Monday, December 31, 2007
Now ain't that nice? Think about it, this guy started off playing backup for "The Mamas and the Papas".
Sunday, December 30, 2007
One of the most interesting writers on race relations in America is Shelby Steele, winner of the National Book Critic's Circle Award, currently a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He has produced a book that attempts to define the historical importance of the Obama campaign. In Barak Obama, he argues, Americans for the first time have an opportunity to escape from the stereotypical relationships that have dominated our civil discourse for more than half a century.
George Will summarizes:
Read Will's review of Steele's book here.
In "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win," Steele, of Stanford's Hoover Institution, argues that Obama "embodies" -- an apposite word -- the idea that race can be "a negligible human difference." His candidacy asks America to complete its maturation as a society free from all "collective chauvinisms" about race.
This is a daring and exciting vision, one that in no small part explains the enthusiastic reception Obama has received from both Black and White Americans. It also explains why this campaign is so important. It does not, however, provide much reason to elect this young and untried person to the presidency.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Here's what I had for dessert -- their version of pumpkin pie [NOT authentic northern Italian].
Good taste, interesting presentation, but mom's was better.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Here in the US the MSM are working hard to portray Bhutto as a secular saint, an enlightened, liberal, Westernized vision of the perfect moderate Muslim. This image serves the political interests of both Democrats and Republicans.
For Republicans Bhutto serves as a reminder of the global nature of the war on terror, the continued puissance of our enemies and the need to maintain our efforts to marginalize and destroy them. For Democrats she represents a crushed hope for effective political action that would promote democratic reforms throughout the Muslim world.
Ms. Bhutto was, for many, a living symbol of their naive faith that political and diplomatic, rather than military action would be sufficient to bring about fundamental change in Pakistan. Her death revives the argument that Muslims just "aren't ready" for democracy and therefore attempts to bring liberal reform to the region cannot succeed.
In the more despicable and deranged precincts of the Left there is a determined attempt to lay the blame for her demise on President Bush and to revive the long discredited "take your eye off the ball" theory as a means of increasing the plausibility of their cherished myth of administration incompetence.
There is little attempt outside the blogosphere to come to some realistic understanding of the deceased and what she represented to Pakistanis. The sanitized image of a secular saint is far too useful to too many political interests. But amongst bloggers a very different picture of Mrs. Bhutto is beginning to emerge.
Yesterday I linked to commentary by Mark Steyn, Andrew McCarthy and "Spook 86" that punctured the "freedom fighter" image Bhutto so carefully constructed in her tireless and promiscuous courtship of media figures [sometimes it seems that there isn't an anchor alive who has not interviewed her].
Today Ralph Peters fills out the picture:
FOR the next several days, you're going to read and hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after her death than she did in life.
We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and "hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency.
There's much more. Read the whole thing here.
Roger Kimball has a nice roundup on attempts to apotheosize Bhutto over at Pajamas Media [here]. In his mind the worst of these efforts was penned by the insufferably absurd Bernard-Henri Levy (who for some reason is beloved by the PBS crowd). I particularly like this passage:
Doubtless the Augean stables of sentimentality have more in store for us on this subject. But to date, Bernard-Henri Levy’s intervention is the most appalling piece of sentimentalizing rubbish since irresponsible journalists abetted the transformation of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales from a nuisance for the Paris tunnel cleaners into an international embarrassment."Nuisance for the Paris tunnel cleaners" -- I love it!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Read it here.
Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan had a mad recklessness about it which give today's events a horrible inevitability. As I always say when I'm asked about her, she was my next-door neighbor for a while - which affects a kind of intimacy, though in fact I knew her only for sidewalk pleasantries. She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be - though in practice, as Pakistan's Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes.
Since her last spell in power, Pakistan has changed, profoundly. Its sovereignty is meaningless in increasingly significant chunks of its territory, and, within the portions Musharraf is just about holding together, to an ever more radicalized generation of young Muslim men Miss Bhutto was entirely unacceptable as the leader of their nation. "Everyone’s an expert on Pakistan, a faraway country of which we know everything," I wrote last month. "It seems to me a certain humility is appropriate." The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out. They'd arranged a shotgun marriage between the Bhutto and Sharif factions as a "united" "democratic" "movement" and were pushing Musharraf to reach a deal with them. That's what diplomats do: They find guys in suits and get 'em round a table. But none of those representatives represents the rapidly evolving reality of Pakistan. Miss Bhutto could never have been a viable leader of a post-Musharraf settlement, and the delusion that she could have been sent her to her death. Earlier this year, I had an argument with an old (infidel) boyfriend of Benazir's, who swatted my concerns aside with the sweeping claim that "the whole of the western world" was behind her. On the streets of Islamabad, that and a dime'll get you a cup of coffee.
As I said, she was everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be. We should be modest enough to acknowledge when reality conflicts with our illusions.
Rest in peace, Benazir.
Also in NRO, Andy McCarthy notes that in a recent public opinion poll conducted in Pakistan Osama bin Laden received a 46% approval rating.
There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.So much for Joe Biden's neo-con fantasy.
Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.
The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman....
And as for those who assert that we stand with the Pakistani people, McCarthy writes:
Whether we get round to admitting it or not, in Pakistan, our quarrel is with the people. Their struggle, literally, is jihad. For them, freedom would mean institutionalizing the tyranny of Islamic fundamentalism. They are the same people who, only a few weeks ago, tried to kill Benazir Bhutto on what was to be her triumphant return to prominence — the symbol, however dubious, of democracy’s promise. They are the same people who managed to kill her today. Today, no surfeit of Western media depicting angry lawyers railing about Musharraf — as if he were the problem — can camouflage that fact.So much for those, including President Bush, who are pressuring Musharraf to enact radical reform. Read it here.
