Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We have been fortunate enough over the last month or so on the Hugh Hewitt Show to interview about a dozen serious players from either the Bush administration, the military, war correspondents or foreign policy experts from all political stripes about the progress of the surge in Iraq. One of the questions that Hugh has posed to most if not all of them is how many bad guys have we killed in Iraq, in order to get a little perspective on how our forces are doing. The standard reaction Hugh has received has been that the military doesn't want to put those kind of numbers out there as the only benchmark of success, fearing a Vietnam-style bounty being put on body counts. While I respect that concern, the mere fact that the military commanders are cognizant of that tells me that the military institution as a whole has instilled that down to the front line officers so that Vietnam doesn't happen again.
President Bush gave a hugely important speech today to a gathering at the Veterans Of Foreign Wars National Convention, and this passage made us sit up and take notice.
An average of 1,500 bad guys a month have been killed or captured since January, or roughly 12,000 bad guys year to date. That certainly is a remarkable achievement. But there are definite questions that have to be answered in order to determine how strong of a metric of success this is.
Do we have any intelligence of how many foreign fighters or insurgents there were in Iraq in January? Do we have any reasonable estimate as to their numbers now? Have the coalition and Iraqi forces been able to gain control over the borders in order to stem the flow of foreign fighters coming into Iraq? Do we have any idea of the ratio of foreign fighers to Iraqi insurgents now as opposed to in January?
The White House should be encouraged to release more of this kind of information, and answer some of the natural follow up questions in order to give the American people a truer picture of how the war in Iraq is progressing, rather than let the mainstream media just trickle U.S. body counts night in and night out. The more Americans hear about what is really going on, the more likely they are to disregard the defeatist spin being fed to them by Democrats in Congress and in MSM.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We've just concluded an amazing couple of days on the Hugh Hewitt Show, starting Monday with a three-hour chat with world class journalist on both sides of the Atlantic, and right hand man to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, John O'Sullivan. John's a man who's been there and done that in every imaginable way if you're a political junkee in the West. He had been in Palm Springs, and was on his way to Los Angeles, so we intercepted his travel plans, and sent Hugh's servant, Moses, out to the Springs to retrieve him. I really wish I had heard that conversation during the two hour car ride back. John's a tremdously gifted writer who was blessed to be able to experience in near proximity many of the events that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. In the other seat, we have Moses, who is conversant in drumming, Shark Week, and Brian Wilson.
John had mentioned he'd like to get a bite to eat before getting to the studio. Did Moses take him to a sit down restaurant? No. Did he take him to a place befitting a man of John's stature? Not exactly. Moses drove through In 'N Out, news of which made both Hugh and I wince in almost exactly the same way. But John was a good sport, and was tremendous on the air.
Today, legendary novelist, blogger and retired Army Colonel Austin Bay was in town, and ventured down to the studio for an hour-long chat about the state of the surge, and what he wants General Petraeus to address. I'd talked to Col. Bay about a hundred times over the years, but this was a treat to meet him in person. He finished the hour and did a quick change into his Walker, Texas Ranger chic clothes to be able to catch the Yankees-Angels game at Anaheim Stadium. While he was transitioning his way out of the studio, in walked Oscar winner Jon Voight and writer/director Chris Cain, in studio to promote and talk about the new movie September Dawn opening up this Friday.
This is the second time we've been able to visit with Jon. Considering his film accomplishments, he's remarkably down to Earth, moreso than you would expect with someone of his caliber. Both times he's been to the studio, he's spent the down time before or after the interview either going around the office and talking to people to find out who we were, what we did and how we thought about things. In this shot, he wanted to see how Hugh did what he did. Hugh is showing him how the call screener program shows him who's on what line. Jon is one of the most naturally inquisitive people I've met.
Break time during the two-hour interview with Chris Cain. By the way, Cain is the father of Dean Cain, himself an accomplished actor, most notably remembered in the ABC series Lois And Clark in which he starred alongside Teri Hatcher.
Team Hewitt...or at least some of them. The guy with his eyes closed on the left, a site we're growing used to seeing at the Hugh Hewitt Show, is Andy the Intern, a remarkably good kid who was Hugh's spy at Disneyland, following me around to make sure I rode all the Fastpass rides in three hours, and to call 911, if neccesary, in the case I collapsed. Then there is some radio producer with a million dollar arm available to throw out first pitches at any major league stadium at a moment's notice. Next is Chris Carter, Mr. Voight, Adam Youngman, the person who is the third leg of radio Hewitt, who presses the buttons and makes the trains run on time, the secret weapon of the Hugh Hewitt Show. Front right is Aabria the Bruin.
Aabria is easily the most lively intern we've ever had. It's virtually impossible to have a flat show when she's around. She knows everything about Harry Potter, and being a UCLA Bruin, absolutely nothing about football.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Carl Levin, the senior Senator from Michigan, returned from a two-day Iraq trip, and issued a statement on Monday co-authored by hopefully retiring Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, saying the surge appears to be showing "measurable" signs of progress, but the political front is hopeless. Here's a little of what Senator Levin had to say in his statement:
We have seen indications that the surge of additional brigades to Baghdad and its immediate vicinity and the revitalized counter-insurgency strategy being employed have produced tangible results in making several areas of the capital more secure. We are also encouraged by continuing positive results -- in al Anbar Province, from the recent decisions of some of the Sunni tribes to turn against al Qaeda and cooperate with coalition force efforts to kill or capture its adherents. We remain concerned, however, that in the absence of overall “national” political reconciliation, we may be inadvertently helping to create another militia which will have to be dealt with in the future.
In Tuesday morning's Washington Post, Jonathan Weisman writes the first couple of paragraphs summarizing the take away from Levin's trip:
Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.
"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.
