Day By Day

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Capitol Beautification Project

Voters in Pennsylvania's Twelfth District have an opportunity this fall to greatly enhance the beauty of Capitol Hill by removing the face on the left and replacing it with the one on the right. How can this be accomplished? Simply vote for Diana Irey.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Ridge Tours With Swanny

Former Governor Tom Ridge is touring the State with Lynn Swann. [read it here].

The press seems to think that this is all about giving Swann some "gravitas" but that is a decidedly secondary issue. Swann needs money, lots of it, and fast, and Ridge can put the arm on Republican donors. Right now polls don't matter, but fundraising does, and Ridge can provide money to the cash-strapped Swann campaign.

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority -- The New England Journal of Hype

Dr. Wes notes the shameful politicization of the New England Journal of Medicine. [here]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iowahawk -- How To Save the Planet

David Burge has a list of ten steps you can take to save the planet. A sample:

1. Turn off faucets when not in use. While a single dripping faucet may not seem to be much of an environmental hazard, the numbers really begin to add up when you're hosting a Sierra Club fundraising party for Laurie David and all 10 of your bathrooms are in use. Have your domestic staff check to make sure that electronic sink sensors are working properly, and use other water conservation methods such as installing low-flow bidets. Remember to remind your guests: "If it's yellow, let it mellow."

2. Upgrade to a new Gulfstream G550. Next time you take off for Cannes or Sundance or that big Environmental Defense Fund gala, stop and think how much fuel that clunky old G450 is using. Not only does the new G550 have 10.8% better fuel efficiency, it's quieter, has real burled walnut, and with a maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.885 you'll never be late for the Palm d'Or ceremony!

3. Crush a Third World economic development movement. One of the most pressing threats facing our environment is rising incomes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Only a generation ago, these proud dark people were happily frolicking in the rain forest, foraging for organic foods amid the wonders of nature. Now, corrupted by wealth, they are demanding environmentally hazardous consumer goods like cars and air conditioning and malaria medicine. You can do your part to stop this dangerous consumer trend by supporting environmentally aware leaders like Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro to foster an economy of sustainable low-impact ecolabor camps.

Read the rest here.

Rick Santorum Was Right!

Don't say he didn't warn us. Reuters reports:

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals. [emphasis mine]

Read the whole thing here.

The slope is getting slippier.

Cow Dung -- The Latest Alternative to Oil

ABC reports:

May 29, 2006 — The secret to cheaper gas could lie in cow dung.

The Vehicle Research Institute of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., has been turning cow manure into fuel that can power a natural-gas car. Researchers are not shoveling manure straight into the gas tank but pumping the methane — a gas created by the manure — into the car.

They have some hard-working cows at a dairy farm in Lyndon, Wash., to thank for this experiment, which could mean cheaper car fuel for many people.

Read it here.

Urban historians often make the point that concerns about urban pollution are nothing new. Think, for instance, of the amount of dung desposited by horses and other creatures on the streets of American cities before the advent of internal combustion engines. There actually was a class of workers -- scavengers -- who had responsibility for cleaning manure off the streets and transporting it to fields on the edge of town from whence it would be auctioned off to farmers.

Thanks to modern technology we may now be able to return to those fetid days of yore....

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sign the Petition -- Pave the Rain Forest

Check it out here.

Alan Tate -- Ode To the Confederate Dead

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.

Autumn is desolation in the plot
Of a thousand acres where these memories grow
From the inexhaustible bodies that are not
Dead, but feed the grass row after rich row.
Think of the autumns that have come and gone!-
Ambitious November with the humors of the year,
With a particular zeal for every slab,
Staining the uncomfortable angels that rot
On the slabs, a wing chipped here, an arm there:
The brute curiosity of an angel's stare

Turns you, like them, to stone,
Transforms the heaving air
Till plunged to a heavier world below
You shift your sea-space blindly
Heaving, turning like the blind crab.

Dazed by the wind, only the wind
The leaves flying, plunge

You know who have waited by the wall
The twilight certainty of an animal,
Those midnight restitutions of the blood
You know-the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze
Of the sky, the sudden call: you know the rage,
The cold pool left by the mounting flood,
Of muted Zeno and Parmenides.
You who have waited for the angry resolution
Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow,
You know the unimportant shrift of death
And praise the vision
And praise the arrogant circumstance
Of those who fall
Rank upon rank, hurried beyond decision-
Here by the sagging gate, stopped by the wall.

Seeing, seeing only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth-they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick-and-fast
You will curse the setting sun.

Cursing only the leaves crying
Like an old man in a storm

You hear the shout, the crazy hemlocks point
With troubled fingers to the silence which
Smothers you, a mummy, in time.

The hound bitch
Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar
Hears the wind only.

Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea,
Seals the malignant purity of the flood,

What shall we who count our days and bow
Our heads with a commemorial woe
In the ribboned coats of grim felicity,
What shall we say of the bones, unclean,
Whose verdurous anonymity will grow?
The ragged arms, the ragged heads and eyes
Lost in these acres of the insane green?
The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
With the furious murmur of their chivalry.

We shall say only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

We shall say only the leaves whispering
In the improbable mist of nightfall
That flies on multiple wing;
Night is the beginning and the end
And in between the ends of distraction
Waits mute speculation, the patient curse
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps
For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim.

What shall we say who have knowledge
Carried to the heart? Shall we take the act
To the grave? Shall we, more hopeful, set up the
In the house? The ravenous grave?

Leave now
The shut gate and the decomposing wall-
The gentle serpent, green in the mulberry bush,
Riots with his tongue through the hush-
Sentinel of the grave who counts us all!

Hat tip, Orin Judd [here].

A Real Da Vinci Conspiracy

Leonardo's "Adoration of the Magi" was altered by an anonymous artist more than 500 years ago at the request of a community of monks who had originally commissioned the work, but found parts of it offensive.

The Times has the story here.

The Precautionary Principle

Christine Sismondo has a nice piece in the Star about the most insidiously tyrannical aspect of modern government -- "the precautionary principle" which identifies things on the basis of [often pseud0-] "scientific" testimony to be a potential threat and therefore something to be strictly regulated or proscribed -- and how it is applied differently in different cultures.

Well-meaning "precautionism" is the hallmark of the nanny state and is today the greatest threat to our individual liberties. Nothing is too insignificant to escape its notice. It can be argued that precautionism is an understandable response to corporate irresponsibility, but it appears that in this case the cure is worse than the affliction.

Read the article here and be informed. In fact, be afraid..., be very afraid.

For Those Who Still Believe That "The Truth Is Out There"

If your life isn't exciting enough already, you can put the mystery back in it by visiting this site.

Check out the latest on bigfoot, the abominable snowman, hobbit fossils, the Malaysian yeti, lake monsters, horror films, and much, much more at Cryptomundo [here].

And yes, I know the photo is fake.

And while you are there, check out the pictures of Pennsylvania's own lake monster -- "Raystown Ray" [here]

And if that's not enough to sate your inquiring mind, check out the Fortean Times here.

