Monday, August 21, 2006

Taking Profiling Into Their Own Hands

Maybe politicians and security authorities recoil from the horrors of ethnic and religious profiling but evidently the average citizen hasn't gotten the message yet. The British Daily Mail informs us that:

The trouble in Malaga flared last Wednesday as two British citizens in their 20s waited in the departure lounge to board the pre-dawn flight and were heard talking what passengers took to be Arabic. Worries spread after a female passenger said she had heard something that alarmed her.

Passengers noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers and were regularly checking their watches. Initially, six passengers refused to board the flight. On board the aircraft, word reached one family. To the astonishment of cabin crew, they stood up and walked off, followed quickly by others.

The Monarch pilot - a highly experienced captain - accompanied by armed Civil Guard police and airport security staff, approached the two men and took their passports. Half an hour later, police returned and escorted the two Asian passengers off the jet.

Soon afterwards, the aircraft was cleared while police did a thorough security sweep. Nothing was found and the plane took off - three hours late and without the two men on board. Monarch arranged for them to spend the rest of the night in an airport hotel and flew them back to Manchester later on Wednesday.

College lecturer Jo Schofield, her husband Heath and daughters Emily, 15, and Isabel, 12, were caught up in the passenger mutiny. Mrs Schofield, 38, said: "The plane was not yet full and it became apparent that people were refusing to board. In the gate waiting area, people had been talking about these two, who looked really suspicious with their heavy clothing, scruffy, rough, appearance and long hair.

"Some of the older children, who had seen the terror alert on television, were starting to mutter things like, 'Those two look like they're bombers.' Then a family stood up and walked off the aircraft. They were joined by others, about eight in all. We learned later that six or seven people had refused to get on the plane. There was no fuss or panic. People just calmly and quietly got off the plane. There were no racist taunts or any remarks directed at the men. It was an eerie scene, very quiet. The children were starting to ask what was going on. We tried to play it down."

Mr Schofield, 40, an area sales manager, said: "When the men were taken off they didn't argue or say a word. They just picked up their coats and obeyed the police. They seemed resigned to the fact they were under suspicion. The captain and crew were very apologetic when we were asked to evacuate the plane for the security search. But there was no dissent. While we were waiting, everyone agreed the men looked dodgy. Some passengers were very panicky and in tears. There was a lot of talking about terrorists."

Patrick Mercer, the Tory Homeland Security spokesman, said last night: "This is a victory for terrorists. These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally. For those unfortunate two men to be victimised because of the colour of their skin is just nonsense."

What's nonsense is this spokesman's response to the situation. It obviously wasn't just the color of their skin that aroused the passengers' concerns. It was their behavior their age, gender, religion, dress, and general appearance. Mr. Mercer's insoucience toward their fears makes him sound as though he's been vacationing on Mars for the past five years.

In that spce of time, or even going back another decade, there have been dozens of terrorists acts killing thousands of people and every single one of them has been perpetrated by Muslim males between the ages of 17 and 40. It may be that not all Muslims are terrorists but it certainly is true that all terrorists since 1990 have been Muslims.

Perhaps governments comprised of people like Mr. Mercer will refuse to bend to common sense and profile airline passengers, but the average reader of newspapers knows very well the traits which typify the modern terrorist, and when their families' lives are at stake they'll be far less mindful of politically correct punctilio and far more willing to err on the side of prudence than some bureaucrat whose primary concern is making sure he doesn't cause a political squabble.

If the two Asian men on this plane were indeed innocent then their inconvenience is unfortunate, but they have no one to blame for it but their fellow male Muslims between the ages of 17 and 40.

See also this brief op-ed at The American Thinker.

The Desertification of Scarborough Country

It's one thing for Republicans and conservatives to question whether we're on the right track in Iraq and to start insisting on substantive results, but when people like Joe Scarborough, host of a low-ratings television talk show on MSNBC called Scarborough Country, suggest that "George Bush is an idiot", they have crossed the line of legitimate and civil political disagreement and have joined the ranks of liberals for whom this sort of invective is considered standard discourse.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker reports that:

For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as [sic]these other people."

"as these other people"? How much intellectual depth does that sentence evince?

Scarborough is one of those whom Thomas Paine, surveying the early desertion and disaffection from the ranks of Washington's Continental Army, referred to as summer soldiers and sunshine warriors. They're with you as long as conditions are congenial and the struggle looks promising, but as soon as adversity strikes they slip out of camp.

Machiavelli cautioned his Prince to be wary of those who profess their unwavering loyalty and willingness to give their lives for the regime when dangers were remote, but when the enemy is pounding at the gate and the Prince needs all the help he can muster, he finds these "loyal cadres" to have fled the city.

