Day By Day

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Teaching Children to Hate

My Louisiana correspondent reports that at Grambling they are staging mock hangings as part of a lesson on the Jena Six.

The indoctrination starts early. Before you know it these kids will be convinced that every white person wants to kill them. They'll be expecting racism in every interaction with whites and will see it everywhere, even when no racial content is intended. This is how you maintain racial solidarity across the generations.

The Grambling student newspaper ran pictures of a mock hanging and the administration ordered it taken off the website. Here's a link to the paper's website. For more local commentary see here.

Story here. Picture above. Check out the faces of the kids. The girl in the noose seems terrified, most of the others are somber, absorbing the poisonous message, but the kid holding a noose seems to be enjoying it. Scary stuff!

Don't get me wrong here. Lynching was a very real phenomenon and a brutal instrument of social control in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. It was primarily, but not exclusively, directed against blacks, and is a terrible stain on our nation's history. For a visual record go here [warning, very gruesome images]. It is most certainly a proper subject for discussion in schools, but not in kindergarten and first grade, and not in the manner represented in the photo. Save it for a later age when the terrible material can be presented in a reasonable context and more appropriate manner.

This is nothing more than a cynical attempt to put a racially inflammatory spin on the incidents at Jena. It is shameful and despicable.

Once again, take a look at the expression on that poor girl's face.


My LA Correspondent writes to inform me:

Apparently a virus has attacked the Gramblinite and deleted the articles you
linked to. It now goes to their home page. The News Star in Monroe
apparently had the same virus affliction.

The Ruston Daily Leader has better virus protection, but it's only a matter
of time and a few phone calls before they, too, become afflicted with the

It's insidious. TheDenialVirus.

The school is apparently in full denial mode. It didn't happen..., nothing to see here folks..., move along..., move along.


Here's the Monroe Star account of the school's response to the incident along with another photo.


The coverup continues. The Grambling student paper has suppressed the three pictures of the faux-lynching incident. They have removed them from their website and have warned all other sources against reproducing copyrighted material. Read about it here.


The teacher who organized this atrocious "teaching exercise" has been placed on administrative leave with pay. [here] Thanks JB.

Two Churchills

Mark Steyn has a nice piece on the difference between talkers and doers.

The difference between Winston Churchill and Ward Churchill... is that for Sir Winston talking was a call to action while for poseurs like Professor Churchill it’s a substitute for it. The pen is not mightier than the sword if your enemy is confident you will never use anything other than your pen. Sometimes it’s not about “freedom of speech,” but about freedom. Ask an Iranian homosexual. If you can find one.
Read the whole thing here.

Boneheaded Voters

Bryan Caplan has an excellent piece in Reason Online [originally in the September print edition] on the The 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters. Before you get your knickers in a twist he adds that we all, himself included, are stupid when it comes to voting on economic matters. What he is talking about is four systemic biases we all have, and which politicians ruthlessly exploit, that result in bad economic policy.

He writes:
[T]he general public’s views on economics not only are different from those of professional economists but are less accurate, and in predictable ways. The public really does generally hold, for starters, that prices are not governed by supply and demand, that protectionism helps the economy, that saving labor is a bad idea, and that living standards are falling
All of these are demonstrably false propositions, yet the public stubbornly continues to believe in them and politicians playing to these false perceptions continue to pass legislation that weakens rather than strengthening the American economy.

Read the whole article here. Go on, you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Private Military Contractors

Robert D. Kaplan writes in the Atlantic about private military contractors like Blackwater. He points out that these private concerns have been a part of America's military operations since the early Cold War, that they provide numerous essential services more cheaply and efficiently than the military could, that the personnel hired by these firms (mostly retired US military) are of uniformly high quality, that they provide humanitarian as well as military services, and (interestingly) it was Bill Clinton, not George Bush, who forged the close relationship between the U.S. military and former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, a relationship that carried over from Bosnia/Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bottom line: These companies will be an essential and growing part of future American military actions no matter who is in the White House; they save the taxpayers a lot of money; and because they are so important in so many areas, Congress has to set clear guidelines on how they are to be employed.

Cinematic Victimology

Kyle Smith has a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal on the sudden spate of violent films advancing liberal themes, titled "When Liberals Kill". It's well worth a read [here].

The basic problem such films face is how to justify their heroes' actions. After all, aren't liberals supposed to be enlightened, pacifistic, committed to reasonable dialogue? It's those nasty conservatives who are the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, gun-toting troglodytes. So how can Jodie Foster start blowing people to bits and retain her status a lesbo-American icon? How can ultra-lib Matt Damon justify his mad murder sprees in the Bourne films?

Simple, Smith explains, make them victims. Jodie's character was raped and nearly killed, Matt's was waterboarded; experiences so terrifying that they justify mass slaughter.

So what we have here is murder as a form of therapy. Victims can't control themselves, so they can't be held responsible for the most heinous crimes, and through the exercise of violence they can restore their sanity.

As justifications go, this one is morally despicable, but it resonates with a major aspect of liberal ideology -- the repudiation of individual responsibility. Liberalism has moved from justifying violence on the part of others [all that root causes nonsense] to legitimizing it amongst themselves.

I don't know about you, but gun-toting liberals scare the bejeesus out of me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Totten Reports From Iraq

Michael Totten has a wonderful report from Iraq. Read the whole thing here. I was particularly struck by the following observation:

[T]he Shias of Iraq have never been as staunchly anti-American as the Sunnis have been and still mostly are. Saddam Hussein oppressed them almost as severely as he oppressed the Kurds in the North. The trouble for the Americans with the Shias is that so many prefer Iranian assistance, which they deem more reliable after President George H. W. Bush abandoned them to Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War.
Cutting and running has consequences. Thank God we have a President who is confident enough to stand strong against those who would "redeploy" to Guam or elsewhere and a likely successor [Hillary] who is mature enough to recognize the importance of standing by the Iraqi people.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bourne Again

I promised this review several days ago and then forgot about it [old age, I guess]. Well, here it is for what it's worth.

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I checked out the latest Bourne flick. Based on some idiotic statements made by the star (Matt Damon) and the director (Paul Greenglass) I was prepared to dislike it, and the film did not disappoint.

