Archive for July, 2006

July 31, 2006

CASTRO IS STEPPING DOWN TEMPORARILY due to illness, and handing the reins of power over to his brother. From what I know about Castro, I’d guess he must be really damn sick. Not that I wish anyone (even Castro) dead, but it will be interesting to see what follows his demise. I doubt the communist regime will long survive its founder.

July 31, 2006

FIDEL CASTRO (temporarily) handed power over to his brother Raul.

July 31, 2006

PROTEST LITE: 1/3 less hunger in your hunger strikes:

Was a time when fasting at the very least meant eating less. But while our soldiers are sacrificing their lives for freedom, their detractors don’t seem to be to keen on sacrificing anything at all. Thus we have the Cindy Sheehan “hunger strike,” which allows smoothies, coffee with vanilla ice cream, and Jamba Juice. . .

Now the peacenik group CodePink, according to the Washington Post, “has issued a nationwide call for people to go on at least a partial hunger strike, if only for a few hours, to show their opposition to the war in Iraq.” Partial? For a few hours? Does that mean if you were planning on having two Twinkies and a bag of chips between lunch and dinner you should cut out one of the Twinkies? The life of a war protestor is a harsh one indeed!

I have a friend who is both a peacenik, and an observant Jew; she has made fun of me more than once in the past about the wimpy Catholic notion of what a fast entails. But this makes the official RC “one meal and one snack” look positively spartan. I’ll finally be able to hold my head high again . . .

July 31, 2006

LEBANON’S FOREIGN MINISTER Tareq Mitri proposes the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south and the disarmament of all non-state militias. No word yet on whether or not Hezbollah finds this acceptable.

July 31, 2006

MICHAEL YOUNG interviews Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is now being threatened by Hezbollah as well as Syria.

July 31, 2006

HOW TO AVOID A BLOGOSPHERE SCANDAL: The title of a helpful series from LaShawn Barber. [Is she trying to tell you something?--Ed.] Don’t be snarky just because Glenn didn’t take you on his trip!

July 31, 2006

HEZBOLLAH’S NEXT MOVE? “Ali” from Hezbollah says Lebanese politicians are “next” after Israel withdraws:

And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hizbullah will have other battles to fight. “The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let’s finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later.”

July 31, 2006

REAL SIMPLE: George Jonas explains what ought to be obvious:

I’ve stumbled upon the secret of the countries Israel has never bombed or invaded. Different as they may be from one another, they have one thing in common. These countries have never bombed or invaded Israel…No matter how much you detest Israelites in particular, or Jews in general, as long as you can content yourself with calling on God’s wrath to rain down on the Jewish State, and refrain from reinforcing your prayer by supplying missiles to Hezbollah, you can exercise your religious freedom of loathing with no other consequence than perhaps being loathed in return.

July 31, 2006

HEZBOLLAH lauds Mel Gibson. (This is a joke, by the way. Sort of…)

July 31, 2006

VOICE OF REASON: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun, a murky figure who entangles himself in sometimes bizarre and counterproductive internal Lebanese alliances, emerges as a voice of reason and offers a way out.

July 31, 2006

JONATHAN TAYLOR AT PUBLIUS PUNDIT wonders if George W. Bush is serious about democracy promotion after recent events in Lebanon and Ukraine.

July 31, 2006

IT LOOKS GRUESOME IN LEBANON, but Iran is nervous too. (Thanks to Tony Badran for the heads up.)

July 31, 2006

LISA GOLDMAN has the story of the (now strained) friendship between the editor of Time Out Tel Aviv and Time Out Beirut. They recently met in Cyprus and hit it off instantly. Then the war came.

July 31, 2006

THANKS TO GLENN for inviting me to be one fourth of Instapundit again. I’ll be covering the Middle East, for the most part, as I usually do on my own blog. There is no shortage of material this week…

July 31, 2006

IF DOGS COULD TALK: I suspect that a lot of them would say something like this.

July 31, 2006

FRINGE CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY GOES HOLLYWOOD: The producer of movies like Trading Places has released a “documentary” that parrots the usual claims from tax protestors about how taxes are “voluntary” and that the federal government has perpetrated a massive fraud to collect incomes taxes. David Cay Johnston describes the movie and its, um, casual use of facts here. My favorite: “Not mentioned in the film is that Mr. Russo has more than $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, California and New York for unpaid federal and state taxes. Mr. Russo declined to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film.” Oh, okay. No reason to doubt his objectivity, then.

July 31, 2006

WHATEVER YOUR VIEWS on the relative justness of the Israeli and Palestinian/Arab causes, I think it’s becoming clear that for Israel, the Lebanese campaign has been a disaster.

Hizbullah is now unequivocally calling the shots in Lebanese domestic politics. Nasrallah is king. And after an attack like this, on a place like Qana that has such symbolism to the Lebanese people, it could hardly be otherwise. . . .

The attack has, in effect, blasted away Hizbullah’s domestic political constraints while tightening both the domestic and international ones on Israel. That may not be fair, but these are the conditions Israel has to fight under. It knew those rules going in, and ignored them at its peril.

Though Americans tend to lump them all into “Islamoterrorists”, Hizbullah, Hamas and Al Qaeda are in fact three very different organisations. My perception is that Israel was slowly gaining some traction in Europe (as well as a lot in America), by the perception that it was fighting Islamic terrorists who target civilians.

Unfortunately, in this conflict, Israel responded to a Hizbollah attack on a military target by killing huge numbers of Lebanese civilians. They may be collateral damage, rather than targets, but in the eyes of the world proportionality matters–you don’t nuke a neighbourhood to catch a shoplifter.

