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May 13, 2006

SOME NEW TECHNOLOGIES for fuel economy and cleaner engines, from Sandia Labs.

ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT -- Drezner, McArdle, even Bainbridge -- so I'll take the Atrios/Drum "are you a liberal" test, too. The questions (in bold) and my answers appear below:

1) Repeal the estate tax repeal: I've never cared much about the Estate Tax, one way or another. Score me a weak no.

2) Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI. Nope. Drezner invokes wage-price spirals; I see this (like the Estate Tax is for both sides) as basically an issue of political demagoguery. It either does nothing (as now, when even most entry-level jobs are above minimum wage) or it does harm.

3) Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one). Drezner: "Do free ponies come with this one?" The current health insurance system sucks; turning it into a government monopoly will increase, rather than decrease, the overall level of suckage. I'd change the tax law to eliminate the more favorable treatment of employer-provided healthcare, and probably try to reduce legal barriers that make a true market difficult.

4) Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation. Nope. The market will take care of this stuff. Government research on more-efficient technologies (or better batteries!) is okay. Stuff like ethanol, etc., looks more like vote-buying from farmers and corporate welfare to agribusiness to me.

5) Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise. I'm basically in agreement here, though I agree with Megan that this question is a bit fuzzy. Abortion, as Dave Kopel and I have argued at length, shouldn't be considered a federal issue at all; regulation of pre-viability abortion, at least, is probably also outside a reasonable construction of state powers (as many state supreme courts have held). I think that abstinence-only education is a waste of money, and tends to veer into religious indoctrination.

6) Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code. Hmm. The tax code could certainly be simplified, but it's hard to do that while increasing progressivity. At any rate, given that people in the bottom half of the earnings distribution pay almost no federal income tax, we're pretty far along that road already.

7) Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination. In principle, I support this. In practice I note that when you look at who was providing relief after Katrina, there's not much in the way of secular humanism to be found. Churchy people seem better at helping the sick and dispossessed; non-churchy people probably get a disproportionate share of NEA grants. I can live with both.

8) Reduce corporate giveaways. I'm tempted to disagree just to be contrarian. But sure. Who could disagree with it when it's phrased this way? (Bainbridge: "Sure. Include the giveaways to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, however.")

9) Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan. Here, I agree with Drezner: "Hell, no. Just kill the motherf#$er."

10) Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions. No. As Drezner and McArdle note, this question betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation.

11) Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too. Leave the states alone in general. Drop federal laws on drugs in general -- except antibiotics, since their misuse has the greatest potential to harm innocent third parties.

12) Paper ballots. Oh, please. I was way ahead of the curve on this one.

13) Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. I agree, but probably not in an Atrios-friendly way. How about this: Federally override most state and local licensing and zoning laws to make daycare centers easier to open and operate. Most of those rules don't have much to do with protecting children anyway. (Federalize! That's a "liberal" solution, right? Er, but it's deregulation, so . . . Anyway, I'm pretty sure that what the question really envisions is taxpayer-subsidizd daycare, or even federally run daycare, and I'm against those.)

14) Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes. I'd rather phase out Social Security entirely, in favor of a private pension system.

15) Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens. I'd go farther: Separate marriage and state, and make it a matter of private contract only. On immigration -- I'm not sure how that would play out.

16) Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration. Already there. Though I thought it was Congress that enacted the bill, not the Administration, and that it did so with a lot of bought-and-paid-for Democratic support, to go along with the bought-and-paid-for Republican support. . . .

Anyway, there you are. Am I a liberal? Score this as you like.

DAN RIEHL GOT POLLED by USA Today/Gallup, on the NSA story.

BILL ROGGIO LOOKS AT independent operations and the Iraqi Army.

Plus, here's a gallery of photos and reports from his embed in Iraq.

ARE WE SEEING conservative battle fatigue? An interesting roundup by Bruce Kesler.

UPDATE: Vik Rubenfeld has related thoughts.

A SPECIAL MOTHER'S DAY Carnival of the Recipes.

A GRAND UNIFIED THEORY of the current immigration brouhaha: "Forget the illegals. ANSWER may believe that if it can prompt this backlash against the people it's purportedly trying to help, then it can get Chavez ally AMLO elected in Mexico and cause tremendous damage to the US. The Mexican election is July 2. Assuming my own idea for the invasion and annexation of Mexico continues to not gain traction, we may want to wait until after July 2 to push for tougher security measures at the border."

SO HOW DO I DONATE TO HIS OPPONENT?

A Democratic candidate for Alabama attorney general denies the Holocaust occurred and said Friday he will speak this weekend in New Jersey to a "pro-white" organization that is widely viewed as being racist.

Larry Darby concedes his views are radical, but he said they should help him win wide support among Alabama voters as he tries to "reawaken white racial awareness" with his campaign against Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson.

Though I'm guessing his campaign won't go far.

THE CARNIVAL OF CARS is up!

UPDATE: Sorry -- link was bad before. Fixed now.

STEPHEN HAYES WRITES THAT THE CIA has waged a successful war against reform. Sadly, I think that war has been their top priority.

PHONE COMPANIES, THE NSA, AND PRIVACY: Here's a roundup (free link) from the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:

The three phone companies have been handing over phone numbers and calling information since shortly after September 11, 2001, while withholding names, addresses or other personal customer data, according to media reports. But it would be easy for the NSA to obtain that information by cross-checking the data with other readily available databases. The companies didn't provide any information about the contents of the calls.

Read the whole thing. And yes, you can usually find out who's behind a phone number by simply typing it into Google, and you'll even get a map to their house, which seems like more of a privacy invasion to me.

UPDATE: Video from the NSA, over at Hot Air.

FLY-FISHING SITE THE ITINERANT ANGLER is now podcasting.

A GAO REPORT LOOKS AT illegal aliens arrested in the United States.

(Via Newsbeat1).

May 12, 2006

IT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN atrocity and self-defense, between resolution and fanaticism. That it's being missed even by thoughtful observers goes some distance toward proving my point.

BUT THEY'RE NOT POWERFUL ENOUGH TO MAKE HIM SEEM NORMAL: "Powerful Hollywood friends of Tom Cruise rallied to his defence yesterday as a new poll suggested the actor's odd behaviour recently may have cost him millions of dollars at the box office."

Celebrity isn't an entitlement.

PLEDGE WEEK AT PROTEIN WISDOM is almost over.

BUSH'S MONDAY IMMIGRATION SPEECH: Reader CJ Burch emails:

If "jobs Americans won't do" is a central part of Bush's address his approval ratings may be in the single digits Tuesday morning. I honestly do not understand where our political class has gotten the idea that calling the average american lazy and worthless is good political strategy. Do they truly think that little of us? Iraq has been a hard ( and in my opinion a worthwhile) job, should only illegals be allowed to that? Our previous leaders thought Americans could do anything they set their mind to. They asked big things of us and we did them, better than any other nation on earth has ever done them. These bozos think we can't get off the couch to make our own freaking dinner. I'm beginning to think they despise us, I truly am. And I'll be damned if I waste my vote on someone that thinks that little of me.

I'm hearing a lot of that kind of sentiment.

UPDATE: John Podhoretz: "There are really three immigration debates. There is the cultural debate, there is the economic debate, and there is the security debate. . . . The potential for self-destruction is terrifying. The potential for grave national harm is worse. Please, you guys, pull back from the edge."

One problem is that the tin-eared approach of the White House has led to considerably more anger and polarization than would otherwise have occurred. Bush can start to overcome that process Monday, if he will. I'm not sure what will happen, though. John Hinderaker is expecting something major: "I'm pretty sure the President hasn't booked prime time on Monday night to repeat what he's said before. I think we'll see a sharp course change that will gladden the hearts of conservatives, and, for that matter, Americans in general."

MORE: I'm guessing it will take a lot to win Bill Quick over.

