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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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Saturday
May222004

The Wedding Party

The blog on blogs, The Truth Laid Bear, posts this question from a reader on its main page: "'I don't think the blogosphere has thrown up nearly enough stylists of true distinction, incidentally. Do you?'"



The Bear answers "Kaus! Kaus! Kaus!" as in Mickey Kaus.



I suggest the post entitled "The Wedding Party" from Belmont Club is an answer by itself.

Friday
May212004

I Prefer My Sauce to Be Nonpolitical, Thank You Very Much

Something odd is going on over at Taco Bell. Maybe it is a joke by a Taco Bell employee who needs to be replaced. Or maybe the corporation is disfunctional.



I know one thing: I'm not putting any of my kids' college savings into their parent company's stock unless there is a reasonable explanation.



Here's the background. Alerted by the Ramblings' Journal blog, run by Project 21 member Michael King, who received a pointer from talk radio's incomparable Neal Boortz, I visited the TacoBell.com website.



There the company informs the public that it is sponsoring a contest to find humorous sayings it can print on sauce packages. According to the main website and a May 19 Taco Bell press release, the solicited sayings must meet four requirements. They must be: simple, left of center, provide insight on the little things in life, and not exceed 70 characters.



Left of center?



Odd point number one is that a company with the customer base of Taco Bell (and its fellow subsidiaries of corporate parent Yum! Brands, Inc., which are KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut) would decide that its sauce packets are the place for left-wing political statements. Odd point number two is that the company would issue a press release alerting a nation that is 41 percent conservative that they are part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.



Odd point number three, though, is that the sample sayings Taco Bell provides aren't political at all (examples: "My other taco is a Chalupa," "Polly want a taco?"). So that raises the possibility that at least some significant personages at Taco Bell don't actually know what the phrase "left of center" means.



I telephoned Taco Bell for the scoop. That's a crusade in itself! The phone numbers one can glean from the website don't reach human operators. I tried the phone number for people who have a million dollars to invest as new Taco Bell franchisees, figuring that line at least would reach a live person. No such luck -- it just rings unanswered. The parent company's website wasn't helpful, either. Finally I got the idea to check the parent company's required filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, figuring they probably do share their phone number with the SEC. Yes! I downloaded their last filing, and found a phone number in it. Voila! A human answered and I was transferred to Yum! Brands' public relations, which in turn gave me the phone number for the Taco Bell press office.



I have not quite hit the informational jackpot, however, as the Taco Bell press office said it would have to call me back.



So there it sits. Are Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut about to face a massive boycott (it won't be necessary to organize one; if Yum! Brands has decided to shill for the left its own sauce packets will spread the word enough to get a boycott going), or is the corporation simply a victim of a mischievous or ignorant employee who desperately needs more oversight?



Or maybe I am the ignorant one. Does "left of center" mean something non-political, when one is speaking of sauce?



I told Taco Bell's press person that I do not have a firm deadline for my opinion writing, but that I hoped to be able to hear back from them today. The ball is now in their court. Watch this blog for more details. If they call back, I'll share what they say. If they don't, I'll call them again.



ADDENDUM: Taco Bell called back. Nice folks. Very friendly. They mean the term "left-of-center" as "quirky," "off the beaten path" -- that sort of thing. What's more, they've been using the phrase "left-of-center" in public documents for three years now, yet the first time (that they know of) that anyone took it as a political statement was yesterday, when someone at the Wall Street Journal called them to ask about it.



So we shouldn't expect to see any calls for socialized medicine on Taco Bell sauce packets anytime soon...



I admit their choice of terms perplexes me, but I concede that I'm not the best judge of what terms are generally thought to be political and which are not. I've been living in the Washington DC area for over a quarter century. Here, everything is political. Everything but Taco Bell, that is.

