Archive for November, 2006

November 30, 2006

I’VE BEEN WONDERING why everybody makes a big deal about the ISG report leak — it seems as if it stands for more or less the current plan. The Mudville Gazette seems to see things the same way, describing it as a “360 degree about face,” which seems about right.

No big surprise — it’s not like the ISG is made up of a bunch of guys who’ve spent their lives thinking outside the box. And the Mudville Gazette notes that the Security Council has just renewed the mandate for the international force in Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi government. So this seems to be much ado about nothing, as a “cut and run” doesn’t seem imminent, but there’s no real sign of a “new direction” either. And now that the Security Council has acted, wouldn’t it be, ahem, unilateral of us to pull out?

UPDATE: Another take: “Reading the Washington Post, doesn’t it sound a bit like they’re going to just re-serve current policy?”

Stay the course! Or as Greyhawk puts it in the comments: “We are going to end up going in a ‘new direction’ that is the same direction we were going in before, except it will be new. Hope this clarifies.”

November 30, 2006

ASKING MUSLIMS TO SPEAK OUT in defense of a journalist under a fatwa of death over the Danish cartoons.

November 30, 2006

I’M WATCHING EUGENE VOLOKH AND DENNIS PRAGER on this topic — of which I was only vaguely aware — of whether newly-elected Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison should take his oath of office on a Bible or on the Koran. Volokh seems to have the better of this argument by a huge margin. In fact, I think that Prager’s argument that oaths must be on the Bible is absolutely nonsensical. But weirdly Paula Zahn keeps cutting Eugene off. I’m sorry, but Prager’s reference to “the American Bible” as the root of the Constitution is ridiculous. What’s “the American Bible?” And whatever happened to that bit from the Constitution about “no religious test”?

UPDATE: Rather than Prager, I recommend reading this post by Mark Daniels. I think you’ll be able to find the key bit on your own.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Video, courtesy of Hot Air.

November 30, 2006

I USED TO BE BI-CURIOUS, but now I’ve just gone all the way to becoming “bi,” as I’m now in possession of this entree to the Mac world. So far it seems pretty cool, although every time I try to post in movable type I get a popup warning that it says I can disable by setting “safari_warning=’false'” — but I can’t figure out how to do that.

UPDATE: Solved that problem — by switching to Firefox!

November 30, 2006

RICHARD MINITER is now blogging for PJ Media.

November 30, 2006

POPULAR MECHANICS: “Experts: Spy Death Radiation Risk Minimal (Unless You’re a Spy).”

UPDATE: More developments here. Not encouraging ones, though.

November 30, 2006

MILBLOGGER JASON VAN STEENWYK is unhappy with the AP’s response to the Jamil Hussein scandal:

I didn’t get out in front of the whole Mystery Captain Jamil Hussein story too early, because it’s really easy for Americans to screw up Arabic names. Now that the Iraqi Information Ministry has also come on record saying this Captain Hussein does not exist, it’s clear that AP has a problem.

But this bogus source is the least of AP’s problems.

Kathleen Carroll, a senior VP and executive editor of Associated Press, is now saying she is “satisfied with AP’s reporting.”

Yes, only two sources will go on record, and one has recanted his testimony, while the other apparently does not exist, and Kathleen Carroll is “satisfied with the AP’s reporting.”

Jason isn’t.

UPDATE: Is AP stringing us along? But don’t miss this cautionary note from Allah.

November 30, 2006

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT at an American university.

November 30, 2006

OKAY, I HAVEN’T BLOGGED MUCH TODAY, but Danny Glover rounds up some interesting tidbits.

November 30, 2006

ON CAPITOL HILL, listening for the sound of promises breaking. Welcome to the majority!

November 30, 2006


A few years ago, Erin Brockovich spearheaded a lawsuit alleging that an oil-rig next to Beverly Hills High School was causing cancer. She got all sorts of attention. I dug into the story for the New Republic and concluded that, well, Brockovich was full of it and that moreover she had a knack for fomenting panic in communities by misleading them about purported toxins in their neighborhoods and potentially even forging testing data.

Why I am telling you this? Because a few days ago a judge seemed to agree with me and tossed Brockovich and her suit to the curb.

Umansky’s original TNR piece can be found here.

November 30, 2006


U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. “There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval,” says a senior official.

What I continue to be puzzled by is why the Bush Administration has taken such a low-key attitude toward Iran when its role in fomenting problems in Iraq — and its unrelenting hostility to the United States — has been obvious for years. I had assumed that a key reason for invading Iraq in the first place was to let us put pressure on the mullahs, something that we don’t seem to have even tried to do.

November 30, 2006


The leadership ambitions of two senior Democrats have already been deep-sixed for their murky ethics histories. Here’s a third Democrat heading for a powerful post whom folks may want to keep an eye on.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is under investigation by the FBI. And he’s set to assume a top post which would put him in control of the FBI’s budget. Neat trick, eh?

The FBI’s probing Mollohan for possible violations of the law arising from his sprawling network of favors and money which connects him to good friends via questionable charities, alarmingly successful real estate ventures, and hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked funds.

The investigation appears to be active and ongoing. We’re told that the Feds continue to gather information on the guy. Yet the Democrats look poised to make Mollohan the chairman of the panel which controls the purse strings for the entire Justice Department — including the FBI.

Seems like a bad move to me.

