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FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 09, 2008


By Ed Morrissey

Democrats in Congress promised to make energy policy a high priority when they returned after the Independence Day break.  Instead, they have quietly scrubbed the schedule of any votes on their energy bill, afraid Republicans will make them vote on increased domestic oil production and force them to choose between popular sentiment for drilling and their environmentalist allies.  Their strategy?  Well, the Hill chooses a good quote:

“Right now, our strategy on gas prices is ‘Drive small cars and wait for the wind,’ ” said a Democratic aide.

Before the break, Democrats heralded two bills that supposedly showed their leadership on energy: an anti-speculator measure and a “use it or lose it” bill that forced oil companies to drill on federal leases — whether or not they had found oil yet — or lose the leases immediately.  They attacked Republicans who opposed both bills as oil-company lackeys, but the truth is that neither bill produces a single drop of oil to solve the supply crisis.

Now, both bills have disappeared off of the legislative calendar, and the Republicans have ideas of their own.  Politico reports that Mitch McConnell has a plan to peel off moderate Democrats in the Senate to get approval for drilling by combining the effort with conservation mandates.  He already has five Democrats ready to vote for more drilling, and if he can find a few more, he can effectively sideline the Slip-Up from Searchlight and keep him from getting ill:

GOP senators believe that a number of moderate Democrats would be open to legislation that balances increased energy exploration with conservation. If they’re right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could lose their grip on energy policy, and the Republicans could score a major coup on the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters.

At least five Senate Democrats support more domestic oil and gas exploration, and McConnell is sweetening the deal to make the sale to other moderates: The Kentucky Republican is pushing a package of incentives to boost conservation as well as a measure creating stricter enforcement of commodities markets in exchange for more offshore oil and gas drilling.

Moderate Democrats have now begun asking for a “Gang of 14? on energy.   Ben Nelson (D-NE) has taken the lead in this demand, and he has nine other Senators from both parties willing to join him.  This amounts to a rebellion against Harry Reid and his knee-jerk opposition to increased domestic production of oil and coal.  His “sick” speech may have been the last straw for Democrats who see the American public demanding more domestic production and recognize the political danger that approaches in November for obstructionists.

Of course, the Democrats always have the option of going into November with the slogan, “Drive smaller cars and wait for the wind.”  I’m sure we’ll see television ads and bumper stickers highlighting that strategy.  Unfortunately for the Democrats, they will be produced by Republicans to demonstrate the utter bankruptcy of Democratic energy policy.  Tuesday, July 8, 2008




By Charles Johnson

The words “deserting a sinking ship” come to mind, as the chairman of the Saudi-funded radical Islamic front group calling itself the Council on American Islamic Relations bails out, with a series of transparent excuses: Chairman of Council on American-Islamic Relations resigns.

Jacksonville resident Parvez Ahmed has resigned as chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, saying he’s frustrated about the national organization’s failure to be more proactive and positive in its promotion of Muslim civil rights.

The nation’s most well-known Muslim advocacy group, which he has led as board chairman since 2005, also needs to be more inclusive of younger, less-religious Muslims and encourage regular turnover of leadership ranks to ensure an infusion of new ideas, he told the Times-Union on Monday, a day after resigning.

These and other goals have been agreed to in principle by the organization’s board and professional leadership, Ahmed said, but “an old guard mentality” among some of those leaders has kept elements of the strategic plan from being realized.

“And I got a little bit burned out pushing so hard” for the organization to be more open and transparent, he said.

The Washington, D.C.-based council declined to answer specific questions about Ahmed’s comments. Instead, it e-mailed a four-sentence statement thanking Ahmed, 44, for his contributions and acknowledging differences in vision.

“Ultimately, the majority of organizational stakeholders supported a vision for implementing change and growth that differed from that of Dr. Ahmed,” the statement said.

Two board members did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday.

An outspoken critic of the group said Ahmed did not capitalize on a golden opportunity to transform the organization.