The massive response gave Hizbollah, which has restricted its attacks mostly (not entirely) to military targets in recent years, the cover to launch attacks on civilian neighbourhoods as “tit-for-tat”. I am not in any way justifying deliberately targeting civilians, but Israel’s stated aim of using violence to pressure the Lebanese people to reject Hizbollah has eroded the moral edge it normally enjoys over Hamas.

And whether or not Israel has a right to invade Lebanon (a question on which I doubt anyone is open to persuasion), it is hard to imagine a single goal that Israel has achieved by it. Stopping rockets from landing on Haifa? The rockets started after the invasion. Eroding Hizbollah’s power? Open confrontation has made Hizbollah a hero in the Arab world, and driven even Lebanese factions historically opposed to Hizbollah to supporting them. And the tragedy at Qana is being laid, rightly or wrongly, at Israel’s door, making it harder and harder for the US to maintain its support. Diminishing Syrian influence in Lebanon? Syrian power in the area is growing by the day as the fragile Lebanese government struggles to keep order.

This has led many of the journalists I know into elaborate conspiracy theories about what Israel “really” wanted to achieve. This strikes me as a sort of perverse variant of the Elders of Zion wingnuttery, as if the Israelis are so omnipowerful that any apparent difficulties are merely another chess move in their unstoppable plan to dominate the Middle East. Israel is ruled by a government, which is to say, an entity nearly perfectly engineered for generating mistakes. The parsimonious explanation for the quagmire situation in Lebanon is that the Israeli government was expecting very different results from the ones they got.

Update Michael Young thinks Hizbollah has overreached.

July 31, 2006

PERSPECTIVE, PLEASE: Mitt Romney apologized for using the term “tar baby” to describe the Big Dig debacle. Can we save the public shaming for public officials who actually intend their comments to be offensive? Like, say, Mel Gibson?

July 31, 2006

ABOUT THE ONLY nice thing that one can say about Mel Gibson right now is that the statement he released hits the nail right on the head:

I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.

At least he didn’t take the usual famous-person tack of pretending he meant to say something entirely different from “I hate Jews”, or that it was all a giant misunderstanding due to his insufficient sensitivity to religious issues. Of course, that’s really very small comfort.

July 31, 2006

ISLAMIC BLOGGERS Ali Eteraz posts a letter from an American in Ramallah. And Aziz Poonwalla mourns that “Hizbollah has won. Again.

Update Why would I post a link to that letter from Ramallah? demand correspondants. Well, because the “warbloggers” tend to get a lot more information from people on the ground in Israel than those on the ground in Ramallah or Beirut. One of the unfortunate aspects of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is that the information blogs are best at generating–informal, personal descriptions and analysis of events–are only available from people who are pretty heavily biased on one side or the other of the conflict. Palestinian activists don’t vacation in Haifa, and people with strongly pro-Israel views are rarely found in Ramallah, at least without tanks and air support. Thus, the only way to get eyewitness accounts is to take them from people with a huge axe to grind.

July 31, 2006

FINALLY, someone is offering a workable, low-cost solution to the problems in the Middle East:

During the several days that it was 112 degrees and I had no AC, all I wanted to do was build an IED and kill the AC guy who kept driving right past my office and helping other people. In fact, I wanted to kill everyone who didn’t agree with me on just about any point whatsoever.

And I realized that the problem with the Middle East is insufficient AC. If you think about it, virtually all of the organized violence in the world is originating from places where they have poor air conditioning. And in the desert, 112 degrees is considered a pleasant day. Imagine how grumpy you would be at 125 degrees. And guess what I never see on TV when they show footage of the Middle East?

Shade.

Every frickin’ person they interview in the Middle East is standing directly in the sun. Some shade would be a good step toward world peace.

July 31, 2006

PERSONAL NOTES: I’m American, but I tend to drop British spellings all over the place, because I work for a British magazine, and do most of my typing in Limey. I apologize to those who are even now composing sharp notes about the horrors of extra u’s, but I’m afraid I can’t help it. If it is true that women have smaller brains, the chunk that is missing from mine is the bit that would hold an extra set of spellings for daily use. Having painfully converted myself to automatically supply “travelled” and “centre” in the place of the good, old-fashioned American forms, I cannot easily switch back. If it bothers you, try to think of it as taking a little spelling vacation.

Also, if anyone wants to email me, rather than the Instapundit mailbox, you can do so at janegalt -at sign- janegalt.net.

July 31, 2006

OH HAPPY DAY: Aaron Haspel’s literary blog, God of the Machine, is back, with a snazzy new design. Despite his appalling habit of betting on a weak Texas Hold’em hand just to make everyone else at the table pay to see the flop, he’s well worth reading.

July 31, 2006

THERE’S GENERAL AGREEMENT among economists (and most economic journalists) that the American labour market isn’t nearly as strong as we would expect it to be at this point in the business cycle. Unemployment figures are, to be sure, quite low, but in part that is because a number of people have dropped out of the labour force; both the labour force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio are at least a full percentage point below what they were in the late 1990′s. Median wages have stagnated since that time, indicating that labour demand is weaker than you would think if you just looked at the “headline” unemployment figure of 4.6%. One of my colleagues argues that this is because of competition from improving technology and (yes) outsourcing; anyone who has a job that can be routinized is in trouble. This includes a whole lot of white collar workers who used to have relatively secure and lucrative jobs; globalization seems to be making the poor better off at the expense of the middle class. The loss of those jobs isn’t a tragedy for the economy, of course; eventually, they will be replaced by better jobs, just as jobs weaving cotton cloth and braiding buggy whips were. But in the short term, it can be awfully hard on people who thought they had a safe living.

