Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

August 27, 2005

BRENDAN LOY has lots more Katrina-blogging, and observes:

Traffic isn't terribly bad on the roads leading out of New Orleans right now, according to Jeff Morrow on The Weather Channel. Specifically, he says the road to Baton Rouge is pretty clear. So now is still a good time to evacuate. When the idiot mayor finally announces the mandatory evacuation order tomorrow morning, that will change.

If I lived in New Orleans, I'd be gone by now, even before hearing Brendan warn of "another Camille." More here.

BILL QUICK HAS A NEW NOVEL OUT: Follow the link for details.

FRED PHELPS MEETS A TENNESSEE EDITORIALIST:

Small, pitiful groups of perverse traitors cloaked in a warped, hate-filled and degraded version of Christianity are tirelessly traveling across America, cruelly protesting at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq.

They are scheduled to stop in Middle Tennessee today, in Smyrna and Ashland City, to dishonor the solemn services and add to the horror and grief of those who mourn Staff Sgt. Asbury F. Hawn of Lebanon and Spc. Gary Reese Jr. of Ashland City. The Army National Guardsmen served together in the 278th Regimental Combat Team and died in an enemy attack Aug. 13 in Iraq.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., will be there, not to spread the comforting Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to spew a disgustingly vulgar and crude message of gay hatred while celebrating the death of U.S. soldiers.

"Pitiful groups of perverse traitors." Sounds about right. Michael Silence has more.

TODAY'S MY BIRTHDAY, so blogging is likely to be light. For all of you emailing me about Able Danger, the story's gotten complicated enough that I'm not sure I have a handle on it. But you can find updates at Kausfiles, The Strata-Sphere, Tom Maguire, and Ed Morrissey's.

EVAN COYNE MALONEY IS INTERVIEWED at the new (temporary) Pajamas Media site.

SKEPTICISM REGARDING THE "METH EPIDEMIC:"

I'm going on the record now: Meth has peaked. For an epidemic to grow, more new people have to come in--of the current users, some will die or stop using. Just like being a heavy crack user (the "crack whore" phrase has persisted as a slang term), being a heavy meth user seems obviously and extremely unpleasant, so non-users looking for a drug will go elsewhere.

I think that's right.

BLOGGER SUED OVER COMMENTS: This suit is probably a loser, but . . . .

UPDATE: Googling the name of the company filing the lawsuit suggests that suing bloggers won't be enough to restore its reputation. Sheesh.

August 26, 2005

LUCKY IS THIRSTY: Some Friday cat-vlogging.

MIDEAST UPDATES: Movement toward democracy in Egypt (and this is interesting, too). Plus an essay from Publius on Iraqi federalism.

UPDATE: A deal in principle on the Iraqi Constitution, we're told.

THE PERFECT SUMMARY of a lot of confirmation stuff I haven't blogged about:

I don't really have strong feelings about Roberts one way or the other. If it weren't so pathetic, the media's desperation to validate their existence by discovering some bombshell would be amusing.

Actually, that covers a lot of stories running at the moment.

ANDY BOWERS has a podcast roundup.

PATRICK RUFFINI analyzes the results of his 2008 Republican presidential straw poll.

KATRINA THREATENS NEW ORLEANS: Brendan Loy is blogging.

UPDATE: More on New Orleans here.

SOME INTERESTING POLL DATA:

People with friends or relatives serving in Iraq are more likely than others to have a positive view of a generally unpopular war, an AP- Ipsos poll found.

Kind of like the higher re-enlistment rates, I wonder if this is because they're getting information from someone other than the big media.

UPDATE: Well, not everyone feels this way. Megan McArdle:

Having spent the last week complaining vociferously that conservatives were just making it all up about high-profile liberals who are rooting for the insurgents, the left half of the blogosphere cannot be happy to discover that Cindy Sheehan thinks that the folks infiltrating into Iraq to blow up cars in large crowds are "freedom fighters".

Indeed.

ED LARSON:

Intelligent design, despite its proponents' claims to the contrary, isn't modern science. It's part of that rebellion against it. Scientists look for natural explanations for natural phenomena. Their best explanations, if they survive rigorous testing, become scientific theories.

Intelligent design, in contrast, is a critique of all that. Its proponents may challenge the sufficiency of evolutionary explanations for the origin of species but they have not — and cannot — offer testable alternative explanations. The best they can offer is the premise that, if no natural explanation suffices, then God must have done it. Maybe God did do it, but if so, it's beyond science.

I highly recommend Larson's book on the Scopes Trial, A Summer for the Gods. And he and I did this video for Court TV. Some Scopes Trial background (which, like Larson's book, demonstrates that Inherit the Wind doesn't really tell the story) can be found here, courtesy of Jim Lindgren.

I HAVEN'T PAID MUCH ATTENTION to the Able Danger story, but Mickey Kaus has a roundup of the latest developments.

AGING AND THE KLOTHO GENE: Sounds fairly promising for drug development.

HUGH HEWITT will have Michael Yon on his show shortly, if the satphone connection works out.

UPDATE: Radioblogger has a transcript.

instapspsm.jpg

THIS IS KIND OF COOL: Reader Jason Shelton emails: "I thought you might enjoy a quick picture of your website as seen with Sony's new PSP web browser."

UPDATE: Reader David Scott emails: "PSP? That’s nuthin. Here’s underwater Instapundit."


underwaterinstasm.jpg

Heh. But actually, this is underwater InstaPundit:

WRITING IN INSIDE HIGHER ED, KC Johnson has thoughts on intellectual diversity, and the lack thereof at American universities, and the unpersuasive arguments offered by defenders of the status quo.

NEW ARMY PRONOUNCEMENTS on military blogs and operational security.

I think that they're right to worry -- but they'd be crazy not to take account of the benefits of military blogs, too.

INTERESTING ARTICLE ON CELLPHONES AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA -- and I think it's representative of how technology in general helps. (Via Samizdata).

I'M HAPPY TO REPORT that these are still yummy, and that I'm still enjoying the free part, too.

OMAR AT IRAQ THE MODEL has thoughts on the Iraqi Constitution.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has more thoughts.

E.U. REFERENDUM:

But the peace prize? How much peace is there in the world and if there is, how much of that had been achieved by the various nominees?

Let us face it, if it is peace and democracy we are honouring then we should look to the body of men (and some women) who have done more than anyone else to bring both those concepts to parts of the world that have, in the past, known little of it.

This blog hereby nominates the US Corps of Marines for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Read the whole thing, which includes an unflattering contrast to Gerhard Schroeder.

"VACATIONING BUSH WRITES NEW IRAQI CONSTITUTION:" Heh.

HUGH HEWITT has thoughts on the Michael Yon phenomenon. I agree with Hugh that old media ought to be buying Yon's dispatches, and I'm quite surprised that they haven't done so yet.

AUSTIN BAY just finished attending a conference on the media and the military, and has some thoughts.

HERE'S AN ABC REPORT ON THE PR MACHINE BEHIND CINDY SHEEHAN:

ABC7 Looks At The Financing Of 'Camp Casey'
By Mark Matthews
With the President back at his Crawford ranch, the anti-war protest right outside his ranch is getting a lot more media attention. ABC7 looks at who is financing the operation and who's providing on-the-ground support.

The camp at Crawford is full of Cindy Sheehan supporters, people from all walks of life. But off to the side are a small group of professionals, skilled in politics and public relations who are marketing her message. . . .
Leading the group is Fenton Communications employee Michele Mulkey, based in San Francisco. Fenton specializes in public relations for liberal non profits.

Their bills are being paid by True Majority, a non-profit set up by Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame.

Ben Cohen: "People are willing to listen to her and we want to do as much as we can to make her voice heard."

Cohen's liberal group has teamed up with Berkeley-based moveon.org, an anti-Bush group co-founded by Joan Blades.

I can't say I'm surprised: the "grassroots" antiwar movement keeps turning out to be MoveOn/A.N.S.W.E.R. astroturf. But I bet that if a GOP group were to send servicemen's families to picket Democrats it would be getting more play. And more negative play.

UPDATE: Reader Don Fishback thinks this is just a smokescreen:

You have to wonder if Karl Rove is the one who is REALLY behind Cindy Sheehan. Look at what he has accomplished and hopes to accomplish with her help:

First, his name is completely off the radar screen. Valerie Plame? Who is she?

Second, liberal interest groups are getting their hopes up once again, as they have after every so-called Bush implosion. Hardcore Democrats feel liberated and are actively supporting Sheehan, who contemporaneously says things like "AFGHANISTAN was a mistake" and "Get Israel out of Palestine." It's as if the hardcore leftists are so emboldened that even Howard Dean isn't enough for them!

But most of all, he's set an awful sweet trap for some bigger catch. I am sure that he was hoping that some potential Democrat presidential candidates showed up in Crawford. Well, at least someone besides Sharpton. Alas, it looks like he's going to have to wait until her entourage gets to Washington.

