Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tennessee ... the new "taxing" police state.

Captain Ed tips me off to the moronic inanity of some officials in Tennessee. See, Tennessee recently raised their cigarette taxes. So what are smokers doing? They're going to neighboring states to buy them. That wasn't sitting well with some in the state government so they have decided to go the Gestapo route to enforce their taxes:

Starting today, state Department of Revenue agents will begin stopping Tennessee motorists spotted buying large quantities of cigarettes in border states, then charging them with a crime and, in some cases, seizing their cars.

Critics say the new “cigarette surveillance program” amounts to the use of “police state” tactics and wrongfully interferes with interstate commerce. But state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr says his department is simply doing its job, enforcing a valid state law while protecting Tennessee retailers who properly pay state taxes.

Agents have already been watching out-of-state stores that sell cigarettes near the Tennessee border to “get a feel where problem areas are,” Farr said.

While declining to be specific, the commissioner said “problem areas” are generally along interstate highways with exits near the Tennessee border.

The idea is for the monitoring agent to spot a person buying cigarettes in volume at an out-of-state market, then departing in a vehicle with Tennessee license tags. Starting today, monitoring agents spotting such a suspect will call an arresting agent who will stop the car when it enters Tennessee, he said.

The agents will work “in roving teams at random times,” he said.

“This shows once again that Reagan Farr and the Department of Revenue are more interested in turning Tennessee into a police state than doing their job of collecting taxes,” said Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

And if you think that your punishment will be a fine or a ticket, think again. Farr is "serious" abut breaking provisions of the Constitution:

Under state law, bringing more than two cartons of cigarettes into the state without paying Tennessee taxes is a “Class B” misdemeanor, carrying punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Bringing 25 or more cartons is a “Class E” felony, with minimum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum of six years plus a fine of up to $3,000.

In addition, the specific state statute dealing with untaxed cigarettes provides that vehicles used to transport more than two cartons “are considered contraband and are subject to seizure,” says a Department of Revenue statement.

Farr said that agents have been instructed to seize any vehicle carrying more than 25 cartons of cigarettes without Tennessee tax stamps. In cases where three to 24 cartons are involved, he said vehicle seizure is “at the officer’s discretion.”

So, the state of Tennessee has decided to violate the essence of interstate commerce, as well as the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Tobacco, like it or not, is a legal item for purchase, provided you are 18 years old and above. You can't criminalize something that is perfectly legal. In this case, cigarettes and other tobacco products are legal. It's also legal to purchase such items from another state.

If this were about fireworks, which are illegal in many states, that would be different (but only if they were illegal in Tennessee). But this isn't about an illegal item that has been purchased. These are legal products that anyone of the right age can buy. Furthermore, it's illegal for state officials to begin surveillance of Tennessee residents in bordering states. Their jurisdiction, unless agreed upon by said neighboring state, ends at the Tennessee border.

When the first legal challenge pops up, someone's head is going to roll, and it should be Farr's. He is knowingly and willfully committing unconstitutional acts to enforce a tax that resident smokers in Tennessee find appalling. I used to smoke, so I understand how smokers get ticked when they're slapped with a unfair, discriminatory tax. (Right now, the federal government is considering an $8 per carton tax on cigarettes, which unless it can be killed in Congress, it will affect all smokers across the country.)

While I'm on this, let me drag out my soapbox for just a second here. My disdain for cigarette taxers knows no end. In Arizona we have seen three separate ballot propositions get passed that raises cigarette taxes here. For the life of me, I can't see how many stupid people vote for a voluntary tax. I know that many people say "Hey, I don't smoke and it doesn't affect me." Au contraire, genius. Since the last raise in cigarette taxes in Arizona, revenues for tobacco products have gone down. Smokers are quitting, cutting back, or going to cheaper methods such as "roll-your-own."

Those in the Arizona Department of Revenue are whining that their tax coffers aren't being filled. So, what are they doing? They're looking for new things to tax, or new ways to raise taxes. For the last four years residents have fought against the legislature and their own city councils when it comes to raising property taxes. When the cigarette tax initiative came around last year, state representatives said this was the alternative to raising property taxes. The populace fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Now, they want to raise property taxes because the cigarette tax just wasn't enough for them.

Granted, Arizona isn't going to go the route of Tennessee, but this little fiasco in Arizona presents a clear and concise picture for other people: When the government learns that it can't get it's tax revenues from bad habits because people can't afford those bad habits any longer, they look for something new to tax. Don't be a dope and vote for a voluntary tax. The next time the tax issue comes around, you mind out that it's not as voluntary as you once believed.

Publius II

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

FBI reorganizes counter-terror operations

After having finished Tim Weiner's superb new book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, it was apparent that our intelligence agencies needed some sort of reformation or reorganization. The WaPo reports today that the FBI is doing just that:

The FBI has begun the most comprehensive realignments of its counterterrorism division in six years so it can better detect the growing global collaborations by terrorists and dismantle larger terrorist enterprises, according to senior bureau officials.

The bureau will merge its two international terrorism units -- one for Osama bin Laden's followers and the other for more established groups such as Hezbollah -- into a new structure that borrows both from Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the bureau's own successful efforts against organized-crime families, Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview.

The new approach is meant to channel raw intelligence and threat information through "desk officers" with expertise on specific world regions or terrorist groups, allowing those experts to spot trends and set investigative strategies for field agents and joint terrorism task forces that collaborate with local law enforcement, Billy said.

That change emulates some aspects of Britain's MI5, which bureau critics and members of the Sept. 11 commission have frequently cited as a model for fighting domestic terrorism. "We want to place these people together so the intelligence is being shared across each way -- left, right, up and down -- and that, in turn, will help drive the tactical aspect of how we focus our resources," Billy said.

Borrowing from its mob-busting strategies in the 1980s, the bureau will encourage counterterrorism agents to forgo immediate arrests when an imminent threat is not present, allowing the surveillance of terrorism suspects to last longer. The aim is to identify collaborators, facilitators and sympathizers who increasingly span across multiple groups and countries, Billy said.

"We want to be in a position where we have [threats in] not only one area of the country identified but have the entire picture that may be taking place throughout the United States identified and . . . strategically focus our resources in a way that would give us the better chance of dismantling a group, as opposed to only identifying one aspect of a much larger threat," Billy said.

This is an aspect one would think that our intelligence services would execute in their investigations, but it's obviously not happening. I've often considered what would be needed to make a serious intelligence agency. All of them -- CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, et al -- play too much politics behind the scenes, and their respective organizations are too bureaucratic in nature. They're bloated, hardly called to account for failures, and rarely face the sort of oversight to make them better.

These are the frontline agencies tasked with defending this nation from our enemies, especially with regard to the FBI. There are sixteen different elements to the US intelligence community, and all of them should be working together. The FBI has taken the first steps in streamlining their gathering and surveillance methods. Let's hope this becomes a model the other agencies adopt.

Publius II

The unhinged, antiwar Left

Courtesy of The Corner's Andy McCarthy:

At something called antiwar.com, the ineffable Michael Scheuer has a screed entitled — I'm not kidding — "Why Does Norman Podhoretz Hate America?" It purports to be a review of Norman's latest tour de force, World War IV. Here is a sampling from the former Mr. Anonymous:

And who are the heroes of the story? Why, Podhoretz and the familiar roster of the only real Americans and Israel-firsters, of course: Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, Douglas Feith, Victor Hanson Davis, John R. Bolton, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Michael Ledeen, Kenneth Adelman, Frank Gaffney, and a few others who have battled so long and hard to ensure that America fights an endless war against Muslims in Israel's defense. Podhoretz and his chums are the men responsible for the lethal mess America now faces in the Muslim world, and they have also done more than any other group – Hamas and Hezbollah included – to undermine Israel's long-term security.

