Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sailing canoe 

This afternoon, north of Tupper Lake, New York:

Sailing Canoe

The clouds up here so often look as though they have been painted on the sky.

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The Glasgow attack 

Newshounds know that a couple of the enemy drove a flaming Jeep Cherokee into a terminal at Glasgow's airport. I'm not up to speed, but Andy McCarthy has the latest notes from the just-completed press conference. Since you all undoubtedly know much more about the attack than I do -- me having been walking in the woods and drinking beer all afternoon -- please put your observations in the comments.

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My whereabouts 

This year, we are spending our week in the Adirondacks now, rather than in August. I took the picture below last year, but this is, legitimately, the view from my window.

Adirondack light

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Friday, June 29, 2007

From the archives: Yosemite, two years ago today 

Two years ago, we spent a delightful couple of days in Yosemite National Park. If you have been there you know it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you haven't, then you must go.

Click on the pictures to get a larger version.

TigerHawk family approaching Yosemite valley

Looking into Yosemite, morning of June 29, 2005

Yosemite Valley, June 2005

Yosemite Valley floor, June 29, 2005

Yosemite Valley floor, June 29, 2005

Half Dome

Yosemite Valley, June 29, 2005


The family, Yosemite 2005

What a place.

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Catch and release 

Bullet dodged:

British police have a "crystal clear" picture of the man who drove the bomb-rigged silver Mercedes outside a London nightclub, and officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com he bears "a close resemblance" to a man arrested by police in connection with another bomb plot but released for lack of evidence.

Hmmm. Seems as though the early speculations that the Irish were behind this attempted mass murder were not well-founded.

The question is, if this actually is the fellow who planted last night's car bomb and if he had been successful, what would the revelation of his earlier release have done to the debate about criminal procedural rights in the United Kingdom?

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Interdiction in London 

By now you know that the British stopped a car bomb full of nails from blowing up a huge nightclub celebrating "Sugar 'n' Spice," a ladies night "run by women, for women." That's the jihadis for you -- blowing up young women for having the temerity to dance.

Anyway, Expat Yank lives in London and has lots of coverage, as does Pajamas Media.

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The eagles return 

In what is undoubtedly a harbinger of America's future, the bald eagle is back. From only 417 breeding pairs in 1967 to more than 10,000 today, the resurgent eagle has come to terms with suburban life and learned to live in the company of humans.

Three summers ago, one of those new breeding pairs produced a couple of offspring in a tree near our camp in the Adirondacks. I snapped this picture of one of the young, and it has been my "wallpaper" ever since:

Young un

Theo Spark, a pro-American Brit if there ever was one, has his own don't-miss bald eagle photo. Unless, of course, you're a jihadi.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Indicating patriotism 

Under the headling "U.S. Patriotism Flagging," LiveScience reports that fewer Americans are showing their national colors than five years ago:

A new survey finds 62 percent of Americans display the flag at home, in the office, or on their car. That's down from 75 percent in August 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks.

Further, those who say they are "very patriotic" slipped from 56 percent in 2003 to 49 percent this year. Interestingly, the number of "very patriotic" Republicans dropped from 71 to 61 percent, while the change for Democrats was significantly less...

The percentage of groups who say they display the flag, according to the Pew survey:

Whites: 67 percent
African Americans: 41 percent
Republicans: 73 percent
Democrats: 55 percent...

Bizarrely, the survey did not ask retired British pop divas whether they displayed the Stars and Stripes, when quite obviously they do:

So we know the survey's sample was messed up.

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From the archives: One year ago today 

Don't worry, in a couple of days we will have lapped our trip to China and the "from the archives" series will either come to a natural and welcome conclusion or move on to other subjects.

'Till then, the Forbidden City.

TigerHawk Teenager, contemplating the Forbidden City

Rooftops, Forbidden City

Rooftops, Forbidden City

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Rage Boy" is everywhere 

Islamic "Rage Boy" is everywhere, a "craze that is sweeping the nation."

We have been writing for a long time about Islam's "violence veto," so there was simply no way that we weren't going to join the "Rage Boy" fun.

Now, some of you will think that I am a bad person for taking joy in the rage of others, but that is not what I am doing. I am taking joy in the mocking of the idea implicit in violent Islamist demonstrations -- that the intensity of their rage can somehow invalidate as unjust ideas expressed or actions lawfully taken elsewhere. In fact, Rage Boy's hurt feelings or rage or threat of retaliation or actual arson can have no bearing on the justice of my ideas or lawful actions -- they are just or not just regardless of his feelings, which in any case are comically prone to injury:

We are incessantly told that the removal of the Saddam Hussein despotism has inflamed the world's Muslims against us and made Iraq hospitable to terrorism, for all the world as if Baathism had not been pumping out jihadist rhetoric for the past decade (as it still does from Damascus, allied to Tehran). But how are we to know what will incite such rage? A caricature published in Copenhagen appears to do it. A crass remark from Josef Ratzinger (leader of an anti-war church) seems to have the same effect. A rumor from Guantanamo will convulse Peshawar, the Muslim press preaches that the Jews brought down the Twin Towers, and a single citation in a British honors list will cause the Iranian state-run press to repeat its claim that the British government—along with the Israelis, of course—paid Salman Rushdie to write The Satanic Verses to begin with. Exactly how is such a mentality to be placated?

Let's be honest. The metaphoric Rage Boy is a petulent, self-centered child who stamps his feet and throws his juice box rather than making a productive contribution to the world's economy or stock of artistic, cultural, or scientific achievements. Do not confuse his anger with moral authority; it is the opposite.

CWCID: Stanley Kurtz.

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Mexican police: Are there any that are not corrupt? 

Stratfor reported an almost unbelievable "sitrep" this afternoon:

About 400,000 Mexican police officers are under investigation by the Attorney General's Office for corruption and suspected links to organized crime, La Jornada reported June 26, citing government sources. Most of the officers are from Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Baja California, Guerrero, Michoacan, Mexico and the federal district.

Yes, you read that right. Four hundred thousand Mexican police officers are under investigation "by the Attorney General's Office."

To put this into context, there are a bit more than 670,000 total sworn police officers -- corrupt and otherwise -- in the United States, a substantially larger country.

Naturally, I have a couple of questions.

How many people does the Attorney General's Office have at its disposal to investigate these 400,000 allegedly corrupt officers?

How many Mexican police officers are not under investigation?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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From the archives... 

The lame blogging continues. Consider this an open thread.

One year ago today...

Me and the Mrs. on the Great Wall

Two years ago today, the entrance to the "ER" on the Warner Bros back lot, Los Angeles...

The "ER"

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My feeble memory is not my fault 

Discover Magazine is running a special newstand issue devoted to "The Brain," and it includes an article on gender differences. Women, it seems, have much better memories than men, at least when it comes to details of emotional experiences. It turns out that a man's inability to remember the various indignities he may have visited upon his better half is not the result of not giving a damn.

Researchers found that the amygdala, which also processes emotional memories, acts differently in men and women. In one study, volunteers were shown a series of graphically violent films while their brain activity was measured using a PET scan.

To process the most disturbing material, men fired up the amygdala's right hemisphere, which is more in tune with the outside world and communicates with regions that control sight, such as the visual cortex, and motor coordination, like the striatum. Women, on the other hand, activated the left hemisphere, which concentrates more on the body's inner environment and is connected to the insular cortex, where sensory information is translated into emotional experiences, and to the hypothalamus, the master regulator of such basic functions as metabolism.