Andrew Samwick talks about one of the reasons that this dislocation is hitting the participation figures so hard: men are living off savings or spouses or going on disability rather than accept lower-paying, lower-status jobs. It seems to me that we used to have a society in which going on disability was more stigmatized than taking a job pumping gas. Has that changed?

July 31, 2006

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Megan McArdle, and I’ll be your resident econblogger for the week (as well as a hefty dose of everything else–I’m a dilettante.)

I’m an economics journalist by profession, so as you might imagine, I spend rather a lot of time reading economics blogs. One of the best out there is Econlog, written by Bryan Caplan and Arnold Kling. You never imagined economics could be applied to so many questions, such as: why happiness researchers want you to commit suicide, and an inquiry into why LA has so many liquor stores, when big box retailers are allowed to sell liquor there (unlike Virginia, his current state of residence, and my own beloved New York State).

If I didn’t know anything else about these states, I would predict that California’s grocery stores would dominate the liquor market. Why make a special trip to a seedy liquor store when you can buy tequila at CostCo during your weekly shopping?

But this prediction is way off. The blatant fact is that there are seedy liquor stores on virtually every commercial street corner in Los Angeles. People are free to buy their liquor in regular grocery stores, but for reasons I can’t grasp, grocery stores only seem to have a modest slice of the market.

Another way to think about this Los Angeles Liquor Puzzle: It seems like the Wal-Mart model should be working, but it’s not. The mom-and-pop liquor stores are thriving in the face of big(ger) box competition.

The comments are also fun; in the post on finding yourself that very special mail-order bride to share your life, commenter Kedar weighs in with some . . . er . . . economic analysis:

Arranged marriage lasts longer. Success rate is also higher. It is a good idea to ask relatives find someone you will see only at the wedding. Love starts at the wedding and it takes time to reach the peak of love and also time to fall. So it takes time for the marginal cost to outweigh marginal benefit of marriage.

I’m imagining a proposal along these lines: “Hey, I calculated that it would take 37 years for the marginal cost of living together to exceed the marginal benefit! What do you think?”

But the image isn’t nearly as compelling as picturing the look on my relatives’ faces if I asked them to “find me someone I will see only at the wedding”.

Not to mention the look on my face when I got my first glimpse of what they’d picked out.

July 31, 2006

I wanted to thank Glenn for inviting me to guestblog this week. I look forward to hearing what’s on my co-guest-bloggers’ minds as well. I’ve just started grading my summer school exams today, but later today I’ll post about the emerging phenomemon of the law professor novelist.

July 31, 2006

HAVE A GREAT TRIP, GLENN. And thanks for inviting me back. Hi to Megan, Michael, and Brannon.

I’m in the process of returning from a trip myself. I was just in San Jose for the BlogHer conference. Did you know women bloggers have our own meetings? Do you think anyone complained about how male bloggers dominate and how they don’t link to women bloggers? It was nice to be on a panel in front of a large group when someone did, because it gave me a chance to say that hasn’t been my experience at all. Glenn’s name came up.

My panel was about political blogging, and my take on political blogging is that I’m surprised to find myself doing it at all, because I’d never seen myself as the political type, and I certainly don’t blog to push a political agenda. I blog to see what I think and for the sheer joy of self-expression. One of my co-panelists was Lindsay Beyerstein, who might think I’m just posing as the nonpolitical type. She says:

My only regret was that the discussion was more discursive than adversarial. I was hoping for a vigorous debate about the norms of citizen journalism, or the role of the netroots in ’06, or the latest controversies in the political blogosphere. Instead, we focused more on our personal approaches to blogging, our subject matter, and the balance between the personal and political facets of our writing

That amused me, because makes it sound as though we were in some stereotypical women’s mode, but in fact, I read it as a criticism of me. But it wasn’t just me. With our deft moderator Lisa Williams, we really were talking about how we feel about blogging. Maybe some of the conference-goers who opted for one of the other panels — on art and knitting and “transforming your life” and “staying naked” — would have liked our panel more than they thought. And maybe some of those who came to our panel were, like Lindsay, frustrated that we didn’t have more to say about netroots and campaigns.

One thing we did talk about was hyper-local blogging. There are some blogs that are completely focused on one place. Lisa’s blog is all about Watertown. One panelist, Courtney Hollands, writes only about Plymouth. Another, Jarah Euston writes only about Fresno. I’m impressed. I like to write about my city, Madison, Wisconsin, but only as one of many things. Kety Esquivel keeps her focus on a political-spiritual place — she’s progressive and Christian. It takes resolve to fix your perspective like that. It’s not the way I like to blog, but in blogging, there are many paths.

July 31, 2006

I’LL BE OFF ON TRAVEL for the next week, and it’s my intention to be offline the whole time. I think I’m ready for a vacation from the blogosphere, and the news, so I can be back rested and ready for my fifth bloggiversary, which comes August 8.

But things will be hopping here, with my usual guestbloggers — Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten — plus a new one, law professor Brannon Denning.

Heck, things will probably be so interesting that you won’t want me to come back! But I will anyway. Sorry. . . .

July 31, 2006

HEH: “If a drunken Mel Gibson did indeed call out, ‘Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,’ then there can be only one possible place for a man who believes such things: as the next Secretary General of the United Nations.”

July 31, 2006

JEROME ARMSTRONG defends himself, in response to the Patrick Hynes kerfuffle.

July 30, 2006

PREPARING FOR BIOTERROR: I certainly hope we never need to be prepared, but I suspect that it’s a matter of when more than if. Plus, some of these preparations might be useful in the case of natural epidemics. This is certainly another of those areas where it would be nice if we could trust international organizations more.

