Day By Day

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Maryland Politics -- Kweisi Recruits Deaniacs

The Washington Times reports:

Kweisi Mfume's Senate campaign in Maryland is starting to look a lot like a Howard Dean campaign, with key former Dean aides working the Mfume political and fundraising machinery.

Lindsay Lewis, a fundraiser during Mr. Dean's 2004 presidential bid, began working as Mr. Mfume's campaign manager one week ago.

Walter Ludwig, who coordinated Mr. Dean's campaign in Maryland, also joined the Mfume campaign a week ago.

And Joe Trippi, Mr. Dean's one-time campaign manager, is doing political consulting for Mr. Mfume's campaign.

"We're here to take the campaign to the next step," Mr. Lewis said.

Mr. Mfume, former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is in need of help to gain ground in the crowded Democratic primary race to replace Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who is retiring.

"It's not that I set out to get Dean people. It's just that we're all in the same ideological stratosphere. I think they were attracted to my campaign," Mr. Mfume said last night after a debate in Olney.
Read it here.

This makes sense. Ben Cardin has pretty much wrapped up the regular Democrat talent. Kweisi has to take what he can get. These guys have a lot of enthusiasm, but I'm afraid that Cardin's pros are going to eat them alive.

Pennsylvania (and Ohio) Politics -- The Significance of Swann

Peter Brown, of Quinnipiac University, notes something significant in this year's election. In two of the heavyweight swing states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Republicans are on the verge of nominating black candidates for governor. Brown sees this situation as providing a crucial test of two propositions.

1) Democrats like to allege that Republicans are racists. But Republicans argue (and polls seem to support the proposition) that the real differences are philosophical -- blacks tend to favor big government solutions while Republicans want to shrink the role of the state. Both Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania and Ken Blackwell in Ohio are small government conservative blacks. If Republicans choose, as they are likely to do, Swann and Blackwell to lead them into the fall elections in big, important, swing States, it will go a long ways toward discrediting the charge that the party is racist.

2) Blacks are the most reliable element in the Democrat coalition -- reliably delivering about 90% of their votes for Democrat candidates, both white and black. If, however, Swann and Blackwell are able to peel away significantly more than 10% of the black vote, they might well be redefining the parameters of electoral politics all across the country.

Even if neither Swann or Blackwell wins in November, Brown argues, if they pass these two tests, they will have significantly changed the American political landscape.

Read it here.

I think he's right.

UPDATE: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Swann is very close to locking up the nomination and could well do so tonight at a straw poll of committee leaders in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Read it here.

Two More Wins for Bush's Diplomacy

Dan Drezner notes that the Bush administration had two very big diplomatic victories yesterday. Why aren't we hearing about them?

1) The US, EU, UN and Russian Federation issued a joint declaration on the Palestinian elections making it clear that continued economic aid would depend on demonstrated commitment to "the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap." This is a remarkable display of solidarity among powers with very distinct interests in the Middle East. A great deal of the credit has to go to Condi, Condi, Condi! [and of course to her boss]

2) The five permanent members of the Security Council and the European Union adopted a common position on Iran, agreeing to report it to the Security Council over its nuclear program. As the WaPo points out, Iran was not expecting this unanimity of response and is now on the defensive.

As I have been pointing out for some time the Bush Administration has been racking up major diplomatic achievements for several years now. It is about time that Dubya start getting some credit for them.

Read Drezhner's comments here.

Danish Cartoons

If you haven't seen those Danish cartoons that are causing so much uproar in the Muslim world, check them out here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bush's War On the Bureaucracy -- Wolfie at the World Bank

Reuters reports:

By Lesley Wroughton - Analysis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Paul Wolfowitz is sending shock waves through the World Bank as he begins exerting his influence -- starting with a crackdown on corruption -- less than a year after arriving from the Pentagon with a reputation as a neoconservative ideologue.

Wolfowitz's nomination by President George W. Bush to head the world's largest development lender was controversial from the start because of his role as an architect of the Iraq war.

Eight months into his tenure, critics, including veteran bank officials who have left in an exodus of managers, say Wolfowitz has centralized his authority through an inner circle of advisors mostly from the Pentagon and White House.

Read it here.

How dare he crack down on corruption? It's the name of the game among NGOs.

These complaints are pretty much the same thing we have heard from "former" mid- to upper- level officials in the Pentagon, at State, in the intelligence community, at the UN, and recently at Justice. Bush is cleaning house and serving notice that the comfortable and corrupt forms of business as usual will no longer be tolerated.

For decades administrations have declared their determination to reform the huge bureaucracies that took root during the Cold War [remember the "Gore Commission" report?]. Clinton made some tentative efforts at reform, but Dubya is the first President to take substantive action across a broad front. More power to him. In the end, this may be his most important domestic legacy.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Impenetrable Ignorance from the WaPo

The WaPo reports:

Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann, who is hoping to be the Republican nominee in this year's Pennsylvania governor's race, is giving Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell more than a run for his money in the latest polls.

That may sound like good news for the GOP -- but some Pennsylvania Republicans are clapping with one hand. It turns out good news can sometimes be bad, at least according to the anxious (and possibly overheated) calculations of some strategists.

Read it here.

This is either very, very stupid stuff or whistling past the graveyard. The idea is that if Swann wins big, Republicans won't bother to vote and as a result some Republican candidates in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs might lose. Well, if that's the case -- if the only reason people might turn out to vote for you is to stop a mediocrity like Rendell from being re-elected -- then you have no real reason to be running for office.

WaPo is susceptible to this kind argument because Rendell is well known and liked in Democrat beltway circles. They've been talking him up as a potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate for years, but he has not traveled well outside his home precincts in incredibly corrupt Philly. His governship has been pretty much a bust. WaPo, reflecting the voice of the national Democrats, just doesn't want to admit that their fair haired boy isn't selling well in Pa. Swann may be a phenom. There is a genuine enthusiasm for his candidacy that contrasts with the ho hum attitude of local Democrats toward Rendell.

By the way, Rendell has come out for Alito. No surprise there.

And in other news, Santorum has succeeded in peeling off some union support in the Philly area from Casey. This is important because it gives Santorum workers on the street on election day. Rickey may make this a close game after all.

Steeler Fans -- Michael Novak Gets Excited

Steeler fandom is a weird and wonderful thing. Sometimes even rational, informed people like Michael Novak can get caught up in a parochial frenzy and start channeling George Swetnam.