"When men are presented with an emotionally provocative stimulus, part of the motor system is activated, which may be why men try to resolve the situation by acting on the environment," says Witelson. "But in women, the hypothalamus is activated, which controls digestion, so it may not be surprising that when a woman is really upset, she feels weak and nauseated and can't sleep."

We also know that the brain's right hemisphere distills the essence of a situation, the central idea, while the left side mulls the finer points and tracks the details. Consequently, this right-left amygdala division may also illuminate why women remember every excruciating detail of a blowup they had on their honeymoon -- where they were, what they were wearing, the time of day -- while their husbands barely recall the tiff.

Needless to say, bold emphasis added.

I further note for the record that the author of the story, including presumably the phrase "every excrutiating detail," is one Linda Marsa. Just sayin'.

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The "Surge" explained 

A couple of weeks ago I listened to Austin Bay's interview of David Kilkullen, an Australian counterinsurgency expert advising General Petraeus in Iraq, which podcast I highly recommend. Now Kilullen has written a very clear and accessible explanation of the purpose of the "surge" at Small Wars Journal. He does not say whether it is succeeding or not -- it is way too early to tell -- but he does provide the reader with an analytical prism through which to interpret the news.

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From the archives: One year ago today 

The "terra cotta army"

TigerHawk Son and Mrs. TigerHawk

Traveling today, so blogging will be catch-as-catch-can until the evening.

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The gasoline price-fixing conspiracy 


I’ve been watching the price of gas drop all weekend. It seems like it’s adjusted on the hour. I’ll never understand how a load of gas the station bought at a higher price last week can sell for less today. I mean, I can understand why they'd charge more for gas they bought last week at a lower price - they're evil and bad. But this charging less for something they bought at a higher price - it makes no sense. Sure, blame it on "economics" or something, give me that ridiculous explanation about how you're actually paying the replacement cost of the next load (yeah, right, that sounds logical) but it’s obvious they’re ungouging us. Well, I’m tired of being unjerked around by these guys. I want the pumps to show what they paid for the load I’m putting in my car, just so I know how many pennies they’re not getting.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Does Iran understand the game it is playing? 

The dovish case for emphasizing negotiation in the West's confrontation with Iran relies on the idea that the mullahs have a history of acting rationally, in the sense that they play the game of brinksmanship fairly well. The reason for that reliance is obvious, because if the other side does not ultimately act rationally you cannot negotiate with it with any assurance that it will respond predictably (this was the basis for the principle case for war against Saddam -- he had a long track record of behaving irrationally). Although I am not exactly a dove with regard to Iran, I generally believe that Iran acts rationally with regard to its self-interest, even if that self-interest is founded on divine revelation.

Joshua Muravchik makes the contrary case:

Several conflicts of various intensities are raging in the Middle East. But a bigger war, involving more states--Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the Palestinian Authority and perhaps the United States and others--is growing more likely every day, beckoned by the sense that America and Israel are in retreat and that radical Islam is ascending.

Consider the pell-mell events of recent weeks. Iran imprisons four Americans on absurd charges only weeks after seizing 15 British sailors on the high seas. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is caught delivering weapons to the Taliban and explosives to Iraqi terrorists. A car bomb in Lebanon is used to assassinate parliament member Walid Eido, killing nine others and wounding 11 more.

At the same time, Fatah al-Islam, a shady group linked to Syria, launches an attack on the Lebanese army from within a Palestinian refugee area, beheading several soldiers. Tehran trumpets further progress on nuclear enrichment as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeats his call for annihilating Israel, crowing that "the countdown to the destruction of this regime has begun." Hamas seizes control militarily in Gaza. Katyusha rockets are launched from Lebanon into northern Israel for the first time since the end of last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war.

Two important inferences can be distilled from this list. One is that the Tehran regime takes its slogan, "death to America," quite seriously, even if we do not. It is arming the Taliban, with which it was at sword's point when the Taliban were in power. It seems to be supplying explosives not only to Shiite, but also Sunni terrorists in Iraq. It reportedly is sheltering high-level al Qaeda figures despite the Sunni-Shiite divide. All of these surprising actions are for the sake of bleeding the U.S. However hateful this behavior may be to us, it has a certain strategic logic: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

What is even more worrisome about the events enumerated above is that most of them are devoid of any such strategic logic.

Read the whole thing.

In general, I think the choice between "diplomacy" and "military action" is a false one. The question is, to what degree should coercion of one sort or another be the idiom through which we negotiate with Iran, and should some of that coercion be violent?

Given Iran's provocations, here is a serious question for both the hawks and doves who comment on this blog: If our goal is to change Iran's behavior, are we more likely to do that by reducing the threat we pose to Iran (and thereby alleviating Iran's sense of insecurity) or increasing the threat to Iran (and thereby stimulating a desire within the theocracy to appease us)? The former is the dove case, and the latter is the hawk case, each stripped to its bare essentials.

Very few people who discuss Iran ask the question so starkly, and that troubles me.

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Chavez: The mouth that roared 

That Hugo Chavez thinks this builds his popularity in Latin America says more about the sad state of that continent than it does about American ambitions:

President Hugo Chavez urged soldiers on Sunday to prepare for a guerrilla-style war against the United States, saying that Washington is using psychological and economic warfare as part of an unconventional campaign aimed at derailing his government.

Dressed in olive green fatigues and a red beret, Chavez spoke inside Tiuna Fort _ Venezuela's military nerve-center _ before hundreds of uniformed soldiers standing alongside armored vehicles and tanks decorated with banners reading: "Fatherland, Socialism, or Death! We will triumph!"

"We must continue developing the resistance war, that's the anti-imperialist weapon. We must think and prepare for the resistance war everyday," said Chavez, who has repeatedly warned that American soldiers could invade Venezuela to seize control of the South American nation's immense oil reserves.

You guys know me -- I think there are a lot of countries that at least warrant invasion, even if in almost every case it would be unwise. But Venezuela is way down even my list. At least 10th.

The disturbing thing about this is that Chavez obviously believes this sort of thing resonates in Latin America, and he is probably right. Someday, we are going to need a strategy in that part of the world that diminishes the value of anti-Americanism to the despots. Unfortunately, that will require the United States to care about Latin America enough to act with focus and subtlety, which we have not worked up the energy to do since the fall of the Soviet Union (and even then we were not very subtle). The next administration ought to pay attention, because with guys like Chavez running around Latin America is fertile ground for meddling by Middle Eastern and Asian powers. The Monroe Doctrine is not dead, but it will be if we do not get hip to the threat.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

From the archives: One year ago today 

TigerHawk Son and Friend, Chengdu, China

They grow up so fast. And so do human boys.

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Are you cut? 

Whether you are or are not, Ezra Klein considers the implications for your woman.

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Complaining about the "Public Editor" 

Last month, the New York Times appointed a new public editor, Clark Hoyt. Judging by today's column, he will carefully defend the Times from the grave risk that it tilts too far to the right.

Hoyt considers the torrent of criticism the Times has received over two recent op-ed articles, one by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas, and the other Nina Planck's "Death by Veganism," a criticism of a popular diet. Hoyt begins his column with the usual tribute to the singular importance of the Times:

The op-ed page of The New York Times is perhaps the nation’s most important forum for airing opinions on the most contentious issues of the day — the war in Iraq, abortion, global warming and more.

