Day By Day

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Al Qaeda and Iraq

Wretchard over at the Belmont Club lays out an interesting explanation of why defeating al-Qaeda is the key to stabilizing Iraq and why success in Iraq will be an important, perhaps even the crucial, blow dealt against international terrorism.

On the Iraq "insurgency" he writes:

[A]l-Qaeda chose to make Iraq its decisive arena of confrontation with the United States. The US came to Iraq primarily to topple Saddam Hussein and remove one "state sponsor of terrorism" but it was Al-Qaeda that rushed in to stake its reputation there. A networked insurgency with followers in many Muslim countries could have chosen to attack America elsewhere. But instead it decided to focus its efforts on driving the US from Iraq. For that purpose its leadership established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and funneled recruits into it from all over the world. This force was tasked with the explicit political goal of creating a Islamic Caliphate that would provide a prototype for a future Islamic state after the hated Americans had been driven out. Therefore much of the post-Saddam violence was probably the consequence of al-Qaeda's decision to flood all the resources of world terrorism into Iraq. Clearly Zarqawi's clear intention from the Samarra mosque bombing onward was to incite as much violence as he could. Given that al-Qaeda made Iraq the center of its global efforts, O’Hanlon and Pollack's admiration of MNF-I's decision to focus against it seems perplexing. Surely Petraeus had no alternative? Surely he was simply picking up the gauntlet? But that would not quite be true. Through much of 2005 and 2006 a variety of lines were suggested. Some argued that the US should lash out against Syria or Iran for allowing "militants" to transit their borders. Some believed Shi'a militias should be the primary target operations. Until recently many argued -- and still argue -- that al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq at all; so how could MNF-I focus against what was not there? So while taking on al-Qaeda now seems the obvious choice, in retrospect there were many other candidates vying for the title of Center of Gravity. Those bad guys still remain, but MNF-I saw al-Qaeda in Iraq as the key to the position and that choice, according to O’Hanlon and Pollack, appears to be the right one.
And the consequences of taking on al-Qaeda directly in Iraq?

[B]y attacking al-Qaeda, the US took engaged not only the most fanatical force in Iraq but the one with the most powerful narrative. And by shrewdly matching kinetic warfare with political warfare, organizing the victims of al-Qaeda's depredations, it brought the myth down to earth. As long as al-Qaeda remained an "idea" it might be regarded as invincible, a mystical will o' the wisp. But once this mystical force was forced to materialize in Iraq, it became embodied in the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchmen, who, viewed up close, turned out to be nothing more than brutal gangsters of the lowest and most sadistic type instead of latter day Companions of the Prophet. Even Zawahiri, despite his pretensions to refinement, could not avoid discrediting himself as he proved unable to resist threatening to gouge people's eyes out if they did not follow his bidding. It is said that no man is a hero to his own valet. Familiarity with the genuine article brought disillusionment, contempt and finally hatred for al-Qaeda.

And without the romantic mantle of apocalyptic Islamism to puff them up, both Syria and Iran would shrink to the third-rate powers that they truly are. In choosing al-Qaeda as its focus, MNF-I indirectly weakened both Teheran and Damascus in ways that both were powerless to counter. None of this has been completely achieved yet. But as O’Hanlon and Pollack state, Iraq while not yet won is getting better. And if the process continues much will be accomplished if al-Qaeda can be defeated in Iraq; their image tarnished beyond repair and their narrative shown to be a pack of lies.

Read the whole thing here.

Al-Qaeda's reputation peaked just after 9/11 when it could credibly advertise itself as the "strong horse" that would drive the U. S. and other Western powers out of the Muslim world, but engagement with a determined U. S. presence in Iraq has proved disastrous to that vision. Both the Islamist vision of a restored Caliphate and the "realist" determination to support corrupt despots in the interest of promoting "stability" have taken severe hits, and continued success in Iraq might revive the original intention of providing an alternative to both.

Stay tuned..., this is getting really interesting.

Yon On Changes in Iraq

Michael Yon summarizes the changes he has witnessed in Iraq:

I have had the feeling for more than a month that top U.S. leadership in Iraq has been being cautious not to show too much optimism at this time. However, I have seen changes with my own eyes in Nineveh, Anbar, and Diyala that are more fundamental than just winning battles. In Nineveh, the enemies of a united Iraq are still strong and vibrant, but the Iraqi army and police in Nineveh clearly are improving faster than the enemy is improving. In other words, the Iraqi Security Forces are winning that particular race. Out in Anbar, the shift actually began to occur last year while Special Forces and other less-than-visible operators, along with conventional forces such as the Marines, began harnessing the mood-shift of the tribes. Whereas in Nineveh the fight has been more like a race and test of endurance, in Anbar the outcome was more like an avalanche. Parts of Diyala, such as Baqubah, witnessed avalanche-like positive changes beginning on June 19 with Operation Arrowhead Ripper. I witnessed the operation and was given full access. However, other areas in Diyala remain serious problems. I have seen firsthand many sectarian issues. There remains civil war in parts of Diyala (largely thanks to AQI). Down in Basra, a completely different problem-set faces the British who themselves are facing tough choices.

Skipping past the blow-by-blow and getting to the bottom line: I sense there has been a fundamental shift in Iraq. One officer called it a “change in the seas,” and I believe his words were accurate. Something has changed. The change is fundamental, and for once seems positive. And so, back to the O’Hanlon-Pollack story in the New York Times, “A War We Just Might Win,” I agree.

So do I.

Read the whole thing here.

Now It's Antonioni

Another film titan, Michelangelo Antonioni, has passed away. The NYT gets his role right:

Antonioni depicted alienation in the modern world through sparse dialogue and long takes. Along with Federico Fellini, he helped turn post-war Italian film away from the Neorealism movement and toward a personal cinema of imagination.
As a very young lad I was mightily impressed by "Blow Up" but over time "L'Avventura" came to be my favorite work by this most mysterious of directors. Tonight in his honor I think I'll pop "Red Desert" into the machine and remember how wonderful it was when I first saw it.

VDH on Iraq

Victor Davis Hanson explains the course of conflict in Iraq.

We are witnessing two phenomena. First, after four years of misery the Iraqis themselves are tiring of war, have grasped what al Qaeda et al. do when in local control, realize the U.S. wants to leave only after establishing a constitutional state, not steal its oil, sense that the United States may well win — and are slowly making adjustments to hedge their bets.

In a wider sense, the war is as most wars: an evolution from blunders to wisdom, the side that makes the fewest and learns from them the most eventually winning. Al Qaeda and the insurgents in 2004-6 developed the means, both tactical and strategic, to thwart the reconstruction, but we, not they, have since learned the more and evolved.

As in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, the present American military-which has committed far less mistakes than past American forces — has shifted tactics, redefined strategy, and found the right field commanders. We forget that the U.S. Army and Marines, far from being broken, now have the most experienced and wizened officers in the world. Like Summer 1864, Summer 1918, and in the Pacific 1944-5, the key is the support of a weary public for an ever improving military that must nevertheless endure a final storm before breaking the enemy.

The irony is that should President Bush endure the hysteria and furor and prove able to give the gifted Gen. Petraeus the necessary time — and I think he will — his presidency could still turn out to be Trumanesque, once we digest the changes in Europe, the progress on North Korea, the end of both the Taliban and Saddam, and the prevention of another 9/11 attack.