July 30, 2006

JEFF JARVIS: “So I took my unsuspecting teenage son to see Woody Allen’s Scoop and here’s the funniest part: The entire audience was geriatric. There wasn’t a person in the theater — in a decent crowd, by the way — who wasn’t under 50 and most won’t see 60 again. . . . Woody Allen is the newspaper of film directors: His audience is dying off.”

The audience reaction seems lukewarm. The good news for Woody: At least people are living longer!

July 30, 2006

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: This week’s Blawg Review is up, and it’s hosted by Jeremy Blachman, author of Anonymous Lawyer. There’s also this week’s Haveil Havalim, and Radiology Grand Rounds. Plus, the Carnival of Cordite, and, naturally, the Carnival of the Cats.

And, of course, don’t miss the Carnival of the Recipes!

Don’t miss all the carnivals collected at BlogCarnival.com.

July 30, 2006

I’M NOT COMFORTED BY THIS NEWS:

The first commercial flight in a decade departed Mogadishu’s newly reopened international airport Sunday, demonstrating how Islamic militants have pacified the once-anarchic capital and much of southern Somalia. . . . Now, Islamic militiamen are guarding the airport for commercial passengers, said Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group.

Somalia looks like a defeat for the good guys.

July 30, 2006

JOHN MCCAIN’S SON has joined the Marines.

July 30, 2006

SO IN THE MAIL the other day I got this book by Jacob Hacker, which looks like a testbed for 2008 Democratic domestic policy themes. The question is, would we be better off if the U.S. labor market looked more like, say, France’s? Less risk for employees, yes, but . . . .

I wonder what Gene Sperling would say.

July 30, 2006

CHESTER TRIES TO DECIDE WHETHER TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL: Much commentary ensues, including this item at the WSJ law blog.

My take: Now that a standard B.A. is worth about what a high school diploma used to be — an entry ticket, and no more — a law degree is probably the closest graduate analog to what a liberal arts B.A. used to be. It’s good for a lot of things besides law. But, like a liberal arts degree, it’s not for everyone. An M.B.A. does something similar, though perhaps a bit narrower, but does it in two years.

But be sure you scroll down to read the comments of Tucker Max, especially the part about student loan debt. I regularly see students who blithely take on a lot of debt in school, and are then surprised at how it limits their choices later. Student Loan debt isn’t always bad, but you should take it very seriously.

Finally, while I know some lawyers who are happy, most aren’t. It’s possible, of course, that they’re the kind of people who weren’t really happy before they became lawyers — not surprisingly, the field has an attraction to people who like to complain. But it’s also true that older lawyers seem to enjoy it more — and to have enjoyed it more when they were new at it — than today’s lawyers. I think the practice of law is substantially less enjoyable than it used to be, even if it’s sometimes more lucrative. That said, I actually liked practicing law when I worked for Dewey, Ballantine. But if I were still there today, I might not like it as much.

July 30, 2006

MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE WE’RE DRIVING FASTER?

American drivers are reporting fewer crashes to their insurance companies than ever before, and nobody knows precisely why.

Fewer claims mean record profits for auto insurers like Allstate Corp. and State Farm Insurance Cos. . . .

But behind the profit boon lies a mystery: Insurers can’t explain the drop in auto claims. And while theories abound, the lack of a clear, identifiable reason is unsettling in an industry that relies on sophisticated statistical modeling to predict its claim payouts. Those predictions are used to set premium rates, to decide whom to insure and to provide earnings guidance to Wall Street.

Or maybe people yapping on cellphones are worse drivers, but that’s offset by a reduced frequency of road rage because they’re too oblivious to get mad. . . .

(Via NewsAlert).

July 30, 2006

THIS IS INTERESTING: “College-age populations of the Midwest and Northeast are shrinking, while those in the South and West are rising.” Read the whole thing, and see the map. Upside: “North Dakota will give you a hell of a deal.”

July 30, 2006

PHIL BOWERMASTER has more thoughts on modern health and longevity.

July 30, 2006

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY at the Los Angeles Times.

July 30, 2006

MORE ON THE SEATTLE SHOOTINGS:

The man suspected in a fatal shooting rampage hid behind a potted plant in a Jewish charity’s foyer and forced his way through a security door by holding a gun to a 13-year-old girl’s head, the police chief said Saturday. . . .

Haq, a Muslim, told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and U.S. military cooperation with Israel.

“He pointedly blamed the Jewish people for all of these problems,” Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a news conference Saturday.

According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: “These are Jews and I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.”

Muhammad Ullah, a close family friend and a senior member of a mosque founded in part by Haq’s father, described Haq as a quiet loner with few friends.

In a statement, the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities offered condolences to the shooting victims and said “we disassociate this act from our Islamic teachings and beliefs.”

As they should, of course. I notice some blogs complaining about the fact that area police are now guarding mosques as well as synagogues. That seems to me to be a wise, though likely unnecessary, precaution. The chance that someone will shoot up a mosque in retaliation here is low, but if it happened it would make things much worse. It seems smart to try to ensure that it doesn’t.

July 30, 2006

KEVIN DRUM: “The fight against Islamic jihadism is essentially a vast, global counterinsurgency, something that the United States is lousy at. But we’d better get good at it fast, and the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn’t doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite.”

Well, it’s not so much a question of more or less violence as it is a question of applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people. And if, as Kevin argues, the current amount of violence isn’t doing the job, that actually isn’t evidence that either more or less would be better.

While I think that Drum’s comparison with U.S. and Israeli strategy today with Soviet strategy in Afghanistan — if that’s what he means, which isn’t quite clear to me — is wrong, I think that his reference to “casual genocide” as the preferred strategy of pro-war people is pretty clear, and pretty absurd. Yeah, you see that kind of thing in blog comments sometime, but I think most people support current U.S. military efforts because they fear that ignoring the problem is likely to produce more death and violence over the long term, not less. (Hence the frequent invocations of 1936 and 1938). That’s certainly my view.

In the 1990s, we followed the “ignore it and maybe it’ll go away” strategy. As I’ve noted before, I can’t blame people for that — it was the strategy that I favored, too, based on what I knew at the time, as I thought that if we waited Islamic Jihadism would collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. But it clearly didn’t work. I don’t know whether the current strategy is correct or not, though it seems to me that so long as we give Syria and Iran (and for that matter, Saudi Arabia) a pass, we’re never going to get much of a handle on this problem. But Drum’s post is notable for what it lacks — a specific proposal beyond saying that we’d better get better at this stuff fast. I agree, of course, but . . . .

Neither Kevin or I is a military expert, but I do know that counterinsurgencies, even the most successful ones, are long, drawn-out, messy, and often lacking in obvious signposts of success for most of their duration. So if this is a global counterinsurgency against terror, and it looks long, drawn-out, messy, etc., well then that’s hardly a surprise.

Still, so as not to fail at making positive proposals myself I’ll make one suggestion: The real problem in the war on terror, I think, is a relatively small number of terror-backers in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Why aren’t we waging unconventional warfare against them? They undoubtedly have toes we can step on in the form of business interests, overseas accounts, vacation homes, etc. Would we make more progress by targeting those sorts of things, rather than fighting their cannon fodder in the field? If I recall correctly, a shift to that strategy was what ended the Philippine insurgency a century ago.

But I’m no military expert, so there may be good reasons why we’re not doing this. Or we may, in fact, be doing it and it just may be under the radar, though I kind of doubt that.

UPDATE: I think that Hugh Hewitt is too hard on Kevin. I don’t think that Drum was ascribing ineptitude to U.S. troops, but rather disapproving of the overall strategy. But I could be wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin responds.

MORE: Related thoughts from Bill Quick. And a column on the general subject from Mark Steyn. “In Iraq, the leviathan has somehow managed to give the impression that what previous mid-rank powers would have regarded as a little light colonial policing has left it stretched dangerously thin and bogged down in an almighty quagmire. Even if it were only lamebrain leftist media spin, the fact that it’s accepted by large numbers of Americans and huge majorities of Europeans is a reminder that in free societies a military of unprecedented dominance is not the only source of power. More importantly, significant proportions of this nation’s enemies also believe the spin. In April 2003 was Baby Assad nervous that he’d be next? You bet. Is he nervous now?”

July 30, 2006

I REMEMBER BUMPER STICKERS IN THE 1980S saying that “El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam.” Now people are saying that Iraq is Vietnam. Jim Hoft looks at some statistics and sees a pretty big difference.

July 30, 2006

TIGERHAWK HAS THOUGHTS ON PARENTING. They overlap with the podcast we did with James Lileks and Cathy Seipp (available here with nifty new easier-to-use player) and with some things I wrote here.

And here (via The Corner) is a depressing article from Psychology Today.

July 30, 2006

JAMES JOYNER looks at blogger burnout.

July 30, 2006

“PHOTOS THAT DAMN HEZBOLLAH:”

THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon’s battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia.

The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.

Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon.

The photographs, from the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, were taken by a visiting journalist and smuggled out by a friend. . . . The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.

“Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets,” he said.

“Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated.”

I guess that’s the kind of thing that explains why we’re not neutral in this conflict. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy). Meanwhile, I’m expecting an outcry any year now about Hezbollah’s violations of the laws of war. So far, though, there’s this: “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had not received agreement so far to its request to visit two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas.”

UPDATE: Josh Trevino writes: “In a sane world, we would give thanks for Hezbollah’s failure to murder, regret what has happened in Qana, and reaffirm the justice of the Israeli war. But this is not a sane world: in place of right and wrong, too many appear to operate in a universe of strong and weak (or, one suspects, Jew and non-Jew) — and their sympathy goes to the weak, even if the weak is a shell of a polity married to a genocide-minded Muslim murder-front.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: “The strangest aspect of all this, of course, is that no one doubts that Israel killed the civilians in Qana accidentally while targeting terrorists, whereas, on the other hand, Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel for the sole and express purpose of killing civilians. Yet where is the outrage against Hezbollah? Why is it that Kofi Annan swings into action only to denounce Israel and to promote the course that Hezbollah wants, namely a time-out so that it can rebuild its terrorist infrastructure?”

Yeah, it’s almost like he’s on Hezbollah’s side, or something.

STILL MORE: Questioning the timing, and a shockingly professional and prompt Condi banner.

MORE STILL: Qana photos turn out to be staged. This is common in photojournalism from the region, I’m afraid, but Western press agencies eat it up.

July 30, 2006

JEREMY LOTT is defending Patrick Hynes.

July 29, 2006

CURSE and effect.

July 29, 2006

A GRAND JURY PROBES NEWS LEAKS at the NSA.

July 29, 2006

ARMED LIBERAL OFFERS ADVICE to “the people who are reading the news and thinking of heading to the gun store.”

July 29, 2006

BILL BRADLEY REPORTS that Arnold Schwarzenegger has weathered a perfect energy storm in California.

July 29, 2006

HEZBOLLAH AS AN ARMY OF DAVIDS: A troubling thought, to say the least.

The Cold War demonstrated that guerrillas can be beaten with difficulty on their own turf, but that they dry up pretty quickly when their outside sponsorship is gone. I suspect that that remains true.

July 29, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Andy Roth reports big progress on his 435 districts, 435 blogs anti-pork initiative

We’re up to 78 blogs writing about 168 politicians.

That’s good news (you can see what still needs to be done by following the link), and you should feel free to get involved. Adopt a member of Congress — they’ll be glad you did! Or not.

July 29, 2006

RAND SIMBERG says the Bush Administration’s war on terror rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

July 29, 2006

MORTMAN on Milbank. It almost seems unfair.

July 29, 2006

VIOLENT MOB wants peace.

July 29, 2006

PEOPLE ARE MUCH HEALTHIER NOW than just a few generations ago:

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study found that a person’s chances of having dementia in old age appeared to have fallen in recent years.

If it seems otherwise, it’s probably because people now have more energy to complain . . . .

UPDATE: Related medical thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that it’s not just physical:

If it seems otherwise, it’s probably because people now have more energy to complain . . . .

I worked for 15 years as an operation manager for a large trucking company – UPS. The full time path for advancement is first delivering packages (120 stops a day with constant public interaction) and on to tractor trailer driving for a much easier (one stop a day) existence.

The personality change of people was astonishing. Great, hard working, productive, optimistic package car drivers became lazy, complaining, pessimistic tractor trailer drivers that made much more money with a lot less effort. This happened almost overnight.

Has this happened in our county as a whole? Could we be so “fat and happy” that the only thing left to pursue is whining? I wonder sometimes if this “UPS syndrome” is part of what motivates so much political turmoil.

Times have never been better for most people.

It seems that way sometimes.

July 29, 2006

THE SEATTLE SHOOTINGS and the moral equivalence brigade. Though Josh Marshall claims that he’s being misread here, too. I’ve never seen him as a member of the moral-equivalence crowd, myself. But then, he’s got complaints about my readings of his other stuff, as well, so what do I know . . .

UPDATE: Josh Marshall aside, there’s certainly plenty of moral equivalence out there:

This is the kind of talk one hears around Madison. If the U.S. or Israel does something violent, you speak only in terms of your horror and righteous anger that we have killed people. If our enemies do something violent, you call attention to their understandable frustration and outrage and our role in making them feel that way.

Indeed.

July 29, 2006

MICHAEL BARONE on the Doha Round’s collapse: “Farming interests, although only a small part of the economy, have effectively killed a trade agreement that would have been beneficial to many more people. The persistence of farm subsidies in this country, and the much larger farm subsidies in Europe, are an example of how interests of the past have more political clout than interests of the present and future. . . . You can see this in one of the worst policy mistakes of the Bush presidency — the 2002 farm bill.”

July 29, 2006

A LOOK AT porn-star politicians. There’s not much difference between them and the other kind, which may — or may not — come as a shock.

July 29, 2006

A LOOK AT how Israel and Thailand are preventing Jihadi shootings.

July 29, 2006

JOSH MARSHALL says I’ve misrepresented a column of his from 2003, though I quoted it at length. I respond here.

UPDATE: For the record, I was not serious in recommending Atrios for Secretary of State. Just having some fun with an over-the-top statement by someone who’s quick to pounce on those. In case, you know, anyone thought I saw him as a useful replacement for Condi, or otherwise took him seriously . . .

Apparently, however, the new rule is that when lefties write these sorts of things we’re supposed to know they don’t mean them. Which makes sense, I guess, since they claim to know what I mean when I don’t write about things! Nonetheless, I reserve my right to tweak.

July 29, 2006

ISRAELI POLITICS are “upside down,” according to Reuven Hazan in an interview with Allison Kaplan Sommer.

July 29, 2006

ROGER SIMON has more thoughts on the Seattle jihadist shooting.

And Eugene Volokh, like me, opposes special treatment for hate crimes, but observes: “Nonetheless it certainly makes sense that we would notice these crimes for what they are — manifestations of ethnic hatred that needs to be recognized in order to be fought.”

Meanwhile, Andrew McCarthy notes the media spin. “This is militant Islam in action, but we don’t want to think or talk about Islam, so we’ll pretend that the fact he’s a Muslim is irrelevant (‘terrorists come in all shapes and sizes’ is the official PC postion of government), and if we can’t attach a known group to the shooter we’ll close our eyes to the fact that he might have reason to understand that his religion impelled him to act.”

That’s true, but I can also imagine pretty good reasons why the authorities might wish to downplay this, in order to avoid copycats. Meanwhile, a name and photo for the shooter, here. And Gerard van der Leun, who lives in Seattle, posts some thoughts.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt looks at the spin:

Five weeks ago seven would-be terrorists, home grown division, were arretsed in Miami. Their stories have largely vanished from the news.

Seven weeks ago 17 would-be terrorists, home grown/Canada division, were arrested in Toronto. Their stories have largely vanished from the news.

So in less than two months we have 25 arrests of terrorists intent on killing in the US, only one of whom succeeded, but the successful one is described by the home town paper as “having a history of mental illness” and the others have dropped off the list of MSM-approved topics for coverage.

Can we agree that all terrorists have some degree of mental illness? Can we also agree that it is completely and utterly irrelevant to the victims of their crimes?

What we need to know –and what the American MSM seems profoundly uninterested in– is where did they come from? What made them terrorists?

With Tim McVeigh they were happy to generalize guilt, all the way from the NRA to Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. Here, the “climate of opinion” in subcultures producing terrorists seems to get less attention, or to be processed in more of a “why do they hate us?” fashion. I wonder why?

But here’s a starting place.

Rusty Shackleford writes: “Me? I’m going to buy a gun. I’m serious.”

UPDATE: Eric Muller has some thoughts on the subculture issue.

July 28, 2006

A CALL TO PORKBUSTING ARMS: “By last count, 43 blogs were on board covering 86 House members. One person in Ohio even created a blog specifically to watch pork-barrel spending close to home.” Join up!

July 28, 2006

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY is down in the polls.

July 28, 2006

A MASS SHOOTING at the Seattle Jewish Center:

At least five people were shot, one of them fatally, Friday afternoon at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and one person was arrested, authorities said.

Five or six people were wounded, assistant police chief Jim Pugel said.

One person died, fire department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said.

One wounded woman was shot in the abdomen and another woman was hit in the arm, according to news accounts. Information on the others wounded was not immediately available. . . .

Several witnesses said they saw a man walk up and shoot a woman in the leg on a sidewalk near the building.

“We heard this horrible screaming on the floor above us and shots,” Patti Simon said in a phone interview, her voice shaking. “We didn’t know what was happening.”

Simon, who sells advertising for the federation’s newspaper, was working on the first floor when she heard screaming, shots and what sounded like furniture crashing on the floor above.

Yoni is posting updates, and the Seattle Times reports:

According to Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation, the man told staff members, “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” then began shooting, Wasser-Simpson said she heard the account from staff members who witnessed the shootings.

Another report, however, says he’s a Pakistani national. Early reports are often wrong, so stay tuned.

PJ Media has a big roundup with lots of photos, maps and links.

UPDATE: More here:

Sources told KING 5 the suspect is a 31-year-old Pakistani man with a criminal background. He is from the Pasco but his citizenship status or how long he has lived in the United States is unknown. Also unknown is what sort of criminal record he has. Officials are on the way to the Pasco to interview his family.

FBI spokesman David Gomez said officials believe the suspect acted alone and is not affiliated with a foreign organization.

I suppose that’s probably right, though I don’t know how they could possibly have much basis for that belief at this point. And regardless, I think this is particularly bad news for both American Jews and American Muslims. But it’s bad news for all of us.

Meanwhile, Charles Johnson has video, and notes that all of the shooting victims were women.

July 28, 2006

SURELY THE END TIMES ARE UPON US: Ana Marie Cox is now Time.com’s Washington Editor.

July 28, 2006

DON SURBER: “The problem with catching Glenn Greenwald at sock puppetry is that it allows his very weak arguments to pass unchallenged.”

Surber picks up the ball.

UPDATE: All right, I’m busted, and I admit it. Glenn Greenwald is my sock puppet. That’s why you never see us photographed together.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Say what you will about Greenwald — no, really, say what you will, it’s okay with me — but he’s certainly providing a lot of blogospheric amusement. And people can use that about now.

Thanks, Glenn!

MORE: Surber responds to a critic.

July 28, 2006

THIS WOULD SEEM TO ARGUE AGAINST THE THEORY THAT HEZBOLLAH IS WINNING: “Hezbollah leader said to be hiding in Iranian Embassy.”

The Iranians are no doubt confident that no one would be so depraved as to disregard the sanctity of an embassy . . . .

July 28, 2006

ALAN BOYLE looks at new vs. old space.

July 28, 2006

RON BAILEY follows the money.

July 28, 2006

MAJOR JOHN TAMMES rounds up news from Afghanistan that you may have missed.

July 28, 2006

OKAY, this didn’t come in the mail, but was handed to me by a colleague. It’s Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why. Helen immediately stole it when I brought it home, but she pronounces it good.

July 28, 2006

DOG BITES MAN: In The New Republic, Joshua Brook writes:

The war between Israel and Hezbollah has sparked widespread debate on the subject of proportionality. One might have hoped that the human rights community would take this opportunity to educate political leaders and the public on the international law of proportionality and how it applies to the current fighting. Indeed, some groups have done just that. But others have chosen to brazenly distort international law in their zeal to condemn Israel.

The basic rule of international law in some people’s minds seems to be that anything that the United States or Israel does is wrong. As I say, dog bites man.

UPDATE: Prof. Kenneth Anderson has more on proportionality and writes:

Legal scholars who want to focus on the UN Charter as the sole source of legal authority for the use of force – and hence see any armed action by a party as having to be ‘proportionate’ pending some (typically mythological) intervention by the Security Council – tend to underplay that the Charter does not remove the customary law of self-defense, which does not require a “proportionate” response once belligerency is underway.

These abuses of international law are drastically undermining its credibility. More here, here, and here.

As one blog commenter noted (I forget where I saw it), the difference is that Israel causes civilian casualties when it misses its targets, Hezbollah causes civilian casualties when it hits its targets.

July 28, 2006

JOHN KERRY VS. JOHN BOLTON.

July 28, 2006

JOHN PODHORETZ WONDERS if Israel is too nice to win.

This reminds me of Josh Marshall’s 2003 worry that we weren’t killing enough Iraqis and that this would come back to haunt us. I think they’re both probably wrong. I certainly hope so.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Bill Roggio.

And Jim Dunnigan looks at Hezbollah’s Iranian rocket force. I’m guessing that you can’t solve the Hezbollah problem without solving the Iranian problem.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing thinks that Israel is blowing it.

MORE: Josh Marshall now says I’m misrepresenting his column. Well, the post I link above contains a lengthy in-context quote, and observes: “Not that Josh wants people to die, he just thinks it has a valuable pedagogical function.” (Josh claims that I said he called for “the mass and indiscriminate killing of civilians at the outset of the Iraq War,” which is at least as much a misrepresentation of my post as he’s claiming for his; I don’t think that either Podhoretz or Marshall ever called for that).

I thought that was a fair reading of his column then, and I don’t believe he objected. Here’s another link to his original column, which I also linked along with the blockquote. You can decide for yourself whether I’ve misrepresented him, but it seems to me that it was a fair reading then, and that it’s a fair reading now. But if Josh meant something else by his language, he should say so. He links to other people who say that my reading of his language is wrong, so I guess he has disclaimed that meaning now, but I should note that those posts came after mine. So either I’ve been misreading him for three years (possible), or he is more worried about sounding bellicose now than he was in March of 2003. Your call, but I thought the latter, which is why I was tweaking him by bringing it up.

STILL MORE: Hmm. Marshall seems to have a problem making himself understood.

AND MORE: Dan Riehl thinks my reading of Marshall was excessively generous. “Marshall was invoking Nagasaki and Hiroshima as examples of how to win a war … and the hearts and minds which are left. But, as Reynolds duly noted, he was criticizing Bush’s plan, not necessarily advocating mass death.” Yes, Marshall — as I noted — wasn’t calling for more deaths, but rather expressing the worry that a war that didn’t involve massive casualties or damage wouldn’t have enough of a psychological effect to produce peace. That Marshall reads this as a claim that he was calling for more deaths is, well, not surprising since he applies similar misreading to my stuff.

July 28, 2006

HMM, this Sony gadget looks like a pretty good mobile blogging tool, complete with builtin camera — what the TREO promised but didn’t really deliver. But I wish it came with Verizon EVDO instead of Cingular. Anybody out there got one?

July 28, 2006

BREWERY NEWS: The secret is out. And I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that meddling Basil’s blog!

July 28, 2006

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ: All politics is local, even in Lebanon.

July 27, 2006

JAMES LILEKS: “Then you go outside and have a cigar with a cheerleader, which reminds you how things can change.”

July 27, 2006

AN ARMY OF DAVIDS REVIEW, at Albion’s Seedlings.

Kinda late to the game, but I’m certainly not complaining. Plus, nanotechnology in India.

July 27, 2006

EDUTOPIA: A podcast interview with Michael Schrage of the MIT Media Lab, at PoliticsCentral.

July 27, 2006

HEH: “During the recent Senate hearings on video game violence, one expert claimed that the ESRB underrated violent games. They went on to say that Pacman was 64% violent. To some, this means you shouldn’t play Pacman; to others, it highlights what’s wrong with Senate hearings.”

UPDATE: Freeman Hunt: “Awful! Plus, given the current epidemic of childhood obesity, is it really okay to show a heroic character who eats everywhere he travels and receives bonus points for consuming delicious fruits as large as his body? Good thing the Senate is working to protect us from this sort of villainy.”

July 27, 2006

AT IMAO, a call for an end to sock-puppetry is met with a chorus of approval from, er, all sorts of people.

July 27, 2006

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO COPS that they can’t arrest people for photographing them?

The family of Neftaly Cruz said police had no right to come onto their property and arrest their 21-year-old son simply because he was using his cell phone’s camera. They told their story to Harry Hairston and the NBC 10 Investigators. . . .

Cruz, 21, told the NBC 10 Investigators that police arrested him last Wednesday for taking a picture of police activity with his cell phone.

Police at the 35th district said they were in Cruz’s neighborhood that night arresting a drug dealer.

Cruz said that when he heard a commotion, he walked out of his back door with his cell phone to see what was happening. He said that when he saw the street lined with police cars, he decided to take a picture of the scene.

“I opened (the phone) and took a shot,” Cruz said.

Moments later, Cruz said he got the shock of his life when an officer came to his back yard gate.

“He opened the gate and took me by my right hand,” Cruz said.

Cruz said the officer threw him onto a police car, cuffed him and took him to jail.

I think we need civil rights legislation making this kind of arrest illegal. Treble damages, plus the right to civil forfeiture of any police property or equipment used in the arrest. Oh, and respondeat superior liability against supervisors.

Well, we do need something , even if it’s unlikely that we’ll get it. Though a law defending ordinary citizens’ right to take pictures in public places seems like it might be a good campaign issue.

UPDATE: At Spleenville, skepticism and a claim that I am excessively libertarian. Hmm.

July 27, 2006

PR EMAIL OF THE DAY: A link to the Dollywood Mystery Mine Rollercoaster website. “It’s like being swallowed by the jaws of a beast.”

July 27, 2006

AN UGLY GRAPH of the Los Angeles Times’ circulation over the past decades. Big Media is looking more and more like the Big Three automakers.

July 27, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE on The New York Times and Ned Lamont.

July 27, 2006

TIM CHAPMAN DECRIES left-right pigeonholing.

July 27, 2006

BELTWAY BLOGROLL looks at the Cynthia McKinney / Hank Johnson runoff blog-battle in Georgia.

July 27, 2006

AN AUTOMOTIVE X-PRIZE, “will invite teams from around the world to focus on a single goal: design, build and sell super-efficient cars that people want to buy.”

Bring it on! (Via Ben Stewart).

Related post from David Adesnik. And note these comments on hybrids from Autopia.

July 27, 2006

DISPROPORTIONATE RESPONSE at the United Nations.

Plus, Kofi’s claims unravel.

July 27, 2006

FACT-CHECKING from Eugene Volokh, and a surprising response.

UPDATE: Doug Weinstein consults a transcriptionist.

July 27, 2006

ERIC SCHEIE: “I am still confused. Unless Howard Dean is covertly suggesting that anti-Semitism is a White House talking point, something does not make sense.”

July 27, 2006

MICHAEL TOTTEN has a long and thoughtful, if somewhat depressing, post on Lebanon.

July 27, 2006

KATRINA UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports on what went wrong, and publishes a free chapter of Chris Cooper and Robert Block’s new book on the subject, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. All links are free to non-subscribers.

Cooper and Block’s reporting does seem to suggest that this column may have been right about the focus on terrorism and its effect on our ability to respond to natural disasters.

July 27, 2006

GOOD QUESTION: “Is anyone thinking about the next Hezbollah, and the one after that?”

July 27, 2006

A BAD CASE OF the Nasrallah blues.