Friday
May212004

Green Tax Break

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) has proposed starting a week-long 'green' tax break twice a year in Pennsylvania. Under the proposal, consumers purchasing appliances carrying the EPA's "Energy Star" designation would not have to pay state sales taxes during those two weeks.

Thursday
May202004

Believe Me, Brother

A tiny part of the latest installment in the Iraq the Model blog:

"Believe me brother when I say that the majority of Sadr city people are grateful for the Americans. We didn't fire a bullet at them when they entered our city. We gave them the reception of liberators and they are. Why would we fight them now!?"

Thursday
May202004

To The Point

Dr. Jack Wheeler, an old friend who has a remarkably keen understanding of international cultural trends, makes some interesting, even encouraging, observations about the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal en route to a larger point about the value of the blogging community.



A sample to whet your appetite:

"How many times... have you heard that Al Jazeera's satellite TV reports on whatever we are doing in Iraq are 'enraging the Arab world'? It turns out that vast numbers of Arabs in Iraq and elsewhere despise Al Jazeera as SNN -- the Sunni News Network, a worthless propaganda channel promoting Sunni imperialism."
If you read more, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday
May192004

Is It Just Me?

A question from husband David:

Is it just me, or has the mainstream media completely lost its grip on reality?



  • International terrorism is at a 35 year low; we've toppled a repressive, aggressive totalitarian regime; we put the architect of the Achille Lauro hijacking (in which American Leon Klinghoffer was killed) out of commission permanently; we've so frightened Libya that it has renounced terrorism and given up its weapons of mass destruction; AND we've shifted the frontlines of the war with terrorists from United States soil to Iraq - and they still say that the Iraq war is a distraction from the real war on terrorism.



  • Those of us who defend the choice to drive SUVs and other large vehicles but choose to drive fuel-efficient cars are called "anti-environment" while those who want to take that choice away but actually own large gas guzzlers are called "pro-environment."



  • If a handful of low-level subordinates out of several million working for you commit crimes, you should resign in disgrace. If you commit a crime yourself - say, by lying before a federal grand jury - you should stay.



  • President Bush has overseen the largest expansion of Medicare since its inception and the sharpest rise in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society. He left Judge Roy Moore twisting in the wind and added new regulations where they previously didn't exist... And he is said to be following an extreme right wing agenda that is polarizing the nation.



  • Evading the military to preserve one's "political viability" is considered a non-issue, while serving in the National Guard is called "draft dodging."



  • If you're an Iraqi terrorist at Abu Ghraib prison and you're humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you, your ordeal warrants repeated page one newspaper coverage. If you're a female American soldier humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you at the same prison facility, your experience warrants a tiny one-paragraph story buried in the few papers that care.



  • President Bush is said to lack intelligence. But at the same time, he's been accused of cooking up the Iraq War with his buddies in Texas and deliberately misleading the public and Congress to gain approval for the war. Which is he: dullard or evil genius? He can't be both.



  • Journalists dutifully reported Ted Kennedy's remarks equating U.S. management of Abu Ghraib prison with that of Saddam Hussein, but didn't mention that the acts of sexual humiliation by U.S. troops at the prison were only slightly more humiliating than acts that occurred after a younger, more vigorous Teddy had a few drinks.



  • The media led calls for Trent Lott to resign after he praised former segregationist Strom Thurmond, but the media was relatively silent when Senator Chris Dodd praised Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK who has used the "n" word on network television in recent years.



  • When evidence of possible criminal acts by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were leaked to the press, the leakers, not the Senators, were considered the problem. But when evidence of possible criminal acts by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraid prison were leaked to the press, the soldiers, not the leakers, were considered the problem.



  • As French officials were receiving accolades for insisting that Saddam Hussein was innocent until proven guilty, no one bothered to mention that they were advocating better treatment for Hussein than they give their own citizens. Under the French system of justice, one is considered guilty until proven innocent.



