Day By Day

Friday, March 31, 2006

Siberian Protest Babe

From the Telegraph:

A woman shouts during a trade union protest in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

The title of the photo is..., you guessed it..., "Tooth!"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- The Horserace Narrows

Rick Santorum has started to close the gap with Bob Casey in the latest Rasmussen Poll. Rick's support is about steady in the high thirties, but Casey keeps dropping. He's now down to 48%. The poll summary pretty much tells what's going on here.
Casey has lost at least a point in each of the last several surveys. The decline likely reflects renewed attention to the abortion issue....

Casey currently attracts only 70% support from Democrats, 60% from liberals. In January, he drew 78% from Democrats, 82% from liberals.
Meanwhile, the conservative revolt continues to hurt Santorum. The poll shows:
Santorum's support from the GOP and conservatives is also lackluster
They still haven't forgiven him and Bush for supporting Specter. Bush and Santorum both suffer the same problem. They are branded as "conservatives" but are seen by the conservative base as untrustworthy moderates.

The poll concludes that although Casey's pro-life stance has cost him a lot of support, the race has not yet narrowed sufficently to change the dynamics. Casey still looks like a winner.

Read the poll summary here.

Meanwhile, the gubenatorial race remains tight. In the latest poll Rendell holds a three-point edge over Swann, but that is based on a mere 500 person sample and is in effect a dead heat.

Read about it here.


The Issues PA/Pew poll is just out. It shows Swann with a slight lead over Rendell -- 35 to 29 percent with 34 percent undecided. The results are by no means decisive with so many undecided, but that 29 percent for incumbent Rendell doesn't look good. This looks to be Swann's race to win or lose.

Read about it here.

Appalachian Springtime

It is an absolutely glorious day on the mountain.

We got up early and drove north into coal country to take care of some business. On the way back we stopped at a Walmart Super Store. It’s the only place in the county that carries “She Who Shall Not Be Named’s” favorite brand of chai. But there was only a gaping hole on the shelf where the tea would usually be. Bummer!

Most people would be stymied, but not “She.” She tracked down an “associate” who didn’t understand what she was talking about [chai is not a big item up here in the boonies]. Then she found a manager, walked her back to the shelf, and gave her the item code. Another associate was deployed to search the storeroom. Success! She found a whole case of the stuff and brought it out. Happiness! “She” can now sip chai until she sloshes.

When we got home I noticed a large bird skimming low over the fields in front of our place. My first thought was that the red tails were back, but it turned out to be a turkey vulture flying unusually low. I was glad to see it. TVs may be ugly as sin up close, but they are beautiful flyers and the fact that this one was hunting so close to the ground meant that the small critters it eats were up and about – another harbinger of spring.

Speaking of harbingers of spring…, the daffodils bloomed. Last week they were in full bloom down at the harbor, but all we had on the mountain was leaves. Today along the west side of the house they finally came out (the east side is still just leaves). And the forsythia is showing the first hints of yellow. It’s coming…, it’s coming….

I was so encouraged I moved out to the front room. During the winter we don’t bother to heat the front room [really a sun porch] and just avoid it, but when the temperature rises to about sixty degrees, as it did today, it becomes an ideal place to work. So, while I cleared away some of the brush I cut last month “She” cleaned the front room and moved a lot of her houseplants out there. The place now resembles a jungle. We then moved a table out front, opened the side windows to create a cross breeze and I set up in the midst of all the greenery. Perfect! No internet access from here, though, so bloggery will be on the back burner for a while.

Now to get some work done….

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Swann Intrigues Black Voters

Delegates to Pennsylvania's African-American Political Convention are sizing up Lynn Swann's candidacy for governor. The political pros, overwhelmingly Democrat, are trying to figure out just how to handle him. Some are taking the line that as a Republican he is out of touch with the needs of black voters, but others are intrigued by the possibility of having a black governor.

They all agree that Swann will get the attention of black voters this fall and that his positions will be heard in the black community.

What I find interesting is that some prominent black Democrat politicians and organizations are already starting to call for meetings with Swann so they can hear his views personally and have some input into his campaign. They wouldn't be doing that unless they were worried he might win. There is a real potential here for a serious dialogue to take place in the Pennsylvania black community and that is not good news for the Democrats.

Read the PPG article here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Terrorists and Torturers

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I went to see "V for Vendetta" a few days ago and ever since she’s been suggesting that I write down my impressions of it. I’ve held back because, unlike most reviewers, I don’t like being overly negative—but negative is the only appropriate stance toward this misbegotten piece of junk.

Let’s start with the upside. The direction (by James McTeigue, former assistant director on the Matrix films) is competent, well paced, and informed by a strong visual sense. Some of the acting is superb. Hugo Weaving is quite good as “V”, acting with his body, conveying a reasonable range of emotions from behind an immobile mask. He, however, is unable to overcome the terrible dialogue he has to mouth. Natalie Portman is merely adequate, which is more than I can say for any of her other recent performances. Particularly annoying was her on again/off again British accent. Stephen Rea is wonderful as the dogged detective trying to track down “V.” Tim Piggot-Smith does his standard villain bit, and does so convincingly. Sinead Cusack says more with her lustrous eyes than most do with their voices. And, finally, John Hurt rants effectively in the Big Brother/Hitler role.

The screenplay is by the Wachowski brothers, who did the uneven Matrix trilogy, and acquired cult status in the process. It’s a mess, cobbled together from bits and pieces of much better stories. The starting point is Guy Fawkes’ “Gunpowder Plot” to blow up Parliament in 1605. It soon morphs into a tale of revenge modeled on Dumas’ [pere not fils] “Count of Monte Cristo” [although the reference seems to be more to the 1934 film version starring Robert Donat than to the novel]. A simple tale of revenge and moral awakening is too straightforward for the Wachowski’s though, so they borrow heavily from “Day of the Jackal” which pitted a dogged policeman against a ruthless and brilliant assassin in parallel plots. And then there are the Jack the Ripper, and Phantom of the Opera, and the Orwell references. Well, you get the idea…, it’s a promiscuous mess.

Part of the problem with this film is that it is produced and directed by semi-literate, semi-educated guys who think they are oh so much smarter than their audience. Artistic, filmic, and literary references abound, and they are anything but subtle. A few examples: Portman and Weaving are standing in the foreground discussing the destruction of Parliament and hanging on the wall behind them, framed by their forms is…, Turner’s “Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons” – get it? If you did you can share with the film makers a small frisson of being one of the smart guys who caught the reference. And such references, most of them filmic, are everywhere. And in case you don’t get it, the characters will occasionally condescend to point them out for you as when Portman blatantly references “Edmond Dantes” the hero of Dumas’ novel [get it?] Some are more obscure, such as the constant playing of Julie London’s “Cry Me A River” [could it have anything to do with her marriage to Jack Webb?] I didn’t get it. I must not be smart enough.