The council was the only Muslim agency in the United States experiencing growth when Ahmed assumed its leadership, said Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware. But its continued foray into political and foreign-policy matters - such as seeking rights for foreign combatants held at Guantanamo Bay - has detracted from its mission of promoting Muslim-American rights, he said.

“He had an opportunity to take it to the next level and I think he failed,” Khan said.

Ahmed said one of his unrealized goals was to transform the council into an organization that doesn’t sound anti-American when it’s criticizing government policies.

(Hat tip: Anti-CAIR.)  Tuesday, July 8, 2008




By Ed Morrissey

When Democrats won majorities in both chambers of Congress, they pointed to the falling approval ratings of the legislature as a mandate for change.  They have certainly provided it — albeit in the wrong direction.  Rasmussen’s latest polling shows the approval ratings for Congress have reached a new low, and a new achievement … single digits:

The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history. This month, just 9% say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52%) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category. …

The percentage of Democrats who give Congress positive ratings fell from 17% last month to 13% this month. The number of Democrats who give Congress a poor rating remained unchanged. Among Republicans, 8% give Congress good or excellent ratings, up just a point from last month. Sixty-five percent (65%) of GOP voters say Congress is doing a poor job, down a single point from last month.

Voters not affiliated with either party are the most critical of Congressional performance. Just 3% of those voters give Congress positive ratings, down from 6% last month. Sixty-three percent (63%) believe Congress is doing a poor job, up from 57% last month.

When Democrats first took control of Congress, its approval rating sat at 15%, which explained quite a bit about the electoral victory Democrats achieved.  They managed to push it up to 26% after four monthsin charge, but it has gone downhill ever since May 2007.  People used to joke about it hitting single digits, but the day has finally arrived under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Oddly, at the same time Democrats have maintained their lead on Rasmussen’s generic congressional ballot.   Last week’s poll shows a 12-point gap, slightly narrower than the 14-point gap in mid-June, but wider than the six-point gap in April.  The GOP has obviously not done a good job in explaining the lack of progress on issues and tying it to Democratic leadership, which seems like an opportunity missed — at least this far.

With energy on everyone’s mind, the Republicans have a chance to change that.  Democrats have decided to “wait for the wind” rather than do anything to ease the supply crisis that has driven prices at the pump out of sight.  If Republicans can take charge and implement a rational energy policy that includes robust domestic production — a position that has gained popularity with voters — they can both increase their standing and expose Reid and Pelosi as the true obstructionists.

Outside of the partisan considerations, having the people’s branch of government in such disrepute seems somewhat dangerous.  Congress needs to take action to restore confidence in the most representative branch of the federal government, which should include an end to corruption mechanisms such as pork.  We cannot afford to wait for the number to sink to zero before repairing its credibility.


By Ed Morrissey

John McCain pledged yesterday to balance the budget by 2013.  Barack Obama responded by claiming that it can’t be balanced, and he can’t be bothered to try:

Not only does Obama say he won’t eliminate the deficit in his first term, as McCain aims to do, he frankly says he’s not sure he’d bring it down at all in four years, considering his own spending plans.

“I do not make a promise that we can reduce it by 2013 because I think it is important for us to make some critical investments right now in America’s families,” Obama told reporters this week when asked if he’d match McCain’s pledge.

So what is more important in tough economic times? For the government to spend more to help hard-hit Americans or to eliminate a deficit that can lead to higher borrowing costs and slow the economy?

The best policy would be to keep government from interfering with capital that can create new opportunities.  In this particular slowdown, strengthening the dollar would also be a good idea.  Blithely ignoring the deficit — and in fact proposing massive expansions of federal spending — will both weaken the dollar and burden Americans even more than now.

Democrats have complained for years about the Bush administration deficits.  In fact, they routinely use that as one argument against the Iraq war, claiming that it has exploded the deficit.  Now are the Democrats about to say that the deficit is of no consequence at all, and that spending shouldn’t rely on financing?  They insisted on pay-go in 2007, although they broke their own rules in the 2008 budget.