Zimbabwe Update -- Mugabe Tightens His Grip

The Scotsman reports:

With pressure now building both internally and externally on the 82-year-old president to save his country by removing himself from power, [Zimbabwe dictator Robert] Mugabe is strengthening his grip over the country's rural masses....

Now Mugabe, who has been in power since the country's independence in 1980, has ordered his military to fan out across several rural areas to ensure the government's grain silos are full. He is also appointing military commanders to top positions in civilian institutions, presumably to stave off instability anticipated over rising prices.

As well as the Grain Board, senior officers, both on active duty and retired, are now in control of the Reserve Bank, the Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Railroads, the Ministry of Energy, the Public Service Commission, the National Parks and other key institutions....

The presence of the military predominantly in the southern part of the country, and not in the north where Mugabe's draws his support, is no coincidence. "The army has targeted areas that are potential opposition strongholds, those farmers that have voted for the opposition," said Gordon Moyo, leader of the Bulawayo Dialogue advocacy group. "It's an act of intimidation and a violation of human right of those people."

Read it here.

Why such harsh measures? Well, primarily because Mugabe's mad descent into racist, Maoist, anti-colonialist Hell has destroyed Zimbabwe's economy [once the strongest in the region], its social fabric, and its political culture. Hundreds of thousands have been made homeless, there is a persistent food crisis, inflation is running at an annual rate of more than 1,000 %, fuel supplies are almost nonexistant, hundreds of thousands, especially the white population have fled the country and Mad Bobby's henchman are pillaging what remains. It is nothing less than the systematic destruction of a country and a people, comparable to the atrocities perpetrated by the worst of the Communist regimes of the last century.
Jonathan Moyo, a former Secretary for Information and currently Zimbabwe's only independent Member of Parliament, said: "This is an admission that things have fallen apart and national governance can no longer continue in a civilian mode. It's a crisis and we are in an undeclared state of emergency."
And now Mad Bobby fears the future.

David Coltart, a white Member of Parliament with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said: "The militarisation of the state of government is viewed by Mugabe as a passport to a post-State House security. He hopes that after he leaves State House he will not be pursued by the law and not dragged to Senegal or the Netherlands for crimes against humanity."
You see, the madman is now 82 years old and under intense pressure to retire. But, like the Iraqi insurgents who fight on desperately, he fears that his past crimes will rise to haunt him under a new regime.

And, as in Iraq, the determination of the old order to hold on at all costs, is inflicting terrible, terrible suffering on innocent and helpless people.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Civil Unrest in Iran -- Wake Up and Smell the Gunpowder

The riots in Iran are spreading and becoming much, much more violent. Gateway Pundit has the latest. Here.

And there's more at "The Spirit of Man" [here].

Pajamas Media has links to several sources here.

The key question is, "Are we seeing the first stirrings of revolution in the Islamic Republic?"

At this point I'm not too hopeful, but there's always the chance that the mad mullahs will be brought down before they gain the capacity to nuke Rome and Moscow and Tel Aviv.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

BBC Reports:

Dracula's Castle has been returned to its ancestral owners 60 years after being seized by communists.

Well, it never really belonged to Dracula, but Vlad may well have visited it from time to time (presumably after dark) and the government didn't keep it up very well, so it's in disrepair.

It now passes into the possession of Dominic von Habsburg, a New York architect whose ancestors once ruled most of Eastern Europe [and Spain, and Holland, and the New World, and just about everywhere], but that was a long time ago. Now they have a run down castle with a shady past.

Read about it here.

Thank You!

As we honor our fallen heroes let us remember those brave young men and women who today, far from our shores, are putting their lives on the line to make our world a better and safer place.

Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Reading about Gettysburg, Okinawa, Choisun, Hue, and Mogadishu is often to wonder how such soldiers did what they did. Yet never has America asked its youth to fight under such a cultural, political, and tactical paradox as in Iraq, as bizarre a mission as it is lethal. And never has the American military — especially the U.S. Army and Marines — in this, the supposedly most cynical and affluent age of our nation, performed so well.

We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.
Read the whole thing here.

I remember, and say from the profoundest depths of my heart..., "Thank You!"

It All Depends On What You Buy

Tim Harford has an excellent short piece in Slate on the problems of calculating inflation rates. Calculating inflation rates is meaningful only if we ask what, precisely, is being bought. When we look closely at the problem we note that much commonly held economic wisdom simply does not fit the historical record.

Read it here. And, follow his links to read some very interesting papers.
Instapundit, a law professor, demolishes the argument, made by Jerry Pournelle, that Congress should police itself and that the executive branch should not intervene. He writes:

Now you may think that this is a good idea -- I don't, but Pournelle apparently does -- but it is not now, nor has it ever been, the law. In fact, with the sole exception of impeachment (which doesn't run against members of Congress), the Congress cannot investigate or try offenses, and impeachment is carefully distinguished from criminal prosecution in the Constitution. The Constitution's prohibition of Bills of Attainder, in fact, explicitly forbids Congress dealing with criminal matters.
Read it here.

Prof. Reynolds also links to a WSJ article by Bob Turner, UVa Law Prof., on why the constitutional argument being raised by members of Congress is bogus, and why they are so anxious to be immunized from prosecution. It's behind a subscription wall, but Reynolds provides a long excerpt.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The French Do Some Things Right

Check out the hubbalicious French news babe, Melissa Theuriau, over at Grayhawk's site [here]. Even FOX can't compete with this.

Hat tip, Bilious Young Fogey.

CNN Screws the Pooch Again

Omar at Iraq the Model catches CNN in a blatant lie. [here]

The Cultural Consequences of Bush Derangement Syndrome

Rick Moran discusses the cultural consequences of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

It’s not difficult to see what happens when the fringe politics of hate goes mainstream. The conspiracy theories, the dark forces that people imagine are controlling their lives (so much easier to blame for life’s failures and disappointments), the Men in Black, the aliens, corporate plots, the Freemasons, and yes, The Davinci Code – these are no longer relegated to the the dark recesses of people’s minds. The beasts have been loosed and they now run amok, wreaking havoc wherever there’s an internet connection and a chat room.

Egged on by supposedly mainstream liberal websites like Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, and other blogs associated with the left, the dark hints and barely concealed innuendo that He knew…He knew…He wanted it to happen… have found an eager audience in the population at large.

Read it here.

Another Reminder Of the 1930's

Dymphna over at Gates of Vienna has an interesting post.

She notes that in the 1930's, as the Nazis were rising to power, many of Europe's dissenting intellectuals -- people like Albert Einstein -- fled to America and enriched our culture greatly. Now, it seems to be happening again. Read it here.

Interesting..., Verrrry Interrresssting

From Instapundit:

[A]n interesting backstory at the Justice Department:

The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation's top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman's office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions.

The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson's office.

Assuming this report (based on anonymous sources) is true, it seems likely that this means the Jefferson investigation goes well beyond the not-entirely-newsworthy phenomenon of a corrupt Louisiana Congressman. Even if the claims of Congressional immunity are bogus -- which they are -- I can't imagine these guys threatening resignation over a run-of-the-mill corruption case. That makes me think that there are a lot of other members of Congress implicated, which perhaps also explains the rather, um, vigorous reaction from Congress.

