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April 15, 2006

MICHAEL TOTTEN FILES another report from Iraq.

AUSTIN BAY AND JEFF JARVIS engage in productive dialog.

STRATEGYPAGE:

In the last six months, the U.S. Army is seeing 15 percent more soldiers re-enlist than expected. This continues a trend that began in 2001. Every year since then, the rate at which existing soldiers have re-enlisted has increased. This despite the fact that 69 percent of the troops killed in Iraq have been from the army. New recruits continue to exceed join up at higher rates as well.

All this is extremely important, especially when there is a war going on. Experience saves lives in combat, and more of the most experienced troops are staying in. This means that, a decade from now, the army will have a large and experienced corps of senior NCOs. That, in turn, means the younger troops are likely to well trained and led.

The army makes a big thing, internally, about the number of troops re-enlisting, especially within combat units that are in Iraq or Afghanistan. Pictures of mass re-enlistments are published in military media, but the civilian media has generally ignored this phenomena. Also ignored, except by some local media interviewing locals who are in the army, is the positive attitude of the troops, especially those in combat units. The large number of re-enlistments occur because the troops believe they are making a difference, and winning. This is especially true for soldiers who have come back to Iraq on a second tour, and noted the improvements since the first tour.

Read the whole thing.

YES, LIGHT BLOGGING: Spent most of the day assembling a swingset with my brother. Upside: The process involved power tools, and my brother. Downside: Whatever cut-rate supplier provided this monstrosity to Wal-Mart. Holes drilled improperly, missing parts, unclear instructions: A mess. Yeah, these things usually are. Still, it was a beautiful day, and we did get to use power tools.

UPDATE: Heh. Though a table saw is something to be regarded with respect, if not fear.

BILL HOBBS HAS LOST HIS JOB FOR BLOGGING: The Knoxville News-Sentinel's Michael Silence calls it "sickening" and "pathetic." He's right.

I call it a defining moment for Belmont University, in which that institution squandered all the goodwill and interest among bloggers that it spent the past couple of years building up.

April 14, 2006

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LIGHT BLOGGING as we've travelled up to visit my brother this afternoon. I'm blogging from a cafe where he's doing an acoustic set with his friend Blake, as "46 Long." They're both big guys!

I'll be back later, probably, but in the meantime enjoy the many other fine blogs in the blogosphere! It's a distributed system, after all, with many mutually supporting nodes.

Which makes as good an excuse to hang out and drink beer with my brother as I'm likely to find.

As you can see, they're both handsome devils. That's quite impressive in my brother's case, given that he's the smart one, and I'm the good looking one.

But hey, that still leaves room, right?

Hope you're having a good time tonight, too.

UPDATE: No, it's not this brother, whose band is a bit, um, different.




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KILLER BEARS IN TENNESSEE:

Using traps baited with honey buns and doughnuts, officials Friday tried to track down a black bear that killed a 6-year-old girl and critically injured her mother and 2-year-old brother.

The family had been at a pool below a waterfall in the Cherokee National Forest on Thursday afternoon when the bear attacked, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said.

Witnesses said the bear snatched up the boy in its mouth as the mother and other visitors tried to fend it off with sticks and rocks, said Dan Hicks, a spokesman for the agency.

The 6-year-old girl ran away but was later found dead about 100 yards down the trail, with a bear standing over her, authorities said.

A student of mine from the area says that the bear problem has been getting worse, and that they wander outside the park, but that authorities have been downplaying it. This reminds me of David Baron's terrific book, The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America. I wrote a column about that a while back. The bottom line is that predators are dangerous, and especially so when they've learned not to fear human beings. There's probably a larger lesson there, as I note in the column.

IN THE MAIL: John Podhoretz's new book, Can She Be Stopped? : Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless . . .

HUGH HEWITT will be doing an online chat on the Washington Post at 11am ET.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT?

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh: "It's quite sad, I think, that these university professors are responding to offensive ideas not just by arguing against them, but by trying to coercively suppress them (apparently, according to the ADF's letter, with considerable support from their colleagues). I expect that the university will promptly dismiss the complaint, since even under the university's own policy such speech is not prohibited -- among other reasons, the speech wasn't 'based on a person's protected status,' since the statements weren't about the complainants, and weren't targeted towards the complainants because of their sexual orientation. But it reflects badly on the complainants that the complaint is even being filed."

It's also quite a black eye for Ohio State.

"VLOGS: The cure for 'gotcha journalism?'"

JOHN TAMMES posts an Afghanistan news roundup.

MICKEY KAUS: "Jared Paul Stern may be a slimebag, but he gives good interview, especially for a guy in the U.S. Attorney's headlights."

DOUG WEINSTEIN DEFENDS HOWARD STERN against shrinking-audience criticism.

STEPHEN GREEN looks at the political impact of an immigration-driven third party candidacy in 2008.

CHESTER POSTS a big Iran roundup.

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CHINESE BLOGGER HAO WU remains in prison after 52 days. Rebecca MacKinnon has lots of information, links, and background.

Here's the webpage for the Chinese Embassy.

STRATEGYPAGE ON IRAQ:

The rising threat of a sectarian civil war appears to be helping to avert one. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and some other nations bordering Iraq are increasing measures to curb extremist support in Iraq, and are curbing assistance to groups responsible for actions that are feeding sectarian tensions. Apparently leaders in these countries have decided that an Iraqi civil war along sectarian lines will inevitably spill over onto their soil, as large numbers of refugees flee the fighting, while their own citizens become radicalized in support of co-religionists in Iraq, both events possibly fueling internal disorders. There are a lot of Shia Arabs in places like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait. Most of these Shia Arabs live near the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields. It has always been, at least since the oil was discovered, the policy of both nations, to keep their Shia happy, or at least quiet.

Meanwhile, Iraq is also serving as an experiment on how to create an Arab economy that will flourish. . . . One of the things that has been changed in Iraq is the way the economy is regulated. Since Saddam was tossed out in 2003, the economy has been governed by Western rules. As a result, GDP per capita doubled by the end of 2005, and the GDP is expected to grow another 49 percent by 2008. All this despite continued attacks by Sunni Arab rebels on oil facilities and other economic targets. It's much easier to start a business in Iraq now, even though there's still a lot of corruption. The big change is that now the corruption is illegal, and there is even progress in prosecuting the government officials who take bribes or try to shake down businessmen.

Read the whole thing. As I've noted before, corruption is a bigger barrier to progress in Iraq than the insurgency; this makes it sound as if things are improving.

April 13, 2006

BLAKE WYLIE REPORTS a "political hit-job" on Bill Hobbs.