Congratulations, Mr. Scheuer. You've gone from Anonymous to Repulsive.

Mr. Scheuer obviously has an axe to grind with his piece (which does little to "review" Mr. Podhoretz's new book), and has set his sites on some of the best Middle Eastern experts. What Mr. Scheuer fails to grasp is that our war has literally nothing to do with Israel, and so much more to do with our ability to protect the nation and respond to a brutal terrorist attack. Creating stability in the aftermath of the fighting is no easy task, and history is rife with examples of it.

(Does Mr. Scheuer recall the aftermath of World War II in Germany where allied forces occupying the country were consistently under sectarian attack from SS soldiers and officers that went into hiding?)

Nobody said that this war would be a cake-walk, and if anyone offered that opinion then they're morons. We knew this war was going to be long, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy at all. What we did know is that by taking them on abroad was a much better choice than to live under siege here.

Again, people like Mr. Scheuer can claim this was all for Israel, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Can Israel benefit from this? Time will tell, but it might be as beneficial to Israel to have a quieter little neighborhood as it was for the European nations after World War II.

Publius II

The other Hsu drops

Hillary was hoping this story would go away, but the Boston Globe is not letting it go:

Disgraced fund-raiser Norman Hsu did a lot more than just pump $850,000 into Hillary Clinton's campaign bank account: He also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local, state, and federal candidates who have endorsed Clinton or whose support she courted.

A major fund-raiser for Democrats since 2003, Hsu became one of Clinton's biggest bundlers - gathering scores of individual checks and sending them to her campaign. But since revelations last month that Hsu was a fugitive in a 15-year-old California fraud case, Clinton has said she would return the $850,000 she has taken from him and his associates.

In at least some cases, Clinton or her aides directly channeled contributions from Hsu and his network to other politicians supportive of her presidential campaign, according to interviews and campaign finance records. There is nothing illegal about one politician steering wealthy contributors to another, but the New York senator's close ties to Hsu have become an embarrassment for her and her campaign.

Last fall, as the Nevada governor's race was heating up, Clinton agreed to help raise money for Democrat Dina Titus, a prominent party leader in a state that holds a key early presidential caucus. Clinton arranged for Hsu, at the time a little-known New York apparel executive with no apparent reason to take interest in Nevada politics, to give Titus $5,000 on Nov. 3, according to a person with knowledge of Clinton's fund-raising.

And in February, when former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack ended his own White House bid, he was about $450,000 in the red. A month after dropping out, Vilsack endorsed Clinton, and Clinton agreed to help him retire his debts. (Both insisted there was no quid pro quo.)

Over the next few months, some of Clinton's biggest fund-raisers gave Vilsack checks, including Hsu, who kicked in the maximum allowable contribution, $2,300, on May 3 after attending an event organized by Clinton's campaign, Newsweek reported this month. An associate of Hsu's, Paul Su, chipped in $1,000 on the same day.

In other cases, Clinton helped direct Hsu's money to influential politicians who have yet to endorse her but hail from key presidential primary states. Clinton raised at least $6,000 from Hsu and his network last year for Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire, according to Lynch aides. Lynch has no plans to endorse anyone before the state's crucial January primary, aides said.

And at least some of the $17,000 that Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan collected from Hsu and his associates in 2005 and 2006 stems from a Nov. 29, 2005, fund-raising reception for her hosted by Steven Rattner, a New York investment firm executive and major Clinton donor seen as a candidate for US Treasury secretary if Clinton wins. Granholm's office said she has not made an endorsement decision.

He was a very successful bundler for Hillary, and a whole host of other Democrats, the story points out. These include Tom Harkin, Joe Biden, Gov. Bill richardson, Debbie Stabenow, and Dianne Feinstein. Likewise, he's helped funnel money to a number of local and state Democrats, as well. Oh what a tangled web he weaves, and it's one that has fallen squarely in the lap of Justice and the FEC as they continue to investigate his contributions (with stolen money), and those involved in this.

This doesn't bode well for the Clinton campaign. It's literally the albatross around her neck. The question that remains is whether or not anything serious is going to happen to her. As yet, she hasn't returned the $850,000 she's supposed to, and she's been warned by the FEC not to send notes to those she returns the money to letting them know they can "re-donate it" to her campaign. If it's found out that her campaign knowingly took illicit funds from him, there's going to be trouble.

Publius II

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sarkozy warns the UN and the world about Iran

Yeah, I'm still dealing with the numbness across my body -- in my hands which I desperately need to type (this ain't easy, folks) -- but I can't completely ignore the site, or our obligations to readers and friends alike. So, here I am, and I'll be here tomorrow, too, but not with the amount of posts I normally knock down.

Today the UN was "entertained" by the "Dinner Jacket" from Iran, but not before the French president offered his two cents on Iran:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy piled pressure on Iran at the United Nations Tuesday, saying it would be unacceptable for the Islamic republic to get hold of nuclear weapons.

Sarkozy's comments came just hours before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to address the world body, in a speech expected to attempt to play down fears of Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Iran has the right to nuclear energy," Sarkozy told
world leaders at the General Assembly's 62nd session here. "But allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons would mean an unacceptable risk for regional and world stability."

Sarkozy added there would be no world peace if the international community "shows weakness in the face of the proliferation of nuclear weapons," in a speech received with loud applause from the rest of the assembly.

We're on the same page here. Readers know that we have watched Iran for some time, and we are under the belief that based on their secrecy that they are running a secret weapons program. They can't be allowed to produce or obtain these weapons. Unfortunately, his remarks fell on, for the most part, deaf ears. The UN doesn't care because they don't believe such a harmless looking and sounding guy could be a threat to them.

Mark our words, that would be a grave mistake to keep up that idea.

Publius II

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What will happen with Iran?

This subject is gaining momentum as the time grows closer for another round of sanctions games in the UN, and it comes on the heels of the recent Israeli strike on Syria. This morning Newsweek is reporting that the wargaming continues:

In Gardiner's war games, the conduct of Iran's nemesis, Israel, is often the hardest to predict. Are Israeli intelligence officials exaggerating when they say Iran will have mastered the technology to make nuclear weapons by next year? Will Israel stage its own attack on Iran if Washington does not? Or is it posturing in order to goad America into military action? The simulations have led Gardiner to an ominous conclusion: though the United States is now emphasizing sanctions and diplomacy as the means of compelling Tehran to stop enriching uranium, an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could end up dragging Washington into a war. "Even if Israel goes it alone, we will be blamed," says Gardiner. "Hence, we would see retaliation against U.S. interests."

How far will Israel go to keep Iran from getting the bomb? The question gained new urgency this month when Israeli warplanes carried out a mysterious raid deep in Syria and then threw up a nearly impenetrable wall of silence around the operation. Last week opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu chipped away at that wall, saying Israel did in fact attack targets in Syrian territory. His top adviser, Mossad veteran Uzi Arad, told NEWSWEEK: "I do know what happened, and when it comes out it will stun everyone." ...

