Day By Day

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The fustian rattle that permeates the blogosphere today centers on Steve Colbert's comedy routine at last nights Washington Correspondents' Dinner. I watched it. You can too, here. To me it was less a comedy bit than a nasty and mean-spirited attack on the President and all those who support him. Leftys found it to be hilarious and brave. I thought it was tedentious, mean and embarrassing. Some would say that makes me a conservative. They would be wrong.

Joe Gandelman, in his informed review [he is a professional comedian and ventriloquist], notes that Colbert's routine was based in heavy irony -- or as I would put it, "snark" -- and explains that irony only works in front of a crowd that shares your basic assumptions. Clearly the lefty bloggers shared Colbert's hostility to the President; that's why they praise him. I don't share those assumptions, and from its reaction neither did the audience of mostly left of center journalists and celebrities. For the most part Colbert received only nervous titters. In short he bombed.

Some attribute this to his daring hipness and the stodginess of the audience. But more important, I think, is the fact that Colbert completely misunderstood the purpose of the occasion. The Correspondents' Dinner is supposed to be a place where journalists and government figures can let down their guards and interact in friendly environment. Self-deprecating humor is the order of the day. But Colbert's humor, if that is what it can be called, was nasty and mean, completely contrary to what was called for in those circumstances. It was simply inappropriate behavior.

takes the discussion beyond the question of left/right bias or appropriateness and trains his guns, quite rightly, on the absurd pretentiousness of both Colbert's fans and the media figures in the audience. The suggestion, made by many on the left, that Colbert was being brave in speaking truthiness to power or some such thing is just plain ridiculous. Bloggedy points out that snark is pervasive in Washington dialogue as is a sense of self-importance that is impervious to satire. He writes:

[I]t has become tiresome to hear talk of courage in this case, as if Colbert is in some fear for his life, but chose to stand against the fascist state and mock the president and media. Rubbish. The easiest place in the world to be snarky is Washington D.C. The Capitol virtually runs on snark. I pointed out that courage would be exemplified by an Iraqi mocking Saddam (when still in office) where speaking against the government carried very real danger.

The other point that begs to be made is that the shrieking about police states, etc. demonstrates just how humorless much of Colbert's audience is. There is less comedy being made than the fiction that Colbert and Jon Stewart "speak" for some voiceless mass. In the age of the ubiquitous opinion, screaming at the top of one's lungs that one's speech is being stolen is absurd and in itself, the best form of satire practiced today.

Well said!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Katrina Coverup [continued]

Big Lizard analyzes the Senate Homeland Security Committee's report on the Katrina disaster and notes that its content is quite different from what was reported in the MSM. In particular he lables AP coverage "the most egregiously biased and slanted Katrina story since the first days after the storm itself, when the antique media blithely repeated ludicrous and lurid rumors of rapes, murders, and cannibalism -- and laid it all at the doorstep of the White House." [emphasis in original]

Read it here.

Anthems Past, Present, and Future

For those who are all hot and bothered by the Hispanic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, Hugh Hewitt reminds us that we ripped off the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen" and renamed it "My Country Tis Of Thee". What is more, the same melody is the national anthem of Liechtenstein, and has also served as an anthem for Germany, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

So, Hewitt asks, are those who "are upset with the British music producer ripping off the Star Spangled banner are also calling for an end to the singing of 'My Country Tis of Thee?'"

Good point.

Negotiating with Diplophobes

David Ignatius is slowly, but surely, shedding his fixation with the sixties and seventies and coming to terms with the modern world. It is finally dawning on him that things have changed since he was young. In a perceptive article he notes that Western negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons development have gone nowhere for the simple reason that Iran refuses to negotiate in good faith. The Iranians, he argues, exhibit an obstinacy that can only be termed, "diplophobia."
Iran's implacability may have been the most important lesson of the three years of "negotiations" over its nuclear program....

[T]he Iranians displayed a similar refusal to negotiate during their long and bloody war with Iraq in the 1980s. The exhausted Iraqis made efforts to seek a negotiated peace, but the Iranians rejected their feelers.
Iranian "diplophobia" is currently on display every time President Ahmadinejad opens his mouth. The point to note here is that Ahmadinejad, except for his unusual bluntness, is not different from past Iranian leaders.

Optimists attribute this to disagreement among Iran's ruling elites, but Ignatius has a much more plausible explanation:
For a theocratic regime that claims a mandate from God, the very idea of compromise is anathema. Great issues of war and peace will be resolved by God's will, not by human negotiators. Better to lose than to bargain with the devil. Better to suffer physical hardship than humiliation.
And the problem is not just Iran. Ignatius notes:
This same blockage is evident in other conflicts with Muslim groups. Al-Qaeda doesn't seek negotiations or a political settlement, nor should the West imagine it could reach one with a group that demands that America and its allies withdraw altogether from the Muslim world.
And simply waiting for the Islamists to grow up and quit acting like malignant children is not going to work:
The West has placed its hopes on the political maturation of radical Muslim groups, figuring that as they assume responsibility, they will grow accustomed to the compromises that are essential to political life. But so far, there is little evidence to support this hope.
To this point Ignatius' analysis is solid. But then he embarks on a flight of wishful fantasy.

If it is impossible to negotiate with the Islamists, or to wait them out, then what is to be done if we are to avoid war?

Ignatius hopes that psychology will offer a solution. He writes:
A word that recurs in radical Muslim proclamations is "dignity." That is not a political demand, nor one that can be achieved through negotiation. Indeed, for groups that feel victimized, negotiation with a powerful adversary can itself be demeaning....
But, Ignatius hopes, it is possible to assuage the sense of inferiority that underlies Islamist radicalism.

The Muslim demand for respect isn't something that can be negotiated, but that doesn't mean the West shouldn't take it seriously. For as the Muslim world gains a greater sense of dignity in its dealings with the West, the fundamental weapon of Iran, al-Qaeda and Hamas will lose much of its potency.

Read it here.

Yeah, sure, and what would that entail? The only way the West can confer "dignity" on the Islamists is to accede to their demands, which would mean nuclearizing Iran and any other radical group that demands entry into the nuclear club, withdrawing from objectionable territory, assuming the aspect of dhimmitude in dealings with the Muslim world, and giving priority within our own lands to Islamic cultural and political demands.

To be succinct, that's not gonna happen.

President Bush, a far wiser man than his critics, understands that there is only one way out of this dilemma. That is to encourage the emergence of an effective alternative to the despots and Islamist radicals who, until recently, dominated the Muslim world. That is precisely what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and what we are encouraging elsewhere. The establishment of authentic Muslim democracies that can deal with the West on mutually respectful and dignified terms will create an alternative to the current dilemma -- the one Ignatius is beginning to understand.

It's a nice try! Ignatius is half right. It's been interesting to watch his intellectual development over the past several months. That maturation distinguishes him from most of his WaPo colleagues, who seem to be as inflexible in their core assumptions as Ahmadinejad, but he still has a long way to go. Let us wish him Godspeed.