LARRY KUDLOW: "We’re in an American boom and I cannot understand why there is so much pessimism."

A BAD REVIEW for the New Orleans rebuilding plan.

MICHAEL YON is reporting from Afghanistan en route to Iraq.

THE MANOLO NOTES some shocking evidence of global warming.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE notes some people who aren't really supporting the troops.

WE CAN'T DISRESPECT RELIGION, CAN WE? Not the ones that might behead TV executives, anyway. But won't there be more of those with this attitude? I guess this is a test case on whether people respond to incentives, or have overriding moral principles.

UPDATE: A reader emails: "I wonder if Jon Stewart will mock CC brass for showing how so very small their gonads are."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Maybe Moussaoui can explain that this isn't about giving offense:

Asked if he was happy to hear her sobbing, he said, "Make my day."

He noted many relatives of victims wept on the witness stand, then walked past him in the courtroom and looked his way without crying. "I find it disgusting that people come here to share their grief over the death of some other person," he said.

"I'm glad there was pain, and I wish there will be more pain," Moussaoui said. . . .

In a lengthy explanation of why he hates Americans, Moussaoui said Islam requires Muslims to be the world's superpower as he flipped through a copy of the Quran searching for verses to support his assertion. He said one verse requires Muslims "to fight against all who believe not in Allah."

"We have an obligation to be the superpower. You have to be subdued," Moussaoui said. "America is a superpower and you want to eradicate Islam."

Well, not before, but he may put the idea in a few folks' heads. At any rate, this war isn't about cultural insensitivity or intolerance, or imperialism. At least, not on our part. (Via Althouse).

CHANNELING MARTIN NIEMOLLER:

First, The Catholics came for South Park and I did not speak out because my head was in the sand.

Then, the Scientologists came for South Park and did not speak out because my head was in the sand.

Then, the Muslims came for South Park and I did not speak out because my head was in the sand.

Then, when I pulled my head out of the sand and turned on Comedy Central to watch South Park it was gone.

I never really watched it anyway, but I'm guessing that this episode marks the beginning of the end.


MARCHES AGAINST ISLAMIZATION in Malaysia.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Brain knitting with nanoscale structures: "Healing brain and spinal-cord injuries is one of the most desirable, but challenging, goals of regenerative medicine. Molecules that self-assemble into nanoscale filaments may show the way." I linked to a story on this earlier, but this Nature piece has more information.

IMMIGRATION AND A THIRD PARTY: Some thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

NEWT GINGRICH ON IRAQ: Patrick Hynes has a videoblog interview of Gingrich.

UPDATE: While Gingrich says the press misrepresented his position, Bob Owens notes some press rowback on another Iraq story.

MICHAEL MALONE ON THE APPLE CASE: "What is a journalist? A court in California may give us an answer next week. And I'll bet that it gets the answer wrong." He continues:

These days, the MSM is hurriedly trying to pull up the drawbridge to protect the "professionals" inside from the nonjournalists beyond the walls. But the public isn't fooled. For all the sniffing by the MSM about bloggers in pajamas and amateur journalism, most readers have figured out they can trust the reporting of a lone blogger like Iraq the Model as much if not more than the entire news apparatus of Reuters.

The cynical lawyers at Apple are trying to capitalize on that dispute and use the ignorant courts as its weapon in the process.

Indeed.

ALAN GREENSPAN thinks Sarbanes-Oxley is hurting U.S. capital markets.

MURTHA AND MORAN HEAR FROM TROOPS IN SUPPORT OF THE WAR:

"And, Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just arrived back from Afghanistan -- we never got a letter, we never got a visit from you, you didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got was a letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to, but the morale of the troops is very high."

What was the response? Murtha said nothing, while Moran attempted to move on, no pun intended, stating: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was a statement."

It was indeed a statement; a statement from both a constituent and a veteran that should have elicited something more than silence or a dismissive comment highlighting a supposed breach of protocol. This exchange, captured on video (it was on C-SPAN), has since been forwarded from base to base in military circles. It has not been well received there, and it only raises the already high level of frustration among military personnel that their opinions are not being heard. . . . Murtha undoubtedly knows full well that the greatest single thing that drags on morale in war is the loss of a buddy. But second to that is politicians questioning, in amplified tones, the validity of that loss to our families, colleagues, the nation and the world.

While we don't question his motives, we do question his assumptions. When he called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, there was a sense of respectful disagreement among most military personnel. But when he subsequently stated that he would not join today's military, he made clear to the majority of us that he is out of touch with the troops. Quite frankly, it was received as a slap in the face.

Read the whole thing.

HILTON WORRIED about "the number of wounded and disabled people" (who happen to be soldiers from Walter Reed and Bethesda) dining at Fran O'Brien's? Sounds like an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen, if this report is true.

THIS LOOKS KIND OF LIKE BLOGADS FOR PODCASTS: Sounds kind of cool. I wonder how well it works.

THE EUSTON MANIFESTO proposes a renewal of Progressive politics.

JIM LINDGREN: "Did Comedy Central censor tonight's episode of South Park? The answer would appear to be YES."

(Not all commenters on his blog agree). Still, either way the point is the same: Don't like people mocking your religion? Threaten them with violence. It seems to work pretty well.

UPDATE: Reader Anthony Fountain writes:

Glenn, you don't have it quite right when you write, "Don't like people mocking your religion? Threaten them with violence. It seems to work pretty well." To be accurate you should change "religion" to "Islam." If a Christian or Jewish group threatened violence over an unfavorable depiction of their faith, MSM would fall over itself getting it before the public, accompanied by pious references to the First Amendment and brave statements about refusing to cower before religious extremists. I'll bet the New York Times has already written the editorial, ready to trot it out in the event.

Given the signals they're sending, we may find out how they respond to threats from other groups. I suspect they'll discover that Robert Heinlein was right when he said that it may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion -- but that it's better still, and usually easier, to be a live lion.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A lesson that Comedy Central hasn't learned -- it's now official that they did censor South Park.

MICKEY KAUS picks up on Harold Ford's remarks on immigration from our podcast interview. "It's not that hard to get to Bush's right on immigration and still sound like a Democrat." I've been kind of surprised that the Democrats haven't done more of this, given their African-American and labor constituencies. It strikes me that both parties are doing their best to ignore the base on this issue, and I'm not quite sure why that is.

PLAME UPDATE -- LIBBY RESPONDS: Tom Maguire is all over the topic. And Dan Riehl has thoughts, too.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A scathing editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

If Republicans lose control of Congress in November, they might want to look back at last Thursday as the day it was lost. That's when the big spenders among House Republicans blew up a deal between the leadership and rank-in-file to impose some modest spending discipline.