Read the whole thing here.

This is something I have been trying to tell people for a long time. Wars take time, mistakes are always made on all sides, there is a learning curve, etc., that the current conflict has been far better administered than past wars this nation has fought (some of which are celebrated as glorious victories) and that the current administration ranks among the best this nation has seen. I doubt that the current crop of tenured radicals will view Bush favorably -- they would have to recant too much of the venom and bile they have heaped on him -- but eventually I suspect that the considered opinion of historians will be "Trumanesque" at a minimum.

Coincidence? I Think Not!

Lileks takes a cruise to Alaska [here], then this happens:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents searched the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday.

Investigative sources told FOX News that the FBI executed a search warrant at the Girdwood, Alaska, house. Sources would not detail what the search team is looking for, but said agents continued to do extensive work at the property late Monday.

The search began Monday afternoon when a number of federal agents were seen outside the home, the Anchorage Daily News reported. It wasn't immediately clear if anything was taken from Stevens' house.

Read the whole thing here.

Gnat's Dad says he had nothing to do with it, but consider..., he has never completely revealed the parameters of his new job. Hmmmm....

And just what was Gonzales' role in all of this?

Inquiring minds want to know!


So Lileks returns to Minnesota and... a bridge collapses. Hmmmm...., Lileks..., disaster (and there were construction companies involved both times).

What's next James?

I'm just sayin'.... connect the dots.

I still haven't figured out the Gonzales angle yet, but I'm thinkin' 'bout it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Movie Madness

I seem to be on a movie tear lately -- at least I've been thinking a lot about film.

Life has conspired to force this on me.

Just a couple of weeks ago I spent some time talking with a friend of mine who used to be a screenwriter arguing about films and reminiscing about our early days of movie madness when we spent far too much of our young lives sitting in darkness staring at images on a screen.

Then I saw a documentary produced by another old friend and that led me to read some articles about his work.

Then my wife, in a fit of enthusiasm, volunteered me to speak to a local book club on the subject of an old horror film, "Walter Wanger's Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Wanger's classic was recently remade starring Nicole Kidman. Portions of the remake were filmed in our neighborhood and some of our friends appear in it as extras. They wanted me to show the original as a lead-in to a mass attendance at the new version.

That invitation has led to other invitations to speak on other films and my wife is prodding me to accept them.

Then we went to a BSO concert up at Oregon Ridge, and the program was..., "Movie Themes" [heavy on Harry Potter and Star Wars].

Then Laszlo Kovacs and Ingmar Bergman died.

Then I read about the death of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan and irresistibly my mind turned to a film analogy.

One of the most haunting sequences ever to appear in film is in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." That film, as you all know, chronicles the activities of a seedy celebrity journalist (and his sidekick, Papparazzo [yes, that's where the name comes from]) in mid-twentieth century Rome.

The journalist, Marcello (brilliantly played by Marcello Mastroianni), was once a writer of some promise, but he had allowed himself to be seduced into the pointless round of debauchery that celebrities and their hangers-on confused with the good life.

Always Marcello is reminded of the man he might have been by association with his former mentor, Steiner (played by Alain Cuny). Steiner is a true intellectual, internationally celebrated and renowned, surrounded by friends among the intelligentsia, wealthy, sophisticated, blessed with a beautiful wife and children -- his existence a living rebuke of the shabby celebrity culture in which Marcello wallows. Steiner is living the true "good life," or so it seems.

At one point in the film Marcello, despairing of his condition, hoping to rescue some meaning from his pointless existence, goes to Steiner for advice. When he arrives at Steiner's apartment he finds it filled with police. Steiner, his idol, has killed his beautiful children and committed suicide.

That scene hit me with tremendous shock that still reverberates today. I was just a kid -- starting college, away from home for the first time, intoxicated by the world of art and ideas opening before me -- and Federico Fellini, then and now my favorite film-maker, was telling me that the path on which I was embarking led to madness. For the first time I understood existential angst.

I was reminded of that episode from my youth while reading about the deaths of Duncan and Blake. "Who are these people," you ask. Well,

From the LA Times:
Blake, 35, was well on his way to bona fide star status with museums including Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collecting his work. Blake took part in three consecutive Whitney Biennial exhibitions from 2000 to 2004.

"He was a pioneer in so many ways," Kinz said. "His works weren't film and they weren't paintings. It wasn't computer art; it wasn't animation. And though it was painterly fine art, it was a hybrid of many things. In the future, I think he'll be considered a first explorer in a new territory of art making."
Duncan, 40, the daughter of an art teacher, grew up near Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan after writing a thesis titled "Electric Fairy Tales: CD-ROMs and Literature." Romance bloomed when Blake began creating art for Duncan's independently produced discs, and the two collaborated with artist Karen Kilimnik on "A History of Glamour," a short animated "mockumentary" about a girl from the Midwest who becomes the sensation of a Warhol-like big-city art scene, then sours on the glittery life.

Blake and Duncan moved together from New York to Los Angeles for what they expected to be a brief stay while the artist worked on the abstract film sequences for "Punch-Drunk Love," director Paul Thomas Anderson's 2002 giddy romantic comedy.

Duncan had sold a script called "Alice Underground" to Fox Searchlight, about two teenage girls whose kidnapping of a rock star boosts his fame, Variety reported in 2001. In 2005, she began a blog called The Wit of the Staircase that quickly became a must-read among literary-minded Angeleno web logs.
Read the whole article here.

Apparently these golden children, the toast of the arts establishment, committed suicide. In the weeks before their death they complained that they were being stalked by Scientologists. Just as in Fellini's film -- intellectual celebrity had led to madness and death.

Francois Truffaut once reportedly said that "film fans are very sick people." I must keep that quote in mind as people try to draw me back into the mad, delusional world of film studies.

I just flashed on Al Pacino in Godfather Three complaining that "Everytime I think I'm out, they drag me back in!"

I can't stop relating life to film.... That's scary and pathetic.

Now I'm afraid..., very afraid [as Geena Davis said in The Fly remake].


Ingmar Bergman Passes

He's gone!

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, an iconoclastic filmmaker widely regarded as one of the great masters of modern cinema, died Monday, the president of his foundation said. He was 89.

''It's an unbelievable loss for Sweden, but even more so internationally,'' Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, which administers the directors' archives, told The Associated Press.

Bergman died at his home in Faro, Sweden, Swedish news agency TT said, citing his daughter Eva Bergman. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Through more than 50 films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

Bergman, who approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious filmmaking.

He was ''probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera,'' Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.

Read it here.

There are a lot of points on which I would disagree with Woody Allen, but this is not one of them. Many years ago Bergman drew me in with "Wild Strawberries", then I attended a screening of "Seventh Seal" and I was hooked for life. Bergman made films that stayed with you long after you had left the theatre -- for years sometimes. Sometimes, forever.

I mourn his loss.

Here's the famous dream sequence from "Wild Strawberries" -- it always creeps me out.

And here is the even more famous chess game from "The Seventh Seal"


Brown Praises Bush

From the Sun:

GORDON Brown last night praised George Bush for leading the global war on terror — saying the world owed America a huge debt.

