Sunday, July 31, 2005

N Korea is playing nice now, claiming they're willing to talk about scrapping their arms program, but the whole negotiation looks like an exercise in futility. The N Korean regime's only real fear in the world is that Washington will remove them from power. They see nukes as the only deterrent from that scenario. They will never give them up -- and if they claim to, you can bet your last dime they're lying just as they were in 1995.

Dean Emay wonders whether the N Korean's military power is all it's cracked up to be. I would say emphatically no; their main purpose is simply to keep the regime in power. Even if they had ambitions of conquest, there is no conventional threat in the world that a single U.S. carrier group could not defeat -- and iirc, we curently have around 12.

This was not the situation 20 or even 15 years ago. The large number of precision-guided munitions, especially JDAMs, which have become available have changed the game immensely. We can now hit something like more targets in one week with one carrier group than the Allies hit in all of WW II. In the old days, they had to fly a hundred sorties to be sure of hitting a target; now one will usually suffice for several targets.

Of course, the problem with N Korea is that they have enough artillery already in place to obliterate most of Seoul within hours. Hours is likely all they would have, but unfortunately that's all they need to level a good chunk of S Korea's major city. That makes an offensive war against them a very politically unpalatable and therefore unlikely scenario.

Like China, N Korea will almost certainly have to collapse or reform from within rather than through use of force. It would be easy to cause that from a practical standpoint — just cut off all aid, and half of them would starve to death in 5 years, and eventually massive food riots by the army would bring the gov't down (from a political and humanitarian standpoint, that's a much dicier prospect). The regime stays in power by feeding the army first, and everyone else if there's anything left, so as long as there's aid coming in they'll survive because all the guns are in their control. Sadly, the DPRK regime is essentially using its own civilian population as a blackmail tool to get enough aid from China and the West to feed their army.

Friday, July 29, 2005

















Based on what I've been told by other people with kittens, Pip and Smoke seem unusually close even for littermates. Apparently, they always have been; the first pick is from the breeder, when they were only a few weeks old. The second is from a month or so ago. They like to lie there while anyone takes takes a shower.

Smokey in the spring, curious about the shiny box I'm holding. One of the fascinating things about these guys is the cresting patterns their fur makes around their legs and chest. The tips are a different color, so it creates a kind of shimmering effect.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

For some time now, Democrats have been fretting over why their party's public "perception" is one of not being strong on national security. Now, as someone who is libertarian-leaning, believes in divided gov't, and votes Republican as the lesser of two evils, I would rather not see Dems forfeit all their Senate seats in the next few elections. So, in order to help them keep some semblance of relevance over the next decade or so, I have composed the following ditty (in the tune of "Blowin' in the Wind").

How many wars must a Democrat support,
Before they will call him a man?
Yes ‘n’ how many medals must a Senator sport,
Before the nation trusts his command?
Yes ‘n’ how many soldiers must she add to our forts,
Before voters trust Hillary’s war stance?

The answer my friend,
Is in Sandy Berger’s pants.
The answer is in Sandy Berger’s pants.

Oh, how many times can Chris Matthews retort,
That insurgents are the same as the Founders of this land?
Yes ‘n’ how many times will they re-run Abu Ghraib reports,
Before the media brass say they can’t?
Yes ‘n’ how much abuse must our soldiers take from Kos’ cohort,
Before the mods ban all their rants?

The answer my friend,
Is in Sandy Berger’s pants.
The answer is in Sandy Berger’s pants.

Heard Robert Pape (author of Dying to Win) on the local Chicago Don and Roma AM talk radio this morning (Don’s conservative, Roma’s liberal; it’s a good little show), discussing his book. He made some interesting points

1) Suicide bombings have greatly increased since 1980, while other terrorism has greatly decreased
2) Suicide bombings are almost exclusively carried out against democracies
3) Suicide bombings are generally done when armed forces of a different religion occupy terrority the bombers greatly prize, or feel is theirs. He mentions Sikhs in India, the Tamil Tigers, and a couple others

Pape then goes on to make some recommendations based on this data

1) The US should focus on Al Qaeda, which he says we haven’t been doing for 3 years
2) The US should transition all security functions to Iraqis and leave Iraq within the next 12 months

Pape also notes that one reason America has not been hit is that Al Qaeda has made a strategic decision not to hit America in the short term, but to focus on America’s allies instead. This is detailed, Pape says, in a 42-page Al Qaeda strategy document discovered a few years ago. Very interesting stuff.

I agree completely with how he represents the data, and in a broad sense with his conclusions, but I think Pape makes a couple major errors in interpretation when he gives his recommendations. First, he treats these statistics like natural phenomena; a correlation in human-directed activity is not necessarily amenable to data-driven correction the way an increase in average rainfall might be expected affect crop growth. People think and make decisions; it’s not reasonable to suppose Al Qaeda will say “Aha! Troops of another religion are no longer occupying territory we prize. Based on the statistical analysis of suicide bombing behavior since 1980, we must stop attacking now.” Second, he’s working with a small sample size (there just aren’t that many terrorist groups, in terms of the numbers needed for statistical analysis). Any kind of prediction based on a small statistical sample is going to be very unreliable.

Beyond that, I think there’s a couple other things worth noting here.

First off, why does Al Qaeda believe they should avoid hitting America, at least in the short term? One suspects Bin Laden & Co. learned a bitter lesson from 2001 to 2003: attack America spectacularly, at home, and Americans will not respond by withdrawing as in Somalia or Lebanon but instead get very angry. When Americans get angry, governments will fall (particularly when a Republican is president), especially regimes that are supportive of terrorism. Bush launched a unilateral war in the “graveyard of superpowers” to remove the odious Al Qaeda host gov’t, and even with the craven press squeaking about an Afghanistan quagmire shortly before the Taliban fell, American public opinion promptly soared to 90% support of Bush’s policies. A couple years later, the terrorist-enabling Hussein regime was excised from Iraq. I hate how partisan this sounds, but I honestly think this is Osama’s rope-a-dope strategy: wait for a less muscular and unilateral (i.e. Democratic) regime to be elected here in the States before attacking us again (fwiw, I think he’s wrong; Hillary, the presumptive Dem 2008 nominee, will be much more aggressive than her husband was, perhaps even more aggressive and unilateral than Bush has been).

Second, the Iraq invasion was not a distraction from terrorism and Al Qaeda, as others have claimed and Pape seems to imply. In fact, liberating Iraq was a strategic stroke of military genius that fundamentally changed the nature of the war on terror, similar to Sherman’s March to the Sea or Patton’s charge to the German 3rd Army’s flanks. It removed the need for troops on Saudi soil, ended the perpetually festering sanctions regime that punished ordinary Iraqis and bred resentment of the U.S. among Muslims, created a democratic example in the middle of the Mideast, and forced Al Qaeda to try to fight a defensive war on Islamic turf, one it has very little hope of winning. And in the course of fighting that war they’ve not only been forced to murder Iraqi Muslims by the thousands, which has not gone unnoticed by other Muslims, but are also now seen as fighting against democracy. In the wake of that carnage and the spectacle of free Iraqis joyfully waving purple fingers on January 30th, Islam is increasingly drawn to democracy and less inclined to accept terrorism as a legitimate means of political expression. This trend does not bode well for Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Some things worth reading:

We interrupt the latest reports about terrorist atrocities with a news bulletin: Support for suicide bombings and Islamic extremism, along with hatred of the Great Satan, is actually waning in the Muslim world.
--
The jihadists who came bumping over the mountains to detonate last weekend's bombs may have been thinking of the 72 virgins that awaited them in heaven. But the Egyptian fellah is thinking about where he's going to get his next paycheck to feed his family... an Iranian woman in a poor village who dares to run for her local council. The men of her village have talked and talked about paving the road and never gotten it done. She defies the traditionalists. She wins the election; she paves the road. That's the power that will turn back the jihad of the privileged.
--
Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.
By now, these facts shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers....If change really is in the air, it’s taken 40 years to get here—40 years of inner-city misery for the country to reach a point at which it fully signed on to the lesson of Moynihan’s report. Yes, better late than never; but you could forgive lost generations of ghetto men, women, and children if they found it cold comfort.

--
I have been watching with must disgust our politicians blathering on about how this war is too costly and the human toll is too high, and that we should set a date for withdrawal. To coin a phrase from the 101st at Bastogne “NUTS!” We quit they win, not on my watch ladies and gentleman who have never served and haven't the slightest clue what it means to risk your life daily for something larger than your own career. We leave before this job is done and the lives lost, and the lives that will be lost are in vain.

Reports are the Pentagon believes troops levels can be dramatically lowered by this time next year. This next 12 months is going to be a watershed period. If Iraq can become relatively stable and democratic and the majority of the US forces are on their way home by next summer, the war will have to be accepted as a smashing success by all reasonable observers.

The consequences of that vindication are, I think, equally frightening to the Western left and the jihadist/Baathist insurgents and terrorists. I expect the rhetoric of the left and the terrorists to continue to converge (the Iraq war as a "root cause" of terrorism, illegal invasion, puppet gov't, etc) as their desperation grows into panic at the horrifying specter of a free, democratic and independent Iraq imposed by American military force and the even more terrifying implication of a precedent set.

Of course, the bad news from Iraq will continue regardless of the actual situation because large segments of the mainstream press are ideologically wedded to leftist viewpoints on the war and committed to proving that the invasion of Iraq is a failed policy, but I think that news will become increasingly trivial and disingenuous. Already we see the beginnings of that trend: misleading comparisons of electricity availability (typically they give a number of hours per day available in Baghdad compared to pre-war, conveniently ignoring that Saddam stole electricity from other regions to keep the lights on in the capital, and that decreased availability in hours is largely due to the fact that while total electric production is now actually slightly higher than prewar (4,153 MW vs 3,958 MW) , demand is much higher due to the extremely rapid postwar economic growth), gas shortages (similar explanations exist here), and postwar civilian casualty reports that ignore the fact Sadddam murdered people at a rate just as high or higher before the war. We can expect lots of reports that the Iraqi Army, Police and National Guard are not conforming with the highest ideals of courtesy, professionalism, and decorum. Anything less than perfection will be shrilly brandished as evidence of failure, with increasing desperation as a picture of overall success emerges.

This seems like good news.
KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi commandos have captured an Egyptian said to be an associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two, police sources said on Wednesday...They said Tantawi was believed to be a lieutenant to Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor regarded as second-in-command to Osama bin Laden in the al Qaeda network. Computers, money and weapons were also seized in the raid, the police said.
As Michael Yon pointed out yesterday, information gathered in these raids often precipitates new raids, and those in turn reveal more actionable information, and so on, in a cascading wave of terrorist takedowns.

Let's hope that's the case here. Iraq has been a bit quieter this week; maybe this has something to do with it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

So, when are we going to liberate Cuba, anyway? Seems overdue.

44 years, 14 weeks and two days overdue to be exact.

Maybe I was wrong to complain about the lack of constitutional coverage, if this is how they're going to cover it.

Iraq Constitution May Erode Women's Rights

Udai Hussein raped women at a whim, and this constitution "may erode women's rights?"

Where's any mention of all the freedoms this historic document specifically codifies, like free press, free speech, or free elections, which comprise the main body of the document and represent a revolutionary change in Iraqi liberties? Totally ignoring that this constititution marks a watershed moment in Mideast democracy, they dredge up a vague reference to Islamic law in Article 19 and editorialize about the possibility it's going to make women chattel.

And what horrors does the offending Article contain that have the chattering class so worked up?
"the followers of any religion or sect are free to choose their civil status according to their religious or sectarian beliefs."
This is even worse than no coverage.

UPDATE: Omar at ITM issues a laundry list of things he doesn't like about the constitution (notably absent is the one above). I agree with pretty much all of his points and I hope they are addressed as he suggests, either before the referendum or in the amending periods specificed in the document. Omar's criticisms would tend to undermine my point, except that 1) Omar has been very enthusiastic about the constitution and the freedoms it codifies is; 2) Omar is supposed to editorialize; he's not a news service; 3) As an Iraqi, Omar is part of the Iraqi political process and that means pushing his point of view, which is admirably libertarian in nature. Debate is what drives democracy, and I welcome all of it. But news services should be giving the bigger context, too, not treating this as a step backwards from the Saddam era of mass graves and rape rooms.

UPDATE: Welcome QandO readers! I've been a big fan of Neolibertarian.net since it started, and I think their neolibertarian philosophy as described probably comes closest to encapsulating my own views of any school of thought out there. If you're not subscribing to their New Libertarian magazine, you might consider giving it a shot; it's free, and one of the best opinion mags out there in any form.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Roaming across the web, I'm noticing people (esp on the right) tend to get some things confused regarding Islam and terrorism. There are two separate issues here.

1) We have Islam, not just a religion but a blueprint for society as well, one with many noble precepts but also many regrettably stuck a few centuries in the past, with the strictures, prejudices, and attitudes of those times. As with Christianity a few centuries ago, much of Islam is slowly undergoing a self-directed Enlightenment, while some Islamic societies (esp certain Arab nations) are mostly left behind. This is an area that must be dealt with by proselytizing the democratization of Muslim nations and encouraging those gradual reforms.

2) We have the death cults like Al Qaeda. These are the outgrowth of two other phenomena: so-called "fundamentalist" sects like Wahhabism that use oil money to brainwash hatred of the West into the heads of gullible young men, and self-interested lust for power among some like bin Laden or the former Taliban who cynically manipulate the sects to try to unite Islam in a holy war -- with themselves as Supreme Mullahs of the New Islamic Caliphate, of course. These must be dealt with by capturing and killing the brainwashers, removing the regimes that permit and encourage their behavior, and demonstrating to Muslims everywhere that the terrorists offer only death, fascism and poverty, not solutions to their problems.

Only one thing will end Islamic terrorism: popular demand by free Muslims. Thanks in large part to the war in Iraq, we are seeing the beginnings of that trend, but everything possible must be done to encourage it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The NYT is still cheerleading for the headchoppers.

Has the lead to any NYT column ever described the Iraqi police, who have tens of thousands more members trained than a year ago, are better-equipped with weapons, vehicles, armor and communications, and in contrast to last year now routinely stand their ground against insurgents with RPGs trying to overrun their positions, with the following sentence: "They just keep getting stronger." I'm curious, has any NYT editorial ever described any of the elite Iraqi National Guard units (the people fighting for Iraq to be free and democratic rather than a brutal tyranny; you know, what we used to call "freedom fighters") who have now carried out dozens of successful operations on their own as "more resilient and more sophisticated?" Have any written about the Iraqi Army, which has lines hundreds long at recruiting centers (even mere hours after car bombings) in the following terms: "But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another [recruit] ready to step up and take charge."

I shouldn't even need to mention the immense number of battlefield adaptations (such as IED jammers, home-made Humvee armor, and near-univeral body armor) and tactical superiority American soldiers are displaying every day in successful operations, in addition to their oft-unsung stalwart bravery in fighting for the freedom of 25 million strangers, or the hundreds of rebuilding jobs to benefit Iraqi civilians they supervise and protect, or the decency, humanity and honor they bring to a terribly difficult job -- all characteristics the insurgents utterly lack even pretensions of. But don't expect the NYT to ever describe U.S. forces as "executing and dramatizing their attacks with more sophistication than they have in the past" or make mention of their "shrewdness." No, that praise is reserved for those shrewdly targeting children with car bombs, dramatically kidnapping and murdering diplomats, and sawing off civilians' heads on camera with such great sophistication.
One other recent development in the insurgency - and a possible explanation of its ability to bring in recruits from around the Arab world - is the reach and sophistication of its public relations.
Recent? You've got to be kidding me. You guys have been doing great PR work for them for years now.

Saw Charlie and the Chocolate factory last night (I have a rule that I try to see any movie that has a $50 million opening, because when that many Americans like a film it's usually worth seeing), and I was surprised how good it was. Very clever, very beautiful visually, and even made fun of itself by being absurdly over-the-top in several places (Charlie's house is ludicrously ramshackle, and they have some fun with that toward the end by panning and showing it sitting next to a perfectly normal neighborhood), but at the same time a family-friendly film you could bring your kids to without squirming. This is a great example of the kind of wonderfully enjoyable films Hollywood can make when it tries.

Depp is perfectly cast in this part, and plays it very well. As much as I don't like Johny Depp's politicial views, I really enjoy much of his acting. Boycotting an actors' movies over his political views strikes me as being sort of like boycotting an 8-year-old boy's school play over his stance that "girls are icky;" it's really giving far too much gravitas to something that has none. I just try to remember our oft-ridiculous celebrity actor/actress class are not paid millions of dollars for their political insights and acumen, they're paid to dress up, look pretty, and recite other people's words in little make-believe plays, and that's the only context in which Depp or any other actor should be taken seriously.

Dean Esmay notes version 7 of MS Internet Explorer can only run on XP, and Firefox thinks it will give their browser a boost.

It's sort of amusing to see software companies drooling over Microsoft's table scraps.

Ah, well. They're the 900-lb gorilla, and they didn't get there by being fully open-source and backward-compatible but by buying/reverse-engineering everyone else's software and adding it to their operating system package. The software world innovates, Microsoft assimilates. Remember WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Netscape Navigator?

"We are Microsoft. You will be assimilated. We will add the functional and technological distinctiveness of your products to our own. Your company will adapt to service ours."

"Resistance is futile."

I'm not a huge MS basher. Microsoft does serve a useful aggregation-for-convenience function to the consumer, and generally the people innovating useful products get rich anyway. Still, like everyone else, I love to see them get tweaked by Firefox and others.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Publius notes the new Iraqi Bill of Rights looks much better than the last one. (h/t Instapundit)

Jeez, you’d think their first freedom-enshrining Constitution would be getting more press (did they have this problem in 1776?) Why is it we have to go to a non-media source for news that should be trumpeted across the front pages of every freedom-loving newspaper in the world?

Hmmm. Sadly, I’m starting to think “freedom-loving press” is an oxymoron, at least when we’re talking about someone’s freedom besides their own. This little puff piece seems a rather grotesque paean to the sadistic, tyrannical rapists and murderers that were Saddam’s sons. Like most media bias, it’s not even so much what it says (“fond memories of Uday and Qusay,” all reference to their vicious brutality assiduously omitted from mention – oh, and the guy who turned them in? a dirtbag), but just the fact that they’re reporting this crap (sorry, can’t come up with a more-fitting word) rather than the historic creation of a consensual, constitutional gov’t with defined individual liberties. Ho-hum, democracy and freedom being codified for 25 million people. Yawn. Hey, look! Some of Saddam's old followers miss the tyrant princes! Now that's news!

It’s bad enough the mainstream press often seems to think Fourth Estate actually means Fifth Column. But now they’re not just undermining the government or promoting an antiwar agenda, but even seem to have lost their respect for the very qualities that made America such a noble enterprise.

The great pamphleteer Tom Paine must be rolling over in his grave to see the state of printed discourse today. Based on his views, I'm guessing today he'd be a libertarian-leaning blogger -- and he'd still love America.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Another must-read dispatch from the intrepid Michael Yon:
This raid was interesting; information had recently come in that the terrorists were plotting to kill a journalist here in Mosul, and some officers believed the target was me. There is an interesting aside about a spy that Deuce Four detained who was actively trying to persuade me to visit what he described as a "safe" place in Iraq....
[For the record: If I am ever captured and seen on television telling the world that America is evil, I am lying.]
As I've said before, a mere Pulitzer isn't enough for what this guy's doing. Any bloggers reading this, please link Michael. It's the least we can do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

This is interesting: a piece on the discovery of the protein released by fat cells that is the mechanism for insulin resistance.

I have my doubts that this will lead to desirable treatments, though, because it seems likely the insulin resistance mechanism exists for the purpose of keeping people from getting fatter. Disabling it will probably cause them to exchange diabetes for greater obesity.

UPDATE: The always-cogent INDC Bill says "I don't understand why you come to that conclusion," and points to a study showing that insulin-insensitivity reduces glucose-induced thermogenesis.

My understanding is that the diabetic's fat causes him to suppress insulin usage (by producing the protein mentioned above). Now we even have the mechanism for that process identified.

Why would suppressing insulin resistance make people fatter? Harkening back to my bodybuilding days, I believe it was explained to me that insulin makes fat out of glucose by telling your cells to bind together three glycogen molecules into a triglyceride (fat). This is one way insulin reduces blood sugar, which is its main function as far as your body is concerned, because glucose makes your blood more acidic and thus more toxic, which is why people who can't make/use enough insulin to lower their blood sugar go blind and get cardiovascular disease at much higher rates.

Bill's link seems to raise a insulin-insensitivity counter-effect: reduced glucose-induced thermogenesis, which I'm assuming is due to the receptor-based shutoff of insulin transport function that brings glucose into your cells to be used for fuel. I would further assume, however, that this is not enough to offset the direct fat production and ketosis-suppressing effect of insulin's influence in the cell (which a drug that reduces insulin insensitivity would be intended to increase).

(Insulin insensitivity is, I think, best-understood from the perspective of receptor fatigue. This is something anyone who has used a testosterone-based supplement is familiar with: no matter how much testosterone you take, within a few weeks your muscle cells stop responding to the excess testosterone and you stop gaining muscle mass. This is because your cells make fewer and fewer receptors; it's a self-limiting system.)

"In healthy humans, age, lean mass and respiratory quotient are the main independent determinants of resting thermogenesis. In contrast, insulin sensitivity and, to a lesser extent, abdominal obesity are the principal factors controlling glucose-induced thermogenesis."

Interesting that it's only glucose-induced thermogenesis that's affected; that means carb-induced. It does seem plausible that if the person continues to consume carbohydrates the secondary effect could be enough to make them continue to gain weight. I wonder if it's simply assumed the cycle is self-reinforcing because their (misinformed) dieticians tell them to reduce fat intake but keep eating carbs.

IMHO, diabetes is basically carbohydrate poisoning.

FWIW, I think we'll find out for sure which effect is stronger. Someone will probably develop and start testing a drug to suppress this protein. I don't think they'll be especially pleased with the results, though trading fat for blindness is probably a plus.

Must-read column by historian Victor Hanson on Iraq and the last decade and a half of conflict there:
"..we have compressed four separate wars of two decades into some vague continuum...In sum, after 15 years we are nearing a showdown with Iraq, since we finally chose to confront the real problem of a fascist autocracy — the result of Soviet-style Baathism imposed on a tribal society...We have finally learned our lesson: Victory or defeat and a change of circumstances — not breathing spells with dictators, U.N. resolutions, realpolitik truces, no-fly zones, or cruise missiles — finally end most wars....If we are victorious in War IV, Iraq will be analogous to a Germany, Japan, or Panama and pose no further problem. If we fail, it will be similar to Vietnam or Lebanon...If War IV is now the costliest for the U.S. and the most controversial of the series, it is because it is for all the marbles and offers a lasting and humane solution — and every enemy of the United States in the Middle East seems to grasp that far better than we do."
The best top-to-bottom summation of the Iraq situation I've seen anywhere, including the best criticisms of U.S. policy. As they say, read the whole thing.

And when I read posts like this from Iraqi bloggers
The whole Middle East should get the same changes happened in the EastEurope in late 1980s to 1990s. Democracy and freedom is the key for success.Evil always hide itself under the gowns of the dictators.
I feel great hope Iraq's postwar future will indeed resemble Germany and Japan, despite the ongoing violence of those who oppose Iraq's transition to freedom and democratic rule.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Roberts is an interesting pick; is Bush spoiling for a fight?

The fact Bush did not, as expected, nominate a woman might be significant. This is certainly an admin that will pick its fights, the polls say people want an up-or-down vote on the matter, and indications are the affable and easygoing Roberts will be hard to paint as a wacky extremist (but you can bet people are already trying) as opposed to someone a bit more strident like Luttig. Do the Dems really dare to filibuster this man? Do they dare oppose their base, who will surely demand it?

I think worst-case for the Dems is that they filibuster and Bush just never backs down (stubbornness certainly seems to be in character for the man), the “nuclear option” is not exercised, the issue drags all the way into the 2006 campaign season and Americans angry at partisanship being put ahead of the functioning of one of our most important institutions elect 60 +/-1 Republicans in the Senate, solving the issue pretty decisively. On the other hand, if Dems don’t at least make this very difficult, their base may go ballistic and perhaps even become Green Party voters in their impotent rage (I can see the arguments: “We’re obviously powerless anyway, so why not?”). I think they filibuster with a great show of reluctance and paeans to “protecting” rights/women/minorities, try to get the female vote stirred up with abortion rhetoric since Roberts is on the record saying Roe should be overturned (look for the phraseology of “back alleys” and “wirehangers” to pop up pretty often, especially from Ted Kennedy), but with some help from the Gang of 14 they eventually back down from the filibuster within a few months, before the GOP changes the Senate rules to force a vote. If the nuclear option is exercised, I think the minor power-grab (justified as it might be) ends up reflecting slightly negatively on the GOP in the minds of voters and becomes a regular DNC talking point.

Another fascinating bit of political drama will be Hillary’s reaction to all this. Will she steer a centrist course here? Or let slip the dogs of war? I can’t hazard a prediction. She doesn’t have a tin ear, but she’s not quite the politician her husband was. In this situation, he would chew his lip and say something grandly meaningless that made the whole party, if not country, swoon. She may stay in the background on this issue.

Interesting days ahead. Look for at least one mention of “constitutional crisis,” which will appear more and more often if this drags on.

UPDATE: I will make one more (fairly obvious) prediction: political blog traffic will gradually increase up till the Senate vote, then abruptly fall of afterward similar to what happened around the election. We nominate SCOTUS justices less often than we elect Presidents, and debate and discussion of the day's great issues is, after all, why the 'sphere is here.

UPDATE 2: This will be an interesting place to follow while all this going on.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Michael Totten hosts a vigorous discussion of a topic I find fascinating: the greater tolerance that has apparently evolved on the right for centrists, relative to the left.

I think the main reason this has developed is because of how institutionalized the modern left is. Unions, academia, interest groups, strictly moderated discussion boards: all very clique-ish. Memes bounce around those echo chambers and consensus reality becomes whatever they agree it is. When they emerge from their lefty cocoons, blinking and stumbling in the light of day, they're forced to deal with the fact the other 70% of the country doesn't agree with most of their insular version of reality. I think it honestly perplexes and enrages them when everyone else doesn't yell "Right on! Bush is a Nazi!" The center-right is anchored in talk radio and the long tail of smaller blogs, and so is forced to freely debate things more, to their sanity's benefit.

As a mostly-libertarian, I instinctively distrust institutions. They tend to ossify, suppress internal dissent, and however well-intentioned they inevitably succumb to "mission creep" in order to justify their continued existence and growth. Thus you get a tragedy like the once-noble NAACP gradually morphing into a left-wing hate machine, which in turn drives centrists farther away. I offer as further proof the one area of the right that is least hospitable to centrists, which is of course the Religious Right: the aged institutions of religion. Like their counterparts the Religious About Being Leftist, their self-righteous beliefs are often unshakeable by mere fact. (As a Christian, I am happy to remain basically nondenominational.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Something that's gone relatively unremarked upon is that the past couple year's events in Iraq definitively disprove some of the earlier commonly accepted theses about terrorism -- and moreover, people in the Mideast are realizing that themselves. It's one thing to claim terrorism is religiously justifiable in nature when Islamic Palestinians are blowing up Jewish Israelis, American Christians, or other infidels, but what can they be telling these Iraqi suicide bombers that are deliberately targeting Shia women and children? It might be possible to justify terrorism as the politics of the weak, desperate and hopeless when Palestinians attack the militarily far stronger Israelis, or 19 nationless Islamic radicals attack the world's superpower, but that becomes a bit more problematic when terrorists drive a fuel tanker into a market and incinerate around 100 civilians in an infant Iraqi democracy, allegedly for being "apostate."

It's becoming clearer to everyone that fascism is the terrorists' only true faith, and cult brainwashing their convenient tool.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Another heroic stand for freedom and democracy, this time in Yemen: a Yemeni blogger defies the gov't oppression.
Summary of events: A security guard employed by the Yemeni government took over the PFU (opposition political party) building at gunpoint. Then he took over the building of its newspaper, al-Shoura. The Yemen govt then recognized him, their own gunman, as the new leader of the party.
Nifty way to silence the oppositon, huh?

If you have a blog and can link the above, it would probably help. We should try to get some blogosphere buzz going so maybe the light of some major media attention gets shed on this Orwellian situation.

Friday, July 15, 2005

This looks like very, very good news for everyone (except maybe for the people claiming the Iraq war was creating more terrorism, I guess):
Osama bin Laden's popularity has fallen significantly in some key Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has "declined dramatically," according to a new survey released today...In a striking result, predominantly Muslim populations in a sampling of six North African, Middle East and Asian countries also shared to "a considerable degree" Western nations' concerns about Islamic extremism, the survey found. Many in those Muslim nations see it as threat to their own country, the poll found. "Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam," concluded the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
I can't help but think this must be at least partially a result of the fact that terrorists have killed far more Iraqis struggling to create a free and democratic Iraq than anyone else. That has dramatically exposed the lie that the terrorists have anything remotely like the best interests of Muslims in mind. Before the war, 90% of terrorist acts were against Israel and the West, or at least Western interests.

This poll didn't address it, but I would bet we'll also find support for democratic reform growing, and I'll make another prediction: this trend will continue as Iraq gets on its feet over the next few years, eventually culminating in irresistible pressure for real changes in the tyrannical gov'ts of the region.

UPDATE: I'm way behind the curve on this one (hey, a guy has to work). Of course, I should have realized the 'sphere would be all over this the second it came out, but was so excited I didn't notice it was dated yesterday. John Tabin has an excellent analyis, and so does Ed Morissey. (h/t Glenn)

UPDATE 2: Hit Michael Yon's tipjar if you get a chance. He's doing the kind of real, gritty journalism than the networks and newspapers can't even dream about anymore. A mere Pulitzer isn't even half what he deserves.

Exactly as I predicted yesterday, it is now being reported that Rove got his Plame information from the media.

It will be interesting to see whether my further hypothesis that Judith Miller was the original source also pans out.

UPDATE: As many people noted yesterday, Bush was very conspicuously walking and talking with Rove in front of the cameras. I was pretty sure then that Rove's source must have been the media, but of course I wasn't expecting to be proven right this quickly. Anyway, enough patting myself on the back.

As Glenn noted today, Wilson is now admitting his wife wasn't undercover at the time anyway; scuttlebutt is she was holding interagency briefings and such. So the non-story becomes even less of a story.

Will Atrios and Daily Kos and the rest of the lefty 'sphere lay off anytime soon? I doubt it. This has become their Quest for the Holy Grail. Or at least they thought so; it now looks more like they're pointing their lances toward a windmill.

UPDATE 2: Glenn is kind enough to throw me a link, and says he's less sure now this isn't a "Karl Rove 'rope-a-dope' operation" as some people have claimed. Is Karl Rove deviously ingenious enough to have planned this outcome from the very start? I very much doubt it. But is he smart and opportunistic enough to let the baying hounds continue to chase a false scent they picked up on their own? Certainly. Like RatherGate, this was more a case of just giving Bush critics enough rope to hang themselves with, which they've done quite enthusiastically.

UPDATE 3: Roger Fraley kindly stops by to note this post was mentioned in Slate (my Q number is soaring; I expect to be a guest panelist on Special Report with Brit Hume any day now) by David Wallace-Wells. Just goes to show, everyone reads Instapundit (and for good reason), no matter what insignificant blog (like mine) he links.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Jim Lindgren thinks Rove should be fired, and that if he isn't Bush is violating his promise to deal with anyone who leaked the information. I have to disagree with that.

The most likely explanation is that Rove is Cooper's source, but not the leaker. Rove probably heard about Plame from a reporter, and merely passed the information on to Cooper, another reporter, in making the case that Wilson was lying (which was later confirmed by the Senate report). He should not even have had access to the original information based on his position at the time. Note Rove's phrasing regarding Wilson's wife using the caveat "apparently." That, too, suggests second-hand information.

That is why Bush has not fired him, and will not: passing information gleaned from one reporter on to another reporter is not "leaking." Yesterday on TV, Bush looked almost smug in telling reporters he was confident in Rove; he had a little "I know something you don't" twinkle in his eye. The admin clearly believes they will be vindicated when all the facts come out.

It follows that Judith Miller may actually have received the original information from her source, probably an adminstration-friendly source in the CIA, which is why as an investigative journalist she will go to jail to protect that source. If she doesn't, her career is over; you can't burn a source like that and expect anyone to trust you in the future.


UPDATE: It's also been acknowledged by several reporters that Plame's identity wasn't much of a secret. For Rove not to know what was common knowledge in the press corps would be unusual.

Also, in Novak's follow-up column, he appears to indicate he didn't even know Plame's identity was supposed to be secret. That's pretty indicative that Rove could have (should have, in fact) known her identity from media sources, and committed no wrongdoing whatsoever by passing the information along.

So what do we have now? We have no one charged with any crime, yet, so presumably the person with access to the CIA documents has not been identified. We have Robert Novak, who has probably talked about who his source was, as he is not sitting in jail. That, and the fact Miller is still looking at prison bars, makes it somewhat likely his source is another media type (perhaps even Miller) and not the original source. So, my hypothesis is this: Judith Miller is the original source of the information that Wilson's CIA wife recommended him for the Niger job. She told Novak and Rove, or (more likely) told someone who told them.

Of course, I could be wrong. There's lots of other possibilities. But I think this fits what we know and what we can infer from the behavior of the principals involved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

James Lileks asks "Do people who have cats ever put their faces in the creatures just to smell them? Smell that good cat smell? Is there such a thing?"

I can answer that: yes, yes, and yes. I have two Burmese kitten brothers, and every day when I come home they greet me at the door and I pick them up and nuzzle them (cats have glands along the side of their face that, when rubbed against, release pheromones that relax them, or so claims Cats for Dummies) and take in their kitteny-fresh scent, which they respond to with the exaggerated squint that functions as the feline smile and also a kind of snorting grunt of blissful hello-ness. Like Lileks' dog Jasper, they're also quite expressive in ther vocalizations (esp for cats). Apparently the breed is known for that, and for being unusually engaged and affectionate.

I never thought of myself of a "cat person" (I had a black Lab growing up, and getting these guys was my gf's idea), but they've really won me over. Funny, I thought I was the only person who pre-emptively misses their pets.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Too moving not to link: An account of the surviving SEAL being sheltered and protected by the Afghani locals. (h/t Jeff G)

Ahhh, the Plame Blame Game. It's the hot political story right now, but much of the backstory has been mysteriously missing from media articles.

Been having some fun with the lefties over at Eschaton with this post. Judging from the response, I think it made several of them have a stroke.

Well, this is certainly enlightening.

Based on the e-mail message, Mr. Rove's disclosures are not criminal, said Bruce S. Sanford, a Washington lawyer who helped write the law and submitted a brief on behalf of several news organizations concerning it to the appeals court hearing the case of Mr. Cooper and Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times. Ms. Miller has gone to jail rather than disclose her source.

"It is clear that Karl Rove's conversation with Matt Cooper does not fall into that category" of criminal conduct, Mr. Sanford said. "That's not 'knowing.' It doesn't even come close."There has been some dispute, moreover, about just how secret a secret agent Ms. Wilson was."She had a desk job in Langley," said Ms. Toensing, who also signed the supporting brief in the appeals court, referring to the C.I.A.'s headquarters. "When you want someone in deep cover, they don't go back and forth to Langley."

Let's just review again: Joe Wilson publicly trashes the Bush admin and lies(repeatedly, on TV and in his book) claiming his report on Niger said was not seeking uranium in Africa, and about the fact his CIA desk jockey wife recommended him for the trip. He's the toast of the Dem Party and the liberal media for several months. Karl Rove warns a journalist Wilson is lying. Later, the Senate Intel Cmte confirms Wilson lied, saying in their report on WMD intel that Wilson's wife recommended him and that Wilson's report suggested Iraq was, indeed, seeking to buy uranium in Niger. Bob Novak, not realizing Plame's identity is even supposed to be secret, blabs it in a column. Prosecutors investigate the leak, and find Karl Rove did not name Plame. Numerous journalists admit Plame's identity was pretty well-known in Washington anyway.

So, we're left with one Joe Wilson who lied about national security matters to trash the Bush admin, a Bush admin that didn't lie about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger, and a Karl Rove that didn't break the law.

Amazingly, many in the "reality-based community" responded with claims Wilson wasn't lying and I was delusional for claiming he did. So I culled some stuff from the Senate Intelligence Committee report itself (h/t Powerline).

http://intelligence.senate.gov/iraqreport2.pdf
[The CIA reports officer] said he judge that the most important fact in the Joe Wilson report was that the Nigerien officials admitted that theIraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerian PrimeMinister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting.
(Page 46 of the report, page 56 of the PDF)

Hence, Joe Wilson is a liar of the first order: his research tended (in the CIA's opinion) to confirm the report, yet Wilson claimed to the Post and other news sources that his report had shot down those same reports.

Throughout the time the Niger reports were being disseminated, the[blanked out] CIA Iraq nuclear analyst said he had discussed theissue with his INR colleague [INR is the State Department's Bureauof Intelligence and Research] and was aware that INR disagreed withthe CIA's position. He said they discussed Niger's uranium production rates and whether Niger could have been diverting any yellowcake. He said that he and his INR counterpart essentially "agreed to disagree" about whether Niger could supply Uranium to Iraq. The CIA analyst said he assessed at the time that the intelligence showed both that Iraq may have been trying to procure uranium in Africa and that it was possible Niger could supply it.He said his assessment was bolstered by several other intelligence reports on Iraqi interest in uranium from other countries in Africa.
(Page 47 of the report, page 57 of the PDF file.)

The cryptic comment above is expanded upon in a footnote that same page:
([blanked out]) Several intelligence reports [blanked out] alleged Iraq wanted to purchase uranium from countries in Africa [blankedout] said Iraq had offered the Democratic Republic of the Congo[blanked out]. Two CIA intelligence reports from separate sourcesin March and April 1999 said a delegation of Iraqis, [blanked out]had arrived in Somalia in March to evaluate and discuss [blankedout] uranium from a Somali [blanked out].

Reponses ranged from "troll!" to "Nazi!" to "you suck!", but there was no factual rebuttal from the "reality-based" crowd. So, inspired by their ironic self-appellation, I decided that from this day forward, I would declare myself to be a proud member of the fact-based community.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bad news for catbloggers, which of course is good news for Jeff Goldstein.
Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive
I have 2 Burmese kittens, and the symptoms sound about right (except for that last part).

Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the “sex kitten” effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun-loving and possibly more promiscuous.
Men, I think you know what to do.

NOTE: This site does not endorse or condone the use of cats as devices for seducing women.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Operation Scimitar appears to be going well.
Operation Scimitar started Thursday with targeted raids in the village of
Zaidan, 20 miles southeast of Fallujah. So far, 22 suspected insurgents had been
detained.

Have you noticed things in Iraq seem qualitatively different in the last month or so? It looks like the democratic gov’t is now mostly taking the fight to the insurgents, rather than mostly the other way around. From the pace of operations, commentary fom milblogs and Iraqis, and the way the raids are being handled, I get the impression they actually have far more intel from the populace than they can act on. That strikes me as a very good sign. Once most Sunnis get on board, the insurgency is over and Iraq can be on the way toward the prosperity and freedom that will make it a democratic beacon in the Mideast.

I think the next elections may go a long way toward solving the insurgency. We're hearing a lot of recriminations among Sunnis over not having voted last time. If they vote this time, the effect could be to essentially end the Baathist portion of the insurgency by suborning all the moderate elements into the political process, which will further facilitate the process of capturing/killing the few remaining die-hards.

Most Iraqis just want to get on with their lives, I think. With the incredible rate of economic growth there right now, most people would rather be getting rich than fighting against freedom and democracy.

Dean Esmay notes some encouraging sentiments from the Free Muslim Coalition.

These FMC guys deserve our wholehearted support. I am very moved by their words every time I run across them. They are exactly what the Muslim community needs to put terrorism behind them and promote freedom for Muslims everywhere.

You know, I bet CAIR gets way more money than FMC from the Saudis. That tells you something right there.

There's really no reason why Arabs need to keep living in dictatorial oppression, any more than Eastern Europeans had to. If free and democratic Iraqis can bring their economy up to $10,000 GDP per capita, I think the effect will be like W Germany on the Soviet Union: a concrete example of why freedom is better and a magnet for the best and brightest (remember, people liked W Germany so much better they had to start shooting people to keep them from moving there) except Iraq sits square in the middle of the oppressive states. How long before freedom- and prosperity-craving Iranians and Syrians and Saudis start flocking to New Iraq? I give it five or ten years before the dichotomy becomes as obvious as the Iron Curtain, and another five or ten before regimes start to fall by popular democratic revolt.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Today, we are all Britons. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Are the Saudis running out of oil? Some people seem to think so, and this certainly bolsters their case.

We may see the oil economy drop off substantially in the next couple decades. $20 gas by 2020? Wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I'd be quite surprised if it's still under $5 by then. It won't help the economy; we might even see a global GDP contraction of 10% or more as we undergo a painful transition to other (more expensive) energy sources, until new technology brings power prices down again. I certainly expect to see a LOT more hybrid vehicles out there by 2010.

We won't totally run out of oil in my lifetime because oil fields run down gradually, and at higher prices oil can be extracted economically from places that aren't viable at lower prices, but I think we're going to badly miss cheap oil, at least until fusion power production technologies become commercially workable, and that won't happen until at least 2050 and probably not before 2070.

In the meantime we'd better get those pebble-bed nuke plants up, and look at bumping ethanol up to 20% of domestic gas consumption. This might be one good way to do it.

Condolences and sympathies to our British friends.

I hope they catch the bastards who committed these atrocities and string them up.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Iowahawk outdoes himself.

Some moonbats over at Kos threw a conniption over his last post, and in answer he mauls them with their own (linked) rhetoric using such brilliant irony that I am left in awe.

This is my first attempt at using a trackback post, apparently it worked except that (naturally) I screwed up the title.

Monday, July 04, 2005

This is interesting. I read Guns, Germs and Steel a few years ago, have re-read it a couple times since, and found it very persuasive within certain boundaries (post-hunter-gatherer and pre-state; after that Victor Hanson's theories of how societies evolved make far more sense when all the facts are considered, before that Jared tends to romanticize just how awfully brutal and pointless hunter-gatherer life must have been).

Jared's a great writer and scientist, but he's definitely succumbed to a bit of Luddite madness. What a shame.

Sigh. Two great authors shatter my illusions about them in one week.

(h/t to the indispensable Pixy Misa)

Glenn has a nice column on the 4th, with citation from the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..

I keep a copy of the Declaration on my study wall. Those words never fail to move me no matter how many times I read them. In fact, the more I learn about history, the more moving I find them.

It’s too easy to regard those words as just another part of dusty history, like the date of some medieval battle or the name of a long-dead king rather than the philosophical underpinnings of the incredible freedom and prosperity we enjoy two centuries later. We should strive to recall the magnitude of the gift that the Founders bestowed upon us, their fortunate descendants, in the form of a free America.

Friday, July 01, 2005


More delicious fishes. I think it's really the thrill of the hunt they enjoy. Posted by Picasa

UPDATE: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. On the other hand, they'd probably run away.


I like milk. Unfortunately, the kittens like milk too, and their heads are still small enough to fit inside my glasses. So if I turn my back, this tends to happen. Posted by Picasa

Supreme Court Justice Eugene Volokh.

It just sounds right:

“In a scathing dissent, Justice Volokh today defended the right of individuals to…”

Justice Volokh, known for his strong belief in individual rights, today authored a ruling…”

Well, we can always dream.

Here's an interesting thread in which I manage to annoy the great author Charles Stross, whom I've lauded here on several occasions, with my incessant proselytizing of the freedom-first doctrine with some facts regarding tyranny, oppression, war, and the UN. Some interesting perspectives from both sides posted there. I probably won't be posting there any more. Did I change, or even slightly open, any minds? I doubt it. Nor did I learn anything new about antiwar arguments. Oh well, persuasion is never easy; life goes on.

Something else occured to me this morning, thinking about the WW II opposition by American leftists that ended with the abrogation of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and the 70-year struggle against Communism: Fascist leftism is transnational in a way that fascist rightism is not, simply by their natures. They're both equally evil, but the leftist version is a bit more pernicious because fascist rightism is generally nationalistic, and thus by definition stops at the border, while leftists can aid and comfort each other globally. This is probably one of the biggest reasons why Communism was relatively far more diffcult and costly to defeat.

UPDATE: Well, now I'm very disappointed in Stross. He posted an update, amusingly and ironically claiming I'm not interested in debate while saying he's going to ban me and delete my posts if I don't agree to conditions that appear to essentially boil down to "no more posting facts supporting opinions I don't agree with." Then he claims I "refuse to engage with the fundamental reasons for our dissent." Hmmm. Reading back through my posts, it looks more like engaging the flaws in his fundamental reasons for their dissent is exactly what he finds annoying.

Sigh. He's still a great author; I suppose it was too much to hope for that he would be a reasonable person who could hold a rational, fact-based debate as well. (In Charlie's defense, not many people can these days.) Oh well, we're all just human I guess.

UPDATE 2: Armed Liberal at Winds of Change, in a surprisingly apropos piece, notes a similar phenomenon regarding Brian Leiter.

It's virtually impossible to have dialog, in the traditional sense, with many members of either group, because once you point out that you don't accept the basic premises their worldview is crafted from, you're simply not worth talking to. It's a colloquial version of the Stalinist "if you don't support us, you must be crazy" model. Lately, I'm seeing them coalesce more and more into the Opposition to Bush.

As Glenn would say, indeed.