Hoyt wonders, though, whether some "groups or causes [are] so odious [that] they should be ruled off the page?" Good question. Space on "the nation's most important forum for airing opinions" is not infinite -- virtually any activist for any cause would love to have his talking points published there, yet most do not. Because of the scarcity of space (which contributes to the page's alleged status as "the nation's most important forum"), the editors of the Times must choose which opinions to amplify and which to ignore. When readers complain, they are complaining about the morality embedded in the choices that the editors make.

Regarding the Hamas story, Hoyt approvingly cites both Rosenthal and his deputy:
The point of the op-ed page is advocacy. And, Rosenthal said, “we do not feel the obligation to provide the kind of balance you find in news coverage, because it is opinion.”

David Shipley, one of Rosenthal’s deputies and the man in charge of the op-ed page, said: “The news of the Hamas takeover of Gaza was one of the most important stories of the week. ... This was our opportunity to hear what Hamas had to say.”

Shipley's argument is, of course, asinine. There are plenty of "opportunities" to hear what Hamas has to say, and plenty of means by which to share Hamas' arguments with the NYT's readers. It could have easily found an academic expert -- even a moderately sympathetic one -- to write about "what Hamas has to say." Shipley's argument obviously posits a false choice. The question is, should the Times turn over some of its immensely valuable op-ed space to a spokesman for a gang of terrorists? It decided to give voice to a man waging a propaganda war on behalf of a criminal organization that is -- at best -- an enemy of our ally and an ally of our enemy. Was this the right choice? Hoyt says that it was:
I agree that Yousef’s piece should have run, even though his version of reality is at odds with the one I understand from news coverage. He wrote blandly, for example, about creating “an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences” with Israel without mentioning that Hamas is officially dedicated to raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” which would mean no more Israel.

Op-ed pages should be open especially to controversial ideas, because that’s the way a free society decides what’s right and what’s wrong for itself. Good ideas prosper in the sunshine of healthy debate, and the bad ones wither. Left hidden out of sight and unchallenged, the bad ones can grow like poisonous mushrooms.

Again, it is astonishing that Hoyt does not see the difference between being "open especially to controversial ideas" -- which we all agree is a good and wonderful thing -- and publishing the talking points of an enemy under its press secretary's byline. That isn't journalism, it is deploying the brand equity of the New York Times in support of terrorism.

On the other hand, Hoyt thinks that the Times erred in publishing Nina Planck's criticism of veganism without presenting the other side:
Regular op-ed readers have seen a wide range of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have a lot of other information to help judge Yousef’s statements.

This wasn’t the case, however, with a May 21 op-ed by Nina Planck, an author who writes about food and nutrition. Sensationally headlined “Death by Veganism,” Planck’s piece hit much closer to home than Yousef’s....

If there was another side, a legitimate argument that veganism isn’t harmful, Planck didn’t tell you — not her obligation, Rosenthal and Shipley say. But unlike the Middle East, The Times has not presented another view, or anything, on veganism on its op-ed pages for 16 years. There has been scant news coverage in the past five years.

Is he serious? This is an article about a freaking diet. What sane person gives a rat's ass whether the other side is fairly presented? What I eat is my business, and if I don't have the confidence to keep eating it notwithstanding the disapproval of The New York Times op-ed page then I also probably lack the self-confidence to choose the best brand of toilet paper.

To recap: The new public editor of the New York Times thinks that it is appropriate to publish the unmediated propaganda of a criminal terrorist organization, but an error to criticise a fashionable diet without giving an opportunity for rebuttal. Obviously, we are at no risk that the Times will drift to the right under Hoyt's watchful eye. We do, however, eagerly await the spirited defense of veganism.

Here's what I want to know: To whom at the Times do I complain about the Public Editor?

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Words to live by 

Which presidential candidate said this?:

I would say that every day you have the opportunity to demonstrate courage. You have a choice. You can decide to be someone who tries to bring people together, or you can fall prey to those who wish to divide us. You can be someone who stands against prejudice and bigotry, or you can go along with the crowd and tell the jokes and point the fingers. You can be someone who believes your obligation as a citizen is to educate yourself and learn what is going on so you can make an informed decision. Or you can be among those who believe that being negative is clever, being cynical is fashionable, and there really is nothing you can do anyway.

Notwithstanding the occasional tone of this blog -- blogging lends itself to the heaping of scorn rather than "bringing people together" -- I entirely agree with these words and their implication.


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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Playing at radical chic 

Cameron Diaz apparently decided it was a good idea to wear Maoist logo attire to Peru, a country that has suffered mightily from the Chairman's poisonous ideology.

A prominent Peruvian human rights activist said the star of There's Something About Mary should have been a little more aware of local sensitivities when picking her accessories.

"It alludes to a concept that did so much damage to Peru, that brought about so many victims," said Pablo Rojas about the bag's slogan.

"I don't think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology" did so much damage.

Of course, this is not merely a matter of being insensitive to the locals. Mao was one of the three or four most evil men of the 20th century, and implicitly declaring support for him is morally equivalent to wearing a swastika. The mainstream media is too leftist to see it that way, but any reasonable assessment of Mao's legacy demands the comparison.

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Flowers and whatnot 

Ann Althouse is flower blogging like a woman possessed. Well, two can play at that game. Behold my photo of an actual lotus flower, taken one year ago today in the vicinity of Giulin, China:

Lotus flower

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The Queen and the Taliban: "Insults" as a measure of morality 

The Taliban -- literally, "students" -- have apparently decided that Islam authorizes the deployment of suicide bombers as young as six years old. The Guardian:

Children as young as six are being used by the Taliban in increasingly desperate suicide missions, coalition forces in Afghanistan claimed yesterday.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to which Britain contributes 5,000 troops in southern Afghanistan, revealed that soldiers defused an explosive vest which had been placed on a six-year-old who had been told to attack Afghan army forces in the east of the country.

The boy was spotted after appearing confused at a checkpoint. The vest was defused and no one was hurt....

"They placed explosives on a six-year-old boy and told him to walk up to the Afghan police or army and push the button," said Captain Michael Cormier, the company commander who intercepted the child, in a statement. "Fortunately, the boy did not understand and asked patrolling officers why he had this vest on."

Now, the Taliban claim they are strict adherents to Islamic law, and would not have engaged in this action if it did not comply with their interpretation of Islam. In effect, when they strapped the bomb vest on this boy they claimed the authority of Islam as their justification.

Since, I take it, few Western Muslims would agree -- even among themselves -- that their religion justifies compelling kindergardeners to act as weapons of war, it must be slanderous of the Taliban to imply that it does. Indeed, it seems that in their actions the Taliban have gravely insulted Islam.

But if that is true, why are Western Muslims bothering to demonstrate against the knighting of Salman Rushie? Is it really possible that Queen Elizabeth II insulted Islam more profoundly than the Taliban do every day? Since it is obvious that at least some Western Muslims think that she did, I respectfully suggest that their own moral compass is, well, FUBAR.


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Some rights are more equal than others 

A Knoxville man is assaulted by a cop for carrying a handgun, notwithstanding a permit to do so. If a police officer did this to somebody exercising his rights under the First Amendment, there would be a national outcry. Why doesn't the media notice when the victim relies on the Second Amendment?