Unlike the collapse of the immigration bill, this fiasco can't be blamed on Senate Democrats. This one is all about Republicans and their refusal to give up their power to spend money at will and pass out "earmarks" like a bartender offering drinks on the house. The chief culprits are the House Appropriators, led by Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California and his 13 subcommittee chairmen known as "cardinals." If Republicans lose the House--and they are well on their way--Mr. Lewis deserves the moniker of the minority maker. . . .

A category five political storm is building in GOP precincts around the country, and it is going to blow Republicans right out of the majority in November if they don't soon give their supporters some reason to re-elect them. So far this year they've passed limits on free speech that liberals love, but they haven't been able to extend the wildly successful 2003 tax cuts by even a mere two years. And now they won't even allow a vote on budget reforms that their own President and a majority of their own Members support.

At the current pace, a Democratic majority in Congress would be preferable, if only for reasons of truth in advertising.

Ouch.

April 12, 2006

THE OFFICERS' CLUB has been redesigned and renamed as Op For. And they're podcasting!

MORE HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS:

A computer failure that hobbled border-screening systems at airports across the country last August occurred after Homeland Security officials deliberately held back a security patch that would have protected the sensitive computers from a virus then sweeping the internet, according to documents obtained by Wired News.

The documents raise new questions about the $400 million US-VISIT program, a 2-year-old system aimed at securing the border from terrorists by gathering biometric information from visiting foreign nationals and comparing it against government watch lists.

It's not entirely their fault, but rather an indication that (1) security systems probably shouldn't be running Windows; and (2) most big organizations can't move as fast as virus writers.

IT'S LIKE MAUREEN DOWD WITH TIMES SELECT: Howard Stern has a lot fewer listeners now.

UPDATE: Related post here.

BLOCKING MILITARY RECRUITERS MAY BE EXPENSIVE: The Mountain States Legal Foundation is moving to cut off federal funding for UC Santa Cruz after the University permitted students to block military recruiters on campus. (Via Michelle Malkin). The University will presumably argue that this doesn't reflect its policy; I'm not sure how that will play out.

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THERE'S LOTS OF NEW STUFF up at the PorkBusters website. Just keep scrolling.

KERRY ON MEET THE PRESS: A late hit, but it connects. Worth reading for anyone wondering why George W. Bush is President.

BILL ROGGIO: "Did the media fall for yet another insurgent information operation in Ramadi?"

As I've noted before, they're much more vigilant against being spun by the good guys.

UPDATE: A related item: Looking for Bilal Hussein.

MICHAEL TOTTEN'S latest post from Turkish Kurdistan, part of his new "back to Iraq" series, is up. Don't miss the postscript!

REGROW YOUR OWN:

Stem cell therapy has long captured the limelight as a way to the goal of regenerative medicine, that of repairing the body with its own natural systems. But a few scientists, working in a relatively obscure field, believe another path to regenerative medicine may be as likely to succeed. The less illustrious approach is promising, in their view, because it is the solution that nature itself has developed for repairing damaged limbs or organs in a wide variety of animals. . . .

Mammals, too, can renew damaged parts of their body. All can regenerate the liver. Deer regrow their antlers, some at the rate of 2 centimeters a day, said to be the fastest rate of organ growth in animals. In many of these cases, regeneration begins when the mature cells at the site of a wound start to revert to an immature state. The clump of immature cells, known as a blastema, then regrows the missing part, perhaps by tapping into the embryogenesis program that first formed the animal.

Bring it on. It would be nice if we could regenerate our whole bodies, bit by bit.

RAND SIMBERG ON SPACE in NRO:

NASA is going to have to decide if its plans are really "affordable" and "sustainable," as the president demanded.

In the meantime, investors continue to pour money into the new private spaceflight industry, with hundreds of advance orders for personal rocket rides. NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is moving ahead to encourage more commercial entities to provide space transportation, and the agency is moving more aggressively in offering prizes and other innovative procurement techniques.

Perhaps, forty-five years after a race initiated by a socialist-state space program, and 25 years after a failed attempt at our own socialist program, it's time for NASA to support even more vigorously the new space era. The space program should be based on the American values of free enterprise and individualism, not on NASA's failed 5, 10, and 25 year plans.

Indeed.

PARTY LINES AND BORDERLINES: More on immigration over at GlennReynolds.com.

TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDUMBER: I think that Kos is onto something:

The Democratic leadership thinks that the GOP implosion will ipso facto translate to Democratic victories in November. But the electorate is universally disenchanted with politics.

The GOP has proven, time and time again, that it is incapable of governing. But Democrats have not shown they are any different. They do not paint any bright lines between them and us. And they do nothing to motivate the Democratic base to turn out and vote.

My sense of pessimism for November's elections only gets deeper the more elections show lower and lower turnout. Our supporters have stopped giving a shit. They were burned three elections in a row, and seeing nothing different come from the leadership, it has become easier for them to tune out.

(Via The Hotline Blog). The good news for each party is that they only have to run against the other, and not against a competent one. The bad news for each party is that the same thing is true for their opposition. As I've noted before, it's like the Special Olympics of politics or something.

OKAY, I WATCHED THE CHENEY VIDEO and I didn't notice any loud boos. But then, the AP has a history of reporting booing that doesn't show up in the recordings.

UPDATE: Reader Ashby Beal writes:

I was there. I'm not a big fan of the man, but I thought he deserved some applause in his capacity as VPOTUS. In any event, there was a lot of booing throughout his appearance. And it was very noticeable.

And Chris Newbury writes:

I saw (and heard) video on two of the DC local newscasts this morning. There were definitely audible boos but there was also some applause. I think it’s fair to say the boos were more evident in the clips I heard, though. The AP’s headline may be a little overdramatic, but the description in the first paragraph of the wire story seemed accurate to me. I think the reaction to the VP’s presence can be best discribed as mixed.

On the other hand, Matt Gildart was there, and reports:

It was probably hard for the AP reporters to hear the rest of the stadium over the chrous of boos emanating from the press box.

So there you are.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader William Girardot finds the real scandal:

I was more amazed by the lack of spectators for the Nationals' opening day festivities... check out the empty seats in the background of Cheney's photo... that is unheard of here in Detroit for the Tigers. Shame on D.C.! Shame!!!

I hadn't noticed that.

Also, Gildart emails that he wasn't actually there, as I had thought from his earlier email.

JOSH TREVINO responds to a critic: "Is this the best they can do?"

RESULTS ARE UP from The Speculist's Singularity survey.