And what does all this ostentatious smartness produce? A monster, that’s what! Weaving’s “V” is a monster [and in case you didn’t catch on to that, Portman calls him one], but even worse is the monstrous imagination lying behind the film. The plot and backstory constitute a left-wing wet dream. The United States starts an unjust war of aggression and in retribution is destroyed by plague and civil war. This opens the way for religious fanatics to take over Britain and institute a domestic reign of terror that specifically targets sensitive homosexual types. Thus you have what many would consider a perfect confluence of evil – religiosity, authoritarianism, militarism, ethnic bigotry, and homophobia. Oh my! Among the sins of the right-wingers are Nazi-style medical experiments aimed at producing a superman that go horribly awry and instead produce a horribly disfigured, but super-powered, “V” as well as killing lots of innocent civilians. It is for this sin that “V” seeks retribution, tracking down and executing all those involved in the experiments. But he has bigger plans. He expects eventually to bring down the dictator and destroy Parliament [mostly as a rallying symbol of insurrection that will galvanize the “multitude” to overthrow their evil rulers].

We are meant to sympathize with “V” in his quest for justice and the vehicle for this sentiment is Portman’s “Evey” Early in the film “V” saves her from being raped, using his super-skills to slice and dice her policeman assailants. He then steals her ID card and uses it to carry out an assassination at her workplace, thus implicating her in his schemes and making her a fugitive from justice. She escapes from his underground lair and takes refuge with her kindly boss, a TV personality and [literally] closeted homosexual who is eventually destroyed by the storm troopers. His sin? Owning a copy of the Koran! As she flees the raid Evey is kidnapped again by “V” who tortures and brainwashes her, eventually enlisting her in his plot to blow up the houses of Parliament. “V” then entrusts Evey with the task of carrying out his plot when he is mortally wounded in the process of having Hurt’s dictator killed. Meanwhile, Stephen Rea’s inspector Finch is slowly drawing closer to his quarry and simultaneously uncovering evidence of the government’s past sins. The climax comes when Finch discovers Evey in the act of deciding whether or not to carry out the deceased “V”’s instructions. Will she carry “V”’s plot to completion? Will Rea stop her? C’mon guys, this is a Wachowski movie. Of course Parliament goes up in an impressive pyrotechnic display whereupon the “multitude” of citizens, dressed up in “V” costumes, takes over the government. “V” has died, but he has triumphed by inspiring the masses. He has become legend.

As I said, it’s a mess; poorly conceived, poorly written, adequately acted and directed. Not a big deal. But some geniuses in Hollywood thought this would be the audience pleaser that would revive the industry. The first week it was out "V for Vendetta" topped the charts, but only took in 25 million bucks, far below expectations. It dropped to half that much the second week and is fading fast. Maybe there just isn't as large a market for terrorism and torture as the Studio "experts" thought.

I think it was William Goldman who said that the dirty little secret of Hollywood is that "nobody out here knows anything."

Time to rethink this year's marketing campaigns.

Sorry, guys. Better luck next time.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Maryland Politics -- Steele's Biography

The New York Times Magazine has a long, reasonably fair, in-depth piece on Michael Steele, currently Lt. Gov. of Maryland and Republican candidate for the Senate. Of course, being the Times, they think it appropriate to express astonishment that a black man is running as a Republican and are rather cynical in their approach to Republican outreach to African-Americans. Still, it's a fair article and well worth reading. Check it out here.


Betsy Newmark sees this article, along with various Democrat dirty tricks against Steele, as evidence that his candidacy, along with those of Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania and Ken Blackwell in Ohio, has provoked real panic and "paranoid" dread in Democrat ranks. That may be. Democrats can't win without 90% of the black vote. But we will see..., we will see.... Professional politicians, unlike journalists, are not given to paranoid responses. Read Betsy's Blog here.


Kimmie Meissner, the "bright fleck of glitter" from Bel Air, won the Women's World Figure Skating Championship yesterday. Her performance, by all accounts was stunning. I plan to watch it this afternoon. She's only sixteen and is bound to get even better. Peggy Fleming said, "You watch, she's going to develop into something just wonderful."

I'll bet she does.

Congratulations, kid; you do us all proud.

Read about it here.

Another Neat Site -- WorldMapper

Check out Worldmapper, a fascinating visual aid that resizes areas of the world according to a subject of interest.

The map displayed here represents total births in the year 2000. Here you can see quite clearly the huge disproportion of births occurring on the Indian subcontinent. You often hear, for instance, about how Muslims are reproducing at a rate much higher than Western populations. What this map shows, however, is that most of that rapid growth is taking place in Pakistan and Bangladesh, not in the Middle East, and that these are dwarfed by the number of Hindu births.

There are dozens of these maps and more are being produced all the time so check back often for updates.

Maps and the data on which they are based are available in a number of different formats.


The Proletariat Always Disappoints

French socialists and students were in for a nasty surprise at the end of their protest march Thursday. The young people waiting for them were not interested in solidarity. All they saw was easy prey. Gateway Pundit reports:
Sadly, when the French youth protesters ended their successful march on Thursday at Invalides Square they did not understand that the hundreds of thugs waiting there for them were not sympathetic to the cause.

Armed only with their signs and socialist banners, the job seekers were faced with a new struggle. The local thugs beat them silly and took their cellphones.

Somehow I just can't muster much in the way of sympathy for these fools. They and their parents' blind adherence to discredited socialist doctrines is the reason Europe is in this mess in the first place.

Read about it here. [neat photos]

Another Triumph for Bush's Diplomacy

Well, well, the blogosphere got itself all in a lather the past few days regarding an Afghani Islamic court that threatened to execute a man, Abdul Rahman, for converting to Christianity. Many brave words were written and of course the administration was denounced for not taking a sufficiently hard stance against this emerging atrocity. See, for instance, Michelle Malkins rant and links to other posts here.

The apocalyptic rhetoric was perhaps a bit premature. AP reports this morning:
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence, and he will be released soon, an official said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Karzai last Thursday and asked for a "favorable resolution" to the case. Karzai also heard from Pope Benedict XVI, who urged Rahman's release out of respect for religious freedom.

Read it here.

Could this be considered another triumph for Bush's diplomacy, defusing a potentially explosive situation and resolving it in a reasonable way? I think so, and applaud him and Secretary Rice for their successful resolution of a dangerous situation. But then, they've done it so often that you sort of expect it.

Another Hero for Our Time

Gateway Pundit highlights a heroic Afghani woman -- Malalai Joya who..., well here's how USA described her debut in Parliament:
From her first day in Parliament:
Afghan parliamentarian Malali Joya stood up to warlords in the parliament’s first session, accusing them of human rights abuses and refusing to be quiet when they told her to. Malalai called for all of Afghanistan’s human rights abusers and “criminal warlords” to be brought to justice. Delegates responded by pounding their fists on the tables to demand she sit down. She refused, shouting that it was her right as an elected official to speak.
Read it here.

