Archive for January, 2007

January 27, 2007

HOLLYWOOD’S TERRORISM PROBLEM:

In the history of our time as told by the movies, the war on terror largely does not exist.

Which is passing strange, you know. Because the war on terror is the history of our time. The outcome of our battle against the demographic, political and military upsurge of a hateful theology and its oppressive political vision will determine the fate of freedom in this century.

Television — more populist, hungrier for content and less dependent on foreign audiences — reflects this fact with shows such as “24″ and “The Unit.” But at the movies, all we’re getting is home-front angst and the occasional “Syriana,” in which “moderate” Islam is thwarted by evil American interests. But the notion that this war is about our moral failings is comfort fantasy, pure and simple. It soothes us with the false idea that, if we but mend ourselves, the scary people will leave us alone. . . .

In all fairness, moviemakers have a legitimately baffling problem with the nature of the war itself. In order to honestly dramatize the simple truth about this existential struggle, you have to depict right-minded Americans — some of whom may be white and male and Christian — hunting down and killing dark-skinned villains of a false and wicked creed. That’s what’s happening, on a good day anyway, so that’s what you’d have to show.

Moviemakers are reluctant to do that because, even though it’s the truth, on screen it might appear bigoted and jingoistic. You can call that political correctness or multiculturalism gone mad — and sure, there’s a lot of that going around. But despite what you might have heard, there are sensible, patriotic people in the movie business too. And even they, I suspect, falter before the prospect of presenting such a scenario.

(Via Michael Barone, who has further thoughts.)

UPDATE: Related item here.

January 27, 2007

EUGENE VOLOKH: “OK, I made up the ‘who are also Firefly fans,’ but the rest is true.”

January 27, 2007

POLITICIZING THE U.S. ATTORNEYS?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation’s top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration’s inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.

The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they’ve been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.

Hmm. But doesn’t that pale beside this?

One of President Clinton’s very first official acts upon taking office in 1993 was to fire every United States attorney then serving — except one, Michael Chertoff, now Homeland Security secretary but then U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, who was kept on only because a powerful New Jersey Democrat, Sen. Bill Bradley, specifically requested his retention.

Were the attorneys Clinton fired guilty of misconduct or incompetence? No. As a class they were able (and, it goes without saying, well-connected). Did he shove them aside to thwart corruption investigations into his own party? No. It was just politics, plain and simple.

That’s because it’s a political office.

January 27, 2007

BIG MEDIA FOLKS used to make fun of bloggers for wasting time on shallow, superficial reports about their sex lives instead of doing hard news coverage. Now the situation has reversed.

January 27, 2007

THERE’S LOTS MORE GOING ON in the Duke (non) Rape case, and K.C. Johnson is on top of it.

January 27, 2007

MYSTERIOUS SOURCE JAMS SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS: “Paris-based satellite company Eutelsat is investigating ‘unidentified interference’ with its satellite broadcast services that temporarily knocked out several television and radio stations. The company declined to say whether it thought the interference was accidental or deliberate. The problem began Tuesday afternoon, blocking several European, Middle East and northeast African radio and television stations, as well as Agence France-Presse’s news service. All transferred their satellite transmissions to another frequency to resume operations.”

January 27, 2007

REMEMBER KOSOVO, where we’ve had troops for years? Things are finally happening.

January 27, 2007

LOOKING AT THE FUTURE OF WEB 2.0 in the latest Blog Week in Review podcast.

January 27, 2007

MICKEY KAUS ON UNRELIABLE NARRATIVES:

The video shows Iraqi troops beating three men who’d been caught with a bag full of mortars in their car. I don’t defend the beatings, which at least one American tries fecklessly to stop, but calling people captured with mortars “civilians” is a bit of a distortion, no?

But, sadly, a typical one.

January 26, 2007

CORRECTING NEIL LEWIS (“This is deceptive reporting, whether by incompetence or design”) and much more on the Libby trial, at Tom Maguire’s.