INDONESIAN MUSLIMS couldn't wait to get their hands on a copy of Playboy. It's a smash hit!

ZIMBABWE UPDATE:

Zimbabwe's rapid economic decline has triggered desperation among city dwellers that could turn planned opposition protests against President Robert Mugabe's government into a potent force.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dramatically raised the stakes last month when he proposed mass protests at a time when the country is battling its worst economic downturn since independence and has the world's highest inflation rate.

"We are on the brink ... and anyone who thinks the political situation is manageable at this rate of economic deterioration is going to be shocked," John Makumbe, a political scientist at Harare's University of Zimbabwe, told Reuters.

"For many people, especially in the urban areas, life has become unaffordable and unbearable and these people are waiting to vent their anger through mass demonstrations," said Makumbe, a critic of the government.

The government, while acknowledging the economic crisis, says it remains optimistic but in private officials say rising prices and unemployment above 70 percent are stoking anger, especially in cities.

Last week Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate, measured through the consumer price index (CPI), jumped to 913.6 percent for the year to March from 782 percent in February.

Interesting. Nobody deserves the Ceaucescu treatment more than Mugabe.

ED MORRISSEY CHARGES FRAUD on a Washington Post bioweapons story. ("Instead of simply reporting that the Pentagon didn't have consensus on this issue and that the minority report wound up being the most accurate, Joby Warrick turns the story into a Geraldo Rivera my-life-is-actually-in-danger type of journalism that substitutes cheap sensationalism for accuracy.") Bob Owens agrees. Related thoughts here.

IN YESTERDAY'S PODCAST, Harold Ford was frustrated with the failure of the Iraqis to finish forming a government. Austin Bay's column today explains why things are taking so long: the quiet war against Muqtada al-Sadr. He's got more about this on his blog, too.

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: THE CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP: So is the Carnival of Education, the Carnival of Homeschooling (no, they're not the same), the Blawg Review, the Carnival of the Capitalists, and, of course, the Carnival of the Cats.

Lots more blog carnivals at BlogCarnival.com.

POPULAR MECHANICS reports on undersea methane hydrates as a potential energy source:

"Thirty years ago, hydrates were a novelty," says Miriam Kastner, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a geochemist on the IODP expedition last fall. "We didn't realize their significance, and no one calculated how much there could be." Then someone began to do the math. Methane bound in hydrates could provide the world with an astounding amount of natural gas--if it could be safely extracted. If released inadvertently, it could cause untold damage: hastening global warming and kick-starting tsunamis by causing seafloor slumping.

Yes, the sudden release of undersea methane was the kickoff for John Barnes' Mother of Storms. Good scenario for a science fiction disaster-thriller, but not something we'd actually want to see.

On a tamer alternative-energy front, here's an article on evolution in plug-in hybrid auto technology.

Me, I favor plug-in hybrids and lots of nice, clean nuclear plants. No greenhouse ramifications there.

G.M. ROPER reminds Republicans that they need his vote. And can't very well count on it.

NANOTECH'S TOXIC SHOCK: My TCS Daily column is up. And yes, it's a bit of an I-told-you-so. Because I did!

April 11, 2006

HAS OPRAH BEEN READING AYN RAND? Better her than James Frey. . . .

GRAND ROUNDS IS UP! Plus, citizen journalism at Power Line.

MAJOR JOHN TAMMES offers linguistic assistance to the AP.

SUPPORTING the troops.

UPDATE: Here, not so much.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Interviewing Harold Ford, Jr.

Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. is running for Senate in Tennessee, and his bus tour took him right past our house. He stopped by for a rare in-studio interview (since we usually do these by phone), and talked about Iraq, Iran, alternative energy, ANWR drilling and nuclear power, gun rights, immigration (he supports the Sensenbrenner bill, and explains why), health care, and more. Including, of course, PorkBusters.

I found it a very interesting interview. We're not on the same page on some issues (I think he's overoptimistic, to put it mildly, about the amount of cooperation we can expect from Russia and China on Iran), but we agree on some others (including the pork). He's a smart guy, and I found him less polished-and-packaged than I'd anticipated; it's easy to see why people expect him to have a big future in politics.

Helen liked the bus, and we sent Rep. Ford off with some reading material to help him pass the hours on the road.

You can listen to the interview directly (no iPod needed!) by clicking right here. You can also get it via iTunes.

You can get a low-fi version, suitable for dialup, cellphones, etc. here, and there's an archive of all our previous podcasts here.

As always, my lovely and talented cohost is soliciting your comments and suggestions.

Music is by Mobius Dick.

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LIBERTY, EQUALITY, MEDIOCRITY.

UPDATE: "A collective loss of Europe's will."

WHEN I LINKED TO KING DORK THE OTHER DAY, I didn't realize that it was by Doktor Frank. Now you really need to buy it.

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VARIOUS PEOPLE have been emailing and asking for pictures of the UT Campus this spring. Alas, I've been so busy that I haven't had much time. But I did manage to take a stroll around campus yesterday with a camera, so here are a few pics.

I'll try to do better as the spring goes on. I had a kind of rough year in 2004-05 and had planned for this academic year to be a take-it-easy year. Instead, I wound up writing a book and several law review articles, and doing assorted other stuff. Not bad, but it's probably about as busy as I've ever been.

That's okay -- I like the work I've done, though I could do without the family medical problems. But you can't operate in "surge" mode every year. You've got to pace yourself.

Now, next year I plan to take it easier. No, really, I do.

Seriously.

No, really.

The Law School Patio

Alongside Strong Hall


Henson Hall


Student Center


Hesler Biology Building

MALE TEACHERS: Victims of sexism? ("Confrontations with suspicious parents are rare, teachers say. That could be because parents who are uncomfortable with a man teaching their children often request a female teacher. Those requests are honored every year by Carol Hughes, principal of Leila G. Davis Elementary in Clearwater.")

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The "Ending Earmarks Express" continues:

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s nationwide “Ending Earmarks Express” bus tour visited Charleston, WV, today for a stop outside U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd’s office. According to the Wall Street Journal, since 2000, Sen. Byrd and U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan (1st Dist. – WV) have helped secure $6 million in earmarks for the Mountain Made Foundation, which operates MountainMade.com, an Amazon.com-style e-commerce website where artisans sell their products. The Journal also reported in a front-page article on Friday that Congressman Mollohan is the subject of a federal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the earmarks he secured for the Mountain Made Foundation and other West Virginia not-for-profit groups.

They've taken on King Pork in his lair!