Both here and abroad the “Bourne Ultimatum” has met with broad critical approval. At “Rotten Tomatoes” website the elite critics gave it 97% positive reviews while the general critical response was 93% positive. That’s pretty close to unanimity. The critical community, and the general public too judging from box office numbers, found the “Bourne Ultimatum” to be a satisfying, even an exhilarating, experience.

But two things struck me about the critical response to Bourne. The first had to do with the political content of the film. In this regard there is nothing unusual about the Bourne series. It simply puts forth one of the hoariest of left-wing paranoid fantasies – that the American government or significant portions of it has been taken over by evil right-wing conspirators who use the mechanisms of the state to ruthlessly destroy anyone who interferes with their nefarious designs. This kind of plot situation has been a Hollywood standard for decades and is so unremarkable these days that none of the mainstream critics saw fit to mention it.

But in today’s politically charged environment many commentators outside the critical community did notice and denounced the film as being “anti-American”. This led to a discussion as to whether the charge actually fit. Some pointed out that the bad guys represented only a rogue element of the American intelligence community, and that the women in the film [Julia Stiles and Joan Allen] represented a better, more moral America that did not waterboard or assassinate people. These are valid points, but the iconography of the film makes it clear that director Greenglass intended it as an indictment of America. In every scene in which the bad guys are plotting their evil deeds, an American flag is prominently on display. Clearly Greenglass intends to convey the understanding that the rogue conspiracy is representative of what he perceives to be a fascist American government.

If it were not for the ubiquity of such plots in post-Vietnam films I would suspect that Greenglass was consciously trying to appeal to an international audience, but it is more likely that we have here simply a case of sloppy writing – plugging in tried and true templates rather than trying to create interesting characters and situations. And this is the greatest failing of the Bourne Ultimatum. The plotting of the film is preposterous, filled with logical discontinuities; the characters are absurd, lacking not only depth but any plausible motivation for their actions; and the dialogue is so cramped that even fine actors are given no scope in which to develop plausible characters.

The second distinctive and controversial aspect of the film – the one most commented on by mainstream critics – is its visual style. Variously designated as “queasicam”, “unsteadycam”, “shakycam”, or simply “roughhouse” cinematography. It consists of fast editing in which images pile in upon the viewer almost too quickly to be comprehended, and a confusing mélange of pans, zooms, abrupt cuts, extreme close-ups, partially obscured images, and rapid camera movements that disorient the viewer; some people have reportedly become nauseous watching it.

Most critics have hailed this “run and gun” camera technique as a daring innovation, one that takes the natural bounciness and instability of hand-held cinematography to a whole new level. But, as David Bordwell notes this technique is nothing new – its roots trace back to the silent era and it is a common feature in Asian and some European action films. Even some Hollywood directors -- Tony Scott is a good example -- have experimented with roughhouse cinematography in recent years. None, though, has applied the technique quite so enthusiastically as Paul Greenglass.

And what is achieved by adopting the “run and gun” techniques of roughhouse cinema? Director Paul Greenglass suggests that it allows us to view the world as Bourne himself does, but this is patently absurd. Any character so disoriented could not function at any level of efficiency, and Bourne is ruthlessly efficient. Moreover, by intercutting between Bourne and his adversaries, the film reveals to the viewer far more than the character himself could ever know. No, what the technique provides, and what fascinates the critics, is what Bordwell calls “intensified continuity” – propulsive relentless action, a breathless pace, an almost assaultive kinetic drive. Stephen Rea, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, exults:

This is a film about momentum, gravity, trajectory. It's a physics lesson wrapped up in an espionage thriller, and when director Greengrass yells 'Action!' he means it.

But what is gained in intensity and pace is more than matched by loss in clarity. For the director this is not necessarily a bad thing. David Bordwell quotes Asian practitioners of the run and gun style as saying it covers three mistakes: bad acting, bad set design, and bad directing.

And such a cover-up is certainly needed in the Bourne Ultimatum. When you have an incoherent script, banal dialogue, and a star who cannot act, obscurity and confusion is a virtue. To some extent this is characteristic of most action thrillers. Matt Seitz has made an astute point when he notes that Run Lola Run (starring Franka Potente, who appears in the first two Bourne films) was a brilliant commentary on the meaningless of action films. In Lola, Potente runs madly from place dodging obstacles in an attempt to forestall imminent disaster. Time and again she fails, only to reboot and start running again. So it is with all action films. Essentially the main character must repeatedly rush from point to point while obstacles are placed in his or her path. And that is what the second and third installments in the Bourne series are – meaningless, propulsive action.


And that’s really all there is to Bourne. To the extent there is a theme it is reflexive and incoherent anti-Americanism. The characters are cardboard cutouts, particularly the title character, as played by the talentless Matt Damon. Bourne is a superman, able to absorb incredible amounts of damage and keep on ticking. The closest thing he has to a human relationship is with his former handler, Nicky [played by Julia Stiles], and consists of little more than her saying that dealing with him had been “difficult”. His confrontation with the big bad [the psychologist who had damaged him], played by Albert Finney, is laughable. The resolution to the story is just plain silly. The big reveal at the end is that the CIA has used assassins to kill foreign nationals. The bad guys are undone by faxing secret documents to the press [shades of the Condor]. The only clever bit was repeating the concluding scene from the second film to introduce a crucial plot point in the third. But, as David Bordwell points out, this clever device is so commonplace these days that it is used in commercials. Basically this is just another seventies-style conspiracy film with its numerous deficiencies covered up by non-stop huggermugger

One final point: I have reconsidered my earlier conclusion about the international market. This may not be just sloppy writing and film technique – it could be intentionally dumbed down writing and film technique designed to appeal to a world market. The crude dialogue, the one-dimensional characters, the visceral, kinetic action, the globe spanning locales, the absurd conspiracy, and most of all the incoherent anti-Americanism, all are shaped by the dictates of the international market. This is a lowest-common-denominator film that easily transitions across national and cultural lines and will appeal to audiences everywhere. If so this is canny film-making and it seems to have paid off.

The Bourne films have generated lots of money in both domestic and international receipts and, David Bordwell estimates, will end up being a 2-3 billion dollar franchise. Remember, at the top end, film-making is all about money. Be prepared to see a lot more of this dreck in the future.

Sources cited in this review.