The Prime Minister vowed to take Winston Churchill’s lead and make Britain’s ties with America even stronger.

Mr Brown stunned critics by THANKING President Bush for the fight against Islamic extremism, and insisted the UK-US relationship will be his No1 foreign policy priority.

He said on his first visit to the President’s US retreat at Camp David: “Winston Churchill spoke of the ‘joint inheritance’ of our two countries.”

The PM said that meant “a joint inheritance not just of shared history but shared values founded on a shared destiny”.

He added: “America has shown by the resilience and bravery of its people from September 11 that while buildings can be destroyed, values are indestructable.

“We acknowledge the debt the world owes to the US for its leadership in this fight against international terrorism.”

Read it here.

A Light Dawns

Just a few months ago something like this appearing in the New York Times would be unimaginable.

By Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack,

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Read the whole thing here.

Note that the authors make no mention of the role played by the NYT in undermining the credibility of the administration.

The authors, both with significant "street cred" among the Bush haters, note important successes being racked up by U. S. forces in a number of areas and urge that Congress get behind the program, at least through next year.

This doesn't sound like much -- conditional approval of the current policy being pursued in Iraq and an urging that Congress give limited support to the war effort, at least for a while -- but for the New York Times and other Bush haters, this is a major concession. Liberal Democrats (with the possible exception of "Hillary!") have bet the farm on failure in Iraq. The NYT piece can be seen as a warning that they might have made a big mistake in doing so [as well as being a tacit endorsement of the stand taken by "Hillary!" regarding the war].

At long last the successes of the "surge" are beginning to be felt here in America. The debate is beginning to shift, and the Democrat Left is in danger of being left high and dry.

"Tonight Iraq Knows Only Joy"

Good news from Iraq:

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Iraq completed one of sport's great fairytales by beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the Asian Cup final on Sunday to provide a rare moment for celebration in their war-torn homeland.

The Saudis had been bidding to become the first four-times winners of the tournament but Iraq, riding a wave of global sentiment, upset the hot-favourites for a rare slice of sporting glory.

"This is not just about football... this is more important than that," Iraq's Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira told a news conference.

"This has brought great happiness to a whole country. This is not about a team, this is about human beings."

Read it here.

Serious historians of sport [not those glorified fanboys who write bestselling sports books] have long noted the integrative function played by national sports leagues. In the United States, for instance, it was the period between the Civil War and WWI, when the nation was trying to forge a common identity, that saw the rise of national sports leagues. These allowed for expressions of local and regional pride under the auspices of a national governing body and got people into the habit of thinking of themselves as participants in an "imagined" national community.

In recent decades there has been a determined effort to use soccer in a similar manner to support the concept of a trans-national global community. National soccer teams can forge a sense of national unity while at the same time locating that national sentiment firmly within the context of a consensual transnational framework. Thus the Iraqi victory over the Saudis can serve both to promote Iraqi solidarity across ethnic and religious barriers, and at the same time promote a consciousness that is focused, as the Iraqi coach said, on "human beings" as a general cosmopolitan category, not on Iraqis or Saudis, or Sunni or Shiite, or any other parochial identity.

Omar, at Iraq the Model, writes:

Today is definitely the happiest day for Iraqis in years. Tears of joy mixed with prayers for hope on the faces of millions of Iraqis…Words truly fail me and I can't describe the feeling so please pardon me if the post doesn't sound coherent; I hear the cheering and music outside although the bullets of celebration keep falling on the ground and roofs here and there. But no one seems to worry about that, the moment is so great that fear has no place in the hearts of the millions of fans, neither from bullets nor from crazy suicide bombers who tried to kill our joy last week.

Our players, tonight our heroes, learned that only with team work they had a chance to win.
May our politicians learn from the players and from the fans who are painting a glorious image of unity and national pride, and let the terrorists know that nothing can kill the spirit of the sons of the immortal Tigris and Euphrates.

The fear is gone, the curfew is ignored, tonight Iraq knows only joy...

Read it here.

Given the current situation in the Middle East, this can only be seen as a wholly positive development. We should cheer the Iraqi victory and the cosmopolitan sentiment it engenders, but there is a downside to the general application of these principles.

As Omar notes, Americans don't care all that much about soccer. And that, too, is appropriate. Participation in the "community of man" erodes nationalistic loyalties and there is a large amount of evidence to suggest that, should the United States allow itself to be drawn into the cosmopolitan community envisioned by liberal transnationalists, the world as a whole and Americans in particular would be far poorer for it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sophomoric Alarmism

Thomas P. M. Barnett is an interesting guy who understand far better than most what is going on in the world. Recent silly statements by Michael Gorbachev to the effect the world is careening into disaster and that President Bush is at the root of most of the world's problems sparked this comment:
[P]retending we're all the same in this globalized economy and security situation is truly sophomoric. The reason why America must lead in military matters is that we have the ONLY military that can project power anywhere. Contextualizing that employment within a larger rule set is the main problem, not simply our having it. But that contextualization is a multipolar "street," so to speak. We can't manage that rule-set adjustment on our own, although we can definitely start the process.

Just like DoD has to get the rest of the USG to grow up and take on the responsibilities of what comes next, the U.S. is forced to do similarly with rising powers like Russia, Brazil, India and China. Admittedly, Bush has done this poorly in many ways, but not too bad in others.

But it's the larger alarmism that I find so silly, much like Krauthammer's asinine specter of Chavez haunting our presidential photo-ops: this is a "confused and complicated world" that features the biggest, broadest and fastest growing global economy we've ever seen. It also includes the least amount of mass violence, world-wide, than we've enjoyed in decades. Deaths from natural disasters are down about 98% from 1900 (per capita and over 90% in absolute terms--according to research Bjorn Lomborg compiles in his brilliant Skeptical Environmentalist). The great powers are integrating their economies like never before (and puh-leeze, do not pull out those Germany-Britain stats from 1910s, because if you think Wal-Mart's global supply chain can be compared to that simplistic stuff, then it's back to International Economics 101 for you!) and we've got global cooperation on stuff that was simply unimaginable as recently as two decades ago.

Look around you! Our big fights are over farm subsidies, tainted products and unfloating currencies. We've even got space to debate global warming responses ad nauseum. All this while terrorists are allegedly "running our world"!

Read the whole thing here.

I would disagree with Barnett's assessment on the relationship between military and civilian agencies [he is after all a defense analyst and plays to his audience] and most definitely think he undervalues President Bush's contribution to reshaping global relations, especially as regards Asia, but his central point is valid. We are living at a time when the world as a whole is being transformed for the better, but moralistic idiots, like Gorbachev, refuse to see what is happening all round them.

Alarmism might be politically useful for administration opponents, and it makes for attention-grabbing headlines, but it represents a failure to engage reality that can be downright dangerous if taken too seriously.

Offshoring Slows Down

Dan Drezner notes that the race to off-shore economic activities is losing steam. He cites the Economist:
The latest quarterly report on the state of global outsourcing from TPI, a consultancy, was published earlier this month. It showed that both the number and value of contracts awarded during the first half of this year had declined in comparison with the same period in 2006. In 2007 the total value of contracts awarded in the first six months was the lowest since 2001....