Here's what he has to say about Pittsburgh with an "h".
So it's steeltown America on the rise, the rough and the ready, not a rich team but always fighting and always playing smash-mouth, and running hard, and slashing... and I love it that their opponents this year will be wearing the colors of --hard to comprehend this -- Hamas! Couldn't be a better opponent, who will probably be favored. .... Pittsburgh is the city of the Deerslayer, and the American flag, and always the highest casualty rates in American wars ... This is the city where they make steel, the first and the best on any continent. They make steel with white-hot heat, and fire, and rolling mills, in open spaces where men sometimes fell into molten steel, or molten steel spilled on them, and the smell (my old, now dead uncle once told me) was one you never forgot...This is Tough Town U.S.A., tough and vulgar and often mean ... and where people have heart, and don't quit. They don't ask for a break, and don't expect one, because they haven't experienced many. Last quarter, seven minutes to play, and down fourteen points? That's life! ... All of us here are used to it, so lower your head, plow straight on, and be determined not to be stopped, until you win. I love the Pittsburgh spirit. ' Against Adversity' is its middle name. Here they pronounce it 'grit.'
Read it here.

I was born and raised in "Pittsylvania Country" and yield to no man and few women in my love for the region, but Michael, you are starting to embarrass us. Tone it down a bit..., please.

At the Harbor

The weather was spectacular Saturday and I was out and about the harbor. The street performers were also out and so were their fans. A moment of pure chaotic joy shared by the drummer, the kids, and the parents. The little blond girl actually seemed to catch the guy's rhythm. The other kids pretty much just flailed away at random.

Quote of the Day

“If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'"

Eric Blair [George Orwell]

Hat tip: Cliff May [here]. Read May's whole article about the tendency of academics to retreat into a "Switzerland of the mind" where moral equivalency and neutrality rule.

Environmental "Science" -- The Ever-Shifting Goalposts

Environmental "scientists," wielding new computer models, now predict that sea level changes due to global warming might not be as great as earlier models predicted.

The Buffalo News reports [citing the WaPo]:

A new computer model suggests that global warming might not produce the kind of sea level change over the next century that scientists had previously thought, according to a paper in the journal Nature.

The report - written by German scientist Sarah C.B. Raper and British scientist Roger Braithwaite - suggests that melting mountain glaciers and icecaps, which account for about a quarter of the expected sea level rise, will produce less sea level rise by 2100 that others have predicted.

Read it here.

This is the problem with basing public policy on the recommendations of "scientists." They keep changing their minds.

Competitive Victimhood

A few years ago at the OJ trial many upper middle class women were outraged to discover that, despite massive efforts to change public consciousness, the racism paradigm trumped the female victimization one. Now the Screen Actors Guild has just chosen"Crash," a racially-themed film over "Brokeback Mountain" for the ensemble cast award, despite an immense pr campaign to promote the gay-themed film. In the hierarchy of approved victimhood it would seem that racism still holds the trump card.

Read about the award here.

Picture[s] of the Week -- Tim Holte

Tim Holte is a photographer with a remarkable eye for dramatic composition. Check out his whole portfolio at [here]. For now, here are a few samples of his work. [I like off-centered composition.]

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!!!

Maryland Politics -- Ehrlich's State of the State

Gov. Robert Ehrlich delivered his "State of the State" speech this week, laying out the themes on which he is going to campaign for re-election.

The Washington Times reports:

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday that his administration has erased the massive deficit it inherited and is now positioned to spend more on education, drug treatment and scientific research.

"Today, three years later, Maryland is strong and prosperous. We are growing a vibrant, knowledge-based economy, and our future has never been brighter," Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said in the annual State of the State address.

The governor's 47-minute speech highlighted the budget turnaround, from a $2 billion deficit in 2003 to a $1.7 billion surplus, and outlined new proposals for stiffer penalties for teenage drunken drivers, state funding for stem-cell research and tax breaks for low-income homeowners and military veterans.
Read it here.

As in Pennsylvania, Maryland's gubenatorial race between Gov. Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is going to be fought on a non-ideological basis. That means it is probably going to be very, very dirty. Already the Dems are trying to gin up corruption charges, which is sort of funny because their candidate is mayor of Baltimore, which is a cesspool of corruption.

The senatorial contest between Michael Steele and Ben Cardin -- now that's another matter. There both sides are playing racial politics and there is a clear ideological difference between the two candidates. That, of course, doesn't stop Cardin's people from getting down and dirty.

Pennsylvania Politics -- The Leaders

The latest Strategic Vision poll is out. It shows a number of interesting trends.

In the Republican competition to challenge inumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, Lynn Swann is burying Bill Scranton. Not only does Swann lead Scranton by ten points, 44% to 34%, he also beats Rendell, 46% to 44%. Scranton would lose to Rendell, 46% to 41%. This shows a lot of stability on the Rendell side. His approval rating is 45% and he polls 44-46% against his likely Republican challengers. No motion there and that number is going to be hard to move. What it all means is that this is Swann's race to win or lose. Swanny is new to the game, but he's a big game guy. This will be interesting.

Parenthetically, for those who think race will hurt Swann, a few days ago Scranton's campaign referred to Swann as "the rich white guy" in the race. The staffer who said that was fired in an excess of PC silliness [here], but he spoke some truth. Swann's popularity is such that he transcends racial indentity. When voters look at him they don't see black, they see Steeler black and gold.

In the Senatorial race. Santorum is inching a bit closer. He now loses to Casey 40% to 50%. What is significant here is that Casey seems not to have been hurt at all by his strongly pro-life statements and his support for Samuel Alito's confirmation. Republicans had hoped that as liberals learned more about Casey they would turn from him, but that's not happening. It is going to be very hard for Santorum to make up a ten point deficit. That doesn't mean that the race won't tighten, but Santorum has a long row to hoe.

On the national level Rudy Giuliani seems to be Pennsylvania republicans' main man. He outpolls McCain 35% to 22%. Condi comes in a distant third at 13%. No social conservative polls better than 2%. On the Democrat side, Hillary gets 35% and stands alone -- nobody else comes close.

Right now anti-incumbent fervor is a tidal force in Pennsylvania. This is not a good year to be an incumbent, and right now Swann and Casey are looking good.

A more important point is starting to emerge. By and large Pennsylvania voters are sick to death of the ideological warfare that has characterized national politics for decades. They aren't upset by Casey's pro-life position or by Swann's skin color. Those factors won't move many votes. Nor will Bush's war in Iraq. Pennsylvania voters are far more concerned with non-ideological bread and butter issues.

Of course, that could all change in a heartbeat.

Stay tuned.

Read the poll results here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Wolfgang!

Today is the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth. I will be playing his music on my I-pod all day long. It will probably be a very good day, if only for that reason.

For more on the man and his music visit the Mozart Project here.

Wal-mart Redux

I have been generally supportive of Wal-mart in its continuing battle against union thuggery. Some of my readers take an opposing position. That's good. In support of my position, I would note that, during a time when unemployment figures are near their historical lows and there are plenty of alternative positions available, people still want to work at Wal-mart. In Chicago recently 25,000 people applied for 325 positions at a newly opened store.