She also had a few choice words for Yale University:
Female Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya criticized current U.S. policy in Afghanistan, as well as the presence of former Taliban spokesman and foreign ministry official Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi as a special non-degree student at Yale, both during and after her speech, "Women's Rights, Warlords, and the U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan" on Thursday night....

After her lecture, Joya delivered a statement about Hashemi's enrollment. She said Hashemi was one of the Taliban's top propagandists and called his status as a student at Yale "disgusting" and an "unforgivable insult."

"Before he was a Talib, and now he is a student," Joya said, holding up two pictures of Hashemi. "Is it democracy?"

Yes, Joya, it is democracy. The same principles that allow you to speak in the Afghani parliament allow Yale to admit this monster.

Si se puede -- A Movement Grows

We have become accustomed to seeing mass protests taking place in cities around the world -- usually by people denouncing the United States and its government. Now we are presented with yet another mass protest -- and what a protest it is -- but this time the marchers are people whose main desire is to come to America to work and live. That, properly understood, is some of the best news I have seen in recent months.

The LA Times reports:
Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border. Spirited crowds representing labor, religious groups, civil-rights advocates and ordinary immigrants stretched over 26 blocks of downtown Los Angeles from Adams Blvd. along Spring Street and Broadway to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). The crowd, estimated by police at more than 500.000, represented one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.

The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county.

Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border. Spirited crowds representing labor, religious groups, civil-rights advocates and ordinary immigrants stretched over 26 blocks of downtown Los Angeles from Adams Blvd. along Spring Street and Broadway to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). The crowd, estimated by police at more than 500.000, represented one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.

The marchers included both longtime residents and the newly arrived, bound by a desire for a better life and a love for this county.

Read it here.

There is an ugly mood abroad in America these days -- indeed, throughout the West. People feel threatened -- economically, culturally, and even physically -- by the changes piling in upon us. In such circumstances it is natural for people to huddle into a protective crouch, withdrawing from the seemingly inexorable forces that are transforming the world and heralding an uncertain future. There is a sense that our great days are behind us and we must preserve what we can of a glorious past.

Whether the point of reference is the "good war" against Hitler, or John Kennedy's audacious "New Frontier" or the "social justice" triumphs of the fifties and sixtied, or Johnson's "Great Society," Democrats who once saw themselves as the wave of the future now find that they are custodians of an unappreciated past that is rapidly receding into the mist of history.

Republicans, too, see greatness slipping away from them. No longer do people seem to honor what many on the right see as the eternal truths embodied in "the Reagan revolution." It seems that the crystal purity of that hallowed historical moment is sinking slowly, but relentlessly, beneath a tide of corruption, bloat, and fiscal irresponsibility.

Ah, "those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end...." But they did.

The future that once seemed so bright, now seems to be filled with looming and overwhelming peril. The news reflects this distorted, even paranoid, unease -- relentlessly hammering away at negative themes and magnifying threats, giving a megaphoned voice to critics and naysayers. The worst are filled with passionate intensity [apologies to W. B. Yeats, the greatest poet of the Twentieth Century].

Ignoring the plain evidence before them more and more Americans are retreating into a sour dystopian fantasy. The national economy is booming, but people see it in shambles. Globalization is lifting literally billions of people around the world out of poverty, but all we see is disorder and chaos. Both international and intra-national violence have been declining for nearly two decades, but even educated and informed people believe the opposite. More and more people are living longer and better lives, but we worry about the rain forest. Tyrannies are crumbling and democracies rising in improbable places, but all we pay attention to is the disorder of transition and failure of the good to match the ideal.

These are mean and troubling times, and the greatest threats we face do not come from abroad. They are in our hearts and souls. We can at least take some comfort that most Americans, as usual, have not succumbed to the insanity that is now sweeping through Europe. That is primarily an affliction of our self-styled "intellectuals" on the coasts. But even in the hearland a dangerous disquiet is roiling just beneath the surface of our political culture. It is something that we must fight. We must embrace the future, not retreat from it. We are Americans; and for the sake of the world, we cannot allow ourselves to degenerate into mere Europeans.

At least the immigrants who are marching in the streets of our cities know the worth of this land. So do I, and at least conceptually [there are no protest marches in the sleeping mountains of Pennsylvania] I will walk beside them into the future.


A.M. Mora y Leon was at the protests. He writes:

How very unlike France, whose embittered immigrants just want to wreck things, or whose frightened, distrustful students just want to preserve their privileges! Here we have something incredibly different, the crie de coeur of the people who share our society, just pleading for a right to inclusion. So that they can get better jobs, so that they can get house mortgages, so that they can freely travel to see their relatives in Mexico, so that they can avail themselves of all the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship - and I am not kidding, they were pleading for citizenship - and transform this country with a new dynamic wave of their own contributions, too.

Well said!

Read him here.

For another perspective see Mickey Kaus's writeup in Slate [here]. Kaus thinks that the size of the rally and the openly pro-Mexican sentiments expressed will intimidate voters and boost support for anti-immigrant legislation. A lot of people, he argues, after watching this rally will think, "we better build that fence quick."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Murtha Challenged

Washington County commissioner Diane Irey has announced her candidacy to unseat John Murtha.

Normally Murtha would be effectively unopposed, nearly all of the challengers he has faced over the years have been fringe candidates, and he has long enjoyed broad bi-partisan support because he has a reputation as a porker. He brings money into the region, and in Pennsylvania that counts for a lot -- a whole lot. The question that is first and foremost in voters minds as they go to the polls is, "what has he or she done for the district." This, plus Murtha's long association with the Pentagon is why he could safely become the Democrats' front man on the proposal to withdraw from Iraq. At least that was the calculation....

Commissioner Irey seems, though, to be a serious challenger. She is a prominent local official and not at all a fringe candidate. She plans to challenge Murtha on his anti-war stance. That probably won't mean much in Cambria or Somerset counties, where even Republicans refuse to criticize Murtha pointing instead to his success in porking. But outside those strongholds, Irey's message might have some resonance.

Read about it here.


One of my Western Pennsylvania correspondents writes to tell me that her name is "Diana," not Diane, and that she has hired a staffer from the Santorum campaign with which she is going to coordinate. That could mean major money flowing her way. It looks as if Jack is in for a fight this time. My correspondent finds her quite impressive -- bright, attractive, and aggressive. We'll be hearing from her again, especially if she takes down Murtha.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Border Enforcement Costs

Steve Antler, the Econopundit, considers the potential economic costs of immigration restriction policies advocated by nativist elements of both parties.

