Saturday, February 25, 2006

Licensing eBay sellers

Overlawyered tells us: Now it's California legislators: "California residents who sell goods on eBay could have to pay a $295 fee and be regulated in the same way as pawnbrokers under legislation designed to crack down on the sale of stolen property." Opponents say the bill would drive out of business thousands of antique dealers and consignment shops, as well as eBay sellers and the dropoff shops and sellers' agents that work with them. Pawnbrokers, who are pushing the legislation, say that state law already requires that sales of secondhand goods be reported to local law enforcement, but that the law has gone unenforced against everyone but themselves. In recent years influential Sacramento legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), have unsuccessfully proposed measures to require secondhand sellers to report transactions to a state law enforcement database, which is the pawnbrokers' key demand.

The Long War

William Kristol at the Weekly Standard says,"The radical Islamists are on the offensive. Will we defeat them?" Excerpt:

Remember: The United States of America and its allies--regimes that seek to embody, or at least to move towards, the principles of decent, civilized, liberal democracy--did not seek this war. But we are at war, and we could lose it. Victory is not inevitable.

Does that make Bush-supporting, liberal-democracy-promoting, Iraq-war-defending neoconservative "Leninists," as Francis Fukuyama has recently charged? No. Does it mean we believe--as Fukuyama defines Leninism--that "history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will"? Does it mean that history does not automatically move in the right direction, that justice does not necessarily or easily prevail? Yes.

It would be nice to believe, as Fukuyama does, that "a long-term process of social evolution" is under way that will inevitably produce liberal democracy. It would be nice to enjoy the comfortable complacency of a historical determinism that suggests--as Fukuyama has it--that what we most need to do is to embrace a "good governance agenda" on behalf of a long-term process of "democracy promotion" that "has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."

Indeed, it would be nice if we lived in a world in which we didn't have to take the enemies of liberal democracy seriously--a world without jihadists who want to kill and clerics who want to intimidate and tyrants who want to terrorize. It would be nice to wait until we were certain conditions were ripe before we had to act, a world in which the obstacles are trivial and the enemies fold up. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in.

To govern is to choose, and to accept responsibility for one's choices. To govern is not wishfully to await the end of history. To govern is not fatalistically to watch a clash of civilizations from the sidelines.

As Marshall Wittmann of the Democratic Leadership Council observed last week, "We are in the midst of a jihadist offensive. The bombing of [Iraq's] Askariya Shiite Shrine is another indication of the world-wide jihadist offensive against the West. From the cartoon jihad to the Hamas victory to the Iranian effort to obtain nuclear weapons to the attempt by al Qaeda to foment an Iraqi civil war--our enemy is taking the initiative. And the West is on its heels."

The Bush administration leads the West. If the West seems to be on its heels, it is because the administration seems to be on its heels. The fact that the left is utterly irresponsible, and some of the right is silly, is no excuse.

Wittmann continued, "Many mistakes have been made since 9/11. But at the end of the day, we should recognize that we are all Americans and part of the West that is under assault by a truly evil foe. Our bravest are on the front lines in this war. The least we can do at home is to demonstrate some moral seriousness that the moment demands."

Rest at

"Bolton Blasts 'Sex and Corruption' at U.N."

"Big Bad John!" Keep it up, Bolton!

NEW YORK - The U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations said Saturday that the world body is hobbled "by bad management, by sex and corruption" and a lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions.

John Bolton also criticized the U.N.'s budget, noting that two-thirds of members pay only 20 percent of the cost.

"We find an organization that is deeply troubled by bad management, by sex and corruption and by a growing lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions that are given to them," Bolton told an audience at a Columbia Law School symposium held by the Federalist Society, a conservative law organization."
Read the rest here

The NYT Editorial department can't be too happy with Tom.

Newsbusters reports that yesterday, Friedman was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday suggesting that the increase in violence in Iraq of late might be an indication that al Qaeda knows it’s losing. In addition, he intimated that the absence of follow-up terrorist attacks on America since 9/11 is likely due to al Qaeda’s focus on winning the war in Iraq. Now this.

"Port controversy could widen racial chasm"

Excerpt: But while I have zero sympathy for the political mess in which the president now finds himself, I will not join this feeding frenzy. On the pure merits of this case, the president is right. The port deal should go ahead. Congress should focus on the NSA wiretapping. Not this.

As a country, we must not go down this road of global ethnic profiling, looking for Arabs under our beds the way we once looked for commies. If we do, if America, the world's beacon of pluralism and tolerance, goes down that road, we will take the rest of the world with us.

We will sow the wind and we will reap the whirlwind.

If there were a real security issue here, I'd join the critics. But the security argument is bogus and, I would add, borderline racist. Many U.S. ports are run today by foreign companies, but the U.S. Coast Guard still controls all aspects of port security, entry and exits; the U.S. Customs Service is still in charge of inspecting the containers; and U.S. longshore- men still handle the cargos.

The port operator simply oversees the coming and going of ships, making sure they are properly loaded and offloaded in the most cost-effective manner. As my colleague David E. Sanger reported: "Among the many problems at American ports, said Stephen E. Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander who is an expert on port security at the Council on Foreign Relations, 'who owns the management contract ranks near the very bottom.' "
What ranks much higher for me is the terrible trend emerging in the world today: Sunnis attacking Shiite mosques in Iraq, and vice versa. Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and violent Muslim protests, including Muslims killing Christians in Nigeria and then Christians killing Muslims.

And the Washington Post story about how some overzealous, security-obsessed U.S. consul in India has created a huge diplomatic flap — on the eve of Bush's first visit to India — by denying one of India's most respected scientists a visa to America on the grounds that his knowledge of chemistry might be a threat. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi has apologized.

My point is simple: The world is drifting dangerously toward a widespread religious and sectarian cleavage — the likes of which we have not seen for a long, long time. The only country with the power to stem this toxic trend is America.

People across the world still look to our example of pluralism, like no other. If we go Dark Ages, if we go down the road of pitchfork-wielding xenophobes, then the whole world will go Dark Ages.

There is a poison loose today and America — America at its best — is the only antidote. That's why it is critical that we stand by our principles of free trade and welcoming the world to do business in our land, as long as there is no security threat. If we start exporting fear instead of hope, we are going to import everyone else's fears right back. That is not a world you want for your children.