Read about it here.

Palestinian Democracy Babes

Somehow this doesn't have quite the same impact as the hubbalacious Lebanese supermodels, but it's better than the guys with the guns. Or is it? A lot of the Palestinian babes are packing heat. Girls with guns..., hmmmm.

Hamas Victory -- What Does It Mean?

The victory of Hamas, a terrorist organization, in the Palestinian elections is being widely reported in the MSM as a disaster for President Bush. That it may be, but let's wait and see.

For coverage of the elections themselves see NYT here, WaPo here, and BBC here.

At the least this election brushes aside the intricate network of lies and deceptions that has characterized the diplomatic "peace process" for decades. For the first time negotiations will actually involve a party that authentically represents the will of the Palestinian people, assuming of course that Israel and the West are willing to negotiate with a government led by Hamas.

Right now everyone is making brave and ridiculous statements. Israelis say they will never, ever negotiate with Hamas. Hamas is reiterating its calls for Israel's destruction. Bibi Netanyahu is all over the media, calling for no negotiations. Fatah and Hamas partisans are fighting in the street. Things are getting interesting. Israel is scheduled to have elections in two months. The outcome there will have a profound effect on everything else.

Once the excitement abates there will be plenty of time for measured consideration of what it all means, and the battles over that meaning will be fought in the western media with as much ferocity as those taking place in the streets of Ramallah.

Let the games begin.

The BBC argues that Hamas' win invalidates Bush's MidEast policy.
For all President George W Bush's talk of bringing democracy to the Middle East, Hamas' victory in a ballot of the Palestinian people is as awkward a result as he could have expected.
Read it here.

Walter Laqueur writes:

Is the Hamas victory such a terrible disaster? I do not think so. Of course, it would be ideal if there would be a peace party in the Palestinian camp, but there is not nor will there be in the near future....

Hamas is not the party of accommodation, but the party of war; yet it is too weak to wage war at the present time. Hamas got so many votes not because of its ideological manifesto but because Fatah was so widely detested. Being in power it will have to declare a truce, officially or unofficially; heaven knows whether such a truce will hold. (In fact, I would not rule out a split within the ranks of Hamas).

The situation is in some respects similar to that in Ireland—IRA and Sinn Fein—but even in Ireland the transformation of the IRA took a long time. In Israel/ Palestine it will take even longer. In the meantime the policy started by Sharon, to vacate territories, is the only sensible one; it is not doing a favor to Hamas or anyone else but simply retreating from an untenable position.

Read it here.

Pajamas Media has a sampling from the Bloggy masses. [here]

BBC has a roundup of reactions from world leaders. [here]

The National Review gets in touch with its Leninist side and proclaims the Hamas victory a good thing because "worse is better." [here]

Interestingly Laqueur and the National Review writer [Emanuele Ottolenghi] both see this as a good thing from diametrically opposite positions. Lacuqeur says that this will force Israel to abandoned the deceptions and illusions that have guided its policy in the past, while Ottolenghi argues the same for Hamas. Let's hope that both are right. The diplomatic maisma of the "peace process" has obscured perspectives in this region for far too long and has allowed, even encouraged, all of the participants to adopt unrealistic positions. It is time, finally, for some clarity.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Well, Now -- This Is Interesting!

The NY Sun reports:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Read it here.

I have no idea how reliable this information is, but it seemed inconceivable at the time that Saddam would not be trying to build CBR stockpiles. And there were unconfirmed reports at the time of mysterious shipments of materials into Syria. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't believe Mr. Sada yet, but wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be true.

The Sun argues that confirmation of WMD shipments would shift the political debate in America, but I fear that it is much too late for that. The left has gotten plenty of mileage out of the "Bush lied" trope and attitudes have become so fixed on the matter that new evidence is unlikely to make much difference.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Darfur Update -- The Shame of the African Union

In case you were wondering how the world has been responding to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Dan Simpson, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, provides a useful summary.

1) The African Union (AU) -- a 53 member body of African states, is holding its annual summit in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where the atrocities are taking place. This indicates at the least AU insensitivity to the ongoing violence and, at worst, AU endorsement of the Sudanese government's policies that have not only tolerated, but have actually exacerbated the criisis. What is worse, the Sudanese President, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been chosen to head up the AU in 2007.

2) The AU is using the suffering of the people of Darfur as a tool to extort money from the West. Here's the situation. Islamic, pro-government, Arab militias [the Janjaweed], are preying upon Black Christian and animist Africans, raping, murdering, enslaving, etc [the usual] in Darfur. The Sudanese government has been sponsoring endless nonproductive talks aimed at ending the assaults, but these are a sham -- simply a cover for continuing violence, something to point to when critics demand that something be done. To its shame the US government, along with other western powers, has bought into this fiction as an excuse for inaction. The AU has stationed 7,000 "peacekeepers" in the region, but they have been totally ineffective. As with the peace talks the peacekeepers simply serve as a cover for continued violence. Now here comes the scam. The AU has announced that it cannot afford to maintain a peacekeeping presence in Darfur unless the West coughs up money. The US was asked to contribute $50 million.

3) The UN has offered to send peacekeeping forces to replace those the AU proposes to withdraw. Sudan has rejected this offer for the obvious reason that UN forces, for all their ineffectiveness, would not be under Sudanese control. This refusal precludes any effective response to the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

So what's the upshot?

The absolute worst part is that, while Khartoum, the other African capitals, New York and Washington fiddle, Darfur burns: Women are raped, children starve and economic activity is non-existent. The last question is, how long can this go on?

The answer, unfortunately, is that it has already gone on for three years and it seems that the Sudanese capacity for suffering is endless. It simply should not be that the rest of Africa's and the world's ability to stand by without acting is also, apparently, endless.

Read it here.

This is the continuing legacy of anti-colonialism. Cynicism, corruption, systematic extermination, widespread indifference to suffering, and an the inability of western governments to affect the situation to any meaningful extent.



Nick Kristof, writing in the NYT Book Review characterizes the situation in Darfur as "Genocide in Slow Motion."

He writes:

In my years as a journalist, I thought I had seen a full kaleidoscope of horrors, from babies dying of malaria to Chinese troops shooting students to Indonesian mobs beheading people. But nothing prepared me for Darfur, where systematic murder, rape, and mutilation are taking place on a vast scale, based simply on the tribe of the victim. What I saw reminded me why people say that genocide is the worst evil of which human beings are capable.