It's as if Rove has set the Democrats up with a Kobayashi Maru. If a major Dem goes to Cindy's side, they're doomed as a national candidate. No one in Tennessee or Indiana is going to support someone who agrees with the policy that Afghanistan was a mistake. But if they don't, as Kaus points out, they'll never get nominated by the emboldened left-wing base.

Evil Genius indeed.

Hmm. Is Karl Rove that smart? Are Democratic activists that gullible?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Maybe so.

IRAQ, unplugged.

MICHAEL FUMENTO REPORTS FROM FALLUJAH with some surprising news:

After crisscrossing Fallujah by foot and Humvee in May, I reported on tremendous progress being made to restore "the city we had to destroy to save." Actually fighting left most of the town unscathed; most damage was from three decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein. And rebuilding began almost immediately.

Good news from Iraq rarely gets a single story compared to the many thousands on a war protestor's stake-out in Texas. Yet it occurs nonetheless.

Read the whole thing.

OVER AT BIASED-BBC, BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds (no relation) is responding to criticism in the comments.

CHARLES MURRAY looks at Lawrence Summers.

Summers should have taken Ann Althouse's advice on how to do politically correct research on innate sexual differences: "The rule is: always portray whatever you find in the female as superior."

If you always follow this rule, you'll never be sexist!

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!

THE SOVIET BIOWAR HANGOVER seems to be continuing, with an outbreak of tularemia in Russia. Gateway Pundit has this and related news.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Todd Steed.

PEOPLE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT PAT ROBERTSON, but really, this post by Stephen Green is the last word:

Pat Robertson is an idiot. Not only that, but he's a hypocritical idiot. If we were so hot for toppling dictators, he really ought to stop making millions of dollars off them.

Not that there'd be much wrong with killing Hugo Chávez. If there's one thing Ayn Rand got right, it's this: No dictatorship has any right to exist; any free nation wishing to topple a dictatorship has the moral right (but not the moral obligation) to do so.

Failing that, knocking off the dictator certainly couldn't do any harm.

But Robertson is still an idiot.

Well, yeah.

THE NOT-SO-SAD PLIGHT of female DJ's -- I take up a challenge from K. Lo, over at GlennReynolds.com.

August 25, 2005

HENRY COPELAND WANTS YOUR HELP designing a new Blogads logo. Be sure to tell him I sent you!

MICHAEL BARONE has thoughts on Iraqi Constitution-making.

UPDATE: Patterico has a solution to any problems that may arise.

ERIN CHAPIN CONDUCTS A VIDEO TOUR of Knoxville's adult establishments, and offers an "in your face" to Kate Hudson.

Some people in Knoxville do want to entertain Kate.

LYNNE KIESLING OFFERS A summary of reasons why oil and gasoline prices are so high, then expresses enthusiasm for ethanol as a fuel. Er, for bloggers, anyway. . . .

UPDATE: She also has some interesting numbers on household spending on gasoline as compared to income.

WATER FLOWED ON MARS: recently!

The new study suggests water may still bubble to the surface of Mars now and then, flow for a short stretch, then boil away in the thin, cold air.

The conclusion is based on computer modeling of the atmosphere and how water would behave.

"The gullies may be sites of near-surface water on present-day Mars and should be considered as prime astrobiological target sites for future exploration," said Jennifer Heldmann, the lead researcher from NASA's Ames Research Center. "The gully sites may also be of prime importance for human exploration of Mars because they may represent locations of relatively near surface liquid water, which can be accessed by crews drilling on the red planet."

Any potential long-term human presence on Mars would require a water source, both for drinking and to be broken down into hydrogen as fuel for return flights.

The claim that water carved the gullies is based on the shape and size of features spotted by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.

This is good news, though life on Mars might well be bad news.

ASSASSINATION AS A TOOL OF FOREIGN POLICY: Eugene Volokh is against it. George Stephanopoulos is reportedly more supportive.

OUCH, again.

UPDATE: And again. "Hey, this is blogging, not journalism or scholarly work. But Mr Cole can be pretty blistering when others make errors on his turf."

I think he's just defending his monopoly position . . . .

MORE ERROR-CORRECTION BY BLOG.

RADLEY BALKO NOTES that "consumer advocates" can make life miserable for consumers. Bill Quick is mentioned, as is Jeralynn Merritt.

GATES OF FIRE: Michael Yon has more firsthand combat reporting from Iraq, with photos. As always, it's a must-read. Thank goodness for the blogosphere, as you won't see this kind of reporting anywhere else.

LYNN KIESLING ON GAS PRICES: "[B]etween economic growth and increased fuel efficiency, the amount we spend to pay for fuel is a decreasing share of our household budgets, and is a much lower share than in the 1970s. It's expensive and annoying, yes, but it's not the big budget item in most budgets that it used to be."

SCOTT OTT has found a leaked White House document.

SOME THOUGHTS on hybrid cars and blogs.

IN CONNECTION WITH THE POST ON SUVs, BELOW, here's an interesting chart: "The following plot shows how much I paid for each gallon of gas I bought over the past 26 years or so. . . . The upper, black curve shows the actual price paid for each gallon. The lower curve is the data adjusted for inflation using April, 1979 as the datum."

Of course, as Nick Gillespie has suggested, if we're worried about people wasting fuel we should ban private jets. But what would Arianna say?

JACK KELLY FACT-CHECKS a New York Times story on the war by calling the source:

Colonel Thomas Spoehr is annoyed with New York Times reporter Michael Moss, for what I think is a good reason.

Spoehr is the director of materiel for the Army staff. He had a good news story to tell Moss, which Moss converted into a bad news story.

Read the whole thing. You know, calling sources to check their quotes in Big Media is an interesting approach.

WELL, IT IS THE VOLUNTEER STATE:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Increased bonuses, advertising, relaxed qualifications and more recruiters are being credited by Tennessee National Guard and Army recruiters for rising enlistments. . . .

Wenzler said the National Guard will likely finish about 300 recruits short of its goal of 1,600, but that enlistments are up from last year.

Meanwhile, Rich Hailey has thoughts on why re-enlistments are running so high:

First time enlistments are running a bit behind, another product of a burgeoning economy, but re-enlistments, even from soldiers in combat zones, are running ahead of expectations.

What does it mean when the guys in the thick of it, closest to the action, at risk, on the ground and looking at things with their own eyes, decide to stay for another hitch?

They must believe in what they're doing.

Indeed.

August 24, 2005

ROBERT SAMUELSON WRITES:

Economist Robert Fogel, winner of the Nobel Prize, recently told students at Cornell University that "half of you [may] live to celebrate your 100th birthday." Fogel's prediction goes well beyond standard projections, which envision today's college students living into their late seventies. But Fogel, who has studied centuries of change in human well-being, said that conventional forecasts are usually too cautious. "In the late 1920s," he recalled, "the chief actuary of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. put a cap of 65 on life expectancy."

Fogel's forecast reminds us that sooner or later Americans will have to work longer and retire later. It will become economically, politically and morally intolerable for government (aka taxpayers) to support people for a third or even half of their adult lives. Our present Social Security "debate" ought to start this inevitable transformation. But it isn't. We are in deep denial about the obvious. . . .

The system encourages earlier retirement among career workers and frustrates their reemployment. We could take steps to change this: review age discrimination laws to make it easier for companies to keep career workers; allow people to buy into Medicare at age 62 or 65 while still working.

I've had thoughts on that subject, also mentioning Fogel (you'll have to scroll down), here.

DAN GILLMOR: "The remarkable thing, from my perspective, is the degree to which Google's public-relations wounds are self-inflicted."

I DON'T REJECT MANY BLOGADS -- if I only ran ads I agreed with, soon people would think my views were the result of the ads and not the reverse -- but I would have rejected this one, too.

UTAH RAVE UPDATE: From the Salt Lake City Weekly:

Law-enforcement officers—so often overworked, underpaid and underappreciated—deserve the respect of citizenry. But based on personal accounts and digital-camera footage of that evening that have flooded the Internet since, even the most die-hard supporter of the local constabulary would feel remiss not asking questions. . . .

There’s something telling, too, about the fact that the Sheriff’s Office learned at noon that day where the rave would commence, but waited more than two hours into the music—until 11:30 p.m.—to make 60 arrests and demand the area be cleared. Much was made of one young raver who “overdosed on ecstasy,” and then was released to her parents. If disaster was so imminent, and warranted 90 men in uniform, why wasn’t the rave politely stopped before it started? Perhaps because the spectacle of an outdoor event, like a rave itself, is a lot more fun than sitting at home.

Read the whole thing. (Via the comments here).

UPDATE: Matt Rustler notes reports that the ATF has been acting pretty thuggish lately, too. More here.

TOM MAGUIRE HAS A BIG SUV / FUEL ECONOMY / CAFE ROUNDUP: Read the whole thing, as it's link-rich and informative.

