Friday, June 27, 2008
The yachts at the inner harbor just keep getting bigger. That's the Lady Christine, built by Oceanco Yacht. You can read more about her here. It's owned by Irvine Laidlaw. Read about him here.
Keeping cool on a hot afternoon.
Here's the previous occupant of the spot; the ducks scared him away. Dastardly ducks!
And over at the Harbor East, a local street fair.
That's Ellen Cherry, a figure in Baltimore's music scene, named by Rolling Stone as the best local music scene in the nation here. Not being a clubber I couldn't say, but Ellen has a nice folksy sound I like.
Kids just like to pound things. It's amazing the energy they expended just making noise.
And now for something completely different. This morning as I walked to breakfast at my favorite coffee shop I passed through a film shoot. We're getting used to this sort of thing around here -- a lot of movies are shot in Baltimore. I didn't bother to ask what film it was. Four of the guys I was meeting for breakfast had walked through the set too. They hadn't bothered to ask either and just complained that the film crew had taken their favorite parking spots. That's how blase people around here have gotten. Film crews have become just another annoyance.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
It dawned upon me that I had completely ignored decades of popular song and had not even realized that it was missing. That's how out of touch I am.
I am frequently reminded of my personal disconnect with American pop culture every time a superhero movie comes on. I just don't care for them that much and have no interest in the comic book culture that spawned them. Power fantasies about extravagantly muscled guys running around in spandex and hitting people might be fine for twelve-year-old kids, but there is something unseemly and more than a bit disturbing about adults who look forward to the next Iron Man or Hulk or Spider Man flick. I just don't understand the attraction.
Perhaps the most extreme example of this cultural disconnect came when John Lennon was killed. I had to be in Philadelphia that day and stopped by a friend's place for some now forgotten reason. When I entered his house he and several other guys were sitting around in the living room, faces stricken, listening to Beatles music.
"Have you heard?" my friend asked. "John Lennon is dead!"
"Yeah, it was on the radio."
Then I said, "What's the big deal? He was just a rock singer."
You know that scene in the second "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" when the pod people realize that there is a normal person in their midst, when they turn in unison, point at the human, and screech? It was like that. Everyone's head swiveled in my direction and they all stared in disbelief. Acutely uncomfortable, I made some excuse and left.
That was the first time I realized that Lennon was important to people. Today, even after long reflection, I still don't understand why anybody other than his friends and family thought John Lennon was important or ever invested any emotion in him. That is a mindset with which I will never be able to connect.
And that brings me to George Carlin. He was a moderately amusing standup comic and lousy actor who played the Riddler [I believe] in that gawdawful "Batman" TV show. Later he embraced the counterculture and built his standup routines around simplistic moral posturing and social commentary. Mostly he relied on shock tactics to get a response out of his audience. I never thought he was particularly funny, and his social observations were just plain infantile. He never got beyond a child's sniggering delight in uttering forbidden words to shock the adults. And apparently his fans never grew up either -- they just got old and crabby like he did.
Anyway, he's gone now and a lot of people are mourning his passing. For the life of me I will never understand why.
Monday, June 23, 2008
James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.
Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.
Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.
In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."
Read it here.
This is classic left-wing lunacy and it would not have surfaced if things were going well for the greens. In their frustration they are reverting to form and baring their paranoid delusions for the world to see.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday he is pulling out of this week's presidential runoff because mounting violence and intimidation have made it impossible to hold a credible election.Read the whole thing here.
Tsvangirai made the only rational choice. He couldn't ask his followers to vote if that act would imperil their lives. One after another, outside forces have turned their eyes away from the monstrous atrocities committed by ZANU-PF. The UN, the EU, the UK, the ANU, and Thabo MBeki's regime in South Africa all refused to intervene to stop the killing.
Zimbabwe illustrates the utter and profound immorality of transnational liberalism. Those who deplore Mugabe's atrocities, but refuse to act against them are the same people who denounced George Bush when he toppled two of the most brutal and oppressive tyrannies in the contemporary world.
