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April 08, 2006

DAVE KOPEL: "This Friday's coverage of the so-called 'Gospel of Judas' in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid."

YOU CAN NOW GET PorkBusters coffee mugs proudly emblazoned with Trent Lott's annoyed quote!

THE HARTFORD COURANT reports on Borders' Islamophobia and calls for a Borders boycott:

"If you care about freedom of expression, don't buy books from Borders or Waldenbooks," writes conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan on his blog. "And if you want to draw a lesson from the entire episode, it's obvious: violence against free writers and artists gets results. We have all but invited more."

Robert Bidinotto, editor of The New Individualist magazine, who wrote an open letter to Borders, was one of the first bloggers to weigh in on the matter. In his letter, Bidinotto said he would refuse to buy from Borders and encourage others to do the same.

After posting it, Bidinotto says his website was flooded by thousands of visitors. He was surprised by how much attention his letter received, but can understand why people feel so deeply about the issue.

"If people are in the idea business and expect First Amendment protections, they have to stand up in defense of those free speech protections," says Bidinotto, who says his magazine was the first in the country to feature one of the cartoons on its cover. "When a leader in that industry goes south and cuts and runs at the first hint of any kind of a threat, we have reached a very sorry moment in America."

(Via Virginia Postrel, who writes: "I'd like to know who at corporate headquarters is responsible for the bone-headed decision to take Free Inquiry off the newsstand.")

ERIN CHAPIN looks at how THE MAN is keeping us down. At the end, THE MAN is unveiled.

RON BAILEY LOOKS AT A HEALTHY, LONG-LIVED FUTURE and observes:

This idyll is more than realistic, given reasonably expected breakthroughs and extensions of our knowledge of human, plant and animal biology, as well as mastery of the manipulation of these biologies to meet our needs and desires.

Although you would think most people would devoutly wish for this vision, an extraordinary coalition of left-wing and right-wing bioconservatives is resisting the biotechnological progress that could make it real. Forget Osama bin Laden and the so-called clash of civilisations. The defining political conflict of the 21st century will literally be the battle over life and death.

On one side stand the partisans of mortality. From the Left, the bioethicist Daniel Callahan declares: “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.” On the Right, stands Leon Kass, former head of George Bush’s Council on Bioethics, who insists: “The finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual, whether he knows it or not.”

Read the whole thing.

PORKVLOGGING: Patrick Hynes shot video of John McCain talking about earmarks in New Hampshire last night.

MICKEY KAUS is all over the breakdown of the immigration "compromise."

Lots of readers -- er, and me -- have wondered about the disconnect between what Frist said in our podcast interview Thursday morning and what came out as the Frist-supported compromise that afternoon. I can't explain it, either, other than as legislative (and perhaps Presidential) politicking. We'll see what happens next, now that the compromise has cratered.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Rep. Allen Mollohan of West Virginia is being investigated. Reportedly,

Mollohan's household assets exponentially grew (from $565K in '00 to at least $6.3M in' 04).

In addition, the article notes that one of his non-profit groups is "funded almost entirely through provisions he put into annual spending bills." NRCC Chmn Tom Reynolds called today for Mollohan to step down as ranking member of the ethics cmte until an investigation is complete.

If this story has legs, it could muddy the Dem narrative of the GOP culture of corruption. It's possible Mollohan accrued a quick fortune from real estate acquisitions and just improperly reporting his finances.

But his seniority on the Appropriations and ethics cmtes raises larger and fundamental questions about the use and abuse of earmarks. The timing also couldn't be worse for Dems -- with Tom DeLay's resignation, a budget stalemate and immigration exposing fissures in the GOP.

More significant for our purposes is this observation from Don Surber:

Maybe the probe will lead nowhere but it shows a side of earmarks that has not occurred to Porkbusters as they rail against government waste.

Earmarks also can lead to insider playing. His ex-staffer Laura Kuhns now heads the Vandalia Heritage Foundation and sits on the boards of three other nonprofits that catch earmark money. Her Vandalia salary alone is $102,000 a year.

She and her husband are partners with Mollohan and his wife in five properties in Bald Head Island, N.C., worth $2 million.

Read the whole thing. It's true of course, that large amounts of other people's money tend to lead to corruption.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Malloy emails:

I hate to turn a good Porkbuster story into an anti-NYT screed (well, not really), but did you notice that the NYT front page (online) story does not get around to stating that Mollohan is a Democrat until the 8th paragraph? You can be certain that it it were a Republican, that fact would be in the headline.

Yes, as part of a "series of events raising troubling questions" about Republican corruption.

OVER AT THE CORNER, John Derbyshire is asking What would Hank do?

Meanwhile, the Rude Street Peters are asking "What Would Hank Say?"

CHAOS THEORY: THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE offers a view of what's going on in Iraq. Meanwhile, Chester looks ahead to the U.S. / Iraqi Security Treaty of 2007.

April 07, 2006

AUSTIN BAY: Is the western alliance revitalizing?

LESS MONEY FOR TERROR? "THE European Union's executive office yesterday cut off direct aid payments to the Hamas-led Palestinian government because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel, EU officials said yesterday." It's probably symbolic, but it's still a modest sign of progress.

WINDING ROAD is an online car magazine.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Mary Katharine Ham reports from the launch of the Ending Earmarks Express bus tour.

DISASTER DRILL INTERRUPTED by threat of bad weather:

A real potential disaster – the threat of tornadoes – has caused the Franklin portion of a massive disaster drill to be suspended until tomorrow and Nashville’s portion to be put temporarily on hold.

The drill, which involves a fake skyscraper collapse staged in Bordeaux and a mock train derailment/chemical spill in Franklin, was scheduled to take place today and tomorrow.

But inclement weather is fast approaching, and the deaths of 24 people in Sunday night’s tornadoes in northwest Tennessee are on the minds of many.

(Thanks to Mary Littleton for the pointer).

ERIC SCHEIE thinks that his silence deserves more attention than mine. He's undoubtedly right.

THE CARNIVAL OF CARS is up!

MICHAEL YON is on his way back to Iraq.

MICHAEL TOTTEN PUBLISHES AN OPEN LETTER TO HEZBOLLAH:

What do you people expect? It’s one thing when you trot out your impotent Death to America slogans. It’s another thing altogether when you threaten and bully us personally. I’m not a wire agency reporter. When you talk to me you’re on the record. When you say “We know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live,” you’re on the record. Of course I’m going to quote you. If you don’t want to look like an asshole in print, don’t act like an asshole in life.

Read the whole thing.

MICROSOFT ENLISTS THE ARMY OF DAVIDS: "If only Microsoft had taken that approach on Vista!"

IMMIGRATION UPDATE: "A carefully constructed compromise on immigration reform ran into a roadblock in the Senate today as Democrats fended off conservative Republican efforts to amend the agreement and an effort to cut off debate on elements of the plan failed by a lopsided vote."

UPDATE: Frist blames Democratic "obstruction."

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PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Just got this email from Sens. Tom Coburn and Barack Obama:

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today announced the introduction of legislation that would publicly disclose all recipients of federal funding and financial assistance. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590) will allow taxpayers to see how their money is being spent, Dr. Coburn said.

The federal government awards roughly $300 billion in grants annually to 30,000 different organizations across the United States, according to the General Services Administration. This bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to establish and maintain a single public Web site that lists all entities receiving federal funds, including the name of each entity, the amount of federal funds the entity has received annually by program, and the location of the entity. All federal assistance must be posted within 30 days of such funding being awarded to an organization.