On one of the first of my five visits to Darfur, I came across an oasis along the Chad border where several tens of thousands of people were sheltering under trees after being driven from their home villages by the Arab Janjaweed militia, which has been supported by the Sudan government in Khartoum. Under the first tree, I found a man who had been shot in the neck and the jaw; his brother, shot only in the foot, had carried him for forty-nine days to get to this oasis. Under the next tree was a widow whose parents had been killed and stuffed in the village well to poison the local water supply; then the Janjaweed had tracked down the rest of her family and killed her husband. Under the third tree was a four-year-old orphan girl carrying her one-year-old baby sister on her back; their parents had been killed. Under the fourth tree was a woman whose husband and children had been killed in front of her, and then she was gang-raped and left naked and mutilated in the desert.

Those were the people I met under just four adjacent trees. And in every direction, as far as I could see, were more trees and more victims—all with similar stories.

Read the whole thing here.

Kristof marvels at the inaction of the West and, this being the NYT, takes a few gratuitous and somewhat dishonest swipes at the Bush administration, but the story told in his article and the books he is reviewing is one of the great shames of our time. I applaud him for attempting to bring it to public attention.

The great tragedy of the Iraq War is that resistance to it was so widespread and determined that it makes subsequent interventions almost impossible, but as Darfur shows, great power intervention is a necessity if anything is to be done to save these people.

Maryland Politics -- The Culture Wars Intervene

A controversial court decision is threatening to completely disrupt the carefully-laid election plans of Maryland's Democratic Party.

Last week a Baltimore Circuit Court struck down the State's law banning same-sex marriages, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional. The judge immediately stayed the decision and the State Attorney General appealed it.

Here's the problem. The decision hands the Republicans a ready-made campaign issue. Gov. Ehrlich already has stated that he supports an amendment to the Maryland Constitution banning same-sex marriages and some Republican delegates are already starting to campaign on the issue.

Democrats, sensing that the election might be getting away from them, are desperate to get this issue out of the way. Their greatest fear is that in the heat of the election season the Appeals Court will render a judgment supporting the Circuit Court ruling. That could hurt them badly -- suppressing the black vote, which polls overwhelmingly against same sex marriage, while handing the Republicans an issue that would energize social conservatives.

To forestall this eventuality, the Democrat-controlled State Assembly contemplates passing a law that would allow them to seek an injunction putting off any court action on the case until next year. This, all legal experts agree, would be unconstitutional. What is more, gay activist groups are solidly opposed to any delay in a court proceeding from which they expect to benefit.

So, the Democrats have a dilemma. To allow the courts to proceed threatens to stir up culture issues that will hurt them. But, to delay a decision would alienate gays and raise the issue of unconstituional assertion of authority on the part of the Democrat majority in the Legislature. As it stands now it's a no-win situation.

Some Democrats are pushing for an early resolution of the appeal, hoping to put as much time as possible between it and the election, but Republicans will still be able to make a constitutional amendment a campaign issue.

It seems that same-sex marriage is going to be an issue this fall and there's little that the Democrats can do about it. Their best chance, it seems, is to hope that the Republicans over-reach and spark a backlash. Given the proven idiocy of some of the Republican delegates [I'm talkin' 'bout you, Dwyer] that is a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned.

Check out the WaPo story on the issue here.

Winter Blues

It's cold up here in the mountains. Today it's overcast, dreary, raw, with occasional precip -- one of those days that encourages the depressed to thoughts of suicide and others to fantasies of tropical cruises. I have a brother in Florida I haven't seen in a while..., hmmm.

"She Who Must Not Be Named" has a headache. As I try to write she's standing in my office keeping up a non-stop stream of conversation -- complaints about how much she is suffering, comments on the TV, requests that I change channels to check the markets, etc. [I have c-span on in the background, she is currently commenting on Arlen Specter's hair, earlier she was noticing just how much Jeannie Ohm looks like Connie Chung].

We have diametrically opposed responses to illness. When I am sick I want to be alone, preferably in a dark room, where I can suffer in silence. "She," on the other hand, wants to be the center of attention which means today she wants me to engage her in "conversation" which makes it impossible to write anything coherent.

The joys of home ownership...

The twenty-year-old home alarm system on our mountain home went on the blink a few days ago. Yesterday a guy came to repair it and pronounced it beyond hope. They don't make that system anymore and the only thing for it is a complete upgrade. He explained that this would cost several hundreds of dollars, would take at least a full day's work and probably more, and could not be scheduled for several days, a salesman would be contacting us soon, etc. [If you've ever dealt with contractors, you know how it goes].

Well, he did not count on "She."

She may be small and pretty and demure, but she can also be extremely aggressive and tenacious..., and this morning she had a headache and was in a take no prisoners mood. She hit the phones early and somehow wound up talking to the owner of the company that installs and services the alarm system [whom she knows slightly]. She rehearsed for him all the contracts, the payments, the promises, potential liabilities, etc. stretching back twenty years and more, and finally he agreed to a free upgrade and installation, to be done tomorrow morning. A few minutes later the service rep. who had given us a hard time yesterday called back and was all sweetness and light. She may still be sick, but she's also feeling a warm glow of satisfaction. She had won one small battle.

Headaches have their uses.

For myself, I endure and comfort myself with the realization that in just a couple of months we will be experiencing an Appalachian Spring.

The picture is of her early azaleas. They'll be coming out in about ten more weeks.

I can't wait!

The War Against Christianity -- The Pathology of the Left

Frank Furedi, over at Spiked, has an excellent column on the secularist assault on all things Christian. It's so good I have to quote it extensively.
Until recently, cultural expressions of religious faith were simply considered[by the secular elites -- ed] old-fashioned and gauche. But over the past decade, scorn has turned into bigotry and hatred.
Despite the claims of the anti-religious crusaders - especially in the US - that the Christian right is on the rise, in fact in cultural terms it is increasingly marginalised....

[T]he vitriolic invective hurled at Christian believers today is symptomatic of the passions normally associated with a fanatical Inquisitor. Like the old Spanish Inquisition, anti-religious fanatics are constantly on the look out for fundamentalist plots.... The language and tone adopted by the anti-religious crusade - especially in the US - frequently acquires pathological dimensions.

The liberal elite's obsession with the insidious threat posed by faith-based films is paralleled by its paranoia about the religious right. Anti-religious crusaders, in particular in the US, continually exaggerate the influence of Christianity in culture and politics. Raising the alarm about Christian fundamentalists has become a taken-for-granted affectation among those who define themselves as liberal or left-wing, who are forever telling horror stories about the power of the religious right.
Th[e] trend for blaming the rise of theocracy on ordinary folks' apparent penchant for simplistic black-and-white solutions shifts the focus from the elite's failure to promote and uphold a positive vision of the future on to the alleged political illiteracy of the masses. That is why discussions of so-called fundamentalist movements often contain an implicit condemnation of the people who support them - and why the alleged creations of fundamentalist culture are implicitly condemned as immoral. It is the insecurity of the Anglo-American cultural elites about their own values and moral vision of the world that encourages their frenzied attacks on religion.
In the confused cultural elite's fears of a powerful religious right winning over the masses, we can see a good example of bad faith worrying about real faith.
There's much more: Read it here. Then think about it.