In Pakistan, it is the regime that propounds Western values, such as last year’s reform of oppressive, Sharia-based Hudood laws, which made rape virtually impossible to prosecute — a reform enacted despite furious fundamentalist rioting that was, shall we say, less well covered in the Western press. The regime, unreliable and at times infuriating, is our only friend. It is the only segment of Pakistani society capable of confronting militant Islam — though its vigor for doing so is too often sapped by its own share of jihadist sympathizers.
And as for the sainted image of Mrs. Bhutto, Spook 86 notes:
Read it here.
The folks on NBC... are making it sound as if Bhutto was some brave liberal alternative to the Musharraf regime, swallowing hook, line, and sinker this narrative that Benazir Bhutto was some kind of Pakistani Aung San Suu Kyi.
Okay, folks, we all know she was eloquent, went to Harvard and Oxford and was a darling of the English-language media. But she was arguably the most corrupt woman in the history of South Asia. She was removed from office not once but twice on corruption charges. And ruthless? She killed her own brother in 1996.
What stands out, once again, is that John McCain has good information on Pakistan and Bhutto and has his priorities straight.
Romney is also well-informed, unlike the Democratic candidates, but is in a tight point because he, together with President Bush, called on Musharraf to life martial law, which he did, and it could be argued that the lifting of marital law made this kind of tragedy more likely. Romney is sensibly impressive, but this is McCain's hour.
Here's Romney's response.
And here is McCain's.
Most of the rest are just plain embarrassing.
Here's Thompson's response. He's got all the big things right, especially the fact that we are in a war of global extent. He and Romney understand the stakes, but this is still McCain's hour.
The Republicans, including belatedly Huckabee, have got their talking point in order [I haven't heard what Paul has to say, it doesn't matter anyhow]. The assassination is now being cast by all as an incident in the global war on terror. Democrats, however, are still flopping around trying to find a point of agreement. Ed Morrissy has a roundup here.
Note: there has been an attempt on the part of the Left to blame this all on Bush. No surprise there. None of the Democratic candidates has, however, embraced that position, although Huckabee in his early mouthings came close. He really is the second coming of Jimmah Carter.
Fred is on Hannity & Colmes right now, sounding good. He's a serious guy. Too bad he won't be President.
This is HUGE! Not only does it destabilize Pakistan, a nuclear power, but it threatens the security of all South Asia. Reporters on the scene are saying that conspiracy theories are rife. Bhutto's supporters are blaming Musharraf, Western observers blame Islamist radicals. I tend toward the latter view.
Whoever is at fault, this is a major victory for the Islamists, who have been under enormous pressure everywhere. Bhutto was pro-US, as was Musharraf. This knocks both of them out. The domestic turmoil that is sure to ensue will provide al Qaeda and their allies with lots of opportunities. The best that can be hoped for is that a pro-Western military strongman will impose order, but that feeds into the Islamist narrative too.
One small positive note: this transforms Bhutto into a martyr -- one with a pro-Western bias.
The Telegraph has an excellent obituary on this remarkable woman [here].
John Podhoretz notes [here] that this has big implications for the American political process. It is a slap in the face to naifs like Obama and Huckabee, both of whom have been pushing simplistic foreign policy lines.
It takes attention away from Hillary's domestic pandering. It serves as a reminder of just how dangerous the world is, and it boosts the credentials of John McCain who is the only candidate in either party who can be taken seriously on foreign policy grounds. Already, before 11:00 am, he is on FOX calling for stability and sounding presidential.
Hillary is on the tube sympathizing with the Bhutto family, especially the children, emphasizing the fact that she knew and corresponded with Bhutto, and calling for the Pakistani people to reject violence and to embrace democracy. She touts her "experience" and claims to be the only candidate ready to take charge from "day one." She refers to Obama as "naive".
McCain is back on with a statement. The contrast between him and Hillary is stark. She hits family themes, claims experience, but does no more than to call upon the Pakistani people to embrace democracy, then returns immediately to domestic politics. McCain is talking about the threat to Pakistan and the region, on the need to maintain order, reminds us that he knew Bhutto personally and also knows Musharraf, talks about extending aid to the Pakistani government and consulting with the UN and with regional powers. He sounds competent and presidential, she doesn't.
Bush made a very brief and formal statement, expressing condolences to all those who lost family members in the attack and calling for order and a commitment to democratic principles.
Michael Ledeen reports that al Qaeda is taking credit for the assassination, claiming to have eliminated a major American asset in the region. [here]
Giuliani has no trouble identifying this with al Qaeda and takes a tough line. He calls for close cooperation with Musharraf and emphasizes the need to stay on offense against Islamic terrorism. The most important thing is to maintain the stability of the country. Things like democracy are important, but right now the most important thing is to maintain stability. Once we get through the crisis we can sit down and think about long-term responses, but for now keep the focus on stability. He emphasizes that it is a difficult situation and nobody has much information on what is going on. This is not a time for precipitous action.
Obama reminds people to turn out for the caucuses, then briefly states that the US is resolute in support of democracy and against terrorism. Nothing else.
The contrast that is emerging is interesting, and perhaps significant. Hillary was first out of the box with a statement, but it was unfocused and not very informative. She simply asserted that she had experience and her rivals didn't. McCain was also quick off the mark and had more details. He favors a regional approach with UN involvement to maintain stability. Giuliani emphasizes the need to hit back at the terrorists, and to keep the pressure on them.
Bill Richardson, who has real foreign policy credentials, had the most stupid response. He called on Bush to force Mussharaf to relinquish power and (get this) to withhold all military aid to Pakistan. Just what he expects to emerge from that I can't imagine.
Biden calls for holding the elections and putting extreme pressure on Musharraf to make certain that they are clean and free. His hope is that the moderate middle-class secularists will assert themselves and establish a liberal regime. He's even more of a democratic idealist than he has accused Bush of being.