“This public database will provide transparency to federal spending and will provide an important weapon taxpayers can use to hold the government accountable. The database also would help to reduce fraud, abuse and misallocation of federal funds by requiring greater accounting of federal expenditures,” Dr. Coburn said. “Every citizen in this country, after all, should have the right to know what organizations and activities are being funded with their hard-earned tax dollars."

“At the very least, taxpayers deserve to know where their money is being spent,” Senator Obama said. “This common-sense legislation would shine a bright light on all federal spending to help prevent tax dollars from being wasted. If government spending can’t withstand public scrutiny, then the money shouldn’t be spent.”

Over the past year, the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management on which Dr. Coburn serves as chairman has uncovered tens of billions of dollars in fraud, abuse and wasteful spending, ranging from expensive leasing schemes to corporate welfare to bloated bureaucracy.

“This database would ensure such spending is better tracked and the public can hold policy makers and government agencies accountable for questionable spending decisions,” Dr. Coburn said. “If enacted, this legislation will finally ensure true accountability and transparency in how the government spends our money, which will hopefully lead to more fiscal responsibility by the federal government.”

In our podcast interview yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said that increased transparency is vital. Let's see if he gets behind this proposal.

(Later) Here's the key part of Frist's comment from the interview:

GR: Do you think we're going to see any progress in bringing pork under control before this Congress is over?

BF: We absolutely have to, and the first step is transparency, holding people accountable and making sure that if somebody has a particular interest or a particular project -- and not all projects are bad, as you know -- that it have the opportunity to be seen, sunlight shining on it, debated, voted upon. The age of Pork has got to be destroyed, we've got to get a handle on it.

There's more, but I'm not the kind of transcriptionist that Duane Patterson is.

UPDATE: Love this from CoxandForkum!

06.04.05.LottofPork-X

BAD REVIEWS FOR JOE WILSON: On the left.

If Karl Rove had wanted to plant a mole to bring down the liberal media, it would have been hard to do much better.

UPDATE: More Joe Wilson quotes: "After reading these quotes made at a public event, how can anyone continue to take this guy seriously?"

Some of us never did.

IN THE MAIL: Eric Shawn's new book, The U.N. Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America's Security and Fails the World. Looks quite interesting, and it's blurbed by Rudy Giuliani.

Not as good a title as Emergency Sex, though.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The "Ending Earmarks Express" bus tour will has added Trent Lott's railway to nowhere to its schedule:

After departing Washington, the Ending Earmarks Express will travel next week to sites that have received questionable earmarked funds in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, Charleston, WV, Frankfort, Kentucky, and St. Louis and Columbia, Mo. A previously planned stop in Iowa has been scrapped at the last minute so the Express can make a detour to Gulfport, Miss., where a new $700 million earmark currently being considered by the Senate would be used to rip up newly reconstructed, fully operational railroad tracks to make way for a new road. A full schedule, including specific earmarks that will be highlighted at each stop, is available at www.AmericansForProsperity.org.

I think Trent's just going to keep getting tireder.

JOHN "I'M NO ARTHUR CHRENKOFF" TAMMES has nonetheless roundup up a bunch of underreported news from Afghanistan.

A while back, a reader noted a correspondence between Bush's fall in the polls and Arthur Chrenkoff's retirement from the blogosphere. Coincidence? Hmm.

WHAT PEOPLE IN HELL have on their iPods.

THE NEW YORK TIMES ISSUES A CORRECTION, but Mediacrity is unhappy.

PLAME UPDATE: Tom Maguire: "The NY Times editors tackle the latest Fitzgerald filings, and are more disingenuous than their reporters."

More here.

My take: The latest "Bush leaked" story -- which doesn't hold up very well when you look at the actual story -- is basically a "spoiling attack" by the NYT and other media who fear subpoenas in the Libby case. As with all their efforts on this front, it's likely to backfire. The more they say that leaks are bad, even as they rely on politically motivated leaks from insiders for their bread and butter , the more vulnerable they become. That's why the Plame affair has been more damaging for them, long-term, than for Bush. Bush will be leaving in a couple of years, but the Times and other media will be living with the world they've created, and I predict that their position in this regard will be no better if a Democrat is elected in 2008.

VIRGINIA POSTREL:

I'm happy to say that my recovery is pretty much complete. The light blogging recently reflects how much time I'm spending on reporting and writing, a.k.a. "real work." I even made a trip to San Francisco last weekend to do reporting for my first Atlantic column. Sally Satel--the Three Kidney Wonder--is also doing well.

Glad to hear it; I was actually starting to worry because of the light blogging.

EAT LESS, EXERCISE MORE: Megan McArdle writes on dieting and weight loss. To paraphrase Clausewitz, weight loss is very simple, but in dieting even the simplest things are very hard.

I THOUGHT THAT I HAD BEEN CRITICAL of the Department of Homeland Security, but that's nothing compared to the multi-barreled assault launched by Michelle Malkin.

MEXICAN IRREDENTISM: Proclaimed by influentials, not just nuts, according to Mickey Kaus.

Meanwhile, Power Line News is running a poll on immigration. The question: "What should be our highest priority in formulating policies on immigration?"

John Hawkins has more. And things have gotten bad enough that John Hinderaker is suggesting that we should learn from France. Surely the End Times are upon us!

UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer is unhappy. So is Hugh Hewitt.

April 06, 2006

THANK GOODNESS FOR BLOGS: Where else would you get this exclusive look inside the Iranian Missile Command?

THOMAS DOLBY is now blogging. He talks about music gear here.

MARK STEYN was on Hugh Hewitt, talking about the NASCAR/NBC debacle, the immigration compromise, and more. Transcript and audio here.

RADLEY BALKO writes on the Supreme Court and "no-knock" raids.

I think that no-knock raids should be illegal absent a clear and present danger to life and limb. The remedy, however, shouldn't be the exclusionary rule. It should be absolute liability for damages on the part of the officers and the law enforcement agency, without benefit of any legal immunities.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: There's good news and bad news. First, the bad news:

Government officials in Germany have reported what appears to be the first health-related recall of a nanotechnology product, raising a potential public perception problem for the rapidly growing but still poorly understood field of science.

At least 77 people reported severe respiratory problems over a one-week period at the end of March -- including six who were hospitalized with pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs -- after using a "Magic Nano" bathroom cleansing product, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin.

Of course, read further down and you encounter this:

Michael Holman, an analyst at Lux Research in New York, which tracks the industry, said the spray may even be one of many products that lack engineered nanoparticles but claim to be "nano" for high-tech appeal. Even so, he said, "this is certainly a cautionary tale from a public perception standpoint."

Well, yes. Of course, as I've noted before, the industry's shortsighted PR policy is directly responsible for those perceptions.

On the other hand, here's some good news:

Tiny particles of gold could soon be helping to spot viruses, bacteria and toxins used by bio-terrorists. Researchers in the UK have found that gold nanoparticles are very effective detectors of biological toxins.

The particles reveal the presence of poisons far faster than existing techniques which often involve shipping samples back to a lab.

Neither of these involves the kind of thing most of us mean when we talk about nanotechnology -- nothing Drexlerian here. In the taxonomy I set out a while ago, the first example is "fake" nanotechnology, and the second is "simple" nanotechnology. We're a long way from the "major" variety, much less the "spooky" stuff that the industry was afraid would scare people. Of course, by downplaying the more advanced nanotechnology, the industry just made public perceptions about the fake stuff more significant. They seem to be a bit smarter about that now, but unfortunately considerable damage has already been done.

AUSTIN BAY:

The sudden press flap over Scooter Libby’s alleged “revelation” that President Bush declassified intelligence information related to Iraq is silly but all too predictable. The entire flap relies on mixing terms and “misunderstanding by innuendo” — a technique of demagoguery, not journalism. The flap is yet more evidence that the national press is more interested in playing “gotcha” with the Bush Administration than reporting the news.