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Oh. That liberal media. 

John Wixted takes a hard look at the mainstream media's claim that it reports the news objectively notwithstanding the revealed political inclinations of the average reporter or editor. Among other delights, he examines a study out of UCLA that constructs a shadow "Americans for Democratic Action" score for major media outlets. The results are very interesting, even if not surprising to the readers of this blog and others of its ilk.

Read the whole thing, and if your reading vision is going be sure to click on the graph for the big version.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Good news, bad news 

The good news: I have made it to terra firma, and in the good ole United States of America, to boot.

The bad news: We are landed at Stewart Air National Guard base on the banks of the middle Hudson River, rather than Newark Liberty International Airport. Apparently there were huge thunderboomers over Newark a little earlier in the afternoon, and it backed up the traffic so much that our own holding pattern would have consumed all our remaining fuel, and then some.

So we stopped here for gas.

The crew immediately opened the door to pump through fresh air and released the passengers to stand in the aisles, so nobody has freaked yet. No flowing sewage yet...

Wow! They just announced we're taking off for a 14 minute flight...

The Verizon Wireless Aircard works marvelously here, by the way!

UPDATE (8:10 pm): As my daughter would say, I'm a loser. Literally. "They" -- meaning either Air France or Continental -- lost my fracking bags. It took them forever to de-bag my flight, and when they did I was the last fool standing there. Well, me and some family's mom.

They "hope" to get them to me this weekend at some point, and gave me a number to call if they do not.

Now, I maintain a very even mood when I travel, generally taking what comes. I do not blame the airlines for most of the many indignities that we suffer when we fly.

But I do blame them when they lose my bags. So when the Continental Airlines bag lady snapped at me for having let a teensy bit of grumpyness slip out and declared that she had everything "totally under control," only my knowledge that she could send those bags to Lagos with a flick of her fingers kept me from answering, "not obviously."

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Immigration and terrorism, criminal justice and interdiction 

This couple of paragraphs rather nicely captures my point of view on a number of subjects:

The toughest thing for me in this debate is that we should want an accurate accounting of everyone who is in the country.  But, as Ramesh notes (and as I've acknowledged before), you can't get that without offering illegals some kind of legal status.  I could swallow hard and go along with that if (a) the problem were not so large (you can't responsibly do it with 12 to 20 million people) and (b) I were satisfied that the government was both capable of enforcing and determined to enforce the immigration laws — I don't think either has been demonstrated, and I doubt that either could be.  (For example, no matter how earnest and competent I think Mike Chertoff is, and I know him to be top-shelf on both counts, he cannot convince me that a DHS under a President Hillary Clinton would enforce the laws when he is gone.)  Since the problem is too large, and offering legal status is likely to make it worse, that means the cost is too high to justify the benefit of accounting for everyone who is here — no one is saying that wouldn't be a real benefit; it's just not one we can afford.

The main reason I favor the attrition strategy (see, e.g., here) is that, contrary to comprehensive reform, it recognizes our immigration situation for what it essentially is:  a crime problem.  Crime problems are not "solved," they are managed.  Why do we object to treating terrorism as if it were a crime problem?  Because when something is regarded as merely a law-enforcement matter, that implicitly means we tolerate some instances of it.  We never round everyone up.  It is not desirable or possible to eradicate all instances of crime — a government that tried such a thing would have to intrude over-bearingly on the freedom of innocent people.  We only tolerate such crisis-time intrusions when dealing with something like terrorism.  Terrorism has to be stopped because the cost of tolerating even some few instances of it is too high.  But drug trafficking and fraud, to cite two common, contrary examples, are not in that category.  They, like immigration, are problems we manage.  We don't pretend to arrest every offense; we enforce aggressively and strategically enough to deal with the most serious offenders and discourage the rest.  The enforcement is modulated until the level of crime is tolerable.

Regarding immigration like a crime problem is the succinct answer to the comprehensive-reform crowd's best rhetorical device:  The searing question, What are you going to do about 12 million people?  The answer is:  The same thing I do about the millions of drug felonies that happen yearly.

Read the whole thing.

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What do George W. Bush and Fatah's Abbas have in common? 

Answer: They both think that it is asinine to appease enemies.

The question is, will the chattering classes condemn Abbas for acting like Bush, or suppose that perhaps Bush was on to something all along?

We're not holding our breath.

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Coming home, and a note on French labor law 

I write this post via Blackberry from the airport in Lyon, France. I flew here Wednesday night, had a long day of meetings yesterday followed by an outstanding dinner (steak tartare, if you must know), and now I am flying home. I should land in Newark in the late afternoon, if all goes well.

Over dinner last night I got caught up on Nicholas Sarkozy's various reform proposals, especially as they pertain to the labor markets. The French system produces some outstanding people, especially at the top, but employers undoubtedly hire many fewer workers because the laws governing employment make it extraordinarily difficult to lay people off. In order to protect people from employers who would therefore try to "induce" workers to resign "voluntarily," there is a massive array of rights that make the workplace inflexible. French workers are not too expensive in the abstract, but there is very little fluidity in either the intercompany labor market or the intracompany management of employees hired to do one thing and now asked to do another. Sarko is apparently going to try to reform this a bit, although not so much that France will become an employer's paradise. (Today's papers report that Sarko's government secured a change in the EU constitution eliminating the EU's 50-year-old commitment to "undistorted competition," supposedly "to allay concerns in [France] that the EU has become too 'Anglo-Saxon.'")

In any case, the action is coming soon. French presidents have the most leverage - "legitimacy," as they say here - during the 100 days following their election, the equivalent of the American "honeymoon." Sarkozy has decided to keep the government working through August - quelle horreur - to exploit this period to the fullest. He is also hoping that labor opposition will be muted during the summer months - many French businesses shut during most of August, so the actual impact of anti-government strikes will be minimized, and besides, French workers would prefer to spend that time on the beaches of Juan les Pins. Who wouldn't? We will know by the American Labor Day whether Sarko has won.

I also learned that the French president has some political levers that his American counterpart could not imagine. Apparently the president of France has an annual slush fund of €100 million that is officially at his disposal for any use he might make of it. I was told - could this be correct? - that it does not have to be accounted for and cannot be audited. Cabinet ministers have similar, smaller, "resources" at their disposal. Suffice it to say that this fund makes a lot of things possible. It probably also explains why the French are not particularly sympathetic to American demands that the United Nations, for example, be officially transparent in financial matters.

Finally, I thought it interesting that one of Sarko's reforms is to require that union elections be by secret ballot. I note that the elimination of the secret ballot in union elections is one of the top priorities of our own Democrats. So those of you who think of the Democrats as America's "French" party may end up being quite unfair. To France.

(2) Comments

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The importance of categories 

Categories can be very important. People think about things in categories. For example, you can do a great many things in this world on your own time that you cannot do if you are "at work". The question for many people in the information economy is, when are you "at work"? Is a fertilized human egg "human life," or non-human molecular biology with the potential to become human life? A final example: Nobody would get upset at the periodic over-the-top eruptions of Ann Coulter or Michael Moore if they were clearly comedians. After all, comedians say much worse things all the time. It is only because Coulter and Moore appear not to be comedians, however funny they may be to their respective constituencies, that renders them so widely offensive to their political adversaries.

So it is with this product. Is it a prophylactic, or a sex toy?