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF MEDIA GUN COVERAGE is up, and includes some good news for civil rights:

BATON ROUGE -- With little debate, the Senate voted 39-0 Monday for a bill that would prohibit police from confiscating firearms of law-abiding citizens in times of emergencies or disasters.

The vote on Senate Bill 93 by Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, an outdoors enthusiast and gun-rights advocate, sends the measure to the House for debate.

McPherson filed the bill in response to actions by New Orleans area police who confiscated firearms from evacuees during Hurricane Katrina. He said that the federal and state constitutions recognize the right of citizens to bear arms and that a hurricane or an evacuation from a natural disaster or emergency does not eliminate that right.

The New Orleans gun seizures resulted in a successful lawsuit against the New Orleans authorities, but it's nice to see the Louisiana legislature responding, too.

DANIEL GLOVER: "Bloggers Beat The FEC, So Now What?"

HUGH HEWITT: " It is hard to see how the GOP is not like the Titanic, except it is aiming for the iceberg."

WANT TO HELP ZEYAD COME TO AMERICA? Jeff Jarvis explains how.

BOOTED FROM DINNER because of an unflattering blog post: "For 15 years, I've thought of Camille Paglia as an unusually tough and feisty woman. Wasn't she the one who sneered at women who acted like fragile victims?"

iFRIST: Apparently, we're successful podcast evangelists, based on this email from Bill Frist's office:

Senator Frist’s appearances on the Glenn and Helen Show have gotten him excited about podcasting. Today we’re launching our own on the VOLPAC site: iFrist Podcasts.

We’ve got 5 legislative updates up on the site and on iTunes. We’ll be continuing to post these, but we’re most excited about the interactivity of “Majority Leader’s Questions.” Basically, we’ll be soliciting questions on the blog for the Senator to answer unscripted each week. Here’s the link . . . make sure and check out the (hilarious) picture of the Senator with his iPod.

Somebody tell Steve Jobs.

April 10, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: "today's Los Angeles pro-immigrant demonstration--scheduled for 5:00 in the evening--was shockingly small. It filled an interesection and a little park in the Olvera St. section. That's about it. Anybody who says there were more than 12,000 people there is full of it! I'd say 5,000-8,000."

UPDATE: Report from Kansas here, with video here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A report with photos from Newark, Delaware: "In summary, this was a bust attendance-wise. But I'm still glad I went. This event stood out as a sharp contrast to the more spectacular protests elsewhere in the country. No yelling, chanting or megaphones, and the attendees with were all uniformly nice and well-behaved. Their message, however misguided I feel it to be, was free of the communist/socialist/Che/anarchist garbage seen at other events. Perhaps that makes this a unique and notable story."

MORE: Michelle Malkin has posted photos and video from DC.

ANNEX MEXICO? Some thoughts about immigration, over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike. James Lileks' Newhouse column from last week: "The entire illegal immigration problem isn't that difficult. Just annex Mexico. Upside: lots of oil at popular prices. Downside: Once the Mexicans are Americans, they will presumably be unwilling to put up drywall or pick tomatoes, since those are 'jobs Americans will not do.'"

And Dan Riehl has posted an extensive response.

PIERCE WETTER'S MONTHLY ANALYSIS OF THE BROOKINGS DATA FROM IRAQ IS UP. Lots of interesting graphics, and this: "First off, US soldiers killed in Iraq continues to fall. This is the 5th straight month. Even IED deaths, after a brief surge in February are down to their lowest level since I started keeping track. Let me say that again. The #1 cause of death for US soldiers in Iraq was at its lowest level in March."

Read the whole thing, though, as he thinks we're moving into a new phase of the war.

UPDATE: Note, too, that (as mentioned here before) Brookings' civilian casualty figures for last month appear to be incomplete.

MORE INNOCENTS EXONERATED BY DNA EVIDENCE? No matches in the Duke lacrosse case. LaShawn Barber is invoking Tawana Brawley. I think a bigger point is the absurdity of not requring DNA tests to be done in any criminal case where they might be relevant. More at TalkLeft.

UPDATE: "Free the Duke 46!"

Well, they've got a better defense than Mumia.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A later TalkLeft post is here: "If the accuser made up the rape claim, the damage she caused to these young players, to the lacrosse team which had its season cancelled, to Duke University and its reputation and to the team's coach is incalculable. And, it will be a huge stab in the back to true rape victims everywhere, who already fear they won't be believed if they come forward."

Media claims that bloggers run with unsubstantiated stories will also be harmed.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: "Sorry, everybody, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger."

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: You have to love this:

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s nationwide “Ending Earmarks Express” bus tour visited Northeast Ohio today and made a stop at the University of Akron, which recently received $500,000 in federal funding for the “Hard Choices Program,” which teaches students how difficult it is to balance the federal budget.

“We have a great deal of respect for the University of Akron, but we find this particular federal earmark extremely ironic,” said Americans for Prosperity Foundation President Tim Phillips. “Considering that more than $47 billion was spent on earmarked projects last year, we have to wonder if one of the ‘hard choices’ that students learn about is whether or not to stop funding pet projects with earmarks."

Did I mention that they'll be visiting Trent Lott's railroad to nowhere in Mississippi?

ANN COULTER and the Mark of the Beast.

A DISTRACTION FOR THE DEMOCRATS:

West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan's opponent in this year's general election is "holding his feet to the fire" after reports that Mollohan's finances are under investigation and that he may have profited personally from federal funds he helped obtain for various entities.

Chris Wakim, a Republican member of the state House of Delegates from Ohio County, is challenging Mollohan, a Democrat, for his First District congressional seat in November.

The face of that race may be changing now that a federal investigation into Mollohan's personal financial disclosures has been launched.

This makes the "culture of corruption" attack a bit harder. More on Mollohan here.

VIOLENCE REPORTED at the Dallas immigration protests. "I have to say that this incident was a small thing in the whole of the protest, which was, as the papers say, largely peaceful; but had this been a mostly white anti-illegal-immigrant rally and I were a Latino covering it, it would have been in the headlines of the [Dallas Morning News] the following day on page one."

UPDATE: Area reader George Bednekoff emails:

I didn't see the latest Dallas immigration protest on Sunday in person, but the local TV news coverage gave the impression that this was a large crowd with somewhat reasonable concerns that had arguments with a relatively small crowd of reasonable counter-protesters. Unlike earlier protests, this one started at a church, not a school. The main points I noticed follows.

1) The largely Latino crowd protesting the House immigration bill were mostly carrying American flags instead of Mexican flags. They seemed to want to be Americans, not just visiting Mexicans.