The New York Times story is here.

The WaPo version is here.

Captain Ed notes that the House leadership is backing down from their claim that the search was unconstitutional and that Denny Hastert is the big loser in this brouhaha.

Given this time out for his obstinacy, Hastert and his colleagues have busied themselves with goalpost-moving and backtracking. Before, they claimed a Constitutional privilege of freedom from search warrants and subpoenas from the executive branch, even though Congress regularly issues subpoenas without judicial approval against members of the executive branch. Now Hastert has acknowledged that Congressmen are subject to the same laws as everyone else, but have modified their complaint; now they say the issue is that Jefferson and his attorney were not allowed to be present at the search. That's a far cry from the phony Constitutional crisis they declared earlier this week, perhaps a more reasonable issue and certainly one that didn't require Hastert's intercession. He could have kept his mouth shut and let Jefferson's attorney raise that question when the evidence got submitted for trial -- just like any other defendant in a criminal case.

The denouement of this kerfuffle demonstrates two very important points. George Bush still holds the power in Washington and in the GOP, and this controversy shows that he and the people at Justice remain the adults in charge of the day care center. Hastert has severely damaged himself politically in two ways. No one in the GOP will ever give Hastert the same level of trust again after this attempt to pervert the Constitution, and Republicans will remain furious with him for taking the focus off of William Jefferson and his cash-cow business in selling his vote.

Read it here.

Ed is right to note that Dubya played this one exactly right -- calling a time out and sequestering the papers. It gave all sides a chance to calm down and to consider the consequences of their statements. There's a madness running through the House of Representatives these days and with the Senate eternally out to lunch, it falls on Bush and his associates in the executive branch to be the adults.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Rendell Opens A Lead

Rasmussen Reports:

Governor Ed Rendell (D) has opened his biggest lead of the season over challenger and political newcomer Lynn Swann (R). After being neck-and-neck with Swann in the previous four Rasmussen Reports Pennsylvania election polls, Rendell now holds an 18-point advantage, 52% to 34%.

This is the first Rasmussen Reports Pennsylvania poll taken after the statewide primaries. Several longtime legislators including the Senate Majority Leader were ousted in the Primaries over a pay raise for lawmakers and other issues.

Rendell's favorables have increased significantly since April. Today, 27% of voters have a "very favorable" opinion of him while 13% hold a "very unfavorable" opinion. A month ago, those numbers were 18% very favorable and 20% very unfavorable.

Those with a "very favorable" opinion of Swann fell from 25% in April to 16% this month. In both surveys, just 10% of voters have a very unfavorable opinion of the former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver.

Swann's support has fallen to 59% among Republicans while Rendell now captures 76% of the vote from his own party.

Read it here.

Pennsylvania Politics -- Diana Irey

She's young, she's beautiful, she's smart, she's articulate, and [according to my Western Pa sources], she's very ambitious. Quite a package! This fall she's running against my former Congresscritter, Jack Murtha, in Pennsylvania's Twelfth District. I wish her well.

Meet Diana Irey.

Currently a Washington (PA) County Commissioner [here] Irey spoke Wednesday at the National Press Club in DC. Flanked by uniformed veterans she called on Mr. Murtha to apologize for his recent remarks charging American marines with committing atrocities in Iraq.

"John Murtha was a patriot," Ms. Irey said at the Press Club. "...But many years have passed and I say again my opponent has lost his way because the comments and actions of late are not that of a patriot. Rather they serve to aid and comfort our enemies."

"These inflammatory remarks read around the world not only put Americans lives at risk," she said, "but will also be used as a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations."

Read about it here.

Check out her website here.

Murtha is a legendary porkmeister who has accumulated a hefty war chest of about $1.5 million. By contrast Irey has raised only about $75,000 and has little of that left. However, she's beginning to attract national attention and money is starting to come in from out of State. She also has support from the Santorum campaign. There's a lot of animosity against Murtha for his recent statements, but he is also recognized as someone who brings money into the district. Will Irey be able to overcome the old guy's significant advantages?

Stay tuned....

X-Men -- The Last Stand

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I went to see the new X-Men movie today. “She” enjoyed it and had only one complaint – “not enough Hugh Jackman” – apparently “She” feels that you can never have enough Hugh Jackman. Pierce Brosnan seems to have been displaced in her film pantheon.

Well, what to say about this week’s blockbuster wannabe? It’s a comic book film (duh!) and subject to all the limitations of that genre. There is a plethora of characters, none of whom are developed very well but who have extensive and complex backstories in the comics that, for fans, explain their seemingly irrational actions. We who don’t read comics are left out in the cold – but then we aren’t the target audience.

I checked into the IMDB comments section seeking enlightenment and found that to understand the first killing you have to know that the dead guy will return in the future and that he and the once dead, but now revived and transformed and soon to die again babe will have a child together, or maybe he has the child with the clone of the on and off dead chick. I must be getting really old because none of that makes sense to me, but the comics crowd seems to understand.

All of the characters are capable of performing spectacular stunts and the extended FX sequences don’t leave much time for character development. Lots of things go boom. There is plenty of conflict, both violent and of the soap opera variety, some characters die or lose their powers, others survive, new ones are inserted – you know, a standard comics story.

Of course this being the X-Men, gay themes are prominent. One has to do with a self-abusive character whose father is trying to shame him into going straight (that is, giving up his mutant powers). Another is a massive government/evil corporate plot to “cure” the mutants of their deviancy. In the course of the film intolerant “homo sapiens” and sociopathic mutants are vanquished and the film ends with a plea for mutual tolerance and respect, and full societal acceptance of deviance.

About the quality of the acting, there’s not much to say. Actors show up, say their lines, go through the motions, collect their checks, and go home. Some of them are quite talented, but have minor roles and aren’t putting out much effort. Others just aren’t very good [yes, Halle Berry, I’m talking about you]. It was fun to see Kelsey Grammar being beastly.

The special effects are pretty good -- about what you would expect in this series. The plot is extremely convoluted and, frankly, doesn’t make much sense in places. I suspect that’s because the producers are trying to match the film and the comic book versions of the story although the comics fans over at IMDB complain about major deviations from the canon.

What else to say? Oh, yeah, this was conceived as the end of a trilogy, so there is a certain finality to what happens here, but if you pay close attention to the last scene and then watch through to the end of the credits you will find that they left the door open for further sequels, should this do well at the box office. Judging from the crowd at the matinee we attended, it should make enough money to justify the next episode in the interminable adventures of the X-Men.

That’s about it. Even at its short length, "The Last Stand" is an adequate summer movie – no more, no less. If you like these kinds of films you will enjoy it.