Nedra Pickler tries casting the two campaigns as both spending more than current levels, but there is a large difference between the McCain and Obama spending plans.  Obama would add almost $300 billion in new spending each year, while McCain would add less than $20 billion, and McCain has at least outlined cuts to balance them.  The difference becomes more significant with Obama’s stated indifference to the deficit, now and in the future.

This time, Obama won’t just execute a flip-flop for himself.  He’s about to force the entire party to do a 180 on deficit spending.  When do the backflips cease with Obama?  Tuesday, July 8, 2008




By Michael Ramirez




By John Hinderaker

The RNC has a new ad highlighting Barack Obama's flip-flops on Iraq. It's pretty effective:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008




By Chuck Asay




By Charles Johnson

Here’s an utterly ludicrous statement from Barack Obama that’s flown under the radar so far; he is planning a “civilian national security force” that is as powerful and well-funded as the US military.

Obama promised to increase AmeriCorps slots from 75,000 to 250,000 and pledged to double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. ...

Obama had first outlined many of the proposals he talked about Wednesday during appearances in Iowa last December.

“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.”

Notice that he also says he plans to increase the size of the active military.

Is he even aware that the Department of Defense’s current base budget is close to $500 billion? Obama is going to create a civilian force with this level of funding and equipment? To do what?

(Hat tip: Exurban League.)


By Charles Johnson

One of the most blatantly antisemitic diaries ever posted at Daily Kos, full of blood libels, conspiracy theories, and nauseating hatred, remains posted on the site two months later: Daily Kos: Eulogy before the Inevitability of Self-Destruction: The Decline and Death of Israel.

Imagine my surprise to discover that this neo-Nazi creep also maintains a blog at the official Barack Obama campaign web site, and has been posting anti-Israel hate speech since February: women.barackobama.com | The Ruminations of an Anti-Zionist American Nationalist.

Notice the code-word “nationalist.”

This is the creep’s web site, with more of the demented stuff he’s been posting at Daily Kos and the official Obama site: Wake Up From Your Slumber | The Truth Will Set You FreeTuesday, July 8, 2008




By Glenn McCoy




By Paul Mirengoff

Peter Wehner argues that Barack Obama's tack to the center is probably a wise move and, as such, underscores that "America remains a center-right, basically conservative leaning nation." According to Peter, "the fact that Obama understands this and is doing everything he can do inoculate himself against the charge of liberalism ought to be welcomed news to conservatives."

This view strikes me as too sanguine. Obama isn't tacking to the center-right, but rather to the center. Moreover, Obama isn't even tacking significantly away from the left on most key domestic issues, e.g., health care, energy policy, and taxes. Overall, Obama's moves show only that America remains a centrist nation.

This, though, is essentially a truism -- the center, by definition, represents essentially the midpoint in public opinion at a given time. But public opinion sometimes shifts dramatically, causing the center to move.

Obama is a man of the left, as Peter agrees. Thus, if elected, we can expect that he will tack back to the left and attempt to move the center with him. Even Bill Clinton (the embodiment of the calculating politician-president) tried to do this to some extent, though he gave up rather easily. Obama's effort to change the political dynamic will focus on his liberal domestic agenda. Unlike Clinton, Obama will likely have the numbers in Congress necessary to enact much of it.

If Obama gets lucky -- e.g. a good economy, no terrorist attacks, no unexpected serious crises -- he will be a popular president. In that event, his domestic programs, unless immediately catastrophic, will likely be popular for at least a while.

The center will then move.