You decide.

(6) Comments

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tell a Marine that you remain faithful 

I am late to this story because I have been on the road and otherwise heavily engaged, but it remains crucially important.

You can help the United States Marines.

Blackfive's Grim interviewed Col Simcock of the Marines' Regimental Combat Team 6 a few days back, and asked the colonel whether there was anything the Marines need that we -- meaning those of us enjoying the repose of civilian life -- could send him.

COL. SIMCOCK: (Chuckles.) I'll tell you what, the one thing that all Marines want to know about -- and that includes me and everyone within Regimental Combat Team 6 -- we want to know that the American public are behind us. We believe that the actions that we're taking over here are very, very important to America. We're fighting a group of people that, if they could, would take away the freedoms that America enjoys.

If anyone -- you know, just sit down, jot us -- throw us an e- mail, write us a letter, let us know that the American public are behind us. Because we watch the news just like everyone else. It's broadcast over here in our chow halls and the weight rooms, and we watch that stuff, and we're a little bit concerned sometimes that America really doesn't know what's going on over here, and we get sometimes concerns that the American public isn't behind us and doesn't see the importance of what's going on. So that's something I think that all Marines, soldiers and sailors would like to hear from back home, that in fact, yes, they think what we're doing over here is important and they are in fact behind us.

The Marines followed up with an email address, and a commitment to distribute your messages of support. The address is: mRCT-6lettersfromh@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil.

What are you waiting for? Open a new message, paste it in the "to" line, and get writing.

My letter to "my" Marine, whoever he or she may be, is below:
To a United States Marine in Iraq,

Thank you.

I am writing this at 1 in the morning from a hotel in Lyon, France. I have been traveling for five days, and have not slept more than four hours in a night. Briefly, on the ride from the airport, I thought I was tired. Then I read a story about our Marines in Iraq and it reminded that I do not know the meaning of tired. You guys must be incredibly tired, yet you go on.

I have heard that the Marines and other American military in Iraq wonder if Americans still support them. Certainly, some Americans do not. That is sad, but hardly unexpected. There are a great many Americans who never fundamentally accepted the mission in this war, and they never will.

They are wrong, and I believe that deep down they are profoundly in the minority. Most Americans who are disenchanted with this war are unhappy with its price, as I am sure you are. They do, however, support the ultimate mission, which is to deprive the radical Islamists of the victory they so desperately crave by handing them the military and propaganda defeat they so desperately deserve.

Let me be very clear: I support you, my family supports you, and my friends support you.

Whether or not we picked the right time and place to depose Saddam's government in Iraq -- at the time I thought we did, and now I confess to wondering whether I was right -- there is no question that the jihad has decided to stand and fight in Mesopotamia. So be it. If we had it to do all over again, would the Allies have fought their way up the boot of Italy in 1943 and 1944? Would we have chosen to take those awful casualties -- 54,000 Allied dead -- at Monte Cassino? We cannot always choose or even predict where the enemy makes his stand. In this case, he has chosen Iraq, and as in Italy in 1944 we must press on. You are doing great, dangerous, noble, terribly necessary work. You are standing in the way of a vicious enemy that has repeatedly attacked the United States since it declared war on us in 1996 and again in 1998 -- imagining, I suppose, that we did not hear it the first time. Without you there, countless more people will die. Does any intellectually honest person doubt that?

Thank you. When the history of this long war is written, the question will not be whether it was wise to start this war, but whether America stood its ground when its declared enemy came to Iraq for the purpose of humiliating it. If we stand our ground, it will be because we trust the United States Marines and other American fighting men and women. If we do not, it will be because our politicians are more interested in their own careers than the future of the world, and that will make both of us, I think, very sad.

Thank you.

Be well, and take great care.

Semper Fi.

CWCID: The Corner and Cassandra.

(9) Comments

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II sets off weapon of mass destruction 

Queen Elizabeth II has powerful mojo. She knighted Salman Rushdie, and all of a sudden and for no apparent reason fires started throughout the Muslim world. If she could learn to target that power a little more precisely it would be a potent weapon. Knight somebody here, create huge fires and panicked crowds 6,000 miles away. The Pentagon has got to be interested in that.

Not everybody is persuaded. Charles Johnson, with no basis whatsover, thinks there is another influence at work:

If you think this is bad, wait until Friday, the day of prayer, when the mullahs, imams, and sheikhs of the Islamic world will work their special magic on the millions gathered in mosques. It’s gonna be a hell of a Friday.

Where does he get these ideas?

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Today is what holiday? 

Today is a holiday of no small significance to a certain people in a certain American state. If you know, answer in the comments. Fame and glory to the first person who gets it right without peeking.

If you don't know the answer, click here.

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Trafalgar Lion 

Around 11 p.m., June 18:

Trafalgar Lion

Click to get a larger version.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

QE II 1, Mullahs 0 

Queen Elizabeth II just walked up to the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and yanked on his beard. Figuratively, of course, but importantly and courageously nonetheless.

One is forced to wonder whether Prince "defender of faith" Charles would have done the same thing had he been in charge.

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"Rome Reborn" 

This is cool:

Computer experts on Monday unveiled a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320 — what they called the largest and most complete simulation of a historic city ever created.

Visitors to virtual Rome will be able to do even more than ancient Romans did: They can crawl through the bowels of the Colosseum, filled with lion cages and primitive elevators, and fly up for a detailed look at bas-reliefs and inscriptions atop triumphal arches.

"This is the first step in the creation of a virtual time machine, which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world," said Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, who led the project.

It is fitting that the University of Virginia, home to leading examples of American neoclassical architecture, leads this project. Its "Rome Reborn" web site is here, with still images and videos that are well worth a few minutes of your time. Especially if you have actually been to Rome.

I certainly hope that the scholars behind this project apply the same technique to other ancient cities. Is there a team out there brave enough to tackle Jerusalem? The trick, I suppose, would be in choosing the subject time period.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The United Kingdom honors its heroes 

Today is the 25th anniversary of the United Kingdom's victory over Argentina in defense of the Falkland Islands. I am delighted to report that during my walkabout London this afternoon I stumbled across the dignified celebration of that triumph and can provide you, our loyal readers, with exclusive coverage (mainstream media coverage here and here).

The spring of 1982 was a barren time for the West. The capitalist economy was in a shambles, the Soviet Union was resurgent, America had not yet recovered from the indignities of the Ford and Carter years, and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had not yet established themselves as the great leaders we now know they were. The Falklands War was therefore quite possibly the most essentially rejuvenating foreign policy moment between Israel's recovery of its hostages in Uganda in 1976 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Finally the West had stood up to a tin-pot dictator and given him his comeupance.