Presidents and vice-presidents can declassify information based on their own good (or bad) judgment. That is a privilege and responsibility of the office. Their authority is near-absolute. Disseminating unclassified information isn’t a crime — no matter the technique used. The information can be disseminated at a press conference, in a press release, in a speech, or — yes– via leak.

Reporters thrive on “leaks” because a leak usually means “scoop.” A leak can also mean “spin” but that’s an understood aspect of Washington’s political carnival. However, leaking properly declassified material isn’t a crime. Leaking classified material is illegal– and so is publishing classified material in a press release.

So what’s the story here? That someone who worked in the White House selectively passed properly declassified material to the press? That’s not a scandal; that’s Beltway business as usual. I’d love to hear that reported– it’s not news per se, but it would be refreshingly open and honest media analysis.

However, the breathless excitement with which MSNBC (during the 3 PM CDT hour) broke this story certainly suggested scandal. An hour later the mood had calmed a bit; even so a rather smug Chris Matthews asked his attorney guest why Scooter Libby would “finger the President?” Dick Sauber (Time Magazine’s Matt Cooper’s lawyer) responded that Libby was probably trying to cover for himself. That’s possible, and it’s reasonable, non-libelous speculation on Sauber’s part. But the bottom line is the president can declassify information. “Finger” is a push word, stoked with criminal innuendo —but Bush was not engaged in a criminal act. Questioning Bush’s judgment is perfectly appropriate, but accusation of crime or lies is unwarranted. (As it is, the information in question came from the National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE information didn’t have anything to do with the Plame case.) . . . CNN is exploring another angle: that the White House is “hypocritical” because it has come down hard on leaks. But a word is missing in this accusation: "unauthorized."

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Arianna Huffington has a different slant.

THE IMMIGRATION COMPROMISE gets a bad review from Paul Mirengoff: "The proposal seems to conform to my concept of a bad immigration bill -- it provides the certainty of benefits for illegal aliens with only the promise of future enforcement."

UPDATE: Here's Bill Frist's blog post defending the compromise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus sides with Mirengoff. My own, conflicted, take is here.

ANN ALTHOUSE:

People blog for lots of different reasons, and blogging is still burgeoning and developing. Don't cave into nostalgia for a Golden Age, especially one that got its golden glow from the horror that was 9/11. Things were bound to change and shake around, and some bloggers that you liked then may put you off now. But there are always a million new bloggers, and blogging is a beautifully fruitful format. The great power of blogging is the way it releases the creativity of the individual mind.

I agree.

NEWS FROM MALI:

The Tuareg tribes are again in rebellion against the Mail government. One of Africa's few real democracies, with more than a decade of orderly elections and presidential successions, Mali has about 12.3 million people, but is nearly twice the size of Texas, and sprawls across the Sahel and parts of the Sahara. Although most of the people are Moslems, religious radicalism does not seem to have put down any roots.

The desert regions of the far north of the country, up against the Algerian frontier, are not only the most thinly populated region, but also the least well-controlled by the central government. Banditry and feuds among the largely Tuareg Berber tribes are common in the north. In addition, the region seems to have attracted Islamist fundamentalists fleeing defeat in Algeria, who have reportedly set up base camps in order to regroup. This is causing concern not only in Mali, but also in Algeria and nearby Mauritania. All three countries have recently reached a number of agreements to promote greater security in the region, and these include rights of "hot pursuit" during operations against extremists.

They're getting quiet U.S. assistance, too.

PLAME UPDATE: Tom Maguire has an update on the latest Libby disclosures. He's got lots of links and quotes.

HERE'S THE WEBPAGE for MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, which I hear is getting a visit from the Chief of Staff of the Army today.

IN THE MAIL: Charles Glasser's International Libel And Privacy Handbook: A Global Reference for Journalists, Publishers, Webmasters, And Lawyers. Glasser is media counsel for Bloomberg News.

OUCH: Average Joes 1, Sen. Grassley 0.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This would be pretty funny.

MORE: Rand Simberg wonders what Sen. Grassley plans to do about IRS personnel.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Bill Frist on Immigration and PorkBusters

We managed to catch up with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist this morning, and talked to him about immigration -- both legal and illegal -- whether the issue will split the Republican party, and what he thinks about Trent Lott's remarks on PorkBusters, and about pork generally.

It's shorter than our usual interview, as he only had about 10 minutes this morning (things are kind of busy in the Senate) but I think you'll find it worth listening to.

You can listen directly by clicking here (no iPod needed!) or you can get it here via iTunes. A low-fi version for dialup is available here, and, of course, there's an archive of all our previous podcasts here.

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

Music is by Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere, off the album Heartbreak and Duct Tape.

NASA TAKES an Army of Davids approach.

ZEYAD IS COMING TO AMERICA to study journalism. (I was one of his references, and have seldom recommended anyone as enthusiastically). In an auspicious start, he gets a profile (free link) in the Wall Street Journal.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: N.Z. Bear was on Hugh Hewitt last night, reporting all sorts of developments on the PorkBusters front, going well beyond Trent Lott's public PorkBusters snit. The transcript and audio can be found here.

Here's an excerpt:

HH: And that is a problem. Last question, N.Z. During the leadership vote that led to Majority Leader Boehner's election, many promises were made about transparency to the internet community. Do you think they've been met and kept?

NZ: I would say at this point it's safe to say that they have not been met. My hope is that we will see more progress on that in the coming months. But I certainly can't say I'm impressed thus far at any particular progress in that direction. The only notable effort that really came out in terms of transparency that I have seen was again, Senator Coburn made a proposal that would have required a great deal of transparency, and set up a public database for Congressional funding, and it was shot down rather dramatically, I believe, a couple of days back.

We've been let down by the Congressional Republicans. Again.

Meanwhile, here's a new oversight website set up by Sen. Coburn's office to help track wasteful spending.

April 05, 2006

NASCAR has responded to NBC. They're not happy. NBC has apparently already been trawling their ringers around racing fans without managing to produce any untoward events.

Thus, some advice for NBC: "if NBC wants to guarantee they get a negative reaction to their 'plant', all they need to do is put him in a Jeff Gordon t-shirt."

UPDATE: Reader B.J. Bethel emails: "I'm more curious to see how two men in Hasidic dress would be treated at a mosque or ANSWER event. My guess is the NASCAR muslims would have an easier time."

And Jim Treacher writes: "I just figured out why Couric is moving to CBS. She's going undercover for Dateline!"

THERE'S A NEW MEL BROOKS DVD BOX SET out, and Mel Brooks is shilling even harder than I've done for An Army of Davids:

"I think people should buy 20 of them. Buy 20 and save a lot of them for Christmas presents. Who knows how many of these they make? They might be gone," Brooks said, and not entirely in jest.

It's not that Brooks, 79, who turned his 1968 film The Producers into a Broadway money machine, could be financially strapped. Profit isn't the issue, he said.

"I want these movies to be seen. Nobody has seen The Twelve Chairs or Silent Movie," he said, naming two of the hard-to-find titles in the boxed set out this week.

I cracked and ordered one, even though I've already got a couple of his movies.

MARY KATHARINE HAM: "If you ever wonder why Congress' approval numbers are so low, look no further than this debate on 527 reform. The flagrant switcheroo (anyone know what the hand signal for that call?) by both parties is just totally transparent."

Andy Roth has multiple posts, and is unhappy: "It was a tough fight, but we came up short."

UPDATE: This seems right: "Legislators aren’t satisfied with their ability to control who votes for them through their partisan gerrymanders, but now want to control who says how much and when about their performance in office."