A few points worth making here. First, the SUV craze isn't solely the result of car-buyers being idiots. It's in no small part an artifact of government regulation. Andrew Sullivan, in a post that Tom links, notes that people used to just toss the kids in the back of the station wagon (at least I hope that's what he means by the "trunk.") Do that now, and you'd practically be charged with child abuse. (Accusing SUV owners of treason is a bit, er, excitable, too.)

Now you have to strap them into car seats until they're quite large. This produces demands for more room, DVD players, etc., to keep them amused, and the like. What's more, station wagons -- at least the big ones that Andrew invokes -- were actually casualties of the CAFE standards and other regulations; car makers switched to SUVs to give people the station-wagon-like room while getting to treat the vehicles like trucks for purposes of safety and economy rules. The government didn't have to set things up that way, but it did, and the result was predictable if unintended. (Also, the ability of self-employed people to deduct high-gross-weight vehicles on more favorable terms plays a big role). [LATER: A subsequent post on Andrew Sullivan's blog blames the "Bush tax cuts" for this, but actually I believe this policy predates Bush -- and it was tightened up (somewhat) in 2004, though it was loosened for a bit before that, I think.]

I lack the religious opposition to SUVs that many have, but I don't want one. When I bought the Passat wagon over 6 years ago, gas was less than a dollar. I drove a lot of SUVs, and wasn't thrilled by their truck-like driving and lousy mileage. The newer ones drive better, but $2.50/gallon gas hasn't done anything to make the lousy mileage more tasteful.

And I'm not terribly happy with the offerings right now. The Passat is still OK, but it's getting a bit long in the tooth and I'd like to replace it in a year or two, depending on how it does. I enjoy looking at cars, and I've looked at minivans -- roomy, but dull, and with mileage that only looks good next to SUVs -- various "crossover" SUVs (I visited the Knoxville Infiniti dealer and looked at an FX35; it was cool, but pricey, and actually smaller inside than the Passat. The salesman was really pleasant and knowledgeable, though.) and the small crop of wagons out there (the Jaguar Estate is perhaps the ugliest car I've seen since the Vega). I want to look at the Toyota Highlander hybrid, but I haven't yet.

A salesman at Harper VW told me that there was actually a TDI version of the Passat wagon on sale last year that got 38 mpg on the highway, but it's not offered any more, which seems like bad timing. Or why not a station-wagon version of the Accord hybrid? I'd like to see car makers bring out more vehicles like that -- and if gas prices stay this high, they probably will. That would suit me.

UPDATE: Michael Wenberg emails:

You and Andrew have a point about SUVs, but he in particular forgets that some people actually "need" big rigs. As much as I'd like to, I can't pull 2 tons of hay with my 1987 VW Cabriolet. Same with the horse trailer. And we're not alone. Out here in the rural west, trucks and SUVs are even more common than the big coastal urban areas. I'm sorry, but just because we happen to own two horses doesn't make me a closet supporter of Islamo terrorists. We can certainly do more with our energy policy than just give tax breaks, but pummeling SUV owners because they take advantage of moronic tax policies seems to be a wrong way to go about it.

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Johnathan Pearce has more thoughts.

Meanwhile, reader Bob Whitehead emails:

I've been saying this about car seats and seat belts laws causing SUV's popularity for three years now to all the liberals I know in Jackson Mississippi and keep getting blank stares in the process. Maybe since they don't have kids they don't get it. Don't forget the passenger-side airbag effect as well, keeping older kids in the backseats with their siblings deep into the tween years. The bottom line is--if you have more than two children, you HAVE to drive an SUV or minivan.

Yes, the airbag issue is a real one.

MORE: A reader notes that the VW.com website lets you build a TDI Passat wagon, so maybe they're still available after all, despite what I was told. Or maybe the website's out of date.

Meanwhile, reader Paul Milenkovic emails:

I don't know whom to blame on this one, but Ford is making a fuel-efficient "crossover-SUV" big station-wagon like thing called the Freestyle in my home town of Chicago, and Ford can't seem to sell very many.

It is styled like its big brother the Explorer, it has the chassis from a Volvo XC-90, it has the same EPA mileage ratings as a Taurus, and it has gotten top marks in the both the Federal and IIHS crash tests. It has the same 3 litre motor as a Taurus but coupled to a gas-saving transmission that allows this motor to move a substantially bigger and heavier vehicle. That transmission called a CVT works on a similar principle as a hybrid car in that the gasoline engine is operated under more fuel efficient load conditions, but I guess it hasn't been marketed with the "democracy, whiskey, sexy" hype of the hybrid.

The 3 litre engine and CVT transmission don't have enough oomph to haul a horse trailer, but then how many soccer mom's board horses? What gets to me is that every self-styled automotive expert who has reviewed this car whines "not enough power!" or "don't buy until they come out with the 3.5 litre!" The 0-60 numbers are competitive with other vehicles out there, but the CVT transmission doesn't give the feel of shift points like you are making progress accelerating the car. If this drive train were called a "hybrid", everyone would be saying how virtuous it is to drive such a car but since it is simply a gas engine and a fancy transmission, all of the car pundits are complaining.

On one hand the punditocracy is complaining about $3 gasoline and wasteful habits and evil SUV's, and on the other these same people are writing about how the Freestyle is way underpowered and these things are parked all over dealer lots.

In fact, Ford has reportedly discontinued it, though reportedly there will still be a Mercury version in 2007. Here's a review of the Freestyle from Popular Mechanics.

Reader Francisco Moreno, meanwhile, sends this article from Car and Driver on why diesels are hard to come by:

The trouble with diesels in the U.S. is at the tailpipe. They can't pass the emissions regs that go into effect in California this year and phase in across the country over the next four years. This may surprise those who've seen or sniffed the exhaust coming out of the latest passenger-car diesels—it looks and smells as clean as that of a gas engine to the naked eye or nose. The diesel combustion process, in which the air-fuel mixture is ignited not by a spark plug but by the high temperature and pressure created by a high compression ratio, is naturally clean in terms of carbon moNOXide, hydrocarbons, and other organic gases, so those standards are easily met. But those high temperatures and pressures result in oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and particulate matter—the soot your Olds diesel belched—that are very difficult to clean up, and the new standards apply equally to all fuels. No more special dispensation for diesel.

New technologies may fix that, but many manufacturers are giving up. Finally, Wall Street lawyer-turned Red State soccer mom Jane Meynardie emails on the airbag issue:

One used to be able to put a child below the age (and size) of 12 in the front seat, but can't do that anymore without risking death by airbag. That means if one has four children, or three children any one of whom has a friend who likes to tag along, one must have a third row of seats (or at least one of those nasty pop-up seats in the cargo area). My one monster-size SUV in which I ferry my 3 boys and their buddies uses less gas than the two vehicles I (and my husband or hired chauffeur)would have to manage if I didn't have it.

Indeed.

MORE STILL: Ted Nolan thinks we worry too much about safety:

When I was young, and there were no interstates between Columbia SC and Fernandina Beach FL, my parents would prepare the car for the trip by putting a big sheet of plywood across the back seat. This covered the hump, and with blankets spread over it, made a dandy play area for my sister and me to loll and squirm about for the 8 hour drive. If we got tired of that, we could lay down in the shelf between the back seat and the back window. The car may have had seat belts in the front; certainly no one ever used them.

The operative assumption was that my parents were good drivers and they would trust themselves to keep us safe. I think we lost something very important when we lost that presumption. . . . I think sometimes that if we knew where things would end up, we might have gone a different way even though every step seemed to make sense at the time.

I'm a big believer in seat belts, myself, but I take the point. And reader Julie Kelleher Stacy emails:

I hate to email you and take up your time, but this SUV issue strikes very close to home for me. Some people who live in the Northeast, like Andrew (whom I haven't read in a year), don't realize that some people in red states own or work on ranches, or work on large government properties, and have kids or guests, and really need these things. Northeasterners sometimes have no concept of how big and diverse this country really is. (By the way, your readers Mr Wenberg and Mr Whitehead have very good points, and I agree with them completely.)

For example, I present my annual childhood summer vacation. Every summer in my childhood of the '60's and early seventies was spent at the Big Bend area ranch that has been in our family since the 1880's. I guess my parents should have had the the foresight in the 50's to downsize and leave a small footprint on the earth by having fewer kids and selling off my mom's share of the ranch. But no— instead I was afflicted with the existence of three siblings and a large ranch to help manage. (All working Trans-Pecos ranches have to be large. It takes on average 50 acres to sustain one cow/calf.)