The North Korean Random Insult Generator

"You loudmouthed beast, we will mercilessly crush you with the weapon of singlehearted unity!"

"You extra-large lackey, we will thwart your frantic attempts to stifle us!"

The fun goes on and on. Check it out here.

Oh THAT Liberal Media

Katie Couric spoke at the National Press Club yesterday and opined on Iraq:

“Everyone in this room would agree that people in this country were misled in terms of the rationale of this war,” said Couric, adding that it is “pretty much accepted” that the war in Iraq was a mistake.

“I’ve never understood why [invading Iraq] was so high on the administration’s agenda when terrorism was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that [Iraq] had no true connection with al Qaeda.”

Further, Couric said the Bush administration botched the war effort, calling it “accepted truths” that it erred by“disbanding the Iraq military, and leaving 100,000 Sunni men feeling marginalized and angry...[and] whether there were enough boots on the ground, the feeling that we’d be welcomed as liberators and didn’t need to focus as much on security.” She added “I’d feel totally comfortable saying any of that at some point, if required, on television.”
Read it here.

Well, now. Every one of her points is a matter of dispute outside the bounds of liberal opinion, yet to Couric, and apparently to her audience [nobody corrected her] they were all matters of settled fact.

Regarding the aftermath of 9/11 she said:

“The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable.
which prompted Jonah Goldberg to write:

What a fascinating little slip! How deeply disturbing [she thinks] it is when Americans refer to the United States in a time of war as "we"! Some may think this is a little thing, but I truly don't.
Read his whole post here.

Bush and the Bureaucrats

One of the most admirable features of the Bush administration has been its determination to bring a largely unaccountable federal bureaucracy to heel. Naturally the bureaucrats have fought back, characterizing the administration's efforts as attempts to "politicize" the government [snicker, as though the bureaucrats were not already intensely political], leaking any information they thought might undermine the president, and feeding talking points to his political opponents.

One of the conduits for bureaucratic rage has been Dan Froomkin, who writes political gossip pieces for the WaPo. His latest hit consisted of a charge that Bush is "incompetent" and has seriously damaged the effectiveness of the permanent government.

What tripe! He asserts that the public, not the political elites, has rendered this judgment on its own, ignoring a determined long-term propaganda effort on the part of Democrats seeking to create just that impression.

He supports this charge by reiterating the Democrats' claims that the Iraq War has been incompetently handled -- a charge that is plausible only if the current conflict is considered completely without reference to other major military actions. In comparison with Vietnam, Korea, World Wars I and II, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the Mexican War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution, the current conflict has been a miracle of efficiency and effectiveness. To suggest otherwise is to display almost unimaginable naivete regarding the nature of war or a disturbing degree of cynicism in distorting facts to serve political purposes. The latter has particularly been the case with factions within the Military and Intelligence bureaucracies who have raised such charges in order to deflect criticism from themselves, or to oppose efforts to reform their agencies.

He follows this with the exaggerated critiques of FEMA's performance under Bush stemming from the Katrina disaster and unsubstantiated [and largely fabricated] charges of attempts to politicize the Justice Department.

His main point is that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove sought to make the permanent government responsive to political authority.

And what, in God's name, is wrong with that? In a democratic system the "professionals" must always remain subservient to political authority. To far too many of the beltway mandarins, the political process is simply an inconvenience to be evaded or marginalized in the interest of effective management. This is a dangerously undemocratic position that can lead to technocratic tyranny, but unfortunately it is all too common in Washington.

I applaud Bush for his willingness to stand up to the professionals and his attempts to restore some accountability to our government.

Read Froomkin's smear here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"In Iran We Don't Have Homosexuals Like You Do."

Hat Tip, Lucianne.

Films to Miss

"David Kahane" [pseud.] has an interesting piece over at NRO, listing the current and upcoming anti-war films pouring out of Hollywood. They include:
In the Valley of Elah
Grace Is Gone* [see below]
The Kingdom
Lions for Lambs
as well as several already in theaters.

You won't want to see them, and apparently nobody else does. He notes:
Now, what do all these films have in common — besides being passionate indictments?

They all flopped. Or will, soon enough. (Except for, maybe, The Kingdom, which apparently has an appalling whiff of vigilantism.) And this is something we out here in Hollywood just cannot wrap our minds around.

What the hell is wrong with this country? We support the troops, showing them as the dysfunctional, murdering, drug-addicted, red-state crypto-rapists in need of psychoanalysis we all know they really are. Hey — even the Marine officer in Alan Ball’s award-winning American Beauty a few years back was humanized by making him a sadist and a closet queen. And this is the thanks we get?

So what should we go to see? How 'bout The Brave One starring lesbo-American icon Jodie Foster as Charles Bronson?


"She Who Must Not Be Named" and I will be seeing 3:10 to Yuma this afternoon.


The reception to "In the Valley of Elah" has been so negative that John Cusack's "Grace Is Gone" has just been shelved. It has been removed from distribution schedules and may never be seen.

You Go Girls!

Hat Tip to Jules Crittenden.

Saudi religious police (you know who I mean, the guys who make it their busines to "instruct" women on how to behave and dress in public -- in some cases women who are inappropriately garbed are roughed up) approached two women and got more than they bargained for.

When accosted by the "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" the women responded with "verbal abuse" and eventually pepper spray. One of the girls filmed the incident on her mobile phone. Expect to see it soon on YouTube.

At that point the regular police intervened and the girls were arrested. Hope they're all right.

Read the whole thing here.

Angry Young Idiots

James Lileks looks back at the angry young men of the seventies counter-culture and their favored mode of expression -- the underground comic. In this case it is an angry eco-comic titled "Slow Death". His assessment:
Like most underground comics of the era, they’re profane, illiterate, intolerant of anyone who isn’t a member of the Freak-American community, gleefully despoiling anything that happened in the world the day before they graduated from high school, overinked and saturated with profanity, drugs, and a heavy-lidded nod towards sex, which they might have been interested in one day before they graduated to the better drugs.

Humorless, self-righteous tripe for the most part, complete with dystopian fantasies about life in 1975: no air, no resources, no oceans.
Read the whole column here.

I remember all to well these kinds of guys, and they are still around. What is striking about the above illustration is that this Nixon-era rant could easily have come from the mouth of one of today's eco-warriors.