2) The counter-protesters were anti-illegal immigration, not anti-immigrant. They were most concerned that illegal immigrants were jumping ahead in line. Legal immigrants from Mexico would be welcome if they follow the same laws and practice of assimilation as other immigrants follow.

3) The protesters were most concerned about illegal immigrants being labeled "felons".

4) Neither side really wants a guest worker program. Both sides want permanent legal immigration with disagreements about numbers of immigrants, fees, etc.

5) Both sides seemed to be frustrated with federal government incompetence.

Our federal government -- a uniter, not a divider!

MORE: Photos from Rochester. A report from San Diego.

MORE STILL: Virginia Postrel, who hasn't been blogging on the subject much at all, does send a link to the D Magazine blog from Dallas, which reports that the march there was "more celebration than protest, and it was a decidedly family affair: babies in strollers, grandmothers carrying flags, teenagers slurping popsicles. U.S. flags outnumbered Mexican flags 15 to 1, and signs like 'Brown is Beautiful' captured a sense of pride that was refreshing and inspiring."

We also learn that Jessica Simpson is a dinosaur. This proves controversial, and then some.

Plus, here are some pictures from New York.

Still more New York pictures here.

STILL MORE: David Hogberg has photos from D.C.

And Byron York reports from DC's rally. Excerpt:

Another unmissable aspect of the rally was the heavy labor union presence. There were lots of signs for the Service Employees International Union, the Laborers Union, UNITE Here, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The various coalitions listed as organizers of the event, like the National Capital Immigration Coalition, appeared to have a lot of union involvement. At the rally, I ran into Harold Meyerson, the liberal, pro-union writer and columnist, and asked him why organized labor was so active in this cause, given many American workers' fear that the presence of illegal immigrants drives down wages. "During the mid- and late 1990s, the unions that were actually still organizing people were realizing that increasingly they were organizing immigrants, many of them illegal, many of them undocumented," Meyerson told me.

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Eric Scheie reports from Philadelphia, with photos. Excerpt:

Much as I hate to sound biased, the fact is, my photographs today seem to favor white yanqui leftists, even though they were in the minority. Perhaps this is because I'm homesick for Berkeley; who knows? . . .

In all fairness, however, I don't think too many members of the crowd were into socialismo. They know it didn't work all that well in Mexico, and who knows? it may be a reason why so many of them came here.

Read the whole thing.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: Back to Iraq.

GOOD NEWS: "Two of every three eligible soldiers continue to re-enlist, putting the Army, which has endured most of the fighting in Iraq, ahead of its annual goal. The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31."

UPDATE: Reader Tom Barry emails:

Perhaps you would like to compare and contrast the US Army's ability to meet its recruiting goals versus major newspapers ability to match their circulation goals from the prior year? Guess which one is doing better?

I guess it's a matter of trust.

DARFUR UPDATE: Why don't black Americans show more interest?

ANN ALTHOUSE: "Stanley Fish has a blog . . . And he's blogging about Scalia. Don't you want to link to it? But you can't! The NYT has put Fish in an aquarium: on TimesSelect, which makes him irrelevant in the great oceans of the blogosphere. Sigh."

SO I GUESS KYOTO WORKED, THEN: "Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase."

UPDATE: Canada is abandoning Kyoto. Just when it was starting to work!

FRANCE SURRENDERS: Here's a roundup.

SOMEHOW I, ER, OVERLOOKED Cleavage Day.

IT'S LOOKING BAD FOR BERLUSCONI, judging by the exit polls.

UPDATE: Could the exit polls be wrong?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Berlusconi now seems to have pulled ahead.

MORE: Reader Gene Dillenburg says he has a safe prediction:

If Berlusconi loses, it will be a referendum on Italy's involvement in Iraq. If he wins, it will be due to some obscure domestic issues.

Interestingly, when the exit polls had Prodi ahead, it was a lead item on Yahoo news. As the results drew closer, it had dropped off the front page (though now it is back as "too close to call").

Stay tuned.

SCIENCE FICTION UPDATE: Over the weekend, I read Joe Haldeman's Old Twentieth. I thought it was pretty good -- with an interesting "frame" about anti-aging technology, which I'll write more about later -- but as with the last Haldeman novel I read, Camouflage, the ending seemed rather abrupt and a bit unsatisfying. Still, I enjoyed it. I'd rather it had run 50 pages more and wrapped up smoothly, though.

STRATEGYPAGE doesn't think much of the Seymour Hersh Iran story:

American journalists and politicians, who are hostile to American operations in Iraq, are pushing a story that the U.S. is planning to use nuclear weapons for an attack on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. They offer no proof, and no explanation of how an American president would hope to survive the diplomatic fallout from using nuclear weapons for the first time since 1945. Iran loves these stories, because it enables the Islamic conservatives to make any democratic reformers appear unpatriotic for wanting free elections like those in the United States.

Thanks, guys! Meanwhile, here's the regular war news roundup over at Winds of Change.

THE SPECULIST'S "FAST FORWARD RADIO" interviews Jim Bennett about the Anglosphere, China, and more. They're also shamelessly shilling for podcast advertisers. Hey, why didn't I think of that?

INEQUALITY among the little people.

IN A FRONT-PAGE STORY, NEIL MUNRO OF THE NATIONAL JOURNAL looks at fake war photos in the media. It turns out that a lot of media folks are running bogus photos -- which coincidentally tend to reflect badly on the war -- and not facing much accountability for it. (No subscription required.)

Read the whole thing, and remember this the next time some Big Media type criticizes blogs as unreliable.

UPDATE: Reader Russ Emerson emails:

The editorial staffs of the major media outlets would benefit from having veterans or other knowledgable people involved in vetting (no pun intended) photos and other material.

For instance, even though I was not in the artillery during my Army service, I could instantly see that the photo referred to in the second paragraph of the article ("a piece of military equipment placed on a damaged stone wall, flanked by a solemn old man and a young boy") was in no way what was claimed: remnants of a missile attack. Any veteran, or indeed any reasonably smart person who watches the History Channel, could have told an editor that the photo was not what it purported to be.

In the networking industry, every company I know of has what are known as "subject matter experts" - people with long experience and a breadth and depth of knowledge in their fields that makes them the "go-to guys" on technical matters. It might behoove the media to avail themselves of the services of some military SMEs on a regular basis - something more than the retired generals doing 5-minute guest spots on CNN or Fox News.

Would the NYT put a tone-deaf reporter on the music beat? Would they put someone with no knowledge of football on the sports desk?

Of course not. Yet they seem to think they can adequately cover military matters by assigning a reporter to watch "Apocalypse Now" and "Platoon" and then sending them thus-equipped to park their butts in the Baghdad Hilton.