More Pennsylvania Politics -- Scranton Is Looking Like a Loser

In the race for the Republican gubenatorial nomination, William Scranton III has been steadily losing ground to Lynn Swann. As Swann' star has risen, Scranton has become more and more desperate. First he began to call for debates [an unmistakable sign of weakness]. Now he is proclaiming that the gloves will be coming off [signaling desperation].

AFTER MONTHS of gentlemanly sparring for the Republican nomination for governor, Bill Scranton yesterday pulled off the gloves, attacking former football star Lynn Swann for refusing to debate and urging party leaders to stay neutral in the race.

The former lieutenant governor said he would stay in the race through the May 16 primary, even if the party leaders endorse Swann at a Republican State Committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 11.

Read it here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum Edges Away from Bush

Bloomberg notes that on issue after issue Sen. Rick Santorum has been shifting positions and taking stances critical of or even in opposition to those of the administration.

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Rick Santorum once openly discussed his efforts to place Republicans in top Washington lobbying jobs. Now, with a federal corruption probe threatening to hurt the party in this year's elections, the Pennsylvania Republican is leading the fight to limit lobbyists' influence.

Santorum's change of course on lobbying is one of several he's made in the past year, on issues including Social Security, Iraq and the theory of intelligent design, as he prepares for a tough re-election battle, said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

``He's running to the center,'' Madonna said.

Read it here.

For the past couple of years Santorum has been taking the bait tossed out by the Democrat left, engaging them in bitter debate on a whole range of issues. This has made him a national, even an international figure. Even in Australia his name generates controversy [here]. Unfortunately for him, though, that is not what most voters want from their elected officials. Belatedly, Santorum has begun to act more like a legislator, and less like a controversial pundit. Is the change too late and too blatant to work? Time will tell.

Stay tuned....

al Qaeda = losers

Christopher Hitchens explains why al Qaeda is losing [that's right, losing].

I have been attacked for callousness and worse for saying that Bin Laden did us a favor on 9/11, but I am increasingly sure I was right. Until that date, he partially owned Afghanistan and his supporters were moving steadily toward the Talibanization of Pakistan as well. There were al-Qaida sympathizers within the Pakistani intelligence services, armed forces, and nuclear establishment (which then included the A.Q. Khan network). There was also an active Saudi support system, consisting mainly of vast tranches of money, for jihadism worldwide. Now, Afghanistan is lost to Bin Laden and Pakistan has had, at least officially, to modify its behavior considerably. The A.Q. Khan network has been shut down. The Saudi ruling class identifies its state interest with a repudiation of al-Qaida, inside and outside its own borders. And the one remaining regime that openly preached holy war and helped train jihadist forces like the "Fedayeen Saddam"—the pseudo-secular terror state in Iraq—has been irretrievably smashed. Wherever Bin Laden is now, it cannot be where he wanted or hoped to be four and a half years ago.

Given the utter discredit and isolation of its forces in Iraq, who would still say that the fighting there is a "distraction" from the hunt for al-Qaida? They have taken tremendous casualties, obviously in the hope that their atrocious tactics would swiftly dissipate coalition morale and coerce Iraqi support. And it seems as if they haven't learned from their mistake.

Read it here.

None of this, of course, has made any impression on the Democrat left, which still mired in the imaginative quagmire of Vietnam, continue to insist against all evidence that Bush has bungled the "War on Terror". They are so invested in this idea that one suspects that at least some of them are rooting for Bin Laden.


Of course the NYT has a contrary view. In a piece today, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon argue that al Qaeda is winning the war and will continue to do so as long as US forces are in Iraq. Read it here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The War On The Bureaucracy, Continued.... Condi's Role

I have frequently noted that one of the great legacies of the Bush administration is its attempt to bring Washington's "permanent government" to heel. The latest front in this ongoing effort was launched last week when Condoleeza Rice issued an ultimatum to the careerists over at State.

Ralph Peters, writing in the NY Post, brands her new course, a "Revolution." He writes:

In a speech at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, where students are deformed into diplomats, Condi cancelled the tea party. Her message was revolutionary and essential. As a result, she may go down in history as the SecState most hated by Foggy Bottom bureaucrats.

Here's what "Killjoy Condi" had to say:

* Diplomats can no longer build careers by hiding behind desks in comfy capitals. They'll have to accept dangerous assignments and serve in hardship posts; develop regional expertise in at least two areas; and speak at least two relevant foreign languages (French waiters need not apply). That ain't going to make Rice popular with diplos accustomed to rotating between Rome and Northwest D.C. on their way to ambassadorships. Yet, it's vital if we're going to convert our failed, 19th-century- model State Department into a useful tool for the 21st century.


Crucially, Condi named China, India, South Africa and Brazil as countries of the future while declaring that an initial 100 diplomatic slots would migrate from Europe immediately to countries that actually matter. More reassignments will follow, with even Moscow demoted to the international enlisted ranks — while Indonesia gets promoted....

Our SecState proposed a range of other innovative initiatives, from lone-gun outposts in major cities that lack a U.S. presence, through mobile diplomatic teams that would become the pin-striped equivalent of Army Rangers, to "Virtual Presence Posts" to harness the power of information technology. Not every program will succeed — but Condi's trying everything she can to bring our Euro-trash diplomacy back from the dead.


The Rice Reforms may not have made headlines last week, but they could become one of the most important legacies of the Bush administration. American diplomacy has to race to catch up with the opportunities exploding in New Delhi, Beijing and Brasilia. Condi just fired the starter pistol.

The careerists at Foggy Bottom will erect bureaucratic barricades and try to wait the secretary out. They may succeed. But every American ought to hope that Condi Rice succeeds in breaking their rice bowls.

Read the whole thing here.

During his first campaign Bush advertised himself as a "reformer with results." He has certainly carried through with the "reformer" half of the promise. In education, in the military, in the intelligence services, in international agencies, and now in the State Department, Bush has launched major reform imperatives that have been long overdue. As to the results..., much depends on whether the bureaucrats are successful in obstructing the reforms. I talk with beltway bureaucrats on a regular basis and their hatred for Bush knows no bounds. He's rocking the boat and upsetting their comfortable career plans and they really, REALLY, don't like it.

As for me, my reaction is, Go Condi, Go Condi, Go Condi, and especially, Go Dubya!!!