As growth slows it is clear that making money is becoming more difficult for outsourcing firms. Competing on price is getting ever harder. Established vendors are hiring workers in the same low-cost locations as their offshore rivals—the likes of Accenture and IBM have been furiously ramping up their operations in India, for example. One response is to keep searching for ever-cheaper locations, both within India and outside it, but a race to the bottom on price threatens both the quality of service and profit margins. For the top-tier providers, the way to stand apart from the crowd is to deliver more valuable services....


Few providers expect the topic of offshoring to lose its political sting—despite plenty of evidence, including a recent OECD report on the subject, showing that it is not a big cause of job losses and has an overall positive effect. But the maturing of the outsourcing industry ought to mean that scaremongering about jobs flowing from rich countries to poor ones will sound less and less convincing.

Read it here.

Regarding the politics of off-shoring. It depends on who you are trying to convince. A lot of people just don't want to be convinced -- they'd rather spend their time beating on Bush and corporate America than looking at how the international economy actually works.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Peter's Evil Overlord List

Recent discussion of the last Harry Potter novel on the internet has frequently referenced Peter Anspach's "Evil Overlord List." In case you were wondering what that was, here's the explanation:

It consists of the top 100 things that an evil overlord must always keep in mind.

A sample:
  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

I particularly like the last one:
Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.
Read the whole list and how it came to be here.

Happy overlording. Remember -- shooting is not too good for your enemies.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Enhancing Sports Performance

Der Spiegel reports on a South African double amputee athlete who is demanding to be allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic games.

The young runner is an exceptional athlete. He has already broken more than 20 world records in disabled sports. He runs the 200-meter race in 21.58 seconds, which is less than two seconds slower than Shawn Crawford, the men's Olympic gold medalist in Athens (19.79 seconds) and faster than Veronica Campbell (22.05 seconds), who captured the women's gold in Athens.
But a double amputee in the Olympics? The sporting world has been divided by a bitter dispute for months. Critics say Pistorius's prostheses give him an unfair advantage because, so they claim, they are longer than his natural legs would be.
He dislikes the distinction between disabled and non-disabled, a distinction he sees as his real adversary in every race he runs. By bridging the divide, Pistorius has already added a page to sports history. "I'm not disabled, I just don't have any legs," he says. "There is nothing I can't do."

Read the whole thing here.

And you thought steroids were a problem. Hoo boy! What a can of worms this opens! I can envision a time when top athletes will seek surgical enhancements or perhaps seek amputations so that they can replace their flesh with bionic prosthetic limbs.

"Not likely," you say? But look what pro athletes are already doing to their bodies. Barry Bonds is just the beginning.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

RAH -- A Belated Memorial

Robert Anson Heinlein was born a century ago this month. He was, and remains, the greatest science fiction writer of all time. No other writer in the genre has had nearly the impact on our culture as he has.

Read the WSJ tribute to him here.
The Reason Magazine tribute is here.
Dwayne Day pens a tribute here.
Here is the Heinlein home page.
Here is the homepage of the Heinlein Society.
RAH was a master of aphorisms. Read some Heinlein quotes here.

The proliferation of sites dedicated to RAH and his work is testimony to his wide-ranging influence today, nearly two decades after his death.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Damon Disses Bond

Matt Damon doesn't like James Bond.

Bond is “an imperialist and he’s a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it,” Damon, 36, told The Associated Press in an interview …
Neither does his director, Paul Greenglass.
“He’s an insider. He likes being a secret agent. He worships at the altar of technology. He loves his gadgets. And he embodies this whole set of misogynistic values,” Greengrass said. “He likes violence. That’s part of the appeal of the character. He has no guilt. He’s essentially an imperial adventurer of a particularly English sort.

“Personally, I spit on those values.

Maybe filmgoers should show what they think of Damon's anti-Bond, Jason Bourne. I'll take Daniel Craig's Bond over Damon's Bourne any day, and as for Connery..., well there's no basis for comparison.

Read Libertas' commentary here.

Hitler is Popular in Asia

Throughout Asia Hitler and the Nazis are becoming a popular theme for restaurants and clubs. The above picture is from Mumbai. Go here to see others. The Nazi themes seem to be particularly popular with the younger generation in Japan, Korea, India and elsewhere.

The Horror! The Horror!

Topless "Breasts Not Bombs" and "Code Pink" protesters tried to disrupt a Hillary rally this week. Photos here -- warning, not for weak stomachs.

This sort of thing can only help Senator Clinton. It makes her seem moderate and reasonable by drawing a distinction between her and the far left loons.

But we all know that deep down underneath she's still...., Hillary!


One of my readers informs me that these pictures can actually cause severe brain damage. If you follow the link above be afraid..., be very afraid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Colorado State University has at long last fired pseudo-Indian tenured radical, Ward Churchill. The charge is plagarism. Lawsuits will ensue. [here]


Iowahawk responds by remembering one of his favorite classic TV series: "Chutch" centered on the adventures of a mystic, Indian-like professor at fictional Boulder University whose battle cry is "hai-Chomsky".

Check it out here.

A Great One Passes

One of the greatest DPs ever died over the weekend. Not only was he a great cinematic talent, he was a courageous man who had lived through things the rest of us can only imagine.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Laszlo Kovacs, one of Hollywood's most influential and respected directors of photography, died Saturday night in his sleep. He was 74.

Kovacs lensed the landmark cinematic achievement "Easy Rider" and compiled about 60 credits including "Five Easy Pieces," "Shampoo," "Paper Moon," "New York, New York," "What's Up, Doc," "Ghostbusters," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Miss Congeniality."

The Hungary-born cinematographer also carried during his career a remarkable story of courage that occurred 50 years ago during his country's revolution.

Kovacs was born and raised on a farm in Hungary when that country was isolated from the Western world, first by the Nazi occupation and later during the Cold War. Kovacs was in his final year of school in Budapest when a revolt against the Communist regime started on the city streets.

He and his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond made the daring decision to document the event for its historic significance. To do this, they borrowed film and a camera from their school, hid the camera in a paper bag with a hole for the lens and recorded the conflict.

The pair then embarked on a dangerous journey during which they carried 30,000 feet of documentary film across the border into Austria. They entered the U.S. as political refugees in 1957.

Their historic film was featured in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Press Babes

Mediabistro's "Fishbowl DC" has its nominations for hottest babes in the MSM, print variety.

Check them out here.

Cavuto and the MSM Weasels

Neil Cavuto writes:

There's nothing as refreshing as being with fellow journalists to know just how awful things are in the world — especially when the topic of conversation turns to President Bush.

One after another blasted him:

For the war: a disaster.

For the economy: uneven.

Even for the markets: undeserving.

One reporter even said — and I quote — "the guy's just stupid."

When it was my turn to speak, I said, "Well, he's president of the United States and you're not, so end of story."

But that was not the end of the story, because they turned their criticism to me.

Neil notes the irony:

It is ironic that journalists who pride themselves on their impartiality can be so partial in their hatred — forgetting that polls are fleeting, taking lasting stands are not.


History will prove that when this country's chips were down, this president gathered our courage up.

I suspect history will honor that courage, even if a bunch of condescending, second-guessing, weasels-of-the-moment reporters do not.