Sounds Good to Me

Is exercise the key to losing weight? Not really according to Gary Taubes!

Gary is my new hero.

Read his piece here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Sound of Silence Silenced

Marcel Marceau has died. Please observe a moment of silence in his honor.

Read about it here. Click on the image below to observe his genius.

Dimming Dreams of Dejah Thoris

Scientists have long assured us that geological features on the surface of Mars showed us that water was once abundant on the planet. This "fact" fired the imagination of generations of sci-fi writers and their readers, inspired many for whom colonization of other planets still remains a dream, and led to all sorts of theories as to how a planetary ecology could be radically transformed, as Mars' evidently had been.

Well, just because a scientist says it, it ain't necessarily so.

FOX News reports:
New images obtained by a sharp-eyed Martian satellite reveal that some Red Planet features once thought to have been carved by flowing water were in fact created by other processes.
Read the whole thing here.

It seems that the "Wet Mars" scenario has taken a major hit. The new findings do not eliminate the possibility that water exists on Mars, but it almost surely rules out the idea that at one point in the planet's past water was abundant.

Oh well!

Doesn't mean though that I can't still read ERB and dream of John Carter, Dejah Thoris and Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More Mountain Pictures

I promised some pictures; here they are.

Spent some time hanging out in the mountains. Here is some of what I saw:

The pumpkin patch:

Crows over stubble.

Hawk Mountain, south lookout.

Look, up in the sky..., it's a bird....

Hardcore birders at the North Lookout.


From a military dad, an IED close-up. [warning, extreme language]

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Missing Links

A few days ago John Noble Wilford, the grand old man of science journalism, published a summary article in the New York Times on the subject of human evolution. The gist of the article was that attempts to reconstruct the line of human development has been stymied by a million year "gap" in the evidence. Prior to three million years ago there is ample evidence for a variety of bipedal apes [Australopithecus] and from approximately 1.8 million years ago there are several specimens representing at least two species of human [Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus] prior to the emergence of Homo Sapiens. What is missing, though, is direct fossil evidence for the first humans. Because of this paucity of evidence, the article asserts, there is a great deal of controversy that can only be cleared up by further investigation [trans: more money for more expeditions]. Not surprisingly, several major figures in paleo-anthropology endorse this conclusion.

Read the article here.

John Hawks, however, disagrees to some extent. He points out that:

1) Abundance of evidence does not quiet controversy. There is a lot of controversy over how to interpret the abundant Australopithicine fossils prior to three million years ago.

2) There is no paucity of evidence from the period three to two million years ago. Evidence of tool manufacture dates from about 2.6 million years ago and is probably associated with the first representatives of the genus homo. This gives us important information regarding the mental capacity of these first humans as well as clues to their diet [they were meat-eaters]. Moreover there are plenty of ape fossils dating from this period, some of which have human-like characteristics. What are scarce are specifically human remains. This is not an absence of evidence, Hawks argues, it is evidence -- showing that despite changes in diet and tool-making capacity, early humans were quite restricted in their range for several hundred thousand years. Their new behaviors did not confer upon them a decisive advantage over contemporary ape species. That is an important finding.

If Hawks is right, more funding for more expeditions is unlikely to turn up very many more human remains from the gap period, and is unlikely to add much to what we already know, which is that the emergence of genus homo was associated with important behavioral and dietary changes that did not immediately confer decisive advantages on the first humans.

Somehow, with money at stake, I doubt that his position will prevail in the short run.

Read Hawks' commentary here.

Amazing Video -- Battle at Kruger

A friend recommended this to me at breakfast this morning. He said to be sure to watch the whole thing. He was right.

Lies Of the Left -- The Jena Six

Things in Louisiana are not what they seem to be.

Jason Whitlock, writing in the Kansas City Star, explains just how dishonest the protests and coverage of the beating incident in Jena, LA has been.

He notes:

Reed Walters, the Jena district attorney, is being accused of racism because he didn’t show [Mychal] Bell [the accused leader of the attack on a white student] compassion when the teenager was brought before the court for the third time on assault charges in a two-year span.


There was no “schoolyard fight” as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree.

Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.

A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the “Jena Six” case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker’s assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the “Jena Six” in reaction to Walters’ extreme charges of attempted murder.

Much has been written about Bell’s trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell’s public defender was black.


It’s rarely mentioned that Bell was already on probation for assault when he was accused of participating in Barker’s attack. And it’s never mentioned that white people in the “racist” town of Jena provided Bell support and protected his football career long before Jesse, Al, Bell’s father and all the others took a sincere interest in Mychal Bell.

You won’t hear about any of that because it doesn’t fit the picture we want to paint of Jena, this case, America and ourselves.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sexy Beast

Sorry for the lack of posting recently -- I've been sitting on a mountaintop communing with nature. As you can see, communing takes a lot out of a guy.

More pictures when I get back to a high speed internet hookup.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Remembering Ike

One of the great injustices of recent history has been the tendency of those who chronicle the Civil Rights reforms of the mid-twentieth century to overlook the degree to which Republicans advanced the cause of racial equality. One of the greatest proponents of civil rights legislation was President Dwight D. Eisenhower but his contribution has been generally neglected.

David Nichols, writing in the New York Times, notes how the history of the era has been systematically distorted so as to minimize Eisenhower's contributions and to give undeserved credit to Democrats, most importantly Lyndon Johnson.

He writes:

Eisenhower complained in 1967 that if his critics felt “there was anything good done” in his presidency, “they mostly want to prove that it was somebody else that did it and that I went along as a passenger.” That has been especially true of his championship of civil rights.

The “somebody else” in this instance was Lyndon B. Johnson, who in 1957 was the Senate’s Democratic majority leader. Historians have consistently credited Johnson for the bill’s passage. Yes, Johnson played a role, but hardly the one his advocates might imagine: Eisenhower and his attorney general, Herbert Brownell Jr., first proposed strong legislation, and it was Johnson and his Southern cronies who weakened it beyond recognition.

Read the whole thing here.

Hugh the Humanitarian

From Science Daily:
It turns out that older men chasing younger women contributes to human longevity and the survival of the species, according to new findings by researchers at Stanford and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Read it here.