"The fascists of free speech"

Catherine Seipp writes in an LA Times Opinion piece

A FRIEND OF MINE took his young daughter to visit the famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, explaining to her that the place is important because years ago it sold books no other store would — even, perhaps especially, books whose ideas many people found offensive.

So, although my friend is no fan of Ward Churchill, the faux Indian and discredited professor who notoriously called 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns," he didn't really mind seeing piles of Churchill's books prominently displayed on a table as he walked in.

However, it did occur to him that perhaps the long-delayed English translation of Oriana Fallaci's new book, "The Force of Reason," might finally be available, and that because Fallaci's militant stance against Islamic militants offends so many people, a store committed to selling banned books would be the perfect place to buy it. So he asked a clerk if the new Fallaci book was in yet.

"No," snapped the clerk. "We don't carry books by fascists.

.............I saw this sort of thinking for myself up close earlier this month when I spoke at USC about media bias a few days after the first cartoon riots had broken out. A student wearing a hijab came up to me afterward scoffing at the notion that violent demonstrations in response to the offensive drawings were even all that violent.

"Oh, how many people have died?" she asked, screwing up her face in disbelief. At the time, the death total was four or five. By now it's more than 100.

It isn't only Muslim women who are out there defending political Islam, though. Another young woman in the USC audience, after announcing that her father had been held in five Nazi concentration camps so she knows about the Holocaust, segued into a long, rambling position statement about just how little we understand the Muslim world.

...................Back to City Lights, which indeed has no plans to sell any books by the "fascist" free-speech defender Fallaci. The store's website proudly declares that the place is "known for our commitment to freedom of expression," in which case you might assume such commitment includes supporting those whose free expression puts them in real danger.

But, although "The Force of Reason" is expected to reach the U.S. this spring, a City Lights clerk said when I called that the store has no plans to carry anything by Fallaci.

"You're welcome to buy her book elsewhere, though," my friend was told helpfully when he visited. "Let's just say we don't have room for her here."

OK, let's just say that. But let's also say that one of the great paradoxes of our time is that two groups most endangered by political Islam, gays and women, somehow still find ways to defend it.

"The Freshman"

The New York Times Magazine has an article about a 27 year old Afghanistani Yale freshmen whose first trip to Yale was in 2000 as a Taliban spokesman. This bit jumped out.

Many distinctions could be drawn between his old life and his life at Yale. But he had seized on one.

"You have to be reasonable to live in America," he said. "Everything here is based on reason. Even the essays you write for class. Back home you have to talk about religion and culture, and you can win any argument if you bring up the Islamic argument. You can't reason against religion. But you cannot change Afghanistan overnight. You can't bring the Enlightenment overnight."

Big Gulp

The New York Times Magazine tells us how to make a buck off the "oh, so trendy."

Ethos Water comes in a tasteful bottle with a bold claim on the front: "Helping children get clean water." This refers to the fact that 5 cents of every $1.80 (or so) bottle purchased is put toward water projects in underdeveloped regions. The target is the consumer with a conscience. "One of the best questions we get from consumers is, How do I do more?" says Jonathan Greenblatt, a founder. "That's exactly what we want to hear." Last year, Ethos was bought by Starbucks, which touted the purchase as an important addition to its corporate social-responsibility efforts. To Greenblatt, this speaks volumes about what consumers want from companies these days: "It's about being part of the global community and making a difference and enabling those consumers who want to, quote-unquote, do more."

..............The first retailer to sell Ethos (which comes from natural springs) in August 2003 was Fred Segal in Santa Monica, a store more associated with $200 jeans than with activism; the founders were aiming for trend-setting customers. They later picked up some Whole Foods stores and others; Starbucks bought Ethos for $8 million in 2005, making it available in thousands of locations.

The water-for-water link draws a mixed reaction from some observers. The Green Guide, which positions itself as the Consumer Reports of ecologically sound consumption, generally frowns on bottled water of any kind. Mindy Pennybacker, the editor of the Green Guide, says that this is partly because tap water tends to be better regulated and at least as healthful as most bottled varieties and also because the bottles themselves have a "huge environmental impact." (Recycling advocates contend that 90 percent of water bottles end up in landfills.) The Earth Policy Institute recently argued that producing the bottles to meet American demand consumes 1.5 million barrels of oil a year. You might at least wonder whether it wouldn't make more sense to donate $1.80 to one of the aid organizations Ethos backs and ask your barrista for tap water. Isn't this all a bit like an S.U.V. whose profits finance third-world alternative-energy projects?

Needless to say, Thum and Greenblatt see things differently. They have no position on recycling laws, since their focus is helping children around the world get clean water. Raising money, Thum says, is only part of that mission; the brand "allows people to understand the world water crisis and feel as if they are connected to the solution." Sure, Starbucks had profits of half a billion dollars last year and could donate $10 million tomorrow, but writing a check, he says, is less effective in the long run than "trying to build a movement to address this problem." To that end, he and Greenblatt are speaking to business-school groups about their mission and have planned Ethos promotions in connection with World Water Day on March 22 to raise awareness of a massive global problem and how buying Ethos can help. Ethos, as Greenblatt puts it, "makes activism accessible."

From the Silk Road to the Superhighway, All Coin Leads to China

This New York Times article points out that:

CHINA has such a huge stash of other countries' money that it could, in theory, hand out bonuses equaling half a year's wages to all 770 million of its famously low-paid workers.

The country will soon release statistics showing it has passed Japan as the biggest holder of foreign currency the world has ever seen. Its reserves already exceed $800 billion and are on track to reach $1 trillion by the end of the year, up from just under $4 billion in 1989.

They then discuss the fact that this kind of surplus was also built up against both the Roman and the British Empire. They guess that it didn't cause inflation in China because the Chinese saved the gold they got the same way their banking system is now saving the other currencies.

They consider this bad for us, but don't tell us why, or what the outcome will be.

"The Sunday Morning Talk Shows - Lineup"

REDSTATE has it:

"Biden and McCain, hooray! We've Lindsey Graham, who has a following amongst RedStaters as a warm and funny guy. We'll see if Hadley can soothe the fancies of those who are concerned, but I doubt that much will calm Biden and Levin and Schumer. ("Oh, my!")

Mitt and Arnold are Republican governors. A year from now, the producers can attempt to book Republican Governor Lynn Swann of Pennsylvania. If the girls can swoon for Mitt and Arnold, their hearts will skp a beat for Governor Swann."