He writes:
Think for a moment. Strict border enforcement and criminalization of any business' employment of undocumented immigrants would create an immediate labor shortage in many businesses in many parts of the country. If under these circumstances the wage effects turned out to be not at the 10% range of the scale but rather way over in the "negligible" part, immigration reform will disrupt major portions of the US economy without generating anything good as a tradeoff. The outcome would be a major recession with rising prices.
Read the whole thing here.

Can you say "stagflation"?

Citroen Transformer

Check out the new Citroen C4 commercial here.

Here's the sitch -- you're proudly driving your brand new Citroen down the LIE. It's rush hour. Traffic has slowed to a crawl. You slip a CD into the deck, it starts to play, hmmm, good rhythm..., and then this happens.

Picture of the Week -- "Terre di Sienna"

It looks like a painting, or maybe an applique, but it isn't -- just a stunning photograph by Mario Egman. Check out his entire portfolio here.

Sign O' the Times

BBC is reporting a huge explosion at a French college.
A huge explosion has ripped through a chemistry institute in Mulhouse, eastern France, killing one person and injuring another.

A fire raged after the blast at 1225 (1125 GMT) and thick smoke hung over the three-storey building. Firefighters evacuated people from the scene.

Read it here.

Let's see now..., chemistry lab..., explosion, sorta go together like ham and eggs, don't they? But in these troubled times, when the streets of French cities are littered with burning remnants of the latest student riots, you always have to wonder....

Pennsylvania Politics -- The Eight-Year Cycle

Real Clear Politics features an article by Terry Madonna and Michael Young on Ed Rendell's problems in the gubenatorial election this fall. Their hook is the "eight year cycle" they discern in Pennsylvania voting. They write:
Under Pennsylvania's celebrated "eight-year cycle," Rendell, as a first-term incumbent, should be entering the re-election period as a prohibitive favorite destined to win a second term just as incumbent governors or incumbent parties have for more than half a century.
But this time:
[T]he governor's job is in jeopardy. In the vaunted "horse race" between him and Lynn Swann, he is barely ahead of a candidate who has never sought government office before. Worse perhaps--in the polls' fine print--the percentage of voters who have a favorable opinion of him are just above 40 percent, his job approval hovers around 45 percent, and his "re-elect" scores (the proportion of voters who thinks he deserves re-election) are about 40 percent.
They then go on to explain the "unexpected" situation in terms of voter dissatisfaction [a tautology if ever I read one]; regional differences in the electorate; and Rendell's ineptitude as governor; and Swann's superstar appeal.

Read it here.

This is the sort of nonsense that passes for serious analysis among political consultants, journalists, and sports fans. They take a limited and statistically insignificant series of data points, claim to discern a coherent pattern in them, and then articulate a "law of politics" based on totally inadequate data. In this case they posit:
an almost clockwork-like pattern established during the past half century of elections in which Pennsylvania voters have ousted the incumbent party from the governor's mansion every eight years. The cycle began in 1954, and since then, we have consistently had a pattern of eight years of Democrats followed by eight years of Republicans.
Fifty years, six changes of party, twelve elections; and they admit that the pattern was almost overturned in 1982. Not much on which to base a "venerable" and widely accepted "law of politics."

Each election has to be considered in its own terms. An election in the 1950's is hardly comparable to one in the seventies or with one today. Milton Shapp is not Bob Casey is not Tom Ridge is not Ed Rendell. None of them were subject to any implacable, deterministic forces that guaranteed the outcome of their efforts. The pattern is essentially meaningless. All it indicates is that neither major party has a lock on Pennsylvania.

That, of course, doesn't mean that journalists and political consultants, like Madonna and Young, will not claim to find meaning in the pattern. It serves as a good "hook" for a story, and when pitched to unsophisticated clients or readers can produce the illusion of understanding. And that's really what counts -- producing easily digested arguments that seem to explain a complex reality. It really doesn't matter if they do or don't. The illusion of wisdom will suffice.

I seriously doubt that either Ed Rendell or Lynn Swann, when considering their chances in the upcoming election, paid any attention at all to the "venerable" eight year cycle. They're too smart to swallow that sort of sillyness.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Opposition to Casey Builds

Democrat Party leaders anointed Bob Casey as their candidate in large part because of his pro-life views hoping to neutralize one of Rick Santorum's big advantages. Now that decision is coming back to bite them.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports:

WASHINGTON - Women's groups continue to vent their anger over top Democrats' backing of Robert P. Casey's U.S. Senate bid as leading feminist organizations endorsed one of his lesser-known rivals.

The endorsement of Alan Sandals by the National Organization for Women and Feminist Majority political action committees provides the Philadelphia pension-rights attorney with a huge morale boost and shows the cracks in the Democratic Party days before it will endorse a candidate to oppose Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Read it here.

The feminist revolt won't defeat Casey in the primaries. He has them in the bag. But, there is some question of how much it will cost him in terms of contributions and fall turnout. At the least it will diminish Casey's lead over Santorum by a few percentage points.

This Day in History -- Give Me Liberty....

On this day in 1775 Patrick Henry rose in the Virginia House of Burgesses to rail against the irresolution shown by many of his colleagues in a time of crisis. He said in part:

They [those who wanted peace and further negotiation] tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? ... Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Read the whole thing here.

A reminder that irresolution, back biting, cynicism, and indecision have accompanied every conflict in which this nation has engaged since the beginning. Today's "Copperheads" are just the latest in a long line of second-guessers.

Flores Hobbit Update Redux

Kate Wong's second report on the latest findings regarding the Flores "Hobbit" are now up at the National Geographic website. Read it here.

The Falling Man

Every once in a while it's appropriate to stop to remember just what this is all about. Like many of you, I suspect, 9/11 changed my world. Looking at this post on the "falling man" at Michelle Malkin's blog, I was reminded of that day and all it meant and still means. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Perilous Occupation

Red State reports some interesting casualty statistics:
On the third anniversay of the Iraq war, the MSM keeps bombarding us with stories and statistics trying to compare this war to the carnage in Vietnam, trying to make us think that US soldiers are dying at an alarming number due to Bush's failures.

While every lost serviceman and servicewoman is certainly tragic and should be mourned, the actual statistics tell quite a different tale from the MSM and Democratic doom-and-gloom outlook. Comparing the numbers of lost US military personnel to past years, and past presidential terms, may even be a shock to supporters of the war.

Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you wil find quite a few surpises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)

In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents.

This is all simply outright lies and distortion.


Read it here.

Hat tip Instapundit.

Lots of young men operating high powered vehicles and instruments of destruction in difficult situations -- 0f course there are casualties. Military service has always been a dangerous occupation, and always will be.