Scientists have long been puzzled by the fact that humans live long beyond their reproductive years while most other species die off. Until recently the dominant theory was the "grandmother hypothesis" holding that old women were necessary to assist mothers with child rearing. Therefore having old people around conferred some evolutionary advantage. That hypothesis was never confirmed, but it has now been replaced by another one that has been confirmed by mathematical models [hey, it works for environmental science, why not here?].

When old men mate with young women they pass along to their offspring genes that promote longevity. Over time these genes accumulate in the population and human lifespan increases. It only works for old men and young women; women past their child-bearing years cannot pass on their genetic advantage.

So, all you hot young chicks, if you really want to do something for the benefit of humanity, find an old man [the older the better] and make him really, really happy.


Ever wonder why prescriptions emanating from scientific authority change so radically from year to year? Here's one of the reasons why.
Many explanations have been offered to make sense of the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of medical wisdom — what we are advised with confidence one year is reversed the next — but the simplest one is that it is the natural rhythm of science. An observation leads to a hypothesis. The hypothesis (last year’s advice) is tested, and it fails this year’s test, which is always the most likely outcome in any scientific endeavor. There are, after all, an infinite number of wrong hypotheses for every right one, and so the odds are always against any particular hypothesis being true, no matter how obvious or vitally important it might seem.
Read it here.

The operative word here is "seem." Ideologues of various stripes, from Nazis to Marxists today's Lefty Luddites as well as unscrupulous opportunists have sought to claim for themselves the imprimatur of scientific authority. But what honest scientists know is always in a state of flux. What we think we know today is very different from what we thought we knew ten years ago and quite different from what we will think we know a decade from now.

The article goes on to detail the immense problems associated with epidemiological studies -- the kind of study that lies behind many of the stories trumpeted in the news regarding how people should live their lives. In many cases these studies have resulted in misguided attempts to forge public health policies. But so problematic are these studies that:

As John Bailar, an epidemiologist who is now at the National Academy of Science, once memorably phrased it, “The appropriate question is not whether there are uncertainties about epidemiologic data, rather, it is whether the uncertainties are so great that one cannot draw useful conclusions from the data.”
Public officials are always looking for information to guide their feeble attempts at effective and beneficial governance. Since the progressive era many officials have naively relied on scientific authority as a guide. But that is a dangerous course. Whether the subject is public health, or environmental policy, or racial justice, or any other big thing to which governments have turned their attention, "science" has proven to be a false and inconstant guide time and again.

The article cited above suggests that in epidemiological studies the standards of evidence have been lowered so far, and the inferences from ambiguous results so grossly inflated that medical "science" as currently practiced is not only immensely wasteful but may well be harmful in many cases to the public's well being.

Fancy that!

Read the whole article in that notorious right wing anti-science source, the New York Times [here].

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another Film I Won't Be Seeing

"In the Valley of Elah" -- another atrocity from Paul Haggis, director of "Crash".

Here's the scoop from David Edelstein:

Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah is vital in spite of its mustiness. As a narrative, it’s clunky. As a whodunit, it’s third-rate. As the drama of a closed-off man’s awakening, it’s predictable.
So it is musty, clunky, third-rate, and predictable. So why see it? Where does all that vitality come from? It is an indictment of Bush administration policy and describes, at least as liberals imagine it, the moral devastation of American soldiers serving in (and coming home from) Iraq.

So it's a political tract that strokes liberal anti-Bush sensibilities and nothing more.

I will be giving it a pass. You should too.

The Merits of Debaathification

Christopher Hitchens explains why it is a good thing the Iraqi Army disbanded.
The Iraqi army was... the replication of sectarianism within the state, consisting of a Sunni oligarchy using conscripts from other communities to enforce its will and eating up the common national treasury to conceal unemployment and inefficiency while subjecting young people to involuntary servitude. Yet almost every liberal in America... appears to be committed to a nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's draft.

Take a moment to imagine what would have been written in the liberal press had the old military class been preserved and utilized to "stabilize" Iraq. I can write the headlines for you: "Baathist War Criminal Gets Second Career as American Employee"; "Once-Wanted Man, Brigadier Kamal Now Shares Jokes With 82nd Airborne"; "Kurds and Shiites Say: What Regime Change?"; "From Basra to Kirkuk, America Brings Saddamism Without Saddam." And, if you like, I can add the names of the reporters who would have written the stories.

This is not just another way of saying that there were few good options in Iraq's future, because anybody with any sense knows that already. Nor is it a defense of the very abrupt and peremptory way in which Paul Bremer dismissed the officer corps almost overnight. However, I think it stands to the credit of the United States that it did not insult the population by grabbing and using the existing reins of repression, just as it stands to our credit that we adopted de-Baathification, or, in other words, the policy of demolishing the rule of a corrupt and fascistic party. People say that the poor management of this issue led to an insurgency from quarters that would have hated a change of regime from whichever source it had come. Better that than a revolt against us from the people who detested the whole Saddamist system to begin with—the majority, lest we forget.

Read it here.

I particularly like the part where he offers to name names.

This Guy's Got Cojones

Meet Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who has been targeted by al Qaeda. They put out a contract on him for producing a cartoon that portrayed the prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog. There is a $50,000 bonus if he is "slaughtered like a lamb" [has his throat cut].

Vilks, pictured above [the eyes..., the eyes!], views the treats with equanimity.

Mr Vilks, who lives in an isolated area of Sweden, has been given police protection. He said: “I suppose you could say I was an easy target. But I am not paranoid. I think I possess a healthy rationality; I know that there are some risks involved but one should not exaggerate them either.”

But he added: “We must not give in. I’m starting to grow old. I could die at any time — it’s not a catastrophe.”

Since he is not cowering in terror, the al Qaeda scum found someone who will. They extended the threat to Swedish businesses.

The internet threat stated: “We know how to force you to apologise. If you do not, expect us to strike the businesses of firms like Ericsson, Scania, Volvo, Ikea and Electrolux.”
That got the government's attention and they have responded in a satisfactorily craven manner:
The Swedish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Jan Thesleff, met Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Organisation for the Islamic Conference (OIC), last week in Jeddah and offered his “deepest apologies for the controversy created by the publishing of the hurtful depiction”, according to a statement from the 57-nation group.
But the press, at least some elements of it, has responded more courageously.