So our parents would stuff all us kids, plus the dog, into the old Buick station wagon (what's a seatbelt?), drive 350 miles west to the turnoff from the highway (did I mention that Texas is big?), and slowly limp up the several miles to the house. We would park the old Buick in the driveway for the next month, because it couldn't hack the roads. So instead we would use the ranch pickup for all of our driving. Double cabs did not exist, so it was three people in the cab with a big stick shift between the legs of the child in the middle, and the other kids and dog in the bed of the truck. We even drove 20 miles to town like this to get groceries and library books (no sat dishes back then), at 70 MPH once we hit the highway. I loved riding in the back. We had no idea how dangerous this was, and now it's illegal in many areas.

When the ranch started buying some early SUVs, first a Wagoneer and then a Suburban, what I liked best was the rear AC units, seemingly heaven-sent. More important was this: SUVs provided ranch families the means to transport humans INSIDE the vehicle, with seatbelts, a huge leap forward in safety for family transportation.

So I intensely resent this demonization of an inanimate object that has so greatly enhanced the safety and comfort of rural families. This is a huge, wealthy, diverse country, with room for people with all kinds of lifestyles. Do I wish SUVs got better gas mileage? HELL YES. I think, hope, and pray that markets and technology will take care of this in time. Faster please.

I've gotten a lot of emails along these lines. See also this post from Greg Ransom, and here's an interesting tidbit on the front-seat airbag problem:

I’d like to point out, though, that we purchased a brand new minivan (a Mercury Monterey) a couple of weeks ago, and it doesn’t have the problem. If the passenger seatbelt latches, and it thinks that it’s an adult-sized amount of weight, it turns the airbag on. If it latches, but the weight is too low, it determines that it might be a child, so it turns off the airbag.

That makes sense, but I didn't know it was available. That's a good thing, though it would be even more useful in smaller vehicles, for obvious reasons.

NICK SCHULZ: Et tu, Lance?

THE MU.NU SERVER is back online.

RENEWED MY DRIVER'S LICENSE TODAY at the TDS facility in West Knoxville. I budgeted 90 minutes; it was done in less than 15. Service was fast and pleasant, hassle was low, fees were modest. I love Knoxville.

I JUST RAN ACROSS this interesting interview with Cory Doctorow by Wagner James Au.

ALENDA LUX notes some major media flip-flopping over the Iraqi constitution.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here are some non-flip-floppy thoughts from John Eastman.

RICH BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up.

LAW PROFESSOR CANDIDATES AND GEOGRAPHY: A colleague at another school is looking through the resumes filed by wannabe law professors and writes:

I just noticed that in the "Geographical Locations" restriction in the AALS FAR that one candidate had listed that he would only accept employment in "Blue States, Florida, and Virginia" and would not accept a position in "Other red states."

I guess the meme (red/blue) is established, at least until 2008.

SOME PEOPLE ARE CHEERING ON the war between Kos and the DLC. I'm not sure it will end well for anyone, even the Republicans.

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait says that Kos is channeling Dr. Evil. Hey, I thought that was my job!

Meanwhile, the folks at Anklebitingpundits are pulling for the DLC, because they want a strong opposition party. (Link was bad before -- fixed now).

And IowaHawk observes: "savvy young progressives go for the taste of Kos®-brand: the Flava of Generation Xtreme™."

MORE: Heh: "I haven't decided whether I care or not, but it's worth pointing out that the DLC actually won a couple elections and the Kos/MoveOn wing hasn't won anything."

BAINBRIDGE on Lithwick on Roberts.

THE ANCHORESS WONDERS WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO BUSH?

Does anyone remember April and May of 2005? And the months preceeding them? The Orange Revolution? The Arab Springtime? The Cedar Revolution of Lebanon - all of them seeming to have a fire lit under them, a wonderful fire of liberty. Remember Revolution Babes?

All around the globe, there was a spirit of something that felt a lot like the Will to Power - something that was building in momentum…like we were on the brink of something truly remarkable and historic and new.

Then, suddenly - poof! - it all stopped? It all just seemed to go away. It was like a big giant foot just came down and stomped out all of those wonderful fires…and the White House seems to have just…blink! Forgotten about it.

I like W a lot, but what the hell?

Judging by the polls, a lot of people are wondering.

As I noted Monday:

Bush's position traditionally flags during the summer, with supporters complaining of malaise, only to see the Administration go back on-message after Labor Day. Will it happen again? It had better, if Bush wants to succeed.

It had better.

UPDATE: Jim Hoft says we're just not paying attention:

I am sorry that people are so blue.... But I am feeling another surge coming upon us.

A trial of a Mass Murderer, a Meeting with the Jews: Link


Abused [Pakistani] women standing so very tall! Link


Soldiers welcomed home!!! Link

There is great news out there! Let's help others tap into it!

Bring it on, to coin a phrase.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge complains that Bush's Iraq strategy has deep-sixed the social-conservative agenda. To me this is less a bug than a feature, and it seems to me that the Democrats would have been wise to recognize this, too, and run with it.

Meanwhile, reader Mike Walker emails:

I think whats wrong with the President is that he is tired, as we say in the south "slam wore out". Like a good blue tick after hunting, he needs to crawl up under the porch out of the heat and sleep for a good long spell. Look at pictures of him, you can see the graying, the wrinkling, and the fraying take place right before your eyes.

The man has had to preside over some momentous events during his 2 terms, from 9/11 to Enron et al to recession to Afghanistan to Iraq to a bitter, long and momentously important election to supreme court appointments. Every step of the way he has been criticized, demonized, lied about, misrepresented, belittled and opposed. No matter what he has done, he has been trashed out by someone somewhere, often including his own party members and some "supporters". He has been betrayed by members of his own party in the senate. HIs victories are ignored and his losses maginified a thousand times over.

The cumulative effect of all this, from what I can judge, has worn him out and drained him of his fire and energy. Lets face it, he is human, and the man has borne some unbelievable burdens over the last 5 years, where his choices were often between shades of the lesser of evils, and no choice was ever easy or apparent. HIs tank is low, and he needs some uplifting by those who believe in him. Nobody will please us 100% of the time.

But what do we do? We start criticizing him again for not being super-human, and we start asking "whats wrong with the president?", as if we ourselves never get tired, worn-out, run down, and just plain disocuraged in our jobs or lives. As a people, have we become this divorced from the realities of high-stakes leadership, and the toll it takes on those who take it on? Worse yet, have we no understanding and empathy for it?

Maybe the real question is, whats wrong with us?

I think everyone is tired. I was tired of the war before the invasion of Iraq and my involvement has been rather more peripheral than GWB's. But it's a good point.

UPDATE: Reader John Beckwith emails:

You have frequently reminded us that democratization is a 'process, not an event.'

I would add that it's more a bursty process not a continuous one. We saw a lot of good news in the 1st half of the year from areas of interest to those of us who actively support extending human liberty. This streak lasted roughly from Arafat's death to Condi's visit to Egypt and included the Iraqi elections. Now things have slowed down, at least in terms of large headline grabbing events with protest hotties. I would expect lulls like this from time to time as people on both sides of a particular struggle absorb what has happened and plan their next move.

Like him or not, Bush is as patient and goal-oriented as one could hope within the political constraints he faces. This is a good thing as our war with the 'insurgency' in Iraq has become largely a test of wills fought in an unfavorable media environment. I would like to think that the president, as is his pattern in September, can alter that environment a bit and regain some public support, but there is only so much he can do with words. Events will matter more and we can expect them to pick up relatively soon. I doubt Bush sleeps too well at night, but if he does it's because he has done what he can up front to maximize the likelihood that the next flurry of activity will break in a good direction for our country and allies.

Your reader's blue tick metaphor is apt. Bush has taken a lot of criticism for the R&R he takes and his 'early to bed' habits, but they are the actions of a leader who understands the that the tempo of events is bursty. We should cut him some slack on this basis.

That's true. But momentum matters, too.

More here: The Thrill is Gone.

IN THE MAIL: Suzanne Mettler's Soldiers To Citizens: The GI Bill And The Making Of The Greatest Generation. It looks very interesting, and she makes the point that -- contrary to what many people think -- the GI Bill wasn't really a New Deal legacy:

The G.I. Bill bore less resemblance to New Deal legislation -- which tended to target citizens as workers -- than to an older American tradition of social provision geared for citizen soldiers. In the democratic ideals so central to the nation's identity, military service had long been regarded as the utmost obligation of masculine citizenship, and the protection of the nation by ordinary citizens, as opposed to a standing army, was considered essential to maintaining self-governance.

Roosevelt, in fact, was hostile to "social provision limited to veterans," she reports, which is something I didn't realize, and the G.I. Bill was really a product of the American Legion. (Mettler's no Roosevelt-basher, though, and is also critical, in passing, of welfare reform.)

Her main point, however, is that the G.I. Bill wrought major social improvements (the book revolves around a huge number of interviews of veterans on how it changed their lives), and she suggests we should try something similar now. I'm not sure what that would be, but I suspect we'll be hearing more along these lines in the next few years.

BLAWG REVIEW, the Carnival of Law Bloggers, is up.