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum Narrows Gap, But Not Enough

The latest Rasmussen poll shows Rick Santorum slightly narrowing the gap against Democrat challenger Bobby Casey. He still trails by 15 points, 53% to 38%, but that is an improvement over the last Rasmussen poll in November in which he trailed by 20 points.

That's the good news for Santorum, here's the bad:

Casey's support is holding rock solid at 53%-54%. Santorum had hoped that as voters saw more of Casey they would be disillusioned with him, and there was widespread speculation that Casey's strong anti-abortion stance [he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade] would hurt him among Democrats. But that hasn't happened. Even strong pro-abortion Democrats plan to vote for Casey, so great is their hatred for Santorum.

Oh Canada!

Mark Steyn, the funniest and most perceptive commentator in the Great White North, is blogging the election. [here]

His take on Liberal PM Paul Martin finally conceding defeat:
Given the campaign, that was a reasonably graceful Martin concession speech. But the dismal ugly desperation of the last couple of months will go down as his real swan song. This is a man who set out to reach the top of the greasy pole at all odds, only to find he had no idea of what he wanted to do when he got there. And the price of winning the big prize was a fractured party whose lean mean efficiency dissipated day by day. Ruthlessness is all very well but inept ruthlessness has little to commend it.
Sounds a lot like the Democrat left here, south of the border -- mindlessly ruthless with little to commend them.


Afterwards, Steyn's assessment:
In a very Canadian kind of revolution, we rose up yesterday and threw the bums out but gave them a soft, fluffy landing, nevertheless installing in office a minority government that somehow managed to get itself elected despite having the word "Conservative" in its name.

For Tories, it was a good night, if not a great night. But, given that the party was reduced to two seats in the 1993 debacle, after 12 years in the wilderness most Canadian conservatives will take a strong minority government as a spectacular landslide. We'd be dipping our voting fingers in maple syrup and triumphantly waving them at the UN observers if they hadn't all fallen asleep 20 minutes into the thrilling election-night coverage.

Read the whole article here.

For the Men Who Go Down In the Mines...

Follow this link to read the work of Tommy Armstrong, the late nineteenth-century "Pitman Poet" who memorialized the victims of British mine disasters. A sample:

God protect the lonely widow,
Help to raise each drooping head;
Be a father to the orphans,
Never let them cry for bread.
Death will pay us all a visit,
They have only gone before;
We may meet the Trimdon victims
Where explosions are no more.

[hat tip, Iain Murray]

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Lies of the Left (continued): Academic Integrity at UCLA

Stephen Bainbridge comments on UCLA alumni monitoring political bias in the classroom. Responding to apologists for the academy who argue that effective controls against abuse are already in place he concludes:
I do know that the system is broken and that public scrutiny of how universities spend taxpayer dollars is both appropriate and inevitable. The academic left's knee-jerk effort to delegitimize such scrutiny by invoking labels like witch hunt or McCarthyism will be as bootless as they are duplicitous.
Read it here.

Duplicitous indeed.

The End[s] of Tenure?

Excellent discussion on academic [and judicial] tenure over at the Becker-Posner Blog.

I do not think tenure makes a great deal of sense any longer in the academic setting, and I expect to see it gradually abandoned. [here]
The traditional justification for academic tenure is that otherwise professors would be unwilling to express unpopular views for fear of being fired. This argument for academic tenure is extremely weak in the United States where several thousand colleges and universities compete for professors. [here]
The comments sections are particularly interesting, as are Becker and Posner's responses [here] and [here].

Super Steelers!

It is still a very good thing to be a Steelers fan.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Condi's Transformational Diplomacy

I previously noted the ambitious reorganization of America's foreign aid and diplomatic institutions by the Dubya/Condi team [here]. The WaPo has a good brief overview here.

A YEAR INTO her tenure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proposed important shifts in the country's diplomatic posture. She plans to move 100 State Department officers out of Washington and Europe and closer to the challenges of the 21st century -- how to forge partnerships with emerging powers such as India, how to contain fast-spreading global diseases, how to combat the nihilistic strains of political Islam. She promises to create a new unit of Arabic speakers to defend U.S. policies in Middle Eastern media, and she wants to move diplomats out of fortified compounds in the capitals and into important provincial cities. These sensible reforms ought to be doable, but Ms. Rice has also committed herself to two more daunting efforts. She has reiterated her ambitions for the new and beleaguered Reconstruction and Stabilization Office. And she has created a new post of director of foreign assistance with the rank of deputy secretary in the hope of bringing cohesion to fragmented aid programs.

The article further notes the difficulty of bringing any significant reform to the vast State and Aid bureaucracies and concludes on a sceptical note:
Ms. Rice... has described foreign assistance as central to what she calls "transformational diplomacy." It will take some tough battles to lend substance to those words.
Yes it will, but remember, Condi is the "warrior princess."

Read it here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Swann Rises

He's not the official Republican candidate [still has to get past Bill Scranton] but Lynn Swann beats incumbent Democrat Governor, Ed Rendell, in the latest poll.

Rasmussen Reports:

January 19, 2006--Our latest poll of the race for Pennsylvania governor shows Republican Lynn Swann, the former receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, narrowly leading Democratic Governor Ed Rendell 45% to 43%.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters view Swann favorably; 47% view Rendell favorably.

Swann formally declared his candidacy just two weeks ago, on January 4. But he has enjoyed early success in securing endorsements from two of six regional caucuses in his quest for the party nomination. The Republican state Committee will endorse a candidate on February 11.

Rendell does much better against former Lt. Governor Bill Scranton III, leading 46% to 36%.

Read it here.

Clearly Swann has greater voter appeal than does Scranton, which is the main point to be gleaned from this poll. Republicans are just a few weeks from choosing their gubenatorial candidate, and the remaining caucuses are mostly in territiory where Scranton is expected to do well. This poll undercuts him and strongly boosts Swann's chances of opposing Rendell in the fall.

So far, Swann has avoided taking specific positions on much of anything. The current poll reflects, more than anything else, Rendell's unpopularity as governor. So long as the Republicans can field an attractive personality [which Swann is] and avoid making major mistakes, they can beat Rendell with very little.

Not long ago Democrats were talking up Rendell as a possible presidential candidate in 08 or 12. His haplessness as governor has seriously limited party enthusiasm for him. A loss to Swanny would be fatal to his national ambitions.

All is Not What It Seems to Be

Remember all those stories about the Florida teen who traveled to Iraq to satisfy a requirement in his high school journalism class? Of course you do! It was all over the media.

Well, it turns out that his story is not what it was reported to be. There was no journalism class. He traveled with his parents' knowledge and assistance. His father has close connections with Islamist radicals. And while in the Middle East the teen made contact with Hiz'bullah.