A leading Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, yesterday republished the cartoon in an act of solidarity with the local paper that first printed it.

Read about it here.

The Missing People

Activists and the MSM keep telling us that is is a terrible thing that so few people from New Orleans' ninth ward have returned to their homes. My Louisiana correspondent explains why -- only 27% of the ward's pre-Katrina residents actually owned the homes in which they lived. No job, no home, no incentive to return. Simple.

More Yon

Michael Yon is hunting al Qaeda. Check it out here -- some of the best battlefield reporting you will ever encounter.

The New Who

In case you hadn't noticed Doctor Who is back and better than ever. The long-running series began in 1963 and starred William Hartwell in the title role. Most people of my generation have fond memories of Tom Baker who played the Doctor from 1974-1981. "She Who Must Not Be Named" favored Peter Davison in the role from 1981-1984. In 2005 the series was revived with Christopher Eccleston in the title role. After one season he was replaced by David Tennant who is currently playing the "Tenth Doctor".

The new, revived, series started well. Eccleston and Billie Piper were a fresh take on the old Doctor/female companion formula, but the current season, starring Tennant and Freema Agyeman, leaves all others in the dust. There have been good episodes before, notably last season's "The Empty Child" and the "The Girl In the Fireplace", both scripted by Steven Moffat, but the three most recent episodes, "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" (scripted by Paul Cornell), and "Blink" (written by Moffat) have been superb. "Blink" may well be the best SF episode on any show ever.

The season finale "Utopia" will be this weekend on SciFi channel. Check it out, and by all means see the Cornell and Moffat scripted episodes during reruns. They are well worth your time.

Ross Reudiger reviews "Blink" here and the "Family of Blood" here.

The Overlawyered War

There is a great deal of disinformation out there in the MSM regarding the contents of Jack Goldsmith's new book, "The Terror Presidency." It is being portrayed as an insiders devastating critique of the administration and its conduct of the global war on terror. To read some accounts you would think that the Bush administration had seized upon the war as an excuse to broadly curtail the civil rights of Americans and that Goldsmith's book validates that extremist interpretation. But it does not. Michael Barone explains:

It is true that Goldsmith disagrees with some of the policies instituted under Attorney General Ashcroft but the thrust of his argument is exactly the opposite of what the MSM has implied. Instead of seeing an out of control administration recklessly trampling on civil liberties he sees a severely constrained administration almost obsessively respectful of civil liberties, even to the point of crippling the war effort.

he rejects the charge that the administration has disregarded the rule of law. Quite the contrary. “The opposite is true: the administration has been strangled by law, and since September 11, 2001, this war has been lawyered to death.” There has been a “daily clash inside the Bush administration between fear of another attack, which drives officials into doing whatever they can to prevent it, and the countervailing fear of violating the law, which checks their urge toward prevention.”

This dangerous situation is the result of reforms instituted in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate that had the effect of criminalizing warfare. Today,

The CIA has become so wary of possible criminal charges that it urges agents to buy insurance. Developments in international law, especially the doctrine of universal decision, also threaten U.S. government officials with possible prosecution abroad. All of this creates a risk-averseness that leaves us more vulnerable to terrorists.
It is altogether appropriate that we discard the pieties and excessive legalisms of the sixties and seventies and have a serious and responsible debate on the appropriate implementation of executive power in wartime. However, irresponsible elements of the political left and the legal community stand in the way of any productive dialogue. There will be a national debate, indeed there already is, but in the coming election year don't expect it to be very rational or reasonable. The Democratic Party has all but ensured that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Weak Horse

It has often been asserted that the global war against terror is, at heart, a war of ideas pitting Western liberalism against Islamist theocracy. One of the charges leveled against the West by the Islamists is that we are corrupt and weak, unable to sustain an effort in the face of determined aggression. Al Qaeda, it is asserted, will emerge as the "strong horse."

But it is al Qaeda that is showing signs of weakness. Recently al Qaeda in Iraq put out a contract on the Danish cartoonist who was judged to have disrespected Mohammed and on his editor. In case you are hard up for cash, the payment is $100,000 for the kill and an additional $50,000 if the cartoonist is "slaughtered". This offer led Walid Phares to note that now al Qaeda is having to offer financial inducements for the commission of acts when in the past ideological zeal would have sufficed. Phares also wonders why al Qaeda in Iraq is messing around in Danish domestic affairs.

Read Phares commentary here.

Then there is the announcement by al Qaeda in Iraq that it will begin assassinating Sunni tribal leaders who cooperate with the US forces [here]. The first such assassination was carried out on Thursday and the Sunni response was a vow to kill all al Qaeda members [here]. Clearly the Jihadi message doesn't carry the cachet it once did.

Thanks to President Bush's determination America has not faltered in Iraq or Afghanistan as it earlier did in Sudan, Lebanon and Iran. Instead it is al Qaeda that is increasingly looking like a "weak horse."


There were protests and counter protests in Washington today. I didn't bother to drive down to see them -- just not interested enough. The demonstrations were put together by a communist organization A.N.S.W.E.R. [yeah there really are some old commies still floating around] and it looked a lot like a sixties theme party. I'm old enough to remember the original stuff and the lefties in the crowd were trying hard to replicate them but with limited success. Came off as wannabes -- elderly children playing at being important.

Check out pictures of the foolishness here. More here.

They really are trying to get back to the sixties. Here's their version of the "Magic Bus".

Yeah, there were counter-protesters there too, but for some reason it was the lefties who made the best pictures.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Now This Sounds Encouraging

AP reports:

KUT, Iraq - American commanders in southern Iraq say Shiite sheiks are showing interest in joining forces with the U.S. military against extremists, in much the same way that Sunni clansmen in the western part of the country have worked with American forces against al-Qaida.

Sheik Majid Tahir al-Magsousi, the leader of the Migasees tribe here in Wasit province, acknowledged tribal leaders have discussed creating a brigade of young men trained by the Americans to bolster local security as well as help patrol the border with Iran.

He also said last week's assassination of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who spearheaded the Sunni uprising against al-Qaida in Anbar province, only made the Shiite tribal leaders more resolute.

"The death of Sheik Abu Risha will not thwart us," he said. "What matters to us is Iraq and its safety."