I OFFER ADVICE TO TOM DELAY: I'm pretty sure he won't follow it, though.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Hey, maybe it's not just Trent Lott who's getting tired: Apparently, Congressional earmark requests are down 37% this year.

I think we need to keep the pressure up.

Meanwhile, Tim Chapman reports that Senate Appropriators have been caught fudging the truth.

TIM CHAPMAN NOTES those pesky PorkBusters.

And Preston Taylor Holmes observes: "Well, Trent, if you and your GOP buddies walked the walk instead of just talking the 'smaller government, fiscal restraint' talk, you wouldn’t be having a fiscal colonoscopy." Colonoscopies are good for you. They often get rid of problems that could be fatal later.

Blake Wylie thinks that Lott is anti-accountability.

Amusing cartoon here.

UPDATE: John Hawkins: "I keep hearing rumors that Trent Lott wants to be Senate Majority Leader again once Bill Frist leaves at the end of 2006. That would really send a great message to the voters, wouldn't it?"

DECLINING NUMBERS of U.S. casualties, Iraqi casualties, civilian deaths, and bombings:

My point here is not that everything is peachy in Iraq. It isn’t. My point isn’t that the insurgency is in its last throes. It isn’t. My point here isn’t even to argue that we’re winning. I’m at best cautiously-pessimistic-to-neutral about how things are going there.

My only point is that, at the very least, people who complain that good news coming out of Iraq gets shuttered by the press aren’t crazy. I’m a regular denizen of the right-leaning blogosphere (though I spend about half my daily routine with left-leaning sites), and I was unequivicolly shocked when I saw this. Completely the opposite of what I’d expected. My non-scientific sample of three friends, all of whom are considerably more bullish about the prospects in Iraq than I am, revealed three people similarly surprised by these numbers. I’m guessing if I polled people on this site regarding the direction those numbers were going, and people didn’t answer strategically (eg figure I was up to something from the question words), no one would predict any of those numbers were on a downward trend, or were even flat.

Again, my point isn’t that we’re winning. My only point is that if the data you’ve received left you completely surprised by these numbers, what does that really say about the completeness of the data you’ve received?

The numbers come from Brookings.

UPDATE: The Commissar says that the Brookings numbers on Iraqi civilian deaths for March are much lower than those from other groups, and he thinks they're incomplete.

JOHN HINDERAKER on Trent Lott's remark that he's tired of PorkBusters: "It is common, I think, for Senators to get tired of hearing from the voters, and they tire especially quickly of hearing from taxpayers." Indeed.

NOW THE PLAGIARISM CHARGES are directed at Al Franken.

UPDATE: Reader David Mastio thinks the case against Franken isn't very strong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oh, he blogged it here. It's best to include a link with your email when you do that.

ERIC UMANSKY on the New York Times web redesign: "I'm not really digging it."

I find it more attractive at first glance, but less readable.

HARRY REID:

Reid's bill . . . overhauls the nation's immigration laws and calls for a massive scale-down of immigrants allowed into the country from approximately 800,000 to 300,000.

The bill also changes asylum laws to prevent phony asylum seekers. Reid said the U.S. open door policy is being abused at the expense of honest, working citizens.

"We are a country founded upon fairness and justice," Reid said. "An individual in real threat of torture or long-term incarceration because of his or her political beliefs can still seek asylum. But this bill closes the door to those who want to abuse America's inherent generosity and legal system."

Reid's bill also cracks down on illegal immigration. The 1990 census reported 3.3 million illegal aliens in America. Recent estimates indicate about 2.5 million immigrants illegally entered the United States last year.

"Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs," Reid said. "The Immigration and Naturalization Service needs the ability to step up enforcement.

"Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits often without paying any taxes.

"Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world. "Even worse, Americans have seen heinous crimes committed by individuals who are here illegally," Reid said.

But that was in 1993.

ELIOT COHEN: Yes, it's anti-semitic.

I'LL BE ON LAURA INGRAHAM'S SHOW in a little while, talking about guess what?

IN THE MAIL: Rachel Bronson's new book, Thicker than Oil : America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia. Looks interesting, and it's certainly well-blurbed.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Apparently, the effort has gotten Trent Lott's attention:

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the Republican from Mississippi, has had it to here with Porkbusters and other critics of pork barrel spending like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who think the federal government has better things to do with $700 million of the taxpayers money than tear up a just-repaired coastal rail line and replace it with a new highway.

Said Lott when asked by an AP reporter about criticism of the project he has long championed and which was just funded in a Senate Appropriations Committee bill to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional Hurricane Katrina relief:

"I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable."

The government just spent $300 million to repair the rail line that Lott and his fellow Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran want to tear up and replace with a highway to serve the heavily populated coastal region.

I guess he's hearing from people he'd rather not. You know, the ones who don't have their checkbooks out.

UPDATE: N.Z. Bear writes: "I'm sorry to say it, but we have just barely gotten started making the likes of Mr. Lott tired. So I hope he's ready for many sleepless nights to come."

Bill Quick: "Since when does anybody 'deserve' somebody else's hard-earned money?"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jane Meynardie emails: "It is my understanding, based on local press reports and town meetings discussing the recovery plan, that the government did not spend $300 million to repair the rail line. CSX spent that money from its insurance proceeds. The local government could not give CSX any quick assurance that it would be able to afford to buy out the right-of-way and, in the meantime, CSX wanted to serve its 2 customers along the existing line (reasonably enough)."

That's not what the AP story says, but I suppose it's possible that they've made a mistake.

HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE: "When he wasn't sending pornographic movies to and asking for explicit photos from a teenage girl in Polk County, a Maryland man was bragging about his job as a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement officers said."

OVER AT WINDS OF CHANGE, a roundup of alternative energy news.

VIA HOWARD KURTZ I see that Andrew Sullivan was slamming me for "barely mentioning" Tom Delay's resignation. Well, here's what I said:

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House Republicans' number-one fixer and enforcer, has announced that he will give up his seat. DeLay is under investigation on charges of campaign finance violations, but I'm happy to see him leave for other reasons: He was the architect of the Republicans' "K Street strategy" - a program of incorporating lobbyists and interest groups into the process of governance - that has been disastrous for Republican ideals.

DeLay's defenders say that the K Street strategy is merely a reprise of what Democrats have been doing for decades, and they have a point. But Democrats are supposed to be the party of Big Government. Republicans are not, and the K Street strategy has led to a serious abandonment of their principles. (DeLay lost me back before the scandals broke, when he pronounced, inexplicably, that there was no fat left to cut in the federal budget.) I don't have much hope that DeLay's departure will do much tug the GOP back toward its principles, but it can't hurt.

"Silence?" You decide. I will confess, though, that I don't care about the story very much. I care about issues more than people, and Tom DeLay has never been much of an issues guy. He's always been a backroom guy, a fixer (that's where he differs from, say, Newt Gingrich, with whom he's being compared now). As Mickey Kaus notes, those traits can come in handy. But guys like that are pretty replaceable. To the extent that DeLay stood for anything, though, it was the win-at-any-cost, outdo-the-Democrats-in-pork mentality that I think is bad for the country and, for that matter, the Republicans. I can see how people stories like this are a bigger deal to inside-the-beltway types who actually knew DeLay and who followed his activities more closely than I do, but just as I never felt any particular urge to defend DeLay, I don't think his departure matters all that much either.

UPDATE: Reader John Barton agrees: "Andrew Sullivan looking for DeLay commentary reflects his DC location. From inside the beltway it’s a big deal. I suspect that for the rest of the world outside the beltway it’s never been a very interesting subject. I never liked DeLay, wish there were fewer like him, I’m glad to see him go, and that’s about the end of it." Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jim Miller emails:

Glenn, its also quite possible that Sully meant comments on your blog and hadn't seen your other short comment in Guardian Unlimited.

