Memorial day

Honor those who served, still missing in action, interred in rest, and living victorious. From the WSJ.
Here's a Memorial Day quiz:

1. Who is Jessica Lynch?

Correct. She's the Army private captured, and later rescued, in the early days of the war.

2. Who is Leigh Ann Hester?

Come on. The Kentucky National Guard vehicle commander was awarded a Silver Star last year for fighting off an insurgent attack on a convoy in Iraq. The first woman to receive a Silver Star since World War II, and the first woman ever to receive one for close combat.

If you don't recognize Sergeant Hester's name, that's not surprising. While Private Lynch's ordeal appears in some 12,992 newspaper and broadcast reports on the Factiva news service, Sergeant Hester and her decoration for extraordinary valor show up in only 162.

One difference: Sergeant Hester is a victor, while Private Lynch can be seen as a victim. And when it comes to media reports about the military these days, victimology is all the rage. For every story about someone who served out of conviction and resolutely went on with his civilian life, there are many more articles about a soldier's failure or a veteran's floundering.

It's a sign of some progress that the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are not spit upon and shunned as Vietnam vets were. Yet there may be something more pernicious about mouthing "Support Our Troops" while also asserting that many of them are poor, uneducated dupes who were cannon fodder overseas and have come home as basket cases, plagued by a range of mental, emotional and financial problems.

The vast majority of vets don't fit that description. Many, like one returned Army guardsman we talked to, chalk up this portrayal to the media's fascination with bad news in general. As for his combat in Iraq, both "going to war and coming home is very overwhelming," he says. "But you make choices in life . . . and through inner strength and support, I am making a choice that I want to be healthy."

In some cases, the depiction of military personnel as damaged goods serves the antiwar agenda. Yet retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Tom Linn sees more basic impulses at work. "I honestly believe it is guilt" and even resentment, he says. The military type as misfit "is a stereotype that a lot of people from the Vietnam era have held on to." Then, as now, "they saw men and women who did more than they did . . . and they'd compensate by casting those folks in an inferior status."

This Memorial Day, most of us will remember the Americans who have served their country since the Revolutionary War not with pity but with admiration. For those who want to show their gratitude, Major John Morris has some recommendations. He's deputy chaplain for Minnesota's Army National Guard and a founder of a state program called Reintegration: Beyond Reunion. Its broad goal, he explains, is to help returning guardsmen and reservists frame their "experience, to draw from it everything that they can to grow into productive citizens."

How can we help? For one thing, he says, don't assume that all struggling vets are sick, since what looks like abnormal behavior may be culture shock. But do give vets and their families the tools to adjust. Major Morris explains: "Schools, look out for these military kids. Neighbors, cut their grass and shovel their snow, babysit and do chores around the house. Employers, make sure those jobs are still there." It's the least we can do, he says: "Since there are so few of us fighting the war, it's easy for the rest of us to try."


Immigration 2: Legal Residency Instead of Citizenship

Previously I considered allowing illegal immigrants the opportunity to become citizens. I now think a better idea would be to allow them legal resident status but do not grant them citizenship. As legal residents they would be protected by the law and be eligible for medicare and medicaid, but not be eligible for social security or voting rights. As any comprehensive immigration policy must include boder security, I would expect the total numbers of illegal immigrants to decline with time, as well as a proportionate decline in the number of illegal immigrants who become legal residents.


Victory in Iraq 2

Interesting report from Powerline and Ed Morrisey

1. It has been proven that the Shiites have a power and influence in Baghdad that cannot be taken lightly, particularly when the power of the Ministries of Interior and Defense is given to them, compared with the power of the mujahidin in Baghdad. During a military confrontation, they will be in a better position because they represent the power of the state along with the power of the popular militias. Most of the mujahidin power lies in surprise attacks (hit and run) or setting up explosive charges and booby traps. This is a different matter than a battle with organized forces that possess machinery and suitable communications networks. Thus, what is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government. The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah’s wisdom.

2. The strength of the brothers in Baghdad is built mainly on booby trapped cars, and most of the mujahidin groups in Baghdad are generally groups of assassin without any organized military capabilities.

3. There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. Coordination among them is very difficult, which appears clearly when the group undertake a join operations

4. The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.

This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site).

At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad.

5. The role that the Islamic party and the Islamic Scholars Committee play in numbing the Sunni people through the media is a dangerous role. It has been proven from the course of the events that the American investment in the Party and the Committee were not in vain. In spite of the gravity of the events, they were able to calm down the Sunni people, justify the enemy deeds, and give the enemy the opportunity to do more work without any recourse and supervision. This situation stemmed from two matters:

First, their media power is presented by their special radio and TV stations as the sole Sunni information source, coupled with our weak media which is confined mainly to the Internet, without a flyer or newspaper to present these events.