Romney called for the leaders of the "civilized" nations to come together in support of moderate Islamic leaders and regimes to marginalize radical extremists. He, like McCain, identifies the problem not with the Pakistani regime so much as with the radical Islamists.
This is the great testing time for Pakistan. The assassination of Bhutto is an event comparable to the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Iraq that set off more than a year of terrible internecine war. The question is whether Pakistan can carry through the current crisis, maintain some degree of stability, refrain from civil war, and make progress toward functioning democracy. If so, the future for Islam and for democracy is bright. If not, the possibility that Islamists will gain control of nuclear weapons is much greater.
Basically the responses of the major candidates fall into three groups -- realists, headed by Giuliani, who look to Musharraf and the military to maintain stability; internationalists like Romney who look to a consortium of nations and international agencies to control the situation; and democratic idealists like Richardson and Biden, who look for a spontaneous rising of the secular middle classes once the current regime is brought down. The only figure with a realistic approach is McCain who recognizes the necessary role of the army in maintaining stability, who advocates increasing rather than cutting off aid to the troubled nation, and who wants to work with international, particularly regional, institutions to ease the transition to a stable, democratic regime. Hillary, unfortunately, sounds merely confused. She doesn't handle crisis well, and this weakness is starting to show to the extent that people are beginning to notice.
Oh, what about Huckabee? He's praying for the people of Pakistan.
What sticks out is how much the prescriptions offered by Biden and Richardson resemble those of the "neo-cons" prior to the Iraq invasion. They argue, in essence, that if the tyrant is deposed a secular, liberal regime will spontaneously emerge. Yeah!
The diversity of responses highlights the lack of anything remotely resembling a consensus in this country on matters of foreign affairs.
In the fourth violent incident on a Maryland Transit Administration vehicle in as many weeks, a 14-year-old boy who was out after curfew was shot and wounded on a bus in West Baltimore early Wednesday.The latest attack -- the first involving a gun -- comes amid growing public concern about safety on the region's public transit systems....
On Dec. 4, a 26-year-old woman was severely injured in a daytime attack in Hampden, beaten and kicked by a group of middle-school students on the No. 27 bus. Nine juveniles were arrested.
The next week, two passengers on a No. 64 bus in Brooklyn were attacked by a group of five men. On Dec. 18 two juveniles were arrested after a girl was stabbed in the arm on a No. 51 bus near Mondawmin Mall.
First fists and feet, then knives, now guns.... What's next?
Read the whole thing here.
We went to see "No Country for Old Men" this week. It's an impressive effort from the Coen Brothers based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy. Critics have already begun pushing it and its cast for Oscars, and rightly so. "Old Men" is as perfectly crafted as any film I have seen in the past decade. The cinematography by Roger Deakins, a long-time Coen collaborator, is excellent -- so is the acting by the principals and the score by Carter Burwell. The narrative is literate and faithful to the novel on which the film is based. The pacing is superb and relentless. Not since Alfred Hitchcock at his peak have we seen a film that so ruthlessly and efficiently [and one might add, sadistically] toys with the audience. In fact there are several points in "Old Men" that are reminiscent of Hitchcock films, particularly "Psycho".
If you enjoy the craft of film as much as I do you will be excited, even exhilarated, by "No Country for Old Men" -- it is a master class in effective film-making. But be warned, this film is essentially an exercise in audience manipulation and brutalization. It is a nasty piece of work -- one that will mark you for a long time. One thing is sure, you won't forget the experience soon.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
And then there is this from Austin Bay, who worries that the insurgents are planning an all-out Tet-style offensive in order to discredit the Maliki and Bush administrations. Remember the enemy reads our military and political history and is well aware of shameful episodes such as our abandonment of our South Vietnamese allies. They still remain convinced that the US will chicken out eventually and with people like Harry Reid in charge, they might be right.
Niall Ferguson last year noted this fact and it's ancillary phenomena -- peace and democracy.
Democracy is on a roll. There have never been so many democracies in the world. More than half the world's people now enjoy at least some measure of political representation.Read it here.
Peace, too, is breaking out all over. The amount of armed conflict is lower than it has been at any time since the end of the Cold War. What is more, the world economy is going great guns. For the first time since 1969, there isn't a single major economy around the world that is in recession. On average, growth rates are above 4 per cent. Stock markets are up in both developed and emerging markets. Inflation is low, despite the recent hike in energy prices. There has been some monetary tightening lately, yet interest rates are still at historically low levels.By the standards of my lifetime - the past 42 years - this is surely about as good as it gets.
But how long can the good times roll? Ferguson noted the protectionist sentiment characterizing today's political Left and worried that it might bring the free trade regime, along with all its myriad benefits, crashing down.
Ferguson was right to be worried. Robert Samuelson points to the emergence and growing strength of "neomercantilism", a form of economic nationalism that is hostile to free trade. He writes:
Here's today quiz. What do the following have in common: (a) Vladimir Putin; (b) China's currency, the renminbi; (c) the U.S.-Peru trade agreement; and (d) Hugo Ch¿vez? Answer: They all reflect the "new mercantilism."Read it here.
It's an ominous development affecting the world economy. Even as countries become more economically interdependent, they're also growing more nationalistic. They're adopting policies intended to advance their own economic and political interests at other countries' expense.
The paradox is that as the Internet and multinational companies strengthen globalization, its political foundations are weakening. Of course, opposition is not new. Even if free trade benefits most countries, some firms and workers lose from added competition. But for most of the postwar era, a pro-trade consensus neutralized this opposition. That consensus is now fraying.