November 30, 2006

ANOTHER RUSSIAN POISONING? “Yegor Gaidar, former Russian architect of Russia’s market reforms as acting Prime Minister for Boris Yelstin, is being treated in a Moscow hospital after coming close to death with a mystery ailment during a visit to Dublin.” Doctors think he was poisoned.

Plus, radioactive planes.

November 30, 2006

YES, BLOGGING HAS BEEN LIGHT: Today is root canal day. Recovering OK but not blogging much for a bit.

Meanwhile, note that Stephen Hawking is once again calling for space colonization:

Humans must colonize planets in other solar systems traveling there using “Star Trek”-style propulsion or face extinction, renowned British cosmologist Stephen Hawking said on Thursday.

Referring to complex theories and the speed of light, Hawking, the wheel-chair bound Cambridge University physicist, told BBC radio that theoretical advances could revolutionize the velocity of space travel and make such colonies possible.

“Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out,” said Professor Hawking, who was crippled by a muscle disease at the age of 21 and who speaks through a computerized voice synthesizer.

“But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe,” said Hawking, who was due to receive the world’s oldest award for scientific achievement, the Copley medal, from Britain’s Royal Society on Thursday.

Bring it on.

November 30, 2006

BILL ROGGIO WILL BE EMBEDDING IN IRAQ AGAIN shortly, and has some interesting things to report on how the credentialling process works for bloggers. Plus a PayPal button if you’d like to support his work.

November 30, 2006

IN THE MAIL: Eric Flint’s new alt-history novel, 1824: The Arkansas War. It’s the second installment to his alternate history where the War of 1812 went differently. I’m enjoying Sam Houston’s prominent role — since Sam was a Maryvillian, like me, I heard a lot about him when I was younger. Though I don’t remember hearing much talk about his fondness for whiskey and large knives. . . .

November 30, 2006

A CONVERSATION with Bjorn Lomborg.

November 30, 2006

FROM CATHY SEIPP: Kramerology 101.

November 30, 2006

MAX BOOT: Iran and Syria aren’t our friends. (“Hard to believe, but those who advocate negotiations under such circumstances are known as ‘realists.’ A real realist would realize that Syria and Iran are only likely to accommodate the U.S. when they’re afraid of us.”) It’s a sad comment that our foreign policy establishment needs to be reminded of this, but . . . .

November 30, 2006

LOTS OF COVERAGE from the L.A. Auto Show.

November 30, 2006


Tony Blair is under increasing pressure to halt a three-year-old corruption inquiry and avoid losing a £10 billion extension to an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The news comes after Saudi Arabia suspended negotiations on the 20-year-old Al-Yamamah deal after Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigators tried to access some of the Saudi royal family’s bank accounts in Switzerland.

Thousands of jobs in Britain and Saudi Arabia would be at risk if the Saudis dropped an order for 72 Typhoon jets and, instead, signed a contract with the French for up to 36 rival Rafales. . . . The deal, which was signed off by Britain and Saudi Arabia in August, has been brought to the brink after the SFO asked to access bank accounts in Switzerland.

Something pretty embarrassing, I’d guess. I wonder where that money was going?

November 29, 2006

I’VE SUDDENLY GOTTEN A LOT OF DONATIONS LATELY, which I appreciate — if you donated through PayPal I’ve thanked you; if you donated through Amazon I don’t know who you are unless you click the button that keeps it from being anonymous — and I’ve also gotten some emails asking if I’m depressed or something. Is that why people are donating?

I’m not depressed. I am, however, extremely busy. In the last couple of weeks I’ve turned around two articles to law reviews, done revisions for the paperback edition of An Army of Davids — coming out in January, I’m told — read and commented on a bunch of student paper rough drafts for my space law seminar, and my Administrative Law class’s comments on proposed regulations (as usual, actually filed with the agency in question) and finished up my Popular Mechanics column, as well as the usual stuff I do all the time. That may have made my blogging seem a bit more sparse, or detached, or something. But life’s actually pretty good, aside from being busy.

November 29, 2006

STILL MORE ON ALCEE HASTINGS and the Democratic leadership. I think they’ve made a good decision.

November 29, 2006

AFTER A LONG ABSENCE, Beldar has returned.

November 29, 2006

MORE RACIST REMARKS captured by YouTube.

November 29, 2006


What this means is that you don’t have to be real to be right.

Much less to be quoted!

And don’t miss Austin Bay’s column.

UPDATE: Further thoughts — worth reading as always — from The Mudville Gazette.

November 29, 2006

MORE ON POLICE MILITARIZATION, in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on “officer safety” and paramilitary training pervades today’s policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn’t shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.

Yes, police work is dangerous, and the police see a lot of violence. On the other hand, 51 officers were slain in the line of duty last year, out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York’s highest crime precincts, when the total number of cops in the country was half that of today. Each of these police deaths and numerous other police injuries is a tragedy and we owe support to those who protect us. On the other hand, this isn’t Iraq. The need to give our officers what they require to protect themselves and us has to be balanced against the fact that the fundamental duty of the police is to protect human life and that law officers are only justified in taking a life as a last resort.

Read the whole thing — the link should work for a week.

UPDATE: Reader Gary Cameron emails:

I think it’s important to separate issues that involve the safety of individual cops from the so-called “police militarization” controversy.