January 26, 2007

RALPH PETERS: “For an enthusiastic visitor to Turkey for three decades, it’s been heartbreaking to watch its society and economy come to life – only to fall prey to Islamist vampires.”

January 26, 2007

YOUTUBE WILL SHARE REVENUE with video creators.

January 26, 2007

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE reunites his blog. Er, blogs. Or something.

January 26, 2007

CHINESE CENSORSHIP, AND MORE: My review of Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu’s book, Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World, forthcoming in the Stanford Law & Policy Review, is now available online here.

UPDATE: Yes, it’s unusual to use the “F-word” in a law review article. But it fit. (Bumped.)

January 26, 2007

EXPLOSION IN ISLAMABAD: Roundup here.

January 26, 2007

BOB OWENS IS TAKING HIS MESSAGE to the top.

January 26, 2007

SCARY RACIST SYMBOLS, unashamedly flaunted.

January 26, 2007

ALEX TABARROK explains supply and demand to someone who really ought to know that stuff.

January 26, 2007

CATHY YOUNG on Jimmy Carter, Brandeis University, and anti-Semitism.

January 26, 2007

ROBERT GATES: Anti-surge resolution “emboldens the enemy.”

January 26, 2007

TYLER COWEN on income inequality.

January 26, 2007

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN: “In the south, NATO commandos are having success in finding out where Taliban commanders are, and killing or capturing them. There are about three dozen Taliban commanders in the south, and if enough of them can be taken out of action, this years Taliban offensive will collapse. . . . Sensing weakness, more warlords are publicly denouncing the Taliban, and urging young men not to join up.”

January 26, 2007

POPULAR MECHANICS WINDS UP its long-term test of the Toyota Highlander hybrid. They like it. I’ve had mine for about 15 months, and about 24,000 miles and I’ve liked it too: Roomy, comfy, and zippy, with excellent mileage. Of course, I paid under two bucks a gallon for gas today, but still . . . .

January 26, 2007

ANN ALTHOUSE: Is it getting obvious that Sharpton can’t stand Obama?

January 26, 2007

DONALD SENSING LOOKS AT THE NEW IRAQ STRATEGY, and likes what he sees.

Meanwhile, a question for Chuck Hagel, et al.: “Rather than back a non-binding resolution of disaproval, why didn’t the gutsy Senators, like Chuck Hagel, who are riding the surf of public opinion opposed to the troop surge and taking on a president with approval ratings at the freezing level vote aginst General Petraeus’ confirmation? Their convictions hold that he has endorsed a wholly unjustified escalation and will be leading troops on a futile mission. They want a role in the conduct of the war and with the need to win Senate confirmation of Gen. Petraeus the Constitution has given them one, but they have taken a pass. ” If Petraeus succeeds, they’ll be bragging that they voted for him. If he fails, they’ll note that they opposed the surge. As John F. Kennedy noted, political courage is scarcer than physical courage . . . .

UPDATE: Criticism of the old strategy, here.

January 26, 2007

IN THE MAIL: Ian Shapiro’s Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror.

January 26, 2007

$600K FOR FIRED PROFESSOR:

Virginia State University has agreed to pay $600,000 to Jean R. Cobbs, whom it fired as a tenured professor in 2005 and whose claims against the university have been backed by several academic groups.

Cobbs and her supporters have said that she was dismissed for her political views (she is an outspoken black Republican at a historically black college where her views place her in a distinct minority) and for backing other professors (of a range of political views) in disputes with the Virginia State administration. In announcing the settlement of her case, the Virginia Association of Scholars — one of the groups backing Cobbs — said that information obtained by Cobbs’s lawyer showed that the university’s provost, W. Eric Thomas, replaced Cobbs with a woman with whom he is living.

Sounds like a lawyer’s dream.