Instapundit's initial post on this has generated a lot of responses. Check them out here. Despite the contretemps that has ensued it seems to me that the figures can be read to show two things, and two things only: 1) the Iraq war has hardly been the bloodbath that some have portrayed it as being and 2) the military is a perilous occupation whether at peace or at war.

Wretchard over at Belmont Club has been looking through the recent information pouring into the public domain about the onset of the Iraq war. He sums it up this way:
As more information becomes available about the recent past it becomes necessary for revise the conventionally accepted picture of the War on Terror in the light of new revelations.... Nobody is going to be completely happy with the new information. Saddam was not as innocent of WMD intentions as many Liberals retrospectively claimed him to be. He was more brutal than anyone could imagine him to be. Administrations supporters will be unhappy to learn that Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush probably made errors in judgement in the planning and execution of OIF. But Liberals will be saddened to discover that President Bush may not have been eager to invade Iraq at all, despite portrayals to the contrary by the press, deciding only after the intelligence community (which did not entirely cover itself with glory) convinced him that Saddam was an imminent threat. We learn that press exaggerations may have helped abort the first battle of Fallujah, probably to the detriment of the American cause.

Read it here.

And that's just for starters. As I noted last week the history wars over the meaning of Iraq and the Bush presidency are beginning to heat up. What we think we know today is quite different from what we thought we knew yesterday and far from what we will think we know tomorro.w. Unfortunately, in these politically charged times few scholars will be willing to take a serious look at the emerging evidence unless it confirms their prejudices. The lines are clearly drawn and their minds are already made up. And before anyone begins to denounce "revisionism" remember the alternative to revision is plagarism.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ah, Spring!

Well, Spring has officially sprung, but here in the mountains the outdoor temperature is still in the twenties (well below freezing for those of you outside the US who only speak centigrade) and the TV is predicting snow for later in the day. So far Spring isn't much different from Winter, just a bit colder and snowier.

That will change though, and soon. I can't wait!

The Protest Warriors

One of my correspondents alerted me to these guys -- the Protest Warriors. They infiltrate left wing demonstrations with sly subversive signs. They delight in tweaking lefty twits. They also perform a public service by exposing a lot of the careful stage- management that lies behind some of these supposedly "spontaneous" displays. See, for instance, this analysis of how the San Francisco Chronicle manipulated images of a protest rally.

Thanks, J. B.

Hesperion Diminished But Still Fun

"She Who Must Not Be Named" has taken an interest lately in classical music, so we are attending a lot of concerts. I grew up with the stuff and can take it or leave it [except for a few favorites], but she approaches it with all the wonder and enthusiasm of a convert. I tag along and enjoy. Virtuosity can still send chills up and down my spine.

This weekend it was a somewhat diminished Hesperion XXI [itself a diminished version of the original Hesperion XX], featuring the great Jordi Savall and his family. Ferran Savall was absent and David Mayoral was substituting for Pedro Estevan, but Jordi's wife and daughter were there to hold up their end and performed well. Jordi brought his famous 500 year old Treble Viola da Gamba for people to "ooh" and "ah" over. I have to admit it, I was impressed.

The program included compositions by Diego Ortiz, Bartolomeo Carceras, Tobias Hume, Giulio Caccini, Santiago de Murcia, Henry du Bailly, Sebastian Duron and others. Chronologically it spanned the mid-sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, focusing on the Iberian baroque, little heard in this country.

This was the time of Spanish dominance, of the great explorations and conquest, of Carlos Quinto and Felipe Segundo. Under the Habsburgs Madrid ruled most of three continents and its power spanned the world. There lay the center of European civilization. Then came the long, slow decline.

We here in the U.S., if we approach the baroque at all, tend to start with Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. The Spanish traditions are usually overlooked. Here, though, we could hear the evolution of traditions that Bach and his contemporaries inherited. It was fascinating.

Read about Hesperion XXI here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Kids Are All Right...

For those of you who still think the economy sucks because you haven't been paying attention, Reuters reports:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001, with business, computer, engineering, education and health care grads in highest demand, a report by an employment consulting firm showed on Monday.

"We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In its annual outlook of entry-level jobs, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said strong job growth and falling unemployment makes this spring the hottest job market for America's 1.4 million college graduates since the dot-com collapse in 2001.

The firm pointed to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers which showed employers plan to hire 14.5 percent more new college graduates than a year ago.

The survey also found higher starting salaries this year. Graduates with economic or finance degrees will see the biggest gain with starting salaries up 11 percent to $45,191, while accounting salaries are up 6.2 percent, business management salaries up 3.9 percent and pay for civil engineers 4.3 percent higher.

Read the whole thing here.

Yet still, in poll after poll after poll people respond that they oppose Bush because he mishandled the economy. Wake up people -- the economy is booming and has been for years now.

The Chaucer Blog -- Geoffrey Indulges in Common Bloggery

Check it out here. In case you are wondering who he is, go here.

The End of Orientalism

One of the most pernicious texts to emerge from the academic wars of the past generation was Edward Said's "Orientalism". Robert Irwin, writing in Prospect, rightly labels it "a paranoid approach to an essentially benign academic discipline." He writes:
The attack by Said and his allies on academics can be seen as a soothing displacement activity. In mounting such an onslaught, specialists in literary criticism and cultural studies could imagine themselves to be on the frontline of a global conflict and as "speaking truth to power." But their guns were pointing in the wrong direction. In general, stereotypes and patronising misrepresentations of Arabs and Muslims do not originate in university departments.
Indeed! The absurd pretensions of both the Arabists and their academic opponents in this contentious debate were not only risible, they were pathetic.

I attended a conference not long after 9/11 in which one of Said's former students at Columbia launched into a broad condemnation of American culture and its "racist" response to the catastrophe. His complaint? More than 300 Muslims had complained to authorities that they felt threatened by the actions or speech of someone and in a handful of cases there had been actual assaults on people openly proclaiming their Muslim identity. I noted at the time that in a nation of 300 million people this was literally a one in a million occurrance. My observation was not welcomed by many the self-flagellators in attendance.

It is a measure of the absurd divorce of academic studies from objective reality that such pernicious and obviously silly doctrines as those expounded by Edward Said and his students could gain general currency in Anglo-American discourse. Robert Irwin laments the extinguishing of Orientalism and Arabism. So do I. Those much abused fields of study, unlike the assertions of their critics, at least had some contact with the real world.

Spencer Tunick In Venezuela

Spencer Tunick, who for some odd reason has made a career of getting people to take off their clothes, has struck again. This time in Venezuela.

Reuters reports:

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - More than 1,500 people gathered around a statue of 19th century liberation hero Simon Bolivar on Sunday and posed nude for a U.S. artist famous for his photos of naked crowds in public spaces.

Spencer Tunick organized the Caracas photo shoot along downtown Avenida Bolivar, a frequent spot for political rallies by supporters of President Hugo Chavez.