... In Washington, on the other hand, the consensus against a strike is firmer than most people realize. The Pentagon worries that another war will break America's already overstretched military, while the intelligence community believes Iran is not yet on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough. The latter assessment is expected to appear in a secret National Intelligence Estimate currently nearing completion, according to three intelligence officials who asked for anonymity when discussing nonpublic material. The report is expected to say Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb until at least 2010 and possibly 2015. One explanation for the lag: Iran is having trouble with its centrifuge-enrichment technology, according to U.S. and European officials.

First, Iran is behind on their centrifuge operations, but they are still continuing operations. Israeli intelligence has stated that Iran will be running at full capacity by year's end, most likely. If that happens, and if they obtain technology from North Korea via Syria, they could very well have a bomb by the end of 2008, and likely more than just one.

Second, while we'll admit that a third front in the war doesn't seem feasible, it actually is quite possible. The initial plans for attacking Iran call for massive airstrikes, not an invasion. We would take out their nuclear facilities, command and control facilities, and would target the centers of power in their government to decapitate it. Very little in the realm of ground forces would be committed to the attack, and would likely serve only as advisers and security for the dissidents to seize control of the government.

Lastly, I don't trust our own intelligence services. They have been wrong far too often in recent years, and it's possible they are way off on their assessment regarding how long it would take before Iran has the ability to make a nuke. Israeli agents are in Iran and they're close to the "peaceful" nuclear program that the Iranians boast about. Their agents say it's anything but peaceful, and that they're close. It would only take a couple key pieces of technology to give them what they're seeking.

But can the Israelis destroy Iran's nuclear program? Gardiner, the war-gamer, says they would not only need to hit a dozen nuclear sites and scores of antiaircraft batteries; to prevent a devastating retaliation, they would have to knock out possibly hundreds of long-range missiles that can carry chemical warheads. Just getting to distant Iran will be tricky for Israel's squadrons of American-made F-15s and F-16s. Danny Yatom, who headed Mossad in the 1990s, says the planes would have to operate over Iran for days or weeks. Giora Eiland, Israel's former national-security adviser, now with Tel Aviv's Institute of National Security Studies, ticked off the drawbacks: "Effectiveness, doubtful. Danger of regional war. Hizbullah will immediately attack [from Lebanon], maybe even Syria." Yet Israelis across the political spectrum, including Eiland and Yatom, believe the risk incurred by inaction is far greater. "The military option is not the worst option," Yatom says. "The worst option is a nuclear Iran."

If we work with the Israelis the airstrikes could be carried out effectively. We're already going to be targets of Iran regardless, so why not work together? Provided they obtain permission, they could use Turkish bases to refuel and rearm. Iraq might also be persuaded to lend logistical support to Israeli planes. Our planes have their bases in the region, in addition to approximately 130-plus US warships in the region, including the recently deployed Enterprise battle group. If the choice is to strike Iran, and we work in concert with the Israelis, we could do the deed and remove Iran as a threat.

We're not doing anything until we run the next phase of the sanctions game in the UN. Given the past actions and reluctance of China and Russia the likelihood of sanctions with serious teeth are slim and none. The military option may be the only thing we have left, and we may be left with no alternative but to assist the Israelis. Despite what some on the Left may say, this won't be a strike because we want war. It will be one to prevent a serious threat from being established in the region. A nuclear Iran has no benefits in the region, or in the world.

Publius II

Israelis seize materials BEFORE airstrike

Everyone remember that little airstrike Israel pulled on Syria a couple weeks ago? Well, according to the Times Online, their commandos snatched some of the materials before they were destroyed:

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.

Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.

Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.

Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, reinforcing the view that the two nations were coordinating their response.

Syria and the NorKs have been working together for some time. Syria has acquired its missiles from them, as well as other arms. The fact that it's now admitted that North Koreans were at the site tips Syria's hand. After all, did the NorKs have to show the Syrians how to mix and lay the "cement" they were delivering? Not bloody likely, and Washington wouldn't have said "Yeah, bomb it" if the site had just had cement there.

The Israelis are rarely wrong, and they are among the best when it comes to gathering intelligence. I've often said that if they could come over here and show our broken intelligence agencies how to do the job right, we wouldn't be as blind, deaf, and dumb as we are now. No offense is intended to our intel professionals (my uncle is a 25 year veteran of Naval Intel), but we, all too often, make mistakes when it comes to intelligence gathering. Much of it stems from the monumental bureaucracy that is the US intel community. Congress is also to blame after their Church Committee hearings in the 1970s that neutered our ability to carry out successful intelligence missions. (Of course when it comes to the CIA, their track record has been anything but stellar.

Publius II

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thoughts on Ahmadinejad's visit

My apologies to readers who have probably wondered where I've been. I'm not avoiding my duties here on purpose, but approximately two weeks ago, areas of my body started going numb. As of this point in time from my lower chest down to my7 feet, I'm numb and tingly. The same goes for the fingers on both hands, so it's not easy to type. (I don't home row type; I hunt and peck at about 70 wpm.) But I can't feel the keys, and I must go slow or there will be a world of mistakes in a post. I have been to the doctor, and she's running tests to see what's wrong. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.

But I could not let the subject of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the UN go unremarked. We do have an agreement with the UN to the point where we can't prevent him from visiting the UN. He has diplomatic immunity, to the chagrin of many common sense folks here in America. This is just one of many reasons why we maintain that it's time for us to get out of the UN, and get the UN out of America, but I digress.

His presence in America is an affront to the nation, as a whole. This is a man who is commanding elements of his military to attack our troops in Ira1q. He has killed US soldiers, his nation has been hostile to us since 1979, and in 1983 it was Iran's sponsored terrorists that bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut. Both Marcie and I detest the fact the man will be coming here. Furthermore, we agree that he should be barred from visiting Ground Zero. that is hallowed ground in America, and no supporter of chaos, genocide and terror should be allowed there, no matter what his stated intentions are.

As we understand it, the NYPD no longer have this issue in their court. this is back in the hands for the federal government, and they are considering providing Secret Service personnel to protect him if they give him the approval to visit the site. There are counter-protests planned for his "day in the limelight" at Ground Zero, and we applaud those Americans. They know what that site means to the nation.

But if the Bush administration allows this to go forward, it will be time to hold those accountable. That means that when the elections come around in 2008, some people who might -- MIGHT, mind you -- tell America to calm down (such as those in the Congress) should be bounced from office. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a terrorist. He was involved in the seizing of our embassy in 1979. He has publicly declared that Israel should be "wiped off the map." He has denied the Holocaust ever occurred, and it's a web of "Zionist" lies. He is waging a proxy war against Israel, and an undeclared war against the United States. As far as I'm concerned if he wants to visit the UN, fine. As soon as his business is done, he should be taken back to the airport, and tossed on the next flight back to Europe to catch a connecting flight back to his native land. But there should be no visit to the hallowed ground of 11 September.

To allow that is allowing him to spit on the memory of those who have died, and it sh*ts all over the families that suffered through that dark day. He wants to visit a terrorism site, there are plenty around the world he can have a photo-op at. He might want to try Beirut, Yemen, Madrid, London, Kenya, or Tanzania. But not Ground Zero.