I personally don't recall your spending much time defending Delay, so I'm not sure why you were required to dance on his grave, despite its being fairly big news.

Sullivan's larger point is not unreasonable, that the right side of the blogosphere would prefer to "move on" and not dwell on the matter. I think it can be easy for people to forget that its not like you are happy with the Republicans; you just are VERY unhappy with the Democrats.

Good points all. However, the "right side" of the blogosphere contains plenty of people who aren't at all happy with the DeLay approach to politics and governance. Sullivan's tendency to lump 'em all together says more about his approach to blogging and politics than it does about the people he's describing.

MORE STILL: Gerald Montaigne emails: "It appears that Sullivan chooses the subjects that you are supposed to be blogging about. For the life of me, I don't understand why he persists in the belief that you have some larger responsibility to the blogosphere and a lack of comments on your part constitutes proof positive of... well whatever point Sullivan is trying to make at the time, I guess."

Perhaps I should put up a post calling him a racist because he doesn't blog about Darfur as much as I do. But in truth, I never give any thought to the question of what Sullivan isn't blogging about, and I think it rather odd that he spends so much time on the question of what I'm not blogging about.

THE WEEK MAGAZINE names Ed Morrissey its blogger of the year. It's well-deserved.

THE LATEST Carnival of Blog Coverage is up!

THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS: My TCS Daily column is up.

UPDATE: Some thoughts in response, from Phil Bowermaster.

MICHAEL BARONE:

Let's say you were part of a group designing the news media from scratch. Someone says that it would be a good idea to have competing news media -- daily newspapers and weekly magazines, radio and television news programs. Sounds like a good start.

Someone else says that it would be a good idea to staff these news media with people who are literate and well-educated. Check. Then someone says let's have 90 percent of the people who work for these organizations be from one of the nation's two competitive political parties and 10 percent from the other.

Uh, you might find yourself saying, especially if you weren't sure that your party would get the 90 percent, maybe that's not such a good idea. But that's the news media we have today.

Read the whole thing. (Via Newsbeat1).

AUSTIN BAY ON IMMIGRATION:

Securing economic justice and political reform in Mexico is key to any truly effective long-term solution. The Mexican people know it. A decade ago, I met with a number of businessmen and women in northern Mexico who were "dollarizing" their businesses because they did not trust the corrupt central government. I also met several northern Mexican political activists who detailed their plans for ending the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) decades of one-party rule.

In 1997 and 2000, those plans led to opposition-party victories. Vicente Fox's presidential election, however, was the end of the beginning for Mexican reformers. Mexico's bitter mix of statist economics, poverty and elite corruption frustrate quick change.

Mexico's elites do indeed export their unemployed, as well as potential political dissidents. That policy must end. On the other hand, U.S. businesses benefit from low-wage workers (many coming from Mexico). The U.S. birthrate has declined, and immigrants compensate for that decline. America must confront those facets of the immigration problem.

U.S. demand for illegal narcotics feeds Mexican corruption. Narcotics trafficking negatively affects political and economic conditions in Mexico (and thus has an impact on immigration). Getting real control of the borders means curbing America's appetite for illegal drugs.

Or just legalizing them, putting the narcotics lords out of business.

MORE ON THE FBI'S TECHNICAL PROBLEMS: "The big culprit is FBI culture."

MICKEY KAUS: "Does Gloria Borger really think the economy is the Republicans' weak spot?"

April 04, 2006

ARNOLD KLING ON fear of confrontation: "Unfortunately, large segments of American society no longer have the ability to confront real evil. People lack the confidence and moral clarity to stand up to intimidation. . . . One can view Islamic militants as armed versions of unruly teenagers. We should not feel guilty toward them. We should demand reasonable and decent behavior from them, rather than excuse their tantrums or their crimes."

That would require thinking of ourselves as adults, which is unacceptable to many.

ERIC MCERLAIN POINTS OUT something that hadn't occurred to me:

I'll leave the media bias charges to somebody else, but here's another angle that folks in the sports biz ought to think about: What in the world are the folks who run NASCAR going to think about this when they find out?

Last time I looked NBC was still one of the circuit's broadcast partners, and now NBC News is attempting to provoke a racial confrontation at a NASCAR race, one that is sure to not only paint certain individuals as racists, but paint the entire NASCAR culture as racist too.

If I were at NASCAR HQ, I'd be blowing a gasket about now, and getting on the phone to NBC Sports in New York. After all, this is ocurring against a backdrop of NASCAR's increased efforts to bring minority drivers and owners into the series, and expand its appeal outside of the traditional Southern fan base.

In other words, something like this may very well cost NASCAR some money. And while there are undoubtedly racists at any large sporting event that draws literally hundreds of thousands of people each weekend, I can't help but think that NBC's choice wasn't a coincidence.

Nope, but it seems even dumber now.

UPDATE: Hmm. A couple of readers say that this is NBC's last year of sharing in NASCAR broadcasts, after which the consortium will be to Fox, ABC, and ESPN. Is NBC trying to give NASCAR a goodbye kiss? Apparently, its coverage was poorly received: "Ratings for NBC's coverage, like those for Fox's, have consistently increased throughout the six-year contract. But NBC has often gotten a tepid or worse response from many die-hard racing fans, some of whom have complained that the network appeared to lack passion for the sport. . . . The network didn't believe the package was as valuable as what NASCAR was asking for it. When the new deal was announced in December, published reports said the agreement was for a total of $4.5-billion, or 61 percent higher than the previous deal signed in 2000." More here.

And reader Eric Hall offers a new assignment: "Dateline NBC ought to take some Christian-looking people to Riyadh and see how things work out. Don't forget the bikini-clad sister."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Betsy Gorisch emails:

My husband and I are serious NASCAR fans, and for a number of years now we have been underwhelmed by NBC's coverage of the latter half of the season. We've always thought that they cover the races as though they imagine that only a bunch of dimwits could really care about watching. Perhaps their single most annoying feature is something they call "going through the field." This feature consists of having a reporter discuss what's happening with each car, one by one, while the race is going on--what's up with the tires, what the team leader thinks about the gas mileage, and so forth--and meanwhile ignoring the race! It's insulting to anyone who actually wants to see the RACE. My favorite analogy for this tiresome exercise is to think of watching the bottom of the 7th inning of a World Series game, and the announcer cuts to a sequential close-up of each player while saying things like, "Well Bob, the right fielder is having trouble getting his cleats to hold the turf and the webbing on his mitt is too loose. His cup is tight, and he's going to have to do something about that before the next inning. Now let's move over the the center fielder." And so forth--and meanwhile the game is going on but you can't see what's happening. No one would put up with something similar in any other sport.

This latest hidden camera exercise seems like a clueless PC parting shot at a sport NBC has never understood anyway. No real race fan likes the NBC portion of the season, and the Dateline guys are simply confirming what a lot of us have been pretty sure of all along--the whole network is contemptuous of its audience. It's no surprise that they would assume the stands are packed with a bunch of lousy bigots. Good riddance to them, that's what we say.

With NBC's financial woes, this kind of an attitude on the part of viewers seems like a bad thing. And in response to McErlain's question above, it's not so much what the NASCAR people will think, but what potential future sports partners will think.

Meanwhile, does this mean (1) NBC's news is bravely independent of NBC's business interests, because they're willing to stick it to NASCAR; (2) NBC's news is only willing to stick it to NASCAR because NBC no longer has much of a business interest here; or (3) NBC's news is just as clueless as NBC's sports?