The world economic order depends on a shared sense that most nations benefit. The more some countries pursue narrow advantage, the more others will follow suit. "What's the glue that holds all this together?" asks Frieden. "Is there a common agreement about cooperation that allows governments to give up something to maintain the international order?" It's an open question whether these conflicting forces -- growing economic interdependence and rising nationalism -- can coexist uneasily or are on a collision course.
Like Ferguson and Samuelson I worry that the free-trade regime is tottering. Neo-mercantilism is just one aspect of the general reaction against globalization emanating from both the political Left and the Right. The obvious villain here is China, but it is not alone. Note the protectionist stance taken by the political left in the EU and here in the US. Note the rise of nativist sentiment on the Right. Note the disgust and dismay that accompanies popular discussion of "globalization" in the more fetid precincts of the news media [yes, I'm talkin' bout you Lou Dobbs]. The warning signs are all around us. Protectionist sentiment is on the rise and it it a palpable threat not only to the free trade regime, but to all the good that it has brought to the people of the world.
I fear a hard rain is gonna fall, and soon. Remember what happened when the last free-trade regime collapsed in 1914.
Gateway Pundit has a terrific collection of stories on an interfaith observance of Christmas in Iraq.
Shiite tribal leaders attend Christmas mass at an Assyrian orthodox church in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2007. The church, which is located next to a Shiite mosque, hosted their neighbors for Christmas mass as a gesture of friendship. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Breitbart reported:Read it here.Muslim clerics—both Sunni and Shiite—also attended the service in a sign of unity. "May Iraq be safe every year, and may our Christian brothers be safe every year," Shiite cleric Hadi al-Jazail told AP Television News outside the church. "We came to celebrate with them and to reassure them."God is good... And, so are the American Soldiers and Marines who helped make this possible.
Yes it's a photo op, but it is the kind of photo op that would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago. There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of both Sunni and Shiite religious leaders to bring this conflict to a close and to form a united front, together with the United States, against those who seek to perpetuate the violence that has plagued Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
A centrist-oriented Democratic politics that is pragmatic and economically literate
is not a bad thing and is far better than the alternatives:
a fluffy politics of hope (Barack Obama) and angry politics of anti-corporate zeal (John Edwards). At least on paper.
The problem is that this program is associated with two of the most despicable characters in recent American politics -- Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Read the whole thing here.
It would be a terrible thing if the relatively sane elements within the Democratic coalition were to be discredited by the sheer awfulness of their most prominent spokespersons, but that seems to be what is happening.
I have noted this several times before [here, here, and here and here] but people tend to forget it and there is no better time to remind them that we are currently enjoying a remarkably peaceful period in the history of humankind. Now StrategyPage notes:
December 23, 2007: While the headlines concentrate on peace breaking out in Iraq, that's but part of a worldwide trend for the last few years. Violence has also diminished, or disappeared completely, in places like Nepal, Chechnya. Congo, Indonesia and Burundi. This continues a trend that began when the Cold War ended, and the Soviet Union no longer subsidized terrorist and rebel groups everywhere. The current wars are basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies, which are seen as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism), that still resonate among people who don't know about the dismal track records of these movements.Read the whole thing here.
And the Herald-Tribune notes that for the first time in years, there has been a peaceful Christmas in Bethlehem.
Read it here.
Encouraged by renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Christian pilgrims from around the world converged on Jesus' traditional birthplace Monday to celebrate Christmas — a palpable contrast to the sparse crowds of recent years.
The diverse mix of people included festive American tourists, clergymen in brown flowing robes and Palestinian scouts wearing kilts and playing bagpipes.
So rejoice and give thanks for being privileged to live in these, the best of times.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Romney has been known to dip into literary language occasionally, especially when he's trying to illustrate a point of history.
The facts seem to be that Romney's father put himself at political risk to march on behalf of civil rights; Mitt and Scott Romney may have heard, as young men, that his father marched "with" MLK in the sense that the preposition is used by a politician who says he "stands" with workers... that Romney's efforts to explain himself were pedantic and, judging by the response, easily mockable... and that, so far, Iowans don't seem to be hearing about this all that much from their own press...
The Kerry comparisons have to hurt, though.
Read it here.
Actually, there is plenty of testimony from eyewitnesses to the effect that George Romney really did march beside Dr. King on at least one occasion.
This is classic campaign nonsense from the MSM. Mitt makes a perfectly reasonable claim, but couches it in metaphorical language. The press takes it literally and cries "inconsistency" which in their pea-brains is the same as pervarication. Then Mitt responds and the goalposts are suddenly moved. Now the problem is that his explanation sounds, to these idiots, too "Clintonian" or "Kerryesque".
It appears that a major rift has appeared in the organization. The Sun reports:
WASHINGTON — One of Al Qaeda's senior theologians is calling on his followers to end their military jihad and saying the attacks of September 11, 2001, were a "catastrophe for all Muslims."
In a serialized manifesto written from prison in Egypt, Sayyed Imam al-Sharif is blasting Osama bin Laden for deceiving the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and for insulting the Prophet Muhammad by comparing the September 11 attacks to the early raids of the Ansar warriors. The lapsed jihadist even calls for the formation of a special Islamic court to try Osama bin Laden and his old comrade Ayman al-Zawahri.
The disclosures from Mr. Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl and Abd al-Qadir ibn Abd al-Aziz, have already opened a rift at the highest levels of Al Qaeda.
....leading Western analysts are saying the defection of Mr. Sharif indicates the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda.
Read it here.
At the very least Sharif's statements indicate one of two things; either torture (Egyptian style) works, or there is a genuine split in al Qaeda's top ranks.
Wouldn't it be delicious if a sharia court issued a fatwah against al Qaeda and its leadership? That seems to be what Sharif is calling for.
Gateway Pundit notes some of al Qaeda's other woes. It has not been a good year for the terrorists.