"Your weekend history lesson II - Zimmerman Telegram "

Fascinating explanation of Mexican/American history just prior to WWI by "Mark in Mexico." I knew some of it, but not about the Vera Cruz occupation. Short, sharp, and Well worth a weekend read.

"Curfew extended in Baghdad and three other provinces."

IRAQ THE MODEL has an update. He and "healing Iraq" are much better sources than our MSM right now.

"Sunnis and Sadr's Shiites make peace"

We stayed out of it, and they are making peace. Captain's Quarters comment: "Hmmmm ... seems like treating the Iraqis like adults capable of acting in their own self-interest may be working."

THE movement of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, alleged to have played a role in the anti-Sunni violence over the last few days, publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders overnight.

Four sheikhs from the Sadr movement made a "pact of honour" with the conservative Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, and called for an end to attacks on places of worship, the shedding of blood and condemning any act leading to sedition.

The agreement was made in the particularly symbolic setting of Baghdad's premier Sunni mosque Abu Hanifa where the Shiite sheikhs prayed under the guidance of Sunni imam Abdel Salam al-Qubaissi.

The meeting was broadcast on television and the religious leaders all "condemned the blowing up of the Shiite mausoleum of Samarra as much as the acts of sabotage against the houses of God as well as the assassinations and terrorisation of Muslims"."

"Tigerhawk: Balance of Terror, Iran and Israel"

Austin Bay points to this blog, and says, "Tigerhawk analyzes Iran’s threat to attack Israel– and it’s a different take."

Iran has threatened to attack Israel's nuclear facility and other "strategic assets" if the United States attacks Iran.

If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility.

Dr. Abasi, an advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area.

Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.

This is, of course, a completely illegal threat, unless of course the United States launches its attack with Israel's assistance, which is highly unlikely (but, scroll down this post for a reference to "listening centers" that Israel has established in Iraqi Kurdistan). If the world were at all principled, we would expect howls of outrage from the rule-of-law countries. It isn't, so we won't hear those howls, but there you have it. The moral equivalence fetishists will take refuge behind the excuse that Israel also has undeclared nuclear weapons, so it is hardly in a position to object.

Now for the counterintuitive part: perversely, this new threat from Iran is at one level comforting. Why? Because it amounts to recognition that Israel's existence -- however nettlesome and offensive it may be to the mullahs and their constituents -- is more valuable to Iran's national defense than Israel's lack of existence. That realization, which was by no means inevitable, is stabilizing because it means that Iran is unlikely to launch a first strike against Israel (other than through proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas).

One might also wonder why Iran is leveling this threat now. It has two other big cards -- the price of oil and its ability to disrupt in Iraq. It may have decided that yesterday's news -- that al Qaeda was gunning for Saudi oil targets and that Iraq was blowing up without orders from Tehran -- had weakened their leverage. After all, if oil is really expensive and Iraq is in chaos, why not hit Iran? Well, because they will retaliate against Israel.


This story seems strange.

"Concern first was raised Thursday at about 2:30 p.m., when a student discovered the powder in a roll of coins, a school official said.

The student reported it to the university police department, which notified the school's office of environmental health and safety, which collected the powder and sent it to a state laboratory for testing, the school said in a written statement."
I am surprised that the student would notice it enough to be afraid of it. If I opened a roll of coins with white powder on it, my reaction would be to wash them off and forget about it.

The Difference Between Bush And Conservatives

Ed Morrisey at "Captain's Quarters" on Buckley

Today's opinion piece by William F. Buckley, the father of American conservatism, highlights the difference between traditional conservatives and the Bush Administration's efforts in foreign policy, along with a host of other arenas. While the Left has railed about conservatives -- especially the dreaded neocons, a term that has an accusatory hint of "Zionist" to it -- they have missed the true historical parallels between the post-9/11 policy and that of an American president of almost a century earlier.


"One hesitates to get into an argument with the icon of conservative philosophy, but in this case, Buckley isn't reversing course; he's expounding an argument that conservatives (paleoconservatives, if you will) have always made in terms of foreign engagement. His argument appears sound on a superficial level because it only addresses the actions of the moment. The insurgents won an important but momentary victory when they successfully collapsed the shrine of Askariya, but what Buckley wants to do is to grant them the war by default.

Buckley also erects somewhat of a strawman in this passage, one that exposes the real intent of his essay:

It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others' throats.

And here we have the essential Buckley, revealed. The traditional conservative position reached its most potent expression in the policies of Brent Scowcroft, the last bastion of realpolitik in government. Conservatives for decades fought against foreign entanglements and the liberation of people from tyranny for its own sake, only espousing military intervention when clear and short-term American economic or strategic interests came under threat. Buckley and Scowcroft would never have suggested that the US depose Saddam Hussein, mostly because they would not have thought that the oppression and genocide of Iraqis was worth the expense and headache of liberation. That thought kept the US from pushing through to Baghdad in 1991, when Scowcroft had Bush 41's ear, and when Saddam could have easily been toppled.

Bush 43 is not a conservative in foreign policy, at least since 9/11 taught him that genocidal tyrannies in Southwest Asia could produce immediate and existential threats to the American homeland. He has been much closer to Woodrow Wilson than his father or even Ronald Reagan in his reaction to the world."

Read it all

Statistical Illusions

Don Boudreaux at "Cafe Hayek" is the best on the web at explaining economics.

The argument – or, at least, my argument, and I dare say Arnold Kling's argument – that the trade deficit is a red herring is not an argument that an individual, a family, or a firm that consistently spends more than it earns need not worry. Nor is it an argument that the level of savings and investment doesn’t matter. Nor is it an argument against the proposition that Uncle Sam’s profligate spending is wasteful and harmful.

Instead, the argument is that any nation that is reasonably free and open is not a salient economic unit.

Suppose that South Dakota and North Dakota each cede from the U.S. Each of these former states is now an independent country. One is the Republic of South Dakota; the other is the Republic of North Dakota. Happily for the citizens of each of these countries, their respective governments leave them free to trade domestically and internationally – but, for whatever reason, the people of each country of Dakota choose voluntarily not to trade with citizens of the other Dakota. (This last assumption is made only to keep the arithmetic of this example clean, as I hope will become clear below; it is not at all necessary for the validity of my point.)

Further suppose that for each of the past several years citizens of the Republic of South Dakota export $150 worth of goods and services and import $110. Statisticians working for the government of the Republic of South Dakota find that this country runs a current-account surplus of $40.