WILL FRANKLIN HAS THOUGHTS on majorities and the Republican base. He's certainly right about this part: "It's not the man in the Oval Office that matters. It's the policies the man in the Oval Office is able to enact." That cuts both ways, though.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS WAS ON HUGH HEWITT: Transcript and audio are here.

TOMORROW IS THE ANNIVERSARY of the Andijon massacre in Uzbekistan. Nathan Hamm has a roundup.

MICHAEL TOTTEN is reporting from Jaffa and Jerusalem: "There are more Arabs in Israel than there are in Beirut. One Israeli in five is an Arab."

EUGENE VOLOKH LOOKS AT A TIME "When the idea of self-preservation was as jealously guarded from the young as the facts of sex had been in earlier ages."

I think the view that it's connected with a (somewhat degenerate) notion of holiness is right, too. Call it Christianity's poison pill.

IS CALLING ANTI-YAHOO! PLAINTIFFS "EXTORTIONISTS" and charging them with a "shakedown" libel?

I'd say no, myself. All parties, however, should read this essential article before continuing.

MICKEY KAUS: "Robert Wright accuses me of enjoying it when Democrats get bad news. Well, here's some! Despite the Democratic lock on both houses of the California state legislature--or maybe in part because of the Democratic lock--the Democratic percentage of the state's registered voters has been steadily declining."

ORIN KERR HAS THOUGHTS on the legality of the NSA monitoring project, to the extent that we understand it.

Meanwhile, ABC says it's polling well: "Americans by nearly a 2-1 ratio call the surveillance of telephone records an acceptable way for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, expressing broad unconcern even if their own calling patterns are scrutinized." It'll be interesting to see if the Congressional complaints continue if other polls show similar results.

UPDATE: Mystery Pollster thinks that these numbers are pretty good.

Plus, a prediction here: "Watch for all the about-faces (that would be face two for two-faced politicos) over the weekend."

THE U.N.C. "JEEP JIHADI" SPEAKS:

I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role-models, Muhammad Atta.

Ed Cone has much more.

THE BLOG WEEK IN REVIEW PODCAST IS UP, featuring Austin Bay, Tammy Bruce, Eric Umansky, and me.

JONAH GOLDBERG on that dumb handgun / testosterone study:

But all of this misses the point. A more insidious danger than guns is the rush to medicalize behavior. Let’s stipulate that handling a gun causes testosterone levels to rise. Let’s also concede that elevated testosterone levels are associated with aggression. So what? Does this tell us anything important or new? Science is learning how to measure all sorts of really interesting things, from the effects of porn on the male brain to the effects of porn on the male brain. Whoops. I guess that answers what those effects are. . . .

The important question is, “So what?” Prohibitionists were correct that alcohol affects the brain a heck of a lot more than handling a gun does. Do we need a new study to tell us that? And when it does, should we bring back Prohibition? So testosterone might jump when men tinker with guns. That no more means responsible men, including cops, can’t handle the rush than it means irresponsible men have an excuse when they kill people. The testosterone made me do it! The “NRA argument,” as Sullivan puts it, is unchanged.


Long before science conclusively “proves” that human beings are sinful and prone to temptation, we already know exactly that. Identifying the hormones and genes that make this so should not change our views. Science may study humans as mere biological organisms. But civilization and our constitutional order demand that we look at people as something more: as citizens responsible for their own actions first, and as testosterone machines a distant second.

One argument against porn, in fact, is that it stimulates aggression and hormones. Nonetheless, we protect it as speech. So guns are like porn, perhaps offering yet another reason why the ACLU should revisit its position on the Second Amendment.

Meanwhile, Dr. Wes Fisher thinks the study is sexist. It's certainly true that suggestions that social policy should be driven by the way hormones affect women's behavior are beyond the pale of acceptable discourse.

ORAL HISTORY from Iraq.

JOHN TAMMES offers news from Afghanistan that you probably haven't heard.

UPDATE: Major Tammes used to be my photo-correspondent in Afghanistan. Now that he's back, I've lacked for material, but check out this photo essay by Michael Yon, which sums up the situation in one brief passage of text: "Whereas in Iraq there is a large, educated class, Afghanistan seems to be locked into a world centuries passed. But they’ve got relatively modern weapons."

Check out the whole thing, which as usual with Yon is excellent.

PATRICK HYNES says it's not 1994.

MORE ON EGYPT: Big Pharaoh writes:

The Egyptian regime started to become a little bit more tolerant towards protests. I don't know what is driving them crazy this time.The protests I attended were relatively large yet we were allowed to assemble and march on the streets. What changed that? Is the government so scared of the pro-reform judges?

Publius has much more. Meanwhile, on the Alaa front, don't forget the automatic interactive petition.

Also, I seem to remember hearing that someone was planning a protest at the Egyptian embassy in Washington. Please let me know if that's going to happen. And send photos!

Finally, Freeman Hunt notes that this is no Colbert moment: "Protesters in the US need to look at these protesters in Egypt. This is bravery. This is 'patriotic dissent.'"

ARNOLD KLING:

This November, I am looking forward to seeing the Republicans lose control of Congress. I would say to the Republicans, as Oliver Cromwell reportedly said to the Rump Parliament, and as Leo Amery reprised during Neville Chamberlain's final crisis as Prime Minister, "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"


The whole oil-company-baiting, education-centralizing, entitlement-expanding, earmark-loving lot of them can be tossed out, as far as I'm concerned. Then we can start over.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi plans to use control of Congress to launch an investigation into the Bush Administration. For those of us who have not been drinking the Kos Kool-Aid, this seems like a questionable enterprise.

Read the whole thing. I realize that you go to elections with the parties you have, but can't I get another choice, somehow?

JIM GERAGHTY HAS SOME COMMENTS in response to our Mehlman/Barone podcast:

By the way, put me down as one of those guys who cannot comprehend the argument that conservatives ought to sit out this election to “punish” the GOP so that they’ll “learn a lesson” and get better/more conservative in the future.

To advocates of this position, I must respectfully ask… are you out of your flippin’ mind?

By what logic does a constituency become more influential and powerful by becoming less active, and demonstrating less capability to turn out the vote and influence elections?

Read the whole thing. Of course, one could ask these questions of the GOP leadership, too. . . .

UPDATE: Here's a contrary view from the D.C. Examiner:

Karl Rove reportedly has a plan to “stir up” the base to again save the Republicans’ electoral bacon, but conservatives won’t be satisfied this time around with more token efforts on issues like marriage and dire warnings that “the Democrats would be far worse.” Conservatives have heard that song before and know it never has a second verse.

Read the whole thing there, too.

May 11, 2006

UGLY AMERICANS: Or not.

GEORGE WILL ON JOHN MCCAIN:

Presidents swear to ``protect and defend the Constitution.'' The Constitution says: ``Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.'' On April 28, on Don Imus' radio program, discussing the charge that the McCain-Feingold law abridges freedom of speech by regulating the quantity, content and timing of political speech, John McCain did not really reject the charge:

``I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.''

Question: Were McCain to take the presidential oath, what would he mean?

In his words to Imus, note the obvious disparagement he communicates by putting verbal quotation marks around ``First Amendment rights.'' Those nuisances.

That seems to be McCain's attitude.

MORE ON THE BROOKINGS DATA, from IraqPundit.

I HADN'T HEARD THIS: Bush's tax cuts make the tax system more progressive, according to a new study from the Joint Economic Committee. Of course, what's really interesting is how little tax revenue comes from people in lower brackets.

SANDMONKEY has pictures and reporting from the protest crackdown in Egypt. More here.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Ken Mehlman and Michael Barone on 2006 and 2008

almanac.jpgIt's a roundup of Republican problems and solutions in today's Glenn and Helen Show. First, we talk to Ken Mehlman, chair of the Republican National Committee, about polls, anger in the base, and issues like immigration, spending, taxes, and judges. We pressed Mehlman pretty hard, and I think it's fair to say that he realizes that action is more important than rhetoric if the GOP is to win back the base before November. Whether he and the White House can deliver on that, especially in the face of the Senate Republicans' foot-dragging, is another question.