Hiding in a bush hoping the big critter with a camera won't see me. This is a gray catbird [sometimes called a "black-capped" catbird] He had actually just finished beating the crap out of a rival and was resting.
This guy is a chipping sparrow who hung out on my driveway until a catbird showed up and scared him away. The picture is a bit blurry because I was standing in my kitchen and shooting through a screened window.
And finally, watching the goings-on from a nearby tree was this guy, a "least flycatcher".
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Or you might just grab a couple of seashells and let it all hang out like this:
For more ideas check out National Geographic here.
House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding.Read the article here.
And then there's this:
Read it here.
Breaking months of acrimonious deadlock, House and Senate leaders from both parties have agreed to a bill that gives the nation's spy agencies the power to turn a wide swath of domestic communication companies into intelligence-gathering operations, and that puts an end to court challenges to telecoms such as AT&T that aided the government's secret, five-year warrantless wiretapping program.
Civil liberties proponents quickly blasted the deal."The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation," said Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold....
And this is the guy they call a "lame duck".
Well, it hasn't worked out that way.
Section eight vouchers have allowed poor people to move out of ghettos and into suburban environments and as they have dispersed into the general population, so has the associated criminal activity. Gangs and the associated drug culture, once concentrated in big-city slums, are now found in suburbs, small towns, and medium-sized cities.
I live near one of those small cities -- Reading, PA [rated by the FBI as the fourth most-dangerous city in America] -- and have watched its deterioration from a pleasant, safe environment into a cauldron of criminality in which the most horrific crimes are common. Rosin's article struck me with particular force because the terrors she relates are pretty much what we have become accustomed to seeing reported in our local paper.
What can be done about it? Better policing is obviously part of the answer, but other than that the best that the "experts" can come up with is a recommendation that state supplied social support institutions be extended into the newly-afflicted areas. Of course, these are the same mechanisms that over the course of the past few decades failed to improve the lives of people in the ghettos and, according to some scholars, actually exacerbated the problems associated with ghetto life.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
First of all, Hawks disagrees strongly with the idea, advanced by the expert panel, that we are all basically the same under the skin and that human differences are essentially environmental in origin rather than intrinsic. He asserts that genetic differences among humans are large and that evolutionary change is continuing.
He further asserts that because of the wide range of human differences no rigorous definition of humanity is possible. Any such definition would exclude some categories of human while including some categories of being that are definitely non-human.
For some reason, nobody ever thinks about humanity in a very inclusive sense. The wheelchair-bound are no less human just because they do not walk bipedally. Children with severe mental defects, or physical abnormalities are not less human, even if they do not develop into independent adults. People in different parts of the world are not more or less human than each other, despite their manifest genetic variety. A lack of speech does not make one subhuman. Not even a lack of parenting and socialization can do that: "Feral children" and other extreme cases of neglect are still human. And there are many people who not only will not "mate and produce fertile offspring," but are physically incapable of mating with another person. Yet they are human.
People clearly want to define humans in terms of some phenotype -- generally some socially valuable phenotype. Often they talk about "consciousness" -- without considering whether they would deny the humanity of the unconscious -- or grant humanity to the first conscious machine. Less often, people want to define humans in terms of some genotype. This effort never goes so far, because the genes that we know the most about tend to vary among people!
So what, then, do all humans share? According to Hawks it is our common evolutionary history.
Read the whole essay here.
One thing is shared by all humans, and cannot be taken away: our evolutionary history. Each of us bears some -- but none has all -- of the marks of this history.
It is our history that connects us to our distant relatives, not our genes. Even with a close relative like a twentieth cousin, there is a decent likelihood that you will share no genes at all because of your shared kinship from your most recent common ancestor. By the fiftieth generation, it is a virtual certainty. You are a genetic stranger to your ancestors.
Only history defines humanity, and will continue to define us no matter what we become in the future.