MORE: More advice here:

If I ran Fox, I'd be figuring out who NBC's Muslim "ringers" were and putting a not-so-hidden camera crew all over them during the race. This would totally blow NBC's story out of the water.Also, throughout the broadcast of the race I'd be replaying clips of the original faked Dateline story about the trucks catching on fire and making snarky comments about keeping the Dateline crew away from pit road.

Heh. Indeed.

Damian Penny:: "Next up: NBC is going to try sneaking Bibles into Saudi Arabia. Yeah, right."

JACK SHAFER:

Hello, New York Times? I'd like to cancel my subscription today. No, I'm not protesting your Middle East coverage, your treatment of any ethnic minority or weird religion, and I am certainly not upset about some petty delivery problem. Nor am I angry about the gruesome picture you recently printed on Page One or your deletion of my favorite continuing feature.

I'm canceling because the redesign of your Web site, which you unveiled yesterday, bests the print edition by such a margin I've decided to pocket the annual $621.40 I currently spend on home delivery.

Uh oh.

CATHY SEIPP: "Wretched as Pepper Dennis is, it serves as a useful guide to various unexamined messages and wish fulfillment fantasies pop culture sends to girls in 2006."

NOAH SHACHTMAN calls the FBI the Federal Bureau of Luddites. Hey, they'll all have email by 2017. And Blackberries by 2098.

JUDITH WEISS has thoughts on Flight 93.

UPDATE: Read this post by Jim Geraghty, too.

HEH:

At the box office this weekend, Ice Age 2 clobbered Basic Instinct 2 hauling in $70 million dollars, compared with less than $3 million for the Sharon Stone movie. One film is about a prehistoric creature’s struggle to survive and find love, the other is the animated sequel to the movie Ice Age.

And "heh," again. That one's worth two.

TOM MAGUIRE rounds up the latest Libby material.

NBC LOOKING to make news.

If they air the show, I want to see the raw, unedited tape.

OOPS: "Reuters falls for insurgent hoax."

A QUESTION: "DEAR NEW YORK TIMES: When the largest single fatality-causing event for your (well, our) soldiers in recent months is a single vehicle wreck, isn't it officially time to retire the theme that we're losing the war?"

JIM BENNETT has more thoughts on immigration and a possible third-party Presidential run.

IN THE MAIL: David J. Moser's Moser on Music Copyright. It's aimed at non-lawyers.

THOUGHTS ON comments and civility.

SALON stands up against the hate:

This afternoon, the Huffington Post ran a blurb on this weekend's Colorado wedding of NBC correspondent Campbell Brown, 37, and Fox News analyst and GOP strategist Dan Senor, 34.

Below are some of the comments posted by HuffPo readers in response to the two-paragraph item:

randomizer37: "Oh my God, is he f*cking ugly! Yet more proof that women are whores!"

Vaughn: "That guy looks like a f*cking bug ... He has the job of a cockroach ... She probably f*cked several TV execs to get where she is now." . . .

SBJack: "At her age she has to take what she can get ... even if it is gay and younger than she is. Desperate Housewife, indeed."

AllAmerican: "How appropriate ... BEAVER CREEK."

Jackalheadedgod: "Yeah, and what's her name, the brunette on CNN, had personal knowledge of Limbaugh's butt cyst until she took a blow to the head recently."

Joel: "Ugly dress. Only a gay Republican would marry a woman in a dress that ugly."

Let's hear it for those on the left who dismiss a man they don't like by calling him "gay," and who take a woman down a couple of notches by throwing around the word "whore" and labeling her ugly, old and desperate. No wonder they hate Senor's Republican ties so much; Republicans are mean and intolerant people.

Indeed.

A NEW opponent for Cynthia McKinney?

UPDATE: Here's video of McKinney on CNN last night.

WHEN YOUR MOVIE TANKS, blame the Puritans. Never allow for the possibility that it just sucked like a bilge pump: "Usually when you want a movie to be so bad it's funny, you can count on someone connected to the Basic Instinct franchise. Alas, they have let even their extremely forgiving audience down. . . . Few expected Basic Instinct 2 to be very good, but no one expected it to be this boring. . . . In this erotic-free film, as the dead bodies pile up, nothing is more dead than the movie itself."

Interestingly, those are the presumably more sophisticated and less Puritanical critics. The presumably less sophisticated viewers mostly hate it too, but they don't hate it as much. Puritanism, where is thy sting?

UPDATE: Jim Treacher offers a pungent response: "It's not that people don't feel like paying 20 bucks and sitting through 2 hours of 'sexy' dreck just to get to the good part that they can see on the Internet tomorrow anyway. It's not that you've, I dunno, shot your wad?"

BILL COSBY offers advice on New Orleans reconstruction.

SEAN HACKBARTH reports that A.N.S.W.E.R. is behind the immigration protests.

April 03, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: "Frist sure seems clumsy, but, um, wasn't his 'nuclear option' threat, in the end, kind of successful? Kind of wildly successful?"

TOM DELAY is resigning his seat. I'm not sorry. His "no fat in the budget" remark lost me, and I was never much of a fan.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Virginia Postrel on Kidney Donation

postrelsatelbefore.jpg
It's all about kidney donation, and organ donation policy, with Virginia Postrel. Virginia is the author of books like The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies. Kidney recipient Sally Satel has written a book with Christina Hoff Sommers, One Nation Under Therapy : How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance and PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine. Virginia talks about what it's like to donate a kidney, what's wrong with organ-donation policy and how to fix it, and how some people wonder why a libertarian would do something actually generous.

Click here to listen directly (no iPod needed!) or you can get it here via iTunes.

There's an archive of previous podcasts here, and a collection of low-fi versions for dialup here. Hope you like it! As always, my lovely and talented cohost is taking comments and suggestions.

"BUSH WAS RIGHT:" An amusing music video by The Right Brothers that you probably won't see on MTV. Lyrics here, purchase the song here. "France wrong -- Zell Miller right." You don't hear rock lyrics like that much.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

THE NEW YORK TIMES makes another unforced error in reporting from Iraq.

HUGO CHAVEZ BLOWBACK? "Calderon rose in the polls exactly after the conservative PAN Party ran newspaper campaign ads showing great big vulgar pictures of Hugo Chavez making sneering remarks about President Vicente Fox shortly after the Summit of the Americas in Argentina. The obnoxiousness, the uncouth talk about lapdogs, and the disrespectful behavior of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez was apparently enough to affect Mexican voter sentiment - boosting the anti-Chavez right - as Mexican voters decided they had no intention of being pushed around."

PUBLIUS looks at political developments in Iraq.

WIN A TRIP TO SPACE, via the contest at Space-shot.com. Pretty cool. It's a venture of Rand Simberg's co-blogger Sam Dinkin, who's also married to one of my law-school classmates. Yes, it's a small world -- especially seen from space!

UPDATE: I've gotten a lot of emails like this one from Evan Coyne Maloney: "I'll sign up if that hottie from the banner image will be on the flight!"

You'll have to take that up with Sam.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, no you won't, thanks to the magic of InstaPundit! Sam writes: "Tell your emailers that they can meet her if they win. She prefers to be mysterious so she can continue to personify the ubiquitous dream of mass space travel."

A LOOK AT MEDIA BIAS in the Chicago Tribune.

IMMIGRATION AND ANGER: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

OVER AT CATO UNBOUND, William Easterly looks at why foreign aid doesn't work.

On the other hand, here's a report of success from East Timor, though that's a case that involved more than aid.

I GUESS JANE HAMSHER'S MINIONS GOT TO 'EM: "What's with all the Chomsky-love at the Post?"