Given all the dissatisfaction, especially over immigration, we also talked with Michael Barone, blogger, columnist, and editor of The Almanac of American Politics, about the prospects for a third-party candidate in 2008. Barone is interesting as always.

I hope you enjoy them both. You can listen to the program by clicking right here, or you can get it via iTunes here (we like it when you subscribe). A low-fi episode, suitable for dialup, etc., is available here, and there's an archive of previous podcasts right here.

Hope you like it. As always, my lovely and talented cohost is soliciting comments.

UPDATE: This piece by Dick Meyer at CBS connects with the above, especially the Barone discussion. I don't think that Mayor Bloomberg is a credible third-party candidate, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who claims inside knowledge says that Bloomberg plans to run, and is already making preparations for a third-party campaign. I don't know any more than that, though. Despite his nominally Republican status, I'd expect him to draw more votes from Democrats, but I could be wrong about that.

We're up to #4 on the iTunes politics charts, putting us just ahead of Sean Hannity. That's not bad.

LATER: We're now #3, beating out Stephanopoulos, too. Well, we're certainly doing it on a smaller budget.

THE LATEST NSA STORY: Didn't we already know this?

UPDATE: Of course, if we'd had a terror attack since 9/11 and didn't have a program like that, people would be complaining.

And here's a big roundup of blog reactions.

THE GREAT CLASSROOM LAPTOP CONTROVERSY CONTINUES:

When Don Herzog, a law professor at the University of Michigan, asked his students questions last year, he was greeted with five seconds of silence and blank stares. He knew something was wrong and suspected he knew why. So he went to observe his colleagues' classes — and was shocked at what he found.

"At any given moment in a law school class, literally 85 to 90% of the students were online," Professor Herzog says. "And what were they doing online? They were reading The New York Times; they were shopping for clothes at Eddie Bauer; they were looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco when their new job started.... And I was just stunned."

Wireless Internet access at universities was once thought to be a clear-cut asset to education. But now a growing number of graduate schools — after investing a fortune in the technology — are blocking Web access to students in class because of complaints from professors.

Herzog first went on the offensive in his own law classes, banning laptops for a day as an experiment. The result, he says, was a "dream" discussion with students that led him to advocate more sweeping changes.

(Via Betsy Newmark). I don't generally get that problem -- but we have small classes at Tennessee, and I suspect that student tuneout grows along with class size. Still, the classroom surfing business is a contentious matter among faculties all over.

DOES THIS MAKE HOWARD DEAN A "CHRISTIANIST?"

Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean has contradicted his party's platform and infuriated gay rights advocates by saying the party's platform states "marriage is between a man and a woman."

"The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says marriage is between a man and a woman," Dean said May 10 during a "700 Club" program hosted by conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson on his Christian Broadcasting Network.

Who knew? Jeez, I guess that whole theocracy thing is spreading faster than I realized.

REP. JERRY LEWIS (R-CA), appropriations chair and Porkmeister extraordinaire, is under investigation as part of the Duke Cunningham probe. "It is not clear where the investigation is headed or what evidence the government has. But the probe suggests that investigators are looking past Cunningham to other legislators and, perhaps, the 'earmarking' system that members of Congress use to allocate funds."

Sounds like fertile ground for inquiry.

UPDATE: Heh: "Glenn, are 'porkmeister' and 'probe' the best words to use to describe someone involved in the Duke Cunningham affair?"

I guess that was an unfortunate choice of words. Or maybe an apt one. . . .

ROGER SIMON: My dinner with Mary.

WE FINISHED UP OUR PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH RNC CHAIR KEN MEHLMAN a few minutes ago. It was nice of him to come back after our phone problems yesterday, especially as I think the interview was a bit more contentious than he had expected. It'll be posted later, but I think that the GOP shouldn't bank too heavily on the "Democrats are worse" argument. It's not that it isn't true, much of the time, but you can only go to the same well so often.

Mehlman was also promoting the new GOP grassroots website, MyGOP, which is sort of like MySpace for Republican grassroots activists. I think the site is a great thing, though it'll be interesting to see how things develop: They're rolling out a grassroots-empowering technology at a time when the grassroots aren't very happy.

WELL, DUH: "Tom Cruise's star power has dimmed in the eyes of the public, especially women, Reuters reports, citing a USA Today/Gallup poll out Wednesday."

IMPRISONED EGYPTIAN BLOGGER ALAA is doing well, and even, via sneakernet, blogging from prison.

DARFUR UPDATE: StrategyPage is calling the latest deal a "phony peace." I hope that's wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were right.

SLAVERY IN COLORADO? "A Saudi Arabian woman indicted with her husband for keeping a young Indonesian woman in their home as a virtual slave pleaded guilty to reduced charges today in federal court."

Gateway Pundit has much more, and notes that this is not the first time we've seen a case like this.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Ed Feulner writes:

Need proof of how pork-addicted Congress has become? Consider this: Some in the Senate are looking for ways to shift funds from the troops in Iraq to some of their favorite pet projects.

At risk is the $94.4 supplemental spending bill President Bush requested from Congress to provide $92 billion for hurricane relief and the troops in Iraq, and $2.4 billion for avian flu response. Despite his warning that anything more would be vetoed, several senators abused the legislation's must-pass status to add $14 billion in wasteful pork-barrel goodies for influential constituents, labor unions and corporations.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, introduced several amendments to strip these earmarks, but despite some close votes, all but one lost.

Unable to control their colleagues, 35 senators signed a letter promising to support a veto, and the House of Representatives' leadership announced it would refuse to accept any supplemental exceeding the $94.4 billion target. Despite these positive signs in favor of spending restraint, some in the Senate want to concoct a face-saving deal with the president to sustain these wasteful proposals. Their plan: Shortchange the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to preserve most of the pork.

Meanwhile, here's an interview with Coburn:

Sitting in his office on a recent morning after two weeks of constant battle with Senate spenders, Mr. Coburn was upbeat over how much he had managed to save for the American taxpayer.

"Fifteen million," he boasted wryly, fully grasping what a small dent that put in the $14 billion in added pork.

But he said there was a point anyway.

"But remember, we're not measuring it that way," he said of the staggering amount of pork that still got through. "This is a long-term strategy to change the behavior in the Congress and to change that behavior by exciting the American people and having them start paying attention. And they are."

Mr. Coburn pointed to a poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal that showed the No. 1 priority American voters have for Congress is ending the process of "earmarks," the special projects that members of Congress insert into spending bills to curry political favor.

That the issue has become of such urgent concern to voters is in no small measure because of the single-minded efforts of Mr. Coburn, who won election to the Senate just two years ago. Before that, he entered the House as one of the Republican "Class of 1994," but left in 2001, keeping his pledge to serve only three terms.

That the issue has become of such urgent concern also has to do with the extravagant examples of pork that Mr. Coburn has hauled out of the shadows, onto the Senate floor and for days ridiculed on national television.

Ridicule is a key weapon. Fortunately, it's a target-rich environment.

UPDATE: Reader George Walton offers this summary: "Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan risking their butts, but our senators don't want to risk their seats."

Like I said. . . .

IS DEMOGRAPHY DESTINY? PUTIN THINKS SO:

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered women cash to have more babies on Wednesday as he tackled a decline in population that is leaving swathes of the country deserted and threatening to strangle economic growth. In his annual address to the nation, Putin said each year Russia's population fell by about 700,000 -- or about the same as the population of San Francisco. He proposed new financial incentives to nudge up the birth rate.

As Philip Longman has noted, there's a global baby bust, but it's worse in some places -- chiefly places of a statist bent -- than others. Also addressed in the story are efforts to address Russia's demographic problems by getting people to live longer, healthier lives, something where there's plenty of room for improvement in contemporary Russia. I've got more on that subject in a somewhat diffferent vein, here.