Toby, the Bilious Young Fogey, is on a tear. He has a message [here] for those posthumanist loons who would willingly sacrifice the lives of millions of children in Africa rather than allow the use of DDT [because it was once thought to have adverse impact on bird populations].

And another message [here] for those in the gay community who hate Bush so much that they attempt to undermine his war on Islamist radicalism.

The moral imbecility of the Left never ceases to amaze and dismay me.

Women's Liberation, Saudi Style

You never know in advance just what form progress will take.

The Telegraph reports:

It is hailed as a major step forward for women's emancipation in Saudi Arabia: in the coming weeks they will enjoy the right to buy lingerie from female shop assistants.

This may be a far cry from bra-burning feminism but in Saudi Arabia the notion of buying one's brassiere from a woman is nothing short of revolutionary.

A new decree requiring shop owners to hire female staff to sell undergarments illustrates the cautious liberalisation the kingdom is undergoing - and how far it has yet to travel.

Its glitzy shopping malls may appear little different from those abroad, with the same global brands dominating the shops. But you soon realise this is a different world altogether.

The assistants standing among the rows of knickers, bras and see-through nighties are all men.

Somehow they presume to know the best underwear for their customers, even though the latter are hidden under baggy cloaks known as "abaya", black headscarves and often the face-covering "niqab".

Pop into the cosmetics stores and those advising on the best blush tones and lipstick colours have beards and moustaches.

"It's embarrassing buying from a man, especially when he tells you what size he thinks you are in underwear," said a 21-year-old student at a shopping mall in Jeddah.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Generals' Complaints -- A Context

British military historian, Max Hastings, makes some excellent points regarding the much ballyhooed Generals' attacks on SecDef Rumsfeld.

The first point is to note that kind of criticism has emerged in every modern conflict:

[R]etired soldiers have always been outspoken about the alleged blunders of successor warlords, uniformed and otherwise. During Britain's colonial conflicts and in both world wars, through Korea and Vietnam, hoary old American and British warriors wrote frequently to newspapers, deploring this decision or that, exploiting their credentials to criticize governments and commanders.

During the Iraq campaigns of 1991 and 2003, I heard British chiefs of staff express their fervent desire for veterans to get themselves off television screens. We may assume that, as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff today, Gen. Peter Pace feels the same way.

Indeed, but Hastings larger point, one that I have noted in other posts, is far more important:

The great progressive change since 1945 is that the conduct of limited wars has become intensely political. The interventions of civilian leaders are ever more detailed and explicit in matters that were once deemed military turf. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was sacked in Korea in 1951 for conduct no more imperious than his World War II norm in the Pacific. The general failed to understand that the principle on which he had always justified his own mandate -- when wars start, politicians must leave soldiers to run them -- was a dead letter in the nuclear age.

Yet how far should the process go of political engagement in military operations? This issue lies at the heart of the tensions between senior U.S. soldiers and Rumsfeld, and it will persist through all wars.
The interaction of military and civilian officials is inevitably frustrating to both and has fundamentally changed the ends of war. Military officers seek victory; civilians seek a satisfactory outcome that may or may not involve military victory. And in a democratic system the political and economic goals of the civilian participants must always trump the military's desire for effective and decisive action. Naturally military leaders grumble and fret and rail against interference and succumb to the temptation to take their gripes before the public. What few of them recognize is that, in doing so, they make vastly more difficult the tasks of their former colleagues who are still fighting the good fight.

Yet Hastings notes that to some extent the Generals are motivated by a sense of injustice. They are the product of a post-Vietnam military establishment that is notoriously and justifiably risk-averse. Hastings writes:
Once, generals were notoriously gung-ho. Today they are haunted by fear of failure. By a notable historical irony, enthusiasm for using troops is far more prevalent among civilian ideologues than among professional warriors.
A major reason for this reluctance to fight is the fact that in the modern politico/military environment Generals are unable to fight wars as they would like to, but are apportioned the major part of the blame when things go wrong. Outspoken criticism of civilian "interference" in the conduct of wars is their attempt to fix blame where they feel it should be placed -- on the civilians.

Read Hastings' piece here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mugabe Builds Up His Air Defenses

Zim Daily reports:
President Robert Mugabe has ploughed an estimated US$500m into the purchase of 10 new fighter jets and military vehicles from Russia...
Read about it here.

Mad Bobby has been having trouble buying spare parts for his "air force" from Europe, and has not gotten much satisfaction from China, but Russia is coming through in the pinch. And what need has Zimbabwe for an Air Force? Well, for one thing it provides jobs for the madman's political cronies, and then there's this:
The Air Force of Zimbabwe has two bases in Manyame (near Harare) and Thornhill (Gweru) with personnel estimated at about 5 000. Currently, the Air Force has the Chengdu F-7 fighter jet, British-made Hawker Hunters and recently demonstrated newly-acquired Russian-made MiG-23 jets and Mi-35 helicopter gunships, armed for attacking targets on the ground, especially with automatic gunfire, but often also with rockets and/or missiles.
Mad Bobby has wrecked the nation's economy, rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, systematically starved large segments of the populace, and brutally suppressed all rivals. Could he be worried? I would hope he would have reason to be, but the purchase is probably just a product of his paranoia.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum Sinks, Or Does He?

Rasmussen reports that Rick Santorum still trails Bob Casey bu 13 points: 51% to 38%. Santorum is not gaining ground and at this point sure looks like a loser.

Read it here.

But then there's this. The Muhlenberg College Poll reports that Casey's lead has shrunk to 8 points, 46% to 38%, down from 12 points in the last survey.

So is there movement, or isn't there? There is no indication that Santorum is picking up support, but Casey seems to be coming down to earth a bit. At this point it's far too early to say just what this portends but it seems that this race is Casey's to win or lose.

And the same poll shows Ed Rendell with a narrow 6 point lead over Lynn Swann -- not much change from the last poll.

At this point most voters really aren't paying much attention to what's going on. The Democrats are starting in a good position. Swann is just getting out of the starting blocks. The next few months are going to be crucial.

Stay tuned.

Zarqawi Raps With His Fans

Iowahawk does it again. This time it's Zarqawi's response to e-mails.

A sample:

Iowahawk Guest Commentary
by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
Senior VP, Al-Qaeda In Iraq

Word up whitebread, how you livin'?

Yeah, I been gettin' all your email haterade. All y'all infidels be texting and emailing, and it's all like "yo Zarks where u at? Al Qaeda cut off your TypePad account? LOL!!!"

Hey cuz, act like you know. Like the Zarkman got time to be blogging this bitch with the Q1 decapitation reports overdue, and Fatima all up in my grille wantin’ money for the kids' summer martyr camp, and Team Satan sendin’ another crew of laser-guided "downsizing consultants" every freaking day.