AN INTERESTING ARTICLE on the perils of competing with people who don't have to show a profit:

There is another breed of rival lurking online for traditional media, and it is perhaps the most vexing yet: call it purpose-driven media, with a shout-out to Rick Warren, the author of "A Purpose-Driven Life," for borrowing his catchphrase.

These are new-media ventures that leave the competition scratching their heads because they don't really aim to compete in the first place; their creators are merely taking advantage of the economics of the online medium to do something that they feel good about. They would certainly like to cover their costs and maybe make a buck or two, but really, they're not in it for the money. By purely commercial measures, they are illogical. If your name were, say, Rupert or Sumner, they would represent the kind of terror that might keep you up at night: death by smiley face.

Hey, someone should write a book about this phenomenon!

THE SUPREME COURT has refused to hear Padilla's appeal. (Via John Stephenson).

YALE'S TALIBAN PROBLEM just gets worse: "A 9/11 survivor asks Yale to explain why it admitted the Taliban Man."

IN THE MAIL: John Hasnas' new book, Trapped: When Acting Ethically is Against the Law. Well worth reading for those interested in the area, and nicely blurbed by the likes of Richard Epstein.

Cool cover, too.

MICHAEL YOUNG: "Arab summits are typically repositories of failure. The latest one in Khartoum, Sudan this week was no exception."

DR. SANITY looks at fear of female sexuality.

DICK MORRIS writes on Hugo Chavez and Mexican politics and perhaps explains why Bush is so solicitous of Vicente Fox.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An immigration backlash.

ABC'S JOHN GREEN has been suspended without pay for one month over the Bush-puke email incident. "Both e-mails were disclosed at a time when public distrust of news organizations and their ability to be fair are at or near an all-time high."

NYU PRESIDENT JOHN SEXTON WRITES ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM; Eugene Volokh comments: "Excellent words. But NYU's deeds in the cartoon controversy are not consistent with those words. . . . How easy it was to make NYU go back on its stated policies and principles: Just the possibility of thuggery was enough to the job. A sad day for elite American higher education; a sad day for NYU; and a sad day for the Sexton presidency and the Sexton legacy."

It is, particularly as it's an invitation to thuggishness on the part of everyone who wants to manipulate NYU on any topic.

IRAQ: StrategyPage says to watch the trends, not the headlines:

What you see in the Iraq news, is not what you get. The news business demands startling headlines, to attract eyeballs. It's business, as the eyeballs are rented to advertisers to pay for it all. But the reality of the news is less startling, and consists of trends. These are the current trends in Iraq.

After three years, the Sunni Arabs, who long dominated Iraq, most recently under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, are giving up. It took so long because of a quirk in Arab culture, one that encourages the support of lost causes. The term "cut your losses and move on" is not as popular in the Arab world as it is in the West. But even the slow learners in the Sunni Arab community had to finally confront some unfavorable trends. Chief among these was;

The Kurds and Shia Arabs have formed a national police force and army that is far more powerful than anything the Sunni Arab community can muster. Over the last year, Sunni Arabs realized that the police and army were in control of more and more Sunni Arab towns. This was a trend that could not be ignored. Added to that was the number of Kurds and Shia Arabs who had lost kin to Sunni Arab terror over the last three decades. Many of these people want revenge, and they all have guns. Many, especially those that belong to the police, or militias, are taking their revenge. The Sunni Arabs want protection, for they cannot muster enough guns to defend themselves. Now the Sunni Arabs want the Americans to stay, at least until there's some assurance that the Kurd and Shia Arab vengeance attacks have died down.

The alliance with al Qaeda was a disaster. These Islamic terrorists were obsessed with causing a civil war in Iraq, and they insisted on doing this by killing lots of Shia Arabs. The Sunni Arabs didn't want to kill lots of Shia Arabs, they wanted to rule them all once more. But that raised another contentious issue. While some Sunni Arabs were in favor of an Islam Republic, which al Qaeda insisted on, most Sunni Arabs wanted a more secular Sunni Arab dominated government. This dispute was never resolved, as the split between al Qaeda and the Sunni Arab community widened. At the moment, al Qaeda is not welcome in most Sunni Arab areas. That's "come near this place and we'll kill you" not welcome. This after al Qaeda tried to terrorize the Sunni Arab tribal leaders into compliance. Killing Sunni Arab tribal chiefs didn't work.

You can't kill enough Americans to scare them into leaving. . . . The trend was that the Americans were much better at killing Sunni Arabs than Sunni Arabs were at killing Americans.

Read the whole thing, including the point at the end -- made here before, too -- that the biggest threat to civil society in Iraq is not insurgents, but corruption. Greg Djerejian, meanwhile, is less positive, though of late he seems to be more and more interested in intra-right-wing-punditry battles.

And The Officers' Club looks at what the Jill Carroll captivity tells us about the current state of the insurgency.

UPDATE: Riding Sun notes that the current plan seems to be working better than many credit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Green has further thoughts.

BUT THE MUHAMMAD CARTOONS were too disturbing to publish. (Best comment: "The ironic thing is, the LA Times is actually in worse shape than the poor soul in the picture. He may survive, the Times won't (and shouldn't)." Indeed.)

And Ed Driscoll looks at what pictures really are deemed too scary for the blue states.

April 02, 2006

I ONLY CAUGHT A COUPLE OF MINUTES of Hugh Hewitt on Larry King before the Insta-Daughter switched to "Fresh Prince" reruns. He was pushing his new book, Painting the Map Red, and talking about immigration. He's been saying for a year that this is the Achilles' Heel for the GOP in 2006, and he seems to be right.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

The Presidential political chess game with the Clintons in 2008 will involve a third party. It is too early to know the issue but it could be immigration.

The Clintons know the democrats cannot win a two candidate race in a national election. The red state blue state problem for democrats is getting worse, not better. The blue states are shrinking in population ratio to the red states at a time when the current ratio will not elect democrats. This is a generational trend that won't change in Hillary's political lifetime.

Bring in the third party candidate that erases the red state electoral advantage. Is it risky? Sure it is - a third party could pull more from the democrat base than republican but it depends on the issue.

Reagan is still defeating the democrat party in the south. The true Reagan Democrat (me) is a southern conservative ideologue who chooses common sense over ACLU causes. The democrats may never get us back - but a third party can. An articulate public figure could turn an issue like immigration into a rallying cry for Jacksonian and Reagan Democrats.

Perot did this with the NAFTA issue.

It could happen again.

Yes, the conditions are ripe (see below) for a third party challenge, and immigration is a strong issue.

SUPPORT FOR BANNED AUTHORS -- from Borders?

SOME THOUGHTS on the first obligation of educators in times of disorder.

THOUGHTS ON religion, Starbucks, and a temple of the law.

IN BRITAIN, a "secret cabinet document" on avian flu is getting a lot of press, and it offers a rather apocalyptic scenario, though I detect the scent of politics in places. Of course, bird flu may never become human-transmissible at all, but this should certainly encourage governments to take the task of preparing for new outbreaks of disease more seriously. Bill Frist and Ray Kurzweil are behind such an effort.

MICKEY KAUS on Brad De Long on immigration.

MARK STEYN:

But, while Charlie Sheen is undoubtedly a valiant leader, you couldn't help noticing it was followers the anti-war crowd seemed to be short of on the third anniversary. The next weekend half a million illegal immigrants -- whoops, sorry, half a million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community-- took to the streets, and you suddenly realized what a big-time demonstration is supposed to look like. These guys aren't even meant to be in the country and they can organize a better public protest movement than an anti-war crowd that's promoted 24/7 by the media and Hollywood.