So does Carl Levin have the credibility for anyone to trust his analysis of what should or should not now happen in Iraq? I suggest absolutely not.
One of the architects of the surge plan is Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Here's a link to the key elements of the surge plan. Most of the goal of the surge is to finally provide security for Iraqis, something that never was one of the primary objectives in the four years U.S. and coalition forces have been there. The security aspect alone makes this policy a different strategy in Iraq. The last two planks in Kagan's piece are this:
As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life, bolster employment, and, working through Iraqi officials, strengthen Iraqi local government.
Securing the population strengthens the ability of Iraq’s central government to exercise its sovereign powers.
It's a bottom-up strategy. As the Iraqi population, city by city, recognizes the level of violence decreasing and that security is being taken seriously, that allows the reconstruction effort to bolster, which has happened very rapidly in former al Qaeda hotbeds like Ramadi and Baquba, good signs which even Senator Levin acknowledge. Once local governments are established, that naturally leads to an environment in which a central government can start to grow. As Kagan said on the Hugh Hewitt Show last week,
And then they [Democratic opponents] focus on the political problems, and I think that’s going to be the nature of the debate in September, but I think it’s a false debate, because the truth of the matter is if you’re improving security, the logic of the surge all along was that political progress follows that.
So far, by and large, the elements of the surge have delivered what was advertised. The surge was never designed to say that troops move in on X date, leading to national political progress by Y time. But after four months or so of full implementation of forces, the plan seems to be playing out as it was intended.
Now back to Carl Levin and his questionable credibility. He spends two days in Iraq, begrudgingly admits the military end of the surge is working, but wants to completely overturn the national government unless they can reconcile and govern in a matter of days, a ludicrous demand. I watched the United States Senate, one body of one arm of a three branch system in the greatest democracy on Earth, try to unify on an immigration bill in a matter of days. It didn't happen. Levin's new line in the sand is unrealistic.
Levin previously offered a resolution before the surge even had time to build up to full strength, a measure which thankfully the Republicans, under Mitch McConnell's leadership, defeated before it could get voted on. Here's what Carl Levin said in the Democrats' weekly radio address in July.
This week, the Senate had the opportunity to do what most Americans want us to do: change course in Iraq. Although a bipartisan majority of the Senators supported an amendment to do just that, we were blocked by the Republican leadership from voting on it.
By now, nearly everybody agrees that there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq and that only a political settlement by the Iraqi leaders themselves can stabilize that country. Even the Iraqi Prime Minister has acknowledged that. “The crisis is political,” he said, “and the ones who can stop the cycle of bloodletting of innocents are the Iraqi politicians.”
If those Republicans who say they want a change in course in Iraq will vote for one, we can start bringing our troops home and force the Iraqi political leaders to take responsibility for their own country. That is the only hope of success in Iraq.
Was he right? The surge itself was a change of course in Iraq. Ask anyone in Iraq. The Petraeus offensive was a completely new way of looking at American policy in Iraq, and has shown signs of progress. The most glaring example of where it hasn't gone well is in Basra, where the British implemented Levin's proposed plan of a quick withdrawal and handover of security to Iraqi officials who weren't ready to handle it. Basra is now a mess.
Was Levin right about there being no military solution to the violence in Iraq? It doesn't look like it. Tribal sheiks of both Sunni and Shiite stripe have seen U.S. forces alongside Iraq Security Forces clear out al Qaeda from cities, and then roll from previously being enablers of al Qaeda to helping us root them out. The political process is beginning to work on the local level.
Levin also fails to remember that the national politicians weren't in a position to be able to stop the bloodletting, specifically because the United States didn't want a strong central government. The last thing anyone here wanted after the despot Saddam Hussein was another up and coming despot. The framework of the new national government was to be a much more weakened central government, with more power and control located with provincial leaders. So it makes sense for a bottom-up strategy to develop, something which again appears to be happening from the accounts of left, right and center foreign policy experts who have spent the requisite amount of time to assess the effect of the surge.
Was Senator Levin right about cutting and running being the only hope of success in Iraq? Nope. There's more hope now in Anbar and Diyala Province than at any recent time. Baghdad is still rough. But the safe zones for al Qaeda and insurgent militias are getting smaller every day. But clearly us leaving is not the only chance Iraq succeeds. That is flatly untrue.
I'm not saying that Maliki is going to be the Iraqi version of George Washington, and he might indeed need to be replaced, if the Iraqi population deems him to be too weak of a leader. But whatever the reality about the assessment of Iraq's national leaders, I'd trust the opinion of General Petraeus in September, who has spent a lot more time in Iraq than Carl Levin's little Weekend At Bernie's jaunt.
Levin has gotten too many things wrong to now make proclamations of who should go and when. He never wanted to give the surge a chance to work, and now that it is, he's trying to move the goalpost in order to continue making a case for cutting and running and appease his base.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Tony Snow appeared on Hugh's show two days ago, and made national news by stating that he wasn't likely to stick around in his present job of White House Press Secretary all the way to the end of the second Bush term. To most of us who have followed politics, this wasn't much of a surprise. In fact, the fact that Tony actually took the job in the first place was more of a surprise to a lot of us than the "news" that he would probably bail out before the term. Tony has kids who are about to head off to college, and he's made references for a long time that he needs to go make some money in the private sector before too long.
But being August, the mainstream media often goes out of there way to create a story where there is no story, and this one is no exception. Hugh had Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer on the program earlier today, and asked Fred Barnes about Tony's impending departure, and what he ought to try next. Here's what he had to say.
HH: Gentlemen, I started a little firestorm. It's August, I should have known better, when I asked Tony Snow if he'd be going the distance, and he said no, he'd be leaving. Fred Barnes, this has been all over the media today. How long do you expect Tony Snow to stay? And what do you think he ought to do when he leaves?