Doug Hagmann at NIN is all over the story. Why, he wonders, did the MSM simply accept the boy and his parents' lies at face value? Why did nobody check the story out? I guess that's too much to expect from today's hotshot journalists.

Read it here.

Mugabe's Latest Obscenity

ABC [Australia] reports:

In Zimbabwe, where many people are starving and human rights violations are frequently in the international spotlight, President Robert Mugabe is asking people to pay for a lavish party for his 82nd birthday.

Almost half of all Zimbabweans can no longer afford to feed themselves, with 4.3 million people reliant on international food aid this year.

Inflation has hit 586 per cent in the devastated economy.

But with the Zimbabwean President turning 82, his priority is a big birthday bash to be paid for by community fundraising.

The aging autocrat has told the nation's 10 provinces to fundraise at least $15,000 each to pay for his official celebrations.

A ruling party youth leader was quoted in the Government press as saying Zimbabweans were "blessed" to have a President of such high calibre.

Read it here.

"Blessed" -- Faugh!!!

Culloden revisited

Archaeologists are reinterpreting the battle of Culloden. Check it out here.

Lies of the Left, continued....

Code Pink has been caught photoshopping pictures of Iranian pro-democracy demonstrators to make it appear that they are participating in Iraqi anti-war rallies. Publius has the story here.


Mogey's Tale -- The Camels are Dying

Here's another of those stories that isn't getting much play in the MSM because it doesn't affect domestic politics.

Reuters reports:

LAGBOGOL, Kenya - Deprived of milk since her mother died in childbirth, newborn Mogey lies in her grandmother's lap, too weak to open her eyes or cry for food. [pictured right above]

The 20-day-old Kenyan baby, whose name means "one who has never seen her mother" in the local language, will struggle to survive. Her belly is swollen, her limbs limp.

"She was born one month prematurely as her mother was weak and starving," said her 60-year-old grandmother, Habiba Abdi.

"Now my daughter has died, Mogey is my child and I must somehow try to keep her alive."

In this remote, arid region of northeastern Kenya, the food crisis that is threatening millions of east Africans with starvation has already claimed its first victims.

At least 30 people have died, with dozens more probably also perishing in remote inaccessible areas, local residents and officials say. Many others are showing signs of malnutrition.

Aid agencies have warned that east Africa could be on the brink of a "humanitarian catastrophe" as food stocks dwindle in Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea and Tanzania after poor rains hit harvests.

The severity of the crisis has shocked people in Kenya, east Africa's richest nation and a top attraction for tourists who flock to its reserves and parks for safari holidays.

The number of people who face starvation is spiralling ever higher -- on Wednesday, Kenya's minister for emergency operations said the figure in his country had surged to around 4 million from an estimate of 2.5 million in December.

The United Nations has said that around 6 million people are threatened by hunger across the region.


Diseases such as cholera are also likely to spread as thousands of livestock die of hunger, leaving decomposing carcasses near villages and water points.

"The sheep have died, the cattle have died and now the more resilient animals such as goats and camels are dying through lack of grazing land and waters," said Ahmed Mohamed Farah, who works for a government body set up to monitor the drought.

"We know from experience that when camels start dying, humans are next."

Read the whole thing here. [emphasis mine]

These are the sorts of things to which we have to start paying attention. For decades elite opinion in the US has tried to slough the horrors of the world off onto an array of incompetent and corrupt NGOs while retreating behind the elaborate intellectual evasions of multiculturalism and transnationalism. But, as Wretchard reminds us, since 9/11, "the problems in the Third World won't go away; and in an age of globalization and mass immigration, they are no longer separable from events in the First World."

Until such time as international agencies can be thoroughly reformed so as to become both responsible and responsive the moral burden of dealing with these crises falls disproportionately on the developed world, and particularly on the United States. The Bush administration recognizes this and has dramatically increased aid to Africa while mounting truly heroic responses to natural catastrophes like the Southeast Asian tsunami. At the same time through the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank [here and here], and the appointment of John R. Bolton to represent the US at the UN Bush has sought to bring some accountability to those agencies. And, together with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, has initiated wide-ranging reforms of both the US State Department and USAID. [here] and

Like the war on terror, the war on bureaucratic incompetence and corruption, both in the US and the international agencies, is the work of generations, but it is a matter of immense importance. President Bush deserves high acclaim for undertaking this difficult and thankless task, one guaranteed to generate rising levels of protest from the "professionals" whose comfortable little worlds are being disrupted. In the end, it is possible that this effort at bureaucratic reform will be his greatest legacy to the United States and to the world.

Environmental "Scientists" Blog

Be prepared to hear a lot about the environment over the next year or so. Democrats have decided to make it a campaign theme -- one that is calculated to attract independent voters. The authors of Realclimate, all credentialed "experts", promise an "objective" take on the various sensational and biased stories that appear in the media. It's worth checking out here.

Why the scare quotes? Because, as I have pointed out time and again, academic and professional credentials are by no means a guarantee of quality, and in a field so poorly defined and so fraught with political meaning as "environmental science", where so many discrete disciplines interact, objectivity is a chimera. Still, these guys appear to be making a sincere effort to sort out the mess, and that deserves our attention.

Cassini Photos

From Der Spiegel. some of the best astronomical photos you will see this year.

Check them out here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Condi, Condi, Condi...

I'm a bit late on this one because I was under the weather, but what a wonderful picture. Condi and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the newly elected President of Liberia. Hopefully in a couple of years President Johnson-Sirleaf can travel to Washington to attend Condi's inaguration.

Well, we can dream, can't we?

Maryland Politics -- Cardin's Mfume Problem

Dustin Hawkins analyzes the Democrats' dilemma in the upcoming Senatorial race. The Republicans are running a black candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, while the Democrats face a primary battle to choose their candidate. Six Democrats have declared, but only two matter. The Democrat establishment is united behind Rep. Ben Cardin, a white man, but he is being challenged by former Rep. and President of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume. Hawkins notes:

Had Mfume not entered the race, most of the worries of losing large voting blocs would have been avoided. Without Mfume in the mix, Cardin would have been viewed as the candidate most qualified to run for the seat and his nomination would not have been seen as yet another denial of the Democratic Party to select black candidates for higher office in statewide elections.

But by staying in the race, and as a former congressman himself, Mfume is undoubtedly a credentialed, qualified candidate. If the Democratic Party establishment dismisses Mfume, both nationally and statewide, the repercussions in the general election could be enough to swing the election.

Read it here.

There is a real danger here for Democrats. They cannot be perceived as neglecting their base in the Black community, but rejecting Mfume in favor of a White candidate would ratify that perception. The Cardin camp's tactic so far has consisted of a scurrilous whispering campaign against Kweisi, trying to portray him as a "bad man." [Not my words, but those of a promient Democrat contributor.] It might work.