But the citizens of the Republic of North Dakota, for each of the past several years, export $100 and import $160. Statisticians for the Republic of North Dakota find that this country runs a current-account deficit of $60.

Conventional wisdom says that South Dakotans’ trade is “sustainable,” while North Dakotans' trade is “unsustainable.” This wisdom praises South Dakotans for their thriftiness and enterprise, and warns North Dakotans of their profligacy.

Now let the two countries merge politically to form the independent Republic of the Daktotas. Let each person’s, each family’s, each firm’s – as well as the now-unified-government’s – income-earning activities, spending, saving, and investment practices remain unchanged in light of this political unification.

Statisticians for the newly formed Republic of the Dakotas will find that this country runs an annual current-account deficit of $20. The reason is that total exports are $250 (made up of $150 worth of exports from the southern part of the country and $100 of exports from the northern part) and total imports are $270 (made up of $110 imports into the southern part of the country and $160 imports into the northern part).

Is the welfare of any citizen of the Republic of the Dakotas materially changed because each now lives in a country that officially runs a current-account deficit? Were Dakotans in the southern part of the country in sound economic health before the political unification but now in economic distress after unification? Are people in the northern part of the country better off after unification because now their country’s current-account deficit is only $20 (rather than the $60 that is was before unification)?

Answers: no, and no.

Apple's iTunes: Over One Billion Served

Brain Terminal gets this letter:

Reader Matt Walliser writes:


Recent news about iTunes hitting their billionth download made me think a little more about your post a while back about the recording industry not adapting to new mediums. If they're not careful, they'll obsolete themselves to Apple's iTunes. Apple has made it so convenient to get music onto your iPod, that people don't seem to mind paying a buck for a song. The lawsuits brought forth by the RIAA agianst people who download music can only serve to push people towards iTunes. If Apple creates their own label and plays their cards right, they could have channel dominance from top to bottom. The best part is, it's being handed to them by the very channel they're about displace!

While I'd hate for any one company to completely control music distribution, the massive success of iTunes is a wake-up call to an industry that has been hitting the snooze button on every previous wake-up call since the dawn of the Internet era. Maybe this time, the industry will pay attention."

What NYT Elitists Think of You

Richard N. Weltz at "The American Thinker" says:

The New York Times’ elitist management and editors make no secret of their disdain for ordinary Americans, as they open today’s lead editorial with this comment:

The illegal immigrants who trim our hedges, prepare our food and care for our children have been compared to an invading army. If so, they have descended on a land desperate for occupation. This is a nation that insists on paying as little as possible for goods and services, and as long as it remains impractical to send lawns, motel beds and dirty dishes overseas, determined immigrants and semiporous borders will continue to feed the American addiction to cheap labor.

This view of Americans as a bunch of skinflint slave drivers is belied by the reality of hordes of illegal immigrants who risk life and limb to get here and earn those free market wages which are far higher than what’s available in their native lands. The perhaps inadvertently exposed disdain in which Times hold ordinary citizens goes a long way toward explaining as well the apparent NY Times view that we are also all too dumb to digest and understand news reports unless they’ve been filtered, cherry-picked, analyzed, and appropriately slanted before making their way into news columns that once were—at least purportedly—objective and fair.


Dr Sanity discusses the evil of the last century and it's ties to todays.

ShrinkWrapped has a great post up today that all should read. It commemorates the beginning of the end of communism, which was initiated by Nikita Khrushchev's "secret" speech and was accelerated by the Red Army marching into Budapest. Here is an excerpt:

What destroyed Communism was the revelation that the system was based on lies and compulsion. All the glorious revolutionary rhetoric proclaiming victory for the workers, and equality for all, was shown to be a lie. The people living in the "workers paradises" of Eastern Europe were being held in thrall, as hostages, by the Russia army; walls were built to keep people from fleeing. Few were clamoring to enter.

The analogy with Islamofascism is clear. It is a totalitarian system that depends on controlling the thinking of its subjects; truth is dangerous to such a system. The Imams who spread hate and deceit are the spiritual heirs of Stalin and Hitler, men who used lies to destroy people's ability to think. Their crimes did not only involve destroying their opponents; they also destroyed the ability of their allies and their countrymen to think and perceive.
Be sure to read it all

Goood Morning to the Mainland!

Excerpted from SLATE

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with continued Iraq tensions in the wake of Wednesday's mosque bombing in Samarra. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with, and runs a front-page story on, a foiled attempt to bomb a Saudi oil refinery. (The LAT also fronts this.)

The daytime curfew in many Iraqi provinces was extended to Saturday. All the papers note yesterday's nearly empty streets in many cities. The Post's piece takes the least pessimistic view, stressing a public statement by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the largest Shiite political party. Al-Hakim blamed Wednesday's bombing on al-Qaida in Iraq, which he called "the enemy of Islam and Iraqis." Although 29 new bodies were found in Baghdad, the papers note that the widespread slaughter of Wednesday and Thursday seems to have subsided.

Even so, the NYT notes that, despite all of the diplomatic statements issued by al-Hakim and a few other big-shot imams, many local clerics preached revenge in sermons yesterday, and talks to form a new government have been suspended indefinitely. Moreover, al-Hakim refused to apologize for retaliatory strikes against Sunni mosques. The Times also reports increasing Shiite anger at the U.S. and its ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghani-born Sunni muslim who had been pressuring Shiite politicians to include Sunnis in the new government.

The Los Angeles Times's report is the most pessimistic; the paper runs a man-in-the-street feature under the headline "A Nation Teeters on the Brink of Civil War." "It is not uncommon to hear Iraqis speaking of civil war as if it has become inevitable," the reporter writes, "as if the only questions worth asking are when it will begin, what will spark it—or whether they will one day look back and realize that this civil war, this ambiguous threat, was already underway when the Golden Mosque in Samarra was blown up."

All the papers note President Bush's address to the American Legion, in which he said the days ahead would be "difficult and exhausting" for the Iraqi people, who now face a "moment of choosing" (presumably between order and disorder). (The LAT says Bush gave a "somber speech" to the veterans group. Somber? Read the speech and judge for yourself.) A "senior U.S. official" tells the LAT that the American military would be useless in a civil war: "When it's a fight of Iraqi Shia on Sunnis, our guys can't get in the middle. It would all be up to the Iraqis." The NYT fronts a piece on the power of Iraq's militias.