Well, OK, half the anti-war crowd aren't meant to be in the country either, if they'd kept their promise to move to Canada after the last election. But my point is there's no mass anti-war movement. Some commentators claimed to be puzzled by the low turnout at a time when the polls show Iraq increasingly unpopular. But there are two kinds of persons objecting to the war: There's a shriveled Sheehan-Sheen left that's in effect urging on American failure in Iraq, and there's a potentially far larger group to their right that's increasingly wary of the official conception of the war. The latter don't want America to lose, they want to win -- decisively. And on the day's headlines -- on everything from the Danish cartoon jihad to the Afghan facing death for apostasy -- the fainthearted response of "public diplomacy" is in danger of sounding only marginally less nutty than Charlie Sheen. . . .

To win a war, you don't spin a war. Millions of ordinary citizens are not going to stick with a "long war" (as the administration now calls it) if they feel they're being dissembled to about its nature. One reason we regard Churchill as a great man is that his speeches about the nature of the enemy don't require unspinning or detriangulating.

Read the whole thing, especially the last paragraph. Bush's problem on the war is that he's losing the Jacksonian base, which is no longer confident that he's willing to do whatever it takes to win, regardless of foreign or public opinion.

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

It does sound like the Jacksonians might be bailing on the President, but then they aren’t able to live up to Jackson. This isn’t 1940s where dissemination of information was controlled through filters called “editors” and prior to the plethora of relativisms of contemporary times. If the Jacksonians have another candidate in mind, let them name him/her. The silence will be deafening. If the Jacksonians truly believe their rhetoric, it’s time to suck it up and carry some of the rhetorical weight that someone like Steyn have been carrying. Too many are sounding retreat or simply grousing. Is this a long, hard slog or not? If it is, then the tough Jacksonians should stop acting like whining, ninny wimps and instead be constructive. Dealing with the anti-war rhetoric or with policy that is not exactly to their liking is surely easier than actually crafting and implementing policy in these times.

This is a fair criticism up to a point. But nobody but the President can be President, and you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one. On the other hand, I remain unconvinced that now is the time to go all Duncan Black on the mideast, and am reluctant to second-guess too much on that account.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Harmon Dow thinks the GOP has earned a loss in 2006:

Speaking as a card-carrying Jacksonian (Southern boy, Scottish on mother's side, both families in their 4th century as Americans, & a military brat to boot) let me tell you what I've been thinking lately. My problem isn't with Bush. I can live with him - I tell my liberal friends here in Chicago that he's really really a moderate, but they can't seem to grasp that.

My problem is with the Republicans who don't back Bush. They didn't back him on Social Security, they don't seem to be backing him on immigration, & I don't think they are stepping up to the plate & backing him on the war.

So this Jacksonian is thinking "why bother with the Republicans?" After the fall, we'll have two more years with Bush in the White House. He's not going to budge on the war. I expect I'll just sit this one out.

The Congressional Republicans don't seem to have put themselves in a good position. Bush haters won't vote for them. But Bush-lovers may not either. Meanwhile, reader Fred Butzen writes:

You write, "... you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one."

That is half correct. Large numbers of paleo-conservatives (e.g., W. F. Buckley) would be much happier with a Kissingeresque put-in-a-strongman-and-nail-down-the-lid strategy for the Middle East. They want no war at all.

What the paleos don't understand is that since 1989, the world has changed utterly. Societies that are in juxtaposition influence each other and, sooner or later, arrive at an equilibrium; with the advent of globalization and the Internet, all societies now are juxtaposed. Bush grasps what so many of his critics on the right miss: either we will make them more like us, or inevitably they will make us more like them.

Iraq is the first step on a long road to making them more like us. It may be too little, it may be too late; but it's a strategy, which is more than the isolationists of the left or right are offering.

I've always felt that Kissinger's reputation exceeded his accomplishments. And yes, the alternative is surrender, or megadeaths. Meanwhile, here's more on how things are going and what that means for strategy.

UPDATE: More thoughts on what we ought to be doing -- more aggressive combat in Iraq, basically -- here, along with a worry that America doesn't have the stomach for it. You can't win a war if you're not willing to fight; Bush can be blamed for not being aggressive enough, of course, but he hasn't had a lot of support at home.

I'm no expert, and hence don't offer a lot of military suggestions, but I wonder if a Pablo-Escobar style campaign against the Iranian mullahs -- going after their business interests, vacation homes, etc. using irregular forces -- might be more effective than air strikes or an invasion, with less risk. For that matter, such an approach might work against some of the Saudi supporters of terror.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett has coffee with Benon Sevan, a key figure in the oil-for-food scandal.

KARL ROVE'S MOLES ARE EVERYWHERE: Some places are banning the American flag to prevent "antagonism."

As Jim Bennett says: Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two.

TOM ELIA ASKS: "Is it possible that professors and graduate students as a group are more depressed than the overall population? That's the only conclusion I can come to after reading this particular story about a University of Texas zoologist who thinks the Earth would be better off if 90% of humans died."

Given that academics' lives are generally pretty good, it's hard to see why academics should be more depressed. It's perhaps better to say that academics' negative statements get more media attention. The media tend to focus on the negative, even when it's not really there.

And people in the media have good reason to be depressed, based on their declining readership/viewership.

JOE GANDELMAN thinks that the Jill Carroll case is a black eye for blogging. I do think that people are too quick off the mark sometimes, and that's a phenomenon that seems to apply to bloggers on both left and right. On the other hand, it's a phenomenon that seems to apply to non-bloggers, too. Still, bloggers should try to think about this stuff first, and -- of course -- should be quick to correct when they're wrong. Just as Big Media should.

UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff wonders about the people who don't have guns to their heads.

A BOTCHED SUICIDE BOMBING IN TORONTO? Nicholas Packwood emails this report:

The heart of Toronto's trendy Yorkville shopping district was shocked to a standstill Sunday after an explosion killed one man at a Tim Horton's outlet.

Police would not confirm early reports that a man had entered the washroom shortly before the blast with explosives strapped to his body.

Early reports are often wrong, so keep that in mind.

UPDATE: Reader John MacDonald emails:

While it's not online yet, the Police Chief had a short press conference a half hour ago. They are only in the early stages of the investigation but he says the fire Dept told him there was an "intense flash". He wouldn't confirm whether it was an explosion or not.The deceased is still in there (washroom). They are sort of downgrading it to an accident or someone just trying to do themselves in. So early reports may or not be right.The eye witnesses described it as an explosion at first.

Stay tuned.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE: "The active-duty Army and National Guard have met their recruiting goals for the past five months."

ARMY OF DAVIDS AGGREGATION UPDATE: I've kind of fallen behind on this in recent days, but here's an interview about the book in the latest U.S. News & World Report, and here's another by Robert Bluey.

MICHIGAN'S ATTORNEY GENERAL is investigating the Ford Foundation. I don't know anything about the specifics of this case, but I suspect we'll see a lot more nonprofits coming under this kind of scrutiny given the growth in the nonprofit sector in recent years and the often insiderish and back-scratching nature of nonprofit governance. (Via newsalert). See this earlier post on the Ford Foundation and nonprofits generally, too.

THE CARNIVAL OF CARS is up!

BRIAN DUNN recommends the military site Stand-To!

THE FUNERAL'S OVER. IT WENT WELL, if you can say that about a funeral. Reader Thomas Stege wrote yesterday:

If you are like me, I think you will find the funeral and its aftermath to be somewhat of a happy event, what with catching up with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that you wouldn't normally see. 91 years is a long life. I'm sure you gave her much joy.

It did turn out that way: like a family reunion of sorts. That was her final gift to us, I guess. And yes, it was a long life, well-lived, but I'm still sorry she's gone.