January 26, 2007

AN IMMORTAL TURN OF PHRASE FROM DENNIS KUCINICH: “You know how they say, Don’t ever ask how laws or sausages are made? Well, I can attest to the wisdom of that with the exception of kielbasa made with tofu.”

January 26, 2007

DON SURBER: McClatchy reporter should have questioned Jay’s intelligence.

January 26, 2007

AN AMUSING Ahmadinejad caption contest.

January 26, 2007

JOHN MCGINNIS AND ILYA SOMIN: Should International Law Be Part of Our Law?

January 26, 2007

TOM DELAY WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT?

Well, I want to be an astronaut. And my chances are better than his. . . .

January 26, 2007

PLAGIARISM CHARGES AIMED AT SAM BROWNBACK: Seems like pretty weak tea to me.

Some thoughts of mine on plagiarism, including a defense of Joe Biden, can be found here. And read this, too.

UPDATE: The “Toqueville quote” is apparently spurious anyway.

January 26, 2007

MARK STEYN: “The institutional performance of government departments other than Defense has been abysmal. This is one of the greatest failings of United States foreign policy.”

January 26, 2007

AND WE HAVE A WINNER: I’ve been testing out compact fluorescent bulbs in my house, with not very good results even though I started with high-end, expensive bulbs. But my latest test involved the G.E. “soft white fluorescent 75,” which is fairly cheap. I test these in a fixture over my kitchen table — it’s a pretty severe test because the light shines straight down onto a table with a white tile top, with no shade, etc., to soften it or improve the color. Most bulbs look bad there, but the G.E. bulb looked great — the Insta-Wife, who’s even pickier about light quality than me, couldn’t tell the difference. Actually, switching back to the 60 watt clear incandescent that’s usually in the fixture, you could tell that the fluorescent bulb, despite its claim to be as bright as a 75 watt incandescent, isn’t really quite as bright as the 60. But it’s a minor difference, and the quality of the light is good: warm and natural. By contrast, a Sylvania “soft white 100″ that I bought at the same time is absolutely ghastly. I don’t know what makes the difference, but it’s quite dramatic. Anyway, I’m going to start replacing bulbs around the house with the G.E., because it looks fine.

UPDATE: Various people ask where I got these: I bought mine at Target. Reader Nicholas White says they’re available on Amazon — I bought a four-pack, but these look to be the same. And reader Matt Fisher emails: “I went to Sam’s club last week and bout 2 five packs of GE soft white 100 CFL’s and think they are great. Plus they are only a little more than $2.00 a bulb.” Now that I know where to look, I found those on Amazon, too.

January 26, 2007

MY MINDLESS MINION JIM TREACHER has joined the Hillarysphere at my command, and wants your help.

January 26, 2007

A LOOK AT Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, and their differences.

January 25, 2007

WORST PART of Hillary running for President? The Clinton scandals are back!

A court-appointed bankruptcy trustee asked a federal judge this week to schedule a new court date in a case against Tony Rodham, the brother of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., accused of failing to repay $109,000 in loans from a carnival company whose owners received controversial pardons issued by President Bill Clinton in the last hours of his presidency.

According to documents filed in the case, Rodham received the loans, before and after the pardons were granted, from United Shows of America, Inc., owned by Edgar Gregory and his wife, who had been convicted of defrauding several banks.

ABC has more, and no doubt all sorts of stuff like this will be popping up over the next couple of years. Oh, well, I got a book out of ‘em last time.

January 25, 2007

AT THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ROOSEVELT’S COURT-PACKING SCHEME, Prof. Alasdair Roberts emails that he has collected some political cartoons on the subject from 1937.

January 25, 2007

BLACKFIVE SEES something afoot in Iraq.

January 25, 2007

JONATHAN ADLER REVIEWS Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science, in Regulation. You can download his review, Don’t Politicize Science (Unless You’re on My Side), for free.

Adler has more on this at The Volokh Conspiracy.