It makes me glad there's a Michael Yon.

They're not all that bad, but overall the performance of the press in this war has been marked by dangerous incompetence. We need journalists who are smart and tough!

ANN ALTHOUSE: "So a depressed loner commits commits suicide and a friendless woman succumbs to old age, and you, you sensitive poet, show up to use their funerals as a political platform against the people who are outraged by the murder of Theo van Gogh?"

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEWS AGAIN: And it's presented as an amazing scoop!

BLOGGER TO RUN AGAINST CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: The momentum is building.

MARC COOPER WRITES on Democrats and immigration. He's not happy.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, John Hawkins is unhappy with Republicans, as is Bill Quick, and Michelle Malkin is just plain unhappy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And be sure to read this Mark Steyn column, too.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: John Fund writes about Republican spending problems:

Republicans should have learned from the reaction of their core voters to last fall's pork-stuffed transportation bill and the bloated Hurricane Katrina relief measure that excess spending was driving their base crazy. Earmarks--home-state projects slipped into budget bills without adequate review or transparency--became a dirty political word, led by the infamous $220 million Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

Apparently the lesson hasn't sunk in, especially with porkmeister Jerry Lewis of California, chair of the House Appropriations Committee:

After tough negotiations, a deal was finally struck between GOP leaders and the reformers. First, members would have to have their names attached to individual earmarks. Second, projects that had not been included in either House or Senate bills but were created out of conference reports negotiated between the two parties would be subject to a debate and vote on the House floor. Simple transparency and accountability, you would think.

But not to House Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis. "The appropriators deep-sixed it," Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told National Journal. "They're taking their toys and going home." Last Thursday at 6:20 p.m., Mr. Lewis's staff sent out an e-mail declaring that the reforms were unacceptable and trod on the prerogatives of the powerful committee, which is known as "Congress' favor factory."

In his email, Dave Gibbons, an Appropriations Committee staffer, told fellow committee staffers that Mr. Lewis "will NOT SUPPORT passage of the RULE and/or the BUDGET RESOLUTION tomorrow. He also requested that you inform your members of his position in this regard and asks that they likewise support the Committee." Mr. Lewis followed up with his own statement saying it was "unfortunate that the whims of a few would prevent the overwhelming majority of our members" from passing a budget.

"Lewis's move is political suicide for the party," one top GOP official told me. "He is putting his self-interest ahead of the GOP caucus, the party and the country. If the president and Speaker [Dennis] Hastert don't shut him down, then any pretense we are a reform party goes out the window." . . . From their scramble to ram through a national legislative solution to Terri Schiavo's plight, to their overreaction to Hurricane Katrina, to their failure to recognize the public's disgust with pork-barrel projects, to the Dubai Ports deal, Republicans have appeared to the world to be as unprincipled and rudderless as the politicians they campaigned against back in 1994. Unless they change course dramatically in the seven months between now and Election Day, they may well find themselves facing the same fate as the Democratic political dinosaurs of that year that they replaced.

I hope somebody talks to Hastert about this. Otherwise, well, there are Democrats who are supporting these kinds of reforms.

UPDATE: More bad indicators for Republicans. The question is whether they'll be inspired to take corrective action, or panicked into doing something stupid. I know which way to bet, but . . .

April 09, 2006

POWER LINE is trying an experiment in citizen journalism revolving around tomorrow's immigration demonstrations: "We're encouraging our readers, and anyone else who is able, to attend the demonstration in your city and record what you see. Send your videos to us, and we'll put up a cross-section of interesting footage--assuming, of course, that we get some. It will be interesting to compare the first-hand observations of citizens with cameras to news accounts." Read the whole thing if you're interested.

ED DRISCOLL IS PODCASTING: His first show has an interview with Stephen Green.

And while you're at it, read this post from Stephen for the anniversary of the Iraq war.

UPDATE: The Wizbang podcast is up.

A HUGE TURNOUT in the Italian elections.

WHERE ARE THE MODERATE MUSLIMS? "They are out there, I suspect; in larger numbers than we might be led to believe. But if most are silent and fearful of speaking out, can you blame them?"

We need to make the moderates feel safer -- and the extremists much more nervous. That's why things like the pandering response to the Cartoon Wars, by everyone from Borders to the Bush Administration, are exactly wrong. Plus, there's this:

The pandering has escalated: Last month, Columbia University held a conference that included as a “highlight” a video of Libyan dictator Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi presenting “his views on the prospects for democracy in the twenty-first century.” Columbia's teachers and administrators are apparently untroubled by the fact that Libya's leading dissident, Fathi Eljami, is currently rotting in one of Qaddafi's dungeons.

And in Tunisia, democracy advocate Neila Charchour Hachicha is under police surveillance -- her phone and internet connections severed, her car confiscated, her daughter threatened and her husband in prison. What did she do to deserve such punishment? It's not clear, but she did give an interview to Middle East Quarterly (www.meforum.org/article/732) about impediments to reform in Tunisia and she spoke at the “neo-con” American Enterprise Institute about the need for democracy in the Middle East.

The routine imprisonment and torture of dissidents in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia almost never prompts UN officials to consider interfering -- or even criticizing. Once in a while, a Western diplomat expresses concern.

“I keep hearing, 'Why are liberals silent?'” Said al-Ashmawy, an Egyptian judge and author, recently said. "How can we write? Who is going to protect me?”

If we in the West ever want to have allies in Arab and Muslim countries, we'll need to start supporting moderates -- and stop empowering their oppressors. Most immediately, it would be useful if American ambassadors in Muslim countries would welcome dissidents to their offices as they do cabinet ministers. And perhaps Columbia University President Lee Bollinger – whose “primary teaching and scholarly interests are focused on free speech and First Amendment issues” -- might recognize how his institution has been compromised and at least express concern.

You'd think.

UPDATE: James Somers emails:

It is indeed passing strange that so many people who might be expected to sympathize with moderate Muslims - the Bush Administration, bookstores, the media, and other governments, to name a few examples - should undertake so consistently to undercut the many moderate Muslims out there, while appeasing a handful of terrorists. Perhaps the reason they've done this is because they don't really believe their own oft-proclaimed cliche: that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that the periodic acts of terrorism done in its name over the past few decades are the acts of a handful of extremists. If those in our society with the easiest access to influential megaphones don't believe their own cliche, that's sad. I happen to think the cliche is true. But tolerance needs good soil to, well, grow more tolerance, and so it's very unfortunate that intolerance is what's usually being brooked these days.

Indeed.

MORE CONDI RICE PHOTO FUNNIES? Jeez.