FB: Well, look, he'll be gone obviously before the end of the years, I think probably in the middle of the fall, and you know, he's suggested this from the beginning that he was not necessarily going to stay all the way to the end. I have a particular job in mind for him. Hugh, as you know, John Warner, the Republican Senator from Virginia, is 80 years old, and is considering retirement, which I hope he follows through on, and does retire. And the perfect candidate is the man who's lived in Virginia for twenty years now, Tony Snow, to run for the Senate. Look, you've seen him as Press Secretary. He's been very good. He's smart, he knows the issues, he talks well, and Tony has a great stage presence. He loves to be on stage. He'd be a great candidate. The guy we know is going to run if Warner doesn't run is Tom Davis, the moderate Congressman from Northern Virginia. There needs to be a conservative alternative in the Republican primary, and I think the perfect person would be Tony Snow.
I know the lecture circuit is calling, Tony. Tuition at prestigious universites aren't cheap. But you have a gift, one that hasn't shown itself in very many national conservative figures in recent years. If the golden opportunity of a vacancy arises due to the retirement of John Warner, you have to take a hard look at it. It's an easy commute, and you could have an immediate impact on the direction of the Senate.
Don't dismiss it out of hand, Tony. Never say never, and if John Warner presents the moment with an announcement that he's not seeking re-election, seize the day. You will have more support than you can possibly know.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
CNN released a new opinion poll today, and it appears that the slime campaign on General David Petraeus has now officially begun with a month to go before his report to Congress. CNN claimed on their Situation Room that only 28% of responders would be more likely to support the war if Petraeus reports the surge is showing signs of progress, 72% wouldn't. And worse news, if one were to believe this poll, only 43% of those polled trusted Petraeus to give an accurate report in September, while 53% said they don't trust the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.
Now let's dive into the numbers a bit, to see how trusted this poll ought to be. The sample given by CNN is 1,029 Americans, with no political idenfitication given, taken over a three day period from the first part of August. Question 24 is the first question CNN released, which is:
24. Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq? 24a. Is your mind made up about the war in Iraq or do you think you could change your mind?
Favor/mind made up 21%
Favor/could change mind 12%
Oppose/could change mind 17%
Oppose/mind made up 47%
No opinion 3%
So a total of 50%, if you include the supporters and those who state they could change their mind on Iraq are reported among the 1,029 sample. This actually might not be a bad number. But look what happens when you get to the stats against Petraeus and his upcoming report that CNN ran with.
32. As you may know, in September the top U.S. commander in Iraq will report to the President and Congress about how the war is going. If he reports that the U.S. is making progress, would that make you more likely to support the war, or would that have no effect on your view of the war? (ASKED OF HALF SAMPLE)
More likely to support the war 28%
No effect on your view of the war 72%
No opinion *
33. As you may know, in September the top U.S. commander in Iraq will report to the President and Congress about how the war is going. Do you trust him to report what's really going on in Iraq without making the situation sound better than it actually is, or don't you feel that way? (ASKED OF HALF SAMPLE)
Trust him to report what’s really going on 43%
Do not trust him to report what’s really going on 53%
No opinion 4%
Only half the sample was asked on each question, bringing the sample size of a U.S. population of 300 million people down to a little over 500 people. Which 500 were asked this question? Were only the left-leaning respondents asked the question on Petraeus? Why weren't all respondents asked all the same questions? Would the results have been different? Why would CNN tout a 1,029 sample size when they really didn't use a sample size that big to ask the juicy questions, the ones they're manipulating to try and turn the tide against a positive Petraues report to Congress a month before he gives it?
I don't trust CNN to not play around with the poll numbers. Until they cough up the rest of the methodology and questions, like which half they popped the full set of questions on, or if the full set were asked of the full sample size, why only half were used in certain questions, it's a propaganda poll to push CNN's agenda to declare defeat in Iraq no matter what the cost.
Show us the political ideology of who the half sample is, and the political ideology of the full sample size, and show a little transparency in the polling process if you want it to be believed. It's hard to take a poll seriously when on the one hand, 50% can support the war or say they're open minded to change their mind, and then in the next breath say 72% wouldn't change their mind on Iraq regardles of what General Petraeus might say, because most people don't trust him anyway. It's a contradiction that busts this poll. CNN ought to have seen if it they wanted to be fair, but then again, CNN is not in the fair business.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One of Yahoo's top stories circulating right now is about a group of researchers at the University of Texas, Austin who have studied every called pitch in the Majors between 2004 and 2006, and have found that umpires are racists. I kid you not. Here's the story
Major League Baseball umpires are more likely to call strikes for pitchers of the same race or ethnicity, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed every pitch from the 2004 through 2006 major league seasons to explore whether racial discrimination factored into umpires’ decisions to call a pitch a strike or a ball.
Just as discrimination in the labor market can affect disparities in wages, promotion and performance evaluation, the researchers said, possible discrimination by umpires could affect the outcome of games and careers.
During a typical baseball game, umpires call about 75 pitches for each team (they call about 400,000 pitches over the whole season—this figure excludes foul balls), so an umpire’s evaluation heavily influences pitcher productivity and performance.
“Umpires judge the performance of players every game, deciding whether pitches are strikes or balls,” said study leader Daniel Hamermesh, who will present his findings next month at his campus and later at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “Discrimination affects the outcome of a game and the labor market, determining the pitcher’s market value and compensation.”
The researchers found if a pitcher is of the same race or ethnicity as the home plate umpire, more strikes are called and his team’s chance of winning is improved.
The power to evaluate players’ performances disproportionately belonged chiefly to white umpires, while negative calls particularly impacted minority pitchers, Hamermesh said.