Interesting, and to an historian, persuasive. Hawks frequently gives me things to think about, that's why I keep coming back to his blog.
Neil Irwin, writing in the WaPo, is the latest to tackle the problem. He writes:
Ask Americans how the economy is doing, and their answer is stark: It is not just bad, it is run-for-the-hills terrible. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in almost 30 years. Only 12 percent of Americans think the economy is in good shape. On the Internet, comparisons to the Great Depression are widespread.
But the reality is different. According to most broad measures of how the economy is doing, it's not all that grim.
Soft? You betcha. In recession? Quite possibly. And a crisis in the financial markets has rattled nerves for months now. But so far, the economy is holding up better than it did during the last two recessions in 1990 and 2001. Employers haven't shed as many jobs, the unemployment rate is still relatively low, and gross domestic product has kept rising. Things are nowhere near as bad as they were in the Great Depression, or even during the severe recession of 1982-83. The last time consumers were this miserable, in May 1980, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent and inflation was 14.4 percent. Now those numbers are 5.5 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.
Irwin points out that this pessimism carries dangers:
This paradox has created a unique challenge for those guiding the economy, who worry that Americans' pessimistic views will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Two-thirds of the economy is consumer spending. So if people's negative outlook leads them to cut their spending, a steeper downturn could happen.
Ane he offers an explanation for it. He suggests that people's perceptions have been shaped by the high price of oil and the recent crisis in the housing market. These, rather than the statistical aggregates cited by economists, affect people directly and intimately and lead them to assume that everything is in crisis.
Read the whole thing here.
There are two problems with this analysis, though.
First of all, poll after poll has shown that, although people are convinced that the economy, indeed the whole society and the world, are plunging into disaster, they tend to be optimistic about their own lives. This would suggest that their fears are not experiential.
Secondly, the analysis ignores a huge factor influencing people's opinions -- the media. Reporting on the state of the economy, the society, and the state of the world tends to emphasize the negative [the famous "if it bleeds, it leads" phenomenon]. But even beyond that reporting has been unrelentingly negative in recent years.
Kevin Hassett and John Lott have studied the coverage and have another explanation -- Hassett writes:
Economist John Lott and I studied thousands of economic news stories written over the past 30 years or so, and found that coverage tended to be far more negative when there was a Republican in the White House as there is now.
The bias has an easy explanation. Yale University economist Ray Fair has shown that a weak economy hurts the incumbent party. If a Democratic-leaning press can convince everyone that the economy is in recession, then it can influence the election.
Our analysis indicates that the treatment of the economy would be much different if there were a Democrat in the White House today. If so, then the headline of each bad piece of news would be, more accurately, "Economy Hovering Above Recession."
But instead of that, we get doom and gloom.
Read it here.
So it seems that the most important factor in shaping public attitudes toward the state of things is how they are reported in the media, and far from being objective, the major media are politically driven.
Seems about right to me.
ht: Michael Novak
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
She was the best female dancer in films. Yeah, I know some people think Eleanor Powell was, and there are a few who would hold out for Ann Miller, but only Cyd could steal the thunder from both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. She should have made more films, but when she came up the MGM musicals were on their way out. Tonight I think I'll fire up "Singin' In the Rain" just to watch what she does to Gene Kelly in the nightclub scene.
Oh, why wait for tonight. Here she is with Gene Kelly.
And here she is with Fred Astaire in "The Band Wagon". This is the famous "Girl Hunt" number.
Armed men raided the house of Emmanuel Chiroto, a senior member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and recently elected mayor.
They burned down the house with petrol bombs and kidnapped his wife, Abigail, 27, and their four-year-old son, Ashley. The boy was released a few hours later, but Mrs Chiroto is still missing.
The incident bore all the hallmarks of a state-organised operation designed to break the MDC's organisation by targeting its key figures. Five of the MDC's local organisers have been murdered.
Read the whole thing here.