Joseph McNamara, as a former cop speaking out against the recent NYPD shooting in the WSJ piece, is the police equivalent of those former Bush officials turned media darlings who turn on the administration after they leave office. His credibility with the MSM media stems solely from the fact that he once worked as a cop, as well as his willingness to speak out against pretty much anything rank and file police officers believe in, which he has done ever since his very short and controversial term as San Jose police chief. This is not to say that the opinions of most police officers (or the NYPD shooting, for that matter) are necessarily ‘right’, just that McNamara has no more credibility or insight on these issues than anyone else.

I think the following quote from his piece is very telling:

>>Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances.<< Back in 1985, while a street cop in Vancouver, BC, I ended up firing all six of my .38 rounds at point blank range into the 10-ring of a mentally-disturbed gentleman. He had stabbed me in the side after stabbing a young man in the stomach, just missing the baby he was carrying. Nothing happened. He didn't stop trying to kill me until another member also shot him. Police officers carry "high-caliber" semi-automatics nowadays because they should have access to the best tools possible when they are really needed. Trust me on this: even the most routine call is an "extraordinary circumstance" to a cop in trouble.

I have no objection to high-capacity handguns. I do think, though, that McNamara is right about the psychological change that’s gone on. (Kind of like the change in Hill Street Blues, where the catchphrase went from “Let’s be careful out there,” to “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.”) I think that’s a bad psychology for police.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Sven Swenson emails:

Col. Jeff Cooper long maintained that most police officers do not have the training and discipline to be trusted with more firepower than is provided by a 6-shot revolver. He reasoned from long observation that high capacity handguns, assault rifles & such encourage “spraying & praying”, which endangers bystanders. It’s a psychological thing. The man with a singleshot is going to make his one shot count. Under stress, the guy with a belt-full of 20-round mags is likely going to fill the air with lead to little effect.

The recent shooting in Queens is a case in point: The officers fired 50 or so rounds and only hit *the car* 21 times, much less its occupants. That’s spraying and praying, and ought to be considered reckless endangerment, no matter how evil the guys they’re trying to take down.(Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the police, I blame the people who issue them such high firepower weapons but *never* give them enough money and time for training.)

Pax your correspondent who relates putting 6 .38s “into the 10-ring”, it might be worthwhile to remember that it takes about 12 seconds for a person to lose consciousness once their blood pressure drops to zero. His heart may be completely gone, he’s effectively dead, he just doesn’t know it yet. I’m sure that’s a very looong 12 seconds when someone is stabbing you, but 6 .45 acp hydrashocks to the heart might not have done any better.

That and the possibility that your target is wearing a ballistic vest or totally wakked on drugs led the Colonel to advocate the “Mozambique” even with a .45: One or two shots center mass immediately followed by a shot to the head. If you shoot the guy between the eyes and he keeps coming, then you can complain to me about your ineffective .38.

Sounds like a zombie. They’re everywhere these days! As I recall, by Hollywood convention only shotguns work against zombies and other evil powers.

November 29, 2006

BILL ROGGIO WRITES on Anbar and The Washington Post.

November 29, 2006


November 29, 2006


Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.

But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization–never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty–we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking–won at such a great personal cost–to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?

Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today’s Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats–and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in “liberal” Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge–although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.

And we need not only speak of threats to free speech, but also the tangible rewards from a terrified West to the agents of such repression.

Read the whole thing.

I guess it’s more of that Gramscian damage that Eric S. Raymond was talking about.

November 29, 2006

PATTERICO ACCUSES ME OF FAIR-WEATHER FEDERALISM for supporting Congressional legislation to rein in no-knock drug raids.

That’s silly. Congress clearly has the power to pass laws, under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, to prevent states depriving citizens of life, liberty or property without due process of law. When cops bust down your door and shoot you without — very — good reason for being there, that’s a deprivation of liberty and property, and often life, without due process, the very kind of thing Congress was empowered to address. So unless Patterico thinks that the 14th Amendment is itself an improper impediment to federalism, I don’t see the problem here. What’s more, the no-knock problem stems from federal policies — the “war on drugs” and the free distribution of military equipment to local SWAT teams — and thus further justifies a federal corrective. Under federalism, one role of the federal government is to protect citizens’ rights against unconstitutional encroachment by the states. That’s what the 14th Amendment is about. And the doctrines of official immunity that make lawsuits difficult in such cases are found nowhere in the Constitution, but are the creation of activist judges, reading their policy preferences into the law. They are worthy of no particular deference.

UPDATE: I see that Patterico has updated to say that he doesn’t think the immunity-stripping violates federalism, which makes me wonder what our disagreement really is. At any rate, Ilya Somin has some further thoughts on how this problem was mostly federal in creation anyway.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In a later update, Patterico says that I’m inconsistent on federalism in light of my Schiavo comments here:

After talking about small government and the rule of law, Republicans overwhelmingly supported a piece of legislation intended to influence a single case, that of Terri Schiavo. As former Solicitor General Charles Fried observes:

” In their intervention in the Terri Schiavo matter, Republicans in Congress and President Bush have, in a few brief legislative clauses, embraced the kind of free-floating judicial activism, disregard for orderly procedure and contempt for the integrity of state processes that they quite rightly have denounced and sought to discipline for decades.”

I think he’s right. As with Bill Hobbs, quoted below, I don’t have an opinion on what should happen to Terry Schiavo — though given the rather large numbers of judges who have looked at this case over the years I’d be especially reluctant to interfere. Can they all be deranged advocates of a “culture of death?” But regardless of the merits, Congress’s involvement in this case seems quite “unconservative” to me, at least if one believes in rules of general application. Florida has a general law, and it’s been followed. That people don’t like the result isn’t a reason for unprecedented Congressional action, unless results are all that matter.