Read the whole thing here.

Honor Killing Update

Several weeks ago I reported on the honor killing of a young Kurdish girl. Well, her assailants -- her father and her uncle -- have finally been found guilty of murder. Testimony at the trial revealed just how horrifying her ordeal was.

A Kurdish woman was brutally raped, stamped on and strangled by members of her family and their friends in an "honor killing" carried out at her London home because she had fallen in love with the wrong man.

Banaz Mahmod, 20, was subjected to the 2-1/2 hour ordeal before she was garroted with a bootlace. Her body was stuffed into a suitcase and taken about 100 miles to Birmingham where it was buried in the back garden of a house.

Her badly decomposed body was found in April 2006, three months after the killing.


They believed Banaz had brought shame on the family by leaving her husband, an Iraqi Kurd she had been forced to marry at 17, and falling in love with Rahmat Suleimani, an Iranian Kurd.

Her former unnamed partner had raped her as well as repeatedly beating her, the court heard.


Hama, [an associate of her father] who prosecutors said had been a ringleader in the murder, was caught by listening devices talking to a friend in prison about the murder.

In the recordings, transcripts of which were relayed to the court, Hama and his friend are hearing laughing as he described how she was killed with Banaz's uncle "supervising". "I was kicking and stamping on her neck to get the soul out. I saw her stark naked, only wearing pants or underwear," Hama is recorded as saying.

Read it here.

Remember, the Kurds are supposed to be the best of the lot.

Al Qaeda Fragmenting

From the Times of London:

Fed up with being part of a group that cuts off a person’s face with piano wire to teach others a lesson, dozens of low-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are daring to become informants for the US military in a hostile Baghdad neighbourhood.

The ground-breaking move in Doura is part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement.

“They are turning. We are talking to people who we believe have worked for al-Qaeda in Iraq and want to reconcile and have peace,” said Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, which oversees the area.

Read the whole thing here.

This is really great news. If al Qaeda's troops are beginning to crack, there is trouble throughout the organization. These are the sorts of things you usually see just before a major collapse. Not sayin it's gonna happen, but it certainly is a hopeful sign.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Narrative is All that Matters

Penelope Trunk, an accredited journalist, writing in the Huffington Post, argues for journalistic subjectivity, a major reason for the pervasive mistrust I noted in my previous post.

Her position, summarized by a commenter is:

Since all human observation is inherently subjective, journalists shouldn't even attempt any measure of objectivity whatsoever. If you think they should, then get over it.

This is the post-modern position in a nutshell. Objective truth is ultimately unattainable, so all that matters is the narrative that you find most congenial.

Trunk's blatant disregard for facts prompted the following comment:
For quite some time I’ve wondered if reporters/journalists were lazy, stupid, malevolent or some combination of all three. Now I know they’re just highly creative. This explains a lot.
Indeed it does.

Read the whole thing here. [hat tip: Instapundit].

The Collapse of Scientific Authority (cont.) -- Immunization and Autism

Theodore Dalrymple [Anthony Daniels] reports on a medical scare that wasn't.
A British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, published a paper in The Lancet suggesting that [Maurice] Hilleman’s combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine was responsible for the development of childhood autism. The paper was very bad science, even had it been honestly reported; but Wakefield neglected to mention that the majority of his cases were sent to him by a litigation lawyer who hoped for a legal bonanza. The paper, however, had its effect, both in Britain and the United States; immunization rates declined.

It is hardly surprising that parents who have an autistic child should seek an explanation for it; and it is a natural human tendency to suppose that if event B followed hard upon event A, then event A caused event B. A number of parents observed the first signs of autism in their children soon after immunization with MMR vaccine, and therefore proved only too receptive to Wakefield’s ill-founded hypothesis.

Not long after the hypothesis was laid to rest by research in several countries, which showed no connection between immunization with MMR vaccine and autism, another, similar hypothesis sprouted: that the mercury-containing thimerosal, included in vaccines to prevent bacterial contamination, was responsible for the development of autism. This hypothesis likewise wound up disproved; but on the principle that there is no smoke without fire, many people are now skeptical about childhood immunization, even with epidemiological evidence in its favor. And medically unproblematic childhood survival is now so normal that we forget what part immunization against common and often deadly diseases has played in bringing it about.

Read it here.

I remember hearing this immunization/autism scare being eagerly broadcast on both TV and radio, and the general thrust of the charges was that big corporations and government officials were conspiring to hide the truth from the public. Don Imus, at the prodding of his hysterical wife, devoted a huge amount of time to these charges.

In an advertising-saturated culture in which spin is everything it is quite natural and sometimes appropriate to assume that you are being lied to, and most people routinely make that assumption with regard to all official sources of information. But as Dr. Daniels points out, pervasive skepticism and a willingness to believe the worst is ultimately a dysfunctional stance because it can lead to such things as a refusal to have children immunized against harmful and potentially fatal diseases.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


One of the most admirable of the initiatives undertaken by the Bush administration is their attempt to bring an out of control and largely dysfunctional Beltway bureaucracy to heel. This is a perilous undertaking for any administration because disgruntled bureaucrats have, in the form of a compliant and sensationalistic press corps and opportunistic leaders of the opposition party, a brutally effective weapon that can be wielded against those who would attempt to exercise direction over rogue agencies. Most presidencies, after a few initial and damaging skirmishes with the leakers, pull back and allow the agencies free rein. The Clinton administration, for instance, rapidly abandoned attempts to reform the military once the political costs of doing so were deemed to be too high.

Not so the Bush administration. They have determinedly pursued reform in the military and in the intelligence agencies. The result has been a series of extremely damaging leaks orchestrated by self-appointed VIPs [veteran intelligence professionals] and unrelenting public criticism from "retired" military officers eagerly broadcast by a hostile press.

The Bush administration has taken major hits as a result of their reform efforts, but has doggedly persisted in them with some success. Now Rowan Scarborough has published a book, titled "Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA" detailing how careerists within the agency undermined the military effort in Iraq and frustrated Director Porter Goss' efforts at reform.

Taken together with Tim Wiener's "Legacy of Ashes" the emerging indictment of the CIA is damning. When all is said and done I suspect that the history of the Iraq War will reveal that the major battles took place within the beltway and not in Mesopotamia, and that the major opponents of victory were not so much unscrupulous politicians, but careerist bureaucrats whose behavior at times bordered on treason.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Michael Yon -- Oaths and Rules

Michael Yon has a fascinating post on a meeting of US, Iraqi and Insurgent leaders in which they try to forge a common set of rules for action and to work out just exactly what it is that they are fighting for. It's a terrific look the kind of interaction that will determine the future of the Iraqi people and of the US effort throughout the region.

Yon thinks that this is definitely a positive development, pregnant with hope for the future. I agree.

Read the post here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Case for Giuliani

I recently posted on the deterioration of living conditions in Hazelton, PA and how they were producing resentment against mostly Hispanic migrants moving into the area [here].