IRAQI CONSTITUTION UPDATE:

Iraq's new constitution must be for all its people and should meet the aspirations of Sunni Arabs, President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday. . . .

Talabani said the country's stability cannot be achieved without consensus among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis Arabs and Kurds.

"The constitution will be to serve everybody and not only one community of the Iraqi society," he said, speaking after a meeting with parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani. "We hope that all the pending disagreements be solved in what guarantees consensus between the three (main) communities in Iraq and in what guarantees the satisfaction and approval of our Sunni brothers in this important matter."

Sunni members of the constitutional drafting committee oppose several parts of the document, which was handed to parliament Monday. Their opposition forced parliament to delay a vote for at least three days to give Shiite and Kurdish negotiators time to win over the Sunnis.

The Sunni objections include federalism, references to Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led Baath Party and the description of Iraq as an Islamic _ but not Arab _ country.

I'm unmoved by the Sunnis' concerns, but my opinion is of limited importance here. On the other hand, one question is how much Sunni spokesmen represent their constituencies. Polls seem to suggest otherwise, and so do reports like this one from the Christian Science Monitor, which I referenced yesterday:

Since January's elections, Iraqi politics has been divided sharply along religious and ethnic lines. But average Sunnis are resounding in their call for unity and to wipe out labels like Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd.

"We don't differentiate between Sunni and Shiite," says Khalid Hamid, a Sunni. The politicians "talk about unity of all Iraq but they stimulate the sectarian divisions." . . .

But all the concerns now swirling around the Sunni community have made many determined to turn out in force in the next national elections scheduled for December.

"Sunnis made a mistake by not participating in the elections," says Mustafa Ali Kareem al-Bayati, a Sunni living in north- eastern Baghdad.

He says there are banners in his neighborhood encouraging people to vote and he says he will be sure to. "Our destiny will be decided in these days."

Indeed, what most Sunnis want now is for the constitutional process to stop, and for new elections to be held, which they expect would yield them more influence. "We want the constitution to include all Iraqis. If this fails it's a good thing. It will give the Sunnis another chance," says Mustafa Ali Kareem, a Sunni.

On the other hand, there's this passage: "Sunnis across the board say they would vote against any constitution that includes federalism or specific language about the Baath."

Mickey Kaus points out that some critics of the process have blinders on: "Kaplan and Cole are so eager to find fault with the constitution (and, by implication, the war) that they've lost touch with logic."

My own sense is that this stuff isn't as important as we like to make it. Americans are unusually legalistic and unusually focused on constitutions. But plenty of constitutions have wonderful language on paper (the old Soviet constitution was great that way) and plenty of countries (Britain, for example) manage to get by without written constitutions at all. What matters more is political culture. If the Iraqi people want a free, prosperous country and are willing to work for it, they'll get that. If they don't, or aren't, then they won't.

That's the story in Iraq -- but, really, it's the story everywhere, including here. "A Republic, ma'am -- if you can keep it."

UPDATE: Reader Brian King sends a link to this essay by Ben Franklin on the U.S. Constitution.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For a more pessimistic take, go here. Meanwhile, Tim Worstall notes that the old Iraqi constitution was full of fine words, but that things still didn't work out very well what with the torture rooms and mass graves and all.

MORE: Further thoughts here.

Much more here.

AP REPORTERS GHOST-WRITING for Cindy Sheehan?

UPDATE: Maybe not. Tim Russo, whose post on this is linked above, emails: "Upon closer read, I think she just sloppily attributed the quotes she took from the ap stories as 'contributions' from the AP reporters, which suggests a more voluntary relationship than simply pulling a quote. I note this on my revised post."

PROMISING NEWS on the space front, reported in my TechCentralStation column.

August 23, 2005

LARRY KUDLOW: "I say three cheers for higher energy prices. Why? Because I believe in markets. When the price of something goes up, demand falls off (call it conservation) and supply increases (call it new production). We're seeing a tectonic shift."

I hope he's right. I'm pretty sure that the Bush Administration sees things the same way that he does.

PERU PLANE CRASH: Here's a firsthand report.

A HOMEMADE ENDOSCOPE: Via Engadget.

RUDY GIULIANI IS KICKING BUTT in Patrick Ruffini's 2008 Republican straw poll. What's really interesting, though, is that the results are pretty robust notwithstanding the different flavors of blogs. Giuliani is a huge favorite among InstaPundit readers (McCain is a distant second). But he also holds the lead (albeit narrowly) among Hugh Hewitt readers, who are on the social-conservative side and who didn't favor him last time around. He also leads among Michelle Malkin readers and among Power Line readers.

FreeRepublic readers favor Tom Tancredo, which probably says something about the GOP's vulnerability on immigration. And Condi Rice seems to lead pretty much everywhere in the "fantasy candidate" category. I think this makes her a very plausible VP candidate.

Interestingly, I'm pretty sure that a similar poll of Democrats would show a similar lead for Hillary Clinton. Is there some sort of New York magic at work? Forget a "subway Series" -- could we have a "subway election" in 2008?

JAMES LILEKS OFFERS ADVICE TO ANGRY EMAILERS: "Everyone always thinks they have some armor-piercing argument the other side has never considered, but that’s rarely the case." My advice to recipients of angry email -- get a gmail account, and then you see the first line of the email, and usually don't have to bother opening it up to read the whole, lame, effort.

TOM MAGUIRE LOOKS AT more Able Danger confusion.

DON SURBER OFFERS three lessons on baseball payrolls.

ADVICE TO BLOG CARNIVAL ORGANIZERS: I'll add one more item -- if you want me to link your carnival, be sure somebody sends me the link!

UTAH RAVE BUST HAS PARTYGOERS CRYING FOUL:

Swat members from Utah County busted the rave at Diamond Fork in Spanish Fork Canyon. At least 60 people were arrested for various offenses.

Many who attended the rave are upset because they say authorities used excessive force to shut down the party.

It's not clear to me if this is another Racine, Wisconsin case, but there's more information here. The linked video certainly appears as if there was excessive force.

UPDATE: Some firsthand reports here. Sort-of-related background here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more, from Matt Welch.

More here.

MORE: And here.

PHIL BOWERMASTER has thoughts on life extension, his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and Six Feet Under.

SIGNS OF PROGRESS in Libya? Gateway Pundit has a roundup of what looks like good news.

NORMBLOG has much more on the Iraqi Constitution, from Brendan O'Leary.

UPDATE: Publius has comments, too. The more people look at this, the better they seem to feel.

HERE'S A PAGE THAT REPORTS ON reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Lots of stuff I hadn't heard about.

RANDALL PARKER: Treat biomedical research as a capital expenditure:

Think of it this way: If potholes in the roads were causing damages to vehicles that far exceeded the cost of fixing the potholes then the political cry would go out to fix the potholes. Well, the cost of diseases and aging - both for expensive treatments and for the costs of disability - run into the trillions of dollars per year. So why do the US National Institutes of Health get less than $30 billion dollars per year while US federal, state, and local governments spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 to $800 billion per year for medical care and nursing care? Why does the private sector spend even more while the government also spends money to provide income to old folks who are too aged to work? . . .

The faster we develop therapies built upon the rapid advances in biotechnology the sooner we will start reaping the return on our collective investments in therapies that repair and rejuvenate aged, malfunctioning, and diseased body parts.

This makes sense to me. I think it would be politically popular, too. Related thoughts here.

PATRICK RUFFINI is running his monthly Presidential straw poll again. Looking at the choices, I can't help but feel that the Republicans are in trouble in 2008. Unless one of the "fantasy candidates" runs.

On the other hand, my two favorite candidates out of Ruffini's field(Giuliani among the "real" candidates, and Condi Rice among the "fantasy" candidates) are on top.

I WOULD MANAGE TO CONTAIN MY DEJECTION if someone bumped off Hugo Chavez, but Mark Daniels notes that Pat Robertson's call for just that is bad politics and bad religion.

Well, those are Robertson's stock-in-trade, which is why he was one of the original models for the term "idiotarian."

BILL ROGGIO says that worries about Islam in the Iraqi Constitution are overstated. I hope he's right.

UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh thinks it looks pretty good, but that the real action will be in subsequent legislation.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dave Price is similarly untroubled.

Meanwhile, here's why the Sunnis don't like it:

But at root of the Sunni rejection of the constitutional process is fear itself. The psyche of this community, from which Saddam Hussein's most fervent supporters were drawn and who enjoyed privileged positions until his regime was toppled, has been badly damaged in the past few years.

Many fears about the new Iraq are expressed throughout Baghdad's Sunni neighborhoods. They fear that Iraq's new masters will punish them for supporting Mr. Hussein's regime; they fear they don't have leaders or social cohesion; and they fear their former status will never be regained.

It's this fear and doubt that feeds their distrust of Iraq's other communities and their desire to see the writing of the constitution delayed. . . . The current draft constitution on the table specifically outlaws Hussein's old Baath party, which many Sunnis interpret as an effort to target them as a community.