May 10, 2006

MPAA KILLS FEDEX, with DVD-sniffing dogs.

ILYA SOMIN has thoughts on Iraqi federalism.

And The Mudville Gazette offers an interesting near-and-far look at how things are going.

UPDATE: The Futurist looks at the Brookings data and says all roads converge in 2008. That's bound to be true, one way or another.

THE REPUBLICAN MARGINAL REVOLUTION: Jon Henke looks at the future of limited government in response to the symposium that's been going on over at Cato Unbound.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Over at PorkBusters.org, a letter to the Republican leadership from thirty House Republicans urging them to hold the line on the spending bill:

Since the House passed this bill on March 16,2006, the Senate has been adding billions of dollars in non-emergency spending to a measure that is meant to provide emergency h d s to our troops in the field and those still recovering from one of our county's worst natural disasters.

One particularly egregious earmark seeks $700 million in federal funds to move a railroad track that had just been repaired at a cost of $250 million. Supporters of the project say the rail line needs to be moved because it is vulnerable to hurricane damage. Yet the proposed new location is just a short distance inland and was greatly damaged by Katrina last year. There is well documented evidence that the real reason supporters want this newly repaired rail line moved is to make room for casino development along the Gulf Coast.

While these Senators are fighting to secure money for pet projects, American servicemen and women are awaiting these funds to fight for the cause of freedom. Senators who have been adding billions to the bottom line of this legislation by insisting that pet projects receive funds are jeopardizing the passage of this measure. We applaud President'Bush for issuing a strong veto threat against the bill unless it is under his $92 billion request. We also encourage you to work to strip these unnecessary spending increases from the bill when this measure reaches conference.

Bravo. Nice to see that some Republicans are willing to hold the line on spending.

ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES fell while hiking in the mountains and had to have four vertebrae in her neck fused (she's lucky she can walk). While she's recovering, we're taking turns cooking dinner for her. Tonight's my turn and I'm taking Insta-Chicken, which travels well. The downside is that the whole house smells great now, and the Insta-Wife has been going around complaining of hunger all afternoon.

TAKING A ROVIAN DIVE? Reader Brandon Haber writes:

With all the disinterest and disgust coming from the electorate to the Republican party, I honestly have to wonder what's going on. It's certainly possible that it is legitimate: that the Republicans, as they currently stand, are unfit to govern.

Then I thought about it some more. What if they were intentionally sabotaging the 2006 elections, giving the Democrats a temporary run with power for (hopefully) two years? Put the Democrats in control of Congress, and then the Presidency will stay Republican in '08. Congress is obviously powerful, but if it's President Hillary Clinton in 2008, the country is screwed. Putting Democrats like Nancy Pelosi in front of the camera more will definitely help the Republicans in '08.

It's a crazy explanation for crazy politics. It's all a Rovian plot, I tell you - but it's a gamble that just might work, if true.

Well, it's certainly more positive than the alternative explanations.

THE LATEST BROOKINGS INSTITUTION DATA FROM IRAQ look good. I wonder why these numbers don't get more attention?

AN ANNIVERSARY LOOK at the Huffington Post.

JAY REDING:

President Bush should make it clear that further foreign aid distributions to Egypt will be made conditional on Mubarak’s willingness to lay the groundwork for a democratic and free state. That process should begin by a demand for the freedom of the Egyptian bloggers arrested this week during a pro-democracy protest. If Mubarak is unwilling to tolerate free and peaceful dissent among his people, then he is undeserving of the $2 billion per year in US foreign aid he receives. If he wishes to have his son Gemal inherit his presidency rather than laying the groundwork for a truly open and democratic election, then we should not support that choice.

Our national interests are now best met by ending the system of autocracy in the Middle East that fuels resentment and terrorism. President Bush has been right in noting this link time and time again in his speeches. It is time for him to put his money where his mouth is. If we truly believe that the solution to terrorism is the expansion of democracy and human rights, Egypt gives us an opportunity to illustrate our commitment to those values through action. We must put diplomatic pressure on the Mubarak regime until they begin to show a true commitment to civil society and democracy in Egypt.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is an automatic interactive petition on the blogger question.

SOME THOUGHTS ON CIVIL RIGHTS IN VIRGINIA.

GAY PATRIOT: "1994 all over again? Wasn’t it 1980 all over again in 2004?"

LEADERS UNITING TO DENOUNCE TERRORISM in Iraq: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.

SEX TOYS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE, er, down under. (Via TaxProf)

SCIENCE FICTION UPDATE: The other night I finished Fred Saberhagen's new novel, Ardneh's Sword. As the title suggests, it's a sequel of sorts to his Empire of the East, though Ardneh's Sword isn't nearly as ambitious a work. (Empire of the East, if you're unfamiliar with it, is absolutely terrific. I liked the new book, but it's not on the same scale.) The new book seems to establish a transition between Empire and his later Swords books, continuing the theme of a fantasy/magic world that's actually enabled by technology.

JUDGE LUTTIG HAS RESIGNED THE BENCH, and gone to work for Boeing.

BIG PHARAOH: "I just got information that the Egyptian embassy in DC was bombarded with e-mails demanding the release of Alaa and the others. Good job."

He continues: "We are also suggesting you to contact David Welch, Assistant Secertary and head of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. His email is: nea-ela@state.gov"

INTO SPACE on a giant slingshot.

BUSH'S PROBLEMS AREN'T ONLY BUSH'S -- the New York Times reports:

The political situation has not helped some of the more prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Mr. Bush's opponent in 2004, had a lower approval rating than Mr. Bush: 26 percent, down from 40 percent in a poll conducted right after the election.

And just 28 percent said they had a favorable view of Al Gore, one of Mr. Bush's more vocal critics.

(Via NewsAlert). I wonder how Hillary's polling? More seriously, I think we're seeing a general meltdown in support for the entire governing class as the result of a perception (which is largely true) that it lacks the seriousness and self-restraint necessary to run a major nation.

UPDATE: A contrary view.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: So we were doing a podcast interview with Ken Mehlman, and he was responding gamely to pressing questions on the Bush Administration's problems, but we kept losing the connection. Then we lost dialtone for a few minutes. BellSouth couldn't explain why, and it's fixed itself now. We'll try to reschedule and finish the interview soon -- I think you'll find it very interesting -- but jeez. I remember a line from A. Bertram Chandler: "At the mercy of a single fuse." So much that we do these days is like that.

UPDATE: Reader Christopher Grayce emails:

When you note that many things depend on a single fuse, what you're saying is the system is efficient and is thought to be highly reliable. These are *good* things. In the old days stuff was more reliable, and there were more backups, both mechanical and human. But it was much slower and far less flexible. Dinosaurs are reliable, but they're not nimble.

So, you know, being more dependent on a single fuse is a sign of technological progress. Like the fact that we don't need to carry full-size spare tires around anymore, and most people don't need to learn how to jack up a car on the freeway and change a tire.

Good point, though I'm pessimist where technical things come, and have lots of backups for most stuff. But the phone is pretty much a single point of failure.

MAX BOOT ON EGYPT:

If Bush wants to show that he is still serious about promoting "the expansion of freedom," he could begin by making an example of Egypt.

Mubarak is reputedly one of Washington's closest friends in the Arab world, yet he has been among the most brazen in defying Bush's demands for greater openness while force-feeding his 78 million subjects a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Semitic drivel. His vow to hold multiparty presidential elections produced a suspect ballot last fall in which he secured 88% of a feeble turnout. Afterward, he consigned his chief challenger, Ayman Nour, to five years' hard labor on trumped-up charges of forging signatures to qualify for the ballot. The subsequent parliamentary election was even more dubious; ruling party goons used violence and fraud to keep the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, from winning too many seats. Now Mubarak's minions are roughing up peaceful demonstrators who support brave judges in their demand for greater independence and less electoral fraud.