Alan Greenspan decried the polarization of American politics in a private speech Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports (online, at least). According to audience members at his address before an investment company, Greenspan said that both political parties are in thrall to extremists, whereas most voters are centrists. He argued that this current political disconnect leaves an opening for a third-party candidacy. He said he refused to endorse any particular candidate "for now."

Ted Turner has decided to step down from Time Warner's board, the papers report. The move completely severs him from CNN, the network he founded in 1980. Some speculate that he will re-enter the media business, but Turner says he will devote himself to philanthropy.

On the NYT op-ed page, Nikita Krushchev biographer William Taubman looks back on the former Soviet leader's famous anti-Stalin speech at the Communist Party Congress 50 years ago today. Krushchev intended to save communism, Taubman notes, not destroy it. Yet his speech provoked revolts in Poland and Hungary, and it set in motion a process that culminated in the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. Moreover, although the speech was partly self-serving, it was also Krushchev's attempt to expiate the guilt he felt for his complicity in Stalin's crimes. In this sense, Taubman writes, the address marked Krushchev as the only one of Stalin's contemporaries to have both survived Stalin and retained his humanity.


These Potemkin high schools are filling a market niche created by the NCAA, the Times notes. In the last few years, the NCAA has changed policy to 1) allow high-school administrators to determine the legitimacy of their own courses, and 2) allow students who flunk standardized tests to compensate with a decent G.P.A. Lutheran Christian told the NCAA that it was accredited by the state (untrue) and listed 35 courses it offers, including Latin 2, chemistry, and physics. The NCAA certified Lutheran's transcripts without question. Last year the "school" sent 11 "students" to Division I teams.

"On second thought, honey, let's use TurboTax this year." … The NYT business section brings word that H&R Block has been forced to restate earnings going back two and a half years. The reason? It made inaccurate estimates of its own tax liability.

"Early Warning System"

Glenn Reynolds [pay] has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal today about the blogs reaction to the port story. Excerpt:

When the story first appeared, bloggers were overwhelmingly negative. My own reaction, on Feb. 12, was "color me unimpressed." Other bloggers were more pungent, but the story got little attention in the national media, which were mostly preoccupied with the Cheney quail-hunting story. ... Some bloggers, meanwhile, were having second thoughts. One of them was me: Although my initial reaction was negative, I started getting emails from readers -- some of them longtime correspondents -- who had experience with the UAE. One had served alongside troops from the Emirates in Afghanistan; another had spent time in Dubai. Some had worked with UAE ports officials. All were positive. ... As I write this, it's not clear where the rest of the debate is headed, but there are already some useful lessons for the White House. First, blogs make an excellent early warning system. The White House, unaccountably, seems to have been blindsided by the furor over this deal, though most people's gut reaction was negative. As with the many bloggers like me who changed their minds, gut reactions can be overcome by evidence -- but the White House should have taken advantage of this early warning to have its arguments in order. It didn't. That's the second lesson: The White House should not only have read blogs, but responded to them with information and arguments, rather than waiting for blog readers to weigh in.

Friday, February 24, 2006

""Suppose people picked hotels based on how intelligent they expected the other guests to be."

Ann Althouse posts part of John Tierney's column from behind the NYT "wall."

"Suppose people picked hotels based on how intelligent they expected the other guests to be."
They'd be acting like someone who chooses to go to Harvard as an undergraduate, writes John Tierney -- TimesSelect link -- in his column about Lawrence Summers:

In most industries, a company would cater to customers paying $41,000 per year, but Harvard has been able to take its undergraduates for granted. (It was a radical innovation when Summers called attention to surveys measuring students' dissatisfaction.) Harvard has long known that the best students will keep coming, not for its classes but simply for its reputation. Smart students want to go where the other smart students go.

Tierney puts his finger on the real complaint against Summers:

He dared to suggest that professors teach survey courses geared to undergraduates' needs — an onerous idea to academics accustomed to teaching whatever's in their latest book....

Senior professors can shunt off the more tedious jobs, like teaching freshmen or grading papers, to low-caste graduate students or visiting lecturers. Or they just neglect the jobs that don't appeal to them....

You might expect the Harvard history department to devote a course or two to the American Revolution or the Constitution, but those topics are too mundane. Instead, there's a course on the diaries of ordinary citizens during the Revolution, and another, "American Revolutions," that considers the American and Haitian Revolutions as "a continuous sequence of radical challenges to established authority."
Rest at

Amid Revelry, Evidence of City's Cruel Transformation

The New York Times has a great article on it. Excerpt:

This year has been a shock. Black people are largely absent in the trek back from St. Charles Avenue, the parade route. There were some black families at the Krewe of Muses parade Thursday night, but where were the children and mothers streaming back to the tattered houses close to the Mississippi River? The crowd was thinned out, boisterous only in patches. It was mostly white, and mostly local.

The Muses parade carried some telltale signs. Instead of bands from each of three traditionally black Catholic prep schools in New Orleans — St. Augustine, Xavier Prep and St. Mary's — there was a small single band uniting the three, a so-called Max Band. Another group styled itself the Ninth Ward Marching Band, but it was almost all-white — clearly commemorative, rather than representative, of what had been a black neighborhood, now gone. The band members wore military-style helmets with "9" on them. The once-obscure Ninth Ward is now a world-famous war zone.

Nothing has brought home Hurricane Katrina's cruel demographic shift like this. A friend — a native, unlike me — said after Sunday's parades that it reminded her of the Mardi Gras of her childhood, four decades or so earlier: smaller, more homogeneous, peopled more largely by locals. The city was still majority-white in those days. It may be so again at this moment. Every "expert" has a different set of numbers and projections.

Two years ago there was a shooting at the Muses parade — rival teenage gangs from the Mid-City neighborhood shot at each other, and a young woman, a paradegoer, was fatally wounded in the crossfire. The shooting terrified the city's tourism mavens and led to a beefing-up of security. This year, two New Orleans police officers, posted close to the spot, looked bored and sleepy as they surveyed the thin, peaceful crowd.

Carnival is still a sort of release this year, even if it proves to be a tourism bust. The giant dummy refrigerators and the floats lampooning local politicos squeeze humor from a grim time. (William J. Jefferson, a New Orleans congressman, was skewered for having commandeered a National Guard truck to check out his house during the flood: "Uh, General, may I borrow a Black Hawk? I think I left the oven on," was painted on one float.) In Louisiana, elected leaders can always provide a laugh when nothing else can.