Publius II

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Democrats cater to the antiwar crowd

No one will dispute the fact that we have our fair share of antiwar critics in America. That is the beauty of the First Amendment; we all have the ability to criticize or praise the government for their actions. The problem is, as The Politico notes today, that the antiwar crowds are demanding more attention than what they're really worth. But it's not stopping the Democrats from carrying out their business-as-usual antics in Congress:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) abruptly reversed plans to compromise over Iraq legislation with Republicans after a meeting in New York where antiwar leaders pressured him to be more aggressive in ending the war.

The meeting on Monday, which was not publicly announced, showed the acute pressure that Democrats face as they try to convince this increasingly restive group that Democrats are doing everything they can to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq more quickly than President Bush wants.

Less than a day after Reid met with several leaders of the antiwar movement in New York, he and other Democratic leaders took a hard line against wooing wavering Republicans to their anti-war cause. “We haven’t found much movement with the Republicans. They seem to be sticking with the president,” Reid said Tuesday.

I wonder why? Might it have something to do with the recent reports from Petraeus and Crocker? Could it possibly be because the GOP is starting to see us turning a corner in Iraq? I'm guessing that has a lot to do with the lack of round-heeled Republicans in the Senate which is simply frustrating the Hell out of Harry Reid and his nutter caucus. (By the way, you're welcome Harry; happy to help that ulcer along.) But we have many critics of our own that e-mail us reminding us about the fact that the antiwar movement is alive and well. Well, Ryan Grim addresses that very point in his piece:

The Reid mission reflected the paradox bedeviling the anti-war movement. It is powerful enough to command constant care-and-feeding by the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates and congressional leaders. But so far it has proven largely impotent in forcing policy changes. But Democrats are now starting to do more than just patronize the movement, as Reid indicated Tuesday.

If Reid stands firm to his Tuesday pledge, he may begin to satisfy an increasingly impatient anti-war movement. Five years after the congressional vote authorizing Bush's march to war, opponents still have had only mixed success in mobilizing a mass protest movement.

What’s more, five years after the congressional vote authorizing Bush’s march to war, opponents still have had only mixed success in mobilizing a mass protest movement.

Lesson #1 for the Left -- AMERICANS, as George S. Patton once quipped, love to win and hate to lose. The nation still stands behind her men and women fighting abroad to protect this nation, and until the job is done that resolve won't break. Families don't like seeing and knowing their loved ones are in harm's way. No one likes to know that. War is a dirty, bloody business but this step had to be done, sooner or later.

Impatience rising, some activists are urging that Democrats who are not aggressive enough in confronting Bush on Iraq themselves be challenged with primary opponents or third-party candidacies in 2008.

Lesson from the fever-swamp Left -- "We bought this party and we own it," was the famous quip from 2004, and they're doing everything they can to seize power and change direction of the party. What the elected Democrats realize is that these activists don't represent the majority of their base, and they are beholden to that base. They're going to try and force the Democrats to obey them by threatening primary challengers that fit their ideology better. What they fail to realize is that if their agenda was supposed to have been foolproof for the midterms , then those of like mind should have won. they didn't. the Blue Dogs tried that route and were roundly getting stomped in the run-up to the general election. So, the Blue Dogs took the message of moderation, and coupled it with a dash of conservatism. They rode that platform to victory, and it wasn't one of fever-swamp nuttiness.

“People are feeling like we invested all this time and money in changing the political equation and where has it led us?” said former congressman Tom Andrews, leader of Win Without War, a member of the anti-war coalition Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI).

Polls show majorities agree with anti-war leaders that the war was a mistake and that troops should come home soon.

But unlike during the Vietnam era, when the size and strength of street protests gradually grew over time, the Iraq war initially produced massive demonstrations that have since petered out. On Saturday, only about 20,000 gathered for what was billed a major peace march.

Despite millions spent and a season of action dubbed “Iraq Summer,” September arrived without the dam breaking Bush’s Republican support for a continued indefinite presence in Iraq.

Polls schmolls; they really do mean next to nothing. They're a nice barometer, but when they're all driven and carried out by the MSM, can they really be trusted? No. Do a search on Hot Air's archives and look at the amount of polls they disseminated this past summer. You'll see poll after poll is slanted and manipulated to produce an outcome that shows people are divided on the war. Well, no kidding. There will always be those that prefer detente and diplomacy to armed conflict. that's been going on for centuries. But the point is made by Mr. Grim that this is an entirely different war, given the lack of those on the antiwar activist side. What the Left fails to grasp is that they brought this antiwar apathy on themselves.

At the end of the Vietnam conflict this nation was polarized over the war. Activists had acted like no one had ever seen before. They had conducted violent protests, denouncing the soldiers and their commanders, and lambasted the politicos that had led the nation to war. Soldiers were demeaned, spit upon, and slandered -- at times by their own brothers in arms. In short and not to be too blunt, but when our troops returned home, they were treated like sh*t. While antiwar activists patted themselves on the back, America made a silent, solemn vow that "never again" would our soldiers ever be treated in such a dishonorable fashion.

That’s not how it was supposed to go.

Last April, an energized Tom Matzzie, head of AAEI, visited the offices of Politico to lay out the summer strategy — and the 2008 elections were central to his thinking.

Democrats and the anti-war movement had the GOP “by the balls,” Matzzie argued then, because the party’s conservative base still heavily supported the war, while the rest of the country opposed it.

Republicans would therefore be forced to choose between the president and their base, and the general electorate. If the GOP prevented anti-war legislation from passing this term, he said, a colorful fate awaited it.

We’re going to smash their heads against their base and flush them down the toilet,” Matzzie said in April. Five months later, the GOP is still unified behind the war.

This is now the face of the modern antiwar movement. They're not interested in debating whether the war was right or wrong. they're angry. they're militant. and tempered with a child's maturity, these people are spitting not only on the soldiers, but they're also spitting on the nation for backing the war. for them, 11 September was rightly deserved. Yes, yes, make no mistake they think we deserved it. They think we invited it. Unfortunately for them, history tells a much different tale about the rise of militant Islam and it's not a pretty picture.

This is the foe we are dealing with. Harry Reid can appeal to the fever swamp if he wants to, but I warn him that this is not the way to go if they want to hold onto the control they have. The mainstream Democrat base won't tolerate their elected reps and leaders catering to these moonbats. It turns them off as much as the moonbats in our own party turn off our base.

The antiwar movement in America is losing the battle, and they know it. I predict that before they go away or shouted into silence by sensible people that their antics and rhetoric will rise. But when they hold their next "big" demonstration, they'll be just as disappointed as they were at the end of this past weekend.

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ADDENDUM: This wasn't the only piece on the antiwar movement at Politico today. Dan Gerstain has a piece about who should bear the brunt of the blame for the failures of the antiwar crowd. In short, it's the movement's fault for simply attacking the president, the Congress, the plans from the Pentagon, and General Petraeus. Their failure lies in not being able to persuade enough people to see their view of the situation in Iraq (which is twisted to begin with). Here's a snippet:

To most war opponents, the blame increasingly lies with the Democratic leadership in Congress, for not taking a hard enough line with President Bush and not fighting to cut off war funding. And their frustration is visibly bubbling over — the provocative group Code Pink, for example, has actually taken to protesting outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco in recent days.

But there is a growing feeling among many Democrats, particularly within the D.C. establishment, that just the opposite is true. They may not say it publicly, for fear of arousing the grass roots’ wrath, but the realist wing of the party seems to think the Democrats’ biggest problem on Iraq these days is not that there’s too much Bush Lite but that there’s too much Bush Left.