But, this behavior diminishes when the umpire's calls are more closely scrutinized—for example at ballparks with electronic monitoring systems, in full count situation where there are 3 balls or 2 strikes, or at well-attended games.
Hamermesh said the study is drawing more comments, so far, from his colleagues than any of his previous work. "I did not know how many economists are hung up on baseball," he told LiveScience.
No, most likely, colleagues are commenting more on this because of the increased level of garbage this particular report is. Is there racism in baseball? I'm sure there is, to some degree. There's racism in all walks of life in America, just as there is in every society, to varying degrees, around the globe. But can you statistically prove that umpires are racist? I don't think so.
Umpires in the Major Leagues are there because they've shown at every stop along the way through the minor leagues that they were among the best umpires in the level they were working. By the time an umpire gets to the majors, if there was a problem with calls made for racial reasons, it would have been complained about during their stint in the minors. It's not like the Supreme Court where a nominee can pretend to be a judge of one particular ideology and migrate to the other side once they're confirmed. It's a peer reviewed process, and making it to the Bigs as an umpire is much harder than making it as a player. Each of the 30 teams have 25 players on their roster, or 750 playing for most of the season. There's 17 four-man umpire crews in the Majors. Do the math. The road is much higher. You have to be the best to make it.
This "study" only charts the apparent increased likelihood of strikes being called if the pitcher and the home plate umpire are of the same race or ethnicity. The problem with this premise is that there's only two variables being discussed, according to this story, that being the race or ethnicity of the pitcher and the batter. Baseball is a game that is completely full of diversity and complexity. There is diversity on the four-man umpire crews, each making calls that affect the outcome of the game at all four bases. There is diversity among all 30 teams, each one, like any of us, being able to have good days and bad days, all effecting the outcome of a game. There is diversity in the fan base in all 30 baseball markets. It's not like we're talking about the racism that showed its ugly head when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier 60 years ago. There are eight other positions out there besides the pitcher, and then you have nine different hitters stepping into the box from every region on Earth.
If a white umpire has a white pitcher out on the mound, will he get preferential treatment with a black batter, and then immediately get non-biased calls when the next batter in the lineup, a white, digs in at the plate? In this story, the study doesn't factor in any of the other variables that change with the ethnicity of each batter or pitcher.
Is the racist umpire sophisticated enough in his racism to realize that pinching a pitcher's strike zone that is of a different ethnicity may result in the victory by a team being managed by someone of a third ethnicity different than the umpire?
What about the umpire's racism on the other three days they're on the bases and not behind the plate? If you're a white umpire, is a black base runner stealing second more likely to be thrown out on a close play because they're black? If there's a bang-bang play at first, does the tie go to the white guy if it's a Caucasian umpire? This is truly silly. But the part that throws the whole stupid study out the window is this paragraph:
But, this behavior diminishes when the umpire's calls are more closely scrutinized—for example at ballparks with electronic monitoring systems, in full count situation where there are 3 balls or 2 strikes, or at well-attended games.
The theorum they were trying to prove is umpires call strikes based on racial preference, and they set out to chart two seasons worth of calls to "prove" their theorum. Except the data obviously didn't back up their claim, because they had to throw out all full count pitches, well attended games, which who knows what each umpire's idea of a well-attended game is, or where there is electronic monitoring systems. So in other words, any of the games that matter, or any part of a game that matters, there's no racism. It only happens when no one is paying any attention. Then the racism can clearly be shown...unless the game falls on a Sunday, usually the last of a weekend series for all the umpire crews, which means they've got to get the game over with quick so they can get to the airport to the next city. In that case, they're all strikes to make the game go quicker, so those can't count either. But then there are those Wednesday businessman special day games, where it's so blinking hot out. Those games are all strikes, too. So we can't count those in our racism study. And then there are the rain games, where the umpire crew doesn't want to have to redo the game as part of a doubleheader later, so they need to get five innings in before the Heavens open up. Those games certainly can't be applied towards the racism study. See what I mean? When you cherrypick what games or situations will or won't count in order to make your theory pan out, you've got a busted study.
More likely than rampant racism on the part of only home plate umpires is the likelihood that like all facets of baseball, it is a human game, full of human emotion, and played and managed and umpired by people with human memories. If pitchers by and large have a reputation of being around the plate, they get strikes called more often. Rookies often don't get calls on the edges until they prove themselves. That kind of stuff has been going on since the game began. If a pitcher is a hothead, and there are lots of them out there, and they show up one particular umpire, it very well may be that that umpire might get even with that pitcher some other time, some other day, and not give him as wide a zone as he might otherwise give. But it's not because of ethnicity.
Umpires have good days and bad days, just like the rest of us. One day behind the plate, the outside corner might look pretty good. Other days, maybe for no other reason than their eggs were undercooked at the Denny's that morning, they have a strike zone the size of a postage stamp. That's baseball. The human element is what makes it maddening a lot of the time, but it also is what makes it the great sport that it is. It's not perfect. It was never designed to be.
If we're at the place in this country where we have to look for statistical date to try and find racism in pitch calling behind the plate, I'd say we've actually come pretty far in this country regarding race. In other parts of the world, if you are of a different race, or of a different religion, you are killed. Let's try and keep some perspective.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
We have lots of interns that flow in and out of the Hugh Hewitt Show, depending on the year. And sometimes, like this summer, Hugh lets his guard down and he has allowed a USC student named Daren to allegedly work at the studio.
Now Hugh has spent a lot of time over the years creating new ways to tweak with the USC people, but today, Daren presented an opportunity that literally fell into Hugh's lap. Around the start of the show, Daren took off one of his new hightops, and had this idea he was trying to work out. The other interns couldn't figure out exactly what he was up to, but it even included a quick trip to a local gas station where he could buy a lighter.