Ir is sobering to recognize that throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa Mugabe is a hero because of his racist, Maoist, anti-colonialist past and that nobody in the region is willing to take action to depose him, and the carnage continues, and so it goes, and so it goes.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The crowds were back -- here are some folks hanging out at the Light Street Pavilion.
So are the yachts -- "She Who Must Not Be Named" titled this pic "Big, Bigger, Biggest".
And of course the enviroloons were there. It used to be Hare Krishnas, now it's the Gore cultists. The Harbor attracts all the crazies.
BELFAST (AFP) — US President George W. Bush headed home on a high note Monday after a week-long farewell tour of Europe, concluding with a trip to Britain where he welcomed renewed support on Afghanistan and Iran.
Read the whole thing here.
Nothing succeeds like success, and with every passing month it becomes more and more evident just how successful a president Dubya has been.
Monday, June 16, 2008
THOUGH IT was hardly noticed in Washington, Iraq's Shiite-led government sent a powerful message to Iran and to the Middle East last week. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose coalition is often portrayed as an Iranian client, traveled to Tehran for a meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The ayatollah bluntly declared that Iraq's "most important problem" was the continuing presence of U.S. troops. He pressured Mr. Maliki to stop negotiating a package of agreements with the Bush administration that would delineate a "strategic framework" between Iraq and the United States and provide for the deployment of U.S. forces beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of this year.
Mr. Maliki refused. He assured his Iranian hosts that Iraq would not be a launching pad for an American attack on Iran. But he pointedly told a press briefing that negotiations on the strategic partnership would continue. He repeated that commitment on Friday, even after warning that the talks had "reached a dead end." In effect, the Iraqi prime minister was saying that his country does not want to become an Iranian satellite but an independent Arab state that would look to the United States to ensure its security.
This would seem to be an obvious U.S. gain in what, according to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as well as President Bush, is the urgent task of countering Iran's attempt to dominate the Middle East. It means that Iraq, a country with the world's second largest oil reserves and a strategic linchpin of the Middle East, just might emerge from the last five years of war and turmoil as an American ally, even if its relations with Iran remain warm.
Read it here.
The Post then wonders why leading Democrats are already denouncing the US-Iraqi agreement before it is fully negotiated. The article further notes that the Democrats are taking their lead from Iranian propaganda.
Claudia Anderson has a nice piece in the latest edition of the Weekly Standard noting parallels in the lives of Frederick Douglass and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It's a cute journalistic conceit, a nice testimonial to two people in the forefront of the fight against evil, and it reminds us that there are still heroes in this world.
Read it here.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
[I]t is now plain that over the past several months, while Americans have been distracted by their presidential primaries, many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right. This improvement goes beyond the fall in killing that followed General David Petraeus's “surge”. Iraq's government has gained in stature and confidence. Thanks to soaring oil prices it is flush with money. It is standing up to Iraq's assorted militias and asserting its independence from both America and Iran. The overlapping wars—Sunni against American, Sunni against Shia and Shia against Shia—that harrowed Iraq after the invasion of 2003 have abated. The country no longer looks in imminent danger of flying apart or falling into everlasting anarchy.
Read it here.
Do tell! Now would someone please inform the Democrats.
There are all sorts of regulations prohibiting burning, but Pennsylvania farmers have been doing it for centuries now and aren't likely to stop anytime soon.
One of Pennsylvania's famous covered bridges. This one is down in Lancaster County. Not one of the most picturesque, but still something for which the region is noted...
Back at Landis Valley Farms. This is the interior of an old print-shop as it would have looked in the mid-nineteenth century. My great-grandfather was a printer and would have worked in a place closely resembling this one.
I like log structures, don't know why, but it probably has something to do with that set of Lincoln Logs my folks bought me for Christmas back when I was a kid.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Here she is singing "But Not for Me" by George Gershwin.
And here she sings "Old Devil Moon".
The babe could swing.
But that's not all she could do.