Under this view, too many anti-war activists, not satisfied with berating the president, have too often wound up behaving like him. They have gone beyond fighting back and holding the Decider accountable to adopting the same divisive, dogmatic and ultimately destructive style of politics that Democrats have been decrying for the past seven years, with the same counterproductive results.

Read it all.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Michael Totten from Ramadi

I missed this completely today and I thank Hugh for posting the link, and reading the entire dispatch in his second hour. Believe me when I say that this is a must read dispatch from Michael Totten. I'll post the beginning of this dispatch for readers, but please head over to Mr. Totten's site. And if you can, drop some change in his tip jar. this sort of reporting doesn't come easy, and for an indie embed, it ain't cheap:

In early 2007 Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, was one of the most violent war-torn cities on Earth. By late spring it was the safest major city in Iraq outside Kurdistan.

Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq had seized control with the tacit blessing of many local civilians and leaders because they promised to fight the Americans. But Al Qaeda’s rule of Ramadi was vicious and cruel. They turned out not to be liberators at all, but the Taliban of Mesopotamia.

Al Qaeda met resistance, after a time, from the Iraqis and responded with a horrific murder and intimidation campaign against even children. The Sunni Arabs of Ramadi then rejected Al Qaeda so utterly they forged an alliance with the previously detested United States Army and Marine Corps and purged the terrorists from their lands.

Combat operations are finished in Ramadi. The American military now acts as a peacekeeping force to protect the city from those who recently lost it and wish to return.

It is not, however, completely secured yet.

“Al Qaeda lost their capital,” Major Lee Peters said, “and the one city that was called the worst in the world. It was their Stalingrad. And they want to come back.”

In July and again in August they did try to retake it and lost pitched battles on the shores of Lake Habbaniya and Donkey Island just on the outskirts. They destroyed a bridge over the Euphrates River leading into the city with a dump truck bomb. Four other bridges in Anbar Province were also destroyed in acts of revenge in the countryside by those who no longer have refuge in cities. And just last week Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the indigenous Anbar Salvation Council that declared Al Qaeda the enemy, was assassinated by a roadside bomb near his house.

That murder can’t undo the changes in the hearts and minds of the locals. If anything, assassinating a well-respected leader who is widely seen as a savior will only further harden Anbaris against the rough men who would rule them.
“All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar,” the Sheikh’s brother Ahmed told a Reuters reporter.

Whether Anbar Province is freshly christened pro-American ground or whether the newly founded Iraqi-American alliance is merely temporary and tactical is hard to say. Whatever the case, the region is no longer a breeding ground for violent anti-American and anti-Iraqi forces.

“As of July 30,” Major Peters said in early August, “we’ve have 81 days in the city with zero attacks since March 31.”

“We’ve had only one attack in our area of operations in the past couple of months,” said Captain Jay McGee at the Blue Diamond base. He was referring to the Jazeera area immediately north of the city and including the suburbs. “And we haven’t had a single car bomb in our area since February.”

Violence has declined so sharply in Ramadi that few journalists bother to visit these days. It’s “boring,” most say, and it’s hard to get a story out there – especially for daily news reporters who need fresh scoops every day. Unlike most journalists, I am not a slave to the daily news grind and took the time to embed with the Army and Marines in late summer.

This is an amazing piece, and there are extraordinary pictures there. Go and read it all (especially the amusing part about a soldier's body armor mistake for an AC unit, and an Iraqi soldier demanding "cold pills" from a US colonel). Understand that this is not propaganda. No one got to him. Michael Totten is an independent journalist who has seen the best and the worst of Iraq. He reports on both, and in a fair way. He's showing the world that the Anbar Awakening is real and substantive. This is showing the world we are turning the corner, and that we are, hopefully, on the better road of victory.

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Syria and Iran -- working together for a more violent world

I spotted this story from the J-Post this morning, and I skimmed over it briefly. Luckily, my lovely wife had it ready for me when I arrived home this afternoon. It seems that Iran and Syria were working on mounting chemical warheads on missiles when an accident occurred:

Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Magazine report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas and VX gas.
The factory was created specifically for the purposes of altering ballistic missiles to carry chemical payloads, the magazine report claimed.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time, however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrains at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

According to Global Security.org, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kippur War. Global Security.org cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East.

I have long maintained that Ahmadinejad is worse than Adolf Hitler, yet he seems to have the same motivations behind his actions. Why is he worse? Because Hitler was so paranoid about his "allies" that he refused to cooperate with any of them on such projects. That and he wanted their nations, as well, but just wasn't ready to be blunt about it. Ahmadinejad is willing to work with Assad in Syria on such weapons, which spells trouble for the region should their cooperation net the results they are looking for.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Welcome to "Hamastan," Taliban style

We warned the world that this was what we were afraid of as terrorist regimes gained a foothold in sovereign nations. Israel has been patient with the world and their idea of a "peace process," but as we see in this WaPo piece today, Hamas doesn't seem to want to try peace. They prefer brute force and subjugation:

For years, the seaside Flower of the Cities resort was that rare place in the Gaza Strip where the dress code did not rule out bikinis. Now, with some of its cinder-block cabanas turned into prayer rooms, the beach club shows how Hamas is consolidating its hold here three months after seizing power.

Bushy beards and black head-to-toe cloaks for women have become common at the club, which the armed Islamic movement torched in June after routing the secular
Fatah party on the streets. The facility has been rebranded the al-Aqsa Resort, with a new logo featuring the revered mosque complex in Jerusalem next to a beach umbrella. Hamas followers collect the $2.50 entrance fee.

Like the party it supported, the bikini crowd has disappeared, leaving the trash-flecked beach and murky swimming pool to Bassem al-Khodori and a half-dozen other Hamas supporters, who now have jobs at the resort.

"Before," said Khodori, 32, a cafeteria worker, "only the others were allowed."

Facing money shortages, a shrinking private sector and growing political resistance, Hamas leaders are increasingly imposing harsh interpretations of Islamic law and using brute force to bolster their isolated administration, which remains illegitimate in the view of Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and his U.S.-backed government in the West Bank.

Reconciliation between the two largest Palestinian parties -- now running parallel governments in what had been envisioned as the two territories of a Palestinian state with a single government -- appears as distant as when Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led power-sharing government after the fighting in June.

Many of Gaza's almost 1.5 million residents, who celebrated
Israel's withdrawal two years ago only to fall into civil war soon after, have seen their lives improve in some ways and suffer in others as the result of the political split within the Palestinian Authority and Hamas's brand of rule here.

While Hamas has imposed order on Gaza's lawless streets, gunmen from its Executive Force, a 5,000-member paramilitary unit, have employed repressive tactics against Fatah supporters and local journalists.

International aid is again funding Palestinian government salaries, helping revive parts of Gaza's economy. But the closure of the cargo crossings from Israel for all but emergency aid is depriving Gaza's small manufacturers of raw materials.

An estimated 85 percent of the territory's manufacturing sector has been shut down since June and more than 35,000 workers have been laid off, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We blame Hamas, the reason for all of this," said Hamdi Badr, 49, who two months ago shut down the clothing factory his family has owned since 1969. "But we don't really know what to do."

