was TJ, Gary Shandling played Verne the turtle (the only one not completely taken by TJ), and William Shatner had a star turn as Ozzie the possum, trying to convince his daughter Heather (Avril Lavigne) on the virtues of playing dead. And the dialog was even better; it was the kind of movie I will probably have to see again to get the jokes I missed the first time around. The highpoints were TJ's monologue about the humans' obsession with food, an extended "death" scene by Ozzie, and the impact of a can of "jolt cola" on Hammy, the already-way-too hyperactive squirrel. This last might have been the funniest thing I can remember seeing in any movie, anywhere.
Anyway, if you have kids, this is your excuse to simultaneously take in a movie you will thoroughly enjoy and, at the same time, get points for being a "good dad."
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez has been accused of rape. And there doesn't seem much question that he was guilty of underage drinking. I am waiting for the calls for Coach Pete Carroll to resign and for the USC football schedule to be canceled. Or are there different standards for college football and lacrosse teams?
Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan has had this to say about the supposed 400 million dollar compensation package given to retiring Exxon CEO Lee Raymond:
"There can be no more compelling evidence that the price gouging and
market manipulation which has produced record oil prices is out of
control, and is working to serve the forces of individual greed and
corporate gluttony at the painful expense of millions of American
consumers," Dorgan said.
Wow, does this guy sound like a villain from an Ayn Rand novel or what? First off, a big chunk of this "compensation" was in the form of stock options, all of which were issued over five years ago. Exxon wasn't intending to compensate Raymond at this level, it is just that the company (and hence the stock) has done remarkably well during his tenure.
Second, Raymond has spent his life making sure that there was plenty of gas to pump into the tanks of our cars. Athletes like Andre Agassi and media types like Oprah and Tom Cruise make the same type of money as Raymond, and I don't recall that any of them have ever done anything for me (although Agassi was nice to my oldest daughter, once). How come no subpoenas from the Senate about the "gluttony" of some of these folks?
Don't get me wrong, I have no beef with what Oprah and like make; they didn't point a gun to anyone's head to get paid at that level, and I presume they earned every penny. It is just that no one ever talks about the "obscene" amounts made by celebrities. It seems that this kind of talk only happens when some business type gets his.
I have thought for some time that the Duke students accused of raping that exotic dancer (read stripper) didn't do it. I wish I had time to blog about it earlier, so I could have looked like a visionary and all that. Now that the DNA tests have come back negative a lot of people are beginning toreach this conclusion.
Why do I think nothing happened? Two reasons, really.
First, the defense lawyers were predicting days ago that the DNA results would exonerate their clients. Now, the first rule of defense lawyering is to keep your mouth shut until you see the government's evidence, so you can construct a defense around it (actually, that is the second rule of defense lawyering, the first rule is to make sure you get paid). Because if you start talking too early, you foreclose potential defenses, and when the DNA comes back positive it is a little late to say it was consensual sex.
So, why were the defense lawyers talking? The only answer is that they had to be absolutely convinced that no sexual contact of any type took place. You can be sure that they all leaned on their clients hard for the straight story and they, at least, were convinced.
But how do we know that Duke kids told their defense lawyers the truth? That gets into the second reason why I am pretty certain that the rape never happened, which is the basic unreality of the situation. There were 40+ people crammed into that not very big house, and if a violently protesting girl was dragged into a bathroom by three men and violently assaulted over a period of time, you can be pretty sure everyone would have some idea that something odd was going on.
Now, I know that the net is full of stories about how these tight knit lacrosse teams stick together. But we are talking about upper class kids from good families. You might be able to expect them to keep the faith about stuff like drugs and underage drinking, but rape and kidnapping are serious crimes going way beyond the "boys-will-be-boys" stuff.
And with this many witnesses and this level of scrutiny from the authorities, I wouldn't care if they were all "made men" from the Cosa Nostra. Prosecutors learn early that the way to break down criminal conspiracies is to offer a sweet deal to whoever is the first to rat the others out. Even with hardened crooks, someone usually takes the deal. And here you have 40 witnesses that are looking forward to careers as stock brokers and stuff, and none of them want to spend the next ten years being somebody's girlfriend in the state pen. If there was a story to tell somebody would have told it.
So, I think the accusation is based on a hoax, and it will be loads of fun to watch it unravel. (Do I feel sorry for the Duke students, being hounded about a crime they didn't commit? Not really, they brought a lot of this on themselves, and maybe they will learn a lesson or two).
Useful Links - TalkLeft has been making a lot of sense on the issue, and La Shawn Barber has been causing a lot of peoples' heads to explode.
A young mother in the oh-so-trendy neighborhood of Park Slope (in New York, where else) finds a little blue hat. Looking for the owner, she e-mails about the hat to a group of "Park Slope Parents", referring to it as a "boy's hat". The ensuing p.c. firestorm which erupts (how did she know it was a boy's hat, little girls can wear blue if they want, etc.) is just way to funny for words. (H/T The Corner). (p.s. Some of the comments are worth reading too).