Fo real, you think Zarkman got time to play penpal with you chumps? Cracka, every damn morning I got an Outlook inbox full of fresh steaming dung to deal with. Meeting notices from Zawahiri. Overdue notices from the IED suppliers. Ads for Hoodia and boner pills. Six different NCAA pools. Then there's the tardmail from my Daily Kos fanboys:

Hey Zarkman!
OMG u r teh ROXOR! Its like u r total Che Guervera and Fidel and Malcom X plus System of a Down!! Good luck against the Zionist neocon occupiers!!!! Ya,, SCREW those mercenaries!!! Everybody here at UCLA Ed school thinks u r total l33t HARDCORE!!!

Fight teh POWER bro!!!

Dr. Peter McLaren
Professor, Graduate School of Education
University of California at Los Angeles

PS - check out this awesome flash movie!!! Its Bush turning into a fukkin nazi monkey!!!! LOL!!!!

Yep. Welcome to my fan base, sunshine. Go ahead and yuk it up, but imagine how depressing this shit gets. I used to have MS Outlook filter out ".edu" emails, but Zawahiri made a new policy that we have to answer them. "Good PR, good for recruiting and fundraising," or some goatshit like that. Okay, Zarkman's a team player:

Read the whole thing here. Go ahead..., it's fun and it won't hurt you.

Domino's Delivers

Today's Yeccch post:
APRIL 27--In what will surely repulse Pennsylvanians, a Domino's delivery man used a car to transport corpses to funeral parlors when he wasn't using the vehicle to bring pies and Cheesy Bread to pizza enthusiasts. Last Friday, a Lower Southampton Township Police Department officer pulled over a 1993 Buick after noticing the vehicle did not have an inspection sticker. Additionally, William Bethel, 24, was driving with a suspended license, so cops informed him that the vehicle was going to be impounded. According to a police report, a copy of which you'll find below, when officers began taking an inventory of the station wagon, they noticed a stretcher in the rear of the vehicle (along with rubbish and wet clothing) where "pizzas were sitting to be delivered." Asked about the items, Bethel explained that when he finished delivering Domino's pizzas, "he transports deceased bodies in the same vehicle for a funeral home.

Read it here.

Well, speaking as a Pennsylvanian, yes..., I do find this repulsive. The article implies, however, in its first sentence, that people from other states might not be bothered. If so, I might have to alter my summer travel plans.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- The Problem With Bob

Alan Sandals is challenging Casey for the nomination. He notes that Casey was recruited to run for the Senate more than two years ago, at a time when the prevailing wisdom within the Democrat Party was to the effect that they had to "imitate Republicans." Since then the Democrat CW has shifted. Now they want to offer a choice, not an echo. Casey, Sandals argues [and I agree],does not offer much of a choice. He agrees with Santorum on all the major issues. He notes declining poll numbers for Casey and predicts that they will fall much farther.

Hmmm.... There might be something here. As a moderate, I am quite content with Casey's position on most issues, but clearly a significant proportion of the Democrat Party is not at all happy. They are just getting organized, but as they do, they will cause Casey no end of trouble.

Read Sandal's analysis on his official blog here.

Yes: I know that "A Choice Not an Echo" was Goldwater's theme. I deliberately inserted it to suggest that the Democrat left, which Sandals represents, is in much the same position as was the Republican right in 1962.

Why the Panic over Gas Prices?

Dan Drezner poses an interesting question. Both political parties have worked themselves into a panic about high gas prices, but energy costs as a proportion of personal consumption have declined dramatically over the past thirty years. The economic impact of high energy prices is low, but the political cost is high. Why? He poses three answers:

1) Oil production is tied to the Middle East which is a politically hot topic.

2) Oil is one of the few products controlled by a producer cartel. There is someone to blame.

3) Oil is one of the few products about which consumers have a lot of information. They can therefore react instantly to price changes.

His point is well taken. This gas crisis is bound to be far less problematic than that of the Seventies. But I would disagree with his analysis. The Middle East connection has not dominated discussions of the subject. OPEC is a famously ineffective cartel, the members of which constantly cheat. A well-informed consuming public would be aware that the crisis is not all that important.

Read Dan's analysis here.

I would point to another factor. A significant portion of both the journalistic and political communities are still mired in a sixties/seventies mindset. They relate everything that happens today to what happened then. Iraq is portrayed as a replay of Vietnam. Gay rights is the new Civil Rights. Bush is the new Nixon. Every perceived scandal is a "gate." And, to them, the spike in gas prices is a replay of the Nixon-Carter energy crisis. The consequence of this mind-set is that the public is incessantly barraged by commentary and imagery telling them that this is a huge crisis. Who can blame them for worrying?

The Intelligence Insurgency

The WSJ opines:
We're as curious as anyone to see how Ms. McCarthy's case unfolds. But this would appear to be only the latest example of the unseemly symbiosis between elements of the press corps and a cabal of partisan bureaucrats at the CIA and elsewhere in the "intelligence community" who have been trying to undermine the Bush Presidency.


Leaving partisanship aside, this ought to be deeply troubling to anyone who cares about democratic government. The CIA leakers are arrogating to themselves the right to subvert the policy of a twice-elected Administration. Paul Pillar, another former CIA analyst well known for opposing Mr. Bush while he was at Langley, appears to think this is as it should be. He recently wrote in Foreign Affairs that the intelligence community should be treated like the Federal Reserve and have independent political status. In other words, the intelligence community should be a sort of clerisy accountable to no one.

Read it here.

In a democratic system this kind of irresponsibility is intolerable. Professionals within the permanent government must always be subordinate to and accountable to the elected politicians. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about the military, the CIA, State, or whatever. Government is far too important to be trusted to the professionals.

Soccer explained by al-Sadr -- It's a Zionist Conspiracy to Divert Islamic Youth from the True Path

Read all about it here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Specter's Hubris

Arlen Specter offers Swanny advice on how to connect with blacks.

Sen. Arlen Specter thinks Lynn Swann has the potential to be a formidable candidate for governor among Pennsylvania's black voters. First, however, the former Steelers wide receiver needs to get a firmer grasp on the issues. Then he needs to loosen up.

"His race could be a very strong factor, but not in a shirt and tie," Mr. Specter, a fellow Republican, said yesterday. "Have him go into the community and get his hands dirty."

In a meeting with the Post-Gazette's editorial board, the five-term senator said he is supporting Mr. Swann's campaign to unseat Gov. Ed Rendell. He then offered some unsolicited advice to the gubernatorial candidate, a relative political newcomer who has stumbled on some policy questions in the past, including during a high-profile February interview on ABC with George Stephanopoulos.

Mr. Specter said Mr. Swann must become "conversant" in the topics that matter to black communities, such as job training, education, and the criminal justice system, and start talking about them in the state's major urban areas, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

By doing that, Mr. Swann likely could attract support from both black voters and white liberal voters, the senator said.

In other words, run as a Democrat -- that's worked for Specter.

Read it here.

Maryland Politics -- Republicans Trail

Rasmussen reports that in both major Maryland races the Democrats are running well ahead of Republicans.

In their latest poll Steele trails both Cardin and Mfume, who are fighting it out for the Democrat nomination and incumbent Governor Ehrlich trails all potential Democrat opponents.

Read it here.