January 25, 2007

OVER 10,000 PEOPLE have signed Hugh Hewitt and N.Z. Bear’s NRSC Pledge, vowing not to support any Republican Senator who votes against the surge.

Dean Barnett, meanwhile, has posted some FAQs.

UPDATE: A response to critics. I have to note that my own support for this effort is of limited value — I’ve never donated to the NRSC or, as far as I can remember, to any Republican Senatorial candidate. But folks like Hugh Hewitt make up the core of this movement, and they’re quite different.

January 25, 2007

MOHAMMED SAYS IT’S QUIET IN BAGHDAD: Maybe too quiet.

January 25, 2007

A REPORT FROM DAVOS:

This year there is a weird imbalance here between thinkers and doers.

Usually you can count on a healthy tension between the dreamy thinkers (for these purposes, anyone who writes or talks for a living, such as economists, journalists and most politicians) and the pragmatic doers (in Davos, business people).

The former come up with wild theories and grand plans. The latter say it will never work in practice.

But now, not least in Davos, it is the eggheads who are fretting and the men in Brioni suits who are looking on the bright side.

In the dinners and the discussions, the journalists and economists and politicians raise all the questions about inequality between winners and losers, deplore the absence of political leadership and compare this age of globalisation gloomily with the one that collapsed with the first world war.

The business people reply, by and large: “Come off it”.

It is not that they are being complacent, the business people say. Far from it. They are realists. They see things from the ground up. They see progress in each shampoo bottle bought in eastern Europe, in improvements to Africa’s health care, in the broadening of choice everywhere.

You see this in the United States, too, where the financial markets are much happier than the pundits. I think — and, even more, I hope — that the business people are right here.

UPDATE: Related item here: “When you pick up a newspaper, turn on the television or radio news you would think by the drumbeat that things are awful: Iraq, Iran, Afgan, Global Warming, America’s loss of status, on and on it goes. Meanwhile the markets day after day vote on the overwhelming economic resiliency and strength and breadth of the economy.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at The Speculist, some thoughts on why the world seems to be getting better even as the news keeps seeming worse: part one, and part two.

January 25, 2007

ANN ALTHOUSE ON SCIENCE: “Shouldn’t gay rights advocates care when they sound like the religious fundamentalists they usually deride?”

January 25, 2007

BAN KI-MOON’S first coverup?

UPDATE: Reader Ric Manhard emails: “Can we call it ‘Ban Ki panky?’” Why not?

January 25, 2007

MICAH SIFRY:

It’s taken me a little longer than I had hoped to pull together the data on how the Republican presidential candidates are doing in terms of bottom-up support for their campaigns online, for which I apologize. Here’s the headline: They’re almost invisible on the web. Compared to the Democratic presidential field, which I posted on a few days ago, the Republican contenders* are playing bush league ball online. Not even Triple A.

To give you just one example, if you add up all the friends all the Republican candidates have on their MySpace pages, and compare it to all the friends the Ds have, the totals will amaze you: 4,007 to 51,471. If I take fringe candidates Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo out of that equation, the Republican total drops below 2,000.

Same with total incoming blog links, which for the Republican are woeful in part due to the fact that most of them don’t have serious websites yet.

There are some pockets of excellence, but overall the Republican effort is way behind the Dems.

January 25, 2007

GREG GUTFELD further embroils the fray by which he rules.

January 25, 2007

READER BRIAN HALL EMAILS:

The Gulf News here in the UAE has an interesting story about Palestinians being told by Shias to leave Iraq or “prepare to die,” yet the supposedly Jewish controlled American media (not CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NYT, Wash Post) doesn’t report on it. I posted about it here.

Interesting. I don’t know why it hasn’t gotten more attention here.

January 25, 2007

TURNAROUND IN BAGHDAD? Nibras Kazimi writes in The New York Sun:

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.

In other words, battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda. This is a major accomplishment.

Read the whole thing. I certainly hope this is right.