Surrounded by dozens of reporters and onlookers, the participants cracked jokes, shouted cheers for Tunick and struck poses for the press.

Read the whole thing here.

Kleptocrats and Development

In the long-running argument over why some nations prosper and others don't one of the more controversial positions holds that poverty is primarily a consequence of kleptocracy. This argument has been largely accepted by the Bush administration and by Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Tim Harford makes the case here.

Spring at the Harbor

Last week, as we left for the mountains, I noted that the ornamental pear trees near the Harbor were beginning to bud. Well, this week they are in full flower. Yesterday I wandered along the western side of the harbor taking pictures and just enjoying the beautiful weather. I then headed over to the Harbor East, but the trees there had not yet bloomed [next week for sure]. Later we drove up Charles Street near the BMA and there the trees were spectacular. I couldn't take pictures though. "She" kept insisting that I pay attention to where I was driving.

Niall's Numskulls

Niall Ferguson has long split his time between being a serious [and talented] historian and indulging himself in popular [and profitable] commentary. In both aspects he is worthy of notice because he thinks seriously about big things and his thought is informed by a deep appreciation of historical contexts.

This weekend, in a mostly frivolous column filled with obscure references to British pop culture, he makes some very important observations.

1) The current global system of exchange is of immense benefit to people around the world. It is lifting literally billions of people out of abject poverty while simultaneously enriching developed regions.

2) The progress of this system is not inevitable -- the first global system, based on European imperialism, collapsed nearly a century ago. It is therefore appropriate for us to consider the conditions that might precipiate such a collapse in our own time.

3) He sees only three potential threats that could bring the entire system down. They include a global war on the order of the Great War of 1914, a global pandemic like that of 1918, or institutional malfeasance on the part of the United States Government.

To explain the last point -- the US economy is the engine that drives the global system and it is therefore imperative that the US act responsibly so as to promote confidence in the stability of the system. But the US Congress has not been acting responsibly recently. The cancelling of the Dubai Ports Deal sent a shock through the international investment system and, more disturbingly, Congress last week came within four votes of repudiating the national debt. That would have been the practical effect of refusing to raise the debt limit.

He writes:

Today the Numskulls doing the most to lobotomise the global mind are to be found (not for the first time in history) in the US Congress. Earlier this month, Senators effectively blocked a company based in the United Arab Emirates from acquiring facilities in American ports on the ground that their employees might help Islamist terrorists.

Not content with this insult to Middle Eastern investors, the same body last week came within a hair's breadth of defaulting on the federal debt, voting by just four votes to increase the legal debt ceiling. Given that around half that debt is held abroad, this was playing with financial fire.

Never in the history of the world economy has one advanced economy been as reliant on inflows of foreign capital as the United States today. It's that international overdraft which allows Our Man to keep sucking in and consuming foreign goodies. Unfortunately, the Numskulls in Congress seem more worried about impending mid-term elections than the stability of the global economy.

Read the whole thing here.

It is perfectly legitimate for members of Congress to worry more about re-election than the intricacies of the global economy. But that is also a good reason for congresscritters to defer to the executive branch in such matters, rather than trying to micro-manage foreign and military affairs.

Poor Gerry

This was not a good weekend for Gerry Adams and the boys from Sinn Fein.
IT HAS proved to be a very expensive St Patrick’s Day for Gerry Adams. A ban on fund-raising, imposed as a visa condition for his trip to the US, has forced Sinn Fein to repay $100,000 (£57,000) in ticket sales for a gala breakfast he attended in Washington.

The Sinn Fein president is clearly bitter about what he described as a “partisan” decision by President Bush’s Administration which, he said, took no account of the IRA’s renunciation of armed struggle and the progress made on decommissioning.

Read it here.

It seems that being the public face of a terrorist organization is not a good thing to be in a nation waging a "war on terror." And, perhaps more pertinently, Gerry's best buddies, Peter King and Teddy Kennedy, have other, more important things on their minds and chose not to intervene on his behalf.

Checking the Credibility of the Critics

Gateway Pundit has a delicious rundown of predictions made by critics of the war effort and how they panned out. In these days when the administration is widely accused of having presented a false and rosy picture to the American public during the runup to hostilities it is important to note that the war's opponents were far wider of the mark than the proponents, and to remember that these are for the most part the same people who are now breathlessly announcing the onset of a civil war. Check it out here.

French Protest Babes

The French seem to have learned a lot from the Lebanese protesters -- specifically, to make sure that young babes are featured in the coverage. There are a few things I just don't understand, though. What the Hell does Brad Pitt have to do with the protests? And as for the clown noses....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Roots of Success in Iraq

Wretchard at the Belmont Club notes that, unnoticed by the MSM, things are coming together quite well in Iraq and explains just how the blindness and incompetence of the MSM has contributed to a successful outcome.

He predicts:

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all. If the public has ever heard of the MTTs, the political transition process or the River War it will not be the result of their concealment. These three decisive weapons were lying in plain view from the end 2004 onwards though their significance had not been noted -- their existence hardly even acknowledged -- by the Press even until now. Ironically, this may have contributed to overall success. The enemy in reading the leading newspapers of the West remained ignorant of the doom descending upon their heads, confirmed in their eventual victory even as catastrophe overwhelmed them. Thank you MSM.

Read the whole thing here.

Why Hollywood Makes Liberal Films

Jason Apuzzo explains why Hollywood can keep on cranking out left-wing propaganda films despite the fact that most Americans find them repulsive. The answer is in profit margins. Liberals in the urban centers and foreign viewers will turn out to see cheaply made lefty films in sufficient numbers to make them extremely profitable. They don't need Red State America to turn a nice profit. Of course, as Apuzzo notes, the neglected Red Staters themselves constitute a nice potential audience to be tapped by conservative film makers [assuming they exist].

Behind all this, of course, is a fact we must always keep in mind when discussing movies. No film today attracts more than a tiny fraction of the viewing public. They all are aimed at target audiences rather than the general public.

Read the article here.

Paris In The Spring....

Sorry, I just can't resist quoting Marx to the effect that "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." He, of course was commenting on the fact that Louis Napoleon was not the real Napoleon, but the statement could equally apply to our own times. The young people who have taken to the streets of Paris for the past two weeks in ever-escalating demonstrations, are not the enrages of 1968, but a pale and farcical imitation of those miserable miscreants.

Then the protestors represented an assault on capitalism, imperialism, and militarism -- what the naifs in the streets saw as the sins of their elders. Today's protesters are railing against the collapse of the miserable and mean-spirited socialism that their parents erected on the trash heap of Western civilization. Then the protesters sought to change the world. Today they are clinging desperately to a failed dysfunctional system that promised them jobs for life. Their rallying cry has been "Liberté, Égalité and Job Sécurité!"

