Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Outrage of the day

Actually today there are two. Remember would-be shoe bomber Richard Reed? His Muslim extremism means he feels little sympathy with Christians, according to letters he's written from prison: "He asks his father whether he has been praying five times a day, and says his aunt could not have reached heaven if she died while believing in Christianity. "What you wrote about Aunt Lynn being in a better place, you should know that while Allah is merciful and forgiving, this applies only to those who upheld His rights, at least at a basic level," the newspaper quotes him as writing." (Christians who suggest that Jews will never go to heaven receive heavy criticism--and they ought to receive such. So where is the criticism for radical Muslims who suggest the same thing about Christians?)

And then there's continuing news from Eastern Michigan University. Remember what happened there? A student was raped and murdered in her dorm room, yet for months the university claimed there was no foul play involved--until a couple of months later, when a student was arrested and charged with the crime. The president of the university was eventually fired by the Board of Regents for the cover-up. Well; so last night EMU's former president, John Fallon, went on Larry King Live. He claims it wasn't his fault; that he was lied to concerning the case by the Vice President for Student Affairs, Jim Vick. But hey, Mr. Vick has said in the past that it's not his fault, either--he says that the university's director of public safety, Cindy Hall, didn't tell HIM all the details. Meanwhile, Fallon makes dark references to reports being shredded without his knowledge, shadowy conspirators, etc etc. Er...well. Within two months of the student's death, there was an arrest. So there was an ongoing police investigation of what happened. Fallon knew nothing of this? Really? If so, then he didn't try very hard to find out what was going on. This is a case of a whole bunch of people shamefully failing to take responsibility.

The Reagan Diaries

So I've begun reading The Reagan Diaries, Ronald Reagan's near-daily diary of his life and times in the White House (edited by the historian Douglas Brinkley). It's fascinating; partly because, as an historian, I love to read and deconstruct these behind-the-scenes accounts from the powerful; and because I was in college and grad school during Reagan's presidency, followed politics and current events closely, and remember a lot of this stuff very well. So as i go through it, I'll give occasional updates on my findings and impressions...

So far I'm through 1981. Impressions: 1] The diary has the smack of authenticity. It sounds like the Reagan I remember from the '80s--now speaking to us through his diary. I remember, for example, that occasionally during his presidency Reagan received criticism on religious grounds. After all, complained the critics, he claims to believe in God, but he almost never attends church! It was reported in response that Reagan wanted to attend church, but believed that the tremendous security he required (especially after Hinckley's assassination attempt on him), his motorcade, etc was too much of a distraction. And so he reports in his diary. Several times he wrote during 1981 that he "felt bad" about not going to church, but hated the trouble he believed his security, entourage, etc caused. He did say that he believed that spending time at Camp David, riding, walking in the woods, was a way to show reverence for and think about "God's world", as he put it. And after he recovered from the assassination attempt, he wrote that he believed God had a special mission for him and that was why he was spared. 2] Reagan worked harder than his critics at the time believed. I well remember his political opponents and others arguing in the '80s that Reagan was a know-nothing who didn't work hard. But in his diary, he repeatedly notes spending many hours--on Saturdays and Sundays especially--"at the desk" as he put it, reading reports, papers, doing other paperwork. 3] He knew who our enemies were. He intended to be tough with them. Examples---entry for Feb. 11, 1981: "Intelligence reports say Castro is very worried about me. I'm very worried that wwe can't come up with something to justify his worrying." May 28, 1981, concerning the Soviet Union's human rights policies, especially their refusal to allow noted political dissident Anatoly Scharansky to leave the country: "Damn those inhuman monsters. [Scharansky] is said to be down to 100 lbs and very ill. I promised I'd do everything I could to obtain his release & I will." On Saddam Hussein, June 11th, 1981: "Saddam Hussein is a 'no good nut' and I think he was trying to build a nuclear weapon. He has called for the destruction of Israel & he wants to be the leader of the Arab world--that's why he invaded Iran." `October 6, 1981---Anwar Sadat, the leader of Egypt, had been assassinated, and Muammar Khadafy was celebrating the event publicly...Reagan's response? "I'm trying not to feel hatred for those who did this foul deed but I can't make it. Khadafy gloating on TV, his people jubilantly celebrating in the streets. He is beneath contempt." More on the Diaries soon.

So what stinks about socialism, anyway...

This article from a few weeks ago helps explain the matter, perhaps. It came in the midst of the French presidential election (won eventually by Nicolas Sarkozy) and highlighted some of the major issues of the campaign, which included some angst concerning the many extensive benefits guaranteed to the French people by the French government. Such as? For example, many of those who take jobs with French government-owned companies (such as the national railroad) can retire with a generous pension by the time they reach the age of 55. Many in France work only a 35-hour work week. The government guarantees them a month-long summer vacation with pay. They're guaranteed free health care. Sound wonderful? But the key is the costs. Such spending leads to huge bureacracy and a stagnant economy. In France, public spending accounts for 55 percent of its national income. Unemployment there has not fallen below 8% for over 25 years (the U.S. unemployment rate under the Bush administration, by contrast, is only 4.5%). It's very difficult to hire and fire employees in France, because of various government regulations guaranteeing all the right to a job. So many companies simply won't do it. Instead, new hires get only temporary contracts; indeed, 70% of all new employment hires in France are on temporary contracts.

And, as the article details, despite all these government benefits, many in France are discontented. Material things, indeed, don't always bring you happiness--and that goes not only for material things purchased by rich folks, but material stuff provided by governments, too.

More rolling with polls

Here's some new state presidential primary polls. What I notice: Senator Clinton still holding her lead among Democrats and in several states (and doing better in Iowa). But Obama is tied with her in New Hampshire--interesting. Giuliani trending upward in both Iowa and New Hampshire, among Republicans. But Thompson still doing well for an undeclared candidate.
UPDATE: Byron York on The Corner has some further analysis of national polls; he notes that actually both Giuliani and McCain continue to poll well when it comes to voters' trust in them on specific issues. As I said weeks ago: McCain won't quit. Not yet

A wall on private property, international boundaries, U.S.-Canada relations, a firing...all in one

You can read the whole story here--a couple in the very northern reaches of Washington state do their homework, get the approvals they need, build a wall on their property--and then are told by some commission that it stuck out into a buffer zone between the U.S.-Canada border, and that if they don't tear the wall down, the commission would do it for them and send them the bill. The couple went to court. They might win. The Bush administration fired the U.S. appointee who's been harassing this couple. Good for it, and good for the Pacific Legal Foundation for defending these folks' property rights.

Newt nibbles on Motor City educrats

Details are here--basically a couple of days ago, Newt Gingrich on "Fox News Sunday" argued that, as an example of the problems the nation faces (as he considers running for president), the city of Detroit's public school system is a disaster and needs to be scrapped. He claims that the DPS graduation rate is only 22%. Detroit officials dispute that, but Newt had a good source--Education Week mag--and note that an independent Detroit News analysis put the DPS graduation rate at only 48%.

The important fundamental: too many inner-city public schools have big, big problems, and so it's good that Newt started a discussion about it.

Today's good news from Iraq

The current U.S. death toll for this month in Iraq is the lowest in 8 months. Bill Roggio agrees and notes that civilian deaths have dropped by over 30 % as well. In addition, there were no terrorist attacks following Iraq's big soccer win the other day. Two Democratic representatives who visited Iraq recently also say they saw progress. John Burns of the NY Times says Al Qaeda in Iraq has been taking quite a "beating" lately. And did you know that the Iraqi parliament has actually passed more bills than has the Congress in Washington DC?

Senator Lieberman and the GOP

I strongly suspect that he's seriously thinking about joining the Republican Party. In a recent interview, see what he said about the Democrats:
“I think either [Democrats] are, in my opinion, respectfully, na├»ve in thinking we can somehow defeat this enemy with talk, or they’re simply hesitant to use American power, including military power,” Lieberman said in a wide-ranging interview with The Hill. “There is a very strong group within the party that I think doesn’t take the threat of Islamist terrorism seriously enough.”Lieberman says he is annoyed by the mudslinging on Capitol Hill and Democrats’ unwillingness to work with President Bush. But his critics say he has contributed to that polarization by his rhetoric and refusal to compel Bush to find a new way forward in Iraq.As Lieberman sees it, however, the Democratic Party has slipped away from its “most important and successful times” of the middle of last century, where it was tough on Communism and progressive on domestic policy.“I fear that some people take this position also because anything President Bush is for, they’ll be against, and that’s wrong,” said Lieberman, a staunch advocate of the war. “There’s a great tradition in our history of partisanship generally receding when it comes to foreign policy. But for the moment we’ve lost that.”

Good news for the Bush administration

Drudge notes that consumer confidence has rebounded to its highest level since August 2001. Good economic news almost always helps the incumbent administration.

Breast cancer strikes again

This time striking Robin Roberts, who I first watched on ESPN as one of the sidekicks on "NFL Primetime", and whom I admired for her friendliness and pluck. Now she's one of the co-hosts on ABC's "Good Morning America", and the 46 year old informed viewers today that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer. But the good news is they caught it early and her prognosis is good.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Further news roundup

Catching up on some other news and notes....1] Read this, by two analysts from the relatively-liberal Brookings Institution. They suggest that the military situation in Iraq is turning around for the better. It's especially significant because they were predisposed to find otherwise. But they didn't. The U.S. can get the job done in Iraq. 2] Some say Fred [Thompson] flopped, because his fundraising didn't meet "expectations". Good grief. The obvious comment is that he hasn't even officially ANNOUNCED his candidacy yet! But beyond that, remember: other campaigns--rival campaigns--love to leak negative stuff about their opponents. I suspect that's what's happening here. 3] And see this hilarious (and spot-on) quote from Jonah Goldberg.

To Republicans: why let a YouTube debate go down the tubes?

They shouldn't. It's a chance to get the message out. Why pass it up? A blog on TechRepublican explains. And no, the questions in the Democratic debate weren't perfect, not by a long shot. So, negotiate to adjust the format to make sure intelligent people have more input on the questions used. But don't just say "hell, no, we won't go" to this debate.

Bill Walsh, RIP

So Bill Walsh, who surely will always be remembered as the cerebral, successful coach of the San Francisco 49ers, has died at the age of 75. When i think of him, I think of the crispness and efficiency with which his championship teams played. Walsh of course developed the "West Coast" offense; but what really made him great was that he found the perfect players and talents suited to run it, and run it almost perfectly, with Montana, Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice, etc etc. But people forget--he was a great motivator and psychologist, too. I'll always remember that, when his 49er team arrived in Detroit for Super Bowl XVI against Cincinnati in January 1982, Walsh surprised his team by dressing up as a hotel bellhop, and taking his team's luggage. He knew his team might be tight, in its first Super Bowl. His little joke, one had the sense, relaxed them; and when the big day came, they played their game and beat the Bengals. Walsh was a great coach, and influenced a lot of people in the NFL. He'll be missed.

I'm back!

I had a great weekend, visiting some terrific friends in the beautiful city of Charlevoix, Michigan. If you've never been there and you love small, beautiful lakefront cities with lots of boating, nice shopping and beautiful scenery, I highly recommend it. All of us who visited have a connection with a physical condition called Moebius Syndrome, and it was great to get in touch again and keep our community going. Lisa and myself especially want to thank Leslie and Allan for their terrific hospitality. It's great to have good friends!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On a little trip...

...so it'll be light blogging for the next few days. Much more to come by Monday...

The forgotten man

So I've read this new book by Amity Shlaes on the Great Depression, called "The Forgotten Man", which has gotten a lot of buzz lately. I can see why. It's good narrative history, covering the 1920s, Coolidge and Hoover, the coming of the Depression, and then Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. I don't know that it's quite as novel or path-breaking as some have seemed to imply. She argues for example that Herbert Hoover was not the inactive, rock-ribbed conservative, do-nothing-while-the country-crumbled president that some have made him out to be; that instead, he was a progressive interventionist whose spending as president was unprecedented at the time. But this isn't new; Paul Johnson made this case persuasively years ago in his classic work Modern Times. She argues that Roosevelt purposely sought to seek long-term electoral success by having the New Deal reach out to certain groups, such as labor, blacks, farmers, etc. But this idea of a "Roosevelt coalition" isn't new either. Shlaes does however do an excellent job of showing how the New Deal sometimes hurt "the forgotten man" as much as it helped him (see for example her chapter on the Schechter family, famous for the Schechter Supreme Court case) and how it at times messed up the economy as much as it helped it, which is often inescapable when it comes to government intervention. She points out the pain felt by the country in the 1937-38 recession, the blame for which has been skipped over by many historians, but which has to be laid at the New Deal's door. And she demonstrates how Wendell Willkie tried to capitalize on the New Deal's faults in 1940--but ultimately failed. A good read, and it's good that an interpretation that challenges the New-Deal-as-savior theme is out there.

Today's good news from Iraq

An Al Qaeda in Iraq unit wiped out. An American unit in Baghdad---been there for months, casualties unbelievably low, drinking juice happily with the locals. The US DOD reports that, in Iraq, 48 terrorists have been captured in the past 3 days alone.

Mitt Romney goes brimstoning about on the campaign trail

In Iowa, in one of his "Ask Mitt Anything" campaign stops, as reported by the NY Times, Mitt attacks Senator Clinton: "But Mr. Romney hardly spared Mrs. Clinton from criticism this morning. He made sure to get in a dig at her as well, attacking her call for shared responsibility as a society. “That’s like, out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx,” he said.

Please, now, former Governor Romney, no need to go around shrieking out wild rhetoric and sounding like a member of the John Birch Society. You had some legitimate criticisms of Barack Obama in that same meeting, and I don't want the relatively liberal Senator Clinton in charge of this country's domestic policy either. But she's not like "Karl Marx", and it's ridiculous to suggest that she is. That kind of rhetoric can help the opposition make all Republicans out to be wild-eyed, shrieking extremists. Tone it down.

Voices of moderation

From CQ Today, concerning another Washington battle over the budget: "“They’ve been stalling,’’ said John W. Olver, D-Mass., chairman of the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. “They are nihilists. They are jihadists.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Outrage of the day

I actually have little use for Barry Bonds, as I've indicated here before. But, still: it seems there's a young woman named Kimberly Bell. For 10 years, she was Barry Bonds girlfriend. They broke up. But she's determined to cash in; she's done a nude pictorial in Playboy, and she's going to tell all about their relationship. And she's proud of it. Quote: "The opportunity was there, and I took it," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. The photo shoot "was one of the most liberating experiences of my life." Yes--the opportunity to make money by trashing someone else. Yes, "liberating"---I guess cheap money can make one feel liberated. I wonder if she'd be okay with it if someone had the "opportunity" to make money off of the intimate details of her life, and "took it."

"If I had more self-esteem when I was younger," she said, "I wouldn't have been caught up with such a rotten man." If she had more self-esteem, she might not feel the need to do stuff like this. Full details here.

The coarsening continues...

...the coarsening of the culture, that is. Lindsay says she's innocent. Sure. Britney trashes a cover shoot. Now might be a good time to remember what Peggy Noonan wrote a few months ago: "Our country now puts less of an emphasis on public decorum, courtliness, self-discipline, decency. America no longer says, "That's not nice." It doesn't want to make value judgments on "good" and "bad." We have come to rely on censorship to maintain decorum. We are very good at letting people know that if they say something we don't like, we'll shame them and shun them, even ruin them.. ...But censorship doesn't make people improve themselves; it makes people want to rebel. It tells them to toe the line or pay a price. People who are urged in the right direction and taught in the right direction will usually try to discipline and improve themselves from within. But they do not enjoy censorship from without. They fight back. They are rude in order to show they are unbroken."

By the way, getting Don Imus fired way back when sure cleaned up the culture, didn't it?

Hillary vs Obama

Ann Althouse (and others) think that Hillary Clinton's answer in the most recent Democrats' debate, to the question of whether a president should be meeting in her first year as president with Syria or Cuba, was so superior to that of Barack Obama, and her campaign's pouncing on it in the post-debate spin so effective, that it has clearly established her as the "superior candidate." Well, maybe. I agree Senator Clinton's answer was superior, in terms of principle, common sense, statecraft, etc.

One caveat, though: this doesn't necessarily mean that Senator Clinton now has a big leg up among Democrats for the nomination. Remember, we're talking about Democratic primary voters here. They're far more liberal. And I think that means that such voters love the idea of being willing to talk with anyone, any time. There are a lot of Democrats who clearly believe that negotiations, talking, in and of itself is almost always a good thing. Now had a Republican candidate, in the Republican primary season, made a statement like Obama's at a GOP debate, oh, no question, he'd be finished among Republicans. But the Democrats' nomination won't be decided by Republicans, or members of the mainstream media, or us (hopefully sensible) bloggers. It'll be decided by Democratic primary voters. And they may see this, along with the Clinton Machine's heavy cannon fire in the wake of it, very differently. We'll see.

Remember 2006?

TechRepublican today makes a good point, referring to some data on the 2006 midterm elections that leaked recently from Karl Rove's office: the 2006 election really wasn't a blowout. Many of the races were very close, decided by a few thousand votes or less. That doesn't mean that Republicans need not worry about 2008. It doesn't mean that Democrats are in trouble in 2008, necessarily. It does mean that for the GOP 2008 remains doable.

Protecting John Doe, terrorist tipster

Hmmm. I'm surprised Democrats have been so resistant to this: "After nearly a week of intense, behind-the-scenes wrangling, congressional negotiators late Tuesday agreed to include in the pending Sept. 11 security bill sweeping liability protections for citizens who report to authorities suspicious activity they fear might be linked to terrorism. The "John Doe Protections" provision is meant to address the so-called "Flying Imams" case wherein six Muslim clerics in March sued passengers aboard a U.S. Airways flight because the passengers reported them to authorities, leading to their detention. The clerics were later cleared but their lawsuit, many lawmakers feared, would discourage future vigilance among the flying public.
The Sept. 11 security bill is a top Democratic priority and Republicans fought hard to include the passenger immunity protection, creating common cause with Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the conference committee that is knitting together the House and Senate bills." I found this info here. i see Rudy Giuliani meanwhile had no hesitation in endorsing this provision.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Conservative bookshelf/ideas dept

If you haven't read Charles Kesler's sorta-traditionalist conservative critique of neoconservatism and its support of the war in Iraq, you should. First of all, you should because it's a thoughtful critique, not an attack. Frank-Meyeresque fusionism must live--conservatives and neocons continue to have plenty of things in common. Second, he makes interesting points. Some don't surprise--he suggests that the neoconservative belief in Wilsonian democracy-promotion as key to American foreign policy is not a departure--it goes back to neoconservatism's founders. But he emphasizes the problems with promoting democracy, especially the tendency to slide down the slippery slope to utopianism ("we can make the whole world democratic!"), and the fact that establishing democracy in a place like Iraq is just flat our darned difficult, more difficult than many neocon supporters of the war thought. (and perhaps way more difficult than President Bush thought). Kesler thus thinks that the Bush Doctrine is going to have to be re-thought, scaled back...or at least, made more "realist"-friendly, though at the same time he believes that the war on Islamic terror still must be supported.

Interesting. In a way, I think many supporters of the war in Iraq, even those connected with the administration, have already been heading Kesler's way, in the sense that many now talk about an American goal of establishing a stable government in Iraq, one that hopefully would promote freedom and liberty etc...or at least have those elements in it. But staying in Iraq until a government is established there that meets ALL the requirements of being a democracy? You don't hear that so much anymore. Myself, I have no problem with that.

Outrage of the day

Lindsay Lohan and her entourage. No, not because she did something wrong. We've all done bad things of one kind or another. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, and all that. No, instead it's because she, and her handlers and her publicists and family members and other hangers-on were all telling us that she was doing better and getting better and had learned her lesson and that they were helping her, etc etc etc. Good grief, she'd just been to rehab, she'd just had a major accident over Memorial Day, and yet barely two months later it happened all over again. So everyone, especially Lindsay, who was saying things were better and everything was going to be okay, either had no idea what they were talking about or were lying through their teeth. They're very lucky that nobody has gotten killed or seriously injured in the midst of all these incidents.

Democratic debate aside: Senator Obama's bad history

By the way: last night, in eagerly affirming that he would in his first year as president talk personally and directly with the Syrians, talk personally and directly with the Cubans, talk personally and directly with the Iranians, Senator Obama invoked Ronald Reagan. He claimed that, hey, Reagan didn't like the Soviet Union, but he talked with them, so...

But that's a distortion. Yes, Reagan talked with the Soviets; he eventually had several summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev. But: not right away. Not in his first year. In fact, throughout his entire first term, Reagan had no summit meetings, none, with either Leonid Brezhnev or, after he died, Yuri Andropov or, after he died, Konstantin Chernenko. The time wasn't right. And the Democrats during the 1984 election attacked him for it; for example, Walter Mondale at the 1984 Democratic National Convention said: "But the truth is that between us, we have the capacity to destroy the planet. Every president since the bomb went off understood that and talked with the Soviets and negotiated arms control. Why has this administration failed? Why haven't they tried? Why can't they understand the cry of Americans and human beings for sense and sanity in control of these God awful weapons? Why, why?
Why can't we meet in summit conferences with the Soviet Union at least once a year?"

Senator Obama was wrong on the facts in invoking President Reagan in this way. UPDATE: Welcome, readers of The Corner! Come back often. NR and The Corner remain must-reads for any conservative...

YouTube wins the debate

It's certainly gotten the most positive press out of last night's Democratic debate, sponsored by CNN and YouTube. Good roundups here and here. I'll link to more good commentary as I find it during the day. My thoughts on it, having watched most of it: 1] Anderson Cooper did a pretty good job of following up on behalf of the YouTube questioners, trying to get the candidates to actually answer the questions. 2] Senator Clinton keeps implying that she has the most experience and that she's "ready to lead." Why does everyone unquestioningly accept this? What, serving as First Lady for 8 years prepares you to be president? Please; they're not the same jobs. Otherwise, she's served a little more than one term as a senator. 3] Ronald Reagan and his legacy lives! Senator Clinton still won't call herself a "liberal", a word Reagan the Republicans appear to have damaged fatally way back in the 1980s. Instead, she says she's a "modern progressive." 4] Barack Obama is quick, speaking strongly and confidently; he improved over his early debate performances, and gets across his main point, that he wants to promote broader change than does Clinton. 5] But Obama still makes mistakes, rather naively leaping to pledge that he'd meet in his first year as president with the leaders of Syria, Cuba, Iran, etc. Senator Clinton was much wiser on this, suggesting that one couldn't pledge to do that, that a president had to make sure he/she wasn't being taken advantage of for propaganda purposes, etc. Though, to be fair, Senator Clinton hasn't always spoken so clearly and unambiguously on this point. 6] Overall, clearly Senator Clinton was the target, as she remains the front-runner. You could see this by the shots the other top-tier candidates took at her, from John Edwards warning of the dangers of "triangulation" to Obama using Clinton's letter to the Pentagon as a way to criticize her as a latecomer to the antiwar movement. Will any of it derail the Clinton locomotive? It could; one still senses uneasiness with her among many Democrats. More as the day goes on. UPDATE: Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters points out that some of the questions from the YouTubers left, er, something to be desired. True; and let that always be a lesson: it's not just about the questions, it's about who PICKS the questions that'll get asked. And in any case, there's been too much hullaballoo about how new and cool the YouTube format is. What's so new about it? Yes, ordinary citizens could submit questions directly to the candidates and do so through glitzy videos with lots of techno sturm und drang. That's nice; but as for the meat of this debate, questioning the candidates, networks have been organizing "debates" at "town hall forums" attended by "ordinary citizens" who get to ask questions for decades now. Remember the 1992 presidential election? This CNN-YouTube debate did the same thing, just in a different format. Let's go easy on the oohing and aahing.

Mr. Vick's forced vacation

When the Michael Vick story first broke, I thought--as I noted here--that the league would have to let him play while his due legal process played out. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Well, but last night NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Vick to stay away from training camp while the NFL reviewed his case; Goodell clearly indicated that Vick could be suspended or worse way before any trial, given that the commissioner has the right to suspend players if they're found to be in violation of the NFL's personal-conduct policy.

And having thought about it, i can see the commissioner's point. He has to look out for the league and its image. In doing so, he's not bound by the Bill of Rights. He suspended Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones and others before the conclusion of any public trial. And it's hard to imagine Vick playing for the Falcons right now, and the games involving the team going on as usual, with this huge cloud--heck, it's practically a tornado, now--hanging over Vick. Michael Vick had a chance to be a huge, popular superstar. He may have thrown it all away. Here's an example of the anger against him. UPDATE: and by the way, it's not just dogs that get abused in this way.

Bad news for another celeb

Lindsay Lohan arrested last night--DUI, cocaine possession, etc.
And once again, everyone will be fascinated by the ET/Insider/Access Hollywood reports, and Lohan will eventually do rehab, and maybe a little jail time, and apologize, etc etc. But what if anything will anybody learn from all this? Will it just be another chance to do the equivalent of staring wide-eyed at the accident as you drive by?

Unsurprising story of the day

"Tensions mar U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad."
Tomorrow the big story will be that day-old garbage begins to stink.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Outrage of the day

It's got to be Venezuela's Hugo Chavez who, despite being popularly elected, is emerging as a Castroist dictator. Today he said that foreigners who come to Venezuela and criticize him and his government should be booted out of the country. Quote: "How long are we going to allow a person — from any country in the world — to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Chavez asked during his weekly television and radio program.

So if anybody dares call Hugo Chavez a "tyrant", why...he'll act like one. Like the dictator he is.

Do we have a public school crisis?

Maybe. Take one example (from where I happen to live right now). In South Bend, Indiana, half of the students who attend South Bend's public schools will not graduate from high school. Half! And I'm sure South Bend isn't alone.

They're trying to do something about it; for example, South Bend schools have a "mentor" program, in which adults spend an hour a week with a public school child, in some cases from first grade through 12th, in order to be a role model and provide advice. They have 300 mentors right now. They want to expand it to 6,000. Good luck to them. But how did they ever allow the situation to get so desperate.

Tonight: Democrats debate

Don't forget about the big CNN/YouTube Dem debate this evening. I'll be blogging about it tomorrow. One thing to watch tonight is Senator Clinton and her continuing attempt to handle the central condundrum of her campaign: what really is her relationship with Bill? And will she govern like Bill? A few weeks ago william Greider of The Nation put it well:
This is the central tension in Senator Clinton's campaign. It's what makes her sound conflicted. Does she intend to emulate the risk-averse, center-right juggling act by which her husband governed? Or, as she sometimes suggests, will Clinton II be more aggressively progressive, less beholden to business and financial interests, more loyal to the struggles of working people? Senator Clinton tries to have it both ways: running on her husband's record and popularity, yet hinting she will not be like Bill.

And she's not exaggerating, either!

Singer Mariah Carey recently, in a message to fans on her website: “Hello! I know I haven’t called you since 1802,” the “Glitter” star said... “Actually, I haven’t called anyone. I’ve been really, really busy and when I do get free time, I’m on vocal rest so I can like get back in the studio for 20 billion hours. So everybody’s mad at me but whatever.”

More celeb news and notes here.

So you want to be a celebrity...

...but the question is, will the paparazzi let you out of your car?

It's easy to criticize the paparazzi, by the way, but remember: magazines, web sites, and TV shows gobble up their footage, and a whole bunch of Americans then go on to gobble up those mags, sites, and shows.

Some good news from Iraq

You can find the entire piece here. The money quote: "Listen to what New York Times reporter John Burns, who has covered Iraq for the last five years, told PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose last week: "I think, quite simply, that the United States armed forces here — and I find this to be very widely agreed amongst Iraqis that I know, of all ethnic and sectarian backgrounds — the United States armed forces are a very important inhibitor against violence," Mr. Burns said. "I know it's argued by some people [i.e., Democratic war critics] that they provoke the violence. I simply don't believe that to be in the main true. I think it's a much larger truth that where American forces are present, they are inhibiting sectarian violence and they are going after the people, particularly al Qaeda and the Shi'ite death squads, who are provoking that violence," he added. There are signs the surge has produced dividends in other areas of Iraqi governance and society. Recruitment for the Iraqi army and police forces is way up, attracting thousands of Iraqi men, including Sunnis. We are seeing the reappearance of professional soccer leagues in Baghdad, as well as new reconstruction projects in larger numbers."

UPDATE: In addition, the Times of London (via Captain's Quarters) reports that coalition forces in Iraq have developed dozens of informants within Al Qaeda in Iraq. Keep the pressure on!

Read the whole thing.

Hero of the day

Seems only fair that we give out this award, too. And today there's a clear winner---this little pup. Check out what he did.

Travel tracker: Northwest going south?

For those of you who fly/travel a lot, keep an eye on this---Northwest Airlines is starting to cancel a lot of flights again. (a major NWA hub is Detroit).

It happened last month, too. Could be troubles at NWA.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Outrage of the day

A new feature. In this case, it's a quote--you can read the entire piece from which it's taken here. The outrage: “The way our society equalizes incomes,” he argued, “is through much higher taxes than we have today. There is no other way.”

So he's never heard of economic growth and the growth of the middle class???

An Earth Day drowning

From several weeks ago: you know, one of the dangers of all the talk about global warming is that it can lead to environmental extremism. Take for example this Earth Day posting on the popular liberal/Democrat site DailyKos. In it, the author claims: "...the worst decision this nation ever made wasn't the boneheaded blunder into Iraq, it was the way we built our nation around the car after World War II." He goes on to argue that we have too many highways, that we're "mainlining asphalt", that we should abolish the Federal Highway Administration, stop building for the most part new highways, and devote most of our resources to mass transit. Wow!

It's hard to know where to start with something like this. But let's look at it historically, with the contention that we made a mistake building our nation "around the car"after the war. Well. So what choice did we have? The automobile existed; it was there. The genie wasn't going to be put back in the bottle. The auto industry provided this country with millions of jobs. The car gets people where they want to go, where they need to go, fast. And this country needed that, indeed demanded it, given our growing population, and our growing cities. With our population skyrocketing, everyone couldn't live in cities any longer; there wasn't enough room. Hence the development of suburbs. Suburbs meant that adults couldn't always live right near to where they worked. So how would people get to work if they didn't have a car? An environmentalist such as our DailyKos writer seems to think they should all take the bus or the train. But there's no mass transit system in the world that can handle a nation of first 200 million people and now 300 million people.

The automobile is part of our modern, industrialized society. Talking about taking the car out of that society would have to be part of a call for a massive, radical re-ordering of society that...well...just ain't gonna happen. Whatever is causing global warming, we must deal with in a realistic fashion and think about it that same way. Our society must continue to function. Some extremists seem to ignore that fact.

Who's the GOP front-runner?

According to an undoubtedly-intentionally-leaked strategy memo from the Mitt Romney campaign, Romney claims he's now the front-runner. Kind of a weak argument, in my view--it leans heavily on the fact that Romney leads in Iowa and New Hampshire (where it just so happens he's advertised heavily). But if you look closer at other data, a different picture emerges. Examples: Giuliani leads in national polls of Republicans; Romney's barely over 10%. Meanwhile, state polls show Giuliani leading in South Carolina; he leads pretty comfortably in Florida; he leads big in California; he leads in Michigan; and he leads big in New Jersey. Romney's camp likes where they are in Nevada, I guess, though the latest poll there actually has Thompson leading.

It's still an open race for the Republican nomination, and nobody has anything locked up; but I think the Romney camp's attempt to steal some momentum by claiming to be the new front-runner just won't stand up to scrutiny.

NBA referee betting scandal continued

It continues to grow--more details here, including a look at one NBA game Donaghy officiated last year that, now, given these allegations, looks...kinda fishy. That's the thing about scandals such as this--everything gets called into question.

The NBA can survive this---although if, as this investigation continues, another referee besides Donaghy is implicated and/or a player or players is implicated, then this could be the biggest crisis the league has ever faced.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just a reminder

From a column published several weeks ago by Peter Wehner--what were Democrats saying not all that long ago about withdrawing from Iraq?
Speaking at the National Press Club in 2005, now-Majority Leader Harry Reid said this:"As far as setting a timeline, as we learned in the Balkans, that's not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don't want us there, and it doesn't work well to do that."Six months later, the now-Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, put it this way:"A deadline for pulling out ... will only encourage our enemies to wait us out." He added it would be "a Lebanon in 1985 [sic]. And God knows where it goes from there."And three months later, the junior Senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said this: "I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal. I don't think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you." (emphasis added)

GOP comeback? Come back when you can be specific

Did you catch this article by long-time Republican pollster Frank Luntz last Sunday? He's asking how the Republicans can win in 2008. He says it will be a tough road, but says there's a "glimmer of hope" yet, that the GOP must focus on a message that appeals to independents, one of hope and economic opportunity, etc etc etc. Well...duh! But what specific fundamentals and specific policy options does he recommend? He doesn't mention any. To be fair, he's not a policy analyst. But if Republicans are going to get anywhere, they've gotta make it clear just what principles and ideas for which they're going to stand. Luntz is right, Republican candidates today can't be Reagan; but everyone knew where Reagan stood, and that's a good touchstone for Republicans to grab onto--and fast.

HRC and the DOD

A little "kerfuffle" (as James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal likes to call these short-lived, loud, but not-too-relevant-in-the-larger-scheme-of-things stories) has arisen over a toughly-worded answer from the Pentagon to a request from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for information on DOD planning for if/when the U.S. withdraws from Iraq. As the NY Times reports today, Senator Clinton claims it to be"...offensive and totally inappropriate” for a Defense Department official to suggest that information she requested about departmental plans for withdrawing troops in Iraq would help enemy propaganda." (Read the whole thing for more background on the story).

Only one problem: the Pentagon is certainly criticizing her thinking here, but it has not questioned her patriotism or used offensive language against her. James Taranto at Opinionjournal.com demonstrated this very well:
Well, here is the letter; and this is the offending passage:
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks in order to achieve compromises on national reconciliation, amending the Iraqi constitution, and other contentious issues. Fear of a precipitate U.S. withdrawal also exacerbates sectarian trends in Iraqi politics as factions become more concerned with achieving short-term tactical advantages rather than reaching the long-term agreements necessary for a stable and secure Iraq.
There's not a word in there (or anywhere else in the letter) about Mrs. Clinton's patriotism or lack thereof. Edelman only argues that it is harmful for politicians to make public demands for early withdrawal because such demands tend to embolden the enemy. He is making a claim about the wisdom and likely consequences of her actions, not about her motives.
In the early days of the Cold War, before liberal Democrats decided to bug out of Vietnam, there was an adage that "politics ends at the water's edge"--that America's political parties, whatever their differences on domestic policy, were obliged to present a united front to the outside world.
Today's liberal Democrats would invert this principle. They assert the moral right not only to undermine U.S. foreign policy but to do so with impunity--that is, they wish to be immune from criticism for their statements and actions.
We suppose it's nice work if you can get it, but we'll never understand why they think that defensively denying that they lack patriotism is a winning approach.

Friday, July 20, 2007

And others don't know much about Nixon

Did you catch this review in last Sunday's Washington Post? It examines a book recently published, though actually first written over 30 years ago, by James Reston Jr., who it so happened had an important role in preparing the journalist David Frost for the series of interviews he did with (by then) ex-President Richard Nixon in 1977. Naturally the focus was Watergate, and the book apparently does a good job of telling the story of Frost's preparation for the interviews and how, with the help of Reston's research, the host was eventually able to get Nixon to make a sort of apology to the American people for having dragged them through the Watergate mud, and to admit some guilt. Fine. But then the reviewer, Matthew Dallek, who is a recognized historian and surely should have known better, wrote this: "Even if these interviews had never taken place, it's likely that Nixon's reputation would have remained in poor shape. But as it happened, these sessions wrung from Nixon an admission of wrongdoing and the apology sought by Reston; 45 million viewers got a ringside seat at the spectacle of Nixon impeaching himself. Reston's intelligent, passionate memoir shows how "the most-watched public affairs program" in television history helped prevent a Nixon comeback, as he had most famously achieved in his 1952 Checkers speech. After the interviews aired in 1977, there would be no more comebacks."

Huh? No more comebacks? Are you serious? In the 1980s, until his death in 1994, Nixon would secretly advise nearly every occupant of the Oval Office (even Bill Clinton); would write several influential books, on Vietnam, on nuclear weapons; would by the '80s give speeches to newspaper editors and others, and receive warm applause; would open his presidential library in the early 1990s with much fanfare; and, when he died in 1994, his funeral was attended by President Clinton and the other living ex-presidents, and not only would Clinton give him a glowing tribute, but also then-Republican Senate minority leader Robert Dole, beginning his own run for the presidency, was so moved in giving his own eulogy to Nixon that he was moved to tears. In fact, Nixon by then had indeed made a comeback (albeit his last one); he had become the respected elder statesman he'd sought to be in the last two decades of his life. I myself don't see this as having been a horrible thing, though I can understand it if others do or did. But to appear to be rather unaware of it, as Dallek was, is rather hard to believe.

Poll rolling...

Occasioned by coming across this via Daily Kos---a few Democrats sneer and jeer that Rudy Giuliani is supposedly tanking. I fear they're confused, as usual. At worst, Giuliani is holding steady---indeed, he's trending up in South Carolina, he's holding fairly steady right now nationally and leading in Florida, and he still has a clear lead in California.

If that's tanking, Senator Obama would like to similarly tank. I think some of our Democrat friends in the blogosphere are simply "seeing" what they'd like to see.

But some don't know much about history...

...take for example Keith Olbermann, who said (via Jules Crittenden): "The selection of the wrong war, in the wrong time, in the wrong place — the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process..." (You can read his entire column here).

Geez. Jules has already pointed out several ways in which we can see that Mr. Olbermann's statement is, er, not the brightest (speaking again of World War II, have we forgotten so soon Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941???). And don't forget Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812...

Guess we need to decide on genocide

Hmmm, again. (Via Drudge) Senator Barack Obama today said that preventing genocide isn't a good enough reason for the U.S. to say in Iraq: "Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now—where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife—which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. "

Er, well, but Senator, folks on your side of the aisle did in fact in the past say that preventing genocide was a good reason for us to go into Bosnia; some said it was a reason to go into Rwanda; others say it's a good reason to go into Darfur. What do you say to those folks? Hope someone asks him...

If we don't know much about history...

...then we fail to take this kind of stuff seriously. It's sad that some still want to make Jews into scapegoats for their frustrations, anger, etc. I've taught courses on World War II for a number of years now, and it never loses its relevance. UPDATE: speaking of relevance, some veterans of that war are still coming home. Rest in peace.

Shoddy is as shoddy does

Hmmm. So Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway says she'd be willing to go topless in a movie; although she wouldn't enjoy it. Her rationale? From MSNBC: “It’s not the most fun requirement of the job, but nor is it something that I would ever not do a job because of,” the “Devil Wears Prada” star told Marie Claire. “It is what it is. Some people choose not to do it on moral grounds; I think that’s a shoddy argument.”

Er---I think she's a beautiful, talented actress, but I fear it's her argument (to be fair, her quote may have been taken out of context) that seems shoddy. Shouldn't one's morality inform one's decisions? But then, Hollywood isn't short on shoddy.

Tough few weeks for the sports world

Barry Bonds is chasing Hank Aaron's home run record, but he's shadowed by strong rumors of steroid use. Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals gets a DUI during spring training. Kris Chambers, wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, gets a DUI just a week or two ago. Tank Johnson of the Chicago Bears spends a couple of months in jail. Michael Vick might well be heavily involved in dogfighting and other animal cruelty. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, who makes untold millions playing for the team, whines for weeks about wanting to be traded. And now there are rumors that an NBA referee bet on games. Just yesterday I took part in a teaching workshop in which we talked a lot about young "millential" students (college students who entered higher education in 2000 or later) and how cynical they are. Their cynicism can be fed by lots of things these days. UPDATE: and what would the Tour de France be, without allegations of drug use? And today PETA seeks to sack Michael Vick. While it now appears the Falcons and the NFL are seriously considering asking Vick to take a "leave of absence" (read: miss the entire 2007 season).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

By the way, on the immigration issue...

...did you catch this? It appeared in a New York Times editorial on the proposed immigration bill (the one that went down to defeat in the senate not long ago). What caught my eye was wheen the Times' editors wrote this: "It is the nation’s duty to welcome immigrants, to treat them decently and give them the opportunity to assimilate."

Hmmm. Really? Even illegal immigrants? We have a "duty" to unquestioningly welcome all of them, too?
And is there no limit to this "duty" to welcome immigrants? Will our living space, our housing, our health and educational resources, be unlimited? I don't think so. But it's remarkable that the NY Times' editors (and others) think differently.

Attention, movie and history buffs

I'd heard nothing about this, but apparently Tom Cruise is starring in a movie about the German assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler, occurring in 1944. Cruise will play Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of the plot.

Not only has he lost weight, but it will be interesting to hear his fake German accent!

Mitt Romney's biggest problem

He's articulate, he's handsome, he seems the ideal presidential candidate, and many Republicans like the conservative things he's saying these days. But many see him as a flip-flopper, grabbing onto conservative ideas rather late in the game. The Politico finds another example today:
Former Gov. Mitt Romney attacked Sen. Barack Obama yesterday for purportedly wanting sex education in kindergarten.It turns out, Romney himself once indicated support for the same sort of sex-ed approach -- "age-appropriate" -- that Obama backs.In a Planned Parenthood questionnaire he filled out during his 2002 gubernatorial run, Romney checked 'yes' to a question asking, "Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools?"

Short memories

Washington politicos continue to wander about in the wake of the other night's slumber party. Hmmm, but note this, from the article: "After the results were tallied, Reid asked GOP leaders to accept simple-majority votes. When they refused, Reid announced that the debate would be suspended, possibly until after Labor Day or until Republicans dropped their filibuster. He called the 60-vote requirement "a new math that was developed by the Republicans to protect the president."

Really. I seem to remember that, when the Republicans were in the majority not long ago and trying to (for example) confirm conservative judges, Democrats and Harry Reid had no compunction about using the filibuster.

Anti-tax fever grows in Europe

Specifically in Norway, where taxes and government-mandated user fees are so high that buying a bottle of wine in a Norwegian restaurant costs you the equivalent, in US currency, of $16 bucks. Gas is $9 a gallon. Taxes on new car purchases are so high that they double the price of the car. Sheesh.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Opposition to the war in Iraq

So we've all seen the poll numbers. Why is there so much opposition to the war in Iraq?
This kind of thing is something with which conservatives have grappled before. One of the founding senior editors of National Review magazine, James Burnham, used to periodically remind his readers that, after all, most ordinary Americans didn't care much about politics and foreign affairs and such. And conservatives have always believed that, in any case, "the people" are not always right. They have passions, they have prejudices, they're not always patient.

I think this is what Victor Davis Hanson was getting at a couple of months ago when, writing about the Iraq and the war on terror, he wrote:
But such a legitimate and necessary rationale depends also upon general empathy for the Middle East. We are embarking on this new course in the hopes that the American lives sacrificed and our treasure spent are for a friendly people that appreciates our efforts. I think they do, and that the record of brave Iraqi reformers is worth the effort — both for the sake of our future security and so as to adopt a new moral posture that respects Arab self-determination.
But, again, most Americans now don’t think it is worth it — and not just because of the cost we pay, but because of what we get in return. Turn on the television and the reporting is all hate: a Middle Eastern Muslim is blowing up someone in Israel, shooting a rocket from Gaza, chanting death to America in Beirut, stoning an adulterer in Tehran, losing a hand for thievery in Saudi Arabia, threatening to take back Spain, gassing someone in Iraq, or promising to wipe out Israel. An unhinged, secular Khadafi rants; a decrepit Saudi royal lectures; a wild-eyed Lebanese cleric threatens — whatever the country, whatever the political ideology, the American television viewer draws the same conclusion: we are always blamed for their own self-inflicted misery.

Update on yesterday's slumber party

Well, let's see, so what did the Democrats' accomplish yesterday?

Well, Republicans defeated their bill seeking an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Turns out that Harry Reid wasn't even there for most of the snoozefest--he slept through much of it.

Reid's "strategy" gave Senator John McCain the opportunity to give what was at times a brilliant speech, defending the need to stay in Iraq, on the Senate floor---you can find the text of it here.

And overall, Reid's overall strategy was eviscerated by the wily Republican from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell---Ed Morrissey explains how:
Here's what Reid wanted. He knew that he didn't have enough votes for a quorum; he only has 49 Democrats available, with Tim Johnson's disability. Reid counted on Republicans forcing an end to the session by having a single member present to challenge for a quorum. No votes could take place without one, including the instruction motion to the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest recalcitrant members and drag them back to the chamber. That would have allowed Reid and the Democrats to accuse Republicans of dodging the debate, calling them cowards to take the spotlight off of their insistence on retreat.

Many expected the Republicans to do just that, but it turns out that Mitch McConnell is a little smarter than Harry Reid. Instead of denying Reid a quorum, the Republicans showed up for the debate, perhaps charged up by John McCain's earlier speech on the floor. Once Reid figured out that the Republicans would not give him the satisfaction of walking out the door, he caved. In fact, Reid didn't even bother to attend his own No Snooze Until We Lose party after the first instruction motion, choosing to hit the sack instead while Republicans took the podium all night long.

The troubling case of Michael Vick

I've always enjoyed watching Michael Vick play quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. His speed and athleticism are simply amazing. He can make plays that no one else can.

That having been said, the indictment against Vick (and others) for supporting and participating in dogfighting is profoundly disturbing. It's disturbing partly because I have pets of my own. It's disturbing because apparently a lot of evidence has been gathered suggesting that dogfighting did go on at a home owned by Vick, that the dogfights themselves (as I gather they always are) were brutal (in a typical fight, the winner was the dog who lived; the loser, the dog who died from his wounds), that dogs not ready or not able to fight were killed in brutal ways, that Vick knew of, agreed with, and supported all this. And indeed, is it really credible that dogfighting on a large scale could be going on at a home Vick owned, completely unknown to him?

That having been said, in our society, we're innocent until proven guilty. Vick must have his day in court. And there's the dilemma for the NFL and the Falcons--they can't assume Vick to be guilty. They must stand by him, allow him to play, until the legal process plays out. Mike Vick says he's innocent. We'll see. In the meantime, what else can the league do but allow him to be with the Falcons as usual, as training camp begins? I don't see how the NFL can adopt a guilty-until-proven-innocent policy.

But if Mr. Vick admits guilty in this matter, or is proven guilty, I believe the league should suspend him indefinitely. For multiple seasons, making Pacman Jones' suspension look like a tea party. There is no place in the National Football League, or in society, for this kind of brutality against defenseless animals. UPDATE: Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post has a good column as well on this case, pointing out how Vick has put everything--his NFL salary, his endorsements, over $100 million in all--at risk because of this. Not smart.

The day's good news from Iraq

A leading member of Al Qaeda in Iraq is apprehended.
The commander of the U.S. Third Infantry Division in Iraq says the surge is having a significant impact upon Baghdad and points near.

The interesting but infuriating E.J. Dionne

He is, as many of you undoubtedly know, a columnist with the Washington Post. He often writes about politics, and he's usually worth a read. He's also often wrong, and as far from a conservative as one can get (maybe that contributes to the former).

An excellent example came a number of weeks ago, in a column Dionne wrote for the Post in early April (you can read the entire column here). In it, Dionne is decrying the Electoral College, how it can lead to someone winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote, such as in the 2000 election, etc etc etc. No surprises here; progressives have been slamming the Electoral College for decades. But so, what does Dionne propose be done about it? Well. First, he writes of what is happening in his native Maryland: "It does not have to be this way. As someone who lives in Maryland, I am proud that my state may pioneer a process that could lead to popular election of the president. The state Senate passed a bill last Wednesday that would commit Maryland's 10 electors to voting for the winner of the nationwide popular vote. The bill is expected to pass in the House of Delegates this week, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign it."

Goodness! So, will this law take effect in the 2008 election? Will Maryland's electoral college votes go in '08 to whomever wins the popular vote? Well, no. Dionne continues: "The law would not take effect unless states representing a 270-vote electoral college majority pass similar laws. The idea is to create a compact among states genuinely committed to popular rule."

Now, let's think about this a moment. The Electoral College is part of the U.S. Constitution; the manner in which we elect a president is constitutionally-mandated. So, shouldn't Dionne and other liberals like himself seek a constitutional amendment, if they want a change in our presidential electoral process? Oh, well, but Dionne wants nothing to do with something like that, as he confesses: "Yes, this is an effort to circumvent the cumbersome process of amending the Constitution. That's the only practical way of moving toward a more democratic system. Because three-quarters of the states have to approve an amendment to the Constitution, only 13 sparsely populated states -- overrepresented in the electoral college -- could block popular election."

So there you have it. And I'll tell you why this is so striking (and infuriating) to me. Look, who is it who has been so busy ranting about the constitution and what is "constitutional" lately? Why, our progressive friends such as Mr. Dionne. They complain that the Patriot Act has questionable constitutionality, they complain that President Bush's plans to engage in surveillance and wiretapping of potential terrorists has questionable constitutionality, they say that the president's refusal to let his aides and ex-aides testify before congress concerning the U.S. attorney firings issue is an attempt to get around the constitution, and so forth. Oh, at times, our liberal friends say we must, absolutely must, strictly abide by the constitution.

Er, well...except when it comes to issues like the Electoral College. When it comes to changing the EC, we need to kinda skip constitutional processes (or so Mr. Dionne is implying), because to him they're just not convenient. (Never mind that the founding fathers intended for the process of changing the constitution to be a slow, deliberative one; that way, demagoguery and the passions of the moment would not be able to sweep away the foundations of our government).

Sometimes, when others talk about the Constitution, you have to watch carefully to see how consistent about it they really are.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Democrats' slumber party

It's a rather silly gambit--the Democrats want to debate the Iraq war all night. To highlight...what? That the Bush administration disagrees with you? What a shock. Well, not to worry--some conservatives have found some good slogans for the Dems' venture. For example:
No Snooze Until We Lose." Or: "No Sleep Until We Retreat.”

Mrs. Edwards hassles Hillary

Her criticism of Senator Clinton can be found in this Salon interview, here; as Drudge is reporting, Elizabeth Edwards said in part: "Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues...I'm not convinced she'd be as good an advocate for women. She needs a rationale greater for her campaign than I've heard..."

Hmmm. What's going on here? Several things, I think: 1] Senator Clinton remains the frontrunner among Democrats for the 2008 party presidential nomination. John Edwards right now sits 3rd, at best. The Edwards campaign needs to knock Hillary down a bit, to create a buzz. One way to do that is to attack. 2] But John Edwards doesn't want to attack himself. That would look too "divisive" and "negative." 3] Plus, maybe he doesn't want what would appear to be, among many Democratic and liberal women, the negative connotations of a man attacking a woman. So 4] have his wife do it. And how can the Clinton campaign retailiate? It won't be easy to do so. After all 5] Elizabeth Edwards has cancer.

Interesting strategy; we'll see what happens. UPDATE: likely the above is part of a concerted strategy to have Mrs. Edwards play a larger role in her husband's campaign, in order to boost his standing among Democratic women. See for example the latest Edwards campaign ad, which features his wife.

Selective outrage

Some parents and others are furious over alcohol-flavored lip gloss. Hmmm...but have you seen what your teen daughters are wearing lately? There might be better things about which to be outraged.

More reasons to wait (continued from yesterday)

The new National Intelligence Estimate is coming out. It says Al Qaeda continues to plan to attack us here in this country, and their allies in Iraq will help them. Further, U.S. military war-gamers, though not necessarily agreeing with the Bush administration on every point, do acknowledge today that bloodshed will greatly increase in the event of an American withdrawal. Even the head of the UN agrees that "great caution" must be taken in any thinking about a pullout.



Democrats such as Senate majority leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, have failed to deal with the above issues. Here's an excellent example---read how Senator Reid completely fails to address the question of will the Iraqi people be safer if the U.S. leaves.



Meanwhile, there's good news from Iraq. In Diyala, tribal leaders vow to begin battling Al Qaeda. The Fighting 6th Marines in Iraq's Anbar province say they're getting the job done.



And if you too believe we should wait until September, you're not alone---51% of Americans agree. And overall, the most recent National Intelligence Estimate suggests that Bush administration policies concerning the war on terror are working---details and analysis here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why we can wait

One of the commenters the other day asked a good question concerning the war in Iraq: why should we wait until September to make a decision about it (whether to pull out, or at least begin to draw down American troops, etc)? How long do we have to wait? Haven't we waited long enough?

I guess I would answer that question this way: why NOT wait?

Look: I think we're fighting terrorists in Iraq, to a great degree; we're fighting those who have at least some kind of sympathy with Al Qaeda, with those who would like to defeat the United States, who wish harm to the ideas and principles we believe in (and there are members of Al Qaeda in Iraq). That's how this battle is connected to the overall war on terror.

And I believe the war on terror is the most important, twilight struggle of this generation, the most important conflict since the Cold War. And that battle was the most important since World War II. We cannot lose.

I believe that there is evidence that the "surge" is having a positive effect. I've linked to items explaining such at various times over the past couple of weeks. Given all that, of course we should wait until September, at least. Wars cannot be won on timetables. They won't operate according to timetables. In World War II, we didn't say, well, if the war's not over by 1944, then it's just too costly and we'd better think about getting out. Conflicts don't work that way. For one thing, if your enemy perceives you as operating according to a timetable, he'll simply wait you out. Wait long enough, and you'll leave. It's a sure way to lose.

I think one of the biggest problems with this war is the question of information. Americans on both sides of this question simply don't agree with each other concerning exactly what is happening both in Iraq and with the war on terror in general. And further, I don't think we any longer agree on just how important the war on terror is (you recall, John Edwards for example now says it was all just a political slogan to gain votes).

Even some of those who doubt the utility of the war in Iraq, though, agree that if the U.S. leaves, it could trigger an Iraqi plunge into a bloodbath, into civil war at best, into allowing that country to become a full-fledged Al Qaeda beachhead at worst. And I think a withdrawal would embolden every terrorist enemy of the United States, everywhere. America can be beaten, they'll say. Americans don't have the will for the struggle. Keep up terrorist attacks against them and against the West in general; nay, step them up.

How can we risk this? It's very dangerous to risk encouraging the enemy in that way (9/11 taught us that). Thus, I believe it's merely the responsible thing to do to at least wait until September, to give this surge every chance. At least. Putting it bluntly, terrorism is yet another example--we've seen it throughout history--of barbarians at the gates, enemies of civilization...I'd even go so far as to call it a manifestation of evil (and evil isn't some antiquarian notion--wasn't Hitler evil? weren't the mass murderers in Rwanda evil?. It's a very principled, yes, fundamental struggle. It has little to do with merely engaging in a partisan defense of a political party or presidential administration.

Attention X-Files fans!

I'm one of those. If you are too, good news---apparently an X-Files movie is in the works!
Maybe X-Files movie II by summer 2008.
The truth is out there.

Rudy bows in the conservative direction...

...And Captain's Quarters likes it.

Wild man James Webb

The Senator from Virginia shows his temperamental, angry side again (remember his little flare-up last winter at the White House, when President Bush tried to ask about his son?).

If Senator Webb thinks these displays impress a lot of people, I suspect he's mistaken.

University presidents and cover-ups

If you haven't heard about the ongoing scandal at Eastern Michigan University, involving its president, administration, and the murder of a student, details are here, occasioned by (finally) the president's firing last night by the EMU Board of Regents. Basically, what happened was this: a student was murdered in her dorm room at Eastern late last fall. For weeks, the school administration claimed her death was accidental and that no foul play was suspected. But then, suddenly in February of this year a male student was arrested for her murder. Since then, evidence has come forth indicating that several in the university administration sought to cover up the fact that the student had been murdered, fearing that such news would harm the school's image.

As if the school's image is in great shape now.

I mention this story to highlight what I think is fast becoming a fundamental in our society: never trust bureaucracies and administrations. Too often, they're defensive, seeking to hide information, and far from always concerned with what's right.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where's Osama?

(Via Instapundit and The Corner) Michael Ledeen suggests that, given that the recent video clip released of Osama Bin Laden appears to be from 2001 or 2002, Osama may be dead. After all, why not make a new video of him?

Rolling with the polls

Three very early polling numbers concerning the 2008 presidential election caught my eye.
1] On the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Clinton continues to lead in New Hampshire--but not by much. She leads Barack Obama only by 27%-23%. Not much of a lead; the Clinton campaign has tried so mightily to make Hillary seem as the "inevitable" winner. So far, it's not succeeding.
2] People say Rudy Giuliani can't win the GOP nomination, or that he's badly slipping. I dunno-here, an American Research Group poll has him, nationally, leading the field by 13 points. And
3] in state polls, in Pennsylvania Giuliani leads the Republican field by 26 points. He also leads in Ohio.

There's a long way to go, but 2008 shapes up as a very interesting year. Hillary is not inevitable. And Rudy can win.

Iraq PM Maliki and his statement

Ed Morrissey over at Captain's Quarters makes an important point today concerning Iraqi prime minister Maliki and his recent statements to the news media. Nearly everyone, led by the NY Times, reported that Maliki claimed Iraq and its government can now stand on its own, even if the Americans leave. But that wasn't all Maliki said, and why did so many major media outlets miss this? Begin quote:
Readers who want the whole story have to read the Los Angeles Times to find out what else Maliki said about the Iraqi position:

Maliki, a Shiite, put on a brave face in the wake of the rising demand in the U.S. among Democratic and Republican legislators for withdrawal from Iraq.
He pleaded for time, pledging to achieve the passage of legislation that Washington has demanded as a condition of its continuing support, including an oil revenue sharing law, a revised constitution and the easing of government work restrictions for former supporters of President Saddam Hussein, who was captured, tried and executed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Maliki also said that Iraqi security forces could use more training from U.S.-led forces and needed more weaponry.

Perhaps someone could ask the layers of editors and fact-checkers at the Gray Lady why this got left out of their report. It adds another dimension to the story, a context which shows a politician trying to reassure his constituency that their government can survive an American pullout -- not endorsing one, as the Paper of Record's report implies. Maliki has to make sure that Iraqis do not lose confidence in the government in order to keep the tribes from throwing in with the various insurgencies for their own perceived protection, once we do withdraw.
The real news story is that Maliki has asked the Congress to remain patient. He has not given up on passing reform through the National Assembly, and understands that the US wants to see that reform start as soon as possible. Unfortunately, both papers chose to de-emphasize that part of the story, and in the case of the New York Times, overlook it altogether.

Why are some Republicans turning against the war in Iraq?

Did you catch this? Antiwar Democrat Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) says there will be more Republicans to come, and she believes she knows why. "I just see the growing fear in their eyes on this," she said. More details, and my source for the quote, can be found here.

I have no doubt she's right, in that too many Republicans are frightened of polls. It's not a principled position. Fundamental: we can't make policy solely based on polls. If we had, we wouldn't be one nation right now. We'd be two, with a Confederate States of America existing to our south--because Abraham Lincoln would have abandoned the Civil War in the summer of 1864 when, as most observers claimed, Northern public opinion had grown tired of the war.

Who?

Admit it, that's what you said when you saw the headline for this story.

And that's why he's dropping out...

North Korea nuke reactor shut down, but...

...but they only do so after receiving a nice tidy shipment of oil. The Bush administration hails this development. I dunno--no, we don't want the crazy North Koreans to have a nuclear weapon; but you could easily argue, as one of the commenters here did a week or two ago, that this smacks of appeasement. What's North Korea going to demand next time? You can bet this will be repeated, and that they'll up the ante next time.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

McCain won't quit...

...and remember the other day? I predicted he wouldn't...here's confirmation via NR's The Corner.

Whispers caught on tape...

Both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton would like to exclude rinky-dink, third-tier candidates from future Democratic presidential debates. No surprise there. Some buzz about it for the past day or so. But remember--most ordinary Americans won't care about this. It's too inside-baseball, political-junkie-ish. Always remember that most ordinary Americans are too busy with the details of their daily lives to care mush about this kind of stuff.

Don't know much about history...

Many have already commented on the outrageous comments that appeared recently from Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). To refresh your memory, here they are:
On comparing Sept. 11 to the burning of the Reichstag building in Nazi Germany: "It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you."

Of course, it's an outrage to draw comparisons between the Bush administration and Nazi Germany in and of itself. But another reason to be outraged is Congressman Ellison's ignorance of history. Let's examine how ignorant it is: 1] The Reichstag fire occurred in February 1933, around a month after Hitler and the Nazis had come to power in Germany. The fire was almost surely set by a single Dutch communist, Marin van der Lubbe; Hitler however immediately assumed that the entire Communist Party was behind it (though he had little evidence for that). 2] In 2001, however, no one denies that President Bush was correct to blame 9/11 on Al Qaeda and Islamofascism in general. Hitler created a threat for which he had little evidence. Bush didn't. 3] Hitler did indeed use the threat of communist terror to gain broad new powers. He was able to get the German legislature (the Reichstag) to pass a bill called the Enabling Act, which basically suspended the constitution and civil liberties. But 4] say what you will about the Patriot Act or other anti-terrorism legislation sought by the Bush administration, the fact remains that the Constitution has not been suspended and neither have civil liberties. And the raging antiwar blogosphere, which probably helped give Congressman Ellison ideas for such a remark as he made, is proof of it. More details here.

Scrooge arrives early...

...as the politically-correct attack on Christmas trees has already begun. Can't they at least wait 'til Halloween?

Setting a timetable without setting a timetable...

So now Senator Lugar and others want to set a timetable without setting one (January 1st as a target date for re-deploying U.S. forces). If they believe this will appease Democrats and other war critics, if they think this sends a message of strength and resolve to our allies, not to mention to our enemies, and most importantly, if they think this is a way to effectively do battle with our terrorist opponents, they are sadly mistaken.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More hate speech...

And it comes from what you'd think would be an unlikely source:
Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams came from Ireland to Texas to declare that President Bush should be impeached. In a keynote speech at the International Women's Peace Conference on Wednesday night, Ms. Williams told a crowd of about 1,000 that the Bush administration has been treacherous and wrong and acted unconstitutionally.
"Right now, I could kill George Bush," she said at the Adam's Mark Hotel and Conference Center in Dallas. "No, I don't mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that."

UN-believable

Why doesn't the continuing mess at the United Nations get more attention? Oil-for-food scandals, corruption at its bureaucracy's highest levels, scandalous behavior on the part of UN "peacekeepers", and now they can't even begin to plan renovations of the UN complex in New York without it going massively overbudget--before any dirt has been shovelled. Details here.

Iraq interim report

It will be a light day of blogging for me both today and tomorrow; I'm on the road. In the meantime, the administration's report on Iraq and its benchmarks of progress is out; details here. Obviously President Bush would have liked it to have been better. But why can't we wait until September to make final judgments? What's the big rush? Iraq and the war on terror are issues too important to judge with political polls on the brain. I'm talking to you, Senators Lugar, Domenici, Hagel...

And don't forget the positive information on Iraq I pointed to here yesterday.

At the same time, this news--that analysts are suggesting that Al Qaeda is now at its strongest point since 9/11--is something the Bush administration must explain to the American people, and seek to rectify.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trump, Trump everywhere

It's a good question---why indeed does Donald Trump have this mania to have his name out there everywhere, on products, television, land, casinos, etc etc. Lately there's been Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, and now there's Trump...office furniture. Maybe he's short on cash. Maybe--but I suggest it's instead that he's not short on ego.

Why the surge in Iraq is working

But hey, what would a U.S. officer in Iraq on the front lines know about it?

There's a prairie fire a' burnin...

...on the illegal immigration issue. Many people want action taken, to control our borders, to crack down. Both parties need to be aware of it; I'm not sure either fully is. So people are taking action locally. Here's the latest example:
Prince William County officials voted unanimously last night to move forward with one of the toughest immigration policies in the country. The eight-member Board of County Supervisors passed a resolution that requires police officers to ask about immigration status in all arrests if there is probable cause to believe that a suspect has violated federal immigration law. The resolution also requires county staff to verify a person's legal status before providing certain public services.

UPDATE: and this will only throw gasoline onto the fire---translating our electoral ballots into Chinese? And the Bush administration supports this kind of stuff? Fundamentally a bad idea.

Barry Bonds and the FOX All-Stars...

It turned out to be an exciting All-Star game last night, with the American League eventually emerging triumphant (again), 5-4. But of course the real story of the night was Barry Bonds, the center of attention, with his career coming to an end, chasing Hank Aaron's record, still eager to defy his critics, yet hungry for love and adulation, but...thoroughly muddied by scandal. But the big game was at his home park, and he got to start and bat second, and get the huge ovations he obviously craved. There's an excellent column on Barry and the game in today's Washington Post by its lead columnist Thomas Boswell, and he makes an excellent point: Barry Bonds isn't the only big leaguer to have done steroids. Far from it. Yet it's as if he's the visible symbol, the scapegoat, on whom everyone is taking their anger and cynicism concerning the steroid era. Maybe not completely fair but, as Boswell explains, Bonds is so flawed and inconsistent and hypocritical that it's hard to feel too sorry for him:
Of course, much of the reason San Francisco sticks with Bonds is because fans here are so aware, and honest, that they were right beside Bonds, cheering and egging him on as he hit 73 home runs in 2001, won four straight MVP awards and took the Giants on a trip to the World Series. Many fans in many other cities, as well as those of us in the media who seldom raised enough Cain about the obvious cheating in the sport, find Bonds a useful target. What, we didn't notice the constant offseason transformations that allowed mature sluggers to add 20 or 30 pounds of muscle in a winter?
Bonds's curse is that, for all those fans throughout the majors who taunt him with asterisk signs and Barry BALCO banners, he's the most extreme case. Bonds is not the marginal minor leaguer who decides he needs an edge in order to make the majors or the ordinary player who craves to be a star. Bonds was a three-time MVP before he ever met Victor Conte. So the analogy is to the corporate kingpin, already enormously wealthy, who games the system to get even more filthy rich.
In the end, this All-Star Game -- on a night that baseball has dreaded all season because the sport's most notorious star would be on center-stage display -- ended as well as it could. Bonds got his cheers. And, for an indisputably great career, he deserved them. But he didn't get the home run he wanted so much with its shallow appearance of vindication. Instead, his long fly ball died at the wall, much as his quest to be seen as the game's true home run king will probably also fail as the years pass .

Pop culture update...

In a follow-up to a story I commented on yesterday, one of the teens in the car with the little girl who appeared (from a YouTube video) to have taken Ecstasy claims the toddler was not given the drug. No word however concerning why, on the video, several in the car were heard saying that the little girl was "rollin'" from having taken the stuff. No word either on why anyone would want to post a video like this in the first place. Maybe we don't talk enough about the dangers faced by the YouTube generation...

In brighter news, take heart Bruce Springsteen fans--the Boss apparently plans to release a new album late this fall. And good news for Miss New Jersey---it appears the blackmail attempted against her isn't going to work. Good for her for standing up to the bad guys. It's another part of the danger of today's 24/7 cable news world, perhaps---blackmailers perhaps believe their job is easier these days, that just the prospect of loud accusations of wrongdoing, having them broadcast and repeated, as surely they always are, for at least 24 hours on a number of different networks, will be enough to intimidate someone, guilty or not, true accusations or not.