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Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Sandy Berger mystery, on Fox 


If you're not doing anything at 9 pm EDT tonight, watch the documentary on Sandy Berger on Fox. The first couple of minutes are very hard-hitting. I'll put up anything particularly interesting in an update. (NRO regular Andy McCarthy was interviewed for the show, and reports that it will rebroadcast on Sunday afternoon.)

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to the associated print coverage. Personally, I'm on the edge of my seat to see if Fox will ask the really interesting question: Given Sandy Berger's astonishing admissions, why did the Justice Department cut him such a sweet deal? My own longstanding speculation -- and it is rank speculation -- is that the Bush administration wanted a trial even less than Sandy Berger. But again, why?

UPDATE: Andy himself gets to the question I ask above, or at least the problem: "He ends up getting the sweetheart deal of all time." But he doesn't know why, either. John Ashcroft's Justice Department made a bizarre decision to let Sandy Berger off the hook for a serious crime, and it deliberately kept the 9/11 Commission in the dark about the existence of the investigation. The implications are not simply that Sandy Berger got off the hook. We actually do not know the documents Berger took, and therefore we do not know whether the 9/11 Commission saw everything it needed to see.


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"Super Baby" syndrome 


Bioblog looks at the science behind the German "super baby". If you turn off the protein myostatin you build muscle and bone as if you were drawn in a comic book. Before you run to the lab to cook up a myostatin inhibitor -- perhaps so that you don't have to put up with having sand kicked in your face -- beware: there are reasons why you don't necessarily want the condition.


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Fidel Castro and Big Oil vs. George Bush, Al Gore, and the State of Iowa 


Politics -- and perhaps especially the politics of global warming -- make for strange bedfellows. Fidel Castro has apparently roused himself sufficiently to set himself up as a defender of big oil and an enemy of the Bush administration's biofuels initiative. Yesterday, Stratfor's "Geopolitical Diary" sketched the political dynamic (sub. req.):

A letter signed by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, titled "More Than 3 Billion People in the World Condemned to Premature Death from Hunger and Thirst," circulated in the media Thursday. In his first major statement in months, Castro rejects the use of crops for biofuel production. He says his letter is a response to U.S. President George W. Bush's recent meeting with the "Big Three" automakers -- DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. -- and that he is concerned that their enthusiasm for flexfuel vehicles will have disastrous environmental and food-price consequences for developing countries.

The letter's circulation comes a day after World Bank Vice President for Latin America Pamela Cox offered to participate in Brazil's expansion of sugarcane ethanol production in Africa and elsewhere.

Castro and his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, probably are concerned that the Brazilian-U.S. ethanol initiative, launched during Bush's recent Latin American tour, threatens Venezuela's influence in Central American and Caribbean countries through its subsidized oil Petrocaribe initiative.

Chavez currently offers many countries in the region such favorable oil prices that they might side with him rather than with the United States if diplomatic push comes to shove. But actual economic development is generally preferred to handouts, and if ethanol can create jobs and revenue, these countries might take a neutral stance or favor Brazil and the United States outright. Furthermore, if the United States can significantly decrease oil consumption, it could become less dependent on Venezuela's supply.

Castro's letter, combined with the World Bank's entry into using sugarcane-based ethanol production as a development tool, will prompt significant debate within Latin America, Africa and environmental and development communities about the costs and benefits of expanding ethanol production. The letter is likely to be only the first salvo in a battle for hearts and minds on the issue, and Castro is likely to fund environmental groups that warn of the harmful effects of industrial agriculture.

Perhaps more significant, Castro might have found the perfect topic with which the Latin American left can tap into the regional psyche's deep suspicions about U.S. power, exacerbated by a fear of mercantilist colonial exploitation that is rooted in the region's earliest formative experiences. From the 17th century to the 19th century, Europe's hunger for sugar funded the colonial development of northeast Brazil, much of Central America and the Caribbean, including Cuba. And U.S. demand for ethanol could now provoke a sugar revival in these same areas.

This development, rich in historical overtones, provides plenty of fuel for thought -- and for propaganda. The most definitive characteristic of the sugar plantations was that they were run on African slave labor; far more slaves crossed the Atlantic to grow sugar than to grow cotton and/or tobacco. Farm labor advocates likely will compare the conditions of those days to the conditions of many laborers today. There also are the issues of soil depletion and water use and contamination. Then there is Amazon jungle being cut down to make room for more farmland. Finally, there are the images of Americans driving their sport utility vehicles -- watch for them in political cartoons next to Europeans drinking sugared tea.

To top it all off, Castro warns that U.S. and European demand for ethanol will consume the world's food supply. A slightly more reasonable concern is that it will drive food prices up -- and it will. Already, while more U.S. farmland is used for corn, the price of other grains has risen, driving up meat prices as well. But food prices are abnormally low, and higher prices would be a mixed blessing for developing economies, since they also would entail higher returns on exports. In fact, many of the countries that have been so upset about U.S. agricultural subsidies should welcome the development. Food prices will rise, and as they do, Chavez and other populist leaders in Latin America could take advantage of the situation to appeal to the public's fear that its basic well-being is being compromised.

These and other images will be compared to those presented by the other side, creating an opportunity for many Latin American countries to pull themselves out of crippling poverty; they might not have oil like Venezuela or copper like Chile, but they can grow sugar, and prices are soaring. This has the potential to reinvigorate stagnating rural areas and relieve migrant pressure on urban slums. Technology-sharing arrangements with Brazil and financial and technical assistance from the World Bank, combined with preferential tariff waivers from the United States, all sweeten the deal.

How many of the presidential candidates wandering around the Hawkeye State will take the time to denounce Fidel Castro for his anti-corn demagoguery? Since that bit of campaign hucksterism would pay the dividend of building cred with the Miami Cubans, any candidate who doesn't denounce Castro is missing a bet.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Princeton gives a forum to the pro-lifers and a tip of the hat to Anne-Marie Slaughter 


Here's something you don't see very often on the campuses of major American universities:

A lecture titled "How Abortion Harms Women" is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, in 16 Robertson Hall.

The talk will be delivered by Charmaine Yoest, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, a nonprofit lobbying organization that promotes socially conservative views.

Yoest also is project director of the Family, Gender and Tenure Project at the University of Virginia, a nationwide study focused on parental leave policy. She is the author (with Deborah Shaw Lewis) of "Mother in the Middle" and is working on a new book, "A G.I. Bill for Moms: Mothers, the Market and the American Way."

The talk is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.


Not only is the Woodrow Wilson school sponsoring this lecture, but the University has taken out quarter page ads in the local townie papers promoting the lecture over a picture of a sad young woman (the ad from Wednesday's Town Topics is at right).

Without getting into an argument about abortion -- I believe it should be lawful under many circumstances, although not for the reasons usually offered by its advocates -- Princeton is a better university for sponsoring this lecture and even promoting it. I suspect that much of the credit for the broadly based sponsorship (beyond the conservative James Madison Program) goes to Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. Dean Slaughter is no conservative -- she blogs at TPM Cafe -- but she has on numerous occasions been willing to buck the orthodox left by inviting and graciously introducing speakers to the right of, well, the orthodox left. By my reckoning, there are far too few avowedly left-of-center academic officials who do as much as Dean Slaughter to recruit and promote speakers who are substantially more conservative than they are. Good job.

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"The John Doe Manifesto" 


Note: Earlier this month, six publicity-seeking imams filed a federal lawsuit against US Airways and the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Muslim clerics were removed from their flight last November and questioned for several hours after their suspicious behavior alarmed both passengers and crew members. Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten reported last week that the imams, advised by the grievance-mongers at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also plan to sue "John Does" — innocent bystanders who alerted the authorities about their security concerns. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced legislation to protect John Does who report suspicious behavior from legal liability. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; talk show host Michael Reagan; Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy; and Minnesota lawyer Gerry Nolting have all stepped forward to offer free representation to the imams' targets.