Over 1,500 insurgents were killed or captured in Iraq.
Over 40 of their top leaders were killed or captured.
They were run out of Anbar province, their former stronghold.
They are so desperate that now al Baghdadi is calling on Sunni insurgents to start a campaign of slaughter against other Sunnis who are now supporting the US.
Read the whole thing here.
Don Surber writes:
I think the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda was on 9/12 when President Bush declared war on all terrorists instead of treating 9/11 like an isolated incident.Read it here.
I believe his exact words to ex-co-president Hillary were: “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.”
7 years later, as Iraq struggles to be free for the first time in 50 years — the terrorist-sponsoring Saddam Hussein out of the way — Bush’s decision to act instead of react is proving to be right.
Brutally Honest thinks this is "huge" [here] -- I'm not so sure, but it is part of a general pattern that indicates that al Qaeda is having major problems. BH wonders why it isn't getting more attention in the MSM. Like he has to ask!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The AP released its list of the top ten stories of the year.
1. VIRGINIA TECH KILLINGS: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, who had avoided court-ordered mental health treatment despite a history of psychiatric problems, killed two fellow students in a dormitory on April 16, detoured to mail a hate-filled video of himself to NBC News, then shot dead 30 students and professors in a classroom building before killing himself. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
2. MORTGAGE CRISIS: A record-setting wave of mortgage foreclosures, coupled with a steep slump in the housing market, buffeted financial markets, caused multibillion-dollar losses at major banks and investment firms, and became an issue in the presidential campaign.
3. IRAQ WAR: The “surge” that sent more U.S. troops to Iraq was credited with helping reduce the overall level of violence. But thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of U.S. personnel were killed nonetheless during the year, and Iraqi political leaders struggled to make meaningful progress toward national reconciliation.
4. OIL PRICES: Oil prices soared to record highs, at one point reaching nearly $100 a barrel. The high prices, which burdened motorists and owners of oil-heated homes, nudged Congress to pass an energy bill that ordered an increase in motor vehicles’ fuel efficiency.
5. CHINESE EXPORTS: An array of Chinese exports were recalled, ranging from toys with lead paint to defective tires to tainted toothpaste and food. Despite the high-profile problems, America’s trade deficit with China was running at record-high levels.
6. GLOBAL WARMING: Warnings about the consequences of global warming gained intensity with new reports from scientific panels and a Nobel Prize to Al Gore for his environmental crusading that included the film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Across the U.S., many state governments sought to cap emissions blamed for global warming.
7. BRIDGE COLLAPSE: An Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour on Aug. 1, killing 13 people and injuring about 100. The disaster fueled concern about possible structural flaws in other bridges nationwide.
8. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: In a yearlong drama with shifting subplots, large fields in both major parties battled for support ahead of the caucuses and primaries that will decide the 2008 presidential nominees. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama led among the Democrats; some polls showed five Republicans with double-digit support.
9. IMMIGRATION DEBATE: A compromise immigration plan, backed by President Bush and Democratic leaders, collapsed in Congress due to Republican opposition. The plan would have enabled millions of illegal immigrants to move toward citizenship, while also bolstering border security. The issues remained alive in the presidential campaign.
10. IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM: Worried that the ultimate goal is a nuclear arsenal, the United States and other countries pressed Iran to halt uranium enrichment. Iran said it never had a weapons program. A U.S. intelligence report concluded there was such an effort, but it stopped in 2003.
Read it here.
Don Surber offers an alternative list with a different political slant.
1. VICTORY IN IRAQ. Led by the Man of the Year for 2007 — General David Petraeus — American forces tamped down al-Qaeda and got the various tribes of Iraq to work together to restore law and order in a chaotic nation. Civil war was averted. Iran was kept at bay. The more successful the soldiers were, the less interest the press showed. Victory is not an option, eh.
2. DEMOCRATIC MELTDOWN IN CONGRESS. Republicans blew it in 2006. Voters gave control of Congress back to Democrats, who had an outdated agenda (a booming economy had already raised the real minimum wage 3 bucks higher than the federal one). Promises of reform (”drain the swamp”) were abandoned as Democrats wasted the year with dead-end investigations of the administration and countless votes on Iraq, all of which they lost. Perhaps in 2008, some attempts at compromise will be made.
3. THE RESILIENT ECONOMY. Neither rising gasoline prices, falling home prices, defaulted subprime loans nor a dollar now worth a loon will stay the economy from making its appointed rounds of low unemployment, low inflation and steady economic growth.
4. THE RISE AND FALL OF GLOBAL WARMING. Al Gore’s film received an Oscar and it was all downhill from there. Revelations that he used 12 times the electricity of mortal man at just one of his three homes showed that even Gore knows the world is in no eminent danger. Even “The Daily Show” mocks it.
5. THE POLITICAL BREAKDOWN OF HILLARY CLINTON. She employed the same playbook that won in 1992 in 2007. That might work if there were no Fox News, no Internet, no 9/11 and no liver spots on Bill.
6. THE PERPETUAL FLOATING PRESIDENTIAL CRAPS GAME. “American Idol” is decided quicker. But this is more entertaining. The race does provide a glimpse into how trivial the problems of Americans are. In 40 years we’ve gone from malnourished poor kids to obese ones. Politics have have become academic, and we all know that academic battles are so fierce because the stakes are so small.
7. THE RISE OF PETROCRACY. Why is it that ever place on Earth with an abundance of oil has to be run by an authoritarian and corrupt government?
8. IMMIGRATION. Americans like legal immigration, hate illegal. Most of Washington does not understand the difference.
9. THE REST OF THE AXIS OF EVIL. North Korea may have abandoned its nuclear ambitions. Iran? Who knows. Russia has nukes and has joined the axis. I thought Condoleezza Rice was an expert on Russia.
10. THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL ALLIES. Nations that were pissed at us over Iraq elected pro-American prime ministers or presidents, most recently South Korea. The leader of the new pro-American, pro-George Walker Bush movement is L’Americain, Nicolas Sarkozy. For all our faults, we remain the world’s last best hope.
Read it here.
Like I said, I report, you decide, which of these makes more sense -- the left-wing view of the MSM or Surber's right of center perspective.
And the winnah is..., Fred Thompson.
I'm not saying it's the most effective -- that goes to Huckabee -- just the best.
Oh, and the worst. That's gotta be Hillary's. It sucked, as the veep would say, "big time".
Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, reports:
Read the whole thing here.
China's intelligence service gained access to a secret National Security Agency listening post in Hawaii through a Chinese-language translation service, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The spy penetration was discovered several years ago as part of a major counterintelligence probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that revealed an extensive program by China's spy service to steal codes and other electronic intelligence secrets, and to recruit military and civilian personnel with access to them.
According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, China's Ministry of State Security, the main civilian spy service, carried out the operations by setting up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii that represented itself as a U.S.-origin company.
Three points to make here:
1) The funding cuts during the 1990's did enormous damage to our intelligence capabilities and forced agencies to outsource many of their functions. China was taking advantage of that opportunity.
2) Attempts to beef up our intelligence services have been focused almost exclusively on Islamic cultures and have neglected China.
3) It takes years to recruit and train foreign language specialists to the point where they are useful for intelligence work, so a quick fix is not possible.
Wretchard, over at Belmont Club, has some nice commentary on the problem here. He argues that the level of penetration into our government by foreign spies is comparable to that achieved by Stalin's USSR back in the 1930's.
One of his commentators makes the good point that since we knew about this for years, we could have used the translating service to provide disinformation to the Chinese. Possible, but considering the general ineptitude of our intelligence services I doubt it.
Friday, December 21, 2007
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 – Coalition forces captured a suspected “special groups” leader during operations yesterday in the northern Baghdad area, military officials reported.
The targeted individual was the special groups criminal element leader for Diyala province and oversaw logistics and operations in the area. He reportedly was responsible for storing weapons and procuring lethal aid, including explosively formed penetrators, to support attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.
The man reportedly also is an associate of several other senior-level special groups members from Diyala to Baghdad who were involved in attacks on coalition forces.
Read it here.
With all due respect to Robert Zubrin and the splendid Cliff May, their argument against oil seems to be based on a syllogism: Islamists produce oil, Islamists are bad, therefore oil is bad. The fact is that 80% of our oil comes from non-islamist sources. Our top sources for petroleum are Canada and Mexico. We even import more oil from Africa than from the Middle East. The rest of the world isn't going to switch away from the most cost-effective source of transportation energy just because we choose something different. So by switching to methanol (which would also require massive amounts of land) we cut off our nose to spite our face. The Islamists will keep getting their funding from other nations, just like they do now, and we'll be less resilient in the face of their attacks because we'll be paying more for a less efficient form of energy (and we'll therefore be less competetive with, eg, China as well). It's ludicrous. If you really want to reduce our imports and lower the world price, campaign for an end to the silly restrictions that keep us from utilizing our vast reserves of oil and gas that are locked away in ANWR, the Rockies and the Outer Continental Shelf. The American consumer is not our enemy.
Another scandal that isn't.
Mitt Romney has come under fire for claiming that his father marched with Martin Luther King. "Not so!" scream the press -- he's lying or fantasizing. He's no better than Bill Clinton or John Kerry and obviously unfit for high office.
Well, Mark Halperin has the goods.
In 1963 Gov. Romney gave the keynote address at the conference that sparked Martin Luther King's freedom marches in Grosse Pointe.
In July of that year Gov. Romney marched in a NAACP demonstration in Grosse Pointe.
Steven Hess and David Broder reported in 1967 that Gov. Romney "marched with Martin Luther King".
There is much, much more. Read it here.
So you guys -- I'm talkin' bout you Matthews, Brownstein, Klein, and the rest -- who ridiculed Mitt Romney for making up his dad's history -- you owe Mitt a big apology.
The Politico has located a woman who witnessed Gov. Romney marching with Martin Luther King in 1963 -- the two men were holding hands. Read it here.
Global warming stopped? Surely not. What heresy is this? Haven’t we been told that the science of global warming is settled beyond doubt and that all that’s left to the so-called sceptics is the odd errant glacier that refuses to melt?
Aren’t we told that if we don’t act now rising temperatures will render most of the surface of the Earth uninhabitable within our lifetimes? But as we digest these apocalyptic comments, read the recent IPCC’s Synthesis report that says climate change could become irreversible. Witness the drama at Bali as news emerges that something is not quite right in the global warming camp.
With only few days remaining in 2007, the indications are the global temperature for this year is the same as that for 2006 – there has been no warming over the 12 months.
But is this just a blip in the ever upward trend you may ask? No.
The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly.
Read the whole thing here.
"Charlie Wilson's War", produced by left-winger Aaron Sorkin, was originally conceived as a way to discredit the Reagan administration's claims to have hastened the end of the Cold War. It's central point was that the Soviet Union's decline wasn't the Republican administration's achievement, but the work of of a single Democratic congresscritter.
That part of the history rewrite remains intact in the current release, but at least the moonbats have been forced to retreat on their second major point. In its earlier stages "Charlie Wilson's War" was intended to show that US arming and funding of Afghan rebels in the 1980s led directly to the creation of al Qaeda and the death of thousands of Americans on 9/11 -- a left-wing article of faith, but one not supported by facts. At this blatant attempt at rewriting history, Charlie Wilson himself rebelled. His objections led to the al-Qaeda smear being dropped by the film-makers [although it is still implied and left wing critics have been quick to assert it].
