July 4, 2010

Petraeus Uses a Word the President Avoids to Describe Goal in Afghanistan

180px-General_David_Petraeus_in_tesThe first six words (bolded by me) of Deb Riechmann’s report from Kabul, Afghanistan for the Associated Press are refreshing:

“We are in this to win,” Gen. David Petraeus said as he took the reins of an Afghan war effort troubled by waning support, an emboldened enemy, government corruption and a looming commitment to withdraw troops – even with no sign of violence easing.

It would have been even more refreshing if the AP’s Riechmann, who obviously felt compelled to tick off as many of the reasons Petraeus and the troops he leads may not meet the goal as quickly as possible, would have reminded readers that Petraeus’s boss, President Barack Obama, has been decidedly allergic to using the words “win” and “victory” in Afghanistan since his inauguration. One of her later paragraphs presented a perfect opportunity to remind readers of the president’s aversion. She passed; she shouldn’t have.

Petraeus, thankfully, feels no need to hold back, as noted later in Reichmann’s report (bolds are mine):

… “We are engaged in a contest of wills,” Petraeus said Sunday as he accepted the command of U.S. and NATO forces before several hundred U.S., coalition and Afghan officials who gathered on a grassy area outside NATO headquarters in Kabul.

“In answer, we must demonstrate to the people and to the Taliban that Afghan and international forces are here to safeguard the Afghan people, and that we are in this to win,” Petraeus said on the Fourth of July, U.S. Independence Day.

Continual discussion about President Barack Obama’s desire to start withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011 has blurred the definition of what would constitute victory. That coupled with the abrupt firing of Petraeus’ predecessor, a move that laid bare a rift between civilian and military efforts in the country, has created at least the perception that the NATO mission needs to be righted.

… June was the deadliest month for the allied force since the war began, with 102 U.S. and international troops killed.

… “After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment,” Petraeus said. “We must demonstrate to the Afghan people – and to the world – that al-Qaida and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.”

Petraeus suggested he would refine – or at least review – the implementation of rules under which NATO soldiers fight, including curbs on the use of airpower and heavy weapons if civilians are at risk, “to determine where refinements might be needed.”

In a March 27, 2009 address at the Council on Foreign Relations, President Obama outlined a “Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The words “win” and “victory” or synonyms of those words do not appear. The closest he got was a promise “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” Later in the speech, he said: “To the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.”

Maybe that suffices for some, but then there was this incident, four months later, as reported by the Associated Press:

President Barack Obama says he’s uncomfortable using the word “victory” to describe the United States’ goal in Afghanistan. He says the U.S. fight there is against broader terrorism and not a nation.

… When Obama delivered a speech in March about his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he did not use the word “victory.”

Obama spoke with ABC’s “Nightline” while traveling to Ohio and Illinois.

A lengthier report at Fox News included this nugget:

“We’re not dealing with nation states at this point. We’re concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda’s allies,” he (Obama) said. “So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States.”

The only sure way to “to make sure they can’t attack the United States” is to kill or capture as many of their members as possible until the rest surrender or disband and permanently give up their terrorist ways — in other words, to win (i.e., achieve v-v-v-v … victory in) the unconventional war we are fighting against them.

Rhetorical reluctance aside, one can only hope that President Obama will let General Petraeus do what must be done to win, even if he (Obama) will probably never acknowledge it when it occurs — just as he has never acknowledged the victory in Iraq (Petraeus, as shown here, more than likely has).

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Fourth Verse, Better Than the First

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:57 pm

Just watch (NT NewsBusters):

The fourth and final verse of the Star Spangled Banner:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The Most Depressing Numbers in Friday’s Employment Data

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:34 pm

The Most Depressing Numbers in Friday’s Employment Data

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Shortly after the release of the government’s Employment Situation Report courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning, my overall evaluation was that “while the results aren’t totally depressing, they’re still quite unimpressive.”