Well, those vigilent "John Does" now have a manifesto, sort of a manifesto for the "army of Davids." Read it all. (For background, dig through these posts at Power Line.)

The court should deny the motion to add these John Does to the lawsuit on grounds of public policy. It is an obvious attempt to intimidate and therefore weaken the vigilence of our citizenry, which is by far our most important defense against the Islamist insurgency. Vigilent airline passengeres should not have to deal with process servers, hire lawyers, or pay any price whatsoever for alerting authorities to the outrageous antics of the "flying imams." Rather, anybody who flies -- regardless of religion or appearance -- owes it to their fellow passengers to do everything possible to put them at ease. A jetliner is no place for demonstrations, manufacturing test cases, or "speaking truth to power." The passengers are "prepackaged hostages," and the device itself is a weapon of enormous destructive power. Disruptive behavior in that envrionment is inherently dangerous. How could it be otherwise?

The flying imams were -- at best -- deliberately provacative, pushing the boundaries of civility in order to provoke a response. That may be legitimate dissent in the public square, but it is totally unacceptable on an aircraft.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Der Spiegel channels Mark Steyn: Germany's double standard 


Der Spiegel has a lengthy article, in English, condemning German judges for "paving the way for a Muslim parallel society." The bit on leniency in honor killing cases is particularly distressing:

Experts say that a disproportionately high percentage of women who flee to women's shelters are Muslim. This sort of domestic violence in the family has even ended in death for more than 45 people in Germany in the last decade. According to an analysis by the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation on the "phenomenon of honor killings" in Germany, woman are often slaughtered in the most gruesome of ways for violating archaic concepts of morality. In many cases an entire family council has ruled on the execution of a rebellious female family member.

In 2005, Hatun Sürücü, a young Berlin woman, was killed because she was "living like a German." In her family's opinion, this was a crime only her death could expiate. Her youngest brother executed her by shooting her several times, point blank, at a Berlin bus stop. But because prosecutors were unable to prove that the family council had planned the act, only the killer himself could be tried for murder and, because he was underage, he was given a reduced sentence. The rest of the family left the courtroom in high spirits, and the father rewarded the convicted boy with a watch.

It is by no means unusual for people put on trial for honor killings in Germany to be convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the end. In 2003 the Frankfurt District Court handed down a mild sentence against a Turkish-born man who had stabbed his German-born wife to death. She had disobeyed him and was even insolent enough to demand a divorce.

The court argued that one could not automatically assume that the man's motives were contemptible. He had, after all, acted "out of an excessive rage and sense of outrage against his wife" -- who he had regularly beaten in the past -- "based on his foreign socio-cultural moral concepts." According to the court's decision, the divorce would have violated "his family and male honor derived from his Anatolian moral concepts."

Read the whole thing, and then think about it with reference to Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It.

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Reductionist quote of the day 


As a one-sentence reduction of American political differences, this is pretty good:

Republicans want to go home to the United States of the 1950s while Democrats want to work there.

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Iran and the Geneva Convention 


Four years ago, Slate's Jack Shafer -- and a host of others -- made a pretty good argument that putting prisoners of war on television violated the Geneva Conventions. The stories arose when Donald Rumsfeld complained that Iraq had violated the Conventions when it put American prisoners on state television for propaganda purposes, and half the world's NGOs used the moment to tag him back for Gitmo (where, among other things, the press had been allowed to photograph the prisoners on parade).

Flash forward to Iran's most recent hostage crisis. The Iranians dressed up one of the British sailors -- Faye Turney -- in Islamic garb, put her on television, and got her to choak out an obviously coerced "apology." Is there any theory under which Iran has not violated the Geneva Convention?

Yes, apparently.


The third Geneva Convention bans subjecting prisoners of war to intimidation, insults or ``public curiosity.'' Because there is no armed conflict between Iran and Britain, the captives would not technically be classified as prisoners of war.

There is, of course, "armed conflict between Iran and Britain," and has been ever since Iran started arming the Shiites in southern Iraq. By any measure, that was an act of war initiating armed conflict against Britain. It is just that Britain has decided that it is in its best interests to pretend that it is not at war with Iran, and that is decidedly true.

This incident would seem to reveal yet another structural shortcoming in the Geneva Conventions. Iran has taken British sailors prisoner, but in the absence of an "armed conflict" is free to humiliate them. Under the logic of the Geneva Convention, Iran's obligations to treat these prisoners lawfully would attach only if Britain attacked Iran, perhaps in retaliation, or otherwise openly declared that a state of "armed conflict" existed between the two countries. It seems perverse that Britain should have to attack Iran in order to trigger the protections of the Geneva Convention for its sailors, but that seems to be the conclusion at the end of The Guardian's reasoning.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Truth matrix: Russian intelligence spots an American build-up against Iran 


Whether true or not, the fact of this news report is interesting:

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."


At this writing, the Western press does not seem to have picked up on this story, so -- and I can't believe I'm writing this -- there is no confirmation from sources that do not habitually make stuff up. Still, it is worth considering the possibilities. What does the truth matrix look like? From my barstool in a Frankfurt hotel -- admittedly, not the best perspective -- the alternatives seem to be:

Any of these scenarios could be true, but some seem less likely than others. The United States has made a great show of force in the Persian Gulf in the last couple of months, reaching a crescendo this week with the largest naval exercise in the region since the invasion of Iraq. With "senior military officials" running around telling network correspondants that the point of the exercise is to "send a message" to the mullahs, it is hard to say that the United States isn't attempting a bluff. That eliminates the third bullet point.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that the United States is preparing an attack just now. The American strategy in Iraq hinges on conciliation between the Sunnis and the Shiites; it is unlikely that an actual attack -- as opposed to intimidation by other means -- would increase the chances of that conciliation. Also, the Bush administration's Iraq policy hangs in the balance in a Democratic Congress that is itching to impose new limitations on presidential war powers. Finally, the UN Security Council has just imposed new sanctions with the support of the United States. Even this White House must know that it has to give those sanctions a reasonable period of time to fail (as they will), or risk the extended outrage of the international chattering classes and other problems (such as the total alienation of the Iranian opposition, our most useful ally over the long run).

My guess, therefore, is that the United States has extended its build-up from sea to land, and that Russian intelligence knows this. Since it is unlikely that Russian intelligence has fallen for the bluff, it leaked the story to achieve geopolitcal advantage. Since it is more likely that the Russians are hoping to embarrass the United States than sustain the credibility of the American bluff, the most probable result is the second scenario under the second bullet: the Russians are using the American build-up against Iran -- which they know to be a bluff -- to create an imagined escalation from which the United States will then have to "back down," and thereby lose prestige.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Release the hounds.


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Knocking around Zurich taking pictures 


I got to Zurich last night around 5, which left me with a couple of hours of daylight. I meandered along the lake taking pictures (slideshow) with my new Canon Powershot S3IS. I'm not much of an expert in these things, but it is definitely the best digital camera I have ever used.



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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Standing up to jihad in the little ways 


I admire this woman. She is speaking up in defense of many people at once.

By the way, had she worn the subject T-shirt in an American courthouse, there would have been no question that the First Amendment protected her right to do so.


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Europeans are different from us... 


So, I'm at the urinal in the men's room of a very nice restaurant in a small, conservative, provincial, German town... [Link.] [Warning: NSFW, but not offensive unless you are always put off by the unclothed female form. Or urinals.]

Decidedly more detail here.


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A dashed off note on Russia and Iran 


We -- and everybody else -- have been puzzling over the new grumpiness between Russia and Iran, including particularly the former country's new interest in containing the mullahs. Bret Stephens has a very interesting and speculative op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal that bears on the subject:

Critics of the Putin government were dismayed last year when the Bush administration agreed to Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, apparently for nothing in return. The Bushehr volte face may be the delayed (and disguised) payoff. Alternatively, Russia may expect that its sudden pliancy on the Iranian file may yield dividends on the things it cares about most, particularly in what it considers its rightful sphere of influence. In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed that may have also served as a trial balloon, the Nixon Center's Dimitri Simes proposes two prospective giveaways: The breakaway Georgian "republics" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Mr. Putin has long regarded as rightfully Russian, and the looming question of Kosovo's independence, to which Russia is vehemently opposed.

Read the whole thing, and remember a point Stephens does not make: the Iranians know their history and have twisted it into a long list of grievances and resentments, some justified, some not. Iranians remember, at some basic level, that nobody has screwed them more over the years than the Russians.

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On living well in the contemplation of death 


As regular readers know, I have declaimed briefly on the question of whether John Edwards should continue his presidential campaign in the face of his wife's resurgent cancer. My view, in a nutshell, is that it is asinine to praise or criticize Edwards for continuing his campaign. People deal with these situations differently, and are as likely to become stronger for them as they are to weaken or break.

That said, read Ezra Klein, who has smart things to say about how Americans deal with sickness.

Via, well, Ezra Klein.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

Porsche tractors: There is no substitute 


In certain circles, a Porsche tractor is about as cool as it gets:





The Porsche Tractor, last manufactured in 1963.

I would imagine that with Porsche's brand cachet it could slap a lawn mower on one of those, charge $20,000, and sell 10,000 a year to wealthy American suburbanites in the hunt for the next idiotic toy.


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The view from my window... 

Believe it or not, this is the mighty River Danube, so narrow here in Tuttlingen that a good center fielder could throw a baseball from bank to bank.


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The ultimate Man Tool 


As previously reported, I'm knocking around Tuttlingen, Germany, the surgical instrument capital of the world. The more than 300 companies in town that make surgical instruments all arose -- in spirit, at least -- from an original business that manufactured blades for the cutting of leather, founded in 1696. Not surprisingly, there is a museum in town dedicated to this ancient industry. Most of the collection would only be interesting to people who grasp the fundamental coolness of surgical instruments, but this pre-cursor of the Swiss army knife, which is not Swiss at all, has universal appeal:



This strikes me as feature creep gone wild. Is this what would happen to the Swiss Army Knife if Microsoft got its hands on it?


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My whereabouts 


Saturday night I flew to Zurich with a final destination of Tuttlingen, Germany. Tuttlingen is the surgical instrument capital of the universe, a town of 35,000 people that is home to around 300 companies, large and small, that design and manufacture high grade surgical instruments. Stories and pictures will follow.

Blogging has been light and will probably remain so for a couple of days, insofar as my hotel -- while quaint and delightful on the right bank of the Danube -- is extremely "local" and does not offer internet access. I have managed to roam my way into a T-Mobile hotspot at exorbitant cost, but do not expect to hear much from me unless I can grab some better bandwidth later in the day.

Tuesday night I'll be back in Zurich, where (presumably) my blogging will return to its former glory.

Meanwhile, read Wretchard (via Glenn Reynolds) on the world's asymmetrical application of the Geneva Conventions.

As currently interpreted the Geneva Conventions only apply to individuals bent on destroying America. Individuals who blow up elementary schools, kidnap children, attack churches and mosques, kill invalids in wheelchairs, plan attacks on skyscrapers in New York, behead journalists, detonate car bombs with children to camouflage their crime, or board jetliners with explosive shoes -- all while wearing mufti or even women's clothing -- these are all considered "freedom fighters" of the most principled kind. They and they alone enjoy the protections of the Geneva Convention. As to Americans like Tucker and Menchaca or Israeli Gilad Shalit -- or these fifteen British sailors for that matter, it is a case of "what Geneva Convention?" We don't need no steenkin' Geneva Convention to try these guys as spies. That's the way the Human Rights racket works. Don't go looking for any Geneva Convention in Somalia, Darfur, Basilan or Iran. Try Guantanamo Bay.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record in this subject, it seems to me that there are two possible reasons that the Western chattering classes -- including huge swaths of the NGO activist class and the international media -- do not hold Iran or any other of these disgusting places to the same standard as the United States. Perhaps they have such an abiding respect for the United States that they are disappointed when they perceive it to have failed to live up to standards that no other similarly situated country in the world has ever sustained. Alternatively, perhaps they have so little regard for Iran, most of the Arab world and virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa that it does not even occur to them to be outraged when these countries announce their violations international law.

Is there a third explanation that explains this double standard (other than, of course, unreconstructed anti-Americanism)?

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rotating the bumper stickers 


Earlier this week Dr. Helen put up a post about bumper stickers and personality that generated more than 300 comments about quirky bumper stickers before the dust settled. As it happened, I had already put in play my latest bumper sticker rotation.

It might surprise you that I, TigerHawk, would put a bumper sticker on my car. After all, I have chosen to blog my rants anonymously, and there is nothing much anonymous about a bumper sticker. However, I also enjoy tweaking the flower and chivalry of the Princeton left. It was for that reason, more than passion for the current president, that I left an oval "W'04" sticker on the back of my car for 28 months after the election. Somebody has to confront the hundreds of cars in town that still announce their support for John Kerry.

Even I, however, have my limits. I was never nearly so much a supporter of George Bush as I was an opponent of his opponents, and I confess to suffering from some of the poor spirits that Peggy Noonan says afflicts Republicans (WSJ sub. req.). It was time to remove the "W" sticker, but what to replace it with?

I hope (most of) you at least appreciate my selection (click to enlarge):



I have high hopes that this one may agitate even more college town lefties than a simple expression of support for our president, even this president. Wish me luck.

Buy one for yourself here.


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The "IRS Mission" 


Something I'm sure you don't know: Mrs. TigerHawk is skilled at dramatic readings from regulatory and legal documents. This morning, while we were plowing through the vast pile of mail that has accumulated since, well, the last time we bothered to dig through it, she uncovered "Publication 1" from the United States Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 1" is titled "Your Rights As A Taxpayer," and it contains a sidebar legend, "The IRS Mission":

Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

Right. That's what I'm looking for from the IRS: top quality service. I can safely say that the IRS has never once helped me "understand and meet" my "tax responsibilities." For that I have always turned to big thick books, TurboTax, or a smart guy named Ross (increasingly Ross).

I, for one, would prefer to get top quality service from, say, the guys who fix our roads, run our schools, spy on our enemies, deliver our mail, manage our socialized trains and evacuate our citizenry. The only reason why we need "top quality service" from the IRS is that we -- meaning those of us who elected the fools in the United States Congress -- have conjured up an impossible system of federal taxation, complex far out of proportion to the corresponding laws and regulations in other rich, highly taxed democracies.

In any case, I think our government -- at all levels and branches -- would do well to reduce the bullshit coefficient of bureaucratic communications. I therefore propose that the IRS adopt the following as its bullshit-free mission statement:
To collect all the taxes required to be paid under the laws and regulations of the United States by any lawful means.

I'm not actually a cynic, which is why I hate the relatively new bureaucratic fad that our government needs to wrap all bad news in nonsense (this horrid trend has bled into business, by the way, for legal rather than political reasons, and it is weakening American pragmatism, perhaps our most important national attribute). I think most Americans -- at least outside of academia -- can handle the truth: We have the IRS because some agency has to collect the taxes necessary to pay for all the other stuff that we apparently want from our government. Its job is a difficult one because our taxes are absurdly complex.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Iran provokes, and yet remains secure 


Iran has grabbed 15 British sailors in Iraqi national waters, thereby commiting a manifest act of war against two countries at once:

Iranian naval vessels on Friday seized 15 British sailors and marines who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters of the Persian Gulf as part of efforts to protect the Iraqi coastline and its oil terminals, U.S. and British officials said.

Of course, neither Britain nor Iraq or any of their allies will actually go to war over this incident, a measure of how profoundly Iranian security has improved in recent years. That improvement is one response to the oft-heard claim that American actions since 2001 have increased Iranian insecurity and therefore its desire for atomic weapons.

The Counterterrorism Blog has many questions.

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End of the Alford Era 

Fanatical Iowa sports fans have been hearing the rumors for the past week that basketball coach Steve Alford was on the verge of taking the job at New Mexico. Alford has been the subject of departure rumors before, most notably the last two times the Indiana job came up, but in other instances as well. This time the rumors were actually true, and it has now been confirmed that the Alford era is over.

The linked article implies that, after 8 years at Iowa, recent events have soured things between Alford and Iowa fans:

Alford's stock with Iowa fans took a hit after the Hawkeyes, a No. 3 seed in last year's NCAA tournament, blew a 17-point second half lead and lost to little Northwestern State. The slide continued this year. Iowa finished 17-14, and coupled with the Hawkeyes' 18-46 Big Ten road record under Alford and 61-67 overall conference mark, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta made it clear he expected a major improvement next year.


In reality, the Alford era has been divisive and controversial for some time. Alford was brought in to replace the popular Tom Davis, who was forced out by Iowa AD Bob Bowlesby in what some considered an inappropriately crude manner. Alford's career at Iowa started with promise, when, in his second year, a young Hawkeye team ran through the Big Ten tournament without their injured star Luke Recker. They won their first round game in the NCAA against Creighton before losing to Kentucky and Tayshaun Prince (in a game attended by me and TH himself, by the way). Hopes were high for 2001-2002 with everyone coming back and a healthy Luke Recker. But then, after a promising start and a high ranking, the Hawkeyes collapsed in Big 10 play, ending the season with a lack luster loss in the first round of the NIT, and earning the label of the most disappointing team in the country.

It got worse for Alford, as the next couple of years saw a rash of defections from high profile recruits and players alike, and there were two seasons when the Hawks limped through Big Ten play with only seven players on the roster. What may have been the defining moment of the Alford era came when star player Pierre Pierce was charged with sexual assault. He was suspended for a year, but seemed otherwise to get by with a slap on the wrist, which was distasteful to many Iowa fans. He returned to lead the Hawkeyes in scoring, but then committed another assault, which landed him in jail. His infamy has garnered himself his own Wiki page describing the incidents.

The 2005-2006 season was a bright spot in the Alford Era, as Iowans Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner lead the Hawkeyes to an undefeated home season and a Big Ten tournament championship. But Horner and Brunner graduated after the bitter defeat to Northwestern State, two others transfered, and the Hawks faced the prospect of several rebuilding years, reopening old wounds. This season the Hawkeyes overachieved, but failed to make post season, with prospects for next year looking no better with the graduation of the Big 10's leading scorer, Adam Haluska.

Given the legacy as a whole, most Hawkeye fans are not disappointed to see Alford go, and many are elated.

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"Fetched" in the obstetrical sense 


So, we - meaning the four of us plus our English au pair - got to telling child birth stories over dinner last night (yes, mammalian reproduction is well within the bounds of decorum in our house, even over food). Our nanny announced that she had been "fetched," which we learned only after inquiry means "induced" in English English. Who knew that? Please tell me I'm not the only one who didn't.


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Elizabeth Edwards 


Two quick points on Thursday's revelation that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned.

First, it is silly to attack or praise John Edwards for his decision to continue his campaign for the presidency. People deal with the shock and challenge of cancer in their family in many different ways, and there is nothing either unusual or suspect about continuing one's life's work in its presence. It is absurd to praise John Edwards for having "courage" -- what choice does he have? -- and it is equally asinine to criticize him for continuing his campaign. So if you're doing either of those things, stop.

Second, I was interested to hear Geraldine Ferraro on Hannity & Colmes this evening. As I understood it, she has a similar condition and is doing quite well with a fairly low stress course of chemotherapy. Ferraro made a point of saying that in recent years enormous progress had been made in the development of drugs to slow the spread of cancer in bone. Assuming that Ferraro is correct about that, one would think that the evil pharmaceutical industry gets the credit. Will the harsh reality of his wife's condition motivate John Edwards to advocate healthcare policies that avoid reducing the rate of return on drug discovery and development?


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

A birthday Frappucino 


Certain girls turn twelve today, so their father took them to Starbucks before school for a caramel Frappucino.




Can life get any better? I submit that it cannot!


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A short note on Princeton basketball 


Princeton's men's basketball team performed so poorly this year that I could not bring myself to go to a single game. True, I've been very busy, but I really just didn't want to see all that blood on the floor. Princeton finished in the basement of the Ivy League, 2-12 in league play and 11-17 overall. It hasn't been this humiliating to be a Princeton alumnus since, well, we hired back Cornel West.

Anyway, Princeton fans have been grumbling about the head coach, Joe Scott. Scott, who is himself an alumnus, had turned around the program at Air Force and came back to Princeton three years ago full of promise. The results have not been pretty. Whether or not he is responsible, the Princeton program has never been as bad as it was last season.

Many alumni wanted Scott fired, but Princeton gives its coaches a lot of rope. So it was with football coach Roger Hughes. After 2005's humiliating and uniquely inept loss to Yale, I called for his scalp. In 2006, though, the Tigers put together a wonderful gridiron finish, including victories against both Yale and Harvard. So I was wrong, and our patient administration was right.

Fortunately, Joe Scott has saved us the trouble of campaigning for his dismissal. He resigned yesterday to take the head coach job at the University of Denver. I wish him well. He was a huge success in Colorado the first time around, and is undoubtedly returning to a more supportive environment than prevails today here in Princeton.

The question is, who will Princeton hire to replace Joe Scott? For that we turn to SportsProf, the premier blog for Ivy League sports. SportsProf speculates that Princeton will turn to my classmate Craig Robinson '83, who is both Brown University's head basketball coach and -- I shit you not -- Barack Obama's brother-in-law. Robinson created a micro ripple in the national political chatter a few weeks ago when he recounted the story of his first meeting with Obama back in the early '90s:

As for his brother-in-law, Robinson still shakes his head when he remembers that initial meeting. "We were talking about a variety of things and he said, 'I'm thinking about running for president one day,' " Robinson said.

"I said, 'President? President of what?' "*

A damned good question, and worthy of the next great coach of Princeton basketball!
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*Yes, back in 1992 Barack Obama was talking to a man he had just met about his intention to run for President of the United States. Good for him. I think it is silly to suppose that anybody with the ambition to run for president only acquired that ambition late in life.

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Brav-Obama 

Eli Lake at the NY Sun observes that Barack Obama repudiated George Soros's commentary -- published in the Financial Times and NY Observer. Follow all the links in Lake's piece to read Soros's opinions and other reactions from other Democratic Party representatives.

In sum, Soros asserted that the Bush administration was wrong ("blundering") not to negotiate with Hamas. He further asserted that the famed AIPAC (the fame "Jewish lobby") was covertly behind the monopoly on American foreign policy opinion on the matter, because both Democrats and Republicans were so heavily "influenced" by AIPAC.

Obama, to his full and everlasting credit, was delighted to disagree with Soros -- claiming that the Bush Administration is doing the right thing by choosing not to engage with Hamas. Other Democratic Party representatives were less clear in the their repudiation of the strategy per se, and instead defended AIPAC and denied an AIPAC conspiracy.

Well, the ironies are manifold. But again, let's recognize and congratulate Obama for a genuine and serious Sister Souljah moment. By openly repudiating the musings of a significant source of political funding to his party, and instead agreeing publicly with the Administration position on the subject, Obama made a very important impression on me. This is either a very serious guy, or at a minimum a very shrewd one.

To the core matter -- why should one elect not to negotiate with Hamas? Trust is at the basis of any negotiation. The entire process of negotiation is predicated upon each party proceeding in good faith. When your negotiating counterparty (or adversary) denies the existence of, and asserts the desire to destroy you and that which you represent, there is simply no basis upon which to negotiate. There is no trust, no good faith. Thus there is no point to a negotiation. Agreeing to negotiate under false pretenses is simply an expression of weakness.

Any US trained business person or lawyer innately understands this because that is one of the foundations of our functioning Anglo Saxon society and culture. George Soros, raised in Hungary and trained in the capital markets, doesn't agree with or understand that premise. His presumption I guess is that everything is always negotiable for everybody, regardless of one's good or bad faith intentions. And it maybe that Arab culture comports more with Soros's understanding than Anglo Saxon culture.

All of which is to say that I think Obama deserves recognition for staking out the right position on the subject, in a fashion which distinguished him from his competitors and distanced him from some of his erstwhile supporters.

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The GOP as the "foreign policy party" and the declining importance of social issues 


Jonah Goldberg spoke last night at the University of Minnesota, and Captain Ed was there to introduce him and live-blog the speech and Q&A. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there about the shifting politics of global warming, but I thought that this insight was the most interesting:

The GOP is turning into the foreign-policy party, and the evangelicals take that very seriously -- apparently seriously enough to deprioritize the social issues on which they normally focus.

I think this is right, and it explains why -- paradoxically -- Rudy Giuliani leads the pack among likely Republican primary voters. Even though Giuliani has no experience in foreign policy, he has emerged as the most articulate Republican -- and possibly the most articulate politician of either party other than Joe Lieberman -- on the strategy behind and conduct of the wider war against Islamic extremism. Many Republicans who care deeply about social issues and ordinarily would oppose Giuliani support him because he says so well what George W. Bush says so poorly. And, unlike virtually all leading Democrats, Giuliani repeatedly explains what ought to be done, instead of incoherently demanding only that something else be done.

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On Atria and Ventricles 

TH calls out the American left by referencing the rather obvious disdain they hold for members of the American military. And while I think it's fair to launch a criticism of the left in this way, accuracy demands a more granular "taxonomy of the left", to quote TH. Some intemperate and off-point responses in the comments section from less than genial leftists prompted me to respond, and TH has asked that I post that. Cool. It's nice when your host compliments your attire. Makes you feel good.

My comment follows:

Let's break the left down into its more granular segments, to be fair. The pacifist left clearly does not support the troops. They think the projection of force is immoral. What troops do is immoral. So whatever fraction of the left is pacifist does not support the troops. Any troops.

Then there is the "capitalist rejectionist" camp. I think of these types as Luddites -- anti globalists, isolationists, antitrade, anti capitalist, socialists, even marxists. This crowd still clings to life, every shred of empirical economic evidence notwithstanding. They wear Che T-shirts. They dig Castro. Or, as Chris Chambers said the other day, they dig Chavez. This crowd thinks they are really smart, but in actual fact, they are as dumb as hammers. Debating them is almost hilarious because they don't see (or hear) their own dissonance. They are hard to deal with, because they are invariably passionate, just ignorant and wrong. They are permanently 16 years old, worried about a draft that doesn't exist.

This faction of the left definitely does not support the troops. It doesn't support America, and its projection of force, ever. It equates that with "imperialism" -- now there's an out of date term.

Those two (is it only two?) crowds alone account for a not insubstantial percentage of the American left. They detest the troops, would undermine them at every turn, hate what they stand for, etc. etc. If they say they support the troops, it is a fiction. Pure tactical lying. Horse manure.

Then there is the mainstream left. They are pro-capitalist. But they believe in a broad social welfare net. They do subscribe to the notion that, while imperfect, America is the greatest nation on Earth. In the main, they believe -- wrongly I think -- that the Iraq War was a tactical error in the execution of our Middle East policy. Having said that, they appreciate and value the American military. They no longer bother much with the Iraq war debate. It's over. The war has for the most part been fought. They just can't stand Bush, and hang on to the Iraq war argument just to score political points -- like the stupidity going on in Congress on non-binding resolutions and the like. They vote for Petraeus, give him the money and troops he needs, and then whine about Bush, making his life miserable.

And then there are those few left-leaners who actively support the effort - Lieberman, Nelson-types. Not too many of those. I saw the Governor of Arizona just joined that crowd too. Good for her. They don't hate Bush. They stand by certain principles. They love the troops.

And therein lies the political dilemma faced by Democratic politicians. they are, for the most part, in the latter two camps. But they have to cater to the first two camps.

Bombs away....

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O'Quiz!!! 


Your weekly dose of obscure, bizarre and quirkily right-wing news trivia is now up. Apparently I'm not reading the right blogs, because I sucked even more than usual. I scored a 4, which for (I believe) the first time puts me below the average score.

Obviously, I have to study more.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So, you coach Pakistan's national cricket team... Part II 


Yesterday we passed on the news that Bob Woolmer, the coach of Pakistan's national cricket team, mysteriously died in his hotel room in Jamaica (where his team had lost to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day) just as angry mobs back in Pakistan chanted "death to Woolmer." Since we had nothing else to go on, our working theory was that Allah had more powerful mojo than St. Patrick.

Now it appears that human agency may have played a role.

CWCID: Regular commenter "Howard in Boston."


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The beating heart of the anti-war left 


Every now and then, the activists among the anti-war left open the kimono a bit too far.

Somebody needs to tell these guys to crank up the message control. Pretty soon, people are going to get the idea that the left is disingenuous when it claims to "support the troops."


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Guess the criminal's name! 


So, a man spins into a fit of rage and rips out his wife's eyeballs. She had the temerity, apparently, to ask for a divorce.

Consider the crime, and guess the bastard's first name. And, no, it's not Jack.

Answer here.

MORE: Regular commenter DEC has implicitly argued that this post is unfair. Filled as I am with the milk of human kindness, on extended reflection I think he's right. The criminal husband was not necessarily acting in accordance with some perverted version of ideological or cultural norms implied or suggested by his name. He might have just been a dirtbag.


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Cathy Seipp is dying 


Cathy Seipp, a blogger and journalist known and adored widely in the blogosphere, especially on the right, is losing her battle with cancer. I was not one of Cathy's regular readers, and in all honesty cannot remember ever linking to her. I did have lunch with her once, though. I sat next to her at the Pajamas Media kickoff event in New York in November 2005, and remember her smile. It is a great shame that the world will never see another one.

Wretchard, not surprisingly, finds the words.


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Driving in New Jersey just got a tad more dangerous 


Just two weeks after his 16th birthday, there's another teenager on the road in the Garden State:


Actually, if every teenager were as cautious as this guy, car insurance would be cheaper all around. But wish us luck anyway!


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The political value of a specific date for retreat from Iraq 


Peter Wehner considers "Iraq, Democrats, and the Return of McGovernism," via Glenn Reynolds, who linked with the caption "because it worked so well for them the first time." Wehner asks, rhetorically,

General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq who was confirmed by the Senate without a single vote in opposition, is one of America's great military minds and one of America's great military commanders. Why oh why, then, are so many Democrats spending so much of their time and creative energy in an effort to undermine General Petraeus's new strategy instead of supporting it?

Wehner is deputy assistant to the President and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives, so it is safe to say that he has a political ax to grind. He is too smooth, however, to say directly what everybody knows: the Democrats are desperate for a specific determination that the United States will withdraw from Iraq before Hillary's deadline of March 31, 2008 so that they do not have to expose the divisions in their own party over Iraq during their primary season, campaign on it in the general election, or become accountable for Iraq after January 20, 2009. They will have to do all of those things if a decision to withdraw is not taken or imposed by the end of 2007, and it terrifies them.

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Russia squeezes Iran 


As annoying as Russia has been in the last couple of years, I never took much stock in the idea that it would ever gain a real foothold in Iran. The Iranians have a detailed, if distorted, command of their own history. If there is one power in the world that they have more reason to mistrust than the United States and Britain, it is Russia (remember that the Iranian hostage-takers briefly debated grabbing the Soviet embassy rather than the American in 1979 -- imagine how different the world would be today if they had). In that regard, we have occasionally reported on the accounting dispute that has stood between Iran and a completed heavy-water reactor. Apparently the Islamo-Commie divide on fiscal matters has been particularly difficult to bridge.

Now Russia has abandoned even the breach-of-contract pretense and is squeezing Iran overtly.

Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials said.

The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor Ivanov, Russia’s Security Council Secretary, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was involved.

Since I'm in a political rather than geopolitical mood today, is this not a significant diplomatic coup for the supposedly incompetant Bush administration? After all, as the New York Times points out, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear reactor "for years."

The White House, I'm sure, awaits with bated breath the forthcoming heaps of praise from the mainstream media.

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Abraham Lincoln vs. Dan Rather: The metaphor cage match 


Between the greatest president in American history and the goofiest network anchor of the last century, who had the most colorful turn of phrase?

And, yes, I appreciate that many of my readers will consider even this comparison to be invidious.


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"Super-Duper" Tuesday strategery 


Other than to mock John Kerry and Al Gore, I don't write much about politics because political analysis is not my strong suit. I do, however, have a couple of observations about the structure of next year's presidential primary season.

As any blog reader knows, there are now a large number of populous states that have moved their presidential primary from traditional dates in the spring to February 5, 2008, hot on the heels of Iowa and New Hampshire. This graphic from Sunday's New York Times makes the point rather, er, graphically (click to enlarge and clarify). Not only is "Super Tuesday" a month earlier in 2008 (February 5 compared to March 2, 2004), but there are many more states stuffed into it. In the map on the right, the colored states have either moved their primary to February 5, or are probably going to do so.




This obviously poses a huge strategic challenge to the candidates, and puts enormous pressure on the decision to spend a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire. In the past an underfunded candidate could meet everybody in those two states. If he pulled off an upset the Big Mo would shift in his favor and the money would pour in quickly enough to be useful in the big states where politics is more about the media buy than the kissing of babies. Now, the dark horse who wins or places in Iowa or New Hampshire may not be able to raise and spend money fast enough to turn the corner in the big states by February 5. Only a huge surge of rapturous coverage from the mainstream media will be able to change the dynamic in the few days before Super Duper Tuesday.

What are the probable consequences of all of this?

First, the new schedule clearly favors candidates who have already raised a lot of money, or can raise a lot of money in the next few months. They will then be able to have their cake and eat it too, for they will spend their money on advertising in California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, and still meet just about every voter in Iowa and New Hampshire. This dynamic goes a long way to explaining why Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been going at it hammer and tongs over Hollywood dollars.

Second, the door may have opened to a "Bloomberg" candidacy from some billionaire out to change the world. If early money in huge quantities is the key to victory on February 5 and therefore the ticket to the nomination, it is at least conceivable that somebody with a spare $500 million could jump in relatively late and grab enough delegates to win or at least broker a deal. The Wall Street Journal suggested this possibility in an editorial($) this morning.

Third, the mainstream media and, perhaps, influential bloggers will have a narrow opportunity to recharacterize the race between Iowa/New Hampshire and Super Duper Tuesday. Any victorious dark horse will depend almost totally on publicity from newspapers and television news, and the big spenders who bet on Super Duper Tuesday will be doing everything they can to interdict that publicity. If you enjoy politics as blood sport, the period between January 14 (Iowa) and February 5, 2008 will feature bread and circuses enough for a generation.

What will the media do during these fateful 22 days? In the main, they will try to create a dynamic that will build the most audience for the longest time. That leads me to the next point, an observation of my step-father (and, I am sure, many others).

Fourth, what if the race in one or both parties remains confusing after Super Duper Tuesday? One of the reasons for front-end loading the primary season is that the party elites believe they are served best in the general election if they can determine a presumptive nominee early. That ends the intramural bickering, which tends to drive candidates to say extreme things that then bite them in the general election. If the bickering ends on February 5, the presumptive nominee can play to the center with a unified message for nine months. With the luxury of that time, even Barack Obama could sound like, oh, Gerald Ford by the general election.

But what if one or both parties emerges from February 5 with no clear winner? With few large states left, the rest of the primary season could turn into a vicious state-by-state war of attrition. The media would love it, but I fear for the impact on American governance and civility. Between posturing in the Congress, idiotic campaign pledges to very parochial constituencies, and secret deals to pool delegates, the only winners will be certain single-issue voters and activists. That will be a shame.

Fifth, if one party determines a presumptive nominee on February 5 and the other does not, the party that unifies first will have a huge advantage in the general election. The other party's intramural bloodbath will exhaust campaign staffs, drain the donor base, demotivate losing activists, embitter rivals, and generate enough idiotic public statements and mini-scandals to fuel endless opposition advertising during the general election campaign. Indeed, the fractured party's eventual nominee may have to cut so many deals with activists that he or she will never be able to move to the center.

Sixth, if the dream scenario of each party is to be the only party to choose a presumptive nominee on February 5, then we should expect enormous top-down pressure to force weaker candidates out of the race even before Iowa. We should also expect legislative and other initiatives that are calculated to expose rifts in the other party before February 5. Read the news from now on with that thought in mind. Your friends will think you are a cynic, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing what is going on.

The last question, then, is whether this structure favors Republicans, in general, or Democrats. My own opinion is that it will favor Republicans for one very simple reason: the base of the Republican party has far fewer single-issue activists in it than the Democratic party, which has for some time struggled to balance between labor unions, "civil rights" groups, environmentalists, anti-globalists, and doves and hawks, trial lawyers and Silicon Valley liberals. Each of these groups pressures Democratic candidates to "move to the center" on the issue favored by some other group. Republicans have far fewer professional activists in their base, and therefore a much easier time developing a unified position. That has not always been true and will not be true forever, but I think it will remain true in 2008.

Whatever happens, it is not hard to wonder whether the current system is serving the country. In all likelihood, both parties are going to nominate candidates on the basis of their respective abilities to plan and execute on a multi-state victory on a single day next February. Is there any meaningful relationship between that skill and subsequent effectiveness as president of the United States? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Your lucid, constructive, interesting comments are, as always, more than appreciated, whether from the left or right.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

So, you coach Pakistan's national cricket team... 


Suppose you coach Pakistan's national cricket team. Your name is Bob Woolmer. Your team loses to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. Angry mobs of Pakistanis chant "death to Bob Woolmer" (which, when you think about it, should come as no surprise).

Then you die. The same fracking day.

Allah, He works in mysterious ways.

Via Rezwanul, your source for Bangladeshi bloggy goodness.


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Headline of the day 


Drudge has a great headline up (captured at Free Republic):

"Helen Thomas remains front row at White House briefing room"

Under the circumstances, it is nice to honor her in this way. I just didn't know she was dead.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

France to Israel: On to Damascus! 


In the category of "man bites dog," the Jerusalem Post is reporting that France encouraged Israel to attack Syria during last summer's Hezbollah war.

French President Jacques Chirac told Israel at the start of the war in Lebanon that France would support an Israeli assault on Syria, it was reported on Sunday.

Army Radio reported that in the message, which was delivered by Chirac to Israel via a secret channel, the French president suggested that Israel invade Damascus and topple the regime of Bashar Assad. In exchange, Chirac assured Israel full French support for the war.

According to the message delivered from Paris, Syria was responsible for the flare up in the North and encouraged Hizbullah to attack.

I admit, I love sneaky stuff like this.

Regular readers know that I am not nearly as Francophobic as, well, my co-bloggers. While I, too, can get intensely annoyed at the French in matters of foreign policy, France's aspirations to influence and undiluted commitment to self-interest can work to the advantage of the good guys in the beating up of the bad guys. Suffice it to say that Chirac apparently made a phone call to Israel that George W. Bush could not afford to make. Did Chirac do it at Bush's explicit request or implicit suggestion, or entirely on his own initiative?

Discuss in the comments.

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What is courage? 


There is an almost certainly apocryphal exam story that floated around Princeton in my day. Supposedly, a philosophy exam asked the question, "what is courage?" Legend has it that the only A+ in the class went to a student who wrote two words in his blue book -- "This is" -- and handed it in.

May I humbly suggest that putting this bumper sticker on your car and driving it around any American college town might also qualify? I ordered it and agree with it, but it remains to be seen whether I have the social courage to parade it in front of the very sensitive gentry of Princeton, New Jersey.

Via Glenn.

MORE: This one is pretty good, too.


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The Gathering of Eagles 



Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, and demonstrators took to the streets of Washington. The delightful photograph at right is from Michelle Malkin's photostream (and hoping that she does not object!). Presumably, that picture is neither representative of the group as a whole -- I imagine that conspiracy theorists are a relatively small percentage of the total "anti-war" activist base -- nor misleading. It is one version of the left's viscious and, yes, unpatriotic smear that the Bush administration launched this war for nefarious reasons, a view that is substantially more mainstream than the specific idea that "9/11 was an inside job."

However, as Glenn Reynolds wrote last night, "it is not 1968." The Washington Post reported that there were thousands of counter-demonstrators:

Several thousand vets, some of whom came by bus from New Jersey, car caravans from California or flights from Seattle or Michigan, lined the route from the bridge and down 23rd Street, waving signs such as "War There Or War Here." Their lines snaked around the corner and down several blocks of Constitution Avenue in what organizers called the largest gathering of pro-administration counter-demonstrators since the war began four years ago.

The vets turned both sides of Constitution into a bitter, charged gantlet for the war protesters. "Jihadists!" some vets screamed. "You're brain-dead!" Others chanted, "Workers World traitors must hang!" -- a reference to the Communist newspaper. Some broke into "The Star-Spangled Banner" as war protesters sought to hand out pamphlets.

"Bunch of hooligans in motorcycle jackets!" one war protester shot back.

"Hooligans in motorcycle jackets"? That guy has to work on his repartee.

Some of the images from the Gathering of Eagles -- which, strictly speaking, should have been a "Convocation of Eagles" -- are quite moving. Michelle Malkin has extensive first-hand coverage and a round-up of links, and you owe it to yourself to dig through her post. Also, check out the first hand account, with photos you won't see in the New York Times, at Gates of Vienna. I wish I could have been there, but my presence was required elsewhere.




Finally, there was something about this picture that I found terribly evocative. The official caption reveals a great deal in its simple recitation of facts:

Peggy Milliman, whose husband is a Marine, on wheelchair, and friend Deb Stevenson, an Iraqi war veteran, back, goes through a security check to enter the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as anti-war protestors gather nearby to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, Saturday, March 17, 2007 in Washington. Both Miliman and Stevenson support the war in Iraq.

Compare what these women have done and will do to the conspiracy theorists who paraded against them. What have they done for their country?

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

The paradox of Iraqi optimism 


The Times of London has written a short article about a poll taken of Iraqis. A couple of its findings are quite interesting:

MOST Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a British opinion poll published today.

The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.

One in four Iraqis has had a family member murdered, says the poll by Opinion Research Business. In Baghdad, the capital, one in four has had a relative kidnapped and one in three said members of their family had fled abroad. But when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam, the dictator who was executed last December, or under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, most replied that things were better for them today.

Only 27% think there is a civil war in Iraq, compared with 61% who do not, according to the survey carried out last month.

By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.

Commentary

Iraqis seem to believe both that the "surge" is working and that security will improve still further after a withdrawal of the foreign armies. Opponents of the Bush administration will either discount this result or argue that it is reason enough to withdraw immediately. Iraqis, however, essentially believe the possibilities for the Petraeus plan -- we provide temporary security with the objective of creating the space necessary for the government and army of Iraq to stand without assistance, after which we substantially withdraw.

The survey also makes much of the idea that Iraqis, who have suffered enormously in the last four years, nevertheless prefer current conditions to life under Saddam. The Times article does not say whether this preference extends across confessional lines -- I guess that it does not -- but the result is interesting nonetheless. Not only does it suggest a fundamental optimism among Iraqis -- and optimism is an essential precondition to the establishment of a new form of government in Iraq -- but it reminds us how truly horrible life under Saddam must have been. It is quite extraordinary that one quarter of all Iraqis have had a family member murdered since the toppling of the Ba'athists and still they do not hanker for the way it was.

MORE: Wretchard elaborates:
It is interesting to speculate on where the Coalition presence fits into the picture. The coalition is obviously necessary to "disarm all militias", but its eventual departure is also desired. This squares with what I've frequently heard in round-table blogger discussions with officers in Iraq that nearly every Iraqi wants the US to leave, but very few of them want America to leave immediately.

What the poll amounts to is a snapshot of what the Iraqi public thinks the trajectory should be. It implies that they desire a post-Saddam world free of certain influences which they are now struggling against; that the US has a role in helping them reach that state after which they devoutly wish it would leave. But as to what the future state is the poll gives precious little indication. All we can surmise that it is a fundamentally national state without militias, but the poll as reported lets us see no further. And neither perhaps can anyone else.

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Iran: Hegemon or weaking? 


Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has put together a slideshow (pdf) with lots of data about Iran's conventional and unconventional military capabilities, and the risks that each pose. There's a factoid or a bullet point in there for just about every perspective.


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The Joe Wilson timeline 


For those of you who remain confused about the character of the Wilson-Plames, this link-rich timeline makes it clear precisely who and what they are. Read it carefully.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

MORE: For dessert, read Andy McCarthy's Corner post on the bizarre hypocrisy of our nation's leading media organizations, which have contrived both to argue in federal court that Valerie Plame was not covert and to report that she was. My question: Were these newspapers misleading the judge, or their readers and viewers?


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Tiger picture of the day! 


Link.


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Keeping up with the Geffens: Is ostentatious wealth more left wing? 