Literally two and a half hours later, after burning off frayed ends, and actually including a few stitches, this is what one of USC's best and brightest spent his afternoon at work creating.
The hind dangle knot, for the time when you want to fashion style of laces, but you're just too damned lazy to bend over and tie them off.
When asked on the air what in the world he was doing all this time, Daren remained defiant, unaware of the glee he was providing to Hugh on behalf of USC students everywhere. Want to know the funny thing? As I was taking the pictures of the shoe for the bog, Daren wanted me to TM the pictures, because he said he's going to patent the idea.
At about ten seconds a tie, he could have laced these suckers up 900 times in the time it took to mutilate them.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Volunteers, anyone? That's the report from Jerry Seper and Stephen Dinan this morning in the Washington Times.
The U.S. Border Patrol is asking for volunteers among its agents to help build fences on the U.S.-Mexico border, even as President Bush is withdrawing half the National Guard troops he sent there last year to build fences.
A memo circulated last week to Border Patrol sector chiefs said fence-building efforts on the Southwest border were going to fall short of Mr. Bush's goal of finishing 70 miles in fiscal 2007, which ends Sept. 30, "so the Border Patrol is now going back into the fence-building business."
This is precisely why the blowback at the Senate's comprehensive bill a couple of months ago was as high as it was. People simply don't trust the government to keep its word, especially when it comes to enforcing immigration. 700 miles of fencing was passed by Congress and signed by the President at the end of last year. Seven months later, the Kennedy-McCain compromise immigration bill failed largely because it did not have enough border security first enforcement, and it had too many loopholes in national security when it came to granting probationary visas to people coming here from countries of special interest to the State Department.
Once the bill was killed off, the Republicans, especially in the Senate, were left with how to reconnect with their estranged base that felt as if the Senate was trying to ram the legislation through. Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the chief negotiator for the Republican side when it came to crafting the Ted Kennedy lead balloon of a bill, took an enormous amount of heat from the conservative base by promising that the proposed comprehensive bill would guarantee that 371 miles of fencing would be completed during the first 18 months after signing the bill, on the way to the full 700 miles. In fact, Senator Kyl also claimed that the fencing was currently being constructed, and would continue on that same pace to 371 miles regardless of whether the bill passed or not, as was repeated by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Now that the bill has no chance of passing, it seems that there's not quite as much of a push to get the fence done at the clip being touted during the debate earlier this summer.
It is up to the Bush administration to get this fence built. The authorization for it was signed by the President last year. There was an amendment for $3 billion dollars as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill just attached specifically to fund the construction of border fencing and increased Border Patrol agents.
If this story is true, then the Republicans in the Senate, including Senators Kyl, Graham, Cornyn, McConnell, DeMint and Sessions, should at once publicly hold the administration accountable for why the Homeland Security Department is now looking for volunteers to work on the fence, and why the 371 miles by the end of next year isn't even close to realistic if they can't get 70 miles done by the end of September, and why they can't seem to find a good contractor.
Senator Kyl along with several co-sponsors just dropped a new border security first bill on the Senate floor right before the August recess. It's an appropriate step politically to try and differentiate between the parties about which one takes national security at the border seriously. Immigration and border security are going to be one of several issues next year, But the administration seems to be playing games with the construction of the fence, negating any political gains that might be made by offering this legislation.
If I were Senator Kyl, having taking the slings and arrows to try and give the President the immigration bill he wanted this summer, and I opened up the Washington Times this morning to read that they're now looking for volunteers that might know how to build fences, I wouldn't be too happy.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Sometimes they make the Democrats in our Congress look sane on foreign policy by example. The House of Commons foreign affairs committee just submitted a wide ranging assessment of every aspect of the Middle East, and where they wanted to see British policy affect it in the near future. There were many striking examples of why so many in the UK, while still our fiercest ally, just don't understand the threat we face here and abroad by a radical Islamist ideology.
For example, when discussing events on the ground in Iraq, even the Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate have gone mute when it comes to criticizing the surge. As soon as the ink was dry on the Mike O'Hanlon-Ken Pollack assessment on the op-ed pages of the New York Times a week or so ago, the Democrats went silent on their critique of the surge. No longer do you hear Senate majority leader Harry Reid saying it's a failed policy and General Petraeus is a disappointment. Even John Murtha has been relatively quiet since the surge was shown by even left of center journalists to be empiracally working. But in the report released in the House of Commons, the following was said about the surge. From yesterday's Guardian:
The US "surge" tactic in Iraq appears likely to fail, a committee of MPs warned in a wide-ranging assessment of the Middle East.
A report by the Commons foreign affairs committee delivered a pessimistic verdict on Washington's bid to restore peace by committing 30,000 extra troops.
"It is too early to provide a definitive assessment of the US 'surge' but it does not look likely to succeed," the MPs concluded.
"We believe that the success of this strategy will ultimately ride on whether Iraq's politicians are able to reach agreement on a number of key issues."
It called on the British government to set out what actions it was taking to help foster political reconciliation amid growing pressure to withdraw coalition forces.
There is one place in Iraq that currently displays the largest amount of sectarian violence, and that place is in the south, in the city of Basra. Why is that place such a mess right now while other places like Anbar and Diayala Province have made remarkable turnarounds? Because that's an area that was relatively stable until a few months ago, when the British basically cut and run, turning the city over to the Iraqis who were not yet ready to handle the security on their own. The surge, wherever it's been applied, has shown increased security on the military front, and has resulted in many documented cases of political reconciliation from the local level on up. The national government is still not where anybody wants it to be, but to say that reconciliation is not taking place on many levels in Iraq is to turn a blind eye to the realities on the ground. Where coalition forces have precipitously withdrawn, like the Brits have done in Basra, chaos has ensued.