  • Europeans have called Americans "arrogant" and even equated our leaders with Adolph Hitler. Yet the news media singles out the Bush Administration's New Europe/Old Europe formulation for the poor state of U.S./European relations.



  • When the U.S. takes actions that will cost it hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps thousands of lives, it is said to be pursuing an economically-driven agenda. When others take action from which they stand to make billions of dollars, it is said to be a principled stand.



  • When Janet Reno took responsibility for Waco, the mainstream media praised her. When Rumsfeld apologized for the prison abuses, the media called for his head.

  • Tuesday
    May182004

    I Guess Marshmallow Fluff is Out

    Call me wacky, but I don't think The Rough Woodsman blog is really talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here.

    Monday
    May172004

    Implausible

    Dr. Pat Michaels takes apart the science in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" in Sunday's Washington Post.



    Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

    Monday
    May172004

    The Benefit of Brown: Providing Opportunity

    Today is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black conservative group Project 21 has issued some publications and statements marking the event. Some excerpts:

    "The Supreme Court only opened the door to the dream. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not he will walk through that door... No matter the cost of one's personal sacrifice in the short run, it is worth it for every black person in America to walk through the door.'" - Project 21 member John Meredith



    "Our ancestors died in slavery, dreaming of the day when their descendents would be able to read, write and compete in this country on a level with the best of white children. That day has come, and far too many squander those opportunities." - Project 21 member Mychal Massie



    "By tearing down racial barriers to education, Brown let all children take advantage of the best in American learning. Once they applied themselves, black children could compete fairly in the job market. With added skills and wealth, the remaining racial barriers soon fell. There was an immediate improvement in black education. In 1960, the percentage of blacks with a high school diploma or more was just 20.1 percent. Those with at least college degree was only 3.1 percent. Both figures were less than half of the proportion of their white counterparts. By 2000, 78.5 percent of blacks had a high school education or better, and 16.5 percent had at least a college degree. White numbers rose to 84.5 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively. In 1990, black college graduates had an unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent." - David Almasi

    Sunday
    May162004

    Short, But Full of Events

    I know I recommended posts from the Iraq the Model blog just the other day, but I am going to recommend another post already anyway.

    Sunday
    May162004

    The Green, Green Privately-Owned Grass of Home

    The National Center's executive director David W. Almasi on lawn care:

    Want a quick example of how private property rights are the best way to protect the environment? Look out at your front yard.



    I just returned from a 10-day vacation. One of the last things I did before I left home was cut the grass. Within an hour of returning home, I was back out cutting the grass -- this time in 90-degree heat. I was also pulling weeds, planting vegetable seedlings in the garden. I then made arrangements for a professional service to come and do some fertilizer treatments. As I worked, three of my neighbors were also mowing. We all want to be proud of our lawns and not be a nuisance to others.



    Compare this to what I see on my commute to and from work. On one major road, the grass on the median strip is so high that I almost cannot see the oncoming traffic. While the grass is high in the median, the weeds are even higher and now in full bloom. Along the Washington Beltway, weeds and grasses are over waist-high. Who's in charge of cutting and tending to these areas? The government.



    Take this beyond my yard and my commute. Local governments, state governments and the federal government own a huge amount of land -- so much that they cannot adequately take care of it all. Homeowners, ranchers and businesses that own property, however, manage their property for reasons of pride and profit and most often go the extra mile to make sure that their land does not go fallow or cause harm. With government, neglect is often a write-off. It's also inconsistent. In the Washington area, a homeowner can be fined for not mowing, raking leaves or shoveling snow. If the government is lax in it's groundskeeping, well...



    Private ownership: pride and attention. Government ownership: the potential for neglect. Any questions?

    Sunday
    May162004

    What Will Be Shown?

    Blogger Roger Simon is reporting that Alhurra, the American Arabic-language television netowrk broadcasting in the Middle East, has acquired tapes and photographs of prison atrocities that occurred under Saddam's regime.