Second, in the course of their control of the majority of the speakers at mosques who convert right into wrong and wrong into right, and present Islam in a sinful manner and sins in a Muslim manner. At the same time we did not have any positive impact or benefits from our operations.

6. The mujahidin do not have any stored weapons and ammunition in their possession in Baghdad, particularly rockets, such as C5K Katyosha or bomber or mortars which we realized their importance and shortage in Baghdad. That was due to lack of check and balance, and proper follow-ups.

7. The National Guard status is frequently raised and whether they belong to the Sunnis or Shiites. Too much talk is around whether we belong to them or not, or should we strike and kill their men or not?

It is believed that this matter serves the Americans very well. I believe that the Committee and the Party are pushing this issue because they want to have an influence, similar to the Mujahidin’s. When and if a Sunni units from the National Guard are formed, and begin to compete with the mujahidin and squeeze them, we will have a problem; we either let them go beyond the limits or fight them and risk inciting the Sunnis against us through the Party’s and the Committee’s channels.

I believe that we should not allow this situation to exist at all, and we should bury it before it surfaces and reject any suggestion to that effect.

Again, observe how Al Qaeda strategy involves playing our media. And amazingly, our media appear to be all willing accomplists.


Islamism and Terrorism 2

There are two problems at hand here. One is with with Islam itself. The other is the adoption of Sharia as legal precendence (i.e. the lack of separation between church and state). Efforts to reform Islam such as this one by Malek Chebel are being proposed:
In his Manifesto for an Enlightened Islam (Manifeste pour un islam des lumières), Chebel puts forth 27 proposals for extensively reforming Islam. He turns to the values of the 18th-century European Enlightenment for guidance, when rationalism and secularism guided the drive towards cultural, social and political progress. Chebel's first two propositions set the principles of reform: a new interpretation of the Koran, and the preeminence of reason over creed. However, he dismisses atheism, noting that "nothing very important is achieved outside the framework of religion." [1]

Chebel calls for putting an end to violence in the name of Islam; for renouncing Jihad, which is, in his eyes, immoral; for abolishing all fatwas calling for death; and for abolishing Islamic corporal punishment. Chebel stands against female genital mutilation and for banning slavery and trafficking in human beings in the Arab world; for strict punishment of the perpetrators of honor crimes and for promoting the status of women.

Most of Chebel's propositions deal with politics: He advocates an independent judiciary, the preeminence of the individual over the Islamic nation, and the struggle against political assassinations in an effort to promote democracy in the Arab world. He also advocates fundamental cultural changes, such as turning freedom of thought into a Muslim value, renouncing the cult of personality, respecting the other, and fighting corruption.

His other propositions address technology, bioethics, ecology, and the media. The last one reaffirms the preeminence of human beings over religion. Chebel's propositions aim at providing keys to a modern, reformed, enlightened Islam.

With regards to separation of church and state, the state will only reform when it sees a threat. That threat has now been recognized in the form of terrorism. Saudi Arabia is moving toward reforms to minimize the terrorism threat.
Country Terrorism Report: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Effort Draws on Radical Clerics to Combat Lure of Al-Qaeda
Saudis to Clean Up Libraries

In addition, effective reform must also come from the people.
Learning to Think and Tolerate Differences in Saudi Society
Saudi Human Rights Organization

Why must we fight?
Part of me died when I saw this cruel killing.
*Update* Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax
United 93

Islamism and Terrorism 1
"Allahu Akbar" Indeed at All Things Beautiful


Bigot Crossings

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Which party has more bigots -- Republicans or Democrats?

Conventional wisdom says the GOP. After all, the vast majority of African-Americans vote Democratic, and the establishment media frequently imply the GOP harbors hostility to minorities (as in the comment by a network correspondent that a GOP effort to project an "image of tolerance and diversity [is] starkly at odds with reality").

A recent analysis by Yale's Ebonya Washington in the Quarterly Journal of Economics sheds a different light on the question. It examines the phenomenon of crossover voting -- specifically, the percentage of voters from either party who pull the lever for the other party's candidate.

In the several elections between 1982 and 2000 that Ms. Washington studied, when the Republican congressional candidate was black and the Democratic candidate was not, Republican crossover voting increased 25 percent. In gubernatorial contests with the same racial dynamic, GOP crossover voting increased 18 percent.

Now flip the script. When the Democratic candidates were black and the Republican candidates were not, Democratic crossover votes increased 38 percent in congressional contests and 20 percent in gubernatorial contests.

In short, Democrats flee from black candidates more often than Republicans do.

Interesting how what popular impression is different once analyzed.


