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Cue the rent-a-mobs

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Here come the demonstrations:

When thousands of Iraq war protesters gather in Washington Saturday, their chants and amplified speeches are likely to be heard inside the secure grounds of the White House where the commander in chief has made his case for sending more troops into combat.
. . .
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the main political target. War protesters want something tougher than nonbinding resolutions opposing the "surge" in additional US forces. Some want hearings on the controversial basis for the war itself, perhaps leading to the impeachment of President Bush.

It's not just the nation's capital, where busloads of people from at least 30 states are headed to make their voices heard.

Oddly enough, organizers are going out of their way to remain anonymous (as stated later in the Christian Science Monitor story linked above).  Why would that be?  Perhaps an agenda being hidden?

Word of the day:  Astroturfing.
(from Wikipedia):

In politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations (PR) campaigns which seek to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Hence the reference to the "AstroTurf" (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate "fake grassroots" support.

The goal of such campaign is to disguise the agenda of a client as an independent public reaction to some political entity —a politician, political group, product, service, event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt ("outreach," "awareness," etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by anything from an individual pushing their own personal agenda through to highly organised professional groups with financial backing from large corporations.


Do I have evidence that the anti-war demonstrations are astroturfed?  No.  Is it the standard mode of operation of leftist activists?  Yes.

Taking the pledge

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I've taken the pledge:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.
Now, I don't usually donate to political campagns of any kind, but I don't rule out doing so in the future.  I can guarantee that I will never support a candidate who, by malice or ignorance, wishes to reprise this country's Vietnam experience by leaving Iraq before it is stable.

We have started inevitable, irreversable changes in the Middle East.  Those changes can either be for the better or for the worse.  If we leave or pull back, the world will be a much more dangerous one than if we persevere.  It is a difficult road we have found ourselves on.  But turning around is not an option.

More Americans will die if we leave than if we stay. 

The "surge" is already successful

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Several items in the news indicate that our new strategy in Iraq is already working:

Item 1:  Sadr tells his Mahdi Army to stand down and for his followers to return to the Iraqi political process.

Last Friday, in a bid to fend off an all-out American military offensive, al-Sadr ordered 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers under his control to end their nearly two-month boycott of the government. They were back at their jobs Sunday.

Al-Sadr had already ordered his militia fighters not to display their weapons. They have not, however, ceded control of the formerly mixed neighborhoods they have captured, killing Sunnis or forcing them to abandon their homes and businesses.

Item 2:  In the same article, Iraq Prime Minister al-Maliki tells Sadr his militia is no longer off-limits to American forces.
Iraq's prime minister has dropped his protection of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia after being convinced by U.S. intelligence that the group was infiltrated by death squads, two Iraqi government officials said Sunday.

By the way, did you know that all of the troops who make up the "surge" were scheduled to go to Iraq anyway?  The "surge" is simply speeding up the schedule to send new units in, along with delaying the return of some units which are already there.  That's it.

Meanwhile, the Small Wars Journal reminds:  Don't confuse the "surge" with the strategy.

What matters here is not the size of forces (though the strategy will not work without a certain minimum force size), but rather their tasks. The key element of the plan, as outlined in the President’s speech, is to concentrate security forces within Baghdad, to secure the local people where they live. Troops will operate in small, local groups closely partnered with Iraqi military and police units, with each unit permanently assigned to an area and working its “beat”.

This is different from early strategies which were enemy-centric (focusing on killing insurgents), or more recent approaches that relied on training and supporting Iraqi forces and expected them to secure the population.

The new strategy reflects counterinsurgency best practice as demonstrated over dozens of campaigns in the last several decades: enemy-centric approaches that focus on the enemy, assuming that killing insurgents is the key task, rarely succeed. Population-centric approaches, that center on protecting local people and gaining their support, succeed more often.


Here's how I look at it.  I can listen to and believe a bunch of politicians crying Withdraw!  Withdraw!, many of whom have never seen the business end of an AK-47, or I can listen to and believe a large group of professonal soldiers, including the guy who wrote the book updating U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine.  Now, I never served in the military--I guess I'm one of those "chickenhawks" that the left delights in attempting to shout down.  But I can either listen to the actual chickens, or I can listen to the actual hawks, to try to determine what the best path forward might be.

No matter which way we go, I think we owe ourselves an honest answer to a seemingly-simple question:  If we do XYZ, what happens next?

'The State of the Union . . . is STRONG"

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Please, President Bush, for the love of God, please, please, please don't have a line in the speech saying anything like "My Fellow Americans . . . The State Of The Union Is STRONG."

It's true that in about every segment of life except for national politics and government, yes, America is as strong as ever.  But the cesspool on the Potomac seems determined to attack that strength on nearly every front.

So no, we are not as strong as we should be.  And it's your fault, Official Washington.  Your fault.



Do statin drugs cause Parkinson's?