And now for something completely different -- here she is singing "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from Verdi's La Forza del Destino.
Her greatest fame came, however, for her interpretations of Wagner. Here she is singing Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde.
What an amazing talent she was. Thanks to YouTube she still is.
Increasing pessimism from the news media is surely a factor – and the media grow ever-better at giving negative impressions. Now we don't just hear about threats or natural disasters, we see immediate live footage, creating the impression that threats and disasters are everywhere.
Whatever goes wrong in the country or around the world is telecast 24/7, making us think the world is falling to pieces – even when most things are getting better for most people, even in developing nations. If a factory closes, that's news. If a factory opens, that's not a story. You've heard about the factories Ford and General Motors have closed in this decade. Have you heard about the factories Toyota, Honda and other automakers opened in the U.S. in the same period? The jobs there have solid, long-term prospects.
The relentlessly negative impressions of American life presented by the media, including the entertainment media, explain something otherwise puzzling that shows up in psychological data. When asked about the country's economy, schools, health care or community spirit, Americans tell pollsters the situation is dreadful. But when asked about their own jobs, schools, doctors and communities, people tell pollsters the situation is good. Our impressions of ourselves and our neighbors come from personal experience. Our impressions of the nation as a whole come from the media and from political blather, which both exaggerate the negative.
Read it here.
Friday, June 13, 2008
He worked for a really sleazy organization, NBC News, but at all times he was a class act -- a giant towering above the pygmies with whom he had to work. Farewell Tim, may you rest in peace.
The Bush family got it exactly right:
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Tim Russert. Those of us who knew and worked with Tim, his many friends, and the millions of Americans who loyally followed his career on the air will all miss him.
As the longest-serving host of the longest-running program in the history of television, he was an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it.
Most important, Tim was a proud son and father, and Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Maureen, his son Luke, and the entire Russert family. We will keep them in our prayers.
Russert was a class act -- so are George and Laura Bush.
John Cole comments on how the death is being handled on the cable channels.
MSNBC has been running nothing but a 5 hour (and presumably it will go until 11 pm or beyond) marathon of Russert remembrance. CNN has done their due diligence, and Fox news has spent at least the last half hour talking non-stop about him.
But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.
Read the whole thing and comments here.
In a conversation recently, I mentioned as an aside what a great president George Bush has been and my friend was surprised. I was surprised that he was surprised.Coulter then lays out her case for considering Bush to be a great president. Her essential points [reframed by me], with which I find it hard to argue:
Bush has kept us safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11 -- something that no one at the time thought possible.
By toppling two of the world's most repressive regimes, he has liberated tens of millions of people.
He has been a wartime leader as effective as any other president in the nation's history, winning big in Iraq and Afghanistan and marginalizing al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups throughout the Muslim world.
He has promoted liberal democratic and humane values in regions of the world where such things were unimaginable when he began his term of office.
So great has been his success that we have all but forgotten just how daunting were the challenges he faced just a few years ago.
Her conclusion -- extreme as always, but this time something with which I heartily concur:
The sheer repetition of lies about Bush is wearing people down. There is not a liberal in this country worthy of kissing Bush's rear end, but the weakest members of the herd run from Bush. Compared to the lickspittles denying and attacking him, Bush is a moral giant -- if that's not damning with faint praise. John McCain should be so lucky as to be running for Bush's third term. Then he might have a chance.
Read it here.
Tallies of votes produced nationally by election observers, as well as early official returns, all showed the "no" camp ahead in the vast majority of Ireland's 43 electoral constituencies. Pro-treaty voters were clearly ahead in only a few.
Electoral officials expected to confirm the result later and send shock waves throughout the EU.
The euro fell to a one-month low on the news.....
"Obviously it's disappointing. It's quite clear there's a very substantial 'no' vote," said [Justice Minister] Mr Ahern, who noted that 58% of voters rejected the treaty in his home district.