I just read Michael Agger's review in Slate [here]. It seems pretty typical of the current crop of young, snarky film reviewers. He admired Singer's first two films in the series because they were, "a fun mixture of swish, eye candy, and political metaphor." Now, he argues, it's just bombast and soap opera. I couldn't disagree more. Both the political and the sexual content of the first two films were a peek inside the mad world of leftist paranoia. So, too, is the current film. If anything the swish and the political nuttiness is more blatant. There's really not much difference in that regard. I've never been much of a fan of Brian Singer, or for that matter of the late-stage Marvel universe he plunders. But then, I'm just an old guy who used to read "Terry and the Pirates" and "The Katzenjammer Kids" in the paper. Now those I'd like to see remade into movies. [I checked IMDB and it seems "Terry" has been made into a movie twice, in 1940 and 1952, and searching my memory I think I might actually have seen the 1952 flick.]


Three weeks; three bad to mediocre movies. I have to clear my mind before depression and ennui set in.

Fortunately IFC is showing Akira Kurosawa's "Hidden Fortress" this morning. It's one of his most accessible films, one I haven't see in a long, long time, and of historical interest since George Lucas has cited it as his primary inspiration for "Star Wars." Toshiro Mifune is magnificent as the general and Misa Uehara's Princess Yuki is amazing -- no damsel in distress, she is the prototype for the strong heroines who fill the screen these days. The composition of the shots is..., well..., it's Kurosawa and nobody has ever done better. It was filmed in cinemascope ratio, I believe it's the first that Kurosawa did in that format, and it's wonderful to see how he fills the screen. Here's the spear fight. The influence on Sergio Leone is unmistakable.

The longer I watch it, the better I feel. Ahhhh..., the fire dance scene..., much better now..., much better!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Things are Heating Up

At last, the campaigns are moving into full swing.

This week Rick Santorum launched his media campaign with radio ads in the Pittsburgh market portraying Bob Casey as a below-the-belt mudslinger who won’t address real issues. He’s attacking Casey’s strongest points here. Thus far Casey has tried to portray himself as a comfort candidate – not harsh like Santorum, and fuzzy enough on issues so that voters with widely disparate perspectives can feel comfortable with him. So far it’s worked, and so Santorum is trying to alter those perceptions. In doing so he has a considerable advantage. During his losing battle against Ed Rendell for the gubernatorial nomination four years ago Casey did sling a lot of mud, and was called on it by the Rendell forces. As a result Santorum is in the delicious position of being able to throw the Democrats’ own words back at them.

Will it work? It’s not bad for a first volley. And it is significant that the campaign opened in Pittsburgh. That’s Santorum’s home turf and he has been polling poorly there. Rick has no chance of denting the mindlessly partisan Philly market, but if he can peel away some moderate votes in the West and firm up his base in the center of the State, he can take this thing – at least that seems to be the calculation.

Read about it here.

Meanwhile in the other major statewide contest, Lynn Swann has begun to firm up his credentials, enlisting popular former governor, Tom Ridge as his honorary campaign chairman, and issuing a serious proposal for cutting property taxes, modeled on California’s “Proposition 13” which he claimed stimulated economic growth in that state. Rendell countered by arguing that Swann’s proposal would hurt education [something of a stretch, I would think, considering that our local middle school [not the high school] here in the mountains now boasts a huge swimming pool, paid for by the taxpayers of course, and that is not even beginning to mention other frills like the expensive and elaborate passive solar heating system, also at taxpayers’ expense].

Speaking as a Pennsylvania homeowner, I am strongly in favor of anything that cuts our tax burden, especially if it begins to enforce some discipline on the grandiose visions of school officials.

Read about Ridge’s role here.

For details on Swann’s tax proposals go here.

Dos Amigos

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (just back from Iraq) held a joint news conference during prime time yesterday. I was not feeling well and missed it, but got up in the middle of the night to see the rebroadcast on Fox News. There was a reason for that -- I have long since quit trusting the MSM to tell me what is going on. I wanted to see it for myself.

It was an impressive performance, but unless you watched it, you wouldn't know from the MSM reports. Already before the conference had begun the speculation had been rampant and we were confidently told by media mavens that the two leaders were going to announce troop withdrawals, probably significant British withdrawals. And already the chorus of criticism had begun. "The withdrawals are premature," a Time reporter [Jay Carney] declared. They are clearly a response to political pressure. This from a guy who for months now has been ginning up political pressure to force withdrawal.

Well the beltway pundits were wrong. We got from the two leaders a strong expression of their determination to persevere in Iraq, and to see the entire matter through to a satisfactory conclusion. There would be no troop withdrawals.

Key grafs:

From Dubya --
With the emergence of this government, something fundamental changed in Iraq last weekend. While we can expect more violence in the days and weeks ahead, the terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They're at war with the people of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are determined to defeat this enemy, and so are Iraq's new leaders, and so are the United States and Great Britain.
From Tony --
[W]hatever people's views about the wisdom of that decision [to invade Iraq], now that there is a democratic government in Iraq, elected by its people, and now they are confronted with those whose mission it is to destroy the hope of democracy, then our sense of mission should be equal to that and we should be determined to help them defeat this terrorism and violence.
The question period was mostly inane, as it always is. Bush was asked when we would be drawing troops down. [When the commanders on the ground say we can] They were asked to comment on Kofi Annan's statement that the invasion was "probably illegal", which elicited from Bush this comment:
I'd like to see a United Nations that's effective, one that joins us in trying to rid the world of tyranny, one that is willing to advance human rights and human dignity at its core, one that's an unabashed organization -- is unabashed in their desire to spread freedom. That's what I'd like to see, because I believe that freedom will yield to peace. I also believe freedom is universal. I don't believe freedom is just a concept only for America or Great Britain. It's a universal concept. And it troubles me to know that there are people locked in tyrannical societies that suffer. And the United Nations ought to be clear about its desire to liberate people from the clutches of tyranny. That's what the United Nations ought to be doing, as far as I'm concerned.
Nice sentiment. Bush was asked whether Treasury Secretary Snow would be fired. [No!]

Asked if they would retreat from their goals in the face of widespread political opposition, both leaders said "No!"

Why are they [the insurgents] resisting so hard, what is it about democracy they can't stand? Well, what they can't stand about democracy is this: Democracy is the exact opposite of what they believe. They believe they can impose their will, they believe there's no freedom of religion, they believe there's no women's rights. They have a -- they have a dark vision of the world, and that's why they're resisting so mightily.

So yes, I can understand why the American people are troubled by the war in Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the sacrifice is worth it and is necessary, and I believe a free Iraq is not only going to make ourselves more secure, but it's going to serve as a powerful example in the Middle East.
Tony, as always, was more eloquent:

[The Iraqi people] have gone out and voted despite terrorism, despite bloodshed, despite literally the prospect of death for exercising their democratic right.

So they have kept faith with the very democratic values that we say we believe in, and the people trying to wrest that democracy from them are opposed to absolutely everything we stand for and everything the Iraqi people stand for.