Why, oh why, is this repugnant regime still getting $2 billion a year in American subsidies? Take the money away from Mubarak and give it to democracy-promotion programs across the Middle East. That would be a shot heard 'round the world. Failing such a signal, the dictators will become bolder and more brazen in defying what Bush once called "the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity."

Bush could make a modest start by demanding freedom for imprisoned Egyptian bloggerAlaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam.

WILL VEHRS HAS BEEN SUSPENDED FOR TEN DAYS for blogging uncomplimentary things about the economic situation in Martinsville, Virginia.

Now the Bacon's Rebellion blog is going after Virginia Delegate Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, who's the guy behind the suspension.

I'm not ready to call down plagues of locusts on Martinsville as part of some elaborate scheme of vengeance, but you can take it right from me, and some people in Tennessee, that it's a bad idea to mess with bloggers:

Nearly 100 VF Imagewear, Inc. employees will lose their jobs by the end of 2006 as the company shifts work and adjusts to the expansion of another facility, according to a release from the company.

VF announced Monday that it plans to move a "substantial amount of the work being performed" in the Distribution Center on Joseph Martin Highway in Martinsville to accommodate an expansion at an existing facility in Henning, Tenn.

"As a result, the Martinsville location will make a reduction in its current workforce," the release states. . . . The two business segments currently distributed from Martinsville will be shifted to the Tennessee facility, including the Government/Public Sector and Services Sector, according to the release.

Just a word to the wise!

LES JONES: "The consequence of Europeans not having children is that their elaborate social welfare system and free healthcare are liable to collapse in a generation or two as a consequence of their birth rate being below replacement level. They obviously know where babies come from, but it's less clear they know where adults come from."

JOSH TREVINO: "Tonight, I see that the Heathers are guffawing amongst themselves because a man they dislike, one Jeff Goldstein, has admitted to being on anti-anxiety medication."

Ah, the compassionate left. Jeff craps bigger than them, and I'm sure he's big enough to take this stuff. And to dish some out. And I guess it's a good time to mention that it's still pledge week at Protein Wisdom.

REPUBLICANS ARE IN TROUBLE, but Democrats aren't in a very good position to capitalize on it, according to Thomas Bray:

Democrats hope that George Bush's miserable poll numbers will help them reclaim control of Congress this fall. But polls also show that the Democratic Party's overall approval ratings are almost as deep in the tank as the Republican rating. Voters may be expressing dismay at the alternatives.

That would be understandable. The relentlessly partisan House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, as Speaker? Sen. Robert Byrd, the ancient king of pork from West Virginia, as head of Senate appropriations? Gasbags like Patrick Leahy and Teddy Kennedy back in charge of judicial nominations?

Or how about John Conyers, the Detroit-congressman-for-life who would automatically become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? Nancy Pelosi has promised that one of her first acts as House Speaker would be to unleash a series of investigations into the Bush administration. As it happens, Conyers has given us a taste of what life would be like under the Pelosi reign of terror.

And Rep. Jack Kingston's office forwards an article from Roll Call by David Winston:

Behind the Democrats' hubris is the growing buzz around Washington, D.C., that "it's 1994 all over again," only this time, it will be Republicans thrown out on their collective ears. It isn't.

That's not to say this isn't going to be a tough, competitive year. Republicans are facing a strong challenge that shouldn't be underestimated, but the political dynamics of this election are not the mirror image of 1994, as Democrats would like us to believe.

The antics of Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) coupled with the ethical cloud now hanging over Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and William Jefferson (D-La.) and even Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) make it difficult, if not impossible, to take seriously the "corruption" diatribes we hear regularly from top Capitol Hill Democrats.

But despite what are admittedly grim poll numbers for Republicans, Democrats know that there is another dynamic that could well be a more decisive factor in the fall election: the disconnect between the center-left ideology of the Democratic Party and the center-right ideology of the electorate.

The GOP's only hope lies in the Democrats' managing to look even worse. Sadly, that might just pan out.

MICKEY KAUS says that Bush's poll drop is all about immigration:

Thanks presumably to Iraq and Social Security he was down to his base of 45 percent or so--and then he willfully did something that pissed off half of them. It seems pretty simple.

Yes, though that process really started with Harriet Miers and the Dubai Ports deal.

UPDATE: More evidence that Kaus's analysis is right.

May 09, 2006

ANGLOSPHERE UPDATE: "India and US to explore the Moon."

MARK TAPSCOTT writes on why conservatives are abandoning Bush and the GOP: "Put another way, they've done pretty much what a Democratic president and Congress would have done had the election of 1994 not prompted Bill Clinton's hollow 1995 State of the Union proclamation that 'the era of Big Government is over.' . . . That is what we get with incumbents who don't have to worry about getting re-elected, thanks to all those incumbent protection measures they've passed over the years. It has produced a culture of political and legislative corruption that infects both major parties and renders Congress incapable of doing what the nation so desperately needs on critical issues."

UPDATE: More anti-Bush anger, this time over immigration. They're actually talking impeachment over his non-enforcement of the immigration laws.

JOEL ROSENBERG LOOKS AT A DIFFERENT SORT OF RADICAL MUSLIM:

Were Dr. Ahmed Abaddi merely a soft-spoken, gentle-mannered professor of comparative religion in his native Morocco, his views would certainly be welcome, but not particularly newsworthy. However, Abaddi is actually in a position of some influence. As Morocco’s Director of Islamic Affairs and senior advisor to King Mohammed VI, he is responsible for overseeing his country’s 33,000 mosques. And he’s not just talking about a new approach to Muslim relations with the West. At the direction, and with the blessing, of his King, Abaddi has already taken a number of concrete—and controversial—steps.

Read the whole thing.

BROTHER-IN-LAW UPDATE: Various people have asked how my brother-in-law is doing and the answer is, well and not well. He's been doing radiation treatments and tolerating them fairly decently. The downside is that, after much back-and-forth, the oncologists at Vanderbilt have decided that he should have chemo starting after the radiation, which is news nobody wanted to hear.

Thanks to my earlier bleg, my sister got in touch with a number of first-rate oncologists who specialize in this very rare cancer. They were quite helpful, but, alas, nobody knows how to just make it go away.

DONALD RUMSFELD WAS ON HUGH HEWITT, talking about the war, the media, etc. Transcript and audio are here.

Austin Bay came on right after Rumsfeld, offering a critique and advice. Transcript and audio of that portion are here.

JAMES LILEKS OFFERS A RATHER UNIMPRESSED TAKE on the Ahmadinejad letter to Bush.

TOM SMITH: "Here is my plan: I am going to set up a web site where lawyers, law professors, or in fact, just about anybody, can vote on what they think the most important, influential U.S. Supreme Court cases have been in certain areas of law. The idea is the exploit the Condorcet jury theorem/Wisdom of Crowds effect to get a really deeply authoritative list of such cases. I have some money to do this, so I am not just flapping my jaws here."

"YOU'RE EITHER WITH US, OR YOU'RE WITH THE ROBOTS!"

I'm thinking, I'm thinking!

NO ANTISEMITISM INVOLVED: "The largest university and college lecturers union in Britain is likely to decide shortly to recommend that its 67,000 members boycott Israeli lecturers and academic institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israeli policy in the territories."

MY COLLEAGUE JEFF HIRSCH is now blogging over at the workplace law blog.

SANDMONKEY HAS MUCH MORE on imprisoned Egyptian blogger Alaa.

SOME COOL IMAGES OF EARTH FROM NASA: They're available in very large sizes for download.

Plus, movies from Titan.

WOMEN WARRIORS: It's a bellicose-women roundup over at Hot Air.

FROM REFUGEES to tycoons: "Those expelled from East Africa were third generation immigrants to Africa, and had created assets and wealth. Which is why Idi Amin was so interested in them. Now, those families are again third generation immigrants, this time to Britain, and again they are rolling in wealth. How was this extraordinary feat accomplished twice?"