    Sunday
    May162004

    The Blog Item's Headline Says It All

    Check out this item, "I'm Not Holding My Breath That This Will Be Broadcast on CNN Over and Over," from the heartwarming CPT Patti blog. It provides another view of how the U.S. Army treats detainees.

    Friday
    May142004

    Perverse Incentives; Adverse Results

    We've just posted on the main website a piece by Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen, who explains to the uninitiated why so many people are frustrated with the Endangered Species Act. The essay has been reprinted in the Miami Herald and other newspapers; I'll excerpt a bit of it here:

    In the 30 years since its enactment, the Endangered Species Act has emerged as one of the most powerful, and ineffective, environmental statutes on the books.



    Of the some 1,260 species listed as "endangered" or "threatened" under the ESA, fewer than 30 have been taken off the list. And this is even worse than it looks. Some species were removed from the list because they became extinct; others, like the American alligator, were taken off because it was determined they were never endangered in the first place.



    These meager results, however, are not the worst aspect of the ESA. In rural America, far away from urban skyscrapers and suburban malls, the ESA has imposed severe land-use restrictions on property owners...



    Typical of the havoc the ESA has wreaked in rural America is the case of Ben Cone, Jr., whose father purchased 8,000 acres of timberless land on the Black River in North Carolina. Cone replanted the property with pines, carried out prescribed burns to control undergrowth, and selectively thinned his trees every few years to pay his property taxes and to turn a profit on his labor. Over time, his pines grew to such a height that they attracted the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which brought him into direct conflict with the ESA.



    In testimony before Congress, Cone explained that "by managing [the property] in an environmentally correct way, my father and I created habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker. My reward has been the loss of $1,425,000 in value of timber I am not allowed to harvest under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. I feel compelled to massively clear-cut the balance of my property to prevent additional loss."



    ...The best way to serve the interests of both people and wildlife is to replace the ESA's rigid regulatory framework with voluntary, nonregulatory, incentive-based provisions....



    This would be very similar to how the U.S. Department of Agriculture "protects" highly erodible land on the nation's farms by offering to pay farmers to place some of their land in its Conservation Reserve Program for a set term of years and then paying the landowners for their cooperation. "If this can be done for habitats of nonendangered wildlife," says R.J. Smith of the Center for Private Conservation, "it can also be done to protect the habitats of endangered species."

    Thursday
    May132004

    Predictions: Wrong

    Says David Almasi:

    In the new film "The Day After Tomorrow," our "disrespect" for Mother Earth threatens mankind with extinction unless a brave climatologist can convince us to mend our global warming ways.



    The science behind the movie is dubious. But this hasn't stopped it from being used as a political tool by the likes of Al Gore and MoveOn.org, who want people to see it as more of a documentary than the disaster film that it truly is. But none of this is new.



    The 1970s was full of films predicting a bleak future if we didn't mend our ways with regard to the environment. Let's consider Hollywood's track record from back then:
    "Soylent Green" (1973) -- In 2022, 40 million people will be living in New York City, real food is a delicacy (jam goes for $150) and a conspiracy is uncovered in which dead bodies are converted into foodstuffs. "Soylent Green is people!" Today, genetically-modified foods are feeding starving people around the world and helping fight disease. After liberal obstructionism is overcome, starvation may be considered a thing of the past. Prediction: wrong.



    "Logan's Run" (1976) -- In 2274, environmental devastation has driven humanity into domed cities. To control population, authorities have mandated no one is allowed to live past the age of 30, and the police strictly enforce the law. Even the ending of this film proved the late economist Julian Simon right. There's nothing man can do to the environment that the earth can't handle and survive. Prediction: wrong.