By John Hinderaker

John McCain is giving a speech on the economy (mostly) to the League of United Latin American Citizens Convention in Washington. It's a good speech; here are McCain's comments on corporate income taxes and free trade:

Our current business tax rate, the second highest in the world, will postpone our recovery from this downturn and make us increasingly less competitive in the world economy. When a corporation plans to expand and hire more workers, they face a choice between building a new plant here at home or building it in a country where they will pay a third or a half the tax rate they pay in America. Employers can hire more people, or they can pay more taxes. They can rarely do both. We can no longer afford the luxury of nostalgia for past times when American business faced little serious competition in the world. I propose to reduce the business tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The global economy is here to stay. We cannot build walls to foreign competition, and we shouldn't want to. When have Americans ever been afraid of competition? America is the biggest exporter, importer, producer, manufacturer, and innovator in the world. That's why I reject the false virtues of economic isolationism. Any confident, competent country and its government should embrace competition - it makes us stronger - not hide from our competitors and cheat our consumers and workers. We can compete and win, as we always have, or we can be left behind. Lowering barriers to trade creates more and better jobs, and higher wages. It keeps inflation under control. It makes goods more affordable for low and middle income consumers. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S. Our future prosperity depends on opening more of these markets, not closing them.

McCain badly needs to do well with Hispanic voters. I think he has a pretty good chance to do so; the conclusion of today's speech shows one way in which McCain will be able to connect with many Hispanics:

When I was in prison in Vietnam, I like other of my fellow POWs, was offered early release by my captors. Most of us refused because we were bound to our code of conduct, which said those who had been captured the earliest had to be released the soonest. My friend, Everett Alvarez, a brave American of Mexican descent, had been shot down years before I was, and had suffered for his country much more and much longer than I had. To leave him behind would have shamed us. When you take the solemn stroll along that wall of black granite on the national Mall, it is hard not to notice the many names such as Rodriguez, Hernandez, and Lopez that so sadly adorn it. When you visit Iraq and Afghanistan you will meet some of the thousands of Hispanic-Americans who serve there, and many of those who risk their lives to protect the rest of us do not yet possess the rights and privileges of full citizenship in the country they love so well. To love your country, as I discovered in Vietnam, is to love your countrymen. Those men and women are my brothers and sisters, my fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. As a private citizen or as your President, I will never, never do anything to dishonor our obligations to them and their families or to forget what they and their ancestors have done to make this country the beautiful, bountiful, blessed place we love.

Obama can match McCain on immigration, but he can't match that appeal to the strong military tradition that many Hispanic voters share.  Tuesday, July 8, 2008




By Charles Johnson

They celebrated his life.

And his act of mass murder.

It was three years to the day since the July 7 bombers brought carnage to the heart of London. In Britain yesterday, families of the victims wept for their loved ones.

In a village in Pakistan, a banquet was held to honour one of the young men who committed the murderous crimes.

Relatives of Shehzad Tanweer, who is buried there, staged the feast to ‘celebrate his life’ and ‘remember him as a martyr’ on the third anniversary of the terror attacks which killed 52 people and injured many more.

Yesterday the families of the victims reacted with outrage to the secret ceremony held at the village where 70 guests gathered to offer prayers and blessings for the suicide bomber whose grave is considered to be a ‘shrine of a big saint’.

Bradford-born Tanweer, whose father emigrated from Pakistan and ran a chip shop in Leeds, detonated his bomb at Aldgate station on July 7, 2005, killing seven innocent people as well as himself. Together with Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, Hasib Hussain,18, and 19-year-old Jermaine Lindsay, the four bombers blew up three Underground trains and a bus.

As thousands mourned in Britain yesterday, in Pakistan there were prayers uttered for his soul and verses of the Koran were read out. At the commemorative dinner held by Tanweer’s uncle, 42-year-old property developer Tahir Pervez at his home in Samundari, guests were treated to two courses of sweet rice and salted rice with curry and beef prepared by a renowned local chef.

And to mark the occasion, rice was distributed among villagers. For the last two years, the family gathering has been held in secret at his grave, but this year police urged the family not to hold a memorial at the site.

His headstone - the largest in the cemetery of the village - bears the phrase ‘La ilaha il Mohammed dur rasool Allah’ which means ‘There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger’.

Local police officer Zafar Iqbal said: ‘At least 60 to 70 guests, who included villagers and close relatives, were invited. They recited the holy Koran inside Tahir’s home and prayed for his soul.’

Religion of peace!  Tuesday, July 8, 2008





Click to view images from Taji. Photos by Bill Murray.

TAJI, IRAQ: There are few pictures of a US Army Tactical Operations Centers, and once inside you realize why. Everything within the walls of a TOC in Iraq -- and there are dozens at the company, battalion and brigade levels -- is more or less classified. Screen after screen of live Unmanned Aerial Vehicle camera footage, high-definition video from floating balloons tethered high above each forward-operating base, high-powered FM radios connected with ground troops, three tiers of desks with sergeants and captains using internal message and email systems to communicate with UAV operators. It’s a bit Hollywood for the uninitiated.

On these screens, the battle for Sadr City in late March and April played out. The 4th US Army Division’s 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, located at Taji Airbase in the suburbs of Baghdad, had responsibility for close-air support and reconnaissance for most of Baghdad east of the Tigris River when between March 25 and mid-May, elements within Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army fought pitched with Iraqi Army and Coalition forces for control of the stronghold.

The spike in violence caused the regiment to keep six AH-64 Apaches in the air over northern and eastern Baghdad at all times as part of coordinated ground attacks with Iraqi National forces and the US 4th Division and 10th Mountain Division. During that time, Apaches from units surrounding Baghdad fired more than 200 Hellfire laser-guided missiles, killing 251 enemy combatants, according to Civil Affairs Sergeant First Class Chris Seaton. Sadr’s forces and the Iraqi government of Nouri al Maliki agreed on a cease-fire in May.

During that period there were "dozens of engagements a day. Now we’re back into where we want it to be," said Lieutenant Colonel Todd Royer, the regiment’s commander. "Iraqi security forces are showing active signs of improvement. Almost all the missions are joint, and almost all of them have been Iraqi led."

The evolution of US Army’s TOCs during the Iraqi conflict may be among the biggest reasons why the military "surge" in the past year has helped cut year-on-year violence in the country by up to 80 percent, according to the Department of Defense.

The near instantaneous, error-free communication between air surveillance and ground troops has allowed much fewer troops on the ground to coordinate with air support and Iraqi forces, making units such as the 10th Mountain Division a potent constabulary force using a fraction of the troops normally necessary for such role.

"The ground units have been ... getting high-value individuals, time-sensitive targets," said Apache pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeffrey Dumond. "They were sporadic before in Sadr City. Then, it became everyday, then, several times a day. It seems to have worked. It’s uneventful out there now."

Doing the job of a unit twice its size, the 3rd Regiment operates 24 Apache helicopters, the US military’s premier attack helicopter, and 10 Blackhawk helicopters -- used for everything from medivac flights to office moves. In the past seven months, the 36 helicopters have flown 14,000 hours, more than a regular unit would fly in two years.

Sadr's forces took a relentless pounding from US aerial attacks and the Iraqi Army, while anecdotal evidence from Iraqi police and Army patrols showed parts of Sadr City decimated of grown men, leaving only 12 or 13-year-old boys to fight. Violent activities in Sadr City have plummeted since the May cease-fire. More than 1,000 members Mahdi Army member are believed to have been killed there, while another 1,300 Mahdi Army fighters from Iraq may have escaped to safe houses in Iran.

US intelligence reports say Sadr is trying to get his leaders to meet him in Qom, Iran, where he may be hiding, in order to reconstitute forces with a focus on attacking exclusively US military targets.

"It’s possible there is a slowdown because of the regional elections coming up" in October or November, said Dumond, speaking after an evening pilot's briefing. "They may feel they need to rebuild trust" after organized bombing in crowded areas angered Shia populations that represent the core of Sadr’s political support.

The exhibition of force by the US and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in the past months is not without US critics. A Washington Post article published May 23 criticized the unit and particular pilots for civilian deaths and injuries occurring during the March to May period.