Here in Hollywood, where glitz is treated as a tangible asset, alliances, friendships and family ties are being tested as local bigwigs scramble to burnish their credentials as political power brokers. Amid a fund-raising frenzy, producers, billionaires and activists are elbowing each other to recruit donors -- sometimes on behalf of the same candidate. The race here has its own version of a debate over housing: Who has the better mansion? (Link$)

This paragraph invites a question for those of you worried about inequality of outcomes in American society. Are you troubled by the concentration of wealth per se, or by its deployment toward ostentatious display? If rich Americans everywhere lived modestly among the middle class and used their wealth generally to create more opportunities for themselves and others, would inequality of income or wealth recede as a problem in your mind, or is it the fact of the inequality that drives your belief that government should redistribute wealth more aggressively?

To the extent that the problem of concentrated wealth is in the social barriers that it erects, is it ironic or predictable that the celebrity class, which lives far more ostentatiously and erects much higher social barriers than the executive class, is well to the left of the average American? Is it ironic or predictable that small businessmen, who are almost always the wealthiest people in the typical American town outside of the big metropolitan areas and who rarely live ostentatiously, are the most right wing rich people in America?

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday morning debate topic 


This single sentence, from Claire Berlinski's outstanding Menace In Europe, contains much to argue about.

When in doubt about the proper orientation of your moral compass, point it away from the people who want to behead you.

Discuss, particularly with reference to the next sentence:
If al Qaeda is disturbed by the presence of British troops in Iraq, this is a sign that the troops are where they should be.

Let me add that there are at least two levels on which one might take issue with both statements -- the general, and with regard to the actual facts on the ground.

Release the hounds.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Captionology: Give feedback to Glenn Reynolds! 


Regular Instapundit readers know that Glenn Reynolds is at a secure, undisclosed location, and that he has handed the megaphone to Ann Althouse, Tom Maguire, Megan McArdle and Michael Totten. Tom Maguire -- who is well known to have an impish sense of humor, at least in the blogosphere -- has refused to confine himself to the traditional Instapundit posting format. Rather than beginning each post WITH CAPITAL LETTERS, IN the usual Reynolds style, Maguire has introduced his posts with mixed case bold. While refreshing (not to mention impish), Maguire's departure from protocol has obviously disrupted the wa of the blog. It is as if Maguire scattered black stones all over a carefully raked Buddhist rock garden. See for yourself (click to enlarge):



I, for one, believe that it is important for Glenn Reynolds to know whether his readers support Maguire's header apostasy, or prefer that he cling to the INSTAPUNDIT TRADITION. Herewith, a scientific poll designed to address this very question:


Which Instapundit header format do you prefer?
ALL CAPS. I want all my Instapundit guest-bloggers to march in a goose-stepping parade.
I like variety, and, accordingly, support the Maguire apostasy.
We like pictures of Michael Totten in exotic places, but we really want to see Megan.
When's Glenn COMING BACK?
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


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Michael Oxley makes a good career move 


Last week, we and many others reported that Michael Oxley, one of the co-sponsors of the famous and infamous Sarbanes-Oxley law, recanted.

Presiding over a recent dinner in Paris for more than 200 accountants, Oxley — the former Republican congressman from Ohio and co-author of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law — was asked during the question period whether he realized he had helped create one of the most crushing financial burdens ever imposed on business.

Was Oxley aware, his questioners asked, that the law that he and Senator Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, rushed onto the books five years ago after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom had contributed to a sharp decline in listings on U.S. stock exchanges? And, knowing what he knows now about the cost and effects of the law, would Oxley — who retired in January after 25 years in Congress — have done it any differently?

"Absolutely," Oxley answered. "Frankly, I would have written it differently, and he would have written it differently," he added, referring to Sarbanes. "But it was not normal times." [. . .]

Whether or not Oxley is sincere in his recantation, we now understand the timing of it.

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The United States and Iran: Negotiating in multiple idioms 


Jules Crittenden excerpts and analyzes a Stratfor report on the on-going verbal and non-verbal negotiations between the United States and Iran. I had wished to do the same, but am too darn busy today. Tidbit:

The Iranians are also under pressure. They have miscalculated on what Bush would do: They expected military drawdown, and instead they got the surge. This has conjured up memories of the miscalculation on what the 1979 hostage crisis would bring: The revolutionaries had bet on a U.S. capitulation, but in the long run they got an Iraqi invasion and Ronald Reagan.

Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani already has warned the Iranians not to underestimate the United States, saying it is a “wounded tiger” and therefore much more dangerous than otherwise. In addition, the Iranians know some important things.

… Uncontrolled chaos next door could spill over into Iran in numerous ways — separatist sentiments among the Kurds, the potential return of a Sunni government if the Shia are too fractured to govern, and so forth. A certain level of security in Iraq is fundamental to Iran’s national interests.

… there are concerns that Iraq’s Shia are so fractious that they might not be serviceable as a coherent vehicle for Iranian power.

… Finally, Iran’s ability to threaten terror strikes against U.S. interests depends to a great extent on Hezbollah … far more interested in the power and wealth to be found in Lebanon than in some global — and potentially catastrophic — war against the United States. The Iranian leadership has seen al Qaeda’s leaders being hunted and hiding in Pakistan, and they have little stomach for that. In short, Iranian leaders might not have all the options they would like to pretend they have …

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The violence veto and censoring the history of Islamic anti-Semitism 


I have written many times of the "violence veto," the means by which nasty pressure groups interdict otherwise lawful speech by threatening life and limb. Now it seems to have silenced an academic talk at the University of Leeds on the history of Islamic anti-Semitism:

Matthias Köntzel arrived at the university yesterday morning to begin a three-day programme of lectures and seminars, but was told that it had been called off on “security grounds”.

Dr Köntzel, a political scientist who has lectured around the world on the antiSemitic ideology of Islamist groups, told The Times there were concerns that he would be attacked. He said that he was “outraged” that his meetings had been cancelled and had yet to receive an explanation.

The university, which acted after complaints from Muslim students, denied that it was interfering with the academic freedom of Dr Köntzel, and said that proper arrangements for stewarding the meeting had not been made.

The lecture, entitled “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic antiSemitism in the Middle East”, was organised by the university’s German department and publicised three weeks ago. A large attendance had been expected.

Commentary

Permit me to repeat myself:
The right of freedom of speech -- as I tirelessly and tiresomely remind my readers at every opportunity -- is only relevant for people who say unpopular or controversial things. If speech is sufficiently unpopular or controversial, people may threaten violence with the goal of coercing the speaker into withdrawing the speech or suspending its publication and intimidating future speakers from saying the controversial thing in the first place. Actual or threatened violence is the method that mobs of ignorant or unthinking people use to confront ideas that they do not like, because they are incapable of suffering the idea to exist and lack the capacity to argue against it. The mob does not accept freedom of speech, and seeks to destroy it. The only way to stand for freedom of speech, therefore, is to stand up to the mob and its violence. If we do not do that, we give violent people a veto over our speech, and we therefore have no freedom of speech. None that matters, anyway.

My father said it better than I in April 1971. The University of Iowa -- where my father was professor of history -- had promulgated a draft "statement of professional ethics" which asserted that a “professor’s first priority should be to do all in his power to prevent death and injuries due to violence” during periods of high tension on campus (April 1971 being just such a time). My father objected rather pointedly in a letter to the University:
When conditions on campus are abnormal, the threat usually involves a demand for scapegoats, as some tried to make ROTC a scapegoat for last year’s Cambodian intervention. It is at these crucial moments that the first obligation of faculty members must be to act rationally and to stand firmly behind any member of the community whose rights are threatened. Standing firm is a difficult matter, since capitulation often appears to be the only way of averting violence. Nevertheless, every time we sacrifice somebody else’s rights in the hope of avoiding bloodshed we are guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct and make our own rights less secure and less respected.

So, under what circumstances, if any, should a university cancel a scheduled lecture because students or other constituents threaten disruption or violence?

(11) Comments

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