The movement by Shiite clan leaders offers the potential to give U.S. and Iraqi forces another tactical advantage in curbing lawlessness in Shiite areas. It also would give the Americans another resource as they beef up their presence on the border with Iran, which the military accuses of arming and training Shiite extremists.

Read the whole thing here.

Interesting. It may well be that the next few months will be good ones for the administration as Bush's enemies both at home and abroad reap the consequences of their over-reaching.

Harbor Views

Storm over the Harbor

The Harbor at Night

Big Berther

The Constellation makes its break for the open seas.

The Museum of Hoaxes

Check out the Museum of Hoaxes here.

Lotsa neat stuff:

The Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time [here]

The Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes of All Time [here]

Famous Hoaxes Through History [here]

Hat Tip: Alex Tabarrok

Friday, September 14, 2007

Point Taken

This is all over the internet. I'm not sure of the provenance, but it makes an excellent point. No wartime president in the past ever faced the kind of legal and political obstructionism Bush has.

My Kind of People

Der Spiegel reports:

Members of the "Fat and Cool" dance group, dressed as penguins, rehearse in Nanjing, in east China's Jiangsu province, on Sept. 14, 2007. The group is made up of seven female members, aged from 17 to 24 and weighing around 105kg to 130kg (231 lbs to 286 lbs), who give performances in local communities.
Read it here.

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority

From the WSJ:

We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations, most published research findings are wrong.

Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.

These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. "There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims," Dr. Ioannidis said. "A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true."

The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.

Read the whole thing here.

Think about it -- a majority, or even a "vast majority" of peer-reviewed published findings in fields such as medicine and environmental science [the areas most prone to abuse] are false. Yet activists and technocrats demand that we base our public policy on them.


The politicization of science is rapidly destroying the entire scientific enterprise. I have seen the collapse of scientific authority in my own life. It used to be that if you invoked a "study" to support an argument, informed people would ask for a specific citation -- now, increasingly, they just snicker.

And scientists have nobody to blame but themselves. They have earned the laughter.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Primary Sources: The President's Address

Text of the President’s Address

Following is the prepared text of President Bush’s address on Iraq, as provided by the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people.

We are now at such a moment.

In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival. Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq’s government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home. If Iraq’s young democracy can turn back these enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East and a more secure America. This ally has placed its trust in the United States. And tonight, our moral and strategic imperatives are one: We must help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future and also threaten ours.

Eight months ago, we adopted a new strategy to meet that objective, including a surge in U.S. forces that reached full strength in June. This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress about how that strategy is progressing. In their testimony, these men made clear that our challenge in Iraq is formidable. Yet they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working.

The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress. For Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides, they need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. For lasting reconciliation to take root, Iraqis must feel confident that they do not need sectarian gangs for security. The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it. As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home.

Since the surge was announced in January, it has moved through several phases. First was the flow of additional troops into Iraq, especially Baghdad and Anbar Province. Once these forces were in place, our commanders launched a series of offensive operations to drive terrorists and militias out of their strongholds. Finally, in areas that have been cleared, we are surging diplomatic and civilian resources to ensure that military progress is quickly followed up with real improvements in daily life.

Anbar Province is a good example of how our strategy is working. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to Al Qaeda. Some cited this report as evidence that we had failed in Iraq and should cut our losses and pull out. Instead, we kept the pressure on the terrorists. The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of Al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. So they asked us for help.

To take advantage of this opportunity, I sent an additional 4,000 marines to Anbar as part of the surge. Together, local sheiks, Iraqi forces, and coalition troops drove the terrorists from the capital of Ramadi and other population centers. Today, a city where Al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. Anbar citizens who once feared beheading for talking to an American or Iraqi soldier now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding. Young Sunnis who once joined the insurgency are now joining the army and police. And with the help of our provincial reconstruction teams, new jobs are being created and local governments are meeting again.

These developments do not often make the headlines, but they do make a difference. During my visit to Anbar on Labor Day, local Sunni leaders thanked me for America’s support. They pledged they would never allow Al Qaeda to return. And they told me they now see a place for their people in a democratic Iraq. The Sunni governor of Anbar Province put it this way: “Our tomorrow starts today.”

The changes in Anbar show all Iraqis what becomes possible when extremists are driven out. They show Al Qaeda that it cannot count on popular support, even in a province its leaders once declared their home base. And they show the world that ordinary people in the Middle East want the same things for their children that we want for ours — a decent life and a peaceful future.

In Anbar, the enemy remains active and deadly. Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheiks who helped lead the revolt against Al Qaeda was murdered. In response, a fellow Sunni leader declared: “We are determined to strike back and continue our work.” And as they do, they can count on the continued support of the United States.

Throughout Iraq, too many citizens are being killed by terrorists and death squads. And for most Iraqis, the quality of life is far from where it should be. Yet General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that the success in Anbar is beginning to be replicated in other parts of the country.

One year ago, much of Baghdad was under siege. Schools were closed, markets were shuttered, and sectarian violence was spiraling out of control. Today, most of Baghdad’s neighborhoods are being patrolled by coalition and Iraqi forces who live among the people they protect. Many schools and markets are reopening. Citizens are coming forward with vital intelligence. Sectarian killings are down. And ordinary life is beginning to return.

One year ago, much of Diyala Province was a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital of Baquba was emerging as an Al Qaeda stronghold. Today, Baquba is cleared. Diyala Province is the site of a growing popular uprising against the extremists. And some local tribes are working alongside coalition and Iraqi forces to clear out the enemy and reclaim their communities.

One year ago, Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants were gaining strength and targeting Sunnis for assassination. Today, these groups are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed.

These gains are a tribute to our military, they are a tribute to the courage of the Iraqi security forces, and they are a tribute to an Iraqi government that has decided to take on the extremists.

Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division. The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks — and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.

Yet Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They are sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They are allowing former Baathists to rejoin Iraq’s military or receive government pensions. And local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad. As local politics change, so will national politics.

Our troops in Iraq are performing brilliantly. Along with Iraqi forces, they have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January. Yet ultimately, the way forward depends on the ability of Iraqis to maintain security gains. According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable, although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the national police. Iraqi forces are receiving increased cooperation from local populations. And this is improving their ability to hold areas that have been cleared.

Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 marines scheduled to leave Anbar Province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.