    "Death Race 2000" (1975) -- Four years ago, America was supposed to be so unruly that an extreme sport where auto racers battle each other to the death and score points by killing innocent bystanders had been created to prevent a revolution. Reality TV? The X-Games? Professional wrestling? Maybe this one actually came true!
    Joking aside, Hollywood is no great prognosticator. Movie-makers are not especially wise guides to public policy. But liberals are trying to use "The Day After Tomorrow" to promote the United Nation's Kyoto Protocol and the McCain-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate. Both would be costly mistakes that would do little to protect the environment but a lot to hurt our economy.

    Thursday
    May132004

    Not On Your Life

    Today's MoveOn.org Daily Mislead once again betrays MoveOn.org's desperate desire to attack President Bush, even at the expense of both the truth and common sense.



    The publication today condemns Bush for "refusing to condemn[the Bush administration's] right-wing allies who are making light of the situation and defending torture."



    In an attempt to find something, anything, on which to condemn the President, MoveOn.org mischaracterizes comments by Rush Limbaugh and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) in a manner apparently intended to mislead readers into believing that the talk show host and Senator approve of all the inappropriate actions of some soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison. in fact, both men have forcefully said they do not approve of those activities. Neither man has "defend[ed] torture"; both have condemned mistreatment of detainees.



    However, is it really the President's responsibility to monitor the public speech of every prominent American and issue condemnatory statements every time he disagrees with someone? Not on your life -- and I don't mean that phrase rhetorically.



    President Bush has a war on terror to win. He's President of the United States; not a media critic.



    If MoveOn.org truly disagrees with Rush Limbaugh and Senator Inhofe, it can criticize the men. To do so credibly, it should start by telling the truth about what the men really believe.

    Thursday
    May132004

    It Sure Worked for Me

    Anyone who wants to feel better about what we are doing in Iraq should visit the Iraq the Model blog, run by three Iraqi brothers.



    Try this post in which the Iraqi blogger talks with an Iraqi doctor who worked at the Abu-Gharib prison under American management.



    Or this one in which an Iraqi describes joining the new Iraqi army.



    Or the blog's review of posts about George Bush on the public comments section on BBC Arabic.



    Or their other posts.

    Thursday
    May132004

    GIs Gone Wild? Not So Fast

    A comment from The National Center's executive director, David W. Almasi:

    First, it was the coffin controversy. Several big-name newspapers published photos of coffins they thought were coming back from Iraq. Instead, they'd been given archive photos of the remains of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew.



    Now, the Boston Globe has run photos from a cyberporn site and reported them as having been taken at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    Wednesday
    May122004

    A New E-Mail from the Front in Iraq: "I Ask That the American People Be Brave"

    I have just received an e-mail from Army Spc. Joe Roche, who was briefly able to take a break from the thick of the fighting against Al-Sadr's forces in Iraq to tell us what he is seeing and experiencing.

    Because I am fearful that I will alter the immediacy of his piece if I edit it, I am presenting it here intact (except I removed from the text the name of an injured soldier).

    The next time you see one of those photos from the prison abuse scandal story, remember that the soldiers in those photos are aberrant. This is what an American soldier is really like.

    Amy, I wrote this super fast, and I have no idea if you can or would want to use it. I have little time on the 'net, so from notes I've made while on missions talking to the guys, I rammed this out. Don't feel committed to using it, but just in case... I wanted to write to the American people about why our fight w/ Sadr is going so well and why they should not be seduced by the media/press image that this is somehow a disaster.

    Take Care.

    -Joe

    ------------------------

    The fighting we are engaged in against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr is one that is extremely sensitive and risks catastrophe. Had we entered this previously, it would not have been possible for us to win. Over the months, we have been involved in preparations and much planning. Thus, today we are scoring amazing successes against this would-be tyrant.

    I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

    Last year in April while the main war was still going on to defeat Saddam Hussein's military, I myself gave a class to my company of the 16th Engineers about the threat posed by Sadr and the prospects for conflict with his militias. Though my fellow soldiers didn't appreciate having to attend a class at 8am on one of our last days before deploying to Baghdad, they can tell you that what is happening now is no surprise. I used open and general information that my superiors were already aware of.