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF MEDIA GUN COVERAGE IS UP: And read this, too. Though wasn't Andrew Sullivan praising testosterone not long ago?

UPDATE: More here. I think this gives you a First Amendment right to own a gun!

DAVID BOAZ:

Last week I turned on NPR and heard some crazy woman ranting “We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical follow-up from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. It is no accident; it is a cause and effect, a cause and effect.” Then the next morning I watched CNN and discovered that the ranting woman was Nancy Pelosi.

So it’s hard to summon up hope that libertarians might find common cause with the Democratic party.

But the Republican party doesn’t seem very inviting lately, either.

Boaz finishes on a more hopeful note than this opening suggests. Read the whole thing, part of an interesting discussion over at Cato Unbound.

IN THE MAIL: Caitlin Flanagan's new book, To Hell with All That : Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. I'm at something of a loss to see why so many lefties hate her so much. But what struck me in reading the book, with its comparison of housekeeping and childrearing from 30 years ago with the same today is how much harder people have made both.

We keep hearing about declining birthrates, but raising a kid is far more expensive -- financially, emotionally, and in terms of time -- today than it was a few decades ago. As she occasionally notes, things that were considered adequate, or even exemplary, parenting then are now considered abuse or neglect. In fact, when you look at how the burden of childrearing has increased, it seems amazing that we see as many people having children as we do.

Society would be a lot better off (emotionally and demographically) if it would cut parents more slack on this stuff, though as she notes, much of the pressure is the result of competitiveness among parents, particularly mothers.

As evidence that kids can turn out fine despite all sorts of parenting - and as evidence that the latest fads and pronouncements of experts are often bunk -- Flanagan's book should be read together with James Lileks' Mommy Knows Worst : Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice. Happily, Amazon recommends the two together, a recommendation that, if followed, may do more to improve American society than many government programs.

LESLIE WYLIE HAS A LENGTHY LOOK AT ABSTINENCE EDUCATION: I think that it's OK to tell high school kids they shouldn't have sex yet. I think that saying that sex outside of marriage is bad is both wrong (sex outside of marriage isn't necessarily bad at all, in my opinion, and can be an excellent thing), and an inappropriate use of tax dollars.

ERIC SCHEIE: "When I propose that we 'end the culture war by restoring classical values,' I am not proposing striking Judeo-Christian values and replacing them with Greco-Roman ones."

AUSTIN BAY CONGRATULATES RICHARD COHEN on a discovery.

AL QAEDA SAYS WE'RE WINNING: That's not news, really, if you've been paying attention.

A PR DISASTER IN THE MAKING: Wal-Mart is trying to trademark the smiley face.

ABC SAYS THAT TOM CRUISE'S IMAGE HAS BEEN DEFLATED BY THE LIMP PERFORMANCE of Mission Impossible 3.

I wonder if it wasn't the other way around. As further support for the notion that it's Cruise's recent public idiocy that's hurting the film, rather than its inherent lameness, the audience reviews are actually pretty good. Back in the old days of the studio system, a star like Cruise who behaved badly in public would have been cut off as box-office poison. Maybe those guys knew what they were doing?

DANIEL GLOVER HAS MORE ON NET NEUTRALITY and the role of the blogosphere in the debate.

A REVIEW OF SHELBY STEELE'S NEW BOOK, by the InstaWife, over at TCS Daily.

CNN MOCKERY CONTINUES, AT KAUSFILES: "I take it back--Jonathan Klein really is a genius! His networks' ratings are down 38% in prime time, and he gets the LAT's TV columnist to focus on ... a decline of half as much at competitor Fox!"

There are two things going on, I think. First, people are tired of politics, of political news, and of news in general. There's been too much news over the past several years as we've lived in interesting times.

Second, CNN really is sinking, even faster than the ebbing tide is lowering all boats.

DEAN ESMAY IS FISKING SILLY ISLAMOPHOBIA: Just remember that the behavior of radical Islamists is supposed to produce backlash and religious strife. So don't be manipulated.

May 08, 2006

CAMPAIGNING ON THE BLOGS: The real story, of course, is another diminution of Old Media's gatekeeper power.

CIA UPDATE:

Gen. Michael V. Hayden isn't the first active-duty military officer tapped to lead the CIA -- he is in fact the fifth -- but many intelligence experts and officers have bemoaned the idea of a general leading the agency at a time when the Pentagon is expanding its ability to engage in global spying and man-hunting, traditional realms of the CIA.

Despite such qualms, intelligence specialists say Hayden's appointment may turn out to be a clever move by intelligence czar John D. Negroponte to help him assert authority over Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his burgeoning intelligence bureaucracy. Negroponte, who by law oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, has expressed frustration that he has not made more progress in managing the agencies under the Defense Department's jurisdiction.

It's all about the turf wars. Is that bad? Well, FDR used turf wars as a way of encouraging subordinates to do their best. That has not, however, been Bush's practice.

Meanwhile, Ann Althouse thinks that the Hayden confirmation is a good time to talk about the NSA intercept program: "Well, really, why isn't this the perfect occasion to hash it out about the program? If it is not made a central issue in the confirmation, I think I'm going to assume that the critics believe that airing the issue will hurt them."

By nominating Hayden, I think that Bush has said that already.

HERE'S MORE ON THE ARREST of imprisoned Egyptian blogger Alaa: "The tireless Aida Seif El-Dawla, who was there, says Assistant Interior Minister Sami Sedhom told the protesters, 'You bitc***. You sons of bitc***. This is how it is going to be from now on if you do not behave and know your limits. If you do not behave you’ll have the bottom of my old shoes all over you.'"

Remember his name.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS MORE on Ohio State University's ongoing sexual harassment debacle: "Yup, unyielding defenses of a book recommendation are obviously something that human resources departments should be investigating in 'a university that is a beacon of intellectual freedom.'"

BUSH AND AHMADINEJAD: Victor Davis Hanson was on Hugh Hewitt talking about the latest letter -- transcript and audio are here.

I WROTE A WHILE BACK about Arnold Kling's new book, Crisis of Abundance, on health care policy. Now the book's out, and he's interviewed over at Catallarchy.

A RATHER CRITICAL LOOK at Bush's energy policy, over at The Truth About Cars.

HEATHERS.

DUTCH (NON)COURAGE: Christopher Hitchens writes on Holland's shameful treatment of Ayan Hirsi Ali:

After being forced into hiding by fascist killers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali found that the Dutch government and people were slightly embarrassed to have such a prominent "Third World" spokeswoman in their midst. She was first kept as a virtual prisoner, which made it almost impossible for her to do her job as an elected representative. When she complained in the press, she was eventually found an apartment in a protected building. Then the other residents of the block filed suit and complained that her presence exposed them to risk. In spite of testimony from the Dutch police, who assured the court that the building was now one of the safest in all Holland, a court has upheld the demand from her neighbors and fellow citizens that she be evicted from her home. In these circumstances, she is considering resigning from parliament and perhaps leaving her adopted country altogether. This is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction, but I hope at least that it will shame us all into making The Caged Virgin a best seller.

I just ordered a copy.

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

OVER AT HOT AIR, Michelle Malkin says that Hookergate is a symptom of much deeper problems with the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. That seems right to me.

UPDATE: This hookergate sounds worse, but it, too, is a sign of deeper institutional problems.

CHINA: A trillion dollars in non-performing loans? Ugh.

BILL HOBBS REMAINS un-silenced.

Also, Michele Catalano is blogging again!

MORE MOLLOHAN SCANDAL DEVELOPMENTS: The Raw Story has it.

TROUBLE NOT THE BLOGGER IN HIS LAIR: My TCSDaily column is up.