When the peace process breaks down, and thwe thugs are in control, this is what is to be expected. Hamas never had any intention of peace with Israel, or even with their fellow Palestinians. What can Palestinians do? Nothing. You reap what you sow, and they did elect these animals in an exercise of democracy. What's happening to Gaza right now is all the fault of the Palestinian people. The problem we see is that Hamas isn't going to give it's power up, and the idea of the Palestinians being able to toss these guys out is slim and none.

But we should we remind people that this is what happens when terrorists are trusted to be politicians and leaders. They can't handle it, and always resort to force to enact their ideas. Sharia law? That's the least of the problems in Gaza, but one that should be dealt with before we end up with another Taliban-like regime that will shortly turn it's eyes towards Israel, and spark an all-out war they have no hope of winning.

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When Democrats don't understand the law ...

... they like to make it up as they go along. And so we are informed that yet again, the state of California's legislature is trying to create a "poor man's constitutional amendment" that would require"California electoral delegates to cast their presidential votes for the national popular vote winner rather than for the presidential candidate who is victorious in California." This is something that has been rearing it's ugly head across the country for some time, and it came on the heels of the 2000 election when we heard the Left screaming that "Bush didn't win because he didn't win the popular vote." As we know, the popular vote doesn't count. The electoral vote does, and is far more fair to the citizens of the nation than the popular vote would be, but I'll let Hank Adler spell it out for people:

For the second consecutive year, the California State Senate has passed a measure (SB 37), solely upon party lines, with Democrats voting yes, requiring California electoral delegates to cast their presidential votes for the national popular vote winner rather than for the presidential candidate who is victorious in California. The measure would become effective when and if states controlling 270 electoral votes, a number sufficient to elect the President, pass identical contractually binding legislation. Delegates with a sufficient number of electoral delegates to elect the President would thereafter be required to ignore their constituents and vote for the winner of the national popular vote. With Maryland's legislature passing and their Governor signing identical legislation, this is currently law in Maryland. Many other state legislatures and governors are pondering this proposal.

There could be no greater irony than the 22 Democratic members of the California Senate voting to disenfranchise the 16,000,000 million registered voters of California. Ignoring all intellectual positions, Democrats must know that if in 2004, 59,300 Ohioans had voted for John Kerry instead of George W. Bush, Senator Kerry would have become President despite having lost the national popular vote by over 3 million votes. They must realize that under this proposal, Californians, after overwhelmingly voting for Senator Kerry, would have watched their delegates cast their deciding 55 electoral votes for George W. Bush and therefore causing him to be elected President.

This notion that a number of states controlling 270 electoral votes (theoretically possible with the approval of only 11 states) should be able, by a contract among themselves, affect a "poor man's constitutional amendment" to the Constitution of the United States is fascinating. This should be abhorrent to anyone with the slightest interest in the vitality and history of the Constitution. If affected in 1792, alone, Virginia and Massachusetts could have instituted a popular vote methodology under this notion and likely caused a break-up of our young nation. In 2008, such a plan would reduce the combined voting impact of the voters of Vermont, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota in the presidential race to that of Brooklyn.

The Founders' conceptual framework for electing a President insured that urban voters of a few states could not totally control the selection of the President. Electing a President through a national popular vote would obliterate this concept.

Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States allows each state legislature almost unlimited power to direct their electors in casting their electoral votes for President. However, two other articles of the Constitution separately and collectively should trump Article 2 and make an agreement between certain states to circumvent the Constitution and provide for a President elected based upon the national popular vote unconstitutional. First, Article 1 prohibits agreements between States without the consent of Congress. While this clause has been judicially narrowed over time, it is unlikely that it has been narrowed sufficiently not to require Congressional approval of a contract between a few states which causes a change in the political balance of the Electoral College. Second, this "poor man's constitutional amendment" is specifically designed to circumvent the Constitution. Without reservation, its sole purpose is to avoid the constitutionally necessary and unattainable requirement of ratification of this notion by three quarters of the states under Article 5. Under either Article 1 or 5, separately and certainly collectively, the Supreme Court should hold this proposal unconstitutional.

Read it all, folks because this is how the Left thinks. It seeks to circumvent and usurp our current rule of law.

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Give little Johnnie an "A" for effort ...

... but an "F" for substantive thought. This plan will float about as a far as a turd in a punch bowl:

Just hours before White House rival Hillary Clinton unveiled her massive universal health care plan Monday, three hundred miles east of Des Moines, in Chicago, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was making a dramatic promise of his own: As president, he would cut off health coverage to top government officials until his health care plan is passed into law.

"To show Congress just how serious I am, on the first day of my administration, I will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in both branches of government on July 20th, 2009 - unless we have passed universal health care reform," Edwards said in a speech to the Laborers Leadership Convention.

Edwards, who was the first presidential candidate
to unveil the details of a proposed health care reform plan earlier this year, noted Clinton's plan shares many similarities with his. But Edwards suggested that the New York Democrat is too entrenched in the Washington "system" to successfully bring about reform.

"If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m flattered," Edwards said. "But unless Sen. Clinton’s willing to acknowledge the truth about our broken government, and the cost of health care reform, I’m afraid flattery will get us nowhere"

"Actually bringing change starts with telling the truth," he added. "And the truth is: the system in Washington has been hijacked for the benefit of corporate profits and the very wealthiest."

You and what army, Johnnie?

Show of hands here, who thinks this will pass Congress? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, I don't think so either, but this is John Edwards, and he thinks he can do anything; Because he's smart enough, popular enough, and dammit, people like him.

Truth be told I've maintained the argument that no such reform will ever come to Congress that forces them to change their ways. We saw this with that joke of an ethics reform package (which now allows the congress to earmark and pork spend with virtually no observation by the people), and I have long argued with fellow conservatives that there is no way to put term limits in place unless the Congress moves forward on the issue.

See, states can't limit office holders. It's against the Constitution. They are federal officers, and states can't tell them how long they will serve. so, the only way to install term limits is via a constitutional amendment. There is one of two ways to do that. Congress can create one, pass it, and pass it onto the states for ratification (fat chance, trust me), or the States may call to convene a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the US Constitution.

here have been, by some accounts, 567 separate and distinct convention calls, (with south Dakota leading the pack at 27) and none of them have mustered the necessary 34 state majority. The closest that came to it was in 1912 when the 17th Amendment was approved and ratified, giving the citizens the right to choose their own senators rather than allow the respective state legislatures to do the job.

While the idea of convening a convention appeals to some, it doesn't to us for the simple reason that the scope of the amending process isn't clearly defined by Article V. We believe that Congress could not interfere in the endeavor for to do so would place the federal government in the midst of a State's rights issue. If the State's call for such a convention, then all the federal government should do is recognize that call, and choose the place and time of assembly. But in terms of scope, many law scholars question how far we would, or even could, go.

The drawback to such an act is the fact that, as the Framers did in Philadelphia in 1787, they constructed the new Constitution to replace the inadequate Articles of Confederation. Many said then, and a few legal scholars agree, that was not the mandate they went o Philadelphia for. they weren't there to {"rewrite" it, but rather to fix the problems. The Framers, in their wisdom, realized that the Articles could not simply be subjected to a quick fix, and that an overhaul of existing law was needed.