Now I hear from one of my readers:

Where our kids used to play and run the neighborhoods, they now have "play
dates" and "playground outings" with local PO-lice in attendance at the
playgrounds. Gated communities are springing up and the local Section-8
housing has iron fencing, vehicle curfews and rentacops at the gates trying
to control drug/gang activity by limiting access to residents and authorized
visitors. The local university sponsors "take back the night" marches to
bring awareness to campus of the rapes/robberies/assaults occuring on campus
even with twice as many campus police and golf-cart frat patrols. Pizza
delivery guys don't in certain neighborhoods instead meeting customers at
well-lit public places.
This is why, I have argued, a Giuliani candidacy that focuses on restoring order to our neighborhoods rather than immigration restriction can resonate with vast portions of the American people. Hizonner's mix of social liberalism and get-tough on crime was enormously popular in New York and, I suspect, in towns and cities around the country.

Now if they just could merge Giuliani's domestic agenda with McCain's foreign policy, the Republicans would have a winner.

McCain -- Two for Two

Once again John McCain shows why he is a grown-up and so many around him are not.

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today made the following statement on the Senate floor about the Levin-Reed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2008.

“Mr. President, we have nearly finished this little exhibition, which was staged, I assume, for the benefit of a briefly amused press corps and in deference to political activists opposed to the war who have come to expect from Congress such gestures, empty though they may be, as proof that the majority in the Senate has heard their demands for action to end the war in Iraq. The outcome of this debate, the vote we are about to take, has never been in doubt to a single member of this body. And to state the obvious, nothing we have done for the last twenty-four hours will have changed any facts on the ground in Iraq or made the outcome of the war any more or less important to the security of our country. The stakes in this war remain as high today as they were yesterday; the consequences of an American defeat are just as grave; the costs of success just as dear. No battle will have been won or lost, no enemy will have been captured or killed, no ground will have been taken or surrendered, no soldier will have survived or been wounded, died or come home because we spent an entire night delivering our poll-tested message points, spinning our soundbites, arguing with each other, and substituting our amateur theatrics for statesmanship. All we have achieved are remarkably similar newspaper accounts of our inflated sense of the drama of this display and our own temporary physical fatigue. Tomorrow the press will move on to other things and we will be better rested. But nothing else will have changed.

“In Iraq, American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen are still fighting bravely and tenaciously in battles that are as dangerous, difficult and consequential as the great battles of our armed forces’ storied past. Our enemies will still be intent on defeating us, and using our defeat to encourage their followers in the jihad they wage against us, a war which will become a greater threat to us should we quit the central battlefield in defeat. The Middle East will still be a tinderbox, which our defeat could ignite in a regional war that will imperil our vital interests at risk there and draw us into a longer and far more costly war. The prospect of genocide in Iraq, in which we will be morally complicit, is still as real a consequence of our withdrawal today as it was yesterday.

“During our extended debate over the last few days, I have heard senators repeat certain arguments over and over again. My friends on the other side of this argument accuse those of us who oppose this amendment with advocating “staying the course,” which is intended to suggest that we are intent on continuing the mistakes that have put the outcome of the war in doubt. Yet we all know that with the arrival of General Petraeus we have changed course. We are now fighting a counterinsurgency strategy, which some of us have argued we should have been following from the beginning, and which makes the most effective use of our strength and does not strengthen the tactics of our enemy. This new battle plan is succeeding where our previous tactics have failed, although the outcome remains far from certain. The tactics proposed in the amendment offered by my friends, Senators Levin and Reed – a smaller force, confined to bases distant from the battlefield, from where they will launch occasional search and destroy missions and train the Iraqi military – are precisely the tactics employed for most of this war and which have, by anyone’s account, failed miserably. Now, that, Mr. President, is staying the course, and it is a course that inevitably leads to our defeat and the catastrophic consequences for Iraq, the region and the security of the United States our defeat would entail.

“Yes, we have heard quite a lot about the folly of “staying the course,” though the real outcome should this amendment prevail and be signed into law, would be to deny our generals and the Americans they have the honor to command the ability to try, in this late hour, to address the calamity these tried and failed tactics produced, and salvage from the wreckage of our previous failures a measure of stability for Iraq and the Middle East, and a more secure future for the American people.

“I have also listened to my colleagues on the other side repeatedly remind us that the American people have spoken in the last election. They have demanded we withdraw from Iraq, and it is our responsibility to do, as quickly as possible, what they have bid us to do. But is that our primary responsibility? Really, Mr. President, is that how we construe our role: to follow without question popular opinion even if we believe it to be in error, and likely to endanger the security of the country we have sworn to defend? Surely, we must be responsive to the people who have elected us to office, and who, if it is their wish, will remove us when they become unsatisfied with our failure to heed their demands. I understand that, of course. And I understand why so many Americans have become sick and tired of this war, given the many, many mistakes made by civilian and military leaders in its prosecution. I, too, have been made sick at heart by these mistakes and the terrible price we have paid for them. But I cannot react to these mistakes by embracing a course of action that I know will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions, which will — and I am as sure of this as I am of anything – seriously endanger the people I represent and the country I have served all my adult life. I have many responsibilities to the people of Arizona, and to all Americans. I take them all seriously, Mr. President, or try to. But I have one responsibility that outweighs all the others – and that is to do everything in my power, to use whatever meager talents I posses, and every resource God has granted me to protect the security of this great and good nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. And that I intend to do, Mr. President, even if I must stand athwart popular opinion. I will explain my reasons to the American people. I will attempt to convince as many of my countrymen as I can that we must show even greater patience, though our patience is nearly exhausted, and that as long as there is a prospect for not losing this war, then we must not choose to lose it. That is how I construe my responsibility to my constituency and my country. That is how I construed it yesterday. It is how I construe it today. And it is how I will construe it tomorrow. I do not know how I could choose any other course.

“I cannot be certain that I possess the skills to be persuasive. I cannot be certain that even if I could convince Americans to give General Petraeus the time he needs to determine whether we can prevail, that we will prevail in Iraq. All I am certain of is that our defeat there would be catastrophic, not just for Iraq, but for us, and that I cannot be complicit in it, but must do whatever I can, whether I am effective or not, to help us try to avert it. That, Mr. President, is all I can possibly offer my country at this time. It is not much compared to the sacrifices made by Americans who have volunteered to shoulder a rifle and fight this war for us. I know that, and am humbled by it, as we all are. But though my duty is neither dangerous nor onerous, it compels me nonetheless to say to my colleagues and to all Americans who disagree with me: that as long as we have a chance to succeed we must try to succeed.

“I am privileged, as we all are, to be subject to the judgment of the American people and history. But, my friends, they are not always the same judgment. The verdict of the people will arrive long before history’s. I am unlikely to ever know how history has judged us in this hour. The public’s judgment of me I will know soon enough. I will accept it, as I must. But whether it is favorable or unforgiving, I will stand where I stand, and take comfort from my confidence that I took my responsibilities to my country seriously, and despite the mistakes I have made as a public servant and the flaws I have as an advocate, I tried as best I could to help the country we all love remain as safe as she could be in an hour of serious peril.”

Damn, I like this guy.

I'm not sure he would make a great president, but he sure as heck is a great man.

The Greatest Humanitarian Who Ever Lived -- Norman Borlaug

I have frequently noted, here and elsewhere, that the greatest living humanitarian, perhaps the greatest of all time, is Norman Borlaug. [see for instance here and here]

Gregg Easterbrook has a short piece in the Huffington Post noting that Dr. Borlaug, despite accomplishments that dwarf those of any other living person, is generally ignored by the media and unknown to the public [here].