When voters actually have some say in the repeated attempts to impose a unified bureaucratic government on Europe, they tend to reject it, which of course infuriates the anti-nationalist technocrats who dreamed the whole scheme up.
It's not the Irish alone -- none of the other EU countries allowed their citizens to vote on the treaty, instead requiring only governmental approval, but there seems to be a mass repudiation of the whole concept of a unified Euro-government building in the populace.
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Political leaders across Europe were shaking their heads in frustration this weekend at the Irish voters' veto of the latest European Union treaty. But many of their citizens weren't.
Ordinary Spaniards, Dutch, French and Britons, who wish they could get the same chance, might also say "no" to the cold, distant heart of Europe.
"Spaniards feel Spanish, the French feel French, and the Dutch feel Dutch. We will never all be in the same boat," said Eduardo Herranz, a 41-year-old salesman in Madrid, Spain.
Herranz said Europeans were right to feel alienated from bureaucrats in the EU base of Brussels, Belgium.
"You don't decide on anything, and you don't get to vote on anything they are talking about," he said of the average voter. "In day-to-day life, out on the street, the European Union is something very distant."
Read the whole thing here.
Of course, that won't stop the Eurocrats -- they'll just go back to the drawing boards and come up with an even more undemocratic scheme to impose their continent-wide rule.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Read it here.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that retail sales soared 1 percent last month, double what had been expected. It was the largest increase since November and represented strong sales at a variety of retailers including the biggest increase at department stores and other general merchandise stores in a year.
The May increase, double what economists had been expecting, provided the strongest evidence yet that the economy is getting a major boost from the $50 billion in economic stimulus payments the government sent out by the end of May, slightly less than half of the $106.7 billion scheduled to be sent out this year.
There is one constant in economic reporting -- in nearly every story the experts are surprised that the economy is performing better than they predicted. You would think that they would learn something from this, or that the MSM would begin to question their downbeat predictions, but the doom and gloom cant keeps on coming. Gee, you would think this was an election year or something.
Of course, one of the big attractions is the seemingly endless parade of tall ships that come through. Ships like this:
Of course, we don't spend all our time at the tourist traps. Yesterday we walked down to Tabrizi's for dinner. Years ago, when they were located on South Charles Street, it was one of my favorite restaurants, but I hadn't been there since they moved to their new location on the waterfront. Here's a bit of what we saw on the way:
A mirror tree along the Key Highway, just outside the "Institute for Incredibly Ugly, Stupid and Cliched Nonsense that Left Wing Loons are Trying to Pass Off as Art".
And of course, more boats.
And at the restaurant, more boats.
Too bad I'm a confirmed landlubber.
The food was good though. "She" had salmon, I had the lamb. All through the meal "She" kept eying my plate, hoping that I would offer to share. If "She" had said anything I would have, but she kept quiet. Then, as we walked home "She" commented that the lamb sure smelled good. "Tasted good, too" I replied. "We'll come back here soon," "She" said, "and next time I'll order lamb." Sounds good to me. There are a lot of other things on the menu I would like to try.
Read the whole thing here.
The men who pulled up in three white pickup trucks were looking for Patson Chipiro, head of the Zimbabwean opposition party in Mhondoro district. His wife, Dadirai, told them he was in Harare but would be back later in the day, and the men departed.
An hour later they were back. They grabbed Mrs Chipiro and chopped off one of her hands and both her feet. Then they threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
By February 2008, America and its partners accomplished a series of tasks thought to be impossible. The Sunni Arab insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq were defeated in Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad provinces, and the remaining leaders and fighters clung to their last urban outpost in Mosul. The Iraqi government passed all but one of the "benchmark" laws (the hydrocarbon law being the exception, but its purpose is now largely accomplished through the budget) and was integrating grass-roots reconciliation with central political progress. The sectarian civil war had ended.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), swelled by 100,000 new recruits in 2007, was fighting hard and skillfully throughout Iraq. The Shiite-led government was showing an increasing willingness to use its forces even against Shiite militias. The announcement that provincial elections would be held by year's end galvanized political movements across the country, focusing Iraq's leaders on the need to get more votes rather than more guns.