The belated realization that sliming Republicans, the administration, and the United States is box office poison has led the film-makers to adjust their advertising campaign. CWW is now being billed as a comedy rather than political commentary.
Don't be fooled -- it's at heart just another left-wing screed, candy-coated to be sure, but still a slam at Republicans.
Give it a pass -- I know I will.
A lot of people seem to have passed on this one. Even with mega star power and a deceptive advertising campaign boosting it, CWW is projected (on the basis of Friday's Box Office totals) to take in only a mere 9.7 million dollars over the weekend. That's a terrible opening for a big-budget film. By contrast the patriotic-themed "National Treasure" is projected to take in about 60 million dollars this weekend. Not bad!
Monday, December 17, 2007
In the past third of a century, the American economy has swollen by 150 per cent, automobile traffic has increased by 143 per cent, and energy consumption has grown 45 per cent. During this same period, air pollutants have declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent, and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Despite signing on to Kyoto, European greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2001, whereas America's emissions have fallen by nearly one per cent, despite the Toxic Texan's best efforts to destroy the planet.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The size of China's economy is overestimated by some 40 percent based on most current measures, but is the world's second largest, the World Bank said Monday.Read it here.
In a report ranking the world's economies, the World Bank said a more reliable method of estimation using "purchasing power parity" (PPP) shows a much smaller value than the traditional market value estimates which the Bank called "less reliable."
By this accounting China accounts for 9% of the world's production. The United States stands at 23%, Japan at 7%, Germany at 6% and India at 4%. Taken together these five countries account for about half of the world's production.
On a per-capita basis, Luxemborg leads the world and Qatar is second. Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Norway are the most expensive countries in the world.
The United States leads the world in expenditure on investment at 21%. China is second at 18%.
Luxemborg has the highest rate of consumption, the United States is second.
Here is the original report.
For instance: the oft-repeated assertion that "There is no military solution to Iraq." (But a military presence sufficient to preserve order is necessary to any solution.)
Or the charge that "We haven't tried regional diplomacy." Nonsense, and Hanson explains why.
Most importantly Hanson notes:
This is another red herring. Regional players all had interests in Iraq. The problem was that they were never quite our own.
So before talking, they first wanted to try their hand at mischief and advantage, and only later, when and if forced, would resort to diplomacy.
Critics are not allowed to stop history at a convenient point — at Abu Ghraib, the pull-back from Fallujah, or the bombing of the dome at Samara — and then pass final judgment whenever they wish. If Lincoln had quit after Cold Harbor, Wilson after the German Spring offensive of 1918, or Roosevelt after the fall of the Philippines, then their presidencies would have failed and the U.S. today would be a far weaker — or perhaps nonexistent — country.Amen!
History instead will assess Iraq when it ends.
Read the whole thing here.
The degree of media misrepresentation on important subjects such as the economy and national security affairs is truly staggering. Media bias certainly plays a part, but for the most part it is simple ignorance and intellectual laziness.
Among the top subjects being routinely misrepresented in media reports are:
the idea that any change in the stock market signals economic distress to come,
the notion that there is a scientific consensus on the danger of global warming,
the perception that most Americans are in danger of losing their homes,
that free health care comes without major costs,
and that the economy is in or about to enter a recession.
Here's the complete list.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
She's the editor of the DesMoines Register and I was interested in seeing just how she would justify her obvious preference for the Hildebeast. Well, the endorsement is out and it confirms my worst apprehensions. Here is her take on the Democratic field:
No fewer than three candidates would, by their very identity, usher the nation to the doorstep of history. Should the party offer the nation the chance to choose its first woman president? Or its first black president? Or its first Latino president?There it is, folks, identity politics at its most blatant. We are supposed to be for Hillary or Obama or Richardson not because they are plausible heads of the executive branch of government [actually Gov Richardson does have some credentials in that area] but first and foremost because of their gender or ethnic identity. What counts most with Hillary is putting a woman in the White House. Vote for Obama to prove that you are a good person and not a racist. Vote for Bill Richardson because his mother is Hispanic.
Hillary's secondary characteristics, as presented in the editorial, are also more liberal hogwash. First there is the victim trope -- she's endured personal challenges and is therefore "tough". Give me a break! Lots of people have suffered personal traumas, and to a large extent Hillary's have been self-made. That's no recommendation for high office, just a sympathy ploy for every woman who has been done wrong by the man in her life.
And then there is the bipartisanship -- Hillary has been civil to other senators and is actually on speaking terms with some Republicans, although there are no specific accomplishments to which the editorial can point. Liberals love bipartisanship because that means that the measures they promote are sure to be unexamined. Moreover, liberals usually define bipartisanship as people agreeing with them. Political dialogue is not supposed to be based on agreement. It is vigorous disagreement in which the weak points of positions are exposed and a forge in which partisans on all sides discover what is and is not acceptable to the people they represent. Bipartisanship is government without controversy, and that is a sure prescription for bad and oppressive government.
Mitt Romney had a terrific performance on Meet the Press today. Ann Althouse has a critique and judges him positively "Reaganesque" (well, at least the hair).
Read her analysis here.
The comments attached to her post were not so complimentary. Basically there were two criticisms of Romney -- he's rich and he's too moderate. I don't mind that he's rich and, being a moderate myself, I'm fine with the second.
The more I see of this guy, the more I like him.
This is what she looked like campaigning in New Hampshire recently. What did you expect? She is in her sixties and the coronation tour is not going well.
I still wouldn't bet against her -- the Clinton machine is still formidable -- but if she wins the whole ordeal is going to leave its mark on her.
There are serious health fears across Harare after reports of a cholera outbreak earlier this week.