Actually, Kweisi, who has consistently tried to reach out across racial and partisan boundaries, would be preferable to Cardin, who is a partisan hack, but odds are that he will fail against a united Democrat establishment. If that should happen, it could open the way for Michael Steele to become the Republican Barak Obama.

Things are getting interesting.

Stay tuned.

A New Front Opens In the War on the Bureaucracy

The "War on Terror" gets all the attention, but no less significant is the ongoing "War on the Bureaucracy."

For decades now it has been apparent to anyone outside the Beltway that the "permanent government" in Washington was largely dysfunctional. Successive administrations, from Reagan on, have promised to do something about it.

Reagan promised to shrink the whole damn thing, but made little headway.

Poppy Bush, in the wake of the Gulf War, began a long-overdue reorganization of the Armed Forces, an effort that has continued ever since, accompanied by an endless barrage of criticism from retired military officers who liked things the way they had been before thank you very much.

Clinton, to his credit, expanded the reforms into the Justice department and to some extent into the social service bureaucracy and promised much, much more. [Remember the Gore Commission report? That's ok, nobody else does.] Of course we were treated at the time to an endless barrage of complaints from "former federal prosecuters" and such who said that Justice was being politicized and they liked thing the way they had been before thank you very much.

Dubya has accelerated the military reforms and undertaken a massive reform of the intelligence services [accompanied, of course, by an endless barrage of criticism from former intelligence officers who liked things the way they had been before thank you very much].

Now it is State's turn.

The WaPo reports:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

The State Department's culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them," she said. "The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

And of course, the chorus of complaints rises from the careerists:
As a first step, 100 jobs in Europe and Washington will be immediately shifted to expanded embassies in countries such as India, China and Lebanon. Many of these diplomats had been scheduled to rotate into coveted posts in European capitals this summer, and the sudden change in assignment has caused some distress, State Department officials said.
Read about it here.

"Some distress," I'll bet! Expect a deluge of leaks and critical articles and books written by "former State Department officials" to hit the bookstands and airwaves in the next few years. Bureaucrats can't stand it when politicians rock the boat and upset their career plans.

John Kennedy used to complain that he would issue orders and they would somehow get lost in the bureaucracy. Those days are now gone. For a long time the permanent government has looked with disdain upon the politicians, viewing administrations as mere transients to be ignored when possible, and tolerated when necessary. Now the politicians are at last beginning to take control of the vast federal apparatus. More power to them. In a democratic system it is the politicians and their representatives who must control the governmental process.

Go Condi, go Condi, go Condi..., and of course Go Dubya!!!


The natives are getting restless. WaPo reports:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced a barrage of pointed questions yesterday from employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development, who expressed concerns that an administration move to centralize the management of foreign assistance will weaken the agency and place short-term political goals ahead of long-term development aims.
Read it here.

Wisdom and a Warning From the Belmont Club

Wretchard notes the enormous discrepancy between the actual state of world affairs -- the extermination of 180,000 East Timorese by Indonesia, the ongoing horror on the Ivory Coast, etc -- and the West's obsessive agonizing over matters of marginal import. He suggests that this horrid set of skewed priorities cannot last long. He writes:
[T]he problems in the Third World won't go away; and in an age of globalization and mass immigration, they are no longer separable from events in the First World. Problems like those in the Ivory Coast, as well as the more proximate crisis of Iran are remarkable in that they do not involve Great Powers. For the last twenty years the World News has been driven by events in the what used to be the periphery of the world. The Balkans, Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia have somehow insinuated themselves into the center stage of history. What events like the Ivory Coast and the humiliating rejection of the EU3 in Iran will do is add to the growing disrepute of the traditional instruments of statecraft upon which the First World relied upon to deal with Third World problems. Multilateral organizations, aid programs, nongovernment organizations, while not completely useless, are in their present forms completely inadequate to the task.
Read the whole thing here.

There are plenty of people here in the US, not to speak of the lotus eaters of the EU, who would love to withdraw from engagement with the great problems of the world. These neo-isolationists, [and lets face it, liberal transnationalism is just another form of isolationism that says, "throw some money at the NGOs and let them worry about it"] are treading an extremely perilous path. Like the cynics who can only see the "war on terror" through the prisim of American domestic political maneuvering, or the idiots who urge France to unilaterally disarm in the face of a new nuclear threat, or the news organizations who obsess over Guantanamo while ignoring Harare, they are dancers on the edge of the abyss.

John Keegan said it best. These are "bad and troubling times."

And While the Subject is France.....

This is what those kooky "scientists" are up to now....

Cranfield University reports:

"Vieux Boulogne, a soft, yet firm French cheese made from cow’s milk and matured by washing with beer, tops a list of the smelliest cheeses reveals scientists today. The artisan-made cheese was tested for its smell along with other known pungent cheeses by Cranfield University on behalf of Fine Cheeses from France.

“Love it or loathe it, the sign of a fine cheese is often its characteristic smell as well as its flavour and texture and we wanted to find out if France’s reputation for producing smelly cheeses was true,” said Sally Clarke from Fine Cheeses from France.

Read it here.

Soft, yet firm..., and smelly. Hmmm....

Paris By Night!

Now that's a rose window!

Cool panoramic view of Paris by Night.

Check out the full picture here. [to see the whole thing scroll left-right]

Moonbat Alert -- Osama is a Republican Operative

Jack Cafferty goes off the deep end over at CNN. Hugh Hewitt has the gory details here.

Apparently Cafferty and his viewers think that Osama bin Laden's tapes have been issued in order to divert attention away from Republican scandals. This is in line with Senator Kennedy's oft expressed suggestion that the whole "war on terror" was ginned up by Karl Rove to keep Democrats from regaining control of the government.

With apologies to some of my readers who have voiced similar opinions in the past -- this is undiluted moonbattery and not worthy of serious consideration. It is a sad commentary on our times that a major political figure and a news-reader at an international news organization could express such barking lunacy.

Keep on barking guys, we still love ya..., and don't forget to vote in 2006 for the candidate of your choice.

France Gets Tough?

Well, now, who's the cowboy here?

Reuters reports:
BREST, France (Reuters) - France said on Thursday it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack against it, reaffirming the need for its nuclear deterrent.
Ya got that, pilgrim?

Well, not really France [unless he is channeling Louis XIV], but it was Jacques Chirac himself rattling the nuclear sabre. Ya gotta admit, the old fraud does do a damn good Duke Wayne imitation.

Read it here.

It is interesting to note that there is apparently a broad public sentiment in France favoring nuclear disarmament at precisely the time that Iran is acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Funny that.