I'm unmoved. But note that even among Sunnis, the population seems substantially more progressive than the leaders. Jeff Goldstein has further thoughts. So does Michael Totten.

IN THE MAIL: John Farrell's The Day Without Yesterday: LeMaître, Einstein, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology. I read a fair-sized chunk of it last night, and it looks quite interesting.

RALPH PETERS ON IRAQ COVERAGE:

What should have made headlines? It would've been nice to see more attention devoted to the complexity and importance of drafting a new constitution for Iraq. But my nomination for the "Greatest Story Never Told" is a quieter one: Locked in a difficult war, the U.S. Army is exceeding its re-enlistment and first-time enlistment goals. Has anybody mentioned that to you?

Remember last spring, when the Army's recruitment efforts fell short for a few months? The media's glee would have made you confuse the New York Times and Air America.

When the Army attempted to explain that enlistments are cyclical and numbers dip at certain times of the year, the media ignored it. All that mattered was the wonderful news that the Army couldn't find enough soldiers. We were warned, in oh-so-solemn tones, that our military was headed for a train wreck.

Now, as the fiscal year nears an end, the Army's numbers look great. Especially in combat units and Iraq, soldiers are re-enlisting at record levels. And you don't hear a whisper about it from the "mainstream media."

It's as if they're biased or something.

UPDATE: Jane McCalla Miller notes this claim that Peters is overstating things -- recent months are better, but the Army is still likely to finish the year in the hole.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this post from Intel Dump, too.

MORE: Peters, interviewed, says he had the numbers wrong.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF LIBERTY is up!

UPDATE: Sorry -- wrong link before. Fixed now.

OUCH.

HERE'S THE LATEST on the in-progress Iraqi Constitution. Here's the current text.

UPDATE: Saudi blogger The Religious Policeman is not impressed with the course of developments.

ARNOLD KLING HAS THOUGHTS on incumbent politicians and the Long Tail.

DEALING WITH BROADBAND: Via Daniel Drezner.

A FUEL SHORTAGE IN CHINA.

A bra shortage in Europe.

Perspective here.

HEALTHCARE BLOGGING: Grand Rounds is up!

WARD CHURCHILL UPDATE:

A faculty group has sent the investigation of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill to the next level.

Seven complaints of alleged plagiarism, historical fabrication and other research misconduct by Churchill have been recommended for a deeper investigation, while two other complaints that were part of the original inquiry were dropped, his lawyer said. The report from the faculty subcommittee that had spent about four months looking into the allegations was delivered Monday, said David Lane, who represents Churchill.

Here's a Rocky Mountain News editorial on the subject.

August 22, 2005

IT'S GAY DAY at The Volokh Conspiracy. Just keep scrolling.

WOW: I said that Andrew Breitbart was a media mogul, but I didn't realize he was such a mover and shaker.

CHECK OUT ED CONE'S Greensboro blog conference announcement. It's scheduled for October 8.

HELP SMASH get a new job!

THE FRENCH ARE WONDERING: Why do they hate us?

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS: "Iraqi Parliament Delays Constitution Vote." I don't think that making the Sunnis happy is priority number one, but I hope to see more progress on other issues.

STEVE STURM EMAILS ON ABLE DANGER: "I know you haven't been a big follower of the whole matter, and I'm starting to see why you're probably the better for it."

As I've said before, my pre-9/11 view was that we were best off treating Islamist terrorism as a law-enforcement matter, but otherwise trying to ignore it until it collapsed under the weight of its inherent idiocy. That was wrong, but it's hard for me to blame the Clinton folks for seeing things the way that I did -- except when, occasionally, they pretend otherwise.

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: The Carnival of the Capitalists is up! So is the Carnival of Personal Finance, the latest Haveil Havalim, the Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers, and the RINO Carnival.

A WHILE BACK, I mentioned receiving a copy of Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics for 2006. You can read highlights from the introduction here.

TALKSHOW HOST MICHAEL GRAHAM HAS BEEN FIRED for making negative comments about Islam: Brian Maloney has the story.

GRAVEYARDS: Norm Geras answers Joan Baez's question.

PAUL SHEEHAN:

It's time someone praised and defended reckless teenage girls and young women who behave badly, dress provocatively, engage in risky sex, and get pregnant. They are the normal ones. The rest of us are the deviants. They are behaving in the most natural way. The rest of us are mutants. . . .

This is society's real problem. Teenage pregnancy is trivial by comparison to suppressed pregnancy.

This is, in a weird way, a social-conservative piece. And I suspect it's an early indicator of how the growing concern over Western demographics will play, even on the left.

UPDATE: A reader wonders if this post has gotten me hatemail from social conservatives. Nope. (Some people wonder if he's any relation to Cindy Sheehan -- not as far as I know, and that hadn't even crossed my mind.) I just think it's an interesting melding of usually-immiscible viewpoints, and wonder if it's a harbinger of some shifts in thinking. Judging by the absence of hatemail, I guess everyone else saw it that way, too, or at least figured out where I was coming from.

THE TALIBAN STRIKE OUT: Gateway Pundit reports on the upcoming elections in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, John Tabin has thoughts on Bangladesh.

JOHN FUND writes about loose talk regarding election fraud and quotes my law school classmate Joe Andrew:

Such cynicism exasperates some Democrats. Last year, Joe Andrew, who served as Bill Clinton's chairman of the Democratic National Committee, blasted conspiracy theories that electronic voting machines, or DREs, would be used to steal votes and said "most liberals are just plain old-fashioned nuts" on the subject. He lamented that prominent Democrats "are rallying behind the anti-DRE bandwagon in a big election year because they think that this movement is good for Democrats."

It wasn't, of course. (In fact, too much of that kind of talk probably depresses turnout among one's own supporters). I may be prejudiced, but it seems to me that the Democrats were doing a lot better when Joe Andrew, a sensible guy, was DNC chair. Maybe they should try to bring back some of the sensible guys.

BOB MOOG has died.

JUAN NON-VOLOKH: "Time will tell whether there is anything to the Able Danger story -- and whether or not the 'wall' inhibited information sharing -- but it is clearer than ever that Jamie Gorelick should not have served on the 9/11 Commission." Indeed.

The various folks sending nasty emails to bloggers on her behalf are, of course, only raising her profile in a context where she would otherwise be a peripheral figure (and one who was, until I started getting all these emails, of no particular interest to me). Are they tools of Karl Rove? Er, or just tools . . .?

UPDATE: Craig Henry, meanwhile, thinks it's all about Tailhook, and what that scandal did to morale among military leaders:

Tailhook started out as a scandal over the drunken behavior of some naval aviators. But it soon grew into a big political battle over military culture with a big dose of congressional posturing, anti-military press bias, and careerist behavior by senior Pentagon leadership. Although Tailhook made the Navy ground zero, both the Army and Air Force faced the same issues and PR nightmares. . . .

This interview with Webb goes into more detail. In it the interviewer notes that more admirals were ruined by Tailhook than by Pearl Harbor. Ponder that for just a moment. . . .

Maybe we are barking up the wrong tree on Gorelick. "The Wall" may have had some impact on the men in charge of ABLE DANGER. OTOH, the post-Tailhook behavior of Republicans and Democrats might be more important.

I do not expect that this idea is going to go anywhere in the blogosphere. If it is correct, the blame is bi-partisan. Trent Lott is as culpable as Gorelick or Hilliary. Bi-partisan outrage is popular only when it can be directed at social conservatives.

Beats me, but there's probably plenty of blame to go around.

IN THE MAIL: Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. Juicy yet interesting.

ANN ALTHOUSE: "Should Democrats bring back the Vietnam era anti-war imagery, with folksinging gatherings and get-out-now rhetoric? I can understand wanting to express yourself that way if that's what you feel, but you know it didn't win elections back then."

WEBB WILDER UPDATE: Webb has a concert DVD coming out. There will also be a live concert CD, produced by R.S. Field.

Reader Glen Harness emails: "We went to the show, and it was (as usual) great. He had both Tony Bowles and George Bradfute on guitar (that's the second time I've seen the band with both guitars) and the third guitar definitely adds to the sound. We also saw the same lineup Saturday night in Huntsville, AL, and that show was probably even better."

Cool. I notice that Webb has also released a new compilation CD, Scattered, Smothered and Covered: A Webb Wilder Overview -- I have all the songs already, but I still ordered it. They don't call him the "idol of idle youth" for nothing.

STEM CELL UPDATE:

Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells -- without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, as has always been required in the past, a Harvard research team announced yesterday.

The technique uses laboratory-grown human embryonic stem cells -- such as the ones that President Bush has already approved for use by federally funded researchers -- to "reprogram" the genes in a person's skin cell, turning that skin cell into an embryonic stem cell itself. . . .