But one thing the Mardi Gras season may not constitute this year is that amazing, temporary social upending, the same as in popular festivals going back to the Middle Ages — a kind of escape valve for social tensions. The poor, no longer hidden away, used to come out.

In the terrible days after the storm, they came out, too. Before the rescuers arrived, along with the troops and the hordes of reporters, New Orleans was, briefly, a city almost entirely of impoverished African-Americans. The ruined neighborhoods belonged to them. I was struck by the sight of people, hanging out in the street, in a dry zone by the river on one of those days. Then the people were gone, and the city was empty.

"A Commission By Another Name"

Anne Bayefsky of "Cato" critiques the "reformed" UN Human Rights Commission. Guess what?

The U.N.’s human-rights cure is worse than the disease.

Thursday the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, released the final draft of the blueprint for a new U.N. human-rights body. With a design which promises an institution more contemptible than its predecessor, the process has brought the U.N. to the edge of an abyss.

Protecting human rights was the the essential rationale for establishing the U.N. The credibility of the entire organization depended on fixing its discredited central human-rights mechanism, the Commission on Human Rights. It is now clear that this effort has failed.

Regardless of its content, Secretary General Kofi Annan desperately wants the creation of this new council to stand as the crowning achievement of his nine years in office. So, shortly after the text was announced, Annan released a statement dramatically raising the stakes. He claimed that failure to adopt Eliasson’s proposal “would undermine this Organization’s credibility, render the commitments made by world leaders meaningless, and deal a blow to the cause of human rights.”

The reality, however, is that the proposed council represents an enormous step backward for the international protection of human rights and the spread of democratic governance. The United States would do the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chair of the Commission on Human Rights, an enormous disservice by pretending otherwise.

The heart of the problem with the commission lies with its membership. Current members include some of the world's worst human-rights violators: China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Throughout the months of negotiations over a new entity, such states vehemently opposed efforts to introduce criteria for membership on the council. They succeeded. Not one criterion is included. Instead, the draft merely suggests “when electing members” a state's human-rights record be "taken into account." Even states under
Security Council sanction for human-rights violations (although this includes, at the moment, only Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire) would not be excluded automatically.

Other features of the proposal which reveal the failure to fix the membership problem, and the consequences, include:

There is a provision for suspending a Council member that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights. But the step can only be taken with the agreement of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly. Fifty percent of the General Assembly could not even agree that Sudan was guilty of human-rights violations in November of 2005.

The proposal significantly shifts the balance of power away from the Western regional group, including the United States. The African and Asian regional groups will hold 55 percent of the votes. The proportional representation of the Asian group will represent the greatest increase and the representation of the Western group the greatest decline.

States which are elected must rotate off every two terms. The United States has been a member of the Commission every year since 1947, with one exception, and has played a leadership role in efforts to promote human rights throughout the Commission’s history, not to mention paying for 22 percent of its costs.

While there is a plan to conduct a human rights review of all U.N. states, there is no guarantee that even those countries found complicit in massive and sustained human rights abuses would be censured. No outcome of the review process is specified and the review takes place only after the elections.

Instead of a much smaller body designed to attract the best states from each regional group, the proposal merely reduces the number of members from 53 to 47.

Special sessions of the commission can be called by just one third of the council's membership. Although this feature has been hailed as an improved capacity to deal with urgent human rights situations, the membership of the new council will make it more likely that special sessions will be about the United States and Israel rather than China or Sudan.

The council is given a mandate to pursue follow-up goals and commitments "emanating from U.N. conferences and summits" — many of which have been specifically rejected by the United States.

A last-minute addition in response to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Danish cartoons affair, places the emphasis on roles or responsibilities rather than reinforcing freedom of speech.

There is no doubt the United States would be the biggest single loser from the creation of this body. But more generally, U.S. support is unwarranted because the name change from Commission to Council will erroneously suggest renewed credibility in the absence of real reform.

Annan is insisting that the vote to adopt this Council occur by the end of next week. His false deadline conveys a worry that looking at the proposal too closely will raise serious doubts. The U.N. has waited decades to repair an ailing Commission. Annan’s retirement party is not a good reason to substitute a cure that is worse than the disease."

Hitchen's speech today at the Danish Embassy

Age of Hooper made a video of his speech, as well as pictures and other video. I just watched it and the quality is fine. The thing that needs to be improved on all of these amature videos is the quality of the sound. You can hear Hitchens, but the video is better than the sound.

It is amazing that we can go from event to watching a video on a blog so quickly.

Watch it here. It is near the bottom of the pictures that are displayed.

"Stacking The Deck"

That's what Ed Morrisey calls it.

I haven't posted much about the pending prosecution of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for alleged perjury before the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's status as a CIA employee. The case moved from the political to the legal with the unsealing of the indictment, and most of the revelations coming from the case has consisted of the normal legal machinations that amount to nothing noteworthy.

However, the Washington Post notes one development that appears rather strange. The judge in charge of the case has barred the defense from learning the identity of another goverment official who reportedly discussed Plame's status with the press:

Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, charged with perjury in the CIA leak case, cannot be told the identity of another government official who is said to have divulged a CIA operative's identity to reporters, a federal judge ruled Friday. ...

During a hearing Friday afternoon, Walton said Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald can keep secret the other government official's identity because that person has not been charged and has a right to privacy.

Since when does the prosecution get to withhold evidence in a criminal prosecution because of a right to privacy? Had the judge ruled that the information was not relevant to the charge, the ban would be understandable. However, since the entire prosecution appears to have its basis in the supposed evasion of Libby under oath on the nature of the information divulged and the timing of its publication, having more than one official discussing it with reporters sounds at least arguably relevant. Fitzgerald argued that the quoted remarks meant something entirely different, but that should be an argument for Fitzgerald to make to a jury, not a reason to deny Libby's lawyers to depose the witness for themselves.

If Libby committed perjury, then he should get convicted of the crime and suffer the consequences. However, Libby has the right to mount a defense against the prosecution's case, and the embarrassment that a subpoena might cause this material witness does not outweight Libby's right to that defense."

Senator Yosemite Sam

Washington defines politics downward.
February 24, 2006

Witnessing the political reaction this week to the administration's Dubai ports-management decision, the phrase that insistently called out from memory was the title of a famous essay by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Defining Deviancy Down." One would not have thought it possible, but Washington's political class is defining our politics down.