So what do we do in response to this? And the problem we have is very, very simple. A large part of the perspective with which we look at this is to see every act of terrorism in Iraq, every piece of ghastly carnage on our television screens, every tragic loss of our own forces -- we see that as a setback and as a failure when we should be seeing that as a renewed urgency for us to rise to the challenge of defeating these people who are committing this carnage. Because over these past three years, at every stage, the reason they have been fighting is not, as we can see, because Iraqi people don't believe in democracy, Iraqi people don't want liberty. It is precisely because they fear Iraqi people do want democracy, Iraqi people do want liberty.

And if the idea became implanted in the minds of people in the Arab and Muslim world that democracy was as much their right as our right, where do these terrorists go? What do they do? How do they recruit? How do they say, America is the evil Satan? How do they say the purpose of the West is to spoil your lands, wreck your religion, take your wealth? How can they say that? They can't say that.

So these people who are fighting us there know what is at stake. The question is, do we?

Good question -- do we?

Finally, Bush was asked about whether or not he had made mistakes. He answered that his language at the beginning of the fight was needlessly provocative, and he regretted that Abu Ghraib had happened. Blair said that de-Baathification could have been done differently and that the determination of the opposition had been underestimated.

All in all, it was a rather substantive encounter -- a stirring affirmation of their intention to stay the course and to win through to victory and a better world, but guess what the talking points for the MSM were?

That's right -- "Bush Admits Mistakes!!!!!" A second line of discussion -- "They looked tired, beaten down, like losers." See what I mean about the MSM?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lay and Skilling Indicted

AP reports:
HOUSTON - Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history.

The verdict put the blame for the 2001 demise of the high-profile energy trader, once the nation's seventh-largest company, squarely on its top two executives. It came in the sixth day of deliberations following a federal criminal trial that lasted nearly four months.

Lay was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate, non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake related to Lay's personal banking.

The conviction was a major win for the government, serving almost as a bookend to an era that has seen prosecutors win convictions against executives from WorldCom Inc. to Adelphia Communications Corp. and homemaking maven Martha Stewart.

Read it here.

This is a rather remarkable record for the Bush Justice Department. Dubya seems to be deadly serious about cleaning up corruption whether in the corporate world, in the permanent government, or in the operations of NGOs and the nations that receive their largesse.

For extensive bloggery on this subject go here, and here.

The Economy Just Keeps On Rollin' Along

AP reports:

WASHINGTON - Emerging from a year-end rut, the economy dashed ahead in the opening quarter of this year at a 5.3 percent pace, the fastest in 2 1/2 years and even stronger than previously thought.

The new snapshot showed gross domestic product during the January-to-March period exceeded the 4.8 percent annual rate initially estimated a month ago, the

Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Gross domestic product measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is considered the best barometer of the country's economic fitness.

The upgraded reading on GDP, based on more complete information, mostly reflected stronger U.S. exports and better inventory building by businesses.

Read it here.

Appalachian Springtime -- Rhododendrons

It began a couple of months ago with tiny snowdrops poking up through fallen leaves. Now Spring is approaching its climax here on the mountain with rhododendrons reaching almost to the sky, or so it seems. Soon the heat of summer will be on us, but let's not think of that. Let us stay in the present and enjoy an almost perfect day.

More Riots in Iran

Across the country university campuses erupted in mass demonstrations Wednesday. Gateway Pundit is all over it.

Read it here.

Movies -- Mission Impossible 3 and the Da Vinci Code

Twice now in the past few weeks “She Who Must Not Be Named” has wanted to go to the movies. The trouble is, there has been nothing out there that I particularly wanted to see. It was different for her. She wanted to check out Mission Impossible 3 because, no matter how weird he gets, she still likes Tom Cruise [I think it’s the boyish smile that gets her]. And besides, she noted, I have expressed a lot of admiration for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work, and he was in it. I tried to explain to her that I don’t go to the movies to see stars, but to no avail. And, the film was getting good reviews. So, off we went to the multiplex.

It was a harmless couple of hours. Lots of things blow up real good – my personal favorite was the destruction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – a sequence worthy of Michael Bay [and if you think that is damning with faint praise, you are right]. The plot, such as it was, did little more than string together the boom boom sequences.

The few attempts at characterization were inept and just plain ludicrous. Middle aged man/boy Ethan Hunt, played by man/boy Cruise, is goofy in love with a much younger girl, played by Michelle Monaghan. Through the first half hour of the film he displays his love with ostentatiously ardent smooches and little bits of whimsical behavior that are supposed to be endearing, but are just plain creepy because they resonate with the TomKat thing that is one of this month’s tabloid obsessions. The bad guys are maliciously so; the good guys suffer greatly. Camraderie is shown through occasional lame jokes. In short, there’s no effort at all to develop meaningful or even slightly believable characters or motives. This is standard for a summer action flick, and this is by no means the worst, although it was a bit painful to see so talented an actor as Billy Crudup wasted in a nothing part.

The continuing theme is the hoary old, “can’t let anyone know I’m a superhero because that would put them in danger” bit from the comics. And, of course, the villain does figure out who Ethan’s beloved is, and puts her in danger. Beyond that…, nothing. There’s a “maguffin” that everyone is after, but it’s so unimportant that we aren’t ever told what is at stake here. The whole thing is paint by numbers moviemaking, and it becomes tiresome awfully fast.

The structure of the film is primitive. You have a race against time in which a complex bit of business must be performed in a given time and then you watch the actors do their thing while the clock ticks down in the background. I kept waiting for the timer to stop, showing the digits, “007” [that’s how old the cliché is – they were already making fun of it back then – actually, I seem to remember that D.W. Griffith used it in “The Lonedale Operator”]. First time movie director, J. J. Abrams seems to have enjoyed this so much he did it again, over and over. As a variation he throws in the one where action is going on behind the back of the villain’s henchman, and if he just turns around before the tech fix is completed the whole gig is blown, but of course he doesn’t turn, and the hackneyed story goes on.

That’s the pattern – gin up the tension, release it, gin it up, release it, gin it up… toss in a plot reversal here and there, and so it goes. All in all, the movie was more tiresome than offensive, although it did have three elements that mildly upset me. The first was Tom’s obviously fake expressions of affection for his wife and her passive acceptance of his silliness [including an impromptu wedding in the basement of a hospital; believe me, women take weddings a lot more seriously than that]; the second was the misogynistic treatment of the female figures [including an all grown up Keri Russell]; and finally they, for some reason, chose to end with a hip hop number that was terribly out of phase with all that had gone before. But those are minor quibbles. This is just what it claims to be – a piece of action fluff made for fourteen year old boys -- no more and no less. I felt my time was wasted, but if you like to see things go “boom” or can fall for a boyish smile, this one’s for you.

Then there’s the real stinker – The Da Vinci Code[or as I like to think of it, "Mission Implausible"]. Here the massive publicity blitz is what drew us to the theatre. All of her girlfriends, it seems, had been discussing it and it was all over the TV, and it seemed to be one of those “happening” things to do. Bad reviews notwithstanding, and despite a total lack of interest in the themes of the film, “She” wanted to go, mostly to be able to say she had seen it when the subject came up.