One other note, it's good that the MP's on the committee have asked the Brown government to explain what efforts they were taking to foster reconciliation while retreating at the same time. It's about as silly as demanding the fire department state how they were going to put out the forest fire while grounding the planes and bugging out with all the fire trucks.
Also from the Guardian recap of the report, regarding Iran, we read this:
Welcoming growing engagement with Iran over the situation, the committee's report also demanded to know what evidence the UK had the neighbouring country was supporting terrorism.
Evidence? The Brits want evidence Iran is supporting terrorism? Are they kidding? They're on the foreign relations committee and they've never heard of the Quds forces? Their generals are that much inferior to ours in that they can't recognize Iranian Quds force uniforms being worn by the people we've captured in Iraq meddling with the insurgents to kill coalition forces? They think Hezbollah and Hamas just print their own money and make their own rockets to send into Israel? Evidence? Do they think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when speaking publicly that it won't be long before Israel is wiped off the map, is not supporting terrorism in his statements? Or do they just think he's making a joke, trying out for the international jihadi version of Last Comic Standing?
It's sad that a once powerful and good country is so unserious at a time when the West needs seriousness to face the most dangerous enemy it has ever been confronted with. Let's continue to hope that our military keeps up with their progress, making an environment possible for the political future of Iraq to take hold, because America may just be the last best hope for the West.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I must admit, radio does have its perks sometimes. I just returned back to Southern California after one of the more memorable 24 hours of my life that I can recall. Let me explain.
After a couple of events for our fine affiliate in Philadelphia, WNTP AM990, Hugh and I were picked up outside of our hotel around 4:30PM Eastern. Keep in mind that the build-up to this evening has been virtually non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Hugh was asked to go to Philly, and as part of his trip, was offered a chance to throw out the first pitch at a Phillies-Braves game, a golden opportunity that any American in their right mind would jump at, unless you happen to suffer from terminal jockophobia, a condition that presents itself as near paralysis when professional athletes are nearby. Hugh didn't miss a beat, though, and immediately volunteered to have me fly back there as well and bounce the ball in on his behalf. Hugh had been merciless up to today, trying to psych me out every which way possible. Until Friday afternoon, I wasn't worried a bit. Now that we're about two hours away, the butterflies are starting to flutter.
In front of the hotel, starting to realize what I've gotten myself into a little later. I'm sure a lot of people recognize the sign in the background, but there's probably a bunch of people that don't know that Monopoly's Reading Railroad, which is actually pronounced like redding, comes from this railroad behind me.
The four corners of Philadelphia professional sports. Behind Hugh is the Wachovia Spectrum, home of the Philadelphia Kixx, their soccer team.
90 degrees to the left is the Wachovia Center, home to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers.
90 degrees further to the left and you have Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, or called The Linc by a lot of locals.
Our home for the evening, Citizens Bank Park, or CBP. I'm starting to get nervous for several reasons at this point, but mostly for two reasons. First, see the camera on Hugh's belt? It's mine. I've known Hugh a very long time. Hugh and electronics should usually never meet. It's for the best. In tonight's case, however, it's kind of hard to photograph me pitching, so I have to rely on Hugh to not miss. That's like relying on Joe Biden not to put his foot in his mouth.
The other reason I'm starting to feel the pressure increase is because I've heard the same line now at least a thousand times between last night at the National Constitution Center where we broadcast an abbreviated show, today at a couple of different station events, in tons of e-mails and calls, and from virtually every family member and friend I know - Don't bounce it. It's now become like the famous line heard a thousand times in the movie, A Christmas Story, where Ralphie wants a Red Rider BB gun, but keeps hearing over and over from everyone, "You'll shoot your eye out." 'Don't bounce it' has now become my own personal 'you'll shoot your eye out.'
I actually was excited about coming here, because this is the first of the new baseball parks I've been to. There's lots of really cool looking new parks in Texas, Houston, Philly, Seattle, San Diego, Milwaukee, and several more I'm not thinking of right now, where the design of the stadiums make them very fan friendly, and where each one has some unusual quirks to them. One day before I go to my great reward, I'd love to see a game at each city in the Majors.
Tonight was a night at the park where there were a ton of different subplots all going on at the same time, and which made the fact that I was throwing out the first pitch all the more surreal. WNTP and their sister station, WFIL
, partnered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes
, who had a block of about 500 tickets to the game that night, and had me throw out the first pitch on their behalf. Behind the stadium was this tent where FCA was able to congregate and hold a little Church before the game.
What do major leaguers do when their career is over, you ask? Literally anything and everything. But tonight, in what I think has got to be the first such career move, Kent Bottenfield
went from being an All-Star pitcher with a 16 year career in the bigs, including a stint with the Phillies, to becoming a contemporary Christian music recording artist. He sang a few songs and gave his testimony to the FCA people in the tent.
Then out of nowhere arrived one of the greatest pitchers in baseball today, John Smoltz, who showed up to give his surprisingly frank testimony. He's been known as a Christian a quite a while, and has career stats both as a starting pitcher and a closer that could easily become Hall of Fame material, but he was very transparent by saying that just because you're a Christian doesn't mean everyday problems end. He is going through a very tough period in his life over the last six months, including a painful divorce from his wife.
Hugh and I left the FCA tent and were escorted by a Phillies official into the park and given a tour of the stadium. There is definitely a presence everywhere to showcase the current roster,
And yet at the same time, there is attention to detail almost wherever you look to honor the legacy of both past Phillies players and Philadelphia-based baseball players. There are inlays like this all over the floor in the entrance to the Diamond Club.
One of the Phillies taking a little batting practice in one of the two cages underneath the stands. We're peeking in through the glass from the Diamond Club.