A. M. Mora y Leon comments:
It’s a gloomy antirevolution, its only thing worth fighting for is a welfare check or the right not to have to work hard. Is this worth dying for? I do not think so. But there are youthful antirevolutionaries who say it is. And thus, the gloomy scenes we see in the Paris setting, the sad need to be one of the elect, one of the employed, and do it with no effort whatever, to do it as a matter of entitlement.

Read it here.

On second thought -- Marx was wrong. It is not today's protesters who are farcical. They are merely pathetic. The farce and the tragedy was the Eutopian world the "Generation of 68" sought, and failed, to create.

For pics go here.

Der Spiegel notes the spread of rioting to other French cities here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Case for Preemption

Cliff May responds to the "Hornets Nest" argument -- you know, those idiots who call up talk shows and say that if we hadn't poked the hornet's nest, we wouldn't have all this trouble with the Middle East. He writes:

If we learned anything from 9/11 it's that doing nothing while tyrants and terrorists plot to kill Americans is not a viable policy.

But that was U.S. policy for more than 25 years. When Iranian revolutionaries seized our embassy yelling, "Death to America," we said to ourselves: "They probably don't mean it."

When, in 1983, the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah slaughtered hundreds of American troops in Lebanon, we said: "If we get out of their way, perhaps they'll settle down."

After the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993, we did nothing to those who sent terrorists to our shores.

So before we decide that pre-emption has been a failure, let's acknowledge this: It is because the alternative failed that President Bush came to the conclusion that sometimes it is necessary to use force before attacks occur. It is not enough to attempt to punish our enemies after the blood has been cleaned from our streets.

Nor is deterrence a realistic policy. You can't deter someone who believes that murdering children will earn him a place in paradise....

He concludes:

If Americans have learned anything, it should be this: When people say they intend to kill you, take them seriously.

Lots of wisdom in this article. Read the whole thing here.

Unfortunately, lots of Americans are so invested in ideology or so avid for political advantage that they are impervious to experience. They are all to willing to withdraw back into the comfortable pieties of the pre 9/11 world and a policy of appeasement, retreat, and inaction.

Ooooooh! Cat Fight!

Cathy Seipp cuts loose on somebody with the unfortunate name of Nikki Finke [apparently she does a Hollywood gossip column in LA]. It's not pretty.

Here's the lede:
How hath the crazy fallen, I thought when I noticed L.A. Weekly columnist/pretend lawyer Nikki Finke now has a blog, because of course Nikki has long been dismissive of the blogosphere. She also, at least until fairly recently, has been ignorant of basic blogospheric knowledge that the IP addresses of commenters are easily checked. So for instance if you post once here under the name Nikki Finke, and then again pretending to be a lawyer threatening me with libel for insulting Nikki Finke, it might be better to post that second comment from someone else's computer. I guess that's inconvenient, though, if you rarely leave the house. I haven't seen Nikki in years, probably because these days she looks like Jabba the Hut, if you can imagine Jabba after he's said to hell with the diets already.
Ouch! That's gotta hurt.

Read the whole thing here.

OK Nikki --your turn....

Maryland Politics -- Dem Dirty Tricks

The Junkyard Blog reports on the consequences of illegal Democrat dirty tricks directed against Lt. Gov. Michael Steele last year. The woman directly responsible will be prosecuted, but of course Chuckie Schumer skates.

Read about it here.

The Washington Times story, which is more balanced, is here.

Dubya and Reagan redux

Peggy Noonan discovers that Dubya is not a Reaganite. Well, duh! And decides that he is therefore not a conservative.

Read it here.

This prompted Orrin Judd to run some numbers and come up with this conclusion:

At any rate, given that Ms Noonan believes, for some reason, that Ronald Reagan was a conservative and George W. Bush isn't, it's perhaps helpful to just compare the two: when Ronald Reagan left office in 1988 he was dunning us 18.1% of GDP to pay for a federal government that spent 21.2% of GDP. In 2004, the last year for which I could find numbers, George W. Bush had lowered our tax burden to 16.3% of GDP-- a level last reached in 1959--to pay for a government that spent 19.8 of GDP.

There doesn't seem to be any coherent reason why a president's conservatism should be judged by how much he spends, but if you're using that as your yardstick then Mr. Reagan was the most liberal president since FDR during WWII and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the most conservative since Nixon.

Read it here.

Ah, yes..., ideological turf battles. Sorta reminds me of the old arguments over left and right wing deviationism [without the fatal consequences, of course]. Deviationists died violent deaths in those days.

I applaud Bush for building on, rather than being embalmed within, Ronald Reagan's legacy. Too bad that some of Ron's acolytes can't let go of their brief moment of glory two decades ago.

"A Quiet Tide Is Rippling..."

Karl Zinsmeister of the American Enterprise Institute has a nice Q and A article on the slow progress of Iraq toward self-sustaining status. His conclusion:

There is no reason to be Pollyannish about Iraq. Like nearly every Arab nation, it is not a competent society at present. Trade, manufacturing, and farming have been suffocated by bad governance. Public servants routinely skim funds. Trash is not picked up, property rights are not respected, rules are not enforced, altruism is non-existent.

Having been one of the most brutalized societies on earth over the last generation, it would be absurd to expect prone Iraq to jump to its feet at this critical transition and dance a jig. Newborn representative governments are always imperfect, inept, even dirty at times—witness El Salvador, Russia, Taiwan, South Africa.

But a quiet tide is rippling up the Tigris and Euphrates. The November 2005 study by Oxford Research found that when Iraqis are asked what form of political system will work best in their nation for the future, 64 percent now say “a democratic government with a chance for the leader to be replaced from time to time.” Only 18 percent choose “a government headed by one strong leader for life,” and just 12 percent pick “an Islamic state where politicians rule according to religious principles.” This surge toward representative toleration—which did not enjoy majority support in Iraq as recently as early 2004—ought not to be taken for granted. It is an historic groundswell.

Iraq is now creeping away from murderous authoritarianism to face the more normal messes of a creaky Third World nation: corruption, poverty, health problems, miserable public services. And that is vastly preferable to what came before.

Indeed it is!

Read the whole thing here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I have been amused to note, when attending St. Patrick's Day parties in the U.S. thrown by indigenous [as opposed to diaspora] Irish, that only the Irish-Americans in attendance rigged themselves out in extravagent and somewhat silly togs. The native Irish dressed normally. Apparently the sillyness has spread far beyond America's shores. Witness this picture of a St. Patrick's day celebration in China [complete with a guy from Michigan State]. Does this mean that it is the American, as opposed to the authentically Irish, form of the celebration that is spreading around the globe. I wonder....

"Americanized Islam"

When Bush talks about changing the political culture of Islam, and Condi states:
"We've won these struggles before against ideologies of hatred, but it's always taken time; it's taken patience; unfortunately, it's sometimes taken sacrifice. "
Read it here.