UPDATE: Laura Lee Donoho was on this story even earlier.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Joe Malchow says it's a false alarm: "To me, it looks like an artist’s rendering, albeit a misleadingly photorealistic one."

A WHILE BACK, I mentioned William Gurstelle's Adventures from the Technology Underground.

I've got a review of the book in today's New York Post, using his book as a springboard to talk about science education (and science and engineering practice) today, and how they've lost some of the sense of fun they used to have.

Gurstelle is also the author of Backyard Ballistics, which a lot of InstaPundit readers seem to like.

THREE YEARS AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM, an Iraqi march against Al Qaeda.

MARTIN PERETZ: "Kerry asserted that 'the Koran, the Torah, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles had influenced a social conscience that he exercised in politics.' My God, what bullshit politicians feel obliged to utter! Or maybe the bullshit is already second nature, or even first. But since Kerry raised it, let me ask: What hadith of the Prophet influenced him the most, and why?"

DARFUR UPDATE:

The continuing raids by Sudanese tribesmen have sent over 50,000 Chad civilians fleeing from their villages. Some of the Sudanese raiders belong to tribes with branches in Chad. Same thing with the victims. Like Sudan, Chad has tribes that consider themselves Arab, while others consider themselves just African. There has always been animosity between the two groups, although intermarriage, rape and slavery have resulted in both groups looking much alike, and sharing languages and customs.

Sudan continues to receive the support of other Arab nations, especially Egypt. The Arab nations oppose bringing in UN, and especially European, peacekeepers. This would offend the dignity of the Arab world (the way overthrowing Saddam Hussein did), thus the Arabs allow the ethnic cleansing of Darfur to continue, even though the victims are Moslem. These attacks are less painful to Arabs because the victims are black Africans, who have always been held in low esteem by Arabs, even if the Africans are Moslem. . . . a coalition of Arab and Moslem nations, plus China (which wants to protect its business interests in Sudan), block any too aggressive operations by the UN.

So much for "never again." And for the U.N.

ANDREW SULLIVAN links this story from The Guardian on how prisoners released from Guantanamo thought it was pretty nice. Excerpt:

On January 29, Asadullah and two other juvenile prisoners were returned home to Afghanistan. The three boys are not sure of their ages. But, according to the estimate of the Red Cross, Asadullah is the youngest, aged 12 at the time of his arrest. The second youngest, Naqibullah, was arrested with him, aged perhaps 13, while the third boy, Mohammed Ismail, was a child at the time of his separate arrest, but probably isn't now.

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

It's a good story. It's also from March of 2004 (here's my post from back then), which is why I've been rather skeptical, in the interim, of accounts that Guantanamo was some sort of torture-house. Yes, these are juveniles, not adults -- but for those who have been portraying the entire enterprise as depraved and vicious, it's hardly support, is it? And this other oldie but goodie -- about released prisoners having gained weight in the facility, from Slate -- isn't about juveniles.

Then there's this, from an OSCE official: "'At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons,' said Alain Grignard, the deputy head of Brussels' federal police anti-terrorism unit. Grignard, who is also a professor of Islam at the University of Liege, served as an expert to a group of lawmakers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on a visit to Guantanamo Bay last week."

That's from March of this year. Didn't get much attention, though. Maybe by March of 2008. Meanwhile, perhaps human rights activists will turn their attention from Guantanamo to places where it might actually do some good:

European politicians and human rights groups have repeatedly rapped the U.S. military for its treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. But this torrent of criticism was undermined last month by a report on French prisons by the Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights organization. The author of the report, human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil Robles, said France had the shabbiest prisons of any country he had visited, with the exception of Moldova.

But what's to gain from that?

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)'s office sent me this by Ford on pork:

A bipartisan problem demands a bipartisan solution. In that spirit, I offer several ideas to give Americans the best value for their tax dollars.

First, institute a "stand by your earmark" rule. If a member of Congress wants to insert an earmark into a bill at the final stage of the legislative process, he should be forced to sign his name to the provision and explain why it is in the interests of the nation as a whole. This rule would prevent special-interest favors from being slipped into bills at the last minute with no one claiming responsibility.

At the same time, members of Congress would have a chance to defend projects that have genuine value. For example, I would be proud to stand up and persuade my colleagues that it was worthwhile to invest the $1 million in federal money that was approved last year for LeMoyne-Owen College's juvenile asthma research program, which is benefiting the entire nation.

Second, the secretive nature of lobbying is one of the main reasons Congress spends money on projects that serve special interests at the expense of the national interest. Lobbyists should be required to disclose who all of their clients are and what specific provisions they are lobbying for.

Third, we should institute a rule that any new spending has to be offset somewhere else in the budget. Requiring Congress to balance its books every year -- like any business or family -- would force us to separate national needs from political luxuries.

Fourth, this very simple idea might be the most effective: Let the American people read bills before Congress votes on them. Post the entire text of the bills, including every pork project and special-interest provision, on the Internet for all to see, for at least 72 hours before the vote.

Forcing members of Congress to defend the indefensible would make them think twice before wasting taxpayer dollars.

This sounds pretty good -- it's basically the PorkBusters legislative program -- and I hope to talk to Ford (who's running for Senate now) about this in the near future.

UPDATE: Chattanooga reader C.G. Browning is skeptical:

Everything Ford writes is an excellent idea. Does anyone think he could possibly get enough support for just one, I repeat, just one of these ideas to become a reality?

I don’t think so and neither does Mr. Ford. Government spending is conducted in secret and will remain so to keep the ones in power, in power.

I think it's possible to change dynamics like that, if you pick the right moment. And I think that this may be the right moment. It's certainly worth a try. The history of politics in this country, after all, is a history of things that nobody ever thought could be changed, changing.

DAN RIEHL says that media reports of U.S. nuclear plans against Iran are highly exaggerated: "There's far too much in the Hersh piece to simply jump to the headline or conclusion - Bush Is Going Nuclear On Iran. Unfortunately, that didn't stop Think Progress, or the AP. But then both outlets appear to have a tendency to go nuclear on Bush."

It's also worth noting that Hersh's track record in this war hasn't been exactly stellar.

UPDATE: A warning from Ralph Peters: "The most dangerous error we could make in our sharpening confrontation with Iran is to convince ourselves that its leaders will act rationally."

THE DAY THE STATUE FELL: Winds of Change marks the three-year anniversary of Baghdad's liberation from Saddam. Meanwhile, StrategyPage looks at what's going on now.

UPDATE: More anniversary thoughts from Judith Weiss.

And don't miss this guest post from a Gold Star Mother. She has "absolute moral authority."

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