About an hour before the game is supposed to start, and about half an hour or so until my closeup. The Phillies had just presented Hugh and I with jerseys and caps, with our names on the backs, and the numbers which represent the AM dial numbers of our two Philly stations. I'm wearing this jersey for the only night I'll be able to, as my son, the Troglodyte, will see this when I'm home and I'll never see it again.
Remember what I said about subplots? I'm looking about 20 feet ahead into the Braves dugout, where in spite of the fact that I get to throw the first pitch out, the Phillies and Braves are separated by only 1/2 a game in the NL East, and both are about a game or so out of the wild card race, so I'm listening to some of the Braves players and coaches talking.
On probably the largest screen I've seen as a sports park, there is another subplot going on this evening that we're just learning about. One of the legendary characters of Phillies baseball over the years was John Vukovich, who was a player for the Phillies, but also was the third base coach for several years. Vuk, as he's known, passed away from cancer earlier this year, and tonight, the team was going to honor him with a place in their Wall of Fame, complete with his surviving family on hand, as well as the other living members of the Wall of Fame, Bob Boone, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Dallas Green, and Robin Roberts.
By all accounts, he was a class act.
A touching tribute, with Phillies old and new reuniting as a family to honor the loss of one of their own. What am I doing here again?
Upstairs once again, we get to see the Ryan Howard model bat. For those of you caught up in the Barry Bonds asterisk/no asterisk debate, give it time. Barry Bonds will just be a blip on the history line in a few years. Alex Rodriguez is well on his way to top Bonds in the next 7 years or so, but this kid in Philly named Howard is the youngest to 100 home runs, and hits the ball a ton. If he stays healthy, and the team gives him any protection whatsoever in the order, he could blow away both Bonds and A-Rod before he's through.
It's getting close to showtime now. The Braves' batting practice is over, and the field crew is getting close.
All these Toyota convertibles are staging to take the Wall of Famers around the field once in a parade lap to add to the pregame festivities.
The Philadelphia skyline looking out over center field. The field itself is below street level, so the entire ground level cannot see this view. You have to be on one of the two upper decks.
Right after the skyline shot, we were told by our escort we had to get back to the field for the ceremony. We quickly went down an elevator, and minutes later were handed off to another Phillies staffer who took Hugh and I to the field. The lady in the shorts on the left is the stage director of the pregame ceremonies. She came over, asked if I was Duane, and handed me what's called a pearl, a brand new baseball that hasn't been rubbed up yet.
Now that I had the rock, I had to connect with the mound. It began calling out to me. Don't bounce it.
One more subplot to mix into the equation. Just a minute or so before this picture, and I apologize I don't have visual proof of this because again, Hugh had the camera, but I noticed a bespectacled gentleman walking right by us on the warning track from around the plate to this dugout. He looked remarkably like ABC pundit and Washington Post columnist George Will. That's because it was. I nudged Hugh and told him George Will just walked by him. Hugh, who was in a fog at that point because of his jockophobia working overtime being in this close proximity to professional athletes, heard the word pundit and immediately snapped out of it. He went over to Mr. Will and introduced us. We shook hands, and then Hugh asked what brought him to a Phillies-Braves game. George replied that he was doing a column in legendary umpire Bruce Froemming, who at 37 seasons is MLB's longest tenured umpire. Bruce's umpire crew happened to be in town doing this series, and Bruce had third base tonight. George was talking to people about Bruce.
Another legend. Bobby Cox, the fiery manager of the Atlanta Braves, is reviled by Hugh because he steered the Braves' defeat of the Indians in the World Series in 1995. Cox also had a streak of something like 12 division pennants in a row. He also has been thrown out of more games in his career than half of the current serving managers have wins.
The festivities have begun. When the public address announcer begins on the field wearing a full tuxedo, it's not a typical night at the park. In my head, a chorus of 'don't bounce it's' are running through my head. I'm windmilling my arm forward and backward to loosen it up in a hurry. I had been told for days that I would be throwing to the Phillies Phanatic, which is essentially a big, green, fuzzy Big Bird looking mascot, except he is nowhere to be found. So I think I still have some time. Wrong again. See the same lady in the brown shorts? About 10 seconds after this shot was taken, she came running around the stage that had been set up on home plate for the Wall of Fame speakers to come, pointed at me, and screamed, "Let's go!" Here, thanks to the videotaping talents of Hugh Hewitt, is the moment you've all been waiting for.
My catcher turned out to be Shane Victorino, the young right fielder on the Phillies who's been sidelined recently with a pulled calf muscle. The nice lady who just yelled at me to hurry up pointed me to the front of the mound. I cheated and started to go up top to toe the rubber, and then she gave me an evil eye. I stopped about halfway up. Victorino was about a foot or so in front of the plate. My total distance I had to carry today? about 55 feet. I chose the four seam fastball grip. Since there was a stage behind my catcher, complete with microphones, chairs and plants, and the fact that Victorino looked at me and said don't bounce it, I figured a high strike might be in order. Straight and true, just like I promised.
The still filing in Phillies crowd, famous for booing anything that moves, didn't boo me. Either that, or I was in the zone and successfully tuned them out. It was time to shake hands with my catcher for a successful pitch.
I have to say, that's pretty cool to have your name up in lights, even if nobody there has any idea who you are or why you're there.
It may not look like it on this particular shot, but I was told that at one point, there was an awful lot of Generalissimo filling up an awfully big screen, something which I'm pretty glad I didn't turn around and see.
Just happened to see this as we walked off the field and worked our way around to the seats three rows in behind first base. I know it's blurry, but I had just had a jolt of adrenaline that was still bleeding off, but still wanted to capture my new best friend Shane. It was very cool to be able to throw the pitch out, but I have to say, as I told Hugh, I felt now like I had just passed my final exams and was headed toward summer. I felt a huge sense of relief.
As for the game itself, it literally was two games in one. The first inning took about 40 minutes to play, but then the game settled down and only took a total of 2 1/2 hours to finish. In the top of the first, Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels got lit up for four runs on five hits, batting around in the order. But in the bottom of the first, the Braves' Chuck James got rocked as well, giving up four runs on five hits, letting the Phillies batting order up one time through. Then the game immediately turned into a pitcher's duel, with only one run on three hits combined for the next eight innings. In the bottom of the 7th, when the Phillies did actually score the eventual winning run, the Phillies Phanatic appeared to get the crowd fired up.
The trademark hex on the pitcher, which in this case, actually led to a base hit. The Phanatic is probably the most popular mascot in the majors now. It's hard to say if he's as popular here as the Chicken was in San Diego, but people here boo anybody and everything, and seem to like his shtick a lot.
And as the bell tolls over another Phillies win, Hugh and I reflected on a truly remarkable night. The game was great, and the festivities around the pitch were something we'll never forget. Many, many thanks go out to Russ Whitnah, David Handler and the rest of the team at WNTP, the folks at Fellowship of Christian Athletes for allowing me to piggyback onto their event, and the folks at Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies
for being so hospitable. But mostly, thanks go to Hugh for being too big of a chicken to throw the pitch out himself, making my trip possible. As Hugh and I drove home, we realized I now have something up on my good friend Frank Pastore
, who used to guest host for us until he joined the Salem radio family with his own Los Angeles based talk show, a man who pitched professionally as well for the Reds and the Twins. We are both radio professionals, but I can now safely say I've spent more time in The Show
than he has in the 21st Century.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
This is the picture that greets you on the New Republic website. No, I'm not kidding. It really is there. Franklin Foer, hunkered down in the deeply fortified underground shelter below TNR headquarters, trying to weather the storm of being caught red-handed running a series of busted stories by a fraud of a writer that has since signed a statement under oath recanting them, offers as his front page story for the internet version of the scandal-riddled magazine Barry Bonds, Heretic
Look at the landscape in which the New Republic finds itself. Does anyone believe that people are going to think to themselves, "Barry Bonds just broke the all time home run record. I wonder what The New Republic thinks about it?" Of course not. That's silly. It's a diversion. People over the last week are only visiting TNR's website because they either want to see how far down the Dan Rather path Foer is prepared to go, or they're from the fever swamp, and they're rooting for him because he dared to bare his anti-war soul. So while the controversy continues to burn hotter for Foer every day a new revelation strikes at the veracity of the Beauchamp stories, Foer fiddles by running a Barry Bonds story as his lead.
Know what is truly sad about this? Franklin Foer makes Barry Bonds look good by comparison. Whatever the new home run king's faults, and the list is lengthy depending on which investigator you talk to, Bonds, while viewed as illegitimately setting the home run record by many and of not being a generally pleasant fellow to be around, has not used his position in the media to slander the U.S. military in Iraq. Bonds may have not treated the press corps covering him very well, but he hasn't accused them of war crimes and unspeakable atrocities.
Since Mr. Foer wants all of us to talk baseball, let's put his postion in baseball terms. As the editor of The New Republic, Foer is the manager of the team. One of his rookies, nicknamed The Kid, got called up with virtually no minor league experience to pitch down the stretch, and after sportswriters saw this kid get shellacked in his first three starts, they started investigating why the manager kept handing him the ball every five days. They then discover that the kid actually is married to the manager's agent. A writer pokes around after reading in the team's press guide that the kid threw a no-hitter in AA ball, and learns that the kid never was in AA ball, and in fact, the last team sport he actually could be shown to play was high school basketball. And yet Manager Foer continues to give The Kid the rock, unwavering in his support, when all the sporting world now sees The Kid is a fraud. At some point, the crowd is going to sour on the product being put out on the field, and then they'll stop coming to the games.
Think the general manager or the owner of TNR is starting to get a little concerned?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Just a short time ago, in response to the Michael Goldfarb story in the Weekly Standard citing a high level military official saying that anti-war reporter Scott Thomas Beauchamp has signed a sworn statement denying the stories that the New Republic supposedly fact-checked and ran, the editors of the New Republic posted the following
A STATEMENT ON SCOTT THOMAS BEAUCHAMP:
We've talked to military personnel directly involved in the events that Scott Thomas Beauchamp described, and they corroborated his account as detailed in our statement. When we called Army spokesman Major Steven F. Lamb and asked about an anonymously sourced allegation that Beauchamp had recanted his articles in a sworn statement, he told us, "I have no knowledge of that." He added, "If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own." When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, "We don't go into the details of how we conduct our investigations."
So instead of saying Houston, we might have a problem here, the editors at the New Republic are walking further out onto the plank. They have no problem wanting you to believe that they have their unnamed sources to back up Beauchamp's claims, and that they still are sticking by their story, much as Dan Rather did in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and yet they are reacting to the Weekly Standard's unnamed source with a knee-jerk reaction that it can't be trusted. You can't have it both ways. You'd think at this point, Franklin Foer, the beleaguered editor of the New Republic, would start to realize how far out over the water he is walking, and that he might want to think twice about doubling down and blindly backing his stories. The further out on the plank you walk, when you do eventually get wet, the harder it is for anyone to reach you with a life preserver.
Monday, August 06, 2007
At long last, Radioblogger has finally moved into its new home at Town Hall. Yes, the look is slightly different, yes, there's still a lot of the old site yet to move in, but I'm still here, I still have opinions, and I still like NASCAR.
In another day or so, the old URL will point here, and the posting will recommence.
Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson is the producer of the nationally syndicated "Hugh Hewitt Show". In a sense Duane is "the man behind the curtain" -- and this is his blog.
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