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That's what researchers are looking into, in this ScienceDaily story:
Suggestions of a statin link are not new, but the results of a recent study linking low LDL cholesterol to Parkinson's provide the strongest evidence to date that it could be real, because statins work by reducing LDL cholesterol. The study by researchers at University of North Carolina showed that patients with low levels of LDL cholesterol are more than three and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those with higher LDL levels.
Yours truly is in fact on a statin to lower my cholesterol.  So, do I want to die of a heart attack or stroke, or do I want to die of Parkinson's?

It may very well turn out that LDL cholesterol isn't "bad" at all.  Just misunderstood.  (OK, I couldn't resist that one).

My thoughts turn to a phrase. . . something about the cure being worse than the disease.  Thanks a lot, modern medicine . . .

Lessons in Civics

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Consider these two passages. One is (or should be) well-known. The other is authored by Senator Harry Reid, (D-Nevada), our current Senate Majority Leader.

On second thought, perhaps Passage #1 is not as well-known, or well-understood, as it should be.

Passage #1:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Passage #2:

SEC. 220. DISCLOSURE OF PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING.

(a) Definitions- Section 3 of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1602) is amended--
(1) in paragraph (7), by adding at the end of the following: `Lobbying activities include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, but do not include grassroots lobbying.'; and
(2) by adding at the end of the following:
`(17) GRASSROOTS LOBBYING- The term `grassroots lobbying' means the voluntary efforts of members of the general public to communicate their own views on an issue to Federal officials or to encourage other members of the general public to do the same.
`(18) PAID EFFORTS TO STIMULATE GRASSROOTS LOBBYING-
`(A) IN GENERAL- The term `paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying' means any paid attempt in support of lobbying contacts on behalf of a client to influence the general public or segments thereof to contact one or more covered legislative or executive branch officials (or Congress as a whole) to urge such officials (or Congress) to take specific action with respect to a matter described in section 3(8)(A), except that such term does not include any communications by an entity directed to its members, employees, officers, or shareholders.
`(B) PAID ATTEMPT TO INFLUENCE THE GENERAL PUBLIC OR SEGMENTS THEREOF- The term `paid attempt to influence the general public or segments thereof' does not include an attempt to influence directed at less than 500 members of the general public.
`(C) REGISTRANT- For purposes of this paragraph, a person or entity is a member of a registrant if the person or entity--
`(i) pays dues or makes a contribution of more than a nominal amount to the entity;
`(ii) makes a contribution of more than a nominal amount of time to the entity;
`(iii) is entitled to participate in the governance of the entity;
`(iv) is 1 of a limited number of honorary or life members of the entity; or
`(v) is an employee, officer, director or member of the entity.
`(19) GRASSROOTS LOBBYING FIRM- The term `grassroots lobbying firm' means a person or entity that--
`(A) is retained by 1 or more clients to engage in paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying on behalf of such clients; and
`(B) receives income of, or spends or agrees to spend, an aggregate of $25,000 or more for such efforts in any quarterly period.'.
(b) Registration- Section 4(a) of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1603(a)) is amended--
(1) in the flush matter at the end of paragraph (3)(A), by adding at the end the following: `For purposes of clauses (i) and (ii), the term `lobbying activities' shall not include paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.'; and
(2) by inserting after paragraph (3) the following:
`(4) FILING BY GRASSROOTS LOBBYING FIRMS- Not later than 45 days after a grassroots lobbying firm first is retained by a client to engage in paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying, such grassroots lobbying firm shall register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives.'.
(c) Separate Itemization of Paid Efforts To Stimulate Grassroots Lobbying- Section 5(b) of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1604(b)) is amended--
(1) in paragraph (3), by--
(A) inserting after `total amount of all income' the following: `(including a separate good faith estimate of the total amount of income relating specifically to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying and, within that amount, a good faith estimate of the total amount specifically relating to paid advertising)'; and
(B) inserting `or a grassroots lobbying firm' after `lobbying firm';
(2) in paragraph (4), by inserting after `total expenses' the following: `(including a good faith estimate of the total amount of expenses relating specifically to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying and, within that total amount, a good faith estimate of the total amount specifically relating to paid advertising)'; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
`Subparagraphs (B) and (C) of paragraph (2) shall not apply with respect to reports relating to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying activities.'.
(d) Good Faith Estimates and De Minimis Rules for Paid Efforts To Stimulate Grassroots Lobbying-
(1) IN GENERAL- Section 5(c) of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1604(c)) is amended to read as follows:
`(c) Estimates of Income or Expenses- For purposes of this section, the following shall apply:
`(1) Estimates of income or expenses shall be made as follows:
`(A) Estimates of amounts in excess of $10,0000 shall be rounded to the nearest $20,000.
`(B) In the event income or expenses do not exceed $10,000, the registrant shall include a statement that income or expenses totaled less than $10,000 for the reporting period.
`(2) Estimates of income or expenses relating specifically to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying shall be made as follows:
`(A) Estimates of amounts in excess of $25,000 shall be rounded to the nearest $20,000.
`(B) In the event income or expenses do not exceed $25,000, the registrant shall include a statement that income or expenses totaled less than $25,000 for the reporting period.'.
(2) TAX REPORTING- Section 15 of the Act (2 U.S.C. 1610) is amended--
(A) in subsection (a)--
(i) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' after the semicolon;
(ii) in paragraph (2), by striking the period and inserting `; and'; and
(iii) by adding at the end the following:
`(3) in lieu of using the definition of paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying in section 3(18), consider as paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying only those activities that are grassroots expenditures as defined in section 4911(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.'; and
(B) in subsection (b)--
(i) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' after the semicolon;
(ii) in paragraph (2), by striking the period and inserting `; and'; and
(iii) by adding at the end the following:
`(3) in lieu of using the definition of paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying in section 3(18), consider as paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying only those activities that are grassroots expenditures as defined in section 4911(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.'.

This seems to me to be a pretty significant "abridgement" of the freedom of speech and the right to seek "redress of grievances." Just having to wade through this legal gobbledegook abridges my rights--that's something that these jackasses don't ever seem to understand.

I don't care whether or not any of this BS purports to apply to me. Passage #1 says it doesn't, regardless of how many "grassroots lobbying firms" with which I may or may not choose to associate. (I'm not a joiner, by the way, if you couldn't tell . . . )

Of course, total, complete lack of respect for fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution is what I've come to expect from Democrats (and, sadly, some Republicans like John McCain).

Hat tip: Of Arms and the Law, via Instapundit.

UPDATE:  The Senate has passed an amendment to delete the above text from the bill.  So we stand down until the next attack on the Constitution from those who are sworn to defend it.

Mistakes in Iraq

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Blogger Bryan Preston embeds in Iraq, and comes to some conclusions about the mistakes we've made there:
1. No plan for the post war period.
2. Leaving Iran alone.
3. Pullbacks and soft failures.
4. Iraqi elections held too early.
5. Misunderstanding the fundamentals.
6. Assuming Iraq will conform only to unreasonable expectations which are based on ignorance of counterinsurgency warfare.
7. Media misconduct and malpractice leading to flagging homefront morale.
People who actually care about this will read his complete article.  People who are content in their angry ignorance won't.

It's really, really not about Bush any more.

nobody is here to tell the story . . .

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"Nobody is here to tell the story of our people in this war . . . "

Except citizen-journalists like Michael Yon, reporting from Anbar Province, Iraq:

On this patrol, a soldier told me the story a young Iraqi girl who got shot in a firefight that blew out some important parts of her abdomen. Others around her were killed, but she would live, with a colostomy bag and no chance of ever having children. And when the soldier visited her, he said the young girl was not worried about who shot her, or who else had died around her, or what would happen to her tomorrow. She was worried about her goats. She was in the hospital shot to pieces worrying about her goats.

This does not look like a big or intense war to people at home. It doesn’t look like that because we have so few troops actually in combat. But for those who are truly fighting, this is a brutal death match where every mistake can get them killed, or make worldwide headlines. Yet when the enemy drills out eyes or tortures people with acid, it never resonates.

There is an explanation for why when some of these young soldiers and Marines go home and people are trying to talk with them they might be caught silently staring out a window. Many people back home seem to think they have an idea what is happening here, but most do not. And nobody is here to tell the story of our people in this war.

War is horror.  Sometimes you get to choose your wars, and sometimes the war chooses you.  We have the great luxury of choosing a war "over there" as opposed to a war over here.  This one has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans.  Some people understand this.  Others do not.  Yet.

Jimmy Carter, Terrorist

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How else do you interpret this passage from Carter's latest book:
"It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."
The New York Post editorial which reveals this quote observes:

Carter isn't calling on the Palestinians to give up terror and murder now as a way to convince Israel they are serious about peace. Rather, he says they can wait until they've achieved their goals at the bargaining table. No need, says Carter, to give up terrorism until then.

Certainly, that's how 14 members of the Carter Center's advisory board read that paragraph. Indeed, it's why they angrily submitted their resignations last week.

That's also how Melvin Konner read it. He's a respected anthropology professor at Emory University and had been asked to be part of an academic group meant to advise the former president and the Carter Center on how to respond to criticism of the book.

As Konner wrote to John Hardman, the center's executive director, in declining the invitation: "I cannot find any way to read this sentence that does not condone the murder of Jews until such time as Israel unilaterally follows President Carter's prescription for peace. The sentence, simply put, makes President Carter an apologist for terrorists and places my children, along with all Jews everywhere, in greater danger."

Sadly, what many have come to expect from a man who will go down as possibly the single worst President in U.S. history.

Hat tip: Powerline

North Korea Wants Giant Rabbits!

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Yes, you read that headline correctly.  Fox News story (via the Belmont Club and Tigerhawk)

Karl Szmolinsky has been given a contract by North Korea to supply giant rabbits to help to boost meat production in the reclusive Communist country, which is suffering severe food shortages. The only problem is that such huge rabbits consume vast quantities of food themselves as they grow.

Szmolinsky, from Eberswalde, in the east of Germany, was contacted by the North Korean Embassy in Berlin in October after Robert attracted press coverage. “They want to boost meat production. They’ve arranged for me to go to Pyongyang in April to advise them on setting up a breeding farm,” Szmolinsky, who is 68 next month, told The Times.