January 25, 2007

A LOOK AT KOREA as a source of historical analogy.

January 25, 2007

I’VE MENTIONED J.D. JOHANNES’ INDEPENDENT IRAQ DOCUMENTARY, OUTSIDE THE WIRE, before, but now he emails that it’s available through Amazon. He writes: “Pretty cool…for me at least.” It’s pretty cool for anyone.

You can see an online trailer here.

January 25, 2007

A LOOK AT HILLARY’S BLOGAD BUY, from William Beutler.

January 25, 2007

IN THE MAIL: William Easterly’s The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. I ordered it on Megan McArdle’s recommendation.

January 25, 2007

A POLITICAL BLOGGING SCHOLARSHIP: I wish they’d had these when I was in school. Of course, we would have had to have had blogs first. And the Web.

January 25, 2007

IS THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN WORRIED ABOUT ROMNEY? Well, if they’re smart they are. Plus, Dan Riehl looks at Romney.

January 25, 2007

CANCELLING THE YEAR OF THE PIG IN CHINA, so as not to offend Muslims.

January 25, 2007

OBAMA QUESTIONS:

The question of how Obama chooses to define and approach race looms large as he moves closer to formally launching his campaign next month. Although he rides a wave of enthusiasm among Democrats who like his vision of a different kind of politics and see him as an alternative to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), it is not clear that his multiracial message can excite black voters hungry for affirmation of their top concerns. . . .

Complicating matters is that Obama appears certain to encounter fierce competition for the black vote from the other leading Democratic presidential contenders. Black Democrats prefer Clinton 3 to 1 over Obama, and four out of five of black Democrats view her favorably, much higher than the 54 percent who have a favorable view of Obama, according to combined findings from two Washington Post-ABC polls taken in December and January. Clinton also enjoys close ties to top black elected officials, and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, remains extremely popular among African Americans.

Indeed. Plus, Howard Kurtz on Kerry’s long goodbye:

Kerry began to talk. And talk.

He talked about Mesopotamia in the year 685, the tribal warfare, how people were beheaded. He trod a long, winding path to today’s Iraq, then detoured to talk about Syria.

As he continued to speechify, CNN cut away, then MSNBC.

Kerry kept talking. He turned to Vietnam, then back to Iraq. MSNBC checked in again, then CNN. Would he now get to the point?

The on-screen headlines said that Kerry would announce his withdrawal, but he did not.

Finally, half an hour later, the Massachusetts senator, his voice breaking, disclosed that he would, in fact, not be a candidate for president in the next election.

A flashback to the often droning, ponderous Kerry of 2004 was impossible to avoid.

I still don’t understand why people thought he was the guy to nominate. And — as I noted back then — it’s a measure of Bush’s own weakness as a candidate that he beat Kerry by such a comparatively narrow margin.

January 25, 2007

WHY I’M CONSIDERING VOTING FOR HILLARY: Jay Nordlinger says it all:

I have a friend who, in a phone conversation last weekend, said the unsayable. Come to think of it, this friend makes a specialty of saying the unsayable. That is one reason he is invaluable.

He said, “The Democrats have to win in 2008 — I mean, the whole enchilada: House, Senate, and presidency.” You ought to know that my friend is a staunch conservative Republican. “Why?” I said. “Why do they have to win?” He answered, “Because that’s the only way they will be fully onboard the War on Terror. They won’t fully support it otherwise, because they will always be trying to trip up the Republicans. If you want the Democrats onboard the War on Terror, they have to be in charge. Period.”

It’s getting harder to argue with that. And hey, maybe Hillary really will turn out to be “the most uncompromising wartime President in the history of the United States.” Plus, Markos doesn’t like her.

January 25, 2007

MESSAGE TO SAFETY NAZIS: Life is inherently distracting.

January 25, 2007

DIEBOLD PUTS PHOTO OF VOTING MACHINE KEY ON WEBSITE: Key made from photo opens machine.