Anyway, I had walked west from my hotel (the Renaissance Chancery Court on High Holborn Street, if you must know) to Hyde Park, stopped at Speaker's Corner to listen to Muslim and Christian preachers hector each other, crossed the park, briefly toyed with buying a shirt at Harrod's, and then strolled east past Wellington Arch to Buckingham Palace. There I came upon an assembled crowd, and quickly learned that I was about 20 minutes early for the celebration of the victory in the Falklands War. The parade was to come down The Mall from Admiralty Arch and past the reviewing stand on the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace. My perch was to the left and rear of the Memorial:

Queen Victoria Memorial

Various motor arcades arrived, and I saw a woman in a bright red dress that I later learned was The Rt Hon The Baroness Thatcher. I did get a picture of Prince Charles:


There were numerous bands, but unfortunately the various locals in my area were unable to identify them by regiment or even service. The first band led the sailors:

The Royal Navy on parade past the Queen Victoria Memorial

The Royal Navy

Then the veterans, wearing civilian clothes and their service decorations:

Veterans of the Falklands War

Were this an American parade, the crowd would have cheered and clapped the passing veterans. Not here. The people watched the veterans march by very quietly. My first thought was that the British had indeed lost their pride in their military as is occasionally rumored on right-wing blogs. Then I looked into the faces of the people around me and saw only respect and admiration and pride. The British honor their heroes differently than Americans, but honor them they do.

Can anybody identify this unit? Love the pith helmets.


And, of course, the Queen's Guards:

The Queen's Guards on parade

The Army (I presume -- please correct in the comments if I am wrong):


The Royal Air Force, on parade...

The RAF on parade

...and overhead (almost 50 different aircraft flew over during the parade):


After the parade, Prince Charles, Prime Minister Blair, and Lady Thatcher came down from the reviewing stand and greeted the soldiers, marines, sailors and air men. I snuck a couple of shots of all three of them through a fence:

Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair

Prince Charles and Tony Blair at the Falklands anniversary

After the formal review Lady Thatcher, who was not moving quickly, waded into the gathered veterans and disappeared for a moment. Then they all burst into a military-sounding "hip-hip" sort of cheer in her honor. It was really quite moving. She then emerged again and specifically greeted a veteran in a wheel chair:


After the parade I wandered up The Mall and took pictures of Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace from the middle of the parade route.

Admiralty Arch from The Mall

Buckingham Palace from The Mall

Along the way I fell into a conversation with a veteran of that small war, a former Royal Marine. The Falklands veterans are all in their mid-forties, about my age. He said that he had been a miserable 18 year-old at the time, cold and wet and without any of the high-tech fabrics that we equip soldiers with today. When the war began, he said, they all thought it would settle. He said they had leave on Ascension Island on the way down and had a great time in the sun. Then, on May 4, 1982, the Argentinians essentially destroyed the HMS Sheffield with a French-made Exocet missile, and they knew the war was on for good.

I forked over five pounds for "official commemorative publication" (available here, along with an unbelievable array of "Falklands25" merchandise), 175 pages of articles and photographs on the war. The book includes a forward from Margaret Thatcher. She reminds us of the importance of national memory:

Twenty-five years ago, far away in a quiet corner of the South Atlantic, 8,000 miles from home, British territory and British people were suddenly and forcibly seized.

There were many around the world who thought that our country would have neither the will nor the ability to raise the Union Flag once again over the Falkland Islands. They said that the resources required would be too great, that the distance was too far, and that as the weeks passed the resolve of ourpeople would falter. But as in other times of crisis, Britain was to prove the doubters wrong.

The spirit of our nation, quietly dormant in times of peace, once again showed itself to be indomitable in times of war. Our sense of what was right, our sense of what was fair, and our understanding that the aggressor must never be allowed to prevail now drove us forward.

At such times of crisis we call upon the men and women of our Armed Forces to be the instruments of our natinoal will. We never doubted that they would fail to give of their very best, nor fail to give of their all. Over those two and a half months our Task Force demonstrated that finely tuned professionalism and steadfast determination, which made our Services admired around the world.

Twenty-five years on, the memories for some will have faded. For those of a younger generation born after, Falkland Sound, San Carlos Water, Goose Green, Bluff Cove, Mount Harriet and Tumbledown, to name but a few, bring back no personal remembrances. But for those who fought in the South Atlantic, and especially for those whose loved ones did not return but whose spirits rest forever in the earth and int he waters for which they sacrificed all, the memories will never dim.

The members of our Task Force restored our nation's spirit, they restored our nation's standing, and they gave us back our nation's sense of pride and purpose. We remember them. We thank them. We salute them.

This reminds me that after the Sheffield sinking in May 1982 I sent a letter to Margaret Thatcher, addressed to 10 Downing Street, offering my best wishes and encouraging her to "send those Argie bastards to their watery graves," more or less. Some weeks later I did receive a reply back from one of her deputies on the most imperial stationary I had ever seen: "The Prime Minister appreciates your support."

I told this story to a taxi driver this afternoon, and suggested that the Argentinians had picked the wrong prime minister. His answer, "they picked the wrong country, mate."

Finally, sartorial patriotism:

Making the Union Jack look good

There will always be an England.

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Lizzie Palmer and the wisdom of youth 

Lizzie Palmer, a 15 year old from Columbus, has reminded us all what it really means to "support the troups." Do not miss "Remember Me."

The British remembered their own soldiers today, by the way, this being the 25th anniversary of their victory in the Falklands War. Me being in London with an afternoon to kill, I literally stumbled across the parade by accident, and will post exclusive TigerHawk coverage a bit later in the evening. It was a solemn, stirring tribute, quite unlike anything you would see in the United States, yet at the same time deeply proud. I can say quite definitively that the British do still remember their heroes, notwithstanding occasional claims to the contrary.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hamas finds its sense of humor 

I admit, I think this is hilarious:

Enraged Fatah leaders on Saturday accused Hamas militiamen of looting the home of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza City.

"They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal," said Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "Hamas militiamen and gangsters blew up the main entrance to the house before storming it. They stole many of Arafat's documents and files, gifts he had received from world leaders and even his military outfits."

Richard Fernandez:
Sometimes humiliation isn't something other people do to you as much as something you do to yourself.

A Belmont Club commenter:
This story is just so rich in irony that only a silly school girl would have the temerity to tackle it.

"Rich in irony" only begins to describe it. The looting of the most corrupt Nobel Prize in history by the very people it was supposed to help would be tragic if it did not come at the expense of one of the truly evil men in a very bloody century. Instead, it is, well, the funniest thing Hamas has ever done.

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Off to London... 

I'm off to London for the next three or four days, mostly on business. Blogging will be irregular owing to the time difference and my many commitments, but I will maintain a stiff upper lip at all times.

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Actions speak louder than words 

If you have to run away from Hamas, where do you go?


And, no, the mainstream media will not publicize this refugee problem to any significant degree. It just does not fit the narrative.

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Is the middle class richer, or poorer? 

If you are concerned about the declining income of the middle class, perhaps it is because you have swallowed propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Link One. Link Two. And, comparing the relative wealth of the rich, middle, and poor in the United States and Europe: Link Three.

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Iran cracks down: What are the mullahs afraid of? 

Iran is in the middle of a sweeping crackdown against dissent of all sorts, whether political, religious, cultural, or economic.

The recent detentions of Iranian American dual nationals are only a small part of a campaign that includes arrests, interrogations, intimidation and harassment of thousands of Iranians as well as purges of academics and new censorship codes for the media. Hundreds of Iranians have been detained and interrogated, including a top Iranian official, according to Iranian and international human rights groups.

The move has quashed or forced underground many independent civil society groups, silenced protests over issues including women's rights and pay rates, quelled academic debate, and sparked society-wide fear about several aspects of daily life, the sources said.

Few feel safe, especially after the April arrest of Hossein Mousavian, a former top nuclear negotiator and ambassador to Germany, on charges of espionage and endangering national security.