This is what they are talking about.

UPI reports:

"American" Islam, a religion whose followers resemble "a Weberian society of atomized individuals given over to consumerism," is increasingly posing a challenge in Russia to "true Islam," a faith based on the norms of Sharia law and authentic Muslim ideas, according to a Muslim commentator in Moscow.

In an essay posted on the Internet portal Wednesday, Fatima Anastasiya Yezhova, an ethnic Russian convert to Islam, provides a detailed discussion of the differences between these two Islams and why the "American" one has been gaining ground among Russia's Muslims.

"'The American version of Islam,'" she writes, is "a multi-faceted term" which requires explanation as it includes "several different sets of meaning." The "most obvious," Yezhova continues, is its treatment of Islam "exclusively as 'a personal faith,' as a personal dialogue with God."

That means, she continues, that those who follow its provisions "understand Islam not through the prism of the Arabic term 'din'" -- which connotes power, subordination and devotion -- but rather "in the spirit of the Latin 'religare'" -- which involves community or connection.

"Such a radicallly incorrect understanding of Islam is in part a rudiment of the contemporary Christian mentality of a definite segment of newly converted [Muslims in the Russian Federation and elsewhere], in part as a result of the intentional efforts directed at the liberal modernization of our religion."

Muslims both among the newly converted and those returning to the faith "who think in this way can perform Islamic religious and customary norms, pray, and observe fasts, but their entire world view from political ideology to their behavior will be radically non-Muslim," Yezhova insists.

Such a reduced Sunday-school kind of faith, she continues, is based on the proposition that its followers "in general should not relate their understandings about justice, the nation, governance or war" with the provisions of Islam. Instead, they should see the religion as simply "a collection of ritual practices" rather than a set of vital ideas.

But the impact of "American Islam" can also be seen in the ideas and actions of Muslims who insist that they are completely committed to the values of Islam and the interests of the umma but who claim the right "to have their own [distinctive] Islamic brand, their own cultural label, and thus their own identity."

"Instead of mini-skirts," she says," Muslims of this type "wear the hijab to the office. Instead of drinking beer, they drink tea in coffee houses, go to fitness centers for Muslim women, use the services of Islamic tour agencies, take their children to Muslim kindergartens and spend money in beauty salons and saunas that operate in correspondence with Sharia."

"Such Muslims strive to follow the Islamic way of life in all spheres of their daily life." But despite that, "their psychology is in no way distinguished from the world views of the standard petit bourgeois consumer -- with the only difference that it is packaged in a beautiful halal wrapping."

The goals of this group, which Yezhova calls "the green bourgeoisie," are exactly the same as their non- Muslim counterparts: "to get ahead in life, to make money, to pursue a career, to buy a beautiful house and car, to guarantee their children a stable future -- naturally with means permitted by the Shariat -- and quietly live" without getting involved in anything larger than themselves.

Yup! She's got it! That's exactly what we are working toward, and by her account we are succeeding -- and she's not happy about it.

She sees the "American" version of Islam as "contemporary"and lacking a "spiritual dimension" and calls upon her fellow Muslims to resist this American, bourgeois corruption and,
to cure themselves of the "disease of middle class vulgarity and recognize as a necessity the struggle for justice" a struggle every bit as important as wearing the hijab or eating halal foods.

Read it here.

I haven't seen a story that has delighted me so much in months. Protests like these are proof of the efficacy and allure of Western values and a validation of the core beliefs animating the Bush doctrine.

These principles were once again reiterated by President Bush in his recent statement on national security:

America... has an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace. The ideals that have inspired our history -- freedom, democracy and human dignity -- are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the world. And because free nations tend toward peace, the advance of liberty will make America more secure. [emphasis mine]
Read the whole thing here.

We can hope that in coming years people like Fatima [and Osama] will find more and more to protest against. Perhaps Fukuyama was right the first time -- the spread of liberal principles has the force of historical inevitability. If so, Islamic radicalism is nothing more than a bump in the road to the end of history. Or, as I have suggested before [here], what anthropologists call a "revitalization movement" destined to fail.

What is perhaps most interesting about Fatima's rant is the way it illuminates the links between left wing radicalism and Islamism. Many people, including some on the Left, have been taken aback by the eagerness of many lefties to sympathize with, even to make common cause with, a repugnant Islamist ideology that constitutes in many of its aspects a repudiation of their supposed core principles.

Some have explained this loathsome abandonment of principle as a manifestation of intellectuals' historic fascination with strong men. a modern version of the fuhrerprincip; others have marked it down to simple anti-Americanism, or to a pathological loathing of Bush himself. But Fatima's rant exposes the overriding concern. Both left-wing ideology and radical Islamism have a common enemy -- Western bourgeois liberalism.

In recent years lefties, abandoned in the West by their beloved proles and devastated by the collapse of the Soviet workers' dystopia and China's embrace of free markets, have swung in ever more eccentric and fantastic circles, widening their scope to make common cause with all non-bourgeois elements of the world [see, for instance, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's inane invocation of the "multitude" in Empire, a book that disturbingly became quite a fad in academia a few years ago]. Sympathy for Islamism is [for Fatima and I suspect for many others] simply a manifestation of that impulse -- rooted in a deep loathing of the triumphant bourgeoisie. For such as she, core principles don't really matter -- they can be embraced or abandoned at will -- what matters is to keep your sights on the real enemy -- the free peoples of the world. If Communism failed to eliminate liberalism, then maybe radical Islamism can. At least, that seems to be her hope.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Casey's Woman Problems

Just yesterday I declared Rick Santorum a goner based on the fact that he has not been able to close the poll gap on challenger Bob Casey. Today the New York Post has an article pointing up some emerging problems for Casey who so far has not been tested.

Santorum continues to trail Casey in the latest polls by about 12-14 points, but there are some interesting developments that might interrupt Casey’s progress toward the governorship. Last week Kate Michelman hinted that she might challenge Casey in the Democrat primaries in May. She has since withdrawn that threat but has not endorsed Casey and is unlikely to. Other activists have been courting alternative candidates to the frontrunner. The Bucks and Lancaster County Committees have also refused to endorse him.

Read it here.

The key to all this fussing is, of course, abortion. Casey is famously pro-life as was his father. That, I think, is a winning position to take, but the pro-choice folk disagree. They note that Santorum easily beat Ron Klink, another pro-life candidate six years ago. But what they fail to mention was that Klink’s campaign was sabotaged by pro-life activists. The implied threat is that they will do it again this year.

How will this shake out? Does Casey have real problems? Will abortion rights activists decide that flexing their muscle and bringing the Democratic Party to heel is more important than winning the election? We’ll see.

Stay tuned….