"The Post article did a real disservice to the pilot," said Major Geoff Crawford, second in command of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. "It came here with an agenda." Officers in the unit wrote a letter to the Washington Post, complaining that much of the story’s reporting was taken out of context. The letter itself was edited without permission before publication, Crawford said.

Despite the importance of the Iraqi Army’s investiture of Sadr City and Basrah and the dethroning of Sadr’s powerbase within Baghdad, periods of decreased violence in the past have not lasted, while political reconciliation between Shia, Sunnis and Kurds remains incomplete.

"Success now is not determined by the number of engagement, but by lack of engagements," said Captain Matthew Paladino, who operates the regiment’s Tactical Operations Center.

The regiment this month is in the process of transferring south to Baghdad’s International Airport, taking over surveillance and close air support over much of southern Iraq until February, when the 700 soldiers in the unit rotate back to Fort Hood, Texas.


By Bill Roggio

One day after a suicide bomber killed 19 Pakistanis, including 15 policemen, in the capital of Islamabad, a string of bombings rocked the southern port city of Karachi. One civilian was killed and more than 50 wounded after a series of seven bombs were detonated throughout the city over the course of 90 minutes.

The bombs were said to be relatively small and were designed “to create panic in the city,” the provincial police chief in Sindh told AFP. “There is also a possibility that the people who planted the bombs wanted to fan ethnic tensions in the city,” Sindh Police Inspector General Sallahuddin Babar Khattak said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. But just this past weekend, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM, or United National Movement), the third largest political party in Pakistan that also runs Sindh province, began to warn about the “Talibanization” of Karachi and threatened to take action. The MQM put out warning messages to its party members and labor groups. Soon afterward, anti-Taliban graffiti began appearing on the street of Karachi. The graffiti was apparently produced by the Sipah-e-Mohammad, a Shia militia that has gone underground.

In April, reports indicated Sunni extremist groups banned by the Pakistani government after the Sept. 11 attacks are reestablishing branches inside Karachi. Kashmiri terror groups Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have been building a base in the southern port city. Each of these groups serves as what an unnamed US intelligence official calls “muscle” for al Qaeda. The groups provide support and fighters to conduct attacks in Pakistan and beyond.

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen is a jihadist group that was formed in 1985 to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the war, it moved into Kashmir to fight the Indians. The group is said to have thousands of supporters and fighters.

Jaish-e-Mohammad was formed in 1994 after splintering from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The group focuses its activities in Kashmir but it has been behind some of the most high-profile terror incidents, including the execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, an incident that nearly sparked a war between the two nations.

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is considered the largest Kashmiri-based terror outfit. Sayeed Sallahuddin, the group’s leader, reportedly has been in Karachi and Peshawar in the Northwest Frontier Province. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen “is reported to have a close association with the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence and the United Jihad Council, and other terrorist organizations operating out of Pakistan,” The Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal states. The United Jihad Council is a conglomeration of the Kashmiri terror groups led by Sallahuddin and supported by the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence.

Karachi has been the scene of intense sectarian clashes over the past several decades. The MQM and Pashtuns who have settled from the Northwest Frontier Province have fought deadly turf wars in the city.

Karachi was the scene of deadly clashes in December 2007 after the suspended chief justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court arrived for a demonstration. At least 31 people were killed and hundreds wounded after supporters of the MQM rampaged in an effort to disrupt the justice’s speech. “Many of the 15,000 police and security forces deployed in the city stood idly by as armed activists from [the MQM], blocked Mr. Chaudhry's exit from the airport and took control of the city's central district,” the Telegraph reported. MQM supporters on motorcycles fired into crowds of the justice’s supporters.

The largest suicide attack in Pakistan occurred in Karachi in October 2007. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was targeted the day she returned from exile in a sophisticated, multipronged ambush that included suicide bombers, roadside bombs, and snipers. More than 136 were killed and 500-plus wounded. Bhutto survived the attack but was killed two months later in a complex attack while campaigning in Rawalpindi.


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