It is not that he is without honor. In 1970 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. His biography, by Leon Hessler was published last year [here]. President Bush has just presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal. But, as Easterbrook notes, there was nary a notice in the MSM.

What has he done to deserve these honors?

Easterbrook explains:

Borlaug has saved more lives than anyone else who has ever lived. A plant breeder, in the 1940s he moved to Mexico to study how to adopt high-yield crops to feed impoverished nations. Through the 1940s and 1950s, Borlaug developed high-yield wheat strains, then patiently taught the new science of Green Revolution agriculture to poor farmers of Mexico and nations to its south. When famine struck India and Pakistan in the mid-1960s, Borlaug and a team of Mexican assistants raced to the Subcontinent and, often working within sight of artillery flashes from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, sowed the first high-yield cereal crop in that region; in a decade, India's food production increased sevenfold, saving the Subcontinent from predicted Malthusian catastrophes. Borlaug moved on to working in South America. Every nation his green thumb touched has known dramatic food production increases plus falling fertility rates (as the transition from subsistence to high-tech farm production makes knowledge more important than brawn), higher girls' education rates (as girls and young women become seen as carriers of knowledge rather than water) and rising living standards for average people. Last fall, Borlaug crowned his magnificent career by persuading the Ford, Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations to begin a major push for high-yield farming in Africa, the one place the Green Revolution has not reached.

The WSJ, last year, published another account of his accomplishments [here].

That's right -- hundreds of millions of people, perhaps billions are alive today because of Dr. Borlaug's efforts. Yet this greatest humanitarian of all times is virtually unknown to the public.


Easterbrook thinks that it is because Borlaug is a righteous man working in a sinful world.

Instapundit, probably hitting closer to the mark, suggests that a Luddite press is not eager to report technological developments that improve the lot of humanity. [here]

A glance at the comments by Huffington Post readers suggests something else. They disparage Bourlag's accomplishments because the "Green Revolution" he fathered produced more people to plague the earth, was not hostile to corporate interests, and involved the development of genetically modified crops. He is denounced as an "overfed" American who probably drives an SUV, as a "main cog in the industrial ag machine", responsible for putting peasant farmers out of business, and because his feeding of millions has forestalled humanity's just deserts -- extinction.

In other words Borlaug's humanitarian efforts -- because they involve technological solutions to the world's problems, and because they run counter to the romantic primitivist, transhumanist perspectives promoted by the radical environmental movement -- have no place in the moralistic narrative embraced by so many of our elites. So they ignore or disparage the accomplishments of the greatest man of our times.


The Bush Boom

Larry Kudlow celebrates the remarkable, indeed unprecedented, economic expansion that has taken place under Bush. [The link doesn't work, so I'll quote at length].

The big theme in today’s Dow crossing the 14,000 threshold for the first time is one of unprecedented global economic growth and a worldwide stock market boom.

Simply put, this is the greatest global stock market boom in history.

What we are witnessing here, in virtually every corner of the globe, is the success and the spread of unbridled free market capitalism. It is a dynamic worldwide march toward lower tax rates, deregulation, and, as market strategist Don Luskin put it on last night’s show, the “interconnectedness” of global economies through free trade, the free flow of capital, and the robust free exchange of information.

Despite the persistent doom and gloom refrain from various sourpuss prognosticators, it remains the greatest story never told.

And it's not over yet.

This Goldilocks stock market and economy is celebrating her one-year anniversary in a remarkable bull market run that began last July. Since last summer, the Dow is up over 30 percent; Europe is up 40 percent; Japan is up 18 percent; and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) index is up a mind blowing 64 percent.

That’s called global prosperity.
Yep, it sure is. The free-trade policies followed by the past three administrations are paying off big time, not just for the U.S., but for people all around the globe. Yet short-sighted critics are trying to bring the global boom to an end. You know who I mean -- their names are Obama and Hillary.

Dan Drezner explains why these two candidates "scare the hell" out of him.

He points out that both candidates have sponsored legislation that would place trade sanctions on China to force them to revalue their currency.
Clinton and Obama are willing to screw over the American consumer for a self-defeating measure. Both of them should know better.
He explains why this is a really, really bad idea here.

This kind of protectionist legislation is one of the factors that could bring the global boom to a premature end. Both Obama and Hillary are being supremely irresponsible in proposing it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

McCain On Iraq

John McCain just gave a terrific speech on the Senate floor on the subject of Iraq.

No matter where my colleagues came down in 2003 about the centrality of Iraq to the war on terror, there can simply be no debate that our efforts in Iraq today are critical to the wider struggle against violent Islamic extremism. Already, the terrorists are emboldened, excited that America is talking not about winning in Iraq, but is rather debating when we should lose. Last week, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy chief, said that the United States is merely delaying our “inevitable” defeat in Iraq, and that “the Mujahideen of Islam in Iraq of the caliphate and jihad are advancing with steady steps towards victory.” He called on Muslims to travel to Iraq to fight Americans, and appealed for Muslims to support the Islamic State in Iraq, a group established by al Qaeda.

General Petraeus has called al Qaeda “the principal short-term threat to Iraq.” What do the supporters of this amendment believe to be the consequences of our leaving the battlefield with al Qaeda in place?
If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?

The supporters of this amendment respond that they do not by any means intend to cede the battlefield to al Qaeda; on the contrary, their legislation would allow U.S. forces, presumably holed up in forward operating bases, to carry out targeted counterterrorism operations. But our own military commanders say that this approach will not succeed, and that moving in with search and destroy missions to kill and capture terrorists, only to immediately cede the territory to the enemy, is the failed strategy of the past three and a half years….

Those are the likely consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, and I hope that the supporters of such a move will tell us what they believe to be the likely consequences of this course of action. Should their amendment become law, and U.S. troops begin withdrawing, do they believe that Iraq will become more or less stable? That al Qaeda will find it easier to gather, plan, and carry out attacks from Iraqi soil, or that our withdrawal will somehow make this less likely? That the Iraqi people become more or less safe? That genocide becomes a more remote possibility or ever likelier?

Mr. President, this fight is about Iraq but not about Iraq alone. It is greater than that and more important still, about whether America still has the political courage to fight for victory or whether we will settle for defeat, with all of the terrible things that accompany it. We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat in this war.
Hat tip, K-Lo.

Emphases mine

It's Bush's Fault

AP reports:

WASHINGTON -- Fewer high school students are having sex, and more are using condoms. The teen birth rate has hit a record low.

More young people are finishing high school, too, and more younger children are being read to, according to the latest government snapshot on the well-being of U.S. children. It's good news on a number of key wellness indicators, experts said of the report being released Friday.

"The implications for the population are quite positive in terms of their health and their well-being," said Edward Sondik, the director of the National Center for Health Statistics. "The lower figure on teens having sex means the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is lower."
The report also found:

More youngsters are getting reading time. Sixty percent of children ages 3-5 (and not in kindergarten) were read to daily by a family member in 2005, up from 53 percent in 1993.
More young people are completing high school. In 2005, 88 percent of young adults had finished high school -- up from 84 percent in 1980.
Read the whole thing here.