And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.

General Petraeus also recommends that in December, we begin transitioning to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq. As terrorists are defeated, civil society takes root, and the Iraqis assume more control over their own security, our mission in Iraq will evolve. Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces. As this transition in our mission takes place, our troops will focus on a more limited set of tasks, including counterterrorism operations and training, equipping and supporting Iraqi forces.

I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other members of my national security team, Iraqi officials, and leaders of both parties in Congress. I have benefited from their advice, and I have accepted General Petraeus’s recommendations. I have directed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to update their joint campaign plan for Iraq, so we can adjust our military and civilian resources accordingly. I have also directed them to deliver another report to Congress in March. At that time, they will provide a fresh assessment of the situation in Iraq and of the troop levels and resources we need to meet our national security objectives.

The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is “return on success.” The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

Americans want our country to be safe and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq. Yet those of us who believe success in Iraq is essential to our security, and those who believe we should bring our troops home, have been at odds. Now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home.

The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.

This vision for a reduced American presence also has the support of Iraqi leaders from all communities. At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency. These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship — in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops.

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny Al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East. A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror — and that will make us safer here at home.

Realizing this vision will be difficult, but it is achievable. Our military commanders believe we can succeed. Our diplomats believe we can succeed. And for the safety of future generations of Americans, we must succeed.

If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries. Iran would benefit from the chaos and would be encouraged in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and dominate the region. Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply. Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare. Democracy movements would be violently reversed. We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world. And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people.

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East. We should be able to agree that we must defeat Al Qaeda, counter Iran, help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Land, and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists.

So tonight I want to speak to members of the United States Congress: Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East. I thank you for providing crucial funds and resources for our military. And I ask you to join me in supporting the recommendations General Petraeus has made and the troop levels he has asked for.

To the Iraqi people: You have voted for freedom, and now you are liberating your country from terrorists and death squads. You must demand that your leaders make the tough choices needed to achieve reconciliation. As you do, have confidence that America does not abandon our friends, and we will not abandon you.

To Iraq’s neighbors who seek peace: The violent extremists who target Iraq are also targeting you. The best way to secure your interests and protect your own people is to stand with the people of Iraq. That means using your economic and diplomatic leverage to strengthen the government in Baghdad. And it means the efforts by Iran and Syria to undermine that government must end.

To the international community: The success of a free Iraq matters to every civilized nation. We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy. We encourage all nations to help, by implementing the International Compact to revitalize Iraq’s economy, by participating in the Neighbors Conferences to boost cooperation and overcome differences in the region, and by supporting the new and expanded mission of the United Nations in Iraq.

To our military personnel, intelligence officers, diplomats, and civilians on the front lines in Iraq: You have done everything America has asked of you. And the progress I have reported tonight is in large part because of your courage and hard effort. You are serving far from home. Our nation is grateful for your sacrifices and the sacrifices of your families.

Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from the family of Army Specialist Brandon Stout of Michigan. Brandon volunteered for the National Guard and was killed while serving in Baghdad. His family has suffered greatly. Yet in their sorrow, they see larger purpose. His wife, Audrey, says that Brandon felt called to serve and knew what he was fighting for. And his parents, Tracy and Jeff, wrote me this: “We believe this is a war of good and evil and we must win ... even if it cost the life of our own son. Freedom is not free.”

This country is blessed to have Americans like Brandon Stout, who make extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe from harm. They are doing so in a fight that is just, and right, and necessary. And now it falls to us to finish the work they have begun.

Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late. They are mistaken. It is never too late to deal a blow to Al Qaeda. It is never too late to advance freedom. And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.

Good night, and God bless America.

Source: NYT

Growing Things

A small selection of recent photos from our travels.

Taken near Ephrata, deep in the heart of Dutch country.

Taken on Laurel Mountain.

"She Who Must Not Be Named" found these near Hawk Mountain.

"G" took this near Adams Falls on Laurel Mountain. Thanks.

Consequences of Immigration Restriction

Mickey Kaus surveys a range of anecdotal evidence to discern the effects of strict enforcement of immigration laws.

He notes:

1) Public school enrollments are down and teachers are being laid off.

2) Demand for low-cost housing has dropped precipitously. Poor people have bailed out on their mortgages and left the country. Middle-class people have begun to downsize into smaller houses. Mickey wonders if this is part of the cause of the housing crash.

3) Tax revenue is down about 10% in California creating a budget squeeze that will probably lead to tax increases.

4) Hispanics seem to be more open to assimilation.

5) There is a shortage of unskilled labor which translates into higher wages at the low end of the employment scale and higher prices for consumers everywhere.

Read Mickey's blog here. Scroll around for the stories.

Mickey makes a wonderful point regarding anecdotal evidence:

Why do I pay attention to anecdotal evidence? Because academics are always the last to find out what's happening. If you wait until a social trend turns up in some professor's peer-reviewed charts,** you are waiting too long.
That has been my experience too, and I spent most of my adult life in academia.

Um..., About that Crippling Budget Deficit

Hey, you! Yes you..., you budget hawk. The guy who kept telling me that Bush's tax cuts and Congressional spending had created a huge and out of control deficit that would ruin the economy.

Well, once again we have good news on the deficit front.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal deficit is running sharply lower than last year even though spending in August set an all-time high, the government reported Thursday.

The Treasury Department said that the deficit through the first 11 months of this budget year totaled $274.4 billion, down 9.8 percent from the same period a year ago.

Analysts believe the deficit for all of 2007 will actually be even lower because they are forecasting a sizable surplus in the final month....

Got that? Well, then, how about this?

The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting that when this budget year wraps up on Sept. 30, the deficit will total $158 billion, down by 36.2 percent from last year's $248.2 billion deficit.

The government's books have been helped this year by record flows of tax receipts, which have continued even though economic growth has been reduced by a serious slump in housing.

And this,

The administration is projecting that the government's books will be in surplus by 2012 if Congress follows Bush's recommendations on spending restraint.
Read it here.

Gee..., yet another apocalypse that hasn't happened and isn't going to.

What is it about today's political culture that induces normally intelligent people to invest themselves in all sorts of apocalyptic scenarios -- economic, military, environmental, cultural catastrophes --- that never pan out? Could the media have something to do with it?