Jane Jacobs Is Gone!

The NYT reports:
Jane Jacobs, the writer and thinker who brought penetrating eyes and ingenious insight to the sidewalk ballet of her own Greenwich Village street and came up with a book that challenged and changed the way people view cities, died today in Toronto, where she lived. She was 89.
As a young man working in urban studies I was tremendously influenced by her work, especially "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" which cut the props out from under the urban planning establishment of that era.

I hadn't realized then that half a century later I would miss her. She was one of the great ones.

Now she can start work on a scathing critique of the Heavenly City.

Culture Change in China

First Coke, then Mac D's, now this! Globalization proceeds apace.
The Hooters girls have come to China, orange hot pants and all. China's first Hooters restaurant opened in Shanghai last October. The chain began as a Florida beach bar in 1983. It now boasts more than 384 restaurants worldwide. The waitresses in China wear the same tight outfits as their American counterparts, despite the more conservative outlook of the country.
Read it here.

And in a related story [I suppose]:
BEIJING (Reuters) - Bra producers have been forced to offer bigger cup-sizes in China because improved nutrition is busting all previous chest measurement records.

"It's so different from the past when most young women would wear A- or B-cup bras," Triumph brand saleswoman Zhang Jing told the Shanghai Daily from the Landmark Plaza of China's commercial hub.

"You...never expect those thin women to have such nice figures if they are not plastic."

The report, seen on the daily's Web site Tuesday, said that the Hong Kong-based lingerie firm Embry Group no longer produces A-cups for larger chest circumferences and has increased production of C-, D- and E-cup bras to meet pressing demand.

Read it here.

Note that the girl checking out the bras is wearing blue jeans. The world, she sure is a'changin'. In this instance I think it's for the better. [And for my Philly correspondent, that is not a sexist remark, I was thinking of the benefits of better nutrition. Yeah..., that's what I was thinking! Really!]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Scientific Incoherence

The New Scientist reports:

CUTTING-EDGE artificial intelligence it was not, but a student prank still managed to get the better of some human intelligences last week, when a computer-generated piece of gibberish was accepted as a genuine scientific paper.

Sick of receiving spam emails requesting submissions to the 2005 World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics - which charges $390 for each attendee - students Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a program to generate a nonsense paper.

Starting with skeleton sentences, pools of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and a random assortment of computer science jargon, the program produced a grammatically correct yet utterly nonsensical paper titled: "Rooter: a methodology for the typical unification of access points and redundancy". "This isn't artificial intelligence, it's the dirt-simplest way we could think to do this," Stribling says.

The conference organisers say that the paper was sent to human reviewers, who never commented on it, so it ended up being automatically accepted. The conference has now banned the paper. But the pranksters are still planning to give a computer-generated talk at the conference by persuading a human speaker to let them take his or her place.

Read it here.

This is more than just a student prank. There is a serious point to be made here.

The entire authority of the scientific establishment [indeed, of any intellectual community] rests on an assumption that the practitioners are competent and disinterested seekers of truth, whose competence is certified by accrediting and professional institutions.

This is just one in a long string of recent instances in which those certifying institutions have been shown to be incompetent, corrupt, or biased. If we cannot trust the certifying institutions, we cannot trust the practitioners.

Liberal Incoherence on Energy Reform

Jonah, down on the Corner, summarizes the "liberal line" on the energy crisis:
We are horribly dependent on foreign oil. But we shouldn't develop domestic oil or boost our refining capacity. We need a gas tax to wean Americans from foreign oil, but high gas prices are an outrage. We need alternative forms of energy, but we shouldn't use nuclear power. We need renewable, sustainable energy, unless it spoils the view of rich liberal icons.
Read it here.

It's right -- the Democrat position has been completely incoherent.

This is what happens when you try simultaneously to service the interests of the environmentalists, the protectionists, the anti-nukers, and the super-rich while trying to pose as the party of the common man.

Hitch Calls for an Investigation

Christopher Hitchens looks at the McCarthy leak case and suggest an appropriate response:

A special counsel must be appointed forthwith, to discover whether the CIA has been manipulating the media. All civil servants and all reporters with knowledge must be urged to comply, and to produce their notes or see the inside of a jail. No effort must be spared to discover the leaker. This is, after all, the line sternly proposed by the New York Times and many other media outlets in the matter of the blessed Joseph Wilson and his martyred CIA spouse, Valerie Plame.

However, he notes:

I have a sense that this is not the media line that will be taken in the case of McCarthy, any more than it was the line taken when James Risen and others disclosed the domestic wiretapping being conducted by the NSA.

Read it here.

Indeed, it all depends on whose ox is being gored. It is easy to point out the hypocrisy of the MSM -- it's blatant and unapologetic -- but Hitch's larger point is important. There is in the MSM a systematic institutional and ideological bias that gets in the way of full and accurate reporting.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sharansky on Bush

Natan Sharansky explains in today’s Wall Street Journal just why George W. Bush is a far greater man than his critics. He writes:

[President Bush] is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability. Even the fiercest critics of these ideas would surely admit that Mr. Bush has championed them both before and after his re-election, both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters.

With a dogged determination that any dissident can appreciate, Mr. Bush, faced with overwhelming opposition, stands his ideological ground, motivated in large measure by what appears to be a refusal to countenance moral failure.


Today, we are in the midst of a great struggle between the forces of terror and the forces of freedom. The greatest weapon that the free world possesses in this struggle is the awesome power of its ideas.

The Bush Doctrine, based on a recognition of the dangers posed by non-democratic regimes and on committing the United States to support the advance of democracy, offers hope to many dissident voices struggling to bring democracy to their own countries. The democratic earthquake it has helped unleash, even with all the dangers its tremors entail, offers

Yet with each passing day, new voices are added to the chorus of that doctrine's opponents, and the circle of its supporters grows ever smaller.

Critics rail against every step on the new and difficult road on which the United States has embarked. Yet in pointing out the many pitfalls which have not been avoided and those which still can be, those critics would be wise to remember that the alternative road leads to the continued oppression of hundreds of millions of people and the continued festering of the pathologies that led to 9/11.

Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom, I can only hope that his dissident spirit will continue to persevere. For should that spirit break, evil will indeed triumph, and the consequences for our world would be disastrous.

Read the whole thing here.

Hope You're Enjoying Earth Day

I've been celebrating Earth Day by skimming through Steven Hayward's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, 2006: The Nature and Sources of Ecological Progress in the U.S. and the World put out by the Pacific Research Institute. [get it here]

Hayward's annual report is a devastating critique of the way environmental conditions and programs are mis-represented in the popular press and of the institutions and organizations that promote a distorted view of the subject. He notes in most relevant areas, like air and water quality, there have been enormous gains over the past few decades, but rather than celebrating this progress, environmental activists and their allies in the press and political parties escalate their claims and in the process lose credibility. The result, he argues, is that the environmental movement is on the brink of collapse.