The question, of course, is whether the new repression is evidence that the mullahs are nervous that the popular discontent of recent years will weaken them or drive them from power, or proof that it will not.

Michael van der Galien wonders whether this isn't blowback against American policy:
The US should also think about whether or not its support for pro-democracy movements is productive or counterproductive. $75 million in support for these movements is nice and all, but if that $75 million leads to the arrest of thousands of pro-democracy activists / students / professors, the US might reconsider. Sometimes, the best way is not to influence the situation directly, but, instead, to put pressure on a (the) government through, for instance, the UN and letting pro-democracy movements do what they do best. Sometimes they are best of left alone.

I doubt that American money as "led to the arrest of thousands" of people. The Islamic regime might carp about that money to stoke ancient Iranian paranoias over foreign influence, but the mullahs will only act against dissent if they believe that repression is in their interest. That calculation is independent of the impact of American aid to democracy groups, which the mullahs will either deem to be a threat, or not.

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Caption this!: Palestinian civil war edition 

The original caption reads:

A Hamas militant is seen inside of an X-ray machine in front of journalists in the passport processing area of the terminal at the Rafah Border Crossing which is now controlled by Hamas militants, near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, June 15, 2007. On its first day of full rule in Gaza, the Islamic militant party Hamas on Friday granted amnesty to Fatah leaders, signaling that it seeks conciliation with the defeated forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

I refuse to believe that TigerHawk's esteemed readers can't do better than that!


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Friday, June 15, 2007

The virtue in double standards 

Most right-thinking people deplore double standards, but they do allow us to indulge in ethnic humor, even if only with regard to certain particularly successful ethnicities. For example.

For your discussion: Should even this joke be banned from polite society, or does it remind us how much we are missing by having banned the others?

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The social injustice of space tourism 

"With morons like this in charge of 'Industry and Enterprise' in the EU, is it any wonder the place is such a stagnant economic mess?"


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Neoconservative body painting 

I've never seen the Star of David and the Stars and Stripes painted quite like that before. (Right up to the edge of NSFW, but it is Friday.)

CWCID: Jules Crittenden.

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Combatants and criminals: Apply the Die Hard standard 

I have been otherwise engaged, and am not particularly up to speed on the Fourth Circuit's decision in the al-Marri case. For that you will have to read more learned bloggers. (For those of you equally late to the party, the case essentially holds that an alleged terrorist is entitled to the protections of the criminal justice system if he neither took the battlefield against the United States nor came here at the behest of an enemy state). However, I have read a bit of the mainstream media analysis of both left and right, enough to know that I hope the Supreme Court overturns the decision. I may or may not explain my reasons for that hope in a future post -- suffice it to say that the rules of procedure and evidence and the "confrontation clause" of the United States Constitution make it very difficult for the government to prosecute one jihadi without weakening its ability to interdict the next jihadi.

Anyway, much of the hanky-twisting turns on the supposed difficulty of distinguishing organized crime from political terrorism:

Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra who represents men held at Guantánamo, said it was nonsensical and counterproductive to go to war against a group of terrorists. He offered an analogy.

“The Colombian drug cartel has airplanes and bombs and boats, and it shoots down American airplanes,” Professor Freedman said. “They’re criminals. You can’t go to war against the Colombian drug cartel. If you could, then when they shot down an American military airplane, they wouldn’t be guilty of anything. They’d have combat immunity.”

This is, of course, the sort of idiocy that crops up in law schools all the time. We tolerate it because it is harmless stuff when posed as an exam question. Kind of fun to think about. In the real world, though, it is just silly. When a federal judge adopts it as the law of the land it is downright dangerous.

We are at war with a loose affiliation of organizations bound together by a common political objective and ideology. The mother of all these organizations is called "Al Qaeda," and it rather specifically declared war on the United States in separate fatwas in 1996 and 1998. Those declarations specified geopolitical objectives.

The Columbian drug cartel does not have geopolitical objectives. It only wants to make money selling drugs. It is a criminal enterprise, which makes it profoundly different from the jihad right down to its reason for being. It is the difference between blowing open a bank vault and blowing up a synagogue, and everybody understands it. Everybody except a few law professors and editorialists at the New York Times, that is.

Indeed, back when European radicals were "the terrorists" in the popular imagination everybody understood the distinction between criminals and political terrorists in their gut. Even Hollywood, which hopes to sell its entertainment to pretty unaware people, did not need to explain the difference. This evening I caught the original Die Hard with the TigerHawk Teenager, and I was struck by the passage in which the Japanese executive realizes that Hans and his gang are after a fortune in bearer bonds:

Mr. Takagi...I'm not interested in your
I'm interested in the 640 million dollars
in negotiable bearer bonds you have in
you vault.

ON Takagi's reaction.

Yes...I know about them. The code
key is a necessary step in accessing
the vault.

You want...money? What kind of
terrorists are you?

Who said we were terrorists?

Exactly. It isn't the firepower that separates terrorists from mere criminals, it is their purpose. Moreover, that purpose is no harder to divine than any of the many other state-of-mind requirements in the law. The distinction, though, is crucial because a violent, heavily-armed gang that is only after money can be deterred. A terrorist army that is willing to spend itself for a political cause can only be interdicted, and that makes all the difference.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Highway blogging 

And to think I feel guilty about merely looking at my Blackberry while driving. That last photo certainly looks as though it was taken from the driver's side...

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Harry Reid lives up to Dennis Miller's expectations 

We who thought that Dennis Miller stepped beyond the bounds of decorum -- however hilariously -- when he hammered Harry Reid may want to reconsider our position.

What a weenie.

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Do your own DNA analysis at home! 

Is molecular biology about to move into its hobbyist phase, much as computing did in the 1970s? For $15,000 you can buy your own home DNA analyzer.

(4) Comments

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Folic-acid blogging 

Hey, Reuters picked up my sister's rant about nutritional stupidity, especially as it relates to one-off studies about vitamins. Way to go!

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The civil wars in the Arab world: Hobbes vindicated? 

I am in California and largely occupied for the next couple of days, so the obvious move is to toss out another controversial topic for our learned and ideologically diverse readers to chew on.

The mainstream media has finally come around to characterizing the civil war in the Palestinian territories. The imminent conquest of Gaza by Hamas follows resurgent internecine violence in Lebanon and the constantly morphing wars -- the plural is intentional -- inside Iraq. All of this violence followed a sharp reduction in the oppressive power of the central government or, in the case of Lebanon, Syria's occupation. In each case, "realists" argued that the removal of the police state would unleash waves of factional, tribal, or sectarian violence. This reflects the often only whispered opinion among Western "Arabists" that most Arab societies will blow apart if the central authority does not crush opposition.

The question is, are today's civil wars (1) the "natural" condition of Arab societies that are not repressively policed, (2) the product of neocolonial meddling on the part of other actors (including other Arab regimes, Iran, the United States and Israel) or (3) the expected result of generations and in some cases centuries of domestic and foreign repression?

Unleash the hounds, and discuss the implications for American foreign policy.

(14) Comments

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Israel's eye in the sky 

It is beyond impressive that a country of fewer than six million people -- no bigger than the Chicago metropolitan area -- can do this.

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A whale of a whale 

This is cool, or would be if the whale in question hadn't been killed:

A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt — more than a century ago. Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3 1/2-inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old.

"No other finding has been this precise," said John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Calculating a whale's age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. It's rare to find one that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old.