After nearly seven days of elevating the Cheney bird-hunting accident to the level of a national crisis, now comes this week's flap over managing the ports. To be sure, the matter of secure U.S. ports trumps the hunting of quail as an affaire d'état. But it was the strikingly low quality of the politicians' commentary and behavior that attracted notice.

Within hours, if not minutes, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Robert Menendez announced "emergency" legislation to "ban foreign governments from controlling operations at our ports." No matter that most of the current operators of our ports are from Denmark, Britain and, uh-oh, China. Chuck Schumer: "It's hard to believe that this administration would be so out of touch with the American people's national security concerns." Yes, that is hard to believe.

Once the match was put to the ports decision in Washington, the bonfire spread quickly to the governors' mansions. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, until recently a U.S. senator, told Ron Insana he was filing a federal lawsuit to thwart the move because the roads near the Port of Newark are "the two most dangerous miles in America." They are? Maybe he should put warning signs on the Jersey Turnpike.

What we have here is the dawn of the new Yosemite Sam school of national politics. Put any news event in front of our politicians now--Hurricane Katrina, Terri Schiavo, Dick Cheney's quail or this week the ports--and like Bugs Bunny's hair-triggered nemesis they'll start spraying the landscape with wild remarks and opinions decoupled from what is knowable about these events. Wait to learn the facts--as almost alone, Sen. John McCain, suggested? Why bother?

Yes, there are matters of substance in the ports decision about which serious people could disagree, but there's not much chance of that now, not after the politicos have poisoned the well. On Sunday Rep. Peter King of Long Island, chairman of the homeland security committee, was virtually the first pol to light up the ports issue: "How are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al Qaeda or someone else?" Three days later Mr. King announced: "Lawmakers are responding to incredible local pressure." But it was the remarks of Mr. King and his colleagues that drove the torrent of calls to the talk shows. Hold hearings to learn more? Sure, why not. But what chance is there that the Dubai Ports World hearings, like those just held on the NSA antiterror wiretap program, would result in other than more hyperbolic grandstanding?

What ever happened to the habit of political judiciousness in public life? One expects on occasion that Washington will march en masse through the swamps of overstatement. But it is now the habit to be intemperate. Rep. Sue Myrick in a letter to the President: "Dear Mr. President, not just NO but HELL NO!" This is a member of Congress?

It is being said that the Dubai decision has merely given Democrats a chance to get to the president's right on a terror issue (a week after they dove over the ship of state's port side on wiretapping terrorists). Or that election-needy Republicans are distancing themselves from a president with a 40% approval rating. Possibly so, but I thought the war on terror was about something real, not just this fall's dog-catcher elections.

An alternative way of looking at the Dubai Ports World decision is that it finally binds an Arab nation to our side in the war on terror and that it represents a recognition by some Arab elites that their self-interest coincides with ours. Dubai was already cooperating in tracing and identifying al Qaeda's financial flows. Presumably they are in the port-management business for the money. Now you may disagree with this, but there is at least an upside and downside here worth weighing. No chance of that now. The press yesterday clearly set the chalk lines for public discussion on the ports: The only issue now is whether the White House caves to "bipartisan pressure."

It has been a truism for a century that press stereotypes set the tone of many public events. We used to call this the conventional wisdom; now it's a "narrative." By and large it's a neutral phenomenon. But in our jacked-up media age, first impressions--false or true--becomes powerful and hard to alter. Surely this is one reason Vice President Cheney's office resisted "releasing" the shooting incident into the media ozone.

Our political elites, rather than recognize they are playing with a new kind of fire, instead have become pyromaniacs, lighting the fires. New Orleans even now can't get out from under the initial crazy statements the pols were hurling over Katrina. Our politicians seem to have arrived at the conclusion that they somehow no longer bear responsibility for what they say, or that there is no consequence to what they say. But they do and there is. Yosemite Sam was a cartoon. The ability of government to function in a dangerous world is not."

"D.C. Denmark Rally Photos"

"Demography is Destiny -- But What Drives the Demography?"

That is the question that "Chicago Boyz" asks "Spengler."

"Spengler" offers a radical answer, which is plausible at least for the developed world.

"The personal is political," said the feminists of the 1960s. They were on to something. Countries go to war because those who inhabit them cannot bear their individual lives. Entire cultures die out because the individuals who comprise them no longer wish to live, not because (as author Jared Diamond claims) they cut down too many trees. Bulgaria and Belarus have plenty of trees, yet we observe in such countries a demographic catastrophe unseen in Europe since the Thirty Years' War.

Birth rates rise and fall with religious faith People do not have babies because religious doctrine instructs them to procreate, though, but because religion makes them happy. With the end of traditional society, religion becomes a personal, not a communal, matter, and the fate of nations is fought out at the level of individual souls. Communism suppressed religion in Eastern Europe, and the demographic data in consequence seem to bear out the cliche of the melancholy Slav. By mid-century most of the Eastern European countries will lose 20-40% of their people and be left with a geriatric remnant.

US Christians, by contrast, have one of the highest birth rates in the West. Conservative, mostly evangelical Christians have a plurality, soon to be a majority, in US politics. Their burgeoning power stems from a personal message that has made converts of tens of millions of liberal Protestants. Evangelicals are political only when circumstances force them into politics, for example proposals in several US states to legalize same-sex marriage. Their identification with Israel has drawn them into foreign policy … .

The Devil's Sourdough and the Decline of Nations , by "Spengler".

"Spidy" goes dark.

Outside the Beltway had this:
Sony has released a new publicity photo for Spiderman 3:

"Iran Threatens to Attack Israel"

Little Green Footballs points to:

"Iran Threatens to Attack Israel

Iran threatened today to repond to any US military strike by attacking Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona.

If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel’s main nuclear facility.

Dr. Abasi, an advisor to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area.

Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.

Zakhariya, located in the Jerusalem hills is - according to foreign reports - home to Israel’s Jericho missile base. Both Israeli and international media have published commercial satellite images of the Zakhariya and Dimona sites.

Abasi, a senior lecturer at Tehran University, was quoted in the Roz internet news site, identified with reform circles in Iran."