Let me amend that. Maybe total depression is justified. The tables and historical context coming up shortly, combined with the president’s cluelessness, will show readers why.

To fully grasp all of this, one first needs to understand the difference between what has really happened and what people usually hear relating to these monthly jobs reports.

Every month what has really happened out here in the real world with jobs and unemployment, also known as the not seasonally adjusted (NSA) data, is “smoothed out” by means of seasonal adjustment.

There’s really nothing wrong with this statistical technique, except for one thing: the BLS doesn’t do a particularly good job of flagging its data as “seasonally adjusted” in its main report. Because of that, most of the press and seemingly all politicians seem to believe that the seasonally adjusted numbers represent what really happened.

They don’t. What follows are tables from the Household Survey (used to determine unemployment rates) showing changes in the seasonally adjusted (SA) workforce, whether employed or not, followed by the analogous NSA changes:

BLSsaWorkforceChangesTo0610

BLSnsaWorkforceChangesTo0610

The SA number for June is bad enough. In fact, June’s seasonally adjusted workforce shrinkage is the largest for any June since 1963.

But the NSA number representing what really happened is even worse. In a normal June, the workforce increases significantly, because lots of people occupied with other things during the rest of the year typically test the waters in the seasonal and summer-job market. But whereas an average of about 1.75 million did so during the past seven Junes, including almost 1.6 million last year during the recession, only 901,000 did so in June of 2010. You have to go all the way back to 1954 to find a worse June on the ground in the private sector than the June we just experienced. On a population-adjusted basis, June’s figure is the worst performance in the 63 years BLS has been tracking the data.

Yet today, President Obama claimed that “We are headed in the right direction.” I’m not buying it, nor are hundreds of thousands of people who figuratively sat on the couch in June because they know how bad the prospects for gainful employment in the real world actually are.

Positivity: What the Declaration’s Signers Endured (and What Happened 10 Years Ago to a Columnist Who Wrote About It; with 2010 Add-ons)

Note: This post is a July 4 BizzyBlog tradition. It belongs in Positivity because the sacrifices of those involved contributed to the founding of these United States.

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The column below is, for reasons described in “Background” below, unenforceably copyright © 2000 Boston Globe, and is reposted here for discussion, critique, and educational purposes only, pursuant to the fair use exemption of copyright law.

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Background: In July 2000, veteran Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote the column that appears below.

After publication, his ignorant editors (putting it kindly) felt that he should have included a line pointing out that he was far from the first to write about the fates of the Declaration’s signers. Because he hadn’t, Jacoby was suspended for four months without pay. Note that The Globe did not, because they could not, suspend him for plagiarism.

Jacoby’s full response to his suspension is here. His most important points were these:

In short, whatever-happened-to-the-signers is an old, old theme in American inspirational writing …. These stories have been repeated so often, and by so many people, that they have risen to the level of American legend. Which is why it didn’t occur to me to take up valuable space in the column with footnotes or citations to earlier versions….

…. I care greatly about accuracy. Knowing that previous treatments of the lives-of-the-signers theme contained mistakes and exaggerations, I tried to take pains not to repeat anything untrue. As best as I could given the constraints of a deadline, I double-checked the biographical information I had, using encyclopedias of American history, books on the American Revolution, and relevant web sites, such as the one at www.colonialhall.com.

Many online and print readers of Jacoby’s columns (I believe that The Globe never did tell us how many) protested his suspension, including me. My protest e-mail to the Globe’s ombudsman said, in part:

Repeat after me, sir: FACTUAL history, especially from over 200 years ago, is public domain, and once verified and researched, does not have to be attributed. Your position is akin to having to look in three dictionaries to get to the meaning of every word and then having to cite those dictionaries every single time.

Where Jacoby found this factual history, whether “in a short book … by Paul Harvey,” “……in a widely circulated e-mail,” on a paper napkin, or on toilet paper is, after the fact-checking that YOU acknowledge he did, (repeat after me) IRRELEVANT.