January 25, 2007

THE SECRET WAR AGAINST IRAN:

With the Shia majority in Iraq now running the country, the Arabs now have to confront Iran directly. And that they are doing. Saudi Arabia is supporting the Palestinian Fatah organization against the Iranian supported Hamas. Saudi Arabia is also using its money to support Sunni Arab, and Christian, factions in Lebanon, against Hizbollah, the Shia minority and its Iranian backers. Saudi Arabia is also giving support to the Sunni Arab majority in Syria. For decades, the Saudis tolerated the Shia minority that ran Syria. No more. The situation has changed, especially with Iran gaining speed in its effort to build nuclear weapons.

The Saudis are even, secretly, cooperating with the Israelis. Iran has always been seen as a greater danger to Israel than the surrounding Sunni Arab nations. Hizbollah, which is a Lebanese Shia organization, made a name for itself during its disastrous attack on Israel last Summer. Although Hizbollah lost by every measure, they won in the arena of public opinion. Both the Israelis and Saudi Arabs (and Sunni Arabs in general) hated that. . . . The Saudis are committing over $100 billion to this battle, and doing it out of the purest of motives; self interest.

Interesting.

January 25, 2007

K.C. JOHNSON has more on the Nifong debacle.

January 25, 2007

MICKEY KAUS: “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is just like the Iraq war.

January 25, 2007

NANOTECHNOLOGY and misleading symbolism.

January 25, 2007

SOME DATA ON DIVERSITY, from Tom W. Bell.

January 24, 2007

POLLING WITH THEIR FEET: Frank Martin observes:

I’ve never understood how on one hand people overseas will tell the pollsters how much they hate America – and Americans, and yet our streets seem to be increasingly filled with people from all around the world who have risked life and limb and broken the law of their country and ours to get here.

I mean, if I dont like a restaurant, I dont stand in line for 4 hours to get in, I just go somewhere else. I sure dont stand in line for four hours and then say how much I hate the place.

I wonder if theres a sort of ‘natural reflex’ to just tell the pollsters what they want to hear, rather than tell them what you actually think.

Think about it, when the western United States was being settled, I dont think there were people saying how much they hated Oregon and California when they were selling everything they had and walking away from Ohio and other parts of the east. ” I hate Oregon, so lets take our life in our hands and try to go there”, followed by headlines that said ” Oregon more unpopular than ever says poll of former residents of Ohio”.

face it, if there is a line of people stretching across to continent walking to oregon, then any poll saying “oregon unpopular…” is clearly based on faulty data, right?

You’d think.

UPDATE: Various readers suggest that the world is made up of two kinds of people: Those who “get” America and those who don’t. The former immigrate; the latter stay home and are polled.

January 24, 2007

THE STATE OF THE UNION, in three presidencies.

January 24, 2007

JIMMY CARTER APOLOGIZES.

January 24, 2007

CENSORING FOR JIMMY CARTER at Brandeis.

January 24, 2007

I’VE LINKED TO AUDRA AND THE ANTIDOTE on numerous occasions. You might be interested to know that Audra Coldiron has brain cancer, and is now blogging about it. She’s a terrific person, and I wish her the best. Send her your prayers and good thoughts.

Our podcast interview with Audra is here.

January 24, 2007

FRONT-LINE WARRIORS against Islamic fundamentalism. (LATER: A reader cautions that these photos might be NSFW some places. I’m beginning to wonder if the Taliban fled to corporate HR departments, instead of Waziristan.)

January 24, 2007

READER STEVE BRISENDINE says that I should have mentioned this coffeemaker in my big coffeemaker roundup. First I’ve heard of it, but it gets good reviews.

January 24, 2007

A RECORD HIGH FOR THE DOW: What does the market know that I don’t know?

January 24, 2007

SENATOR WARBUCKS?

January 24, 2007

JOE MALCHOW: “Want to talk about politicizing war?”