Since the new stem cells in this technique are essentially rejuvenated versions of a person's own skin cells, the DNA in those new stem cells matches the DNA of the person who provided the skin cells. In theory at least, that means that any tissues grown from those newly minted stem cells could be transplanted into the person to treat a disease without much risk that they would be rejected, because they would constitute an exact genetic match.

It's still early, but I hope this pans out.

THE LATEST CARNIVAL OF TOMORROW is up! Don't miss it!

OMAR AT IRAQ THE MODEL REPORTS: "National Assembly member Bahaa Al-Aaraji just told Al-Iraqia TV that an agreement has finally been reached among the leaders of political bodies on the final draft of the constitution and that disputes over issues like federalism, distribution of resources and the role of Islam have been solved."

No word on how they've been solved yet. Let's hope it's better than we feared yesterday.

AVIAN FLU UPDATE:

NORTH AMERICAN sales of the drug oseltamivir have more than tripled in recent months -- a trend seen by public health experts as evidence that individuals are stockpiling the once little-used antiviral as a hedge against a possible flu pandemic.

With similar reports emerging in other countries as well, a leading advocate for pandemic preparedness is concerned that public demand could soon outstrip the limited global supply. . . .

Canadian Tamiflu sales jumped to more than 76,000 prescriptions in the 12-month period ending in June, compared to 22,000 prescriptions in the entire 2004 calendar year, says IMS Health, which compiles drug sales data.

U.S. sales have surged as well, to nearly 1.7 million prescriptions in the first half of 2005 from just under 500,000 in 2004.

More here (reg. req'd):

Dr. Fred Aoki, an antiviral expert at the University of Manitoba, sees little wrong with the idea of individuals putting aside a cache of antivirals, as long as they learn how to properly use the drugs, which he believes are very safe.

"It's a management strategy. It's a health-care approach that isn't unique," says Aoki, noting a number of prescription drugs are given to patients on an as-needed basis, such as antiviral creams for cold sores and nitroglycerin for angina.

Oseltamivir blocks flu viruses from spreading throughout the respiratory tract.

If started early — within 48 hours of symptom onset — the drug can cut the length and severity of a bout of regular flu.

Lab testing suggests it is effective against all subtypes of influenza. But to date there are few data on its performance in human cases of H5N1.

(Via Newsbeat 1). People have been emailing me asking what to do in response to the avian flu reports. "Nothing, yet," is probably the best answer -- it's the public health people who need to be getting their act together at this point -- but there's probably no harm (other than the financial variety) in asking a doctor for a prescription, and getting it filled, now. And to the extent that this causes production to be ramped up in advance of an outbreak, it might do some small good.

The real solution, of course, is to work on technologies for rapid development, production, and distribution of vaccines. Because regardless of whether the avian flu threat materializes or not, a flu pandemic is a near-certainty sooner or later, and so are outbreaks of other diseases yet unknown.

GRASSROOTS VIDEO JOURNALISM: Broadcasting & Cable writes:

Citizen journalism seemed to reach critical mass this summer when suicide bombers attacked London’s transportation system. On shattered subway cars, victims recorded the aftermath on their cellphones and e-mailed dark, grainy video and still pictures to British TV networks. It was the first time cellphone video had been widely used to cover a major news story. A month later, when an Air France jumbo jet careened off the runway in Toronto, shaken passengers once again took out their cellphones and started recording. The recent earthquake in Tokyo yielded the same results.

These events inspired many newsrooms to advertise for content. The national news networks began asking viewers to send in breaking-news images and video. A handful of TV stations, from big-market players like WABC to smaller outlets such as WTKR Norfolk, Va., also put out the call. Most say they’d be willing to pay for video—up to several hundred dollars—to secure exclusivity. Still, liability over such issues as privacy rights and defamation has yet to be settled.

TV reporters are testing out their own portable gadgets. ABC, CBS and NBC are handing out video-enabled cellphones to staffers. Later this year, ABC’s 24/7 broadband and cable network, ABC News Now, plans to outfit some reporters with Nokia’s new $900 N90, which the manufacturer says shoots VHS-quality video.

But news executives are divided on how much of a role the audience should play. Chief among their concerns: the quality and authenticity of video and pictures that viewers send in. “These are not journalists, and that scares me,” says Steve Schwaid, head of programming and news for NBC’s owned-and-operated stations. “How do I know what training they’ve had and what their relationships are?”

(Via Bill Hobbs). Good questions, and it's nice that some are asking them. My own local paper, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, seems to be ahead of the curve on this subject, too.

When I spoke to the Nashville Women's Political Caucus on this subject on Saturday, I noted the impact this may have on local politics. Especially once you're outside the 4 metropolitan areas in Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga) the local-media scene is usually a single monopoly newspaper and a radio station or two. Alternative media could make a difference -- in fact, if I were a political operative with a long-term view and interests in opposition to the local newspaper in a county, I'd set up something like this serving the community long in advance of any elections. The impact could be significant. I have to say that the folks at that workshop were quick to pick up on the implications.

UPDATE: Reader Eric Boyer has questions of his own:

"'How do I know what training they've had and what their relationships are?'"

In light of some of the "reporting" that's been published/shown in the mainstream media, perhaps this question should be asked of them, too.

Good point.

MICHAEL BARONE writes about metrics in the War on Terror:

But the most important changes occurring, not just in Iraq but across the Muslim world, are changes in people's minds. These are harder, but not impossible, to measure. George W. Bush has proclaimed that we are working to build democracy in Iraq not just for Iraqis but in order to advance freedom and defeat fanatical Islamist terrorism around the world. Now comes the Pew Global Attitudes Project's recent survey of opinion in six Muslim countries to tell us that progress is being made in achieving that goal. Minds are being changed and in the right direction.

Most important, support for terrorism in defense of Islam has "declined dramatically," in the Pew report's words, in Muslim countries, except in Jordan (which has a Palestinian majority) and Turkey, where support has remained a low 14 percent. It has fallen in Indonesia (from 27 to 15 percent since 2002), Pakistan (from 41 to 25 percent since 2004), Morocco (from 40 to 13 percent since 2004), and among Muslims in Lebanon (from 73 to 26 percent since 2002). Support for suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq has also declined. The percentage reporting some confidence in Osama bin Laden is now under 10 percent in Lebanon and Turkey and has fallen sharply in Indonesia. . . .

This is not to say that everybody in these countries has good things to say about the United States. But we are not engaged in a popularity contest. We're trying to construct a safer world. We are in the long run better off if Muslims around the world turn away from terrorism and move toward democracy, even if we don't like some of the internal policies they choose and even if they don't have much affection for the United States. Two generations ago Americans, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, changed minds in Germany and Japan. The Pew Global Project Attitude's metrics give us reason to believe that today's Americans, at far lower cost, are once again changing minds in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile StrategyPage notes what seems to be good news in Saudi Arabia:

It's been a bad week for al Qaeda in Arabia. The terrorist organization piled up more failures and defeats, adding to their growing reputation as loudmouthed losers.

First, Saudi Arabian police cornered and killed the head of al Qaeda operations in the kingdom last week. In another battle, fifteen Islamic terrorists were killed in a three day gun battle. The terrorists used women and children as human shields, which did little for their heroic reputation. The Saudis used special police for these operations. . . .

Saudi Arabia is the center of Islamic conservative thought that feeds al Qaeda, and its militant supporters throughout the Islamic world. Al Qaeda is very embarrassed by its inability to assert itself in Saudi Arabia, or any other nations in the Middle East. The violence in Iraq is mainly the result of the Sunni Arab minority refusing to stop resisting the overthrow of their government in 2003, not support for al Qaeda. The more al Qaeda tries, and fails, to achieve any of their goals (establishing an Islamic dictatorship), the more potential supporters doubt the viability of al Qaeda as a cause.

I think we've been way too tentative in putting pressure on the Saudis, but it's nice to see some signs of progress on that front.

UPDATE: Jim Hoft emails: "Don't forget Bangladesh! Since the 400+ bombs went off on Wednesday last week there have been anti-terror protests nearly every day!"

DEFENDERS OF JAMIE GORELICK seem to have mostly succeeded in raising her profile with regard to Able Danger matters.

UPDATE: Here, too.

TALK RADIO LOSING AUDIENCE? Kaus notes that people are talking about that -- but Ann Althouse was on top of this phenomenon months ago, with the explanation: "I'd say people get tired of talking about politics all the time."

UPDATE: Some readers -- noting that this report comes from St. Paul / Minneapolis -- think that Rush and Hannity just can't handle their strong local competition. Yeah, that's it!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jeff Turley thinks that the now-podcasting Limbaugh is losing listeners to himself:

I think you will see a steady decline in Limbaugh's radio ratings. Rush has for several years webcast his show. Who wants that static, noisey AM station (with commercials) when you can get his show over the web? He also has in the last couple of months has launched podcasts of his show available within hours after his show is over. Webcasts and Podcasts are available to subcribers who pay $50/ year. At around 100,000 subscribers, the EIB Network is getting a cool $5 mil a year. Who needs radio?