So what is in place to stop a new set of delegates from doing the same thing to the current Constitution? Nothing. As I said above, there are no guidelines for such a convention, and anything could be fiddled with without such provisions. (I don't know about readers, but I'm perfectly content with the Constitution as it is now, and like Justice Scalia, we prefer our Constitution "dead;" it says what it means, and means what it says, and is open to very little interpretation.

there is the problem with Congress, and little Johnnie's not getting around that. No way in Hell is congress going to vote away it's health care program. That would be like them voting away their vastly overpaid salaries, excessive vacations, or those 12 martini lunches with lobbyists. Like term limits, his dream is at an end. The only way these two things will occur is if we toss out every idiot in Congress, and make sure that the new blood that comes in has enough brains to curtail themselves. Until then, Johnnie's living a pipe dream, and we know we'll never see term limits in Congress in our lifetime.

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Gates to Bush -- Veto the Webb bill for backdoor withdrawal

The shenanigans of the Left just keep on coming. And in this latest round, they're showing just how obtuse they are. After General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker presented their reports to Congress, which includes a drawdown timetable -- provided it is feasible -- the Democrats come back with the Webb bill. While it sounds good on the outside, Secretary Gates is warning the president that it's a drawdown in disguise:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he would advise President Bush to veto a Senate proposal that would effectively force a major drawdown of American forces in Iraq.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat, that would require that troops be given equal time off to match tours of duty, was dismissed by Mr. Gates as "a backdoor way to try and force the president to accelerate the drawdown."

"Trying to manage to this kind of legislation is extremely difficult," Mr. Gates said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week," adding that the military has a difficult enough time managing current policy, which gives troops 12 months off for 15 months of combat duty.

Asked in a separate interview by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace whether he would recommend a veto of the bill, Mr. Gates said, "Yes, I would."

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, defended the Senate proposal during his own "This Week" appearance.

"I think it's sensible, it can be managed, and it responds to the most-persistent issue that my colleagues and I observe when we go there, which is troops are beginning to feel the pressure, and their families, of these deployments," he said.

Both Mr. Webb and Mr. Reed are military veterans.

During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and also a combat veteran, said the proposal is supported by a majority of senators. He accused Republicans of blocking its passage.

The Webb proposal reportedly has 57 votes, three short of the 60 votes needed for passage to overcome a likely filibuster. If vetoed by Mr. Bush, it would need 67 votes to override his veto.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, defended the administration's strategy during a "Meet the Press" appearance, saying U.S. troop reductions should be tied to military and political progress on the ground.

Mr. McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran who is seeking his party's 2008 presidential nomination, said that along with military progress, Iraqis have made significant progress toward political reconciliation on the local level.

He warned, however, that an early withdrawal would force the country's various political factions to form alliances with Iran and al Qaeda.

"I am convinced that the ... government [of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki], if they are told we are leaving, they have to stay in the neighborhood, and they will adjust to conditions in the neighborhood. That's dealing — making deals with al Qaeda and others," he said.

Sen. Carl Levin has offered his own redeployment proposal. His bill would limit the mission of U.S. forces to training Iraqi forces and combating al Qaeda, something the administration says already is reflected in their long-term goals.

"The president has dangled a carrot in front of the American people talking about troop reductions," Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat, said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "But, again, it is an illusion of a change of course, and the American people are not buying it. My colleagues are not buying it."

Mr. Gates rejected claims from Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, that the Bush war policy would leave more than 100,000 troops in the country for the next decade.

"I think that no one believes right now that that's going to prove necessary," he said.

One last time from the cheap seats, and just for Democrats because they seem to be the only ones who don't understand this:


We're sick of seeing these games played. Because the surge has succeeded beyond the expectations fo General Petraeus, the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed as part of the surge will begin to pack up and come home on his recommendation before Congress last week, and at the approval of the president. Another brigade combat unit will be evaluated in forty-five days, and will either begin a pullout, or will be reassigned elsewhere in theater.

Why is this so hard for the Left to understand? We're not simply going to pick up our bat and ball and come home because the Democrats are whining about things. We're in the middle of a war, and we're so damned sorry that they lack the necessary patience and fortitude -- both intestinal and testicular -- to see this mission through. He asked for it. they voted in favor of it. there's no way they can call "do-over" and "undeclare" a war. The AUMF is as bionding as law, and they agreed to it. No BS about being misled or lied to because they weren't.

They all saw the intel the same as the president. they made their decision based on that intel. And if they didn't read it or didn't see it, that's their fault. They're adults. Take respomnsibility for your actions, and accpet the duties you have as members of Congress. But quit trying to tie the hands fo the president (which they legally can't), and quit your kvethcing already on the war (which they can legally do, and do well). This nation will finish this job in spite of those fools on Capitol Hill that want to retreat int he face of an enemy that's on it's last leg.

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President Bush nominates Mukasey for AG

We would have preferred Ted Olson, but Michael Mukasey will do with less than sixteen months left in the president's term:

President Bush nominated Michael Mukasey on Monday to be the next attorney general, calling the retired federal district judge a candidate with strong credentials in national security and fairness.

"As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general has an especially vital role to play in a time of war ... when we face the challenge of protecting our people on a daily basis from deadly enemies while at the same time protecting our freedom," Bush said in the announcement made from the White House Rose Garden.

"Judge Mukasey brings impressive credentials to this task," he said.

Bush pointed to Mukasey's 18 years of service on the federal bench at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, where he earned a "reputation as a tough but fair judge."

Bush said Mukasey's oversight of the the high-profile case against the plotters of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center is a prime example of his understanding of national security problems.

"This was one of the most important terrorism cases in our nation's history," Bush said, adding that the appeals court that upheld his decision took special note to mention his "outstanding achievement in the face of challenges far beyond those normally endured by a trial judge."

"He knows what it takes to fight this war effectively, and he knows how to do it in a manner that is consistent with our laws and our Constitution," Bush said, urging the Senate to confirm Mukasey quickly.

Michael Mukasey is a good pick for the administration, and he is strong on the one issue that still holds America's attention -- the war. He will take his duties seriously, and I doubt we'll see the gaffes from him that we saw from Gonzales, including a hand-in-hand refusal between Justice, DHS, and ICE to enforce the laws we have on the books with regard to illegal immigration. (And yes folks I did see and hear Rudy's recent interview with Hugh where the subject came up, and I completely disagree with the former mayor.)

Allah has more thoughts on Mukasey over at Hot Air. He also notes the the line of attack some on the Left might take, but given Schumer's acceptance of him, and Harry Reid's congratulatory statement on the president "listening" to Congress, I doubt they'll get much traction in attacking him. What should concern conservatives is how welcomed he is for this position. Even Nan Aron likes the guy, but if he stays solid on the war, and abides by the laws on the books, then he should have no problem for the remainder of the president's term.

We still would have preferred Olson, but given the fact he is working on Rudy's campaign, and if Rudy wins, he might be the mayor's AG pick, that's fine by us. He'll have his chance then.

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France done with Iran?

That's the gist of the statement Captain Ed picked up from the Telegraph today and judging from the words of the new foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, one can get the same impression:

The world should "prepare for war" with Iran, the French foreign minister has said, significantly escalating tensions over the country's nuclear programme.

Bernard Kouchner said that while "we must negotiate right to the end" with Iran, if Teheran possessed an atomic weapon it would represent "a real danger for the whole world".

The world should "prepare for the worst... which is war", he said.