People like Joe Scarborough, not content to simply critique the president's policy, but wishing also to boost an anemic viewing audience by insulting him in the most demeaning and humiliating way, would have no doubt led the flight from Washington's encampment. What he did was a cheap shot taken for the sake of television ratings and it turned Scarborough Country into an uncivil moral wasteland.

Besides, where does Joe Scarborough get off calling into question somebody else's intelligence?

Adding Up the Numbers

Strategy Page assesses the damage wrought by both sides in the recent Lebanon war:

Hizbollah does not publish any data on its armed strength. But it is known that, basically, Hizbollah's fighters are a reservist organization. There are about 3-4,000 "active" reservists available for full-time duty, and another 10,000 or so "inactive" reservists, who have some weapons training, and are only activated in the most serious emergencies (like the recent war). Most of the time, 500-1,000 of the active reservists are on duty full time. In addition to watching the Lebanese border, there are facilities in the Bekaa valley and in Beirut that need guarding. Some inactive reservists pull guard duty as their "civilian" job, but these fellows are operating as security guards, not soldiers.

Keep in mind that Hizbollah is drawing its military manpower from a population of only about 1.3 million Shia (whose defense is the main reason for Hizbollah existing). So they have about one percent of the population armed. That's about 50 percent more (as a fraction of the population), than the United States, and much higher than most nations. However, Israel has about nine percent of its population (80 percent of them reservists) under arms, and Syria has about three percent of its population under arms. The Middle East is a much more heavily armed region, than any other.

Unofficial reports from the Israelis indicate that nearly 600 Hizbollah fighters were killed, and probably about 1,500 wounded. Some of these were inactive reservists called up to perform civil defense and security functions. The rockets were apparently being fired by a dozen or so teams (of ten to twenty men) who were trained to take the rockets from their hiding places, set them up, and fire them. This was dangerous work, and these rocket teams apparently suffered heavy casualties.

Less well trained teams appear to have been called in towards the end, because, although the number of rockets fired each night didn't decline much, the accuracy did. On the last night, some 250 rockets were fired, and few hit anything of value. That last bunch of rockets killed one Israeli, and wounded a few dozen others. Hizbollah also suffered a lot of casualties in Beirut, and various other military facilities they had throughout southern and central Lebanon.

Israel, as usual, is not talking about it's targeting, but they had UAVs, aircraft, helicopters and satellite coverage of southern Lebanon. Israeli aircraft always had plenty of military targets to hit. They also had lots of their commandoes in action up there, most of them just quietly scouting, and calling in smart bomb strikes. The true extent of the damage suffered by Hizbollah won't be known until one of their senior officials defects or gets captured, or when the organization is destroyed and some of its files captured.

Israeli losses were miniscule. It only mobilized about 30,000 troops. The Northern Command, which covers the Lebanese and Syrian border, has a full strength of over 200,000 troops, if there is a full mobilization. Israel lost about a 120 soldiers killed, and another few hundred wounded. Thus it suffered about eight casualties per division per day. That's a little higher than what American troops suffered during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but a lot less than they suffered during the 1967 Six Day War (110 per division per day) or the 1973 war (90).

Thus for the forces involved, the Israelis suffered about 1.6 percent casualties for the entire 2006 campaign, while Hizbollah suffered some 13 percent casualties. Economic casualties were also lopsided, with Lebanon losing at least ten percent of GDP, versus 1.5 percent for Israel. However, since the Israeli attacks concentrated on Hizbollah, and tended to avoid the Lebanese Christians, it appears that the Hizbollah population lost up to half their GPD. Israel will recover within a year, the Hizbollah areas will take several years.

No wonder Hezbollah was content to have a cease-fire. Despite all their bluster about a historic victory they're reeling from the Israeli strikes. Fortunately for them there's a U.N. that can be counted upon to ride to their rescue whenever their fate is looking bleak.

Pennsylvania Races

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is trailing Democrat challenger Bob Casey by six (47% - 41%) in a three way race. Republican challenger Lynn Swann is trailing incumbent Governor Ed Rendell by 10 (51% - 41%), according to a Strategic Vision poll.

There's time to catch up, of course, and Santorum has been closing the gap, but he is clearly in trouble. All those blue collar, pro-life Catholic Democrats who would have voted for Santorum if he were running against a pro-choice opponent will instead be voting for the pro-life Catholic Democrat Bob Casey this time around.

Pennsylvania's political demographic looks like a big T with Democratic strongholds Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the southeast and southwest corners respectively and the rest of the state tilting with varying degrees of slant toward the Republicans. If Santorum can get good turnout from the T he might be able to offset the big advantage that Casey has in the corners.

As for Swann, he has missed too many opportunities to take advantage of Rendell's biggest vulnerability, his lethargic response to the need for property tax reform, especially after he had originally promised to address it in his first campaign. He might pull off an upset even yet, but political observers in the state aren't betting on it.