The Globe did not reconsider the suspension. Matt Drudge “suspended” the Boston Globe’s link at his web site during the term of Jacoby’s suspension. Many online users “suspended” The Globe by refusing to read anything it published during that time, and more than a few print readers cancelled their subscriptions.

Upon learning of the suspension, Joe Farah of World Net Daily wrote:

I have read Jacoby’s column. I have read other works that inspired it. In my professional and expert opinion, this is not plagiarism. Neither is it a close call. It is, simply, the kind of derivative journalism that we read in American newspapers every single day — online and off. Jacoby did nothing wrong.

In fact, the only thing he is guilty of is writing a first-rate Independence Day column that reminded Americans of the great sacrifice our founders made for the freedom we enjoy. And that, I suspect, is what really bugs the politically correct crowd at the Boston Globe.

Indeed. Which is why, on this Independence Day, I am posting that column, omitting additional information about Thomas Nelson Jr. that Jacoby subsequently found to be inaccurate.

So we never forget.

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Fifty-Six Great Risk-Takers
By Jeff Jacoby

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted 12-0 — New York abstained — in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s resolution “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

On July 4, the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson — heavily edited by Congress — was adopted without dissent. On July 8, the Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Philadelphia. On July 15, Congress learned that the New York Legislature had decided to endorse the Declaration. On Aug. 2, a parchment copy was presented to the Congress for signature. Most of the 56 men who put their name to the document did so that day.

And then?

We tend to forget that to sign the Declaration of Independence was to commit an act of treason — and the punishment for treason was death. To publicly accuse George III of “repeated injuries and usurpations,” to announce that Americans were therefore “Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,” was a move fraught with danger — so much so that the names of the signers were kept secret for six months.

They were risking everything, and they knew it. That is the meaning of the Declaration’s soaring last sentence:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Most of the signers survived the war; several went on to illustrious careers.

Two of them became presidents of the United States, and among the others were future vice presidents, senators, and governors. But not all were so fortunate.

Nine of the 56 died during the Revolution, and never tasted American independence.

Five were captured by the British.

Eighteen had their homes — great estates, some of them – looted or burnt by the enemy.

Some lost everything they owned.

Two were wounded in battle.

Two others were the fathers of sons killed or captured during the war.

“Our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” It was not just a rhetorical flourish.

We all recognize John Hancock’s signature, but who ever notices the names beneath his? William Ellery, Thomas Nelson, Richard Stockton, Button Gwinnett, Francis Lewis — to most of us, these are names without meaning.

But each represents a real human being, some of whom paid dearly “for the support of this Declaration” and American independence.

Lewis Morris of New York, for example, must have known when he signed the Declaration that he was signing away his fortune. Within weeks, the British ravaged his estate, destroyed his vast woodlands, butchered his cattle, and sent his family fleeing for their lives.

Another New Yorker, William Floyd, was also forced to flee when the British plundered his property. He and his family lived as refugees for seven years without income. The strain told on his wife; she died two years before the war ended.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, an aristocratic planter who had invested heavily in shipping, saw most of his vessels captured by the British navy. His estates were largely ruined, and by the end of his life he was a pauper.

The home of William Ellery, a Rhode Island delegate, was burned to the ground during the occupation of Newport.

Thomas Heyward Jr., Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton, three members of the South Carolina delegation, all suffered the destruction or vandalizing of their homes at the hands of enemy troops. All three were captured when Charleston fell in 1780, and spent a year in a British prison.

“Our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia raised $2 million for the patriots’ cause on his own personal credit. The government never reimbursed him, and repaying the loans wiped out his entire estate.

Richard Stockton, a judge on New Jersey’s supreme court, was betrayed by loyalist neighbors. He was dragged from his bed and thrown in prison, where he was brutally beaten and starved. His lands were devastated, his horses stolen, his library burnt. He was freed in 1777, but his health had so deteriorated that he died within five years. His family lived on charity for the rest of their lives.