January 24, 2007

DANIEL DREZNER:

Gingrich intrigues me — he’s far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who’s learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can’t as well.

However, I can’t shake the feeling that because I’m so interested in a Gingrich, he’s doomed to fail.

I know that feeling.

January 24, 2007

CHINA VOWS TO “PURIFY” THE INTERNET: (Via BoingBoing.)

January 24, 2007

A STATE-OF-THE-UNION ENERGY CONSERVATION REALITY CHECK:

Twenty percent less gas in 10 years? Sounds nice, but what will it really take to make it happen? I didn’t hear any answers to that question, beyond the standard ethanol speech, which is all well and good, but there’s still little discussion of the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). People who claim that a gallon of ethanol replaces a gallon of gas are forgetting a few truths: To grow the corn (our current feed stock for ethanol), you need nitrogen-based fertilizers that demand copious natural gas inputs, and you need lots and lots of diesel to run the tractors, combines and trucks it takes to get the corn to market. And then you have to refine it. Fact is, corn-based ethanol has a fairly poor EROEI (some studies suggest that we’re burning nearly a gallon of fossil fuels to make a gallon of ethanol).

Other feedstocks show more promise: switch grass, biomass, wood chips and (so I hear) chicken fat. But we’re not there yet, and it’s hard to believe that we’ll be able to cut our gas use by 20% in 10 years on ethanol alone.

Ethanol, at the moment, is pretty much liquid pork. That could change, but I remain unimpressed.

UPDATE: A downside to ethanol?

Soaring international demand for corn has caused a spike in prices for Mexico’s humble tortilla, hitting the poor and forcing President Felipe Calderon’s business-friendly government into an uncomfortable confrontation with powerful monopolies.

Tortilla prices have jumped nearly 14 percent over the past year, a move the head of Mexico’s central bank called “unjustifiable” in a country where inflation ran about 4 percent.

Economists blame increased U.S. production of ethanol from corn as an alternative to oil. The battle over the tortilla, the most basic staple of the Mexican diet, especially among the poor, demonstrates how increasing economic integration is felt on the street level.

Feeding people is more important than feeding cars. If we’re going to emphasize ethanol, it should come from waste biomass, not corn, Charles Grassley’s lobbying notwithstanding. (Via ThreeSources).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Complicating the story, at Cafe Hayek.

January 24, 2007

QUESTIONS on the latest anti-gun research from Harvard.

January 24, 2007

A NEW IOWA POLL: Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards are in the respective leads.

January 24, 2007

HUGH HEWITT IS ENCOURAGING PEOPLE to pledge not to support any Republican Senator who votes to oppose the surge. There’s a pledge website here.

The pledge reads:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

It will be interesting to see if this makes an impact. This is the sort of grassroots pressure that Democrats have been feeling for a while, but it’s new to Republicans. I think that Hugh’s right to start this drive. Opposition to the surge is wrong (see what Petraeus said) and it’s also political suicide for the Republicans.

January 24, 2007

THE BBC REFERS TO “Instapundit’s Stephen Green” in its roundup of State of the Union reactions. But though I’d like to claim him, he’s his own man.

Meanwhile, the speech polled well: “78 percent of speech viewers reacted positively; 67 percent think Bush’s policies will move country in right direction.” I don’t think it’ll make much difference, though. Some perspective here.

UPDATE: Heh: “If only all those layers of taxpayer-funded editors could be trusted to figure out which blog he actually runs.”

January 24, 2007

MOHAMMED FADHIL REPORTS from the streets of Baghdad.

UPDATE: Plus, an email from Michael Yon: “We need to kill Sadr.”

January 24, 2007

WE WON’T HAVE JOHN KERRY to kick around any more: “Senator John F. Kerry plans to announce today that he will not run in the 2008 presidential race, and will instead remain in Congress and seek reelection to his Senate seat next year, according to senior Democratic officials.”