DVC is not a technically bad movie. There’s a lot of talent and movie-making knowhow on display here. But seasoned pros like Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Ian McKellen and Opie are imprisoned within a ridiculous storyline that makes them all look foolish. The plot is pure hogwash – clichéd, lunatic, nonsensical hogwash. This in itself does not have to doom a picture, as the first “Matrix” film shows -- it is still possible to pull off a stylish coup -- but Opie and his gang don’t seem to be up to the challenge. They decided to take the whole crapulent mess seriously. They chose badly.

The characters are absurd, from Paul Bettany’s mad albino monk, to Tom Hanks’ Harvard “symbologist”, to Ian McKellan’s loony grail nut, to Audrey Tautou’s whatever the heck she is. The story lurches from one incredible situation to the next, with plenty of plot reversals, and lots, and I mean lots, of talk about really, really stupid stuff. Opie does the best he can, intercutting the narrative with flashes of violent action from the past, but the movie still drags, to the point where I was noticing just how terribly emaciated Miss Tautou is, and that little dark spot on her neck, and that strange hair style Tom Hanks had and how his weight changed from scene to scene, and how convincingly Ian McKellen captured the moves of a terribly crippled man in some scenes, and how he seemed to forget all about it in others. The point is, in an effective thriller, the audience is too involved to notice these inconsistencies. Here they leap off the screen.

In this film even the good stuff turns sour. Ron Howard’s devices for illustrating mental processes for instance, so effective in “A Beautiful Mind”, seem just silly here – probably because the mental processes depicted are themselves so silly. The story is structured like one of those early computer games, where you cannot advance until you solve a puzzle, which is followed by another puzzle, and another. Here the solutions to the puzzles are absurd and arbitrary and at the end there is only one puzzle remaining to be solved – “why would anyone pay attention to this steaming pile of excrement?”

The solution – precisely what brought us into the Cineplex on a Spring afternoon. Sony, knowing they had a lemon on their hands, made lemonade with a massive, yearlong, marketing campaign in which they played the media the way Heifetz played the violin. Peter Boyer, writing in the New Yorker, describes the operation of the campaign [here]. Tim Graham documents [here] its effect in the form of unparalleled amount of free positive publicity this movie got on the MSM [especially on NBC, which seems to have fallen in love with the ideas behind the movie].

Boiling it down to a blurb…. The DaVinci Code is a triumph – of marketing, not movie-making.


Now she wants me to take her to see the new X-Men flick. I asked why -- she's not a SF or comics fan -- and she said something about Hugh Jackman being really buff. Sheesh!

I note that the reviewers agree that it doesn't have the deep resonance the first two had. I suppose by that they mean it doesn't have a gay subtext like the first two. If so, it will be a relief.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Katrina and the Press

Jonah Goldberg points out just how bad media coverage of the Katrina disaster was, and just how misplaced the blame.

It's a nice, short summary. Read it here.

More Scientific Follies -- The Solar Forcing Debate

A few years ago I had lunch with Harvard astronomer, Sallie Baliunas, and was fascinated to hear her ideas on global warming. On the basis of her experience as one of the top solar astronomers in the world, and former director of the Mount Wilson observatory, a center for solar research, she was of the opinion that one of the most important sources of warming was an increase in solar radiation output. At the time nobody was listening to her, because the political and professional commitment to anthropogenic causes of global warming was overwhelming, but I remembered what she said, because it scared me.

Now the concept of "solar forcing" is moving front and center in the warming debate. The Telegraph reports:
Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.

Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.

"The Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."

Interesting, and there's this:

The research adds weight to the views of David Bellamy, the conservationist. "Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth," he said. "I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy-makers are not.

"Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement: humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up. They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock."

Read it here.

What struck me about this is the source of the new information. Sami Solanki was one of those who earlier dismissed Dr. Baliunas' claim that solar output drives global warming. Just four years ago Dr. Solanki stated precisely the opposite.
In the 2002 Harold Jeffreys Lecture to the Royal Astronomical Society in London, Solanki said: After 1980, however, the Earth's temperature exhibits a remarkably steep rise, while the sun's irradiance displays at the most a weak secular trend. Hence the sun cannot be the dominant source of this latest temperature increase, with man-made greenhouse gases being the likely dominant alternative.
Read it here.

Now there's nothing wrong with scientists changing their mind as new evidence comes in. That sort of thing lies at the heart of scientific inquiry. But, as I have argued time and again, the shifting sand of scientific opinion is a very unreliable foundation on which to build public policy.

My lunch with Dr. Baliunas made me aware of another thing. IAt one point I observed that it was a bit disquieting to hear that the Sun is a variable star. Everyone chuckled, but there was a serious and obvious point behind my observation. If solar output waxes or wanes there is absolutely nothing to do about it. We fry or freeze no matter what we do. In comparison, the idea of anthropogenic warming is downright comforting. The "unshakeable faith" in human agency in the matter of global warming might be based in the psychological need to believe that nature is benign and, more importantly, that we can control our own futures.

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority --

The Financial Times reports:
The Royal Society, Britain’s scientific establishment, has just released a report on public communication of scientific findings. Journalists in search of stories and scientists anxious for publicity and research funding issue early, oversimplified or downright misleading accounts of research....
Do tell! And how, pray, can we guard against such abuse?
The Society’s answers are self-restraint [Hah! ed.] and peer review. Peer review is the process by which professions review their own work. Articles submitted to journals receive critical assessment from referees experienced in the field. Peer review is a bulwark against cranks, crooks and incompetents. But too much reliance on peer review carries its own dangers. Every profession defines its own concept of excellence in inward-looking ways.

Successful academics learn how to trigger the buttons that win the approval of referees.
The problem is linked to the entire concept of the professional community.
The world of today favours the competent professional – as judged by the standards of other competent professionals. In a sense this self-reference is right: the people to decide whether astrology is good astrology are other astrologers. But they are not the people to decide whether astrology itself is any good. Judgment of the rigour and relevance of professional standards and scholarly research can never be left to professionals and scholars alone.
The effect of rigorously applied professional standards is self-imposed censorship.
Any form of censorship, including self-censorship and censorship by fellow professionals, encourages complacency and discourages innovation. The history of modern scholarship is that, more slowly than we would wish, truth and new knowledge emerge only from a cacophony of conflicting opinions.
Complacancy, arrogance, naked careerism, intellectual stagnation, widespread censoring of ideas and falsification of data to fit community standards -- these are the hallmarks of the modern scientific establishment. Taken together they serve as a stark warning against allowing
scientific consensus" to direct public policy.

Read the article here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bush Rebounding In Polls

Nobody seems to have noticed, but according to Real Clear Politics, which daily publishes an average of all the national polls, Bush's approval rating is up to 39.8%, a gain of nearly ten percent in just a couple of weeks.

Read it here.
Neo-Neocon, one of the smartest ex-liberals out there, has a very nice essay on why the opposition to this war is so strident and impervious to reason. Read it and be informed. Then, follow her links to other, equally impressive and throughtful remarks.

She promises a followup. I hope it comes soon.

There aren't very many bloggers out there I'd actually like to meet in person, but she's one of them.

Read it here.