In the British assault on New York, Francis Lewis’s home and property were pillaged. His wife was captured and imprisoned; so harshly was she treated that she died soon after her release. Lewis spent the remainder of his days in relative poverty.

And then there was John Hart. The speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, he was forced to flee in the winter of 1776, at the age of 65, from his dying wife’s bedside. While he hid in forests and caves, his home was demolished, his fields and mill laid waste, and his 13 children put to flight. When it was finally safe for him to return, he found his wife dead, his children missing, and his property decimated. He never saw any of his family again and died, a shattered man, in 1779.

The men who signed that piece of parchment in 1776 were the elite of their colonies. They were men of means and social standing, but for the sake of liberty, they pledged it all — their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. We are in their debt to this day.

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A FINAL NOTE (originally added July 2, 2005 at 8:30 PM): A distinction needs to be made between Jacoby’s column and the contents of an e-mail that was making the rounds of the Internet in the late 1990s. That e-mail (but not Jacoby’s column) has been critiqued at the Snopes.com Urban Legends web site and deemed “Some true. Some false.” None of the falsehoods or exaggerations criticized at Snopes appear to have made their way into Jacoby’s column, and Jacoby’s column provides a few additional facts not in the e-mail that have not been addressed by Snopes or verified by me (though it should be noted that The Globe never published a correction to any of the facts presented in Jacoby’s column).

A comment about the Snopes critique: Much of their non-factual criticism revolves around what they believe is an implied claim that the Signers were specifically targeted because they signed the Declaration. The subject e-mail never makes that claim, nor does Jacoby’s column. In both cases, I don’t see how any such implication can be derived. Why Snopes devotes so much of its critique to debunking the idea of “targeting,” and why the final two non-sequitur sentences of that critique are so, well, almost immature, is bewildering, to say the least:

But we should also not lose sight of the fact that many men (and women) other than the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence — some famous and most not — risked and sacrificed much (including their lives) to support the revolutionary cause. The hardships and losses endured by many Americans during the struggle for independence were not visited upon the signers alone, nor were they any less ruinous for having befallen people whose names are not immortalized on a piece of parchment.

Nobody ever said the Signers’ suffering was worse than that of others. But the Signers on average certainly had more to lose, at least materially, and they bore a special burden because they ensured that The Revolutionary War, already a year old, was about independence, and not some kind of peaceful coexistence with the British. It is my unprovable opinion that Snopes’ borderline-disrespect for the Signers comes from a deep-seated politically-correct need to minimize heroism wherever it is found.

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Also: Michelle Malkin wrote a hard-hitting piece in late July 2000 on The Globe’s immature reaction to the controversy described above and the subject reporter’s outstanding body of work.

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July 4, 2010 Add-on: It’s important to recall that Jacoby was beginning to build a bit of an online national audience for his Globe at places like FreeRepublic and Townhall, and had produced a number of hard-hitting columns going after presidential candidate Al Gore’s enviro obsessions and other considerable shortcomings (the linked column is dated October 12, 2000 at Jewish World Review, but I believe it was originally written before the suspension). In addition to carrying a routine link to his column, Matt Drudge had directly cited his column several times during the previous several years.

Given the Globe’s relentlessly leftist editorial slant and what it may have seen as Jacoby’s annoying and growing popularity, it’s reasonable to believe that the paper might have concocted its specious complaints about the origins of the content of his July 2000 column to muzzle him during the remainder of the 2000 campaign. The four-month suspension was timed to expire just days after the election.

July 4, 2010 Add-on II: About six weeks after Jacoby’s suspension, in what many including myself saw as an attempt to undercut Jacoby and perhaps eliminate the need to have him return, the Globe announced that it was adding two purportedly “conservative” columnists (additional interesting info is at the linked FrontPage item). Both were flaming moderates; one of them definitely still is, while the other is as best I can tell not currently writing columns. I don’t believe that the Globe continues to carry either of them. Thankfully, the tactic didn’t work.