Three main challenges to security and political progress remained: clearing al Qaeda out of Mosul; bringing Basra under the Iraqi government's control; and eliminating the Special Groups safe havens in Sadr City. It seemed then that these tasks would require enormous effort, entail great loss of life, and take the rest of the year or more. Instead, the Iraqi government accomplished them within a few months.
Read the whole thing here.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Well, what was being reported was Senator Rockefeller's characterization of what the committee report said. None of the hot shot commentators in the MSM bothered to actually read the report before mouthing off about it.
Fred Hiatt has actually gone over the report and finds that there is remarkably little substance to Sen. Rockefeller's statements.
[D]ive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.
On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."
On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."
On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."
On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."
As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment. So, you think, the smoking gun must appear in the section on Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorism.
But statements regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda "were substantiated by the intelligence assessments," and statements regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." The report is left to complain about "implications" and statements that "left the impression" that those contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation.
In the report's final section, the committee takes issue with Bush's statements about Saddam Hussein's intentions and what the future might have held. But was that really a question of misrepresenting intelligence, or was it a question of judgment that politicians are expected to make?
Read the whole thing here.
The New York Sun reports more instances in which the Rockefeller Committee Report ignored or excluded evidence that shows that the administration acted in good faith. [here]
The Anchoress [I thought she had stopped blogging] has links to more sources [here]. She wonders why the truth is finally beginning to filter into the MSM.
1) Perhaps they see things improving so much in Iraq that there is going to be a slow turning around of the narrative - like turning around the Titanic - so that Democrats can stop pretending they never voted for the action, and get ready to claim a share in victory. Then it gives room to the presumed Democrat president to settle the Iraq matter with an American “presence” in Iraq - comparable to our presences in Germany, and elsewhere - so that he can get on with the business of “changing” America domestically. After all, the WaPo editorial board warned Obama just last week that he needed to update his thinking on Iraq.
2) Perhaps they see that the relentless pounding the press has given Bush for the last 5 years has had enough of an impact for him to have any sort of rehabilitation, either in the polls or in history, and so they figure they can put away the flamethrowers.
3) Perhaps there are still some journalists who are more interested in telling the whole story than in framing and enshrining a narrative.
I want to believe it’s #3.
She's being far too charitable.
What is clear from any objective analysis of the record is that Bush did not lie. Lots of other people [Democrat leaders and veteran intelligence professionals in particular] did lie, time and time again. All Rockefeller and his stooges in the press have done is once again to confirm that President Bush is a far finer man than his critics.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
First, heavy rain on the Susquehanna.
One of the advantages of getting old and slow is that you see all sorts of neat little things that you would have missed in faster times -- things like this shroom:
or this delicate blossom,
Listening to Obama's victory speech the other night -- you know the one, it's where he said:
“generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation ...”I was reminded of the old story of King Canute.
Canute was a viking who in the eleventh century ruled a North Sea empire consisting of England, Norway, part of Sweden and various islands. So great was his power that he was considered an equal of the Holy Roman Emperor. As the story goes, courtiers flattered Canute that his power was so great that he could command the winds and tides. To show them their folly Canute ordered that he be seated on a throne at the seashore at low tide. He then commanded the tide not to advance. Of course it did, and he and the flattering courtiers were drenched in sea water.
The adulatory punditry accompanying Obama's nomination sounds a lot like the absurd pratter mouthed by Canute's flunkies. The difference is, Canute was wise enough to recognize the silliness; Obama seems to have embraced it.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
The tight circle of "securocrats", who sit on the Joint Operations Command (JOC) committee, are now believed to be in day-to-day charge of Zimbabwe's government.