Hat tip: Instapundit [another one I'd like to meet someday -- preferably wandering through the stacks of a good sci-fi bookstore].

Speaking Sense on the Environment.

Pete DuPont, writing in the WSJ point out a few inconvenient facts.

Since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, America's population has increased by 42%, the country's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product has grown 195%, the number of cars and trucks in the United States has more than doubled, and the total number of miles driven has increased by 178%.

But during these 35 years of growing population, employment, and industrial production, the Environmental Protection Agency reports, the environment has substantially improved. Emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by 53%. Carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 197 million tons per year to 89 million; nitrogen oxides from 27 million tons to 19 million, and sulfur dioxide from 31 million to 15 million. Particulates are down 80%, and lead emissions have declined by more than 98%.

When it comes to visible environmental improvements, America is also making substantial progress:

• The number of days the city of Los Angeles exceeded the one-hour ozone standard has declined from just under 200 a year in the late 1970s to 27 in 2004.

• The Pacific Research Institute's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that "U.S. forests expanded by 9.5 million acres between 1990 and 2000."

• While wetlands were declining at the rate of 500,000 acres a year at midcentury, they "have shown a net gain of about 26,000 acres per year in the past five years," according to the institute.

• Also according to the institute, "bald eagles, down to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in 1965, are now estimated to number more than 7,500 nesting pairs."

Environmentally speaking, America has had a very good third of a century; the economy has grown and pollutants and their impacts upon society are substantially down.

Read the whole thing here..., that's an order.

On all the important indices the global trends are positive. We live in a cleaner, more peaceful, more prosperous world than has ever existed in living memory, but the hysterical shrieks of the doom-and-gloom crowd sound ever louder..., ever louder..., ever louder.

A Missile Shield for Europe?

It hasn't gotten much play in the US media, but it's huge in Europe and Russia.

NYT reports:

WASHINGTON, May 21 — The Bush administration is moving to establish a new antimissile site in Europe that would be designed to stop attacks by Iran against the United States and its European allies.

The administration's proposal, which comes amid rising concerns about Iran's suspected program to develop nuclear weapons, calls for installing 10 antimissile interceptors at a European site by 2011. Poland and the Czech Republic are among the nations under consideration.

A recommendation on a European site is expected to be made this summer to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials say.

Read it here.

Russia, of course, sees this as an unwelcome intrustion of US military power into its backyard, and there are Congressional critics, but the move is popular in Eastern and Southern Europe [which is where Iran's missiles might land].

Meanwhile the Bush administration is pushing forward with a missile shield to guard against Korean missiles.

It's clear that Bush has concluded that diplomatic pressure will not halt, but might impede a bit, nuclear proliferation, and Democrats have ruled out military intervention, so he has begun to harden our defenses against a nuclearlized world.

[T]he Bush administration is proceeding with a limited antimissile system, one that is no longer intended to make nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete," as Mr. Reagan famously put it. Instead, it is designed to counter prospective dangers from nations like North Korea and Iran.

President Bush made the program a top priority soon after taking office and cleared the way for antimissile deployments by withdrawing from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.

Nine interceptors have already been installed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as part of a broader, multilayered system planned by the Pentagon.

It's clear that Bush is constantly thinking of the long-term results of current policies. I'm glad someone is.

The Upside of Katrina

Lou Dolinar over at RCP has a nice piece on "What the Media Missed" in Katrina.

The key point:

[B]y focusing on the part of the glass that was half-empty, the national media imposed a near total blackout on the nerve center of what may have been the largest, most successful aerial search and rescue operation in history.

"The Coast Guard, the National Guard, the military in general performed heroically,"

Read the whole thing here.

If the media reporting had been fair and balanced, if the enormously successful rescue effort had been reported, Bush would probably today be remembered as the hero of Katrina instead of the goat. Instead we got relentless negativity and a host of false stories that became fixed in the public mind.

And the idiot journalists go around giving themselves plaudits and awards for their "courageous" Katrina coverage which was almost entirely a lie.


The Anchoress Understands -- Bush Is One Of the Great Ones

I have been trying to tell people for a long time now just why Dubya is one of the great presidents. Here's "The Anchoress" on the subject. I reprint most of it here -- you can find the whole thing [illustrated] here.

Perhaps I am a dim bulb, but President Bush has never surprised me, and that is probably why I have never felt let down or “betrayed” by him. He is, in essentials, precisely whom he has ever been. He did not surprise me when he managed, in August of 2001, to find a morally workable solution in the matter of Embryonic Stem Cells. He did not surprise me when, a month later, he stood on a pile of rubble and lifted a broken city from its knees. When my NYFD friends told me of the enormous consolation and strength he brought to his meetings with grieving families, I was not surprised. When the World Series opened in New York City and the President was invited to throw the first pitch, there was no surprise in his throwing (while wearing body armor) a perfect strike.

He did not surprise me when he spoke eloquently from the National Cathedral, or again before the Joint Houses of Congress, when he laid out the Bush Doctrine. He did not surprise me when he did it again at West Point, or when he went visionary at Whitehall (don’t try to find a tape of it, honey, that was ONE SPEECH C-Span never re-ran and the press quickly tried to move along from).

There were no surprises in President Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan to battle AlQaeda. There were no surprises when he went after an Iraq which everyone believed had WMD, an Iraq that had tried to assassinate an American President, an Iraq whose NYC consul did not lower its flag to half-mast after 9/11.

Actually, there was one surprise. He did surprise me by going back to the UN, and back to the UN, in that mythical “rush to war” we heard so much about. But then again, the effort in Iraq was never as “unilateral” as it had been painted.

President Bush did not surprise me when, faced with the scorn of “the world community” and those ever-ready A.N.S.W.E.R. marches which sprang up condemning him and Tony Blair, he stood firm. A lesser man, a mere politician, would have folded under such enormous pressure. I was not surprised when Bush did not. (Aside - it’s funny how they just can’t get a good-sized crowd together for those protests these days, innit? Everything about Iraq was “wrong” and everything about Iraq is “failure and quagmire” and yet, somehow, we all breathe a sigh of relief that the job is done, that Saddam is out of power and that Iraq, save a very small piece of troubled land, is - in remarkably short order (and despite the wild pronouncements of John Murtha) - tasting its first morsels of democracy and liberty, and showing promise.)

It never surprised me that Yassar Arafat, formerly the “most welcomed” foreign “Head of State” in the Clinton White House was not welcomed - ever - to the Bush White House.

I wasn’t surprised by the, not one, but two tax cuts he got passed through congress, or the roaring economy - and jobs - those tax cuts created. I wasn’t surprised when he killed the unending farce that is the Kyoto treaty (remember, the thing Al Gore and the Senate unanimously voted down under Clinton?), or when he killed U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court, or when he told the UN they risked becoming irrelevent, or when he told the Congress and the world, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” Not surprising.

I wasn’t surprised at all to watch him - in a foreign and hostile land - go rescue the Secret Service agent who was being detained and kept from protecting him. Or to see him shoot his cuffs, afterwards, and greet his host with a smile.

I was never surprised that he tried to “change the tone” or tried reaching across the aisle to invite onesuch as Ted Kennedy to help draft education reform, something none of his predecessors dared touch. Just as they never dared to try to reform social security or our energy policies. The feckless ones in Congress wouldn’t get the jobs done, unfortunately, but he is a president who at least tried to get something going on those “dangerous” issues. His senior prescription plan was unsurprising and it is helping lots of people.

I was not at all to surprised to see President Bush forego the “trembling lip photo-op” moment in which most world-leaders indulged after the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 in order to get real work done, to bring immediate help to that area by co-ordinating our own military (particularly our Naval support) with Australia and Japan. Stupid, stingy American. I was surprised, actually, to see him dance with free Georgians. I didn’t think he danced.

There's much, much more. Read the whole thing here.

Another Conspiracy Theory Down the Drain

The NYT reports:

WASHINGTON, May 22 — A federal investigation concluded today that rapidly rising gasoline prices over the last year have not been the result of unlawful price manipulation by the industry.

In a report that Congress ordered last summer after price spikes following the hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast, the Federal Trade Commission said that the sharp jump at the pump was attributable to market forces — namely big drops in supply and production as well as runs on inventories after major damage to refineries, ports and pipelines. The commission found no evidence of price collusion, or improper reductions of inventory or supplies to increase company profits. [emphasis mine]

"The evidence collected in this investigation indicated that firms behaved competitively," the commission said.

Read it here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

McCain On War -- He Understands

I supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. Many Americans did not. My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and to engage in the debate over whether and how to fight it. I stand that ground not to chase vainglorious dreams of empire; not for a noxious sense of racial superiority over a subject people; not for cheap oil--we could have purchased oil from the former dictator at a price far less expensive than the blood and treasure we've paid to secure those resources for the people of that nation; not for the allure of chauvinism, to wreak destruction in the world in order to feel superior to it; not for a foolishly romantic conception of war. I stand that ground because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that my country's interests and values required it.

War is an awful business. The lives of the nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted, economies damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict. Whether the cause was necessary or not, whether it was just or not, we should all shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. However just or false the cause, however proud and noble the service, it is loss--the loss of friends, the loss of innocent life, the loss of innocence--that the veteran feels most keenly forever more. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes war.

But war is sometimes necessary.

Pointing to the genocide in Darfur, McCain notes that the West has, at last, begun to act to halt the slaughter [on the latest effort see here]. But,

Osama bin Laden and his followers, ready, as always, to sacrifice anything and anyone to their hatred of the West and our ideals, have called on Muslims to rise up against any Westerner who dares intervene to stop the genocide [in Darfur], even though Muslims, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, are its victims. Now that, my friends, is a difference, a cause, worth taking up arms against.

This is a clash of ideals, a profound and terrible clash of ideals. It is a fight between right and wrong. Relativism has no place in this confrontation. We're not defending an idea that every human being should eat corn flakes, play baseball or watch MTV. We're not insisting that all societies be governed by a bicameral legislature and a term-limited chief executive. We are insisting that all people have a right to be free, and that right is not subject to the whims and interests and authority of another person, government or culture. Relativism, in this contest, is most certainly not a sign of our humility or ecumenism; it is a mask for arrogance and selfishness. It is, and I mean this sincerely and with all humility, not worthy of us. We are a better people than that.


Read the whole thing here.

He gets it, Unfortunately the ignoramuses who jeered and heckled him at Columbia and the New School [here] don't, and probably never will.


John McCain on Bloggers

When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so, because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. I believed that to be especially true with many of my elders, people whose only accomplishment, as far as I could tell, was that they had been born before me, and, consequently, had suffered some number of years deprived of my insights. I had opinions on everything, and I was always right. I loved to argue, and I could become understandably belligerent with people who lacked the grace and intelligence to agree with me. With my superior qualities so obvious, it was an intolerable hardship to have to suffer fools gladly. So I rarely did. All their resistance to my brilliantly conceived and cogently argued views proved was that they possessed an inferior intellect and a weaker character than God had blessed me with, and I felt it was my clear duty to so inform them. It's a pity that there wasn't a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.

Read it here.

Latest on Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- Putting a Face on Oppression

Suzanne Fields fills in some of the details of this courageous woman's life and what she means. [here]

And Christopher Hitchens weighs in again here.

Der Spiegel interviews her about her plans here. While at the American Enterprise Institute she plans to write a book titled "Shortcut to Enlightenment" in which the Prophet Mohammed visits the New York Public Library and there meets and has dialogues with Karl Popper, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich August von Hayek.

Sounds interesting. The ultimate theocrat encounters the enlightenment.

Uganda Stands Up to the EU Crazies

At last, a third world nation is willing to stand up to the monstrous demands of the environmental crazies in the EU.

The African nation of Uganda has announced it will defy European Union threats and begin indoor spraying of DDT to battle rampant malaria.

Malaria kills more people in Uganda each year than any other disease, including AIDS and tuberculosis, which typically receive more media attention. Malaria accounts for 40 percent of all illnesses and 21 percent of deaths in Uganda's hospitals. Every year the disease kills approximately 100,000 children under five years old in the country.

"We have to kill malaria using DDT, and the matter has been settled that DDT is not harmful to humans and if used for indoor-insecticide spraying," Uganda Health Minister Jim Muhwezi told the East African on April 4. "It's the most effective and cheapest way to fight malaria."


"The result of the DDT ban has been an unspeakable death toll," observed film producer and preventive medicine doctor D. Rutledge Taylor in the March 20 issue of American Daily. "It is about the greatest human death toll in the known history of man, far greater than the holocaust and all the wars combined. It is time that we as generations of humans wake up and do what is right for humanity."
That's right -- the posthumanist tree huggers have been responsible for the deaths of more innocents than Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined. The DDT ban resulted from a confluence of junk science, environmentalist madness, and liberal internationalist arrogance. It stands as perhaps the greatest crime against humanity of all time, and it is the most horrific reminder of what can happen when we allow "scientific" authority to dictate public policy.

Rachael Carson's acolytes have one hell of a lot to answer for.

Is It Time for The Return of Booker T.?

Mark Bauerline, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, urges "Bring Back Booker T." [Washington, for those of you who attended public schools and may not have heard of him.]

He writes:

Too many young black men are not sharing in the progress of American society. It is estimated that only 48 percent of black men earn a high school diploma. In 2003, the illegitimacy rate for African Americans was 68 percent. The prisons and unemployment rolls show similar patterns.

These problems stem less from racism and politics than from prevailing attitudes toward family, school and work. The solution comes from a change in culture, a different ethos: Washington's ethos.

Damaging and unrealistic images and poses surround young people: the hip-hop posture that turns anger and incivility into justified conditions; the press conference that sees racism behind every calamity; the school curriculum that emphasizes past injustice. Washington counters with an affirmative recipe for life, a plan of economic behavior that envisions a better future, not an adverse past.

Let's have fewer assignments of The Autobiography of Malcolm X in the classroom and more of Up from Slavery.

Read the whole thing here.