Bracing stuff, and a healthy counter to the pronouncements of environmental extremists. What is most encouraging is that journalists seem to be waking up to the loony excesses of the movement environmentalists and are beginning to take a more reasonable tack, emphasizing the need to make gradual adjustments to a world of oil scarcity and warmer temperatures, rather than trying to halt current trends.

The State of Jihad

The Counterterrorism Blog has been reconstituted and is an invaluable source for anyone interested in the subject of the war on terror. Here are a couple of recent postings:

Walid Phares identifies the ten main points made in Bin Laden's latest speech.
1. Hamas: Despite the fact that we (including Ayman Zawahiri) warned (Muslim Palestinians) not to take part in elections in general, the victory of Hamas shows that there is a "Crusader Zionist War against Islam." Cutting foreign aid to the Palestinians because of Hamas victory proves that war.

2. The public (in the West and the US), despite our warnings, continues to reelect these Governments, pay taxes to these Governments, and send their children to fight against us. They (civilians) are therefore part of the war against us. They are responsible for any harm that would be caused to them.

3. Sudan: The Bashir Government is failing in stopping the Crusader War in Sudan. The Crusaders (Britain) has pushed the southerners (Blacks) to separate. The US has armed them and is supporting them. And now, because of tribal tensions in Darfour, the Crusaders are planning on intervening there. We are calling on the Jihadists to fight them in Darfour and Southern Sudan.

4. Long War: We're calling on all Jihadists, particularly in Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula to prepare themselves for a long war.

5. Danish Cartoons: We are asking the Danish Government to remit the Cartoonists to al Qaida.

6. Saudis: We criticize the Saudi Monarch for refuting the idea of Clash of civilization. There is a clash led by the West against Islam.

7. Arab Liberals: Jihadists must silence the Arab and Muslim liberals. (A list has been established, but it wasn't aired).

8. Education: We warn from any change that would affect the educational curriculum in the Arab and Muslim world.

9. Arab TV: We warn against those TV stations airing into the region and propagating Crusader propaganda.

10: Truce: We offered a truce to the West (US and Europe) but their public refused to accept it. They will only blame themselves.
Read it here.

Phares elaborates here and makes a chilling observation:
One more time Al Jazeera pomotes an Usama Bin Laden speech. After airing portions of the Bin Laden audiotape al Jazeera posted large fragments of the “speech” on its web site. This was the longest version possible we were able to have access to. After careful reading, my assessment of the “piece” got reinforced: This is not just another audiotape or videotape of a renegade in some cave. Regardless of who is the speaker and his whereabouts, the 30 minutes long read statement is a declaration, probably as important as the February 1998 declaration of war against America, the Crusaders and their allies.

This is a “state of Jihad address” by a Terror-leader who projects himself as the supreme leader of all Salafi Jihadists in the world. The document provide guidelines and vision to the followers across the continents: A call for mega-terrorism and a fiery delivery of a bloody war in all directions. Not one single civilization and religion got away from Usama’s grapes of wrath: Muslim moderates, Shiites, Christian Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox; Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists as well. Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Semites, Africans and others were all deciphered as Kuffars, infidels.

In two decades of Salafi and Khumeini rhetoric monitoring, I haven’t heard or seen a cross-infidel speech as the one aired by al Jazeera on April 23, 2006.
Emphasis mine.

Read it here.

If there was any doubt as to the magnitude of the treat posed by Islamic radicalism, this speech should put it to rest. This is, quite literally, a declaration of war against the world, and today we saw yet another example of how deadly serious the threat is.

(CNN) -- At least 10 people were killed Monday and more than 70 others wounded in at least three explosions in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Dahab, according to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry.

Four of the dead were not Egyptians, but their nationalities were not known, the statement said.

The extent of the carnage was not clear. Egyptian state-run television said as many as 22 people were dead.

Read it here.

It used to be common to talk about the "bloody borders" of Islam. Now there are no borders. The radicals will strike anywhere, and most of their victims are Muslims.

Tigerhawk puts this into context -- the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq and the consequent shift of attention to targets of opportunity elsewhere. Read it here.

Mark Steyn Opines -- The Lunacies of the Left

Mark Steyn nails it again. He starts with a typically sharp observation:

Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good by feeling bad.

So true…, so true! There's a reason that the Prius has been nicknamed the "Pious". And what you choose to worry about tells a lot about you. Steyn points out that lefties who spent several decades worrying about nuclear warfare when few nations had the bomb and were unlikely to use it are now blasé about Iran’s attempts to join the nuclear club and its repeated threat to eradicate Israel. Instead they now worry about global warming. Go figure.

And then there are those on the left who have embraced a lunatic "posthumanist" agenda that considers humanity to be a plague to be destroyed. They are actually rooting for the extermination of the human species. He has a few words for them, too.

Read the whole thing here.

And then there's this - writing in the NRO Steyn opines:
Christopher Hitchens said on the Hugh Hewitt show recently that he "dislikes" the Republican party but has "contempt" for the Democrats. I appreciate the distinction, though I'm not sure I could muster even that level of genial tolerance. The Democrats have been the most contemptible opportunists in the years since 9/11: If they've got nothing useful to contribute to the great challenge of the age they could at least have the decency not to waste our time waving around three-year-old Abu Ghraib pictures and chanting "exit strategy" every ten minutes.
My sentiments exactly. I don't agree with Steyn and Hitchens on everything, but here they have nailed it. It's hard to respect the Republicans, but the sheer destructive lunacy of the left and the Democrat mainstream is so overwheming that it dwarfs the sins of the right. With very few exceptions Democrats these days are utterly contemptible.

Read it here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Swanny's Slow Start

Pennsylvania Republicans are starting to worry about Swanny. The problem is that he isn't raising enough money to compete effectively with Ed [the fundraising Pirhana] Rendell. There are also complaints that Swann hasn't taken strong positions on a lot of important issues. And, there is worry that he won't do well among blacks.

Colin McNickle summarizes the worries here and notes that the Swann campaign is finally moving into high gear but still lacks focus.

Salena Zito writes that he real problems with Swann's campaign are that he seems oddly disengaged and "he is handled by amateurs" who love him so much that they won't tell him he's screwing up. [here]

Look Who Came For Lunch!

This afternoon a pair of Northern Flickers had lunch at our place. One flew off just as I got out my camera, but the other stayed around for another fifteen minutes, busily probing the ground looking for insects, and hopping ever closer to where I stood with my camera.

This is about as close as it got when, suddenly, a chipmunk appeared between us and the Flicker began to retreat down the hill again.

Northern Flickers aren't a rare species, in fact they are often called the "Common Flicker" but we don't see them that much around these parts and it was fun to watch him as he relentlessly dug bugs out of the soil.

A Vast Left Wing Conspiracy?

For years now the left has been happily spinning all sorts of guilt by association theories about the "vast right wing conspiracy." Now the shoe is on the other foot and now they find the tactic not only illegitimate but dangerous.

Greg Greenwalt complains of:

Treason by association

Almost every Bush follower screeching about the Mary McCarthy story thinks it is extremely significant that (a) she donated money to John Kerry's campaign; (b) Dana Priest's husband knows Joe Wilson, as does McCarthy herself; and (c) McCarthy has professional ties to Sandy Berger. While many of them are content to insinuate darkly about the nefarious Plot against America which has likely been revealed by exposure of this web, others are more bold, explicitly speculating that this is but the tip of an iceberg of a traitorous conspiracy.

Firedoglake worries:

All this blog babbling would be bad enough, except for the last line where [Mark] Levin suggests there are traitors everywhere. The inference, coming at the end of a long wail about Democrats, is that the traitors among us are "over there," in the Democratic Party. The only purpose of this kind of rhetorical drive by is to get everyone pumped up, which will continue on radio stations throughout this country. It will begin by using Clinton, because whenever the Republicans are in deep trouble that’s where they run. Then, after Clinton is intoned, the likes of Ken doll Sean Hannity and his cabin boy, with a little help from the newly lobotomized Laura Ingraham, will intone the tactic of fear.

Be afraid of Democrats, because they are traitors and undermining this country. It will be utilized on radio to rev up the base, where Karl Rove has used right-wing radio for years to pump up the EMOTION of right-wingers, because that’s what gets voters to the polls and right-wing radio listeners vote. The same tactics are continued on "Christian" broadcasting networks throughout the country. It is quite simply the most formidably dangerous weapon the Republicans have to wield against Democrats come election time.


All I got to say guys is, "what goes around, comes around." The charges are no more significant now than they were when you guys were playing the smear by association game. The fact is that Washington is a small company town where everyone knows everyone else.

Ain't politics fun?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Taming the Permanent Government

The Bilious Young Fogey identifies the real danger inherent in the politicization of the military. [here]

One of the things I admire most about Bush is his determination to bring the permanent government of non-elected officials [including the military and intelligence agencies] to heel. They're kicking and screaming all the way, and feckless Democrats and the idiot press are giving them aid and comfort, but slowly and surely the primacy of political leadership is being reasserted.

Government is too important to be left to the professionals.

Another Step Forward in Iraq

Reuters reports:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament elected incumbent President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for a second term on Saturday as politicians began putting together a national unity government after four months of political deadlock.

Talabani, who has spent most of his life fighting for the cause of the Kurds in northern Iraq, is the first non-Arab president of an Arab country.

"This is the new Iraq. The new Iraq is an Iraq for all," Talabani told the parliament in a brief acceptance speech.

"Iraqi unity is sacred for all, so we should all work to reinforce this national unity."

Slowly but surely, step by step, a functioning democracy is being created in the Arab world, and that is something wonderful to behold.

Read it here.

Televised news reports emphasize that Talabani [a Kurd] and his new Prime Minister, Jawad al-Maliki [a Shiite] will focus their efforts on fighting corruption and extending government control over the militias. Is this just US pleasing rhetoric? We'll see.

Stay tuned....

Captain Ed thinks this marks the emergence of an effective multi-ethnic unity government and spells doom for the insurgency. He writes "The battle for Iraq has been lost by the insurgents." Let us hope so. [here]

Outside the Beltway is less optimistic, but rightly notes that this is a necessary precursor to any effective settlement. [here]

Omar at Iraq the Model is skeptical. He writes: "[T]he question remains that; will the real problem be solved by this agreement on the top posts?" He thinks not. [here]

Here's the BBC biography of al-Maliki.

Friday, April 21, 2006

This is WAR! Bush Goes Toe to Toe with the MSM

In case you hadn't figured out the link between the "Bush is the leaker in chief"stories that have polluted the MSM in recent weeks and the rather bizarre Pulitzer awards, this is it.

AP reports:
WASHINGTON -- In a highly unusual move the CIA has fired an employee for leaking classified information to the news media, including details about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, officials said Friday.

The Associated Press has learned the officer was a CIA veteran nearing retirement, Mary McCarthy. Reached Friday evening at home, her husband would not confirm her firing.

In McCarthy's final position at the CIA, she was assigned to its Office of Inspector General, looking into allegations the CIA was involved in torture at Iraqi prisons, according to a former colleague who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation.

Without identifying McCarthy by name, CIA Director Porter Goss announced the firing in a short message to agency employees circulated Thursday.

Read the whole thing here.

This investigation has been ongoing for several months now and the newsies are certainly aware that it threatens to squelch their favorite pastime, reporting leaks. As the investigation began to close in on their sources the newsies closed ranks and began firing shots across the bow of the administration. The "leaker in chief" stories were a warning that punishing leakers would be met with an enormous firestorm of protest and awarding Pulitzers to journalists under investigation was open defiance. Now the simmering conflict between segments of the MSM and the Bush administration will go nuclear.

The battle lines being drawn.

For the MSM:

Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said on the newspaper's Web site, "We don't know the details of why (the CIA employee) was fired, so I can't comment on that. But as a general principle, obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press."

For the administration:

"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," [CIA Director Porter] Goss told Congress in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."


Justice Department officials declined to comment publicly on the firing and whether the matter had been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges. One law enforcement official said there were dozens of leak investigations under way.

Here is the first volley from the WaPo, employer of Dana Priest, who reported the CIA leak:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaked national defense information to a pro-Israel lobbyist in the same manner that landed a lower-level Pentagon official a 12-year prison sentence, the lobbyist's lawyer said Friday.

Prosecutors disputed the claim.

The allegations against Rice came as a federal judge granted a defense request to issue subpoenas sought by the defense for Rice and three other government officials in the trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two are former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information.

Defense lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss the charges because, among other things, they believe it seeks to criminalize the type of backchannel exchanges between government officials, lobbyists and the press that are part and parcel of how Washington works.

Read it here.

And of course the NYT prints a sympathetic piece that portrays her as the principled victim of an administration witch hunt. [here] God! These folks in the MSM are utterly shameless.

Newsbusters notes that Bob Schieffer is going on the offense, too.
Bob Schieffer didn't withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that “it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission” and he described the firing as “a first -- a dubious first, to be sure.”

The same post notes that Nina Totenberg says that the nefarious practices of the Bush administration justify giving the Pulitzers to leak recipients. And her comments betray an amazing degree of hubris in the journalistic community. She argues that our governmental system is based on "checks and balances" and that the press, not Congress or the courts, is the essental check on executive policy and action. She seems to take all that "fourth estate" stuff seriously.

Read it here.

For decades now the intelligence community has sought to influence policy and to undermine political figures through illegal leaking. In recent years the trickle of leaks has become a flood, largely because the Bush administration has been bent on reforming the dysfunctional intelligence community.

People's careers have been terminated or blocked, favorite programs have been altered or dropped, etc. and disgruntled employees (or ex-employees) have responded by leaking anything they can to damage the administration. The pace of leaks, especially from the CIA, has become a real threat to national security and can no longer be tolerated. McCarthy's firing is just the beginning of a determined effect to bring the rogue CIA establishment to heel.

This is going to be fun -- lots of fun.

Let the games begin.


From Drudge: McCarthy was "Senior director for intelligence programs," [here]. She was appointed by Sandy Berger. She had an academic background at Yale and supported Kerry in 2004. [here]

Both she and her husband contribute significantly to Democrat campaigns. [here]

Let's see now -- Yale, Clinton, Sandy Burger, Kerry, Democrat donor, leaker to WaPo. Is it fair to say that she was a Democrat mole at the CIA?

Right Wing Nut House speculates that the whole "secret prisons" story was a fabrication -- a sting designed to sniff out leakers. If so that means that Dana Priest won a Pulitzer for a story that was completely false. Just speculation, you understand, but despite determined efforts by European investigators no evidence that these secret prisons ever existed has come to light.

Read it here. [Hey, if the MSM can print unsubstantiated speculation, so can we.]

Gateway Pundit has an extensive roundup of commentary on the matter [here].

And there's this over at NRO's mediablog. Wolf Blitzer was interviewing Bill Bennett and Torie Clarke.

BENNETT: The situation we have now is that Dana Priest has won the Pulitzer Prize. The guy who leaked to her has been fired from the CIA and may be subject to a prosecution. He gets prosecution, fired from the CIA, she gets the Pulitzer Prize. I think there's something a little wrong with that.

Blitzer was horrified:

BLITZER: What Bill is suggesting, as a reporter, is very very dangerous, very slippery...

TORIE CLARKE: You would look good in horizontal stripes.

BLITZER: You used to be the press spokesperson over at the Pentagon. Do you agree with those comments?

CLARKE: I hesitate to disagree with him, because he's so smart, and I appreciate the seriousness with which he treats this, but I've always thought there should be more emphasis in these matters on the people in government who sign papers saying, "I will never reveal classified information. I take these responsibilities seriously," etc., and then they do it. I wish there was more emphasis on that side of the fence.

While I agree more with Clarke than Bennett, I think Blitzer's knee-jerk outrage was a little ridiculous. Take his response to Clarke:

BLITZER: But these reporters for the New York Times and the Washington Post never signed any confidentiality agreements with the government. They're just reporters out there trying to do their job.

Not only did Blitzer miss the point — which, Bennett reminded him, is that "Reporters have to obey the law as well" — he also appeared to be incapable of even considering Bennett's argument with an open mind. I've seen many journalists immediately adopt this defensive stance when they discuss the issue of reporters and leaks, and it doesn't speak well of their ability to cover their own industry in a fair-minded way.

Read it here.

"Y0u would look good in horizontal stripes." Go get 'em, Torie!

And over at the Riehl World View we find a suggestive discussion of the anti-Bush cabal in the intelligence services and the extreme lengths to which they will go to bring the President down.

Thomas Joscelyn has much more on Ms. McCarthy and her relations to Richard Clarke and Clinton's response to terrorism. [here]

Pennsylvania Politics -- Can Santorum Win?

That's what G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young ask in another of their spectacularly uninformative articles on Pennsylvania's political scene. They say, "yes he can" if he goes on the offensive and exploits Democrat divisions [duh!] and if he wins, they say, he will become even more influential than he is now [double duh!!].

Read it here.

Dueling Doomsdays -- Damned If We Do; Damned If We Don't.

Timothy Garton Ash argues in the Guardian that a U.S. attack on Iran would have apocalyptic consequences including the election of (shudder) Hillary. [here].

Reuel Marc Gerecht argues that the consequences of a failure to attack Iran would be far worse. [here]

Gee, wouldn't it be nice to have a reasonable discussion of public policy that wasn't framed in apocalyptic terms? But I guess that's too much to ask.

The sky is perpetually falling.

Jesse Jackson in Louisiana

From one of my Louisiana Correspondents:

It seems that nasty old bigot, Jesse Jackson, is up to his old tricks in Louisiana again. He's organizing busloads of New Orleans "exiles" to return and vote. And, of course, he complains that State and Federal authorities are trying to suppress the black vote and are violating peoples' civil liberties. His position is that people should be able to vote in New Orleans elections no matter where they live and also that the high price of gas is a violation of their civil rights because it makes it expensive to travel to New Orleans to vote. He likens it to a "poll tax". He calls on government to establish "satellite" voting centers everywhere the "exiles" live.

Read about it here.

The article concludes by focusing in on one such voter.

New Orleans evacuee Nona Armour, a Monroe City Schools employee, said she agrees with Jackson. She is driving to New Orleans to vote because she is not certain an absentee ballot could be received in time to be counted.

But gas is a problem and she said she is paying much more to vote than she would like.

"I just wish (Jackson) had done this a week ago," Armour said. "It seems kind of late."

But the state had already established satellite centers and made it possible to vote by going online. And bus caravans had already been set up. And, note, this woman now lives and works in Monroe, LA, on the opposite end of the State from N. O. but still claims the right to vote in the big city.

In related developments: Pennsylvania Democrat Gov. "Fast Eddie" Rendell recently vetoed legislation that would have cleaned up voting in his state, and the Democrat controlled State legislature in Maryland blocked passage of a similar measure, ensuring that massive voter fraud would continue. It is ironic that the party that calls itself "Democrat" should have such a vested interest in subverting the democratic process.

Appalachian Springtime -- A Room With A View

When the weather is good I abandon my office and move my work out to the front room. Why go to the bother? Here's why. This is what I see when I tear my eyes away from the computer screen and look around me.

The Tide Keeps Flowing

This sounds promising:

BAGHDAD, April 20 -- Iraq's prime minister on Thursday relinquished his nomination to a new term after weeks of intense pressure, capping a day of surprises that left many politicians here hopeful that a months-long stalemate over formation of a new government would finally end.

In a letter and a national television address at 11 p.m. Thursday, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari said he would give up his hard-won nomination by the dominant coalition of Shiite parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, and allow its members to select another candidate if they chose.

It was a sudden turnabout for a man who the day before had said his withdrawal was "out of the question."
Read it here.

This could be a major breakthrough, comparable in political terms to the military action in Fallujah. Progress toward a functioning democracy is slow and hesitant, but it is there.


NYT reports:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 21 — Shiite leaders selected Jawad al-Maliki, a hard-line and outspoken Shiite leader, to replace the outgoing prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The move could resolve a two-month-long political deadlock that has worsened Iraq's precarious security situation and contributed to an increase of sectarian killings across the nation.

Officials with rival political blocs said tonight that despite earlier misgivings about Mr. Maliki they intended to support him when the Iraqi Parliament convenes on Saturday afternoon.

Once the Parliament agrees on other leaders, Mr. Maliki will be asked to form a new government and cabinet. But there were conflicting reports about whether the major political groups had agreed on who would fill the senior posts that must be decided before a cabinet is formed, particularly speaker of the national assembly.

Read it here.

One more small step.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

European Cuisine Update -- Yecch!

The Australian reports:

A SHOP in Portugal plans to start selling ice cream in flavours like shrimp, cod, tuna and grilled sardines when it opens next month.

The "Coromoto" store in the southern fishing port and canning centre of Portimao, located 300 kilometres south of Lisbon, will offer a total of 60 exotic flavours alongside traditional options like chocolate and vanilla, its owner told Lusa news agency today.

"Anything that you can eat or drink can be transformed into an ice cream," said Manuel Oliveira, who said he and his daughter would make all the flavoured ice creams without using any chemicals.

Read it here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Savaging Casey

Last night Bob Casey finally went public in an attempt to quiet his liberal critics. It wasn't pretty.

At Franklin & Marshall College Casey took on his two liberal competitors, History professor Chuck Pennacchio and Philadelphia attorney Alan Sandels, in open debate. Casey, seeking to appeal to moderate voters whose votes he will need to beat Santorum, stressed his independence from Democrat Party leadership, promised to stay the course in Iraq, endorsed overturning Roe v. Wade, praised Samuel Alito, and generally approved of President Bush's tax cuts.

Not bad -- I'd vote for that. But these were college liberals he was speaking to.

Not surprisingly the other speakers took exception to each and every one of these positions. They (especially Pennacchio) hectored and patronized Casey throughout, branding him a coward for not standing up for Democrat principles. Sandal endorsed raising taxes on capital gains and dividends, Pennacchio demanded a single-payer health care system, strong environmental regulation of business, and a guaranteed income for the poor, all of which Casey opposes. Both opposed free trade which Casey supports. [Read about it here].

The debate highlighted the immense gulf between Casey and Pennsylvania's liberal establishment as well as the general agreement among Casey and Santorum [and for that matter, George Bush]. Casey outlined his differences with the incumbent:

1) no tax breaks for multimillionaires
2) raise the minimum wage
3) support consumers against big business
4) Santorum is a surrogate for the Bush administration

In other words -- no real differences on cultural or international issues; just a replay of thirty's style "soak the rich" rhetoric. Pretty small beer on which to run a campaign.

The exposure may well have cost Casey some critical support. The audience, packed with Pennacchio's supporters, was certainly hostile. [Read the Philly Daily News account here]. Casey's performance was so bad that the Daily News compared him to Al Gore and suggested that his double-digit lead over Santorum would probably disappear altogether unless he dramatically improved his public persona. [here] So savage were the attacks and so inept Casey's responses that the conservatives over at NRO's "Sixers" actually began to feel sorry for him. [here]

This has been the Santorum camp's biggest hope all along. They feel that Casey is a bit dim and that debates will expose his intellectual shortcomings, especially when contrasted with Santorum who is a bright guy and a sharp debater. Certainly Casey's performance in yesterday's liberal forum must encourage them. They are already demanding ten debates. Maybe they'll up the offfer to twenty.

Walking the Fields -- Part Two

Memo to self:

Walk more often and get a better camera.

As I began my walk home I saw a tractor sitting abandoned in a field. The road took me right past it and as I approached a truck drove up beside me, stopped and two men got out.


I turned to face them. “Can I help you?” I asked.

“Naw,” the driver said, “we just came to get our tractor.”

I walked on and only later thought to wonder if it really was their tractor.

* * * * *

A bit further on, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement to the west along a line of trees. A large bird – a very large bird -- angled down and perched. I immediately headed toward it, fumbling for my camera and binoculars. Then it took off, scattering small birds in all directions. A few powerful wingstrokes and then it soared, circling high above the field I had just left.

There it was, an immature bald eagle – my first eagle of the season. Big and beautiful and slowly circling in the clear sky.

Desperately I angled for a good shot, but it was between me and the sun. I snapped off about forty shots, just hoping that one or two of them would come out. You see the results above.

I really do have to upgrade my camera.

Terrorism Strikes Home in Baghdad

If you read one thing this day, read this. Mohammed at Iraq the Model explains why he and Omar have not been blogging recently, and in the process illustrates both the pain and the glory of Iraq's struggle for freedom and explains just why we must win.

Read it -- it's important.

Walking the Fields -- Part One

“She Who Must Not Be Named” was away most of the day – one of those luncheon/shopping trips she and her girlfriends like to do. I had intended to go up to the top of Hawk Mountain, visit the wildlife sanctuary, and hike up to the north lookout taking some articles to read with me. I could get some much-needed exercise, catch up on my professional reading, and could count on spotters on the sanctuary staff to alert me if anything worth seeing appeared.

Well, with one thing or another I never got up to the sanctuary and didn’t finish reading all the articles either. It was one of those days. Late in the afternoon, feeling guilty, I decided to go walking near the base of the mountain. Maybe I would get lucky and see some raptors. At the least I would get some exercise [did I mention it was much needed?].

The weather was superb – warm with a good breeze, clear sky; an ideal day for birding [clear skies are good for solitary birding, a few scattered clouds are good for group watching because they provide convenient reference points when you are trying to tell someone just where to look to check out that bird you think you just saw]. I started down a country road, then turned off and walked through fields. The first hour was pretty dull – four crows, a turkey vulture [in the first picture above], and assorted robins, swallows, etc. I did get a few nice pictures of trees and flowers. Then I made the turn and started for home. [continued...]

Presidential Popularity and Gas Prices

I've suspected this for a long time. It's good to see someone actually digging out and running the figures. Bush's popularity tracks quite closely with gas prices, more so than with combat deaths in Iraq. I'd like to see the regressions, and some other factors thrown into the mix. Apparently someone in an econometrics course is doing them. Read about it here.

It makes sense that pain at the pump would be a bigger factor in Bush's unpopularity than anything going on in Iraq, and that Middle East policy should be perceived largely by the American public in terms of how it affects gas prices. Gas is a major expense for most American families and changes in driving habits implies important changes in how people live. Of course they are sensitive to that. This is the real problem with globalization. Interdependency makes us all dependent on things not only out of our control, but out of our government's control, too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oh This is Delicious

Democrats have been having a lot of fun over the fact that a Deputy Press Secretary of Homeland Security is a criminal pedophile. Accusations have been flying hither and yon about the ineptitude of the Bush administration in vetting their appointees. Well, the glee is premature. It turns out that the creep is a career civil servant, not a political appointment, formerly worked at Time Magazine, and is a long-time registered DEMOCRAT!

That dosn't stop Howard Dean from taking a few cheap shots though.

Read about it here.

A Very Brief History of Art, Starring Mr. Potato Head

Check it out here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- The Rickslayer

The Philadelphia City Paper has an in-depth piece on Bob Casey. Generally flattering, but when you boil it down to its essence it makes the point that aside from his pro-life position, Casey really hasn't taken a strong stand on much of anything. He is running on one thing -- the fact that he is the only Democrat who has a chance to beat Rick Santorum. He is the "Rickslayer." That's it, and that's all. And in this troubled year, that might just be enough.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum's Money Edge

AP is reporting that Rick Santorum raised three million dollars in the first quarter of 2006. By contrast Bob Casey raised 2.2 million. The pro-abortion people seem to be taking their toll. Overall Santorum has raised about 16 million, which puts him in Ed Rendell's league. Casey has raised half that much, about 8 million overall.

Read it here.