I blame Bush!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Moral Argument for Giuliani

This weekend "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I traveled up to Hazelton, PA. A friend of ours from that town just got married and his family was holding a party in his honor. It was a great time. I got to see people I hadn't seen for twenty years. Spent a lot of time reminiscing about when we were young. Good weather, good people, good times -- that sort of thing.

Hazelton has been in the news a lot lately because of its attempts to exclude illegal immigrants. Currently the town is being sued by the ACLU. My friend had warned me not to bring the subject up because people's feelings were running high, but then he decided to discuss it himself. He showed me the latest edition of the local paper featuring a recent homicide and listed the several killings that had already taken place this year. Reading the accounts it was clear that gangs were fighting a turf war over control of the local drug trade.

That kind of thing didn't happen in small town Pennsylvania before the recent influx of low-income Blacks and Hispanics. Friends of mine from my hometown, which I haven't visited in years, tell me that the same thing is happening there. They, too, are rabid restrictionists. I hear similar complaints from people I know in Reading, near where I currently live. The immigration debate is not a theoretical thing for people in small town Pennsylvania. It is their lives and those of their children that are at stake.

I personally do not have to deal with the aggravation and fear these people encounter every day. My perspective is thus detached. I note that the free circulation of labor and capital is economically efficient and supports economic growth. I further note that for the immigrants and their families the move to small towns holds the promise of a better life than they would otherwise have known and that remittances from immigrants to their relatives at home are an important resource for local communities outside our borders. I note that the laws restricting immigration are unrealistic and can only be enforced at tremendous humanitarian and economic costs. I have supported President Bush's attempts to find a humane solution to the current problems. But none of this matters to long-time residents whose quality of life is rapidly deteriorating. They don't want to hear that economic decline long antedated the influx of immigrants and, in fact, created the conditions (low cost housing and low wage jobs) that attracted newcomers into the community. They want to restore the peaceful communities of yesteryear.

And, in fact, they have a point -- a serious one.

Orrin Judd prints excerpts from an article by Mirko Bagaric that asserts:

The best way to ameliorate third world poverty is by massively increasing migration to the west. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world’s resources and its population.

That’s not to suggest that Africa would empty overnight into the western world. Some of its citizens are too destitute to hobble to a more plentiful border. Some will not want to come, in any event. But huge numbers will follow the yellow brick road to prosperity in the west.

There is one fundamental obstacle to western nations relaxing border controls: racism. Discrimination on the basis of race is the lynchpin of the whole of western migration policy.

Read the whole thing here.

To this argument, so often expressed by opponents of immigration restriction, Judd replies:

There is exactly one moral basis for excluding prospective immigrants: that they are personally at odds with the rules by which a society governs itself and the ideals upon which the political regime is founded. So long as a person wants to conform to those ideas they ought to be welcomed.
Read it here.

That is precisely the argument my friend was making when he displayed those horrific accounts of local killings. The simple and irreducible fact is that many of the newcomers have refused to live by the rules that long governed community relations in Hazelton and made it safe.

Many of the people I met at the party were the sons and daughters, or perhaps the grandchildren, of immigrants who had met similar resistance when they moved into Hazelton a century ago. They well understood the impact of racism and nativism and the need for tolerance, but they had been pushed to their wits' end. The street outside where they had played as children was now a perilous zone where gang members clustered and drug deals went down. It was now too dangerous a place for their kids to play. Now they stay indoors and the kids play in the back yards. They are right when they say that they should not have to live like that in their own community. Theirs is, in fact, a moral argument for restriction.

That does not mean, however, that their argument should prevail, simply that it should be respected and taken into consideration -- not dismissed as simple "racism". Unfortunately, the current debate does not respect moral arguments on either side of the question. Broad gauge restriction unfairly penalizes the decent majority of immigrants and their relatives abroad and does real economic harm to this country. Open borders allows the disruptive and criminal minority to terrorize good people here and undermines the quality of life in communities across the nation. Neither course of action is adequate or moral.

What is needed is strict and vigorous law enforcement at the local level to restore order and promote public safety. The restoration of order to stressed communities would go a long way toward satisfying the anxieties and legitimate concerns of local populations. But law enforcement is expensive and few localities across the nation can afford the level of protection they require. Federal aid will be required. And, there must be a determined effort within the judicial system to promote effective enforcement, even if that comes at the expense of group rights and entitlements. The focus must be on individual behavior and the enforcement of community standards.

There is an issue here that Republicans could effectively exploit in the upcoming campaigns. The promise of massive federal aid to local law enforcement is one that Rudy Giuliani could creditably make. He has the track record to support such a program and, as Bill Clinton proved, it is attractive to both Democrats and Independents. And, Rudy's experience in New York City has already inured him to the kinds of liberal objections that a vigorous enforcement program focused on individual behavior rather than group entitlements would encounter. I think that this is why a lot of conservatives are quite willing to overlook Giuliani's liberal views on many issues and to accept him because of his willingness to take the heat and to focus relentlessly on law enforcement.

Exclusion will not work, and the current level of disorder is intolerable. The only solution is the restoration of order and for that the only credible candidate is Rudy.

Rudy should make a few trips into Hazelton to talk to people there. He's got a great excuse for doing so. Judy Nathan is a Hazelton girl.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yon on the Surge

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Michael Yon. Here's what Yon had to say regarding the surge:

HH: Yesterday, on CNN, Senator Joe Lieberman said we’ve got the enemy, al Qaeda, on the run. We’ve chased them out of Anbar Province. We’ve chased them now to Diyala. All of this is possible because of the surge. And then Michael Ware, whom I know you respect for his courage, went on with Anderson Cooper and said that I’m afraid that Senator Lieberman has taken an excursion into fantasy. Who’s telling the truth here, Michael Yon?

MY: Well, you know, al Qaeda’s not been wiped out of Iraq by any means, and there’s still some serious fighting to do. But what we have seen is if you give al Qaeda time, they will alienate the local population for us. So I mean, they almost prep it for us to get rid of them. You know, a lot of them that were not killed or captured here in Baquba in the last three weeks did move out to other places. So they’re not gone. I mean, so there’s some truth to what Mick Ware says. However, there are fewer and fewer hiding places for them to go. They can’t go to the south in Basra. They’re not welcome there. They can’t, there’s only a few places they can go to in Anbar, and those are drying up. There’s fewer places in Diyala, and what is left is drying up. They certainly cannot go to the Kurdish regions, because they will be killed. So they can still go to Nineveh, but the ISF in Nineveh is up where Mosul is the capitol. They can go up there, but the ISF, or the Iraqi Security Forces up there are pretty well advanced, and they can hold their own now, and I saw them doing it again earlier this year when I was back in Nineveh. You know, I spent a good part of 2005 up there. So you know, I’ve seen tremendous progress in different parts of Iraq, but this is not going to be solved in six months or a year. We’ve just got to settle in for the long haul, but you know, if you’ve been here long enough, you can see that progress is being made.

Read the whole thing here.

The problem is that there is very little likelihood that we will be able to sustain the troop levels required for the long haul past September, and as I noted in the previous post, many experts feel that a lower level of commitment just won't work.