CBS Evening News Re-Airing The "Feel-Good Story Of The Year" Tonight

Mediabistro tells us "CBS Evening News Re-Airing The "Feel-Good Story Of The Year" Tonight
Thursday's CBS Evening News included a package by Steve Hartman about Jason McElwain, an autistic high school baskeball team manager in Rochester, N.Y. "We got such an incredible response that we're going to re-broadcast it tonight," a CBS rep said this evening. (When was the last time an evening news program aired the same piece two nights in a row?)

This blogger calls it "the feel-good story of the year," and here's why: McElwain "was added to the roster by coach Jim Johnson so he could be given a jersey and get to sit on the bench in the team's last game of the year.

Johnson hoped the situation would even enable him to get McElwain onto the floor a little playing time.

He got the chance, with Greece Athena up by double-digits with four minutes go to.

And, in his first action of the year, McElwain missed his first two shots, but then sank six three-pointers and another shot, for a total of 20 points in three minutes." Read the rest..."

Don't mess with little old ladies from Texas!

Mark from Mexico points us to this. ROTFL!

Healing Iraq: Fierce Streetfighting

Little Green Footballs points to:

A very distressing report from Zeyad at Healing Iraq.

Fierce streetfighting at my doorstep for the last 3 hours. Rumor in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area. Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves.

There’s supposed to be a curfew, but it doesn’t look like it. My net connection is erratic, so I’ll try to update again if possible. The news from other areas in Baghdad are horrible. I don’t think it’s being reported anywhere.

My father and uncle are agitatedly walking back and forth in the hallway, asking me what we should do if the mob or Interior ministry forces try to attack us in our homes? I have no answer for them."

"There Is No Such Thing as ‘Hate Speech'"

Says Sean Clark at "The Fire"

Yes, that is correct. “Hate speech” is not a category of speech recognized under current constitutional law. It is merely a convenient way to pigeonhole speech that some people find offensive. But what is very troubling is when people begin to treat “hate speech” as unprotected speech. For example, a student leader at Penn State, a university which was recently sued for its unconstitutionally vague and overbroad speech codes, made the following comment featured in a prominent article in the student newspaper The Daily Collegian:

“We support any and all university policies that prohibit intolerant actions against any student on this campus," said Watson, adding that hate speech was not protected by the constitution. [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a statement like this has been made. This belief has become somewhat pervasive, especially on college campuses, making it high time to put this fundamentally false and dangerous belief to rest.

There is no constitutional exception for so-called hate speech. The First Amendment fully protects speech that some may find offensive, unpopular, or even racist. The First Amendment allows you to wear a jacket that says “Fuck the Draft” in a public building (see Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15), yell “We’ll take the fucking street later!” during a protest (see Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105), burn the American flag in protest (Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 and United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310), and even give a racially charged speech to a restless crowd (see Terminello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1). You can even, consistent with the First Amendment, call for the overthrow of the United States government (see Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444). This is not a recent development in constitutional law—these cases date back to 1949.

The U.S. Supreme Court stated the general rule regarding protected speech quite well in Texas v. Johnson, when it held:

The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.

Federal courts have consistently followed this holding when applying the First Amendment to public universities. While invalidating sanctions placed on a fraternity for holding an “ugly woman contest,” a federal district court in Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University, 993 F.2d 386, held:

The First Amendment does not recognize exceptions for bigotry, racism, and religious intolerance or ideas or matters some may deem trivial, vulgar or profane.

Furthermore, federal courts have consistently used this concept in striking down college speech codes that regulate offensive or unpopular language (for examples, see Doe v. University of Michigan, 721 F. Supp. 852, UWM Post, Inc., v. Board of Regents of University of Wisc., 774 F. Supp. 1163, and Bair v. Shippensburg Univ., 280 F. Supp. 2d 357). The law is so consistent that not one college speech code challenged in federal court has ever been left standing.

As you can see, it is settled law that public universities, in order to be consistent with the First Amendment, cannot regulate or suppress speech based upon its content, even when it is offensive, vulgar, profane, or unpopular. A university, especially one run with our tax dollars, should be a marketplace of ideas where open and vigorous discourse is encouraged and not suppressed by crafty speech codes and the threat of disciplinary sanctions."

Big Tort

Thomas Lifson spots this story

Elizabeth Peek of the New York Sun brings us information from a Manhattan Institute Panel discussion on the impact of tort lawyers on medical costs. The costs are massive and spread throughout the system like ripples in a pond.

Most surprising to me is the evidence on the second and third order consequences of the phenomenal rise in lawsuits targeting doctors, drug companies and others in the medical sector. The institute labels the lawyers responsible for this plague “Trial Lawyers, Inc.”

In medical school today, according to Mr. Krauss, students are being taught to refer patients to specialists, rather than risk a lawsuit by offering treatment.

The more specialists to whom patients are sent, the more money will be needed to pay for the extra physician-hours and associated expenses of a second professional consultation. Simple arithmetic. Then add in the extra training, equipment, and other expenses of the increasing specialization in the delivery of medical care.

Tort litigation has driven up costs directly, siphoning off massive amounts of money in malpractice costs.

medical malpractice tort costs rose 12% a year between 1975 and 2003, or four times the rise in overall medical outlays. Medical malpractice liability costs in 2003 were $26 billion a year, 2,000% above the 1975 level

Drug development is skewed toward life-threatening diseases, because

…malpractice suits tend to skew research and development dollars toward products aimed at people with life-threatening diseases. These patients typically do not provide great prospects for trial lawyers, who prefer to target drugs taken by large classes of people over many years.

According to Mr. Troy, numerous drugs which might treat diabetes or pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness are simply too vulnerable to lawsuits and thus are not pursued by drug manufacturers.

I guess I would prefer that those of who don’t have life threatening diseases would benefit from pharmaceutical research. There are a lot of chronic conditions out there.

China in Africa

Thomas Lifson at "American Thinker" points out that "The Financial Times" takes a hard look ($) at China’s drive for resources, markets and influence in Africa. China is a poised to grab an increasing share of all three.

...the continent is… benefiting from the rise in commodity prices driven by Chinese demand.

No wonder that

...the African view of China’s fast-growing involvement has been overwhelmingly positive.

But there are other things which make China a natural player in Africa, displacing Europe and the west.

China is widely regarded as a model of modernisation, more responsive to African needs than western partners, able to build dams, roads and bridges more quickly and cheaply and providing consumer products better suited to African pockets.

The positive reception is more than matched by the eagerness of Chinese businesses to leap in.

As latecomers, Chinese companies have been willing to take risks that other investors have shunned and enter countries where others have held