Very interesting. It's certainly true that I listen to Hewitt's show over the Internet more often than on the local AM station that carries him, because its signal isn't that great where I live. But I wonder if these numbers can account for the shifts in audience people are talking about? Maybe, but wouldn't Limbaugh be bragging about it if so?

MORE: James Egan thinks it's a surfeit of victory:

I saw your post on declining radio listenership among conservative AM Talk. I think this was inevitable. A function of fatigue yes, but more because of greatly reduced stakes I’d bet. The big issues of the day have receded into the background for many people center to right. The election was won by Bush...the economy and unemployment are fully recovered....the war’s at a slow simmer heading into what seems to be an eventual self-sufficient Iraq with declining US involvement. I know it’s hard to make that claim with our guys dying oversees but most people, despite their “reported” dissatisfaction with the war, are resigned to see this through.

Conservatives feel like they won. Heck, even with the Bush tax cut our projected budget deficit has been cut by 30% -- much to the chagrin of the left which claimed it would achieve the exact opposite. I’d say conservatives are not looking for daily pep talks or more ammo like they were 2-3 years ago. Of course that can change at anytime if the left is able to get its hooks into a juicy, new narrative. If the anti-war column in this country is able to electrify the media with their some fresh rhetoric, combined, they could turn many Americans. In which case conservatives will once again be faced with a critical challenge.

I don’t see that happening soon. Cindy Sheehan’s performance has just about run its course. The divorce, her mom’s stroke and the counter protests had to have an impact on her spirit. I doubt she can be effective. Of course I do feel terribly sorry for her. Along with the loss of her boy that‘s too much turmoil for one person to suffer in such a short amount of time.

Besides August is almost over. Bush is only days away from returning to DC where the media will inevitably shift focus. So I think radio talk listeners will continue to remain distracted by the more important stuff in their lives — raising their families, earning a living, going to ball games, fishing, taking care of sick relatives, gardening, etc — til the next presidential election, especially if Hilary runs. Then watch out...turn up the volume.

Indeed. There may be something to Egan's analysis -- I remember Henry Copeland telling me before the election that if Bush won my traffic would level off for a while, then grow gradually, but that if Bush lost my traffic would quadruple within a few months.

August 21, 2005

ANDY BOWERS has a podcast roundup at Slate.

A RATHER BRUTAL FISKING of the New York Times' "Peak Oil" article, from Steven Levitt at the Freakonomics weblog:

One might think that doomsday proponents would be chastened by the long history of people of their ilk being wrong: Nostradamus, Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, etc. Clearly they are not. . . . The NY Times article totally flubs the economics time and again.

Oil, of course, is not a unitary commodity. Huge amounts of oil, from shale and tar sands and other reserves, become economically exploitable at prices not much higher than we're seeing now. At most, we're facing "peak cheap oil," and so far I'm not convinced that we're there yet, even though I'm not quite as optimistic as these guys are.

IS THE THIRD YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL WORTH IT? They're discussing this, over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

It's certainly worth it for the law professors!

MARK STEYN:

They're not children in Iraq; they're grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems to be difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton's Oval Office, she's a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he's a wee "child" who isn't really old enough to know what he's doing.

I get many e-mails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound a lot more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly than Maureen Dowd, who writes like she's auditioning for a minor supporting role in ''Sex And The City.''

Ouch. He's going to make a lot of people regret that whole "the personal is political" thing . . . .

Not even proud Bush-hater Jonathan Chait is impressed with the Sheehan argument as interpreted by Dowd:

Everybody, of course, ought to feel horrible for Sheehan, and to honor her son's bravery. But Sheehan's supporters don't just want us to sympathize with her. They believe that her loss gives her views on the Iraq war more sway than the views of the rest of us. As Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times, "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." . . .

One of the important ideas of a democratic culture is that we all have equal standing in the public square. That doesn't mean stupid ideas should be taken as seriously as smart ones. It means that the content of an argument should be judged on its own merits.

One doubts that Dowd would grant "absolute" moral authority to, say, the Pope, and her uncharacteristic embrace of the notion here seems a bit opportunistic, as, in fact, does the whole episode.

Jeff Jarvis has more thoughts. And judging by the poll data reported by Will Franklin it's mostly involved both sides playing to their bases without doing much to affect opinions.

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER BIG PHARAOH IS VERY UNHAPPY:

U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure. . . .

Why not tell the state department and the US diplomats in Iraq "what the American people want"? Why not side with those Iraqi women who demonstrated for equal rights in downtown Baghdad and not let them down? Why not side with those secular and religious Iraqis who do not want a constitution dictated by Iran? I'd rather have the constitution delayed for 10 more years than rushing it through like this!!

Please take a few seconds to call the US state department NOW and raise this issue. The deadline for the constitution is tomorrow (Monday August 22nd).

US State Department:

202-647-4000

More numbers here.

As he notes, the Kurds are unhappy with this development, and though I'm certainly no expert that seems like a red-flag to me.

Read this item from Austin Bay, too. There are limits, of course, to how much we can tell the Iraqis to do with regard to their own constitution, but given the evidence (mentioned by Publius earlier) that Iraqi citizens are more liberal on the subject of religion than are their representatives here, there seems no reason to rush this, and, in fact, many reasons to hold back.

This makes me wonder what the diplomats are thinking, and I can't help but feel that they should probably think again.

UPDATE: More on the Kurds' unhappiness, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Sunnis don't like it either. That may actually be good news -- or evidence that there are wheels within wheels here.

MORE: More here: "The repercussions of this policy are huge. Allowing fundamentalism to take hold in Iraq would be a mistake of epic proportions. Supporting and ecouraging such a move would be, in my mind, an impeachable offense. Be very careful here Mr. President."

SPACE ELEVATOR UPDATE: IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article on the subject:

It now costs about US $20 000 per kilogram to put objects into orbit. Contrast that rate with the results of a study I recently performed for NASA, which concluded that a single space elevator could reduce the cost of orbiting payloads to a remarkably low $200 a kilogram and that multiple elevators could ultimately push costs down below $10 a kilogram. With space elevators we could eventually make putting people and cargo into space as cheap, kilogram for kilogram, as airlifting them across the Pacific.

The implications of such a dramatic reduction in the cost of getting to Earth orbit are startling. It's a good bet that new industries would blossom as the resources of the solar system became accessible as never before. Take solar power: the idea of building giant collectors in orbit to soak up some of the sun's vast power and beam it back to Earth via microwaves has been around for decades. But the huge size of the collectors has made the idea economically unfeasible with launch technologies based on chemical rockets. With a space elevator's much cheaper launch costs, however, the economics of space-based solar power start looking good. . . . I have found that the schedule for more elevators, after the first, could be compressed to as little as six months. The first country or consortium to finish an elevator would therefore gain an almost unbeatable head start over any competitors.

Bring it on. And, yes, I've been doing more tech-blogging lately. That's because I'm writing a tech-related book, I guess.

UPDATE: Tim Worstall has thoughts.

CLEANER AIR in Tennessee: I've noticed that the view of the mountains has gotten clearer in recent years. On the other hand, this summer has seemed rather murky.

UPDATE: More information, with links to some interesting charts and graphs, here. Things really are getting better.

JIM LINDGREN: "It is quite depressing to read descriptions of how investigations or captures of Osama Bin Laden or other Al Qaeda were hindered by lawyers, rules developed by lawyers, or fears of lawyers." This has been an issue in other settings, too, with the Pentagon bringing in lawyers to approve air strikes and the like. There's no question that this is the most heavily-lawyered war in history. But, even as someone who loves lawyers, I doubt that's a good thing.

THIS IS COOL:

Two climate change sceptics, who believe the dangers of global warming are overstated, have put their money where their mouth is and bet $10,000 that the planet will cool over the next decade.

Or maybe it's warm. . . .

SOLDIERS' ANGELS: FROM BLACKFIVE POST to Washington Post article!

GOOD NEWS FROM LONDON:

SCOTLAND YARD believes it has thwarted an Al-Qaeda gas attack aimed at ministers and MPs in parliament. The plot, hatched last year, is understood to have been discovered in coded e-mails on computers seized from terror suspects in Britain and Pakistan. Police and MI5 then identified an Al-Qaeda cell that had carried out extensive research and video-recorded reconnaissance missions in preparation for the attack.

The encrypted e-mails are said to have been decoded with the help of an Al-Qaeda “supergrass”. By revealing the terrorists’ code he was also able to help MI5 and GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre at Cheltenham, to crack several more plots.

The discovery of the suspected Commons nerve gas plot was behind the decision to increase security around parliament this summer.

(Via Hugh Hewitt).

PATTERICO has an oped in today's L.A. Times. He's not kind.