His comments came after Washington reminded Teheran that "all options were on the table" in confronting its nuclear policy, which many officials in the West believe has the ultimate aim of arming a nuclear warhead, despite Iran's claim that it is for civilian purposes.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany, are due to meet to discuss a new draft UN resolution on sanctions against Iran later this week in Washington.

So far proposals for tough sanctions have been resisted by Russia and China, while Teheran has ignored UN deadlines to stop enriching uranium, insisting its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

Amid unconfirmed reports that the US is drawing up plans to attack Iran's nuclear installations, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said that diplomacy remained the administration's preferred approach.

Asked if President George W Bush would consult Congress before launching any strikes on Iran, Mr Gates said he would not be drawn on "hypotheticals".

But he added: "We always say all options are on the table.

"But clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one we're pursuing."

Diplomatic and economic sanctions would be good provided they have the teeth to back them up. No teeth means that Iran is going to continue along it's merry way towards a nuclear weapon. I don't care what they say their program is for. It's bogus. It's a lie, and until they open themselves up to full inspections at ALL their sites, the world will continue to believe that. Add the recent Israeli airstrike on Syria over suspected nuclear components, and it's no wonder why some nations in the world are believing that Iran's program is anything but peaceful.

For our critics, this isn't a "neo-con" approach. It's critical thinking, and given Iran's refusal to comply and play ball in the international arena, nothing else can be derived other than the supposition that nukes are being worked on.

As for Secretary Gates and his "hypotheticals," there is no reason to lie about this. We have battle plans drawn up for virtually every nation on the face of the planet, including Canada and Mexico. That's what analysts do, at times; they wargame scenarios that are hostile to the nation. We are wargaming strategies and scenarios out on Iran just in case we need to take action. It's better to have a plan in hand and watch it go to Hell when the shooting starts than it is to have no plan at all.

As for the French, this is an interesting turn, and it seems that they are the lone nation in Europe rattling the sabers. I concur with Captain Ed: It will be most interesting to see how the EU handles this change in policy from a nation that used to be seen as a pacifist. One thing the EU should remember is that elections change outlooks and policy.

The problem lies in Europe and the UN. Germany has stated to the US that they can't keep playing the sanctions game because it's hurting them economically. Russia and China -- the two key holdouts in the last round of sanctions -- are still quite unwilling to back any sort of sanctions that might actually have force behind them, nor do they appear willing to impose sanctions that could put Teheran's economy where North Korea's is right now, which is on the verge of collapse. When they meet this week for another round of debate and arguing over sanctions, I'm not holding my breath that much will be accomplished. Even John Bolton agreed that the last round of sanctions on Iran were a joke.

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Where has this ship gone?

The Telegraph seems to have gotten the majority of the stories regarding the Israeli airstrike and they add to this story today with the disappearance of a ship named Al Hamed. The ship was a North Korean flagged ship, but struck it's colors to raise up a South Korean flag as she moved towards the Syrian port of Tartous. Since it off-loaded it's cargo, it seems to have disappeared:

A suspicious North Korean freighter that re-flagged itself as South Korean before off-loading an unknown cargo at the Syrian port of Tartous is at the centre of efforts today to investigate Israel's recent airstrike on Syria.

An Israeli on-line data analyst, Ronen Solomon, found an internet trace for the 1,700-tonne cargo ship, Al Hamed, which showed the vessel started to off-load what Syrian officials categorised as "cement" on Sept 3.

This was three days before Israeli jets attacked a site in the north eastern desert of Syria, not far from its border with Iraq.

Since leaving Tartous, one of Syria's main ports on the Mediterranean, the ship's trace has disappeared and it is not known whether western intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel.

"I became suspicious after the first reports from Syria about the attack so I traced all traffic into Syrian ports in the days prior to the incident," Mr Solomon said.

"There were five ships but the interesting one was the one with a connection to North Korea - the Al Hamed."

He said he cross-referred to other maritime databases to establish the ship was not a regular visitor to the Mediterranean but had come through the Suez Canal in late June.

It had registered itself for the Suez transit as a South Korean vessel but Mr Solomon said this was standard procedure for North Korean ships seeking to avoid international constraints on North Korea.

Records showed the vessel docked at Tartous on July 28 before going back to sea and then returning to the port on Sept 3. "Since then there is no trace so I have no idea if she has gone up into the Black Sea or is still in the Mediterranean or whatever," Mr Solomon said.

So why would a ship that was supposedly carrying cement for Syria change her colors to avoid detection? “Targeted” sanctions include an embargo on military and technological materials and luxury goods, as well as a set of financial sanctions, but nothing about cement or other mundane trade exports. So again, why the change in flag if the North Korean vessel has nothing to hide?

We do believe there was some shady business going on between North Korea and Syria. The likeliest answer to the puzzle was nuclear tech and materials, but for that to be believed we have to accept Israel's and Turkey's word for it. (It has been revealed the Turkey did give the Israelis some information which led to this raid.) Don't get me wrong here. I do believe that Israel thought they had a serious problem on their hands, and more than likely they did have a problem. We should be thanking them for taking care of it instead of complaining about how they acted unilaterally.

With a change in ownership discovered, it's possible this ship will never be seen in a Syrian port again, unless renamed. The Israelis discovered something out about the ship, but the details still remain sketchy, and the Israelis aren't talking about it.

Publius II

New Column UpII

It's the 16th, and we all know what that means. Yes, the new issue of Common Conservative is up and awaiting your perusal.

(As always, this post will remain at the top of the page for the next 24 hours. Any newer posts are below this one, so scroll down, please.)

The Chief kicks this one off with his take on Norman Hsu and the Democrats dirty money problems. Coincidentally, he is also int he running as the most parodied name on the Internet now, as well, which makes Hillary equally jealous.

Patrick Shanahan follows up with an opinion regarding an election year idea revolving around a "divided government." It's an interesting and promising idea, at best. At worst? We get four more years of the three ring circus we've seen in government for the last seven years.

Larry Simoneaux offers his usual observance on a hot topic, namely bottled water. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me when I say that Larry's onto something here.

Marcie and I have devoted our column this issue to Iran, the problems they're causing in the region, and what might be a sensible solution to the problem.

Our guest columnists include Paige Turner who discusses the Democrat's senseless and disgusting behavior towards Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker. And she's right folks, we shouldn't be tolerating this sort of behavior any longer from elected representatives.

Doug Patton, ever a favorite for the site, follows up with who the Democrats could possibly draft for a candidate. Doug's dead right on the guy. He hates us more than the Democrats, and that's someone they can really rally around.

Chris Adamo gives his thoughts on the difference between scandal and corruption; a point that is lost on the Democrats, yet it drills them right between the eyes everyday.

John Lillpop discusses the MoveOn.org brain fart in their attack on Gen. Petraeus. Trust me folks, the Left obviously didn't learn their lesson back in '87 when they lambasted Col. Oliver North.

J.J. Jackson touches on the nanny state of being we seem to live in, and the fact that we, the indentured, seem to be a form of legal "slave" labor. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

And Jim Kouri offers his take on the Iraqi benchmarks that Congress is continually kvetching about. While we agree that certain things have yet to be met, the GAO fails to balance their assessment with the security situation on the ground which was designed to give the politicians their cover to act. That is a serious point Jim makes in his assessment.

Enjoy reading folks because we all work hard at these columns. None of them, or their subjects come easy. And as always, feel free to drop your thoughts in an e-mail to the authors. We always enjoy feedback.

Publius II