The bomb lance fragment, lodged a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling center at that time, Bockstoce said.

It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.

The device exploded and probably injured the whale, Bockstoce said.

"It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place," he said. "He couldn't have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years."

The whale harkens back to far different era. If 130 years old, it would have been born in 1877, the year Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as president, when federal Reconstruction troops withdrew from the South and when Thomas Edison unveiled his newest invention, the phonograph.

Who shot this whale from the time of my great-great-grandfather? Alaskan natives, whose rights as aboriginals trump the interest of all of us in protecting the lives of even ancient cetaceans, that's who. Such is the strange calculus of the politically correct.

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Rudy Giuliani's "Twelve Commitments" to the American people 

I like the ambition and all, but Rudy's list strikes me as a litany of "pie crust" promises calculated to cater to, er, me. Yes, I support virtually all of these "Twelve Commitments," but most of them stand little chance of happening.

I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists’ War on Us.

I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, and identify every non-citizen in our nation.

I will restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful Washington spending.

I will cut taxes and reform the tax code.

I will impose accountability on Washington.

I will lead America towards energy independence.

I will give Americans more control over, and access to, healthcare with affordable and portable free-market solutions.

I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.

I will reform the legal system and appoint strict constructionist judges.

I will ensure that every community in America is prepared for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

I will provide access to a quality education to every child in America by giving real school choice to parents.

I will expand America’s involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world.

The leadership "towards" energy independence is as underambitious as it is Anglophilic (please, proper American English is "toward"), and I admit that I hope he spends exactly no time increasing adoptions. Otherwise, I'd be happy if the next administration accomplished any two or three of these items to any significant degree.

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Watching the watchers 

Glenn Reynolds correctly calls this "an outrage":

Brian D. Kelly didn't think he was doing anything illegal when he used his videocamera to record a Carlisle police officer during a traffic stop. Making movies is one of his hobbies, he said, and the stop was just another interesting event to film.

Now he's worried about going to prison or being burdened with a criminal record.

Kelly, 18, of Carlisle, was arrested on a felony wiretapping charge, with a penalty of up to 7 years in state prison.

His camera and film were seized by police during the May 24 stop, he said, and he spent 26 hours in Cumberland County Prison until his mother posted her house as security for his $2,500 bail.

Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent.

If Kelly's actions were felonious, then so is all hidden camera or ambush journalism. There should be an absolute right, sounding in the First and Fifth Amendments, to record any public official speaking under circumstances in which he or she had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Glenn argues that we need "federal legislation guaranteeing the right to tape law enforcement activities in public places," and he may be right insofar as thuggish local prosecutors might bring criminal cases against inherently innocent people. I am no expert on this sort of stuff, but it does seem to me that Kelly and similarly-situated defendants already have a private remedy under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which provides (for you non-civil rights lawyers):
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...

In the absence of a privacy interest, one would think that the First Amendment would protect Kelly's interest in covering a news story transpiring on a public thoroughfare, and the Fifth Amendment protects his tangible property interest in the camera and his intellectual property interest in its contents. What am I missing here? Some huge percentage of our readers are lawyers, some of whom are clearly more qualified to opine on the merits of Kelly's case.

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"Tear down this wall" 

It is the twentieth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's demand that the Soviet Union "tear down" the Berlin Wall. Power Line has some great exclusive coverage, plus video of the key segment of the speech. Watch the video, listen to Ronald Reagan, and think about whether his words contain useful lessons for both the hawks and the doves in the present confrontation with Iran.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Annals of scorn-heaping: Dennis Miller's rant of the long knives 

I was busy today from beginning to end and have had no opportunity to post anything here. That said, before I lay me down to sleep I did want to make sure that each and every one of you had the opportunity to watch Dennis Miller's thrashing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Miller is so vicious that I almost feel badly for Reid. I certainly hope nobody shows this to his grandchildren.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Speaking of war crimes... 

Glenn Reynolds:

THEY'VE ALREADY USED AMBULANCES, so why should anyone be surprised when Palestinian terrorists use a car labelled "TV" to stage an attack? It's all upside for them -- no significant outrage now, and maybe it'll lead the Israelis to accidentally shoot up a truck full of real reporters, which will then cause worldwide condemnation. Of the Israelis.

And when it happens that condemnation will be outrageous precisely because it is so predictable. Palestinian strategists understand the objective, which is to put the Israeli military in an impossible situation. Everybody else also understands the objective, and -- this is the big point -- everybody understands that the Palestinian strategists understand. It is one giant cesspool of known-knowns, so those who condemn Israel when it happens will be, yes, collaborators.

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The New York Times discovers jihadi ideology 

Jihadi etiquette

To its credit, the New York Times has devoted the front page of its "Week in Review" section to a story about jihadi ideology regarding the killing of civilians, which the Times calls "jihadi etiquette." There is nothing in this that right-wing bloggers have not been discussing for years, but much of it will be new to the Grey Lady's readers.

There are a couple of bits worth noting, the first because it is revealing and the second because it is just so damned typical of the Times.

First, the jihadi theory regarding the killing of children would be hilarious if it were not so chilling:

But militant Islamists including extremists in Jordan who embrace Al Qaeda’s ideology teach recruits that children receive special consideration in death. They are not held accountable for any sins until puberty, and if they are killed in a jihad operation they will go straight to heaven. There, they will instantly age to their late 20s, and enjoy the same access to virgins and other benefits as martyrs receive.

This is important, I suppose, since "access to virgins" is every five-year-old's dream.

The casual regard for the lives of children reflects the broader idea that the killing of civilians really does not matter, because Allah will sort them out in the end. The pious will go straight to heaven which in all accounts is better than this hell we call Earth, and the impious will get what they deserve all the sooner. Blasting people apart with car bombs or burying them in the rubble of skyscrapers just hastens the sorting process, which serves divine justice.

This, of course, leads us to the second point. If Republicans are involved, the New York Times falls all over itself to heap scorn on religious justifications for political positions. Not this time. Out of abiding respect for all points of view the Times located an American university professor -- and not Juan Cole -- who sees no difference between the jihadis and the United States Department of Defense:
Islamic militants are hardly alone in seeking to rationalize innocent deaths, says John O. Voll, a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University. “Whether you are talking about leftist radicals here in the 1960s, or the apologies for civilian collateral damage in Iraq that you get from the Pentagon, the argument is that if the action is just, the collateral damage is justifiable,” he says.

Professor Voll, that is asinine. Islamic militants are not "rationalizing" innocent deaths, they are advocating for more of them and acting consistently with that advocacy because they believe that pious people will benefit from death and that impious people are not "innocent" in the first place. Indeed, reluctant as I am to lump leftist radicals from the 1960s in with the Pentagon, in this regard the two have more in common with each other than either do with the jihadis.

The Times knew exactly where to go for a good moral-equivalence quotation. Professor Voll is more than a little notorious for his reluctance to condemn Islamic extremism. See, e.g., here, here (Voll objecting to the firing of Dr. Sami Al-Arian from the University of South Florida, shortly before Al-Arian was convicted and imprisoned of supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and here (Voll writing on September 28, 2001 that we should not attack Afghanistan in response to the attacks 17 days before on the grounds that it would anger people). It should not, therefore, surprise us that when The New York Times needed somebody to compare al Qaeda to the United States military, it called up John Voll.

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