DARFUR UPDATE:

Were the 1990s really that long ago? They are remembered now as the halcyon and money-happy interval between the war against Soviet totalitarianism and the war against Islamic totalitarianism, but the truth is that, even in the years immediately following the cold war, history never relented. The '90s were a decade of genocides--unimpeded (Rwanda) and partially impeded (Bosnia) and impeded (Kosovo). The relative success of those genocides was owed generally to the indifference of that chimera known as "the international community," but, more specifically, it was owed to the learning curve of an American president about the moral--and therefore the operational--difference between genocide and other foreign policy crises. The difference is simple. In the response to most foreign policy crises, the use of military force is properly viewed as a last resort. In the response to genocide, the use of military force is properly viewed as a first resort.

The notion of force as a first resort defies the foundations of diplomacy and also of common sense: A willingness to use hard power abroad must not become a willingness to use it wildly. But if you are not willing to use force against genocide immediately, then you do not understand what genocide is. . . .

Then there is the other alibi for Western inaction, the distinguished one: the belief that salvation will come from blue helmets. After the slaughters of the '90s, all of which numbered the fecklessness--and even the cynicism--of the United Nations among their causes, it defies belief that people of goodwill would turn to the United Nations for effective action. The United Nations is not even prepared to call the atrocities in Darfur a genocide. Kofi Annan says all sorts of lofty things, but everybody knows that he is only the humble servant of a notoriously recalcitrant body. Meanwhile the Sudanese regime maneuvers skillfully--what is the Chinese word for oil?--to prevent reprisals of any kind from the Security Council.

Given recent statements about Israel by Iran, and Iranian actions, this suggests that military action against the mullahs is an imperative sooner, rather than later. Right?

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn talks about what needs to be done in Darfur:

I wish the celebs well. Those of us who wanted action on Darfur years ago will hope their advocacy produces more results than ours did. Clooney's concern for the people of the region appears to be genuine and serious. But unless he's also serious about backing the only forces in the world with the capability and will to act in Sudan, he's just another showboating pretty boy of no use to anyone.

Here's the lesson of the past three years: The UN kills.

In 2003, you'll recall, the US was reviled as a unilateralist cowboy because it and its coalition of the poodles waged an illegal war unauthorised by the UN against a sovereign state run by a thug regime that was no threat to anyone apart from selected ethnocultural groups within its borders, which it killed in large numbers (Kurds and Shia).

Well, Washington learned its lesson. Faced with another thug regime that's no threat to anyone apart from selected ethnocultural groups within its borders which it kills in large numbers (African Muslims and southern Christians), the unilateralist cowboy decided to go by the book. No unlawful actions here. Instead, meetings at the UN. Consultations with allies. Possible referral to the Security Council.

And as I wrote on this page in July 2004: "The problem is, by the time you've gone through the UN, everyone's dead." And as I wrote in Britain's Daily Telegraph in September 2004: "The US agreed to go the UN route and it looks like they'll have a really strongish compromise resolution ready to go about a week after the last villager's been murdered and his wife gang-raped."

Several hundred thousand corpses later Clooney is now demanding a "stronger multinational force to protect the civilians of Darfur".

Agreed. So let's get on to the details. If by "multinational" Clooney means a military intervention authorised by the UN, then he's a poseur and a fraud, and we should pay him no further heed. . . .

So who, in the end, does "multinational action" boil down to? The same small group of nations responsible for almost any meaningful global action, from Sierra Leone to Iraq to Afghanistan to the tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia and on to East Timor and the Solomon Islands. The same core of English-speaking countries, technically multinational but distressingly unicultural and unilingual and indeed, given that most of them share the same head of state, uniregal. The US, Britain, Australia and Canada (back in the game in Afghanistan) certainly attract other partners, from the gallant Poles to the Kingdom of Tonga.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Regarding your posting on Darfur and intervention in genocides, you leave out the genocide of Kurds and Marsh Arabs in Iraq. Considering that more than 300,000 appear to have been slaughtered by Saddam in the 1990s because of who these groups were, and what they represented, it would have presented the very kinds of issues that those on the Left are now trying to suggest in Darfur.

And the ties between Saddam and those who carried out his orders in Iraq are far more direct than the relationship between the Janjaweed and Khartoum.

Good point. Someone should ask Clooney about it.

I'VE GOT MORE ON IMPRISONED EGYPTIAN BLOGGER ALAA over at The Guardian. No real news for InstaPundit readers, but I do try to use all of my outlets when bloggers are in trouble.

A "TAX REVENUE GUSHER" IN 2006: But wouldn't that mean the economy is doing well? I haven't heard anything about that on the news. . . .

IN THE MAIL: A new book by Kimberley Strassel, Celeste Colgan, and John Goodman, Leaving Women Behind : Modern Families, Outdated Laws. The book asks "Why haven't U.S. federal institutions changed to refelct today's diverse family structure?"

I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED, AT SUCH EVIDENCE OF SUPERFICIALITY:

James Felton, a professor of finance and law at Central Michigan University, and a colleague looked at ratings for nearly 7,000 faculty members from 370 institutions in the United States and Canada, and his verdict is: the hotter and easier professors are, the more likely they’ll get rated as a good teacher.

Education, as they say, is the only consumer product where the consumer is out to get as little as possible for the money.

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ: "Shkodra, Albania -- Does the mainstream media (MSM) incite the clash of civilizations (COC) between the Judeo-Christian world and Islam? At times, it seems so."

CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC: No, I'm not talking about Tony Horwitz's book by that title. But it should be required reading for those who think that any mention of the Confederacy means someone is a closet racist. George Allen's in trouble for wearing a confederate flag lapel pin. In high school. Now people are sending me copies of this speech by James Webb, Allen's opponent, praising the bravery of confederate soldiers:

I am here, with you today, to remember. And to honor an army that rose like a sudden wind out of the little towns and scattered farms of a yet unconquered wilderness. That drew 750,000 soldiers from a population base of only five million-less than the current population of Virginia alone. That fought with squirrel rifles and cold steel against a much larger and more modern force. That saw 60 percent of its soldiers become casualties, some 256,000 of them dead. That gave every ounce of courage and loyalty to a leadership it trusted and respected, and then laid down its arms in an instant when that leadership decided that enough was enough. That returned to a devastated land and a military occupation. That endured the bitter humiliation of Reconstruction and an economic alienation from the rest of this nation which continued for fully a century, affecting white and black alike.

I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery.

Well, they were brave, though in a wrong cause. As regular readers know, I'm no fan of neo-confederate sympathizers, but I don't think that either Allen or Webb qualify, and this back-and-forth strikes me as silly, dirty politics.

As I've noted before, the real accomplishment of our civil-war-era ancestors was to bind up the nation in spite of seemingly irreconcilable differences. That's a lesson our political operators might benefit from today.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel emails:

I live in Fairfax, VA. My first impression of TNR's George Allen-confederate flag reporting was, "Gee, they're really not going to help the Dems in Virginia beat him with this stuff!" Now I'm wondering if it was a secret, Rovian plot - by lambasting Allen, they teased these Webb stories out into the headlines. And no one ever lost an election in Virginia for praising the Confederate army too much. Here's a hint: my townhouse is located just off the Robert E. Lee Highway.

Those Rovian agents are everywhere.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On reflection, though, the real news in Dave's email is that he can afford a townhouse in Northern Virginia on what those cheapskates at Reason pay.

MORE: Reader Randolph Resor emails:

I've admired James Webb every since I read Fields of Fire a couple of decades ago. I'm glad to see he has kind words for the Confederates. My mother's side of the family is from Georgia, and she still has her great-grandfather's diary. He was with Toomb's brigade at the Burnside Bridge at Antietam, among other places.

Southerners do have long memories. One of the reasons for this is an economic statistic: the South didn't return to its 1860 level of gross domestic product until after 1920. That war cost a lot -- in lives and in forgone economic growth.

Yes, which is why I think that romanticizing it is a bit foolish.