They ensured Mr Mugabe did not step down after his defeat in the presidential election's first round in March and are now masterminding a campaign of terror to suppress the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and guarantee victory for Mr Mugabe in the June 27 run-off.
The government indefinitely suspended all work by aid groups and non-governmental organisations, accusing them of breaching their terms of registration.
Mr Mugabe is a useful figurehead who still commands the deference of other African leaders, notably President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.
But the western diplomat said Mr Mugabe's power had ebbed away and Zimbabwe was now run by a "junta".
"This is a military coup by stealth," he said. "There are no tanks on people's lawns, but the Joint Operations Command runs this country."
Read the whole thing here.
This is not good news; not good at all. The two best hopes for Zimbabwe were that Mugabe would retire and thus open the way for democratic reform or alternatively that a coup would remove him from office. Well, it now appears that the "quiet coup" is what is keeping the mad old monster in office. Now it seems that not ieven the death of Mugabe will end the horror that has been visited on his country in recent years.
Confirming what many of us have already noted from the anecdotal evidence coming in of a much cooler than normal May, such as late spring snows as far south as Arizona, extended skiing in Colorado, and delays in snow cover melting, (here and here), the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) published their satellite derived Advanced Microwave Sounder Unit data set of the Lower Troposphere for May 2008.
It is significantly colder globally, colder even than the significant drop to -0.046°C seen in January 2008.
Read the whole thing here.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Historians are often exhorted to write for 'the general reader', and some try to -- though for most practicing academics, the 'general reader' is a bit like the stray neighbourhood cat: you feel vaguely sympathetic towards it, you know it's someone's responsibility to look after it, but you're damned if you're going to do it yourself.[no hyperlink available]
So true, so true....
He's right. What is more, most academic historians deprecate the efforts of those who do produce "popular history". To some extent this disdain is justified -- all too often popular history is simplistic or reductive, and even the best of the genre often comes down to little more than uncritical hagiography [I'm talkin' bout you David], silly ethnic or regional boosterism [you too, Senator], or partisan hackery [and you Sean]. But it would be a mistake to believe that academic history is not plagued by the same sort of nonsense. Some of the most partisan silliness I have ever read was published in respected academic journals. What is unjustified is not the critique of popular history, but the arrogant assumption that academic history represents unbiased, disinterested authority. What is needed is for academic historians to get down off their high horses, admit their biases, and to present their ideas and arguments clearly and succinctly. I am encouraged by the fact that so many young academics have taken to blogging. The best of them bring to their blogs an informed critical perspective as well as a willingness to present their arguments in terms the general public will accept.
One of the best of these -- although I seldom find myself in agreement with him -- is Tim Burke, over at Swarthmore. Check out his blog here. It's worth reading. And for a different perspective check out Marc Comtois' excellent efforts at Spinning Clio [here]
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
OK, it's over..., or is it. There is this lady in a pantsuit standing over in the corner saying, "It ain't over 'til I say it's over!" Now the only question seems too be, "What will it take to make her and her horrible hubby go away?"
Frankly, I don't care. For me it was pretty much over when Romney dropped out.
It will be nice to see the Clintons leave the national stage -- they ceased to amuse many, many years ago. But at least, as despicable as they and their toadies were, they had a shrewd appreciation of the reality of things. You knew that they knew the absurd things they were saying were nothing but rhetoric and when it came right down to it they would do something approximating the right thing.
Obama, though, inspires no such confidence. His radical rhetoric and past associations are deeply troubling. His wife, his church, and his most avid supporters are downright frightening.
We are in for some dark and disturbing times in the months, perhaps years ahead. The only thing to do is to rally behind our tired and uninspiring candidate and to fight the good fight for him while we wait for someone like Mitt or Sarah or Bobby to emerge as our standard bearer.
I'm with Jonah on this one:
I don't want to come together with anyone to remake this country. Improve this country? yeah. Fix some problems? Sure. But this country doesn't need "remaking."Amen!!!!
Read it here.
Or this cut from her latest album: