Archive for December, 2006

December 31, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2006 was a good year for me, especially when compared to 2005. For the world it was a mixed year, with ups and downs and no clear theme. Will 2007 be more of the same? It could be worse. Or better.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge is taking your predictions for 2007.

December 31, 2006

TOM SMITH: “So what is the name for that feeling, that nothing could be more beautiful, and yet more sad, than these times we have with our kids and our parents? You want to slow it down, but you can’t. You realize 10 years is nothing, and 50 not much more. Your little brother is not so little, you’re not so little yourself, the kid who pounded on the pedal car with you died years ago, your baby is a teenager, your three year old is in a hurry, and New Canaan is busy becoming a New England version of Brentwood. Most of it is good, of course; that’s what life is. If it were frozen, it would be dead.”

December 31, 2006

THE BOSTON GLOBE REPORTS that Mitt Romney is connecting quickly with bloggers. He certainly seems far more active than, say, Rudy Giuliani.

December 31, 2006

PHOTO-FOODBLOGGING from Osaka.

December 31, 2006

I QUESTION THE TIMING OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT:

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has “accepted responsibility” for possibly violating House rules by requiring his official staff to perform campaign-related work, according to a statement quietly released by the House ethics committee late Friday evening.

“Late Friday evening” on New Year’s weekend? It’s like they’re trying to bury the story or something. (Via Bill Quick, who is also unimpressed).

UPDATE: Mark Tapscott:

Federal law makes it a crime for a Member of Congress to use official staff members to perform campaign or personal duties. Many official staff members participate in their bosses’ re-election campaigns every two years but they go off the official staff payroll when doing so.

So, isn’t it convenient that the House ethics panel made Conyers’ oddly phrased confession public on the Friday afternoon before the New Years weekend?

If the incoming Democrat majority in Congress is serious about cleaning up the mess left on Capitol Hill by the Republicans, they will end such transparent gambits to minimize the fall-out from a Member admitting to breaking the law.

Indeed.

December 31, 2006

NIFONG UPDATE: The Washington Post editorializes:

“THE PROSECUTOR has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated, and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations.”

Robert H. Jackson, then the U.S. attorney general, spoke those words to a group of federal prosecutors in 1940. But they ring disturbingly true today about the conduct of Durham County, N.C., District Attorney Michael B. Nifong in prosecuting three Duke University lacrosse players. Just before Christmas, Mr. Nifong dropped rape charges after the accuser said she “could no longer testify with certainty that it occurred.” But the three men remain charged with kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense, which carry equally severe penalties. Mr. Nifong should drop those charges as well.

Read the whole thing.

December 31, 2006

HOME AGAIN, after fairly decent driving conditions. We overnighted in Valdosta, then drove through light rain and medium traffic today. Not too bad, even in the dreaded Atlanta section of the trip. It’s clear that higher gas prices still aren’t causing people to drive more slowly. It’s nice to be home, but looking at this picture and comparing it to the dreary, rainy weather in Knoxville makes me wish we’d stayed a few days longer . . . .

December 31, 2006

2006: “A year awash in fear and fascism.”

December 31, 2006

MORE FROM THOSE EVIL PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES: A universal flu vaccine? Bring it on!

December 31, 2006

MORE KIDNEY-BLOGGING, from Virginia Postrel.

December 31, 2006

A GOOGLE TIPPING POINT?

Taken in a vacuum, a fairly trivial thing happened a few days ago. The co-founder of Firefox, Blake Ross, wrote a post criticizing Google called “Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose“. He takes issue with a new Google search feature that promotes certain of their own products over organic search results. See Google searches for Calendar, Blogging, Photo Sharing and others and see Google pushing Google Calendar, Blogger and Picasa, respectively, above what is supposed to be the most relevant results – Google search. Even a search for Yahoo Calendar has these Google results above the obvious destination the user was searching for.

I say this is trivial incident taken in a vacuum because, quite frankly, Google has every right to promote their own products on their website. But I think Ross’ post may be a sign of a change in attitude towards Google that’s been percolating for the last year or so, and is beginning to manifest itself. The fact that a highly respected entrepreneur finally spoke out should be a wakeup call for Google.

I’ve noted declining trust in Google over the past year or so, and it seems that the problem is getting worse. Google should be a lot more worried about this than it seems to be — all you need to do to take your business elsewhere is type a different URL.

December 31, 2006

THE ROOT OF “HOMELAND” IS “HOME.”

December 30, 2006

HUNTING DOWN AL QAEDA MEN in Mogadishu.

December 30, 2006

CORY MAYE’S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL has been denied. It’s an injustice worthy of Mike Nifong. Will Haley Barbour intervene? He should.

December 30, 2006

BILL ARDOLINO IS BLOGGING FROM BAGHDAD in the wake of Saddam’s execution.

And interestingly, David Kaspar reports that a majority of German, French, and Spanish citizens favor Saddam’s execution. He also notes that European media seem to have missed this. And here’s a roundup from Josh Trevino.

UPDATE: Nidra Poller looks at how it’s playing in the French media. “No one dared to pretend that Libya, Saudia Arabia, and Hamastan are against capital punishment, but their indignation was not any the less righteous for it. . . . All the torture stories had been used up…for Pinochet.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Some historical perspective: “Most of the great butchers of the 20th century died of old age, in their own beds, some of them honored by millions. Not a single one met justice in the sense accepted in free states across the world. The handful who died otherwise are aberrations, victims of strange events that act as models for nothing. There is one single exception – the hanging of Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006 after a careful, lengthy trial carried out under extremely difficult circumstances according to internationally recognized judicial norms. The state of Iraq has succeeded where the rest of the civilized world has failed. It is a singular achievement, and it will stand.”

MORE: Some rather muted “outrage” in Mecca.

December 30, 2006

AUSTIN BAY AND CLAUDIA ROSETT look back on Kofi Annan’s career and look ahead to the future of the UN in this week’s Blog Week in Review.

December 30, 2006

A LOOK AT China’s cold war against India. And why the United States has an interest in helping India resist.

I think that India may well turn out to be our most important ally of the 21st Century. I hope we don’t blow it.

December 30, 2006

I HAVEN’T GOTTEN A COPY YET, but Clayton Cramer’s new book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie, is now shipping from Amazon. I expect it will be quite good.

December 30, 2006

A CAR BOMB IN THE MADRID AIRPORT: Basque terrorist group ETA is blamed.

December 30, 2006

BARBARA BOXER slams CAIR.

UPDATE: Boxer gets praise from Little Green Footballs.

December 30, 2006

AN EDITORIAL ON SADDAM’S EXECUTION, from NRO.

And here’s a big roundup of reactions from PJ Media.

Plus further thoughts from Austin Bay:

The Strong Man expects to die in one of two ways — with a nine millimeter ballot (ie, assassination) — or old age. That has certainly been the case in the Middle East. A public, legal trial followed by court-sentenced execution? That isn’t going to happen unless…unless a democracy replaces a tyranny. This is astonishing news — history altering news. For centuries the terrible yin-yang of tyrant and terrorist has trapped the Middle East.In 2003 the US-led coalition began the difficult but worthy effort of breaking that tyrant’s and terrorist’s trap, and offering another choice in the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.

Saddam’s demise serves as object lesson and example. In late 2003 every Middle Eastern autocrat saw the haggard Saddam pulled from the hole; now they’ve seen him hung. The larger message: To avoid Saddams fate means political liberalization. The message extends beyond the Arab Muslim Middle East. Iran’s mullahs see it. At some reptilian level, destructive despots like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe also understand it.

I worry, though, that we haven’t done enough of what Civil War generals called “keeping up the scare.” Momentum matters. Austin, however, thinks it was better done this way, and he’s smarter than me.

UPDATE: I see that Austin has updated his thoughts to respond to my comments on momentum.

December 30, 2006

FROM THE “HEADLINES THAT WOULD HAVE MADE NO SENSE FIFTY YEARS AGO” DEPARTMENT: “Obesity battle starts young for urban poor.”

December 30, 2006

IN THE BOONIES OF MID-FLORIDA, I’ve still got Verizon broadband EVDO. (Don’t worry, the InstaWife is driving.)

December 30, 2006

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I POSTED A SOMEWHAT GOOFY PICTURE of me (yeah, I know, that describes nearly all of ‘em) last week, so as vacation ends here’s a non-goofy picture of the Insta-Wife. And, alas, vacation is ending and we’re heading home.

It’s been nice, but duty and life calls. We had a good time in the Keys, and the weather was decent, if a bit windy. The local folks were nice, and the house and boat we rented were fun.

I hope you had a good week too, and I wish you a happy new year.

Blogging will continue enroute, thanks to the magic of EVDO.

December 30, 2006

MICKEY KAUS has more thoughts on gay marriage:

Even in a highly Republican town like Plano, in other words, the religious objection to gay marriage isn’t the crucial objection. Fear that moral entropy will envelop your family’s children is the crucial objection. I don’t see how that fear is addressed theologically. I would think it has to be addressed practically, over time, by repeat demonstration . But time is one thing a rights-oriented, judicial route to gay marriage doesn’t allow.

As I’ve said before, I support gay marriage, but I think the move to accomplish gay marriage via judicial action is politically unwise and likely to be counterproductive.

December 30, 2006

THE NORTH CAROLINA CONFERENCE OF DISTRICT ATTORNEYS is demanding that Nifong step aside in the Duke (non) rape case.

Plus, Maimon Schwarzschild looks at the Duke faculty’s role in promoting this injustice.

December 30, 2006

2006 CASUALTIES IN IRAQ LOWER THAN 2005: But note the headline.

December 29, 2006

A SADDAM HUSSEIN EXECUTION ROUNDUP from PJ Media. Plus more, from Gateway Pundit.

UPDATE: A news media dilemma.

And more comparative coverage here.

What does it mean? Not as much as it would have a couple of years ago — the Saddam era is over in Iraq anyway. But this will certainly put an end to fantasies — entertained by some Baathist holdouts and even by some American war critics — of Saddam returning to power. As long as he remained alive, he remained a risk via further scheming on his part and that of his followers. It also indicates that despite all the noisemaking and theater, nothing he did made any difference in the end.

December 29, 2006

ROTATING BILLS: Blogger Bill Roggio is home from Iraq. Blogger Bill Ardolino will be there tomorrow.

December 29, 2006

MICHAEL TOTTEN REPORTS on Hezbollah’s Christian allies.

December 29, 2006

PATRICK HYNES HAS VIDEO of John Edwards in New Hampshire.

December 29, 2006

IS CHINA COLONIZING AFRICA?

December 29, 2006

A DIFFERENT APPROACH for Iraq. It would work, but it’s not our style. “The Mongols also immediately executed the caliph and his sons on charges that they spent too much money on their palaces and not enough defending their nation. They killed most members of the court and administration. The Mongols took no prisoners and allowed no torture, but they executed swiftly and efficiently, including the soldiers of the defeated army who, they believed, would be a constant source of future problems if allowed to live. The first several months of a Mongol invasion were bloody, but once the takeover ended, the bloodshed ended. . . . By the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the political achievements of the Mongols had been forgotten, and only the destructive fury of their wars was remembered. Yet under the Mongols — and the legacy of Genghis Khan — Iraq enjoyed a century of peace and a renaissance that brought the region to a level of prosperity and cultural sophistication higher than it enjoyed before or after.”

Plus, you can yell, “KHANNN!”: Of course, “Jenghis” didn’t have to deal with modern media.

December 29, 2006

IT’S OFFICIAL: Saddam will be executed tonight.

Brendan Loy is pleased.

UPDATE: Iraqi-Americans pray for Saddam’s death at a mosque in Dearborn.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Saddam has been hanged, according to reports from Iraqi TV. Good riddance.

December 29, 2006

SOME HDTV-BLOGGING at Knoxviews.

Earlier InstaPundit posts can be found here and here.

December 29, 2006

WAITING FOR SADDAM’S EXECUTION, at Iraq the Model.

December 29, 2006

MARY KATHARINE HAM offers a guided tour of things that didn’t happen in Durham.

December 29, 2006

CALLING OUT the Brady Campaign.

UPDATE: More on the Brady Campaign’s bizarre calculus here.

December 29, 2006

JOE LIEBERMAN:

I’ve just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.

Because of the bravery of many Iraqi and coalition military personnel and the recent coming together of moderate political forces in Baghdad, the war is winnable. We and our Iraqi allies must do what is necessary to win it.

I agree, even though our winning will disappoint some people. Lieberman also notes: “As the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria appreciate — at times, it seems, more keenly than we do — failure in Iraq would be a strategic and moral catastrophe for the United States and its allies.” Yes.

December 29, 2006

HUGH HEWITT interviews Joseph Rago.

December 29, 2006

I FINISHED VARIABLE STAR last night. Not bad. In the one real spot of political discussion, it becomes clear that Robinson’s politics aren’t Heinlein’s, but that’s okay. The story wasn’t bad, the characterization was decent. Not really up to classic Heinlein standards, but still pretty good and certainly worth reading for Heinlein fans.

December 29, 2006

K.C. JOHNSON is all over the Nifong ethics charges. And a former prosecutor comments: “To classify this as a ‘stunning rebuke’ would be an understatement. I am not familiar with North Carolina law or procedure, but in Pennsylvania not once have I ever a seen a prosecutor or assistant prosecutor actually brought up on an ethics complaint for their official duties. . . . What burns me is that Nifong is giving prosecutors everywhere a horrible reputation. Every prosecutor I ever worked with, and those that I have dealt with since going into private practice have been straight as an arrow in ensuring that there was a fair trial. I may not have liked some of them for their unwillingness to compromise, but it was never done out of malice to the process or my client, but rather because of what they felt was right given the circumstances.”

December 29, 2006

WE GAVE THE BALL OF WHACKS to my 7-year-old nephew as a stocking-stuffer and it’s been pretty popular — not just with him, but with pretty much everyone.

UPDATE: Despite what the Amazon reviews say, it hasn’t made anyone’s hair grow back in our family. On the other hand, none of us is bald, so maybe its mystical powers are working backward in time!

December 29, 2006

WANT TO SUPPORT NANOTECHNOLOGY? The Foresight Nanotech Institute could use your help and a challenge grant will match your contributions.

December 29, 2006

AUSTIN BAY AND JIM DUNNIGAN are podcasting at StrategyPage now.

December 29, 2006

IS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION flip-flopping on the Second Amendment?

UPDATE: Here’s the original source, which I really should have linked here earlier. Sorry!

December 29, 2006

STRATEGYPAGE ON ISLAMIC TERROR IN THAILAND: “Two months after the coup that brought in a government that offered a kinder and gentler approach to solving the Islamic terrorism in the south, that terrorism has gotten worse. . . . The terrorists continue to concentrate on suspected pro-government Moslems, non-Moslems and government workers. Most of the mountainous back country villages have been terrorized, and ‘cleansed’ of infidels (non-Moslems) to such an extent, that the terrorists can move about openly in daytime. The terrorists are also getting nastier, as in today’s attack, where two teachers were shot, then burned to death on a road.”

December 29, 2006

DAN RIEHL CHARGES A.P. AND EDITOR & PUBLISHER with misrepresenting their own reporting.

December 29, 2006

A “RUSH” to execute Saddam? I don’t think so.

December 29, 2006

DAVE KOPEL WRITES ON THE OTHER WAR IN ETHIOPIA:

The Anuak people of Ethiopia, a black minority tribe, have historically been enslaved by other Ethiopians. The slavery persisted into the late twentieth century. Today, the Anuak are being exterminated, while the central government of Ethiopia tells the world to ignore the violence, claiming that it is merely an inter-tribal conflict.

Gambella is in southwestern Ethiopia, bordering Sudan. It is been the home of five ethnic groups: the Anuak, Nuer, Majangir, Opo and Komo. The Anuaks and the Nuer are the largest groups and have long feuded over the land and its resources. The Anuaks, who live atop gold and oil reserves, number approximately 150,000.

A mainly agricultural people, the majority of Anuak inhabit Gambella, although some live in eastern Sudan, and some have recently been displaced to Kenya and the US. Gambella also hosts UN refugee camps, for people who have fled the decades-long genocide in south Sudan.

The central government, in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, has disarmed most of the Anuak, and even disarmed Anuak police officers. Ethiopia is among the East African nations which have promised to conduct campaigns against civilian gun ownership, as part of the United Nations-sponsored Nairobi Protocol. Like several other signers of the Nairobi Protocol (Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Sudan), Ethiopia already had a well-established record of genocide against disarmed victims.

Nobody has cared, but now that Ethiopia is opposing the Islamists in Somalia with U.S. assistance, we’ll no doubt see a sudden surge of “human rights” advocacy on the subject, though the whole disarmament thing might make it politically tricky . . . .

December 28, 2006

ED MORRISSEY looks at a new threat to political free speech.

December 28, 2006

THE ARMY SUBPOENAS JOURNALISTS and the journalists don’t like it:

“It’s not a reporter’s job to participate in the prosecution of her own sources,” said Sarah Olson, an Oakland freelance journalist and radio producer. “When you force a journalist to participate, you run the risk of turning the journalist into an investigative tool of the state.”

But Olson, who received her subpoena Thursday, acknowledged she has no legal grounds to refuse to testify, since she is being asked only to confirm the accuracy of what she wrote about Watada and not to disclose confidential sources or unpublished material.

Normally, she said, “no one, myself included, has any problem verifying the veracity of their reporting.” The ethical problem in this case, she said, is that she would be aiding the prosecution of one of the dissidents and war critics who regularly trust her to tell their stories to the public.

That’s not ethics. That’s politics. But many “journalists” seem to confuse the two.

December 28, 2006

DUKE (NON)RAPE UPDATE:

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina bar filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the athletes under suspicion. . . .

Among the four rules of professional conduct that Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments “that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

In a statement, the bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a stripper at a lacrosse team party said she was gang-raped.

The ethics charges will be heard by an independent body called the Disciplinary Hearing Commission, made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers. A date for the hearing has not been set.

I suspect that there’s more to come.

December 28, 2006

AT THE BELMONT CLUB, a look at the blogosphere at war.

December 28, 2006

MORE THOUGHTS on Iran’s looming oil shortage mentioned below.

December 28, 2006

MICROSOFT: giving free laptops to bloggers who review Windows Vista, according to a report at Slashdot.

On the one hand, it could be a bribe. On the other hand, the laptops are from Acer.

December 28, 2006

ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, I’ve suggested that the United States should not be trying to serve as an “honest broker” for a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the grounds that the Palestinians are our enemies, and thus we can’t and shouldn’t be neutral about them.

More evidence that I’m right:

A newly declassified report from 1973 shows that Yasser Arafat personally commanded the terrorist attack that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Cleo Noel and his deputy George Moore, as well as a Belgian diplomat. Moreover, the two murders appear to have been the entire point of Arafat’s attack. . . . The State Department had proof all along that Yasser Arafat not only masterminded this attack, but deliberately plotted to kill American diplomats as a means to pressure the US out of the Middle East. In other words, the PLO/Fatah/BSO conducted a terrorist attack on American interests, murdered Americans, and got away with it.

Like I said, our enemies. We should have killed Arafat and his cronies, not tried to help them get a better deal out of Israel. I would wonder if the Nobel Peace Prize committee knew about this, but I doubt it would matter, as it appears that no amount of anti-Americanism, in word or in deed, is a bar to that award.

Meanwhile, Scott Johnson is aiming an I told you so at his critics.

December 28, 2006

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY IS PAGING JAMIL HUSSEIN:

Last summer, Reuters, the media outlet that refuses to label terrorists as terrorists, was jolted by the “fauxtography” scandal. Adnan Hajj, a freelance Lebanese photographer, allegedly doctored images of the Israel-Hezbollah war and photographed what appeared to many to be staged scenes of victim rescue and recovery efforts in Qana, a Lebanese village where Israel attacked Hezbollah terrorists. Both were clearly an effort to further inflame a world that had already cast Israel as the villain.

Just as we asked in August if Reuters was “a patsy or collaborator,” we wonder the same about the AP. We also wonder if we can trust any AP report from the Middle East. If it can’t show us Capt. Jamil Hussein, we’re not sure it has anything else we want to see.

(Via Newsbeat1).

December 28, 2006

A SUGGESTED TACTIC IN IRAQ: “In Iraq and elsewhere, traditional troops, weapons and tactics are less useful than tools of influence, covert operations and intelligence brought to the battlefield by special operators working harmoniously with indigenous forces and local populations. The prime objective is to create a climate of fear within enemy ranks that breaks its will to continue the armed insurrection against the freely elected Iraqi government. . . . It’s imperative that the United States transition quickly to an unconventional war strategy with USSOCOM generals and/or admirals in charge, or the war will be lost.”

December 28, 2006

SOME HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS for the new Congress.

December 28, 2006

YES, BLOGGING WAS LIGHT yesterday. We went diving — me, my nephew, and the Insta-Mom, who had never been diving before and decided to try a resort course, where you get a quickie lesson in a pool and then dive with an instructor.

Diving was okay. The water was a bit chilly –75 degrees — though I was comfortable enough in a 3-mil wetsuit with a hood. The visibility was only fair, and there was a current. As always with Florida diving, I concluded that it’s better than no diving at all, but not a patch on Cayman or Cozumel. I’m told, though, that it’s much better here in the summer.

Meanwhile, on the beach-reading front, I’ve finally started the Robert Heinlein / Spider Robinson novel Variable Star. I’m only a couple of chapters into it, but so far it’s okay. I’m amazed at how Heinlein-like it sounds.

I’m enjoying my vacation. If this has caused me to miss your email or blog post, sorry. Okay, I’m not that sorry. The blogging will still be around next week; the subtropical sunshine will not.

December 28, 2006

JOHN EDWARDS announces for President.

Scott Ott says he’s ahead of the curve.

UPDATE: More here:

Those cheering on Mr. Edwards’s antipoverty crusade include party strategist Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore’s campaign manager in his 2000 presidency bid. Recalling Mr. Edwards’s past emphasis on the “Two Americas” theme, she says: “In 2004, that message went largely unheard. To his credit, he kept at it. And Katrina demonstrated the validity of that message.”

It’s going to be interesting to see if Edwards can keep to this theme without taking a hard Lou Dobbs / Pat Buchanan kind of line against immigration and foreign trade.

December 28, 2006

ROGER STERN looks at Iran’s oil crisis. That’s a link to Stern’s paper. Here’s a news story on his findings. Excerpt:

Iran’s oil exports are plummeting at 10pc a year on lack of investment and could be exhausted within a decade, depriving the world economy of its second-biggest source of crude supplies.

A report by the US National Academy of Sciences said rickety infrastructure dating back to the era of the Shah had crippled output, while local fuel use was rising at 6pc a year.

“Their domestic demand is growing at the highest rate of any country in the world,” said Prof Roger Stern, an Iran expert at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

“They need to invest $2.5bn (£1.28bn) a year just to stand still and they’re not doing it because it’s politically easier to spend the money on social welfare and the army than to wait four to six years for a return on investment,” he said.

“They’ve been running down the industry like this for 20 years.”

Prof Stern said Teheran faces impending disaster since it relies on oil revenues for 70pc of its budget.

Perhaps this explains the Bush Administration’s otherwise-inexplicable malaise with regard to Iran. We talked to Stern, and to energy expert Lynne Kiesling, in this podcast. But read this for a shorter-term worry.

December 28, 2006

NANOTECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGHS for 2006.

December 28, 2006

SENDING A MESSAGE TO SADR: I’m not sure it’s strongly worded enough.

December 28, 2006

DEATHBED CONVERSION: Saddam speaks against hatred.

December 28, 2006

SUING JESSICA: The Washingtonienne lawsuit is going ahead.

December 28, 2006

GRIM MILESTONES: “Did anyone ever think to criticize World War II after the 2.303 ‘grim milestone’ was reached (the number of people killed at Pearl Harbor? Obviously not; back then people had the moral compass in place. Just think that as the war ended, they would have been able to count that ‘grim milestone’ a staggering 182 times, since in WW2 about 420,000 people died, 407,000 of them military.”

December 28, 2006

STRATEGYPAGE ON SOMALIA:

Ethiopian troops have stood aside so that Somali gunmen representing the Transitional Government can enter Mogadishu. The surviving Islamic Courts fighters have fled south, from whence they came. This does not solve the basic problem, that the Somali clans cannot agree on how to share power, or how to impose law and order in the country. The Ethiopians are only interested in keeping the Islamic Courts from being in power (and following up on their pledge to invade Ethiopia and “liberate” the Ogaden region, which is inhabited by ethnic Somalis.) The clans that traditionally inhabit, and control, Mogadishu, are apparently renouncing the Islamic Courts (an organization controlled by clans further south), and joining the Transitional Government once more. The Mogadishu clans were forced to “join” the Islamic Courts earlier this year. The Islamic Courts brought law and order, but too much for many Somalis. Prohibiting movies, drugs, cigarettes and short skirts was not popular. The Islamic Courts were also bringing in foreign Islamic militants (including al Qaeda), who were not popular either.

The U.S. was apparently providing the Ethiopians with satellite and aircraft photos of Islamic Courts positions. The U.S. has a large counter-terror force to the north, in Djibouti. The U.S. may be supplying Ethiopia with cash (to pay for all the gas the Ethiopians are burning in their operations). For years, the U.S. has been training Ethiopian troops for operations like this.

Nice to know that we’re helping here. We should be doing more things like this. More on Ethiopia and Somalia here.

December 27, 2006

BLOGGING FROM LEBANON: Michael Totten posts on Hezbollah’s Putsch.

December 27, 2006

I MAY BE ON VACATION, but Kaus is blogging up a storm.

December 27, 2006

KERRY MEETS THE TROOPS in Iraq. (Via The Corner).

Meanwhile, Prince Harry may be going, as a soldier.

December 27, 2006

A LOOK AT THE BRADY CAMPAIGN AND VIOLENT CRIME:

Brady has issued grades for states. These grades are gun control rankings from A to F, with an A indicating more gun control and more in line with Brady’s goals. Strangely, most of the increase in violent crime occurred in states that earned higher Brady rankings.

If from this you conclude that the Brady Campaign is responsible for violent crime . . . well, then, you’re operating at the level of statistical literacy at which the Brady Campaign itself usually operates! But it certainly doesn’t say anything good about their approach

UPDATE: Related item here. “Enactment or failure to enact Brady’s legislative priorities had no correlation to murder rates. If a state were to go from F to A, from virtually no gun control to everything on Brady’s agenda, the only result would be a joyful press release from Brady. It is quite interesting to see an advocacy group impeached by its own grading system.”

December 27, 2006

FROM THE ECONOMIST: Thoughts on Gary Hart and Barack Obama. More on that subject here.

December 27, 2006

HERE’S A massive Gerald Ford roundup at PJ Media.

December 27, 2006

SELLING THE STAR TRIBUNE OFF, dirt cheap. Further thoughts here.

December 27, 2006

MASS PROTEST IN BRITAIN:

Record numbers of hunt supporters gathered at Boxing Day events across the country in defiance of Labour’s ban on hunting with hounds.

Organisers claimed that hunting was more popular than ever and that more than 300,000 braved the cold to enjoy their favourite pastime.

The Countryside Alliance said that the record turnout proved the two-year ban on the blood sport was irrelevant and called for the law to be changed.

If that many British Muslims turned out to protest interference with their customs, the Blair government would be bending over backward to please them. (Via Brits at Their Best).

December 27, 2006

TIGERHAWK remembers Gerald Ford. Personally, I think that Chevy Chase cost Ford the 1976 election. Well, part of it, anyway.

December 26, 2006

BEACH READING: Finished S.M. Stirling’s new novel, The Sky People, and enjoyed it. Earlier mention and summary here.

December 26, 2006

THOUGHTS ON FEDERALISM, STATES RIGHTS, AND RACE, from Eugene Volokh and Ilya Somin.

December 26, 2006

ANN ALTHOUSE: “I also suspect that the Democrats’ talk about ‘fiscal responsibility’ is just a setup to demagogue about the war.”

December 26, 2006

MICKEY KAUS keeps looking at Barack Obama:

Obama listens to Samantha Power and Susan Rice on human rights, Gerstein reports. He wants to talk to Iran, he discounts the Chinese military threat but surprisingly, for an early Iraq war opponent, he has said he’d favor “launching some missile strikes into Iran” if that was the only way to stop “having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons.” (Does Iowa know this?)

It will, no doubt.

December 26, 2006

DAVID BRIN: “SINGULARITIES AND NIGHTMARES: EXTREMES OF OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM ABOUT THE HUMAN FUTURE:” It’s a must-read if you’re interested in this stuff. And you should be.

December 26, 2006

DEAN BARNETT looks at Christmas, the meaning of life, and the power of muddling through.

December 26, 2006

AN ARGUMENT FOR A BIGGER ARMY: “The bottom line is that the stress of combat has a cumulative psychological effect on soldiers. Today, after about 300 days of action, it’s time to put that soldier into a non-combat job. . . . The army wants to give the troops 2-3 years between combat tours, but there are not enough combat brigades to do that at current force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus the army will have to be increased in size, or the number of troops reduced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Note that this is distinct from, but related to, the question of whether we should have more troops in Iraq or Afghanistan now.

UPDATE: Somewhat related post on the latter topic from Mike Rappaport.

December 26, 2006

GOOD NEWS: “An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling to execute deposed leader Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity and said he could hang within 30 days.” Couldn’t happen too soon.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are whining about U.N. sanctions.

December 26, 2006

OMAR FADHIL OF IRAQ THE MODEL writes in The Wall Street Journal on how to beat Iraq’s Shiite extremists.

UPDATE: A reader emails: “Am I the only who noticed that Omar’s up-graded blog post made the WSJ op/ed page with better placement than Joseph Rago’s ‘blog rabble’ op/ed of last week? Irony is delicious.”

More on that theme here.

December 26, 2006

DON SURBER HAS MORE THOUGHTS ON THE MURTHA STORY mentioned below. “It is called tribute. Barbary pirates demanded it 200 years ago and Tommy Jefferson said no, launching the nation’s first pre-emptive war. Congressmen have refined the act. None dare tell them no.”

He also emails:

I too thought the Washington Post might have delayed the Murtha story for the smallest crowd of the year, but then I remembered that explanation that city editors used to give me on occasion:

“We held your story so we could put it on Page One”

You have to have something worthy of Page One every freaking day. Sometimes you hold a better story than what you have out there simply because it can hold

I give the Post the benefit of the doubt because it actually is going after Nancy’s right-hand man.

Good point.

December 26, 2006

MICHAEL LEDEEN says we’re dropping the ball where Iran is concerned.

December 26, 2006

MILITARY LESSONS from the Ethiopians.

Plus, more thoughts from Austin Bay.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I’m a Major serving in a combat battalion in Iraq right now. I’m a believer in the overall mission, etc, etc, which I presume Cliff May is if he writes for National Review. Having said that, I think his comment is asinine. It’s like saying, “The New York Mets blew out the Atlanta Braves, how come the Knicks can’t beat the Hawks by the same margin?” Completely different sports, completely different conflicts.

It’s true that they’re different conflicts. It’s also true, though, that the tactics of insurgency work mostly against Western armies with lots of press coverage and antiwar agitation at home, and not so much against armies that are unconcerned with looking bad when they kill the enemy. I think that was part of May’s point.

December 26, 2006

GRAND ROUNDS is up!

December 26, 2006

THOUGHTS ON FEDERALISM at The Volokh Conspiracy.

December 26, 2006

LAWRENCE ALTMAN looks at advances in medicine. “Few people appreciate that medicine has advanced more since World War II than in all of earlier history.”

Things must be going well — you can now buy longevity insurance! Or maybe that means that the insurance companies think we’re hitting a plateau.

December 26, 2006

ROGER SIMON REVIEWS Babel and The Pursuit of Happyness.

December 26, 2006

ONE MIGHT ALMOST SUSPECT THAT THIS STORY WAS TIMED for when it would get the least possible attention: Nonprofit Connects Murtha, Lobbyists. Excerpt:

But the group serves another function as well. PAID has become a gathering point for defense contractors and lobbyists with business before Murtha’s defense appropriations subcommittee, and for Pennsylvania businesses and universities that have thrived on federal money obtained by Murtha.

Lobbyists and corporate officials serve as directors on the nonprofit group’s board, where they help raise money and find jobs for Johnstown’s disabled workers. Some of those lobbyists have served as intermediaries between the defense contractors and businessmen on the board, and Murtha and his aides.

That arrangement over the years has yielded millions of dollars in federal support for the contractors, businesses and universities, and hundreds of thousands in consulting and lobbying fees to Murtha’s favored lobbying shops, according to Federal Election Commission records and lobbying disclosure forms. In turn, many of PAID’s directors have kept Murtha’s campaigns flush with cash.

When the Democrats take control of Congress on Jan. 4, ethics and budget restructuring will be the first orders of business. Among the provisions in the Democrats’ ethics package are demands for more transparency in the doling out of federal funds to home-district projects and a required pledge that no earmarks benefit a member of Congress personally. That could put an uncomfortable spotlight on lawmakers such as Murtha.

Sounds like he needs to be spotlighted. And not just on Christmas Day.

December 26, 2006

A JAMIL HUSSEIN CORRECTION, but alas from Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert, not the AP.

December 26, 2006

IN THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, a look at the changing status of blogs and the new media.

December 26, 2006

VIRTUAL INCOME? Why not virtual taxes?

December 25, 2006

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WE’VE HAD A NICE CHRISTMAS: I’ve never done the island Christmas before — this was something my sister came up with as a way of celebrating my brother-in-law’s successful completion of chemo — but I have to say that it’s been pretty nice. We’re cooking a leg of lamb and turkey as usual, though I marinated the lamb in jerk seasoning this time, just to get into the island spirit.

Hope you’re having a good Christmas too!

December 25, 2006

CASUS BELLI?

The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington. . . .

Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”

Or something else to be swept under the rug? That rug’s getting pretty lumpy by now.

Plus, the status of Syria.