Reading that entire post, it seems to me that my predictions of Republican problems ahead have certainly been borne out in spades, but it wasn’t really a federalism argument as such. (In fact, in an earlier post — scroll down from that link above — I noted that the bill wasn’t necessarily unconstitutional, just a bad idea.) Nonetheless, I think that the kind of legislation I’ve suggested — stripping officers of official immunity in no-knock cases, where we’ve seen that there’s a pattern of misconduct and that state remedies have proven inadequate — is at the very core of Congress’s 14th Amendment powers. On the other hand, the Schiavo intervention seems much farther from that mold.

At any rate, doesn’t this go both ways? That is, isn’t Patterico inconsistent to have supported the Schiavo legislation while regarding Congressional legislation over no-knock raids as posing troubling federalism problems?

It seems however, that the actual remedy that I’ve proposed raises no problems in his mind, so this entire disagreement is fairly abstract. I have great respect for his abilities as a blogger, but I remain convinced that no-knock raids should be limited to very narrow circumstances, and that officers — and government agencies, for that matter — who engage in them should not be able to hide behind doctrines of official immunity that themselves have little warrant in the Constitution.

November 29, 2006

ARNOLD KLING LOOKS AT entrepreneurship and marriage.

November 29, 2006

IN THE MAIL: James Swanson and Daniel Weinberg’s new book, Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution.

It’s a coffee-table book (Helen pronounced it “gorgeous” with all the photos, woodcuts, etc.) that follows up Swanson’s earlier book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. We did a podcast interview with Swanson a while back — you can listen to it right here.

November 29, 2006

LOOKS LIKE BILL FRIST WON’T BE RUNNING in 2008. I agree with A.C. Kleinheider that it’s a good move: “Frist is not over politically — not by any means. But to trudge through this campaign just because it had been planned for so long would have been idiocy. Frist is smart. He read the tea leaves and saw that the presidency wasn’t in the cards. Now, he will have the time to regroup and retool his image.”

November 29, 2006

CHESTER ON IRAQ: “Go native.”

November 29, 2006


Since early last summer, the Taliban and its remaining Al Qaeda allies have been testing the NATO force. The Taliban wanted to inflict at least one casualty-heavy defeat on a NATO ally, and then magnify that in the media. The Talibs goal: a “Spanish-style” withdrawal from Afghanistan by a NATO nation.

The Taliban has failed –and failed miserably.


November 29, 2006

CALL ME CRAZY, but I don’t see why the federal government should be spending tax money to tell grownups not to have sex:

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.

The government says the change is a clarification. But critics say it’s a clear signal of a more directed policy targeting the sexual behavior of adults.

“They’ve stepped over the line of common sense,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. “To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It’s an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health.”

Abstinence education programs, which have focused on preteens and teens, teach that abstaining from sex is the only effective or acceptable method to prevent pregnancy or disease. They give no instruction on birth control or safe sex.

The National Center for Health Statistics says well over 90% of adults ages 20-29 have had sexual intercourse.

I should certainly hope so.

November 29, 2006

A LOOK AT MOB RULE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES: This is only a problem in a few, mostly elitist, institutions, but it is a problem.

November 29, 2006

A LOOK AT MOB RULE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES: This is only a problem in a few, mostly elitist, institutions, but it is a problem.

November 29, 2006

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett reports on an oil-for-food investigation done right:

For starters, the Cole inquiry has set a standard of clarity and transparency that the U.N. itself has yet to adopt — and shows no signs of doing so. The Cole commission conducted public hearings, and appears to have posted the vital underlying documents in full on the web. The interviews of the U.N.-authorized inquiry into Oil-for-Food, chaired by Paul Volcker, were all done in secret, with snippets released at the sole discretion of Volcker and his team. And although Volcker’s $35 million inquiry — the only investigation with full access to the U.N. itself — went to the trouble of amassing an archive of some 12 million pages, much of that digitally searchable, Volcker never released many of the vital underlying documents. He now appears poised to hand the trove back at the end of next month to the same U.N. where Annan’s former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, spent months shredding executive office papers potentially relevant to the investigation.

The Cole report exemplifies why Volcker’s archives need to be delivered into the public domain — or at the very least, entrusted to authorities with a less glaring conflict of interest in handling any potentially damning information not yet disclosed. Cole’s findings, which in the AWB case go well beyond the Volcker report, are presented in a style so clear and direct that one might infer the investigators genuinely wish to communicate to the public the full extent of their discoveries. That’s quite a contrast with the reports released last year by Volcker’s committee.

Indeed. Plus there’s this: “Lest this seem a problem solely of the past, it bears noting that U.N. secrecy goes well beyond Oil-for-Food. Even now, the U.N. keeps secret many of the germane terms of its global business in procurement contracts, through which it spends billions of taxpayer dollars every year on everything from printer paper to peacekeeper rations. This secrecy paved the way for another U.N. scandal, the bribery saga still unfolding in the U.N. procurement division — in which one U.N. staffer pleaded guilty in 2005, in U.S. federal court, and two more have since been indicted (both have pleaded not guilty).”

November 29, 2006

AN AMERICAN CIVIL WAR? More thoughts on Orson Scott Card’s Empire, in my TCS Daily column this week.

November 29, 2006


President Bush was right to declare yesterday in Latvia that he will not withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq until the “mission is complete” because “we can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.” It appears Bush’s characteristic Texas stubbornness is the only thing standing between victory and the U.S. defeat that has all but been proclaimed by Washington’s foreign policy establishment and its friends in the mainstream media like “60 Minutes” reporter Lara Logan. She insisted in her weekend interview with Gen. John Abizaid that “managing the defeat” is America’s only option.

It is to be hoped that Bush’s main target with yesterday’s declaration was his father’s former Secretary of State, James Baker, head of the soon-to-be-sainted Iraq Study Group. The ISG is widely reported to be preparing a recommendation that Bush seek the aid of Iran and Syria in resolving the war in Iraq. Iran and Syria may be U.S. opponents, but they have a common interest with us in establishing a stable regime in Baghdad, we are told by the Foggy Bottom Realpolitikers and the media experts for whom NBC’s decision to call it a civil war represents a “Cronkite Moment.”

Such advice is worse than wrong-headed, it is a denial of reality. Iran and Syria have one primary interest — U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and ultimately out of the entire Middle East.

Read the whole thing. And note this observation, too: “There is another crucially important denial of reality akin to the ‘managing defeat’ syndrome. Evidence is rapidly accumulating that major Western media organizations are being had on a daily basis by the propaganda efforts of the Jihadist insurgency.” What’s worse is that they don’t seem to mind.

UPDATE: “The Iraq War: ‘Proxy,’ not ‘Civil.'” Yes, and they’re the proxies of Iran and Syria. These people are not our friends.

November 28, 2006

SWAT TEAM OVERKILL: The folks at Popular Mechanics have posted my column on the subject early.

Plus, here’s more on that Atlanta shooting.

November 28, 2006

HEH: “Glenn might know how to produce these podcasts. But I know how to sell ‘em.”

November 28, 2006

KIND OF DUMB, yet also kind of cool: A TV wristwatch.

November 28, 2006

MORE ON RACIAL DISCRIMINATION in university admissions. What’s interesting is that people are so unselfconscious. That’ll probably change once the lawsuits gather momentum.

November 28, 2006


November 28, 2006

TPM MUCKRAKER REPORTS that Alcee Hastings is dropping out of the race to head the House Intelligence Committee. That’s bad news for the GOP, but good news for the Democrats, and the country.

UPDATE: A look at some revisionist history on Hastings, revised again.

November 28, 2006

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: “If not Harman, who?”

November 28, 2006

PAUL BELIEN on Ralph Peters on Europe. And I should have linked this item from Mark Steyn the other day, too.

November 28, 2006


I continue to think that the term draws an unfair equivalence between Islamist terror, and mere Christian social conservatism, which are hardly comparable. I disagree with the latter, but those people aren’t the enemy, just people with whom I disagree.

UPDATE: Now this is beyond the pale.

But apparently the “Christianists” continue to wreak destruction:

The controversial broadcast of MADONNA’s CONFESSIONS tour special on US TV failed to lure viewers and ended up finishing fourth in its time slot.

Either that or she’s just, you know, over.

ANOTHER UPDATE: What he said: “It says quite a lot about Sullivan and his ilk that they’ve managed to get a person like me — who deeply loathes Christian fundamentalism and supports gay marriage — to actually defend fundamentalist Christians against unfair smears by gay marriage supporters.”

Yeah, I dread the day Sullivan starts promoting nanotechnology or digital cameras . . . .

More on that here: “I think it’s intended to do more than link those Christians whose politics Sullivan doesn’t like with Islamists; it is also meant to be undefinable, which, by being unfair to everyone, does great mischief. Because, if only Andrew Sullivan knows what the word means (assuming he does), then he gets to behave as the Red Queen and label anyone he wishes as a Christianist. Or not. . . . I’m sorry, but this is getting really wacky.”

Yes, it is. But the illustration is amusing!

MORE: Further thoughts from the suddenly reenergized Prof. Bainbridge.

November 28, 2006

OUTDOOR SURVIVAL TIPS, from the folks at Popular Mechanics. Not quite the same as the disaster-preparedness stuff that has been covered here before, but close enough that some people may be interested. “Got a condom aging in your wallet? In a pinch, it can carry a gallon of water. (Unlubricated tastes best.)”

November 28, 2006

OVER AT RAND SIMBERG’S they’re discussing innovative policy ideas from the Democrats.

November 28, 2006

cardcov.jpgMost people agree that political divisions have gotten worse in recent years. Orson Scott Card’s new novel Empire looks at whether and how those divisions might lead to an American civil war in the near future. It’s a thriller novel, a la Tom Clancy, but it’s also a cautionary tale. We talk with Card about the novel, about storytelling, about the political scene, and what Americans should be doing.

You can listen directly — no downloads needed — by going right here and clicking on the gray Flash player, or you can download it directly here. You can subscribe via iTunes — and, really, why not? — by clicking right here, and you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup by going here and selecting the lo-fi version.

This podcast is brought to you by Volvo USA. If you buy a Volvo, tell ’em we sent you!

Music is “Splitters” by Mobius Dick.

November 28, 2006

HOWARD KURTZ on Secretary of State Matt Lauer.

UPDATE: If you don’t defer to Lauer’s expertise, you might want to read John Keegan on the subject.

November 28, 2006


It was not naive idealism, it should be recalled, that gave birth to Bush’s diplomacy of freedom. That diplomacy issued out of a reading of the Arab-Muslim political condition and of America’s vulnerability to the disorder of Arab politics. The ruling regimes in the region had displaced their troubles onto America; their stability had come at America’s expense, as the scapegoating and the anti-Americanism had poisoned Arab political life. Iraq and the struggle for a decent polity in it had been America’s way of trying to extirpate these Arab troubles. The American project in Iraq has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair. But the impulse that gave rise to the war was shrewd and justified.

Nowadays, more and more people despair of the Iraq venture. And voices could be heard counseling that the matter of Iraq is, for all practical purposes, sealed and that failure is around the corner. Now and then, the memory of the Vietnam War is summoned. America had lost the battle for Vietnam but had won the war for East Asia. That American defeat had brought ruin to Vietnam and Cambodia, but the systems of political and economic freedom in Asia had held, and the region had cushioned the American defeat, and left a huge protective role for American power. Fair enough: There was Japan in East Asia, providing political anchorage and an example of economic success. There is no Japan in that arc of trouble in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are poor pillars, themselves prey to forces of radicalism–the first weak in the scales of military power, the second a brittle, crowded land with immense troubles of its own. That overall strategic landscape, too, should be considered as we debate and anguish over Iraq.

If, as seems disturbingly likely, Bush takes the Baker approach, I think we’ll pay dearly in the future.

November 28, 2006


Officials say the FBI will lead an investigation into the fatal shooting of an elderly Atlanta woman during a drug raid last week.

The announcement was made by Police Chief Richard Pennington at a news conference Monday afternoon, where he was joined by officials from the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, the GBI and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. . . .

Police have said “Sam” had sold drugs from inside Johnston’s home to an informant, prompting the officers to seek a “no-knock” warrant. Such warrants are frequently used by police to get inside a home before suspects have a chance to get rid of drugs.

But a local television station aired an interview on Monday evening with a man who said he was the informant, and he said he never told officers that he bought drugs at Johnston’s house.

Pennington said at a news conference on Sunday that the department will review its policy on “no-knock” warrants and its use of confidential informants.

I think that should be happening nationwide. In fact, I think it’s time for federal legislation.

November 28, 2006


Maybe the next frontier in the academic battle against all varieties of oppression should be “drunk studies.” Why not an academic program championing the idea that “alcohol abuse” is an artificial construct based on the mainstream culture’s oppressive notions of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate consumption of alcohol? “Drunk studies” could tell us that the stigmatization of drunkenness stems from the Western valorization of such dubious values as self-control, rationality, and obedience to social norms, and reflects a pernicious fear of rebellion against inhibitions and authority. Of course, it would also question conventional wisdom — supposedly based on scientific evidence, but really rooted in anti-drunk bias — about the deleterious health consequences of alcohol abuse and the dangers of drunk driving. After all, the goal of “drunk studies” would be to empower drunks!

And I know just the guy to head up the program: Professor Zane Lamprey of MOJOHD’s Three Sheets. Hell, that show’s an education all in itself.

November 28, 2006

BRUCE KESLER has more on the big media’s problem with stringers in Iraq reporting, with a list of some of the bogus stories it has produced. “The key question that must be answered is where the funding will come from for a major, credible examination of major media reporting in Iraq? It’s not coming from the major media, or J-schools, or J-journals. Their paychecks depend upon not revealing the Emperor’s illusory threads.”

November 28, 2006

A LOOK AT THE ROLE OF OUTSIDERS in university tenure decisions. This seems right to me: “Educational institutions may appoint whomever they wish, but they cannot expect immunity from public criticism.”

November 28, 2006

ANN ALTHOUSE: “Why not engage with me instead of trying to make me into your enemy? I have supported gay marriage in numerous posts on this blog for almost three years, and I am a law professor who teaches a course in Religion and the Constitution. Why don’t you see me as a valuable ally or, at the least, a person to avoid reprinting lies about?”

I could ask the same thing. In fact, I have!

November 28, 2006

SCALIA THE civil libertarian?

November 28, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: “With the midterm election safely in the past, the NYT’s Robert Pear reveals that the Bush administration delegated the task of saving the Medicare drug plan to … a competent civil servant.” Analysts say that this business of holding positive stories until after the election is common media behavior . . . .

November 28, 2006

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE looks at the Alcee Hastings vs. Jane Harman battle: “In 1989, the Democrat-controlled House impeached hastings by a vote of 413-3, with none other than Nancy Pelosi voting for impeachment. After a trial before a Senate committee, Hastings was convicted of the requisite ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ and duly removed from office by the Senate. Hastings was only the sixth federal judge to be impeached and removed from office in the entire 200+ year history of the US judiciary. If you’ll pardon the pun, given Harman’s unimpeachable credentials, this seems like a very easy choice.” And note the sensible observation from Kevin Drum.

November 27, 2006

FREE BOOKS FOR THE TROOPS: John Scalzi has arranged for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to get free copies of his book, The Ghost Brigades.

If that’s you, or someone you know, go here to find out how.

November 27, 2006

MORE REPORTS OF BOGUS IRAQ STORIES FROM A.P.: Kind of makes you wonder about the reporting from Iraq. Okay, it’s more like “confirms your suspicions” than “makes you wonder,” really.

November 27, 2006

PUTIN: Set up by the Jews?

Claudia Rosett has a different view.

November 27, 2006

ATLANTA SHOOTING UPDATE: The story just got a lot worse:

The confidential informant on whose word Atlanta police raided the house of an 88-year-old woman is now saying he never purchased drugs from her house and was told by police to lie and say he did.

Chief Richard Pennington, in a press conference Monday evening, said his department learned two days ago that the informant — who has been used reliably in the past by the narcotics unit — denied providing information to officers about a drug deal at 933 Neal Street in northwest Atlanta.

“The informant said he had no knowledge of going into that house and purchasing drugs,” Pennington said. “We don’t know if he’s telling the truth.”

The search warrant used by Atlanta police to raid the house says that a confidential informant had bought crack cocaine at the residence, using $50 in city funds, several hours before the raid.

In the document, officers said that the informant told them the house had surveillance cameras that the suspected drug dealer, called “Sam,” monitored.

Pennington on Monday evening said the informant told the Internal Affairs Unit hat he did not tell officers that the house had surveillance equipment, and that he was asked to lie.

If this is true, the cops involved should face serious jail time. And this is just more evidence that we need legal protections against these sorts of raids.

November 27, 2006

EUGENE VOLOKH looks at the romance of engineering.

November 27, 2006

A LIST OF “insanely great gadgets.” Some of them were news to me, and I’m a gadget kind of guy.

November 27, 2006

YOU DON’T SAY: “Lure of great wealth affects career choices.”

Plus, this shocker: “The bigger the prize, the greater the effort that people are making to get it.” Someone rewrite the economics textbooks, stat! (Via Ann Althouse),

UPDATE: Reader Byron Scott emails: “The linked article ‘Lure of great wealth affects career choices’ is all about middle-class people moving into upper-class incomes. Just a month ago (you know, prior to the Democrats taking power) all I remember hearing about was how the great divide between the poor and the wealthy was widening. It’s amazing how quickly things turn! Those Democrats must be better than even they tried to convince us they are.”


November 27, 2006

THE DOGS OF CONSTANTINOPLE: Joshua Trevino is blogging from Istanbul.

November 27, 2006


Plus, trying to create an American Madrid?

November 27, 2006

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: “Not friends of starving Africans.”

I don’t know — they seem pretty friendly to the idea of starving Africans, to me. . . .

November 27, 2006

ARNOLD KLING ON AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: “Compared to the United States, other developed countries, particularly in Continental Europe, put up more regulatory impediments to entrepreneurs, particularly the important subset of entrepreneurs that I will define below as change agents. In underdeveloped countries, regulatory impediments are compounded by crime and corruption, creating an environment even less conducive to entrepreneurship. . . . If the United States is exceptional because of our entrepreneurial culture, then our natural allies may not be in Continental Europe, in spite of its democratic governments and high levels of economic development. China seems more dynamic than Europe, but I would argue that China’s government-controlled financial system ultimately is not compatible with American-style entrepreneurship. Instead, we may have more in common with other nations of the Anglosphere, as well as such entrepreneurial outposts as India, Israel, and Singapore.”

November 27, 2006

THEY’RE STILL CALLING FOR A BOYCOTT OF PILOT OIL, in response to Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam’s membership in an antigun mayors’ group organized by Mike Bloomberg.

Some of the other members are pretty iffy, but I think this is really bad for Haslam’s statewide ambitions for a simpler reason. His weakness is that he’s seen as a country-clubby guy who cares more about how other rich guys feel about him than about how the voters feel. The Bloomberg thing is just fodder for that.

November 27, 2006

MAGICAL REALISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Chester takes a look at the Iraq study group.

November 27, 2006

WOULD GROWING OLD BE SO BAD, if people treated you like you were young?

November 27, 2006

A QUIZ ON DIVERSITY in higher education.

November 27, 2006

ROWAN CALLICK: “The Democrats are being lauded in Europe and much of the Americas as the heroes of the hour, rescuing the USA from those mad neocons. But in most of Asia the perception is quite different — of the Democrat majority as a threat, an enemy of trade, and a busybody across a broader range of issues than the Republican human rights campaigners with their predictable religious focus. In China especially, where the mid-term election itself attracted little media interest, its outcome is now starting to arouse loudly expressed concern about the future relationship of the two great powers.”

November 27, 2006


November 27, 2006

BALL OF WHACKS: I got one of these in the mail, too, but unlike Virginia Postrel, I haven’t used it and blogged about it.

November 27, 2006

TROUBLE NOT THE BLOGGER IN HER LAIR: A lesson that Alcee Hastings hasn’t learned. Yet.

Blog criticism of Hastings has been persistent and harsh enough that he responded Nov. 20 by blasting “anonymous bloggers” in general and conservative Michelle Malkin in particular. “I hope that my fate is not determined by Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Barone, [Matt] Drudge, anonymous bloggers, and other assorted misinformed fools,” he wrote in a five-page letter to House Democratic colleagues.

The may have done more harm than good to Hastings’ cause, however, because Malkin answered in kind with a post that labeled Hastings a “fool” and his letter to colleagues an “unhinged rant.” She included plenty of background links on the Hastings bribery case and current criticisms of his leadership bid.

“It isn’t just right-wingers objecting to the possibility of a convicted judge for sale chairing the House Intelligence Committee,” she wrote. “In peacetime, Washington can chalk up Hastings’ resurrection to business as usual. In wartime, Washington has no business doing business as usual.”

Hastings is an obviously bad choice. He’s also the perfect target for hostile bloggers — a guy with a really lousy record who’d rather people didn’t think about it, whose every complaint just provides an opportunity to remind people how lousy that record is.

November 27, 2006

A LIFETIME IN JAIL FOR PORN, in that “Christianist” bastion, the People’s Republic of China.