January 24, 2007

OUCH: “The Democratic response by Virginia Sen. James Webb was also memorable, in a different way. Whenever a politician puts out to the media that he has thrown away the speechwriters’ draft and written the remarks himself (as Webb did), it is often a sign of approaching mediocrity. This was worse.” Of course, it’s a speechwriter talking, and not just any speechwriter.

January 24, 2007

MAX BOOT: “Although most of the foreign policy debate in the U.S. has been riveted on Iraq, some within the Pentagon have been touting recent events in Somalia as an alternative model of how to fight Islamo-fascists. Everyone recognizes that there will be scant appetite in the near term for sending huge numbers of U.S. troops to occupy any more Middle Eastern countries. Might not the U.S. be able to achieve its goals by taking advantage of local allies backed by American airpower and small numbers of commandos and intelligence agents?”

Yes, but there are some caveats.

January 24, 2007

NEWBERY AND CALDECOTT AWARD WINNERS announced.

January 24, 2007

ADAM BONIN BOOTED FROM REDSTATE: I’ve worked with him on the FEC blogging freedom stuff and found him to be quite a reasonable guy.

January 24, 2007

OLD CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: “Rumsfeld and Bush should have listened to the generals.”

NEW CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Shut up, generals.

January 24, 2007

BAD NEWS FOR David Shuster.

January 24, 2007

JACKSONIANS ON THE WAR: Disappointment over unwillingness to fight hard enough? That sounds right to me, as I’ve observed a similar phenomenon and commented on it in the past. It’s certainly Bill Quick’s complaint: “a half-assed, one-hand-tied-behind-our-backs, safe haven, ‘war’ he has neither the guts nor the intention to wage to the fullest, or to completion.” I’m not quite sure that was Webb’s point, though.

UPDATE: An alternate text for Webb. Heh. Webb’s brave, but not that brave.

January 24, 2007

WITH BUSH TALKING BIOFUELS, it’s worth reminding people of how the numbers crunch on a variety of alternative fuels.

January 24, 2007

IN THE MAIL: Jan Crawford Greenburg’s new book. She says Clarence Thomas is much more influential than generally thought. Orin Kerr says her book is a “must read.”

January 24, 2007

RUTH MARCUS: “Listening to Democratic reaction to Bush’s new health insurance proposal, you get the sense that if Bush picked a plank right out of the Democratic platform — if he introduced Hillarycare itself — and stuck it in his State of the Union address, Democrats would churn out press releases denouncing it.” And if he announced a troop surge that Harry Reid was urging just last month, they’d denounce that. Oh, wait . . . .

January 24, 2007

NIFONG UPDATE: The ethics charges against him growing out of the Duke (non) Rape Case just got a lot stronger.

UPDATE: Much more here.

January 24, 2007

PATROLLING IN KHADIMIYA: At Hot Air.

These reports are much better than we’re getting elsewhere. Don’t miss ‘em.

January 24, 2007

FLY AROUND GOOGLEEARTH WITH THE SPACE NAVIGATOR: Video and a review, here.

January 24, 2007

JULES CRITTENDEN offers a State of the Union response. It’s not much like Jim Webb’s.

And Arnold Kling comments on Bush’s health care proposals.

January 24, 2007

JONATHAN CHAIT ON THE NEW YORK MONEY PEOPLE: “We could argue about whether Clark’s analysis is anti-Semitic; I think it is. But I don’t see how you can say it’s obviously true.”

UPDATE: A reader emails:

New York Money People? That’s me!

I live on Park Avenue in Manhattan, run a hedge fund, consort with the upper strata private school crowd in NYC, and am the son of Holocaust survivors.

I have yet to meet a single “rich Jew” (I am one myself) who has had a kind word for W, the war, or anything at all related to the GOP.

Rich Jews in my building have donated money to Clark!

His comments are weird and scary, apart from being utterly untrue.

It’s been a while since I ran with that crowd, but this seems right to me.