According to independent health experts in the capital, the cholera outbreak has been created by the inability of the Harare City Council to provide residents with clean water. Cholera is an extreme diarrhoeal disease whose transmission in humans is mainly by ingestion of contaminated water or food. In its most severe form cholera is one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses.
Many Harare residents have been forced to drink unsafe water from streams and wells on the outskirts of the city. Complaints also abound that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), is supplying people with untreated tap water. The state run ZINWA took over the administration of sewer and water reticulation from the City of Harare last year.
Read the whole thing here.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
First I saw the Santas. One was wearing a gas mask, must be a Dr. Who fan.
Then, as I proceeded toward the amphitheater, the gulls came, swarming around some fool who was throwing bread on the esplanade.
They came, they fought, they ate, and then they left a few crumbs for the pigeons and one lone sparrow.
A crowd had begun to assemble near Santa's lair.
The music started. This is the "Heart of Maryland" men's chorus. At first I thought they were a group of homeless guys, but they had music and a conductor and sounded pretty good.
Then the Sousaphones marched in and took over.
And the full tuba ensemble assembled.
And so did the crowd, including this critter. Hey, it's Baltimore, ya gotta have crabs.
Now the same sort of fecal material is floating to the surface with regard to the candidacy of Mike Huckabee. Don't get me wrong, I don't support the New Man From Hope, but the tone of some of the commentary is simply despicable.
[T]he sheer snideness of most of the attacks on Huckabee makes me want to defend the guy. While the attacks are on valid issues, at heart, the attacks appear to be because he is a former preacher from the South -- a country bumpkin and a Jesus Freak.
The New York-Washington Corridor of Conservative IntelligentsiaTM loves the base when it does as it is told, but let's not actually let the Jesus Freaks run things directly. You know, we're all suppose to listen to James Dobson, but God forbid one of his ideological kin actually takes charge.
Read the whole thing here.
Hey, Huck, welcome to the show. Stop whining and face the music. You're not just a warm up act anymore. People want to know what you think. Everyone wants a real opinion from you. Some substance. It's not like being a preacher, or a local politician. These people, they have cameras and voice recorders. They listen to the words.They assume a correlation with your likely actions in reality. They aren't gonna give you a break because, you know, it came out a little wrong. Because, Huck, what the President of the United States says — about weirdo religions that believe odd things, (how about those Wahabis? Hindus? Kinda makes the Mormons look like, well, Christians.) or taxes, or college tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants — those comments can start wars, move markets, or encourage more illegals to move here. This is serious. You're not in Little Rock anymore. It's hard Huck, when your decisions matter.
Like back home, you were just trying to be nice to that castrated guy who had raped a few women. He had served some time. Why couldn't they forgive him? You could. You have a good heart. Lots of Christian love. So you pardoned him. And what did he do then, Huck?What if you make a call like that on Iran, Huck? Or Iraq? Or Osama? Or some guy from China who is very civil and polite at the State dinner, and has a little plan for dominating Asia?
Read her whole rant here.
She can join David Frum on my "do not read" list.
Like Erick Posted I have no intention of voting for the Huckster, but he certainly does not deserve the kind of condescension that the people at NRO are dishing out.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Iraqi oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA said Iraqi crude production is now running at 2.3 million barrels per day, compared with 1.9 million barrels at the start of this year.
Read it here.
Read it here.
And the capital markets are responding:
And the capital markets are responding:
“[Iraq’s] $2.7 billion of 5.8 percent bonds due in 2028 returned 15.2 percent since July, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. index data. Only Ecuador’s debt gained more, rising 18 percent.” Iraqi bonds were trading at 55 cents on the dollar last August, with an 11.5 percent yield. Today, they have rallied to 64 cents, bringing the yield down to 9.9 percent. U.S. money managers are saying these are the hottest bonds in the emerging market. This is a clear sign of confidence in the conduct of the war.Read it here.
Eventually it will begin to dawn on the public that things are turning out pretty well for Bush's enterprises.
Will he get credit though? Don't hold your breath.
"I would say, again, that these motives are not race based," she said. MTA police said they are investigating other possible motives and looking for any lead that would explain why the teens allegedly launched an unprovoked attack on two fellow bus riders.She also said that it wasn't her problem because the buses are operated by a State agency:
"It is a state system. Their responsibility is so that people can ride the buses and feel safe," Dixon said of the MTA.Here's a picture of Mayor Dixon.
Everywhere she goes she has a police bodyguard. Unfortunately these citizens of Baltimore, for whose safety she is responsible, didn't have guards.
Read about it here.
UPDATE: Sarah Kreager, the first victim of these thugs has been given police protection because a relative of one of the assailants issued threats against her.
There were two other victims in the first assault, another passenger and an MTA authority. There have been other attacks, some fatal, on city buses in recent months.
Tuesday's incident was one in a string of high-profile crimes to have taken place on or near MTA facilities recently.
In one of those cases, 17-year-old Nicole Edwards was fatally stabbed near the North Avenue Light Rail station in November, 2006, in an armed robbery of herself and her brother. A 17-year-old girl, Lataye S. King, was sent to prison for 25 years yesterday after entering a no-contest plea to first-degree murder and aggravated assault. A 15-year-old co-defendant is to be sentenced in February for robbery conspiracy and aggravated assault.
In October, a twice-convicted rapist was accused of yet another rape in an attack upon a woman at the Nursery Road Light Rail station in Linthicum.
Late last year, there was a spate of violence on transit lines that led police to stake out the Reisterstown Road Metro station. After detectives saw one man rob another of his bus pass, police said, an MTA officer chased 23-year-old Jeffrey Marrow of Baltimore onto the tracks and fatally shot the suspect when he pulled a gun.
Read about it here.
Somehow that doesn't make me feel safer.
Mayor Sheila Dixon released a statement saying she was "extremely concerned" about the attack.