Taxes: Cuts and Income

As this WSJ article suggests, we should focus on total revenue rather than sticking it to the tax payers.
With the House and Senate preparing to vote on extending George W. Bush's investment tax cuts, it's no surprise the cries against "tax giveaways to the rich" grow increasingly shrill. Just yesterday Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid charged that the Bush tax plan "offers next to nothing to average Americans while giving away the store to multi-millionaires" and then fumed that it will "do much more for ExxonMobil board members than it will do for ExxonMobil customers."

Oh really. New IRS data released last month tell a very different story: In the aftermath of the Bush investment tax cuts, the federal income tax burden has substantially shifted onto the backs of the wealthy. Between 2002 and 2004, tax payments by those with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of more than $200,000 a year, which is roughly 3% of taxpayers, increased by 19.4% -- more than double the 9.3% increase for all other taxpayers.

Between 2001 and 2004 (the most recent data), the percentage of federal income taxes paid by those with $200,000 incomes and above has risen to 46.6% from 40.5%. In other words, out of every 100 Americans, the wealthiest three are now paying close to the same amount in taxes as the other 97 combined. The richest income group pays a larger share of the tax burden than at anytime in the last 30 years with the exception of the late 1990s -- right before the artificially inflated high tech bubble burst.

Millionaires paid more, too. The tax share paid by Americans with an income above $1 million a year rose to 17.8% in 2003 from 16.9% in 2002, the year before the capital gains and dividend tax cuts.

The most astounding result from the IRS data is the deluge of revenues from the very taxes that were cut in 2003: capital gains and dividends. As shown in the nearby chart, capital gains receipts from 2002-04 have climbed by 79% after the reduction in the tax rate from 20% to 15%. Dividend tax receipts are up 35% from 2002 to 2004, even though the taxable rate fell from 39.6% to 15%. This is as clear evidence of a Laffer Curve effect as one will find: Lower rates produced increased revenues.

What explains this surge in tax revenues, especially at the high end of the income scale? The main factor at play here is the robust economic expansion, which has led to real income gains for most tax filers. Higher incomes mean higher tax payments. Between 2001 and 2004, the percentage of Americans with an income of more than $200,000 rose from 12.0% to 14.2%. The percentage of Americans earning more than $50,000 a year rose from 40.8% to 44.2% -- and that's just in two years. While these statistics are not inflation-adjusted by the IRS, price rises were relatively modest during these years, so adjusting wouldn't alter much.

We can already hear the left objecting that the rich are paying more taxes simply because they have hoarded all the income gains, while the middle class and poor wallow in economic quicksand. But, again, the IRS data tell a more upbeat story of widespread financial gains for American families. The slice of the total income pie captured by the richest 1%, 5% and 10% of Americans is lower today than in the last years of the Clinton administration.

So how can the media contort these statistics to conclude that the Bush tax cuts only benefited the affluent? The New York Times claims that the richest 0.1% got 5,000 times the tax benefit than those with less than $50,000 of income. That figure can only be true if one assumes that there were no economic benefits from the tax cuts whatsoever; and that lower taxes on income, capital gains and dividends resulted in no changes in the real economy -- not the value of stocks, not business spending, not employment, not capital flows into the U.S., not corporate dividend payments, not venture capital funding -- nothing. The underlying assumption of this static analysis is that tax cuts don't work and that incentives don't matter.

Of course, in the real world, financial incentives through tax policy changes matter a great deal in altering economic behavior. And we now have the evidence to confirm that the latest round of tax cuts worked -- five million new jobs, a 25% increase in business spending, 4% real economic growth for three years and a $4 trillion gain in net wealth. So now the very class-warfare groups who, three years ago, swore that the tax cuts would tank the economy rather than revive it, pretend that this robust expansion would have happened without the investment tax cuts. Many Democrats on Capitol Hill recite this fairy tale over and over.

One final footnote to this story: Just last week, the Department of the Treasury released its tax receipt data for March 2006. Tax collections for the past 12 months have exploded by 14.4%. We are now on course for a two-year increase in tax revenues of at least $500 billion, the largest two-year increase in tax revenue collections after adjusting for inflation ever recorded. So why are the leftists complaining so much? George Bush's tax rate cuts have been among the most successful policies to soak the rich in American history.

Mr. Moore is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Moussaoui 2

Now that the Jury has sentenced him to life. I still believe as I did in Moussaoui with additional thoughts:

Firstly, the death penalty should be reserved for those actually guilty of having commited a grievious crime, not just for having planned to participate in one.

Secondly, why are we even treating terrorism as a law and order problem for this to be in a court of law? We should treat terrorism as an act of war. We should either hold them as PoW, as illegal combatants, or execute them as spies. All such options are in compliance with the Geneva convention.

Neo-neocon for more thoughts.
In From the Cold for where he is likely to spend his remaining days.
As long as he is not sent to France