MORE STILL: Eric Muller corrects Webb's history. Meanwhile Ryan Lizza emails:

Glenn, I noticed you wrote, "George Allen's in trouble for wearing a confederate flag lapel pin. In high school." To the extent that he is in trouble it's not because of the high school photo. It's because the high school photo is the beginning of a decades-long embrace of the Confederate flag by Allen, who is from southern California.

Here's what TNR reported:

Allen:
-wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo
-had a Confederate flag on his car in high school
-had a Confederate flag on his truck in college
-had a Confederate flag on his truck in law school
-displayed the Confederate flag in his room in college
-displayed the Confederate flag in his living room until 1992
-included a folded Confederate flag in a shot of him in his office in his first campaign commercial for governor in 1993
-in 2000, when a voter called out to him, "Long live the Confederate flag!" Allen responded, "You got it!"

Lizza's piece is behind the subscriber firewall, but Lizza writes: "None of this means Allen is a racist, of course."

So what does it mean, exactly?

Jon Henke, meanwhile, notes Allen's association with another racist symbol that Lizza has overlooked.

PHOTOBLOGGING A SANDSTORM at Camp Taji, Iraq.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A new editorial in the Washington Examiner:

If Bush is truly serious about protecting the powers and prerogatives of his office, he will set aside his veto reservations and slam-dunk the emergency funding bill if it comes to his desk in anything remotely resembling the form in which the Senate passed it last week. Bush originally asked for $92 billion to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and to assist with hurricane recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. The House approved the bill substantially as Bush requested.

Things were completely different in the Senate, where the Old Bulls had a field day larding the measure up with nearly $20 billion worth of special-interest earmarks like $700 million for the “Railroad to Nowhere” in Mississippi. A valiant effort by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to remove a dozen of the worst earmarks failed and the thoroughly stuffed final measure was approved by a wide margin. Passage came within days of release of a highly credible survey that said stopping such spending sprees was the public’s top priority.

That is why the conditions could not now be more perfect for a presidential veto. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and 34 other senators vowed to vote to sustain a presidential veto if needed and House Speaker Dennis Hastert declared the $109 billion earmark-stuffed monstrosity “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber. . . .

If Bush fails to deliver his first veto now, it won’t much matter for the rest of his term what he thinks about executive branch powers, because the Old Bulls in Congress will have all the privileges that count.

Read the whole thing -- er, especially if you're President Bush.

MICHAEL BARONE ON IMMIGRATION POLITICS: "A columnist is tempted to say that the politicians should toss aside political concerns and do what they believe is in the public interest. Easy enough to say. But something just like that may be happening."

ALAA UPDATE: I've got more on the case of imprisoned Egyptian blogger Alaa over at GlennReynolds.com, and Sandmonkey has posted an update:

Alaa and those arrested with him are now arrested for 15 days "pending investigation", which could be renewed indefinitely if the state so wishes. Him and the men were sent to the infamous Torah Prison and the girls to the Qanatir prison for the duration. This makes them hardly safe, because stuff that goes on in egyptian prisons on the hands of the jailors: beatings, sexual assaults, torture of all kinds. This is why we aim to get them out of there as soon as possible, so that even if they do end up serving the entire 15 days- which they won't have to if the government gets pressured- they don't end up serving an extra day after that. No one deserves this happening to them, especially for exercising their right to free speech.

Read the whole thing, as they're urging people to contact the State Department, too.

MICKEY KAUS has more on third-party prospects.

OVER AT REALCLEARPOLITICS, John McIntyre looks at how 2006's elections will affect 2008.

May 07, 2006

PODCASTING FROM THE DOLLYWOOD EXPRESS: Are there twin mountains?

A MAJOR UPDATE at The Truth Laid Bear.

(Bumped to top)

PROMINENT ARAB BLOGGER ALAA has been arrested by the Egyptian government.

Sandmonkey has more, and so does Sabbah.

Contact information for the Egyptian embassy:

The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone (202) 895 5400
Fax (202) 244 5131
(202) 244 4319
Email: embassy@egyptembdc.org

As TigerHawk says, "release the hounds!"

UPDATE: Global Voices has more.

BLACKFIVE TV appears on the scene. Be very afraid.

PHOTOBLOGGING at The Itinerant Angler.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE INSANITIES is up! So is this week's Haveil Havalim.

OUCH: "Salon's interstitial ads confront would-be users with the message 'Good commercials are as rewarding as the Salon journalism they support,' with which they must choose to 'Agree' or 'Disagree,' leaving the user in a desperate Tron-world binary conundrum of surely unintended ironies in which disagreement loops back around to agreement."

"DRAFT HOLLYWOOD:" Read the whole thing.

MORE SCANDAL IN FRANCE:

A burgeoning political scandal of alleged dirty tricks involving the cabinet's two top ministers has tainted the entire French government, pushing it to the brink of paralysis and collapse in the final year of President Jacques Chirac's administration, according to government officials and political analysts.

Not surprising, but unfortunate, as France could actually use an effective government at the moment.

OF WINDS AND WHIRLWINDS: Now that the Muhammad-cartoon precedent has been set, we've got Christians calling for censorship of stuff that offends them. No surprise, there.

UPDATE: Chuck Pelto emails: "they won't be as effective as their Islamic counterparts ....until they start sawing off people's heads with dull knives." That'll come, if people keep caving to the Islamists. Fanatics learn by example.

MORE ON Kerry's fake quote problem. Good advice: "someone in the Kerry campaign should monitor the blogs more to prevent his recycling already debunked urban myths, such as the plastic turkey story and the Jefferson quote."

UPDATE: "Ridiculing Kerry is the highest form of patriotism."

Jefferson didn't say that either. But I think that's only because he never heard Kerry speak.

At least Michael Dukakis just went away.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE looks at the killing of Atwar Bhajat.

Meanwhile, Gateway Pundit notes Muqtada Al Sadr's bad behavior.

IT'S STILL PLEDGE WEEK over at Protein Wisdom.

REPUBLICANS SEEM TO BE UNHAPPY WITH HAYDEN as CIA Director, and Captain Ed wonders why the White House didn't run this by them first.

GEORGE WILL SAYS IT'S OUR CIVIC DUTY to see United 93, and makes a point I've made here a time or two:

The message of the movie is: We are all potential soldiers. And we all may be, at any moment, at the war's front, because in this war the front can be anywhere.

The hinge on which the movie turns are 13 words that a passenger speaks, without histrionics, as he and others prepare to rush the cockpit, shortly before the plane plunges into a Pennsylvania field. The words are: "No one is going to help us. We've got to do it ourselves." Those words not only summarize this nation's situation in today's war but also express a citizen's general responsibilities in a free society.

Indeed. What's interesting are the pans from lefties in the audience reviews. It's like that idea is offensive, somehow. Happily, however, people in general have learned the lesson. And learned it rather well.

MARKOS IS DOWN ON HILLARY CLINTON:

Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is a leader who fails to lead. She does not appear "electable." But most of all, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem. . . . Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment -- led by her husband -- that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities.

Tim Blair figures that this means Hillary has the nomination all sewn up. But Kos is certainly right about this:

While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive.

Unlike Kos, however, I don't see many signs that the Democratic party is moving in a more constructive direction, or that the influence of those big-money donors is waning. But I could be wrong.

And, as John Kerry's continued fake-Jefferson-quoting demonstrates, we could do worse!

Me, I think that Hillary might just turn out to be "the most uncompromising wartime President in the history of the United States." After all, she's already argued that President Bush had "inherent authority" to go to war against Saddam without any new Congressional authorization.

If she promises to make Atrios Secretary of State she just might get my vote, but some people might be frightened by such a warlike approach.

DEMOCRATIC TALK OF IMPEACHMENT AND INVESTIGATIONS: Shoring up the GOP? I think it very well may come to the Republicans' rescue. Bush's biggest problem is in the unhappiness of the GOP base -- see below -- and nothing will push them back into the fold faster than Democratic politicking of this sort.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!