November 27, 2006

WELL, THIS SUCKS: “Dave Hermance, the lead engineer of Toyota’s hybrid vehicle development in the U.S., died on Saturdaywhen his small plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles. He was instrumental in bringing the Prius to the U.S., and his passing is a blow to Toyota’s hybrid vehicle program.”

November 27, 2006

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: “So what passes for international Western morality these days? Not much.”

It has never been much more than a cloak for America-bashing.

November 27, 2006

THE LATEST Blawg Review is up!

November 27, 2006

PAUL BOUTIN: “A week ago, I went for a spin in the fastest, most fun car I’ve ever ridden in—and that includes the Aston Martin I tried to buy once. I was so excited, in fact, that I decided to take a few days to calm down before writing about it. Well, my waiting period is over, I’m thinking rationally, and I’m still unbelievably stoked about the Tesla.”

November 27, 2006

A VIDEO CARNIVAL? Reader Daren Heidgerken emails:

You have done a number of digital camera “carnivals”, how about one on video cameras? I have a new baby and would like to get a simple, decent quality one to send movies to the grandparents.

Any thoughts on that? I’m not really up on the latest there, but I don’t have to be, if my readers are! As I noted in this post, James Lileks has, and likes, the new Sony compact HD video camera — and if I were taking baby videos I’d definitely want to do it in HD, since regular video will be looking old and crappy within a couple of years as HD becomes the norm. (I think there’s a somewhat newer model than the one Lileks has, too.)

If you’ve got any advice, put “video carnival” in the subject line.

November 27, 2006

DON’T COUNT PAPER OUT YET: I’ve written before on the virtues of paper as an information-storage system, but here’s something that sounds really cool:

Files such as text, images, sounds and video clips are encoded in “rainbow format” as coloured circles, triangles, squares and so on, and printed as dense graphics on paper at a density of 2.7GB per square inch. The paper can then be read through a specially developed scanner and the contents decoded into their original digital format and viewed or played. The encoding and decoding processes have not been revealed.

Using this technology an A4 sheet of paper could store 256GB of data. In comparison, a DVD can store 4.7GB of data.

Paper: The information storage technology of the future! Er, as long as all of this doesn’t turn out to be some kind of scam, anyway.

November 27, 2006

IS THIS A TREND? Another town passes looks at an ordinance calling for all citizens to own guns.

November 27, 2006


I’ve just finished reading Robert Gates’s memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. It’s a well-written, thoughtful book, leavened by occasional injections of nerdy humor. Gates was a career CIA employee on the analysis rather than the operations side of the agency, and the only CIA analyst ever to become director of Central Intelligence. He specialized in the Soviet Union, though he never set foot in the U.S.S.R. until May 1989. His rapid ascent was amazing. . . .

The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world–and doesn’t look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.

Follow the link for much more.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Pejman Yousefzadeh. “Iraq will be the biggest front-page challenge for Robert Gates as he prepares to assume his new responsibilities. But military transformation is a tremendously consequential issue that should receive more attention in light of Secretary-designate Gates’s appointment than it currently does.”

November 27, 2006

A LOOK AT the politically divided academy.

November 27, 2006

IT’S OBVIOUSLY UNSUSTAINABLE AS A NATION, AND THE ONLY SOLUTION IS PARTITION: Iraq? No, it’s the U.K.: “A clear majority of people in both England and Scotland are in favour of full independence for Scotland, an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph has found. Independence is backed by 52 per cent of Scots while an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters want Scotland to go it alone. There is also further evidence of rising English nationalism with support for the establishment of an English parliament hitting an historic high of 68 per cent amongst English voters. Almost half – 48 per cent – also want complete independence for England, divorcing itself from Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

November 26, 2006

INSTA-READERS LIKE TO SHOP ONLINE: So far, my holiday shopping poll has had about 2700 responses, and the results indicate that 27% plan to do all or nearly all of their shopping online, 28% plan to do most of their shopping online, and 27% plan to go half-and-half online vs. brick-and-mortar stores. Only 18% plan to do all or most of their shopping in traditional stores.

I’m sure this isn’t anywhere close to typical of shoppers in general, but I wonder how representative it is of blog readers?

November 26, 2006

ROGER SIMON reviews The Queen.

November 26, 2006


In a paper scheduled for publication next month in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, a Harvard University-led team proposes that a vitamin D deficiency caused by inadequate winter sun exposure may predispose people to infection.

If this theory proves correct, it would not only solve a long-standing mystery, but could also have major public health consequences.

Influenza kills an average 36,000 people in the U.S. each winter, mostly the very old and very young. If scientists could pinpoint the secret behind its seasonal recurrence and somehow alter it, “the potential impact would be far greater than the current influenza vaccine,” says Dowell. . . . In their new paper, which draws together strands from more than seven decades of vitamin and flu research, Cannell and his colleagues argue that vitamin D stimulates production of a natural infection-fighting substance in the body called cathelicidin.

Although cathelicidin has yet to be studied directly on influenza, recent research has shown that it attacks a variety of fungi, viruses, and bacteria – including the bug that causes tuberculosis, researchers reported last March in Science.

Just to be safe, I think I’ll plan a tropical vacation this winter. And wash down some cod liver oil capsules with a medicinal glass of red wine. Can’t be too careful.

November 26, 2006

MATT WELCH is underwhelmed by John McCain.

November 26, 2006