    The basis of our evaluation over a year ago was that Sadr presented a formidable and possibly impossible threat. Last summer, as my unit covered Sadr City -- the sprawling part of Baghdad that Sadr controlled then -- his militias challenged us by making a show of force in defiance of the effort to open up Iraq society to the new freedoms. Sadr clearly demonstrated that he would deny Iraqis democracy and freedom in his quest for power. By the fall, he had most of Iraq's Shia leaders and the community at large intimidated and kowtowing to his bully tactics. In January through March, his arrogance and thuggery led him to pursue two further attacks upon the hopes for Iraqi freedom.

    He vigorously pursued courting and forming alliances with Iranian hard-liners. Upon returning to Iraq, he then welcomed many foreign fighters to train and assist his militia in terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare.

    In fact, we almost went into full conflict with him back then, months ago!

    So our leaders, Paul Bremmer, Gen. Abizaid, and countless other US and Coalition leaders all over the land, acted w/ caution and care to secure for the US ever stronger cards against Sadr while simultaneously working to achieve four main goals.

    Now we today are in a climactic battle against him and his militia. When the remnants of Saddam's regime were in full uprising in Fallujah, Sadr thought his time had come to make his bid for total power and to oust the US from Baghdad. He was very wrong.

    It has been subtle and very well done by our leaders. You should be proud. It would have seemed impossible to have achieved our four main goals against Sadr even just a few months ago. Now today, despite the message of the pessimists who are misleading you into despair, we are have scored all the victories needed to bring this battle to a close. First goal was to isolate Sadr. Second was to exile him from his power-base in Baghdad. Third was to contain his uprising from spreading beyond his militias. And the last goal was to get both his hard-line supporters to abandon him, and to do encourage moderates to break from him. This has been done brilliantly, and now we are on the march in a way that just months ago seemed impossible to do. Sadr is losing everything.

    Goal one: His so-called Mahdi Army militia is fighting alone. We are out defeating them day and night, and all the time we find them exposed and vulnerable. The people of Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf are not supporting him. His forces are isolated.

    Goal two: His one-time powerbase, Sadr City in Baghdad, has been lost. Sadr has been exiled from there, and we have him on the run. He is trying to cloak his presence and activities in Najaf and Kut as planned, but that is damage control on his part. Yes we confront pockets of his followers. Just a couple days ago, I had to maneuver around such a crowd of 300 in Sadr City. The point is, though, we operate in Sadr City, and his followers are merely trying to raise the lost cause of his. It is perhaps better to understand why he is able to mobilize groups like this by seeing him as a mafia leader who is just sacrificing his own people in a mad last plunge to grab onto power. He is no different from any other thug in the world who manipulates and betrays his followers for his own lost cause. The critical thing to see, however, is that in Baghdad, Sadr is gone. He has been effectively exiled and we are destroying his one-time properties of power and abuse there.

    Goal three: Other Shia leaders are breaking from him now in large numbers. The overall Shia leader of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has left Sadr's call for jihad and uprising to flounder on deaf ears. Bremmer and Gen. Abizaid stunned the overall Shia community by negotiating a calm in Fallujah. That has tail-spinned Sadr and his efforts to intimidate Iraq's Shia leaders. They see the US hand is strong, and that therefore they are making a mistake in kowtowing to Sadr's terror and violence.

    Sadr is now running scared in Najaf. This is great. The Iraqi people of Najaf are offended by this Baghdad thug coming to their city and trying to hijack them into conflict with us. His militias have moved into Karbala too, and the same sentiment is being expressed by the people there. Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia are occupiers of those cities, and are insulting the most sacred sites of Shia Islam daily in their actions. Sadr's forces have stockpiled weapons in mosques and schools, and he continuously is going into the Imam Ali Mosque to call for jihad against us. This is offending Iraq's Shia leaders very much, and the Shia people are not following.

    Our units, in fact, are operating w/in 500 meters of the most sacred Shia religious sites in these cities, and you should notice that the local people are not resisting. This is what the pessimists amongst you are preventing you from understanding. Something like this would have been impossible before Sadr and his militia thugs went into there to hijack Iraqi Shia Islam. The people of Najaf and Karbala know we are not there to conquer and occupying the religious sites; we are there to liberate them from this would-be tyrant who is trying to hijack them. His uprising has been contained, despite Sadr's desperate efforts to expand.

    Goal four: Now Sadr's patrons and mentor in Iran are breaking from him. Grand Ayatollah Hossain Kazzam Haeri in Qom, Iran, is no longer backing him and has instead made it clear that Sadr's uprising is not sanctioned. Haeri is his mentor, and was a close intimate to Sadr's respectable father. The Teheran Times has run stories that are largely exaggerated, but still are making clear that Sadr's uprising is counter to Iranian interests and does not have the support of even one of Iran's grand statesman, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    In lieu of this, Sadr has exploded increasingly desperate and offensive. On Friday, he offended perhaps the whole Muslim world when he issued a fatwa (a religious edict) that if his forces in Basra capture a female British soldier, they can keep her as a slave. And as I pointed out already, his militia thugs in Najaf and Karbala are keeping weapons in mosques and schools.

    In this, quite frankly, Sadr has done it to himself. He has compelled his would-be supporters amongst Iran's hard-liners to break from him and to put distance between Iran's interests and Sadr's uprising. Along with this, Shiites all over Iraq are breaking from Sadr and ignoring his frantic calls for jihad and slave-taking. Sadr has been abandoned.

    I'm not writing you blind to the casualties this is causing us. My battalion, the 16th Armored Engineers, should be home reunited w/ family and friends after serving a full year here. Instead, we are still here where the temp is reaching 115-125 degrees. And some of my fellow soldiers have fallen. Units of my battalion are right in the front of the fighting. Your prayers are needed. [A soldier] lost his eyes and a hand last week. The surgeons are trying to salvage his hand now by re-attaching it. This tragedy is a real nightmare. Another suffered shrapnel wounds in his abdomen. Others have been cut badly. Miracle of miracles, however, Sgt. Morales on Friday was shot in the CVC (helmet) -- the bullet ricocheted around his head and fired into the back of his seat, never cutting his skin!!!

    I'm telling you this because you need to know that your soldiers are working their hardest. My unit is just one of many in this fight. What you need to do is be strong and persistent in your faith with us. Sadr's militia is in panic and desperate, so they are dangerous, but you need to keep this all in perspective. The pessimists would have you believe this is a disaster. Don't listen to them. I think some of them feel that their reputations require our failure because they have been so negative all along, so they are jumping at every opportunity to sensationalize what is happening here as a disaster. Eliminating Sadr's threat is part of the overall mission and we are further ensuring the liberation of the Iraqi people. This has to be done, and we are doing it.

    Don't be seduced by those who would rather that we sit back and just enjoy the freedoms past generations of Americans have sacrificed to gain for us. This is our time to earn it. I remember President Bush saying after the September 11th attacks: "The commitment of our Fathers is now the calling of our time."

    _____

    Tuesday
    May112004

    Teachers' Union Needs Instruction

    From a United Federation Of Teachers union document about Social Security and Medicare comes this line critical of conservative plans to augment the current Social Security system with private retirement accounts:

    All experts agree that private individual accounts would exacerbate the situation and cause a multi-trillion dollar deficit that would have to be made up from general taxes.
    All experts agree with the left? All of them?



    Here's something Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on the topic. Doesn't sound like he agrees. Maybe he's not an expert? The full-time employees of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Choice must not be experts, either. Semi-experts, perhaps. I could go on.



    Trustworthy analysis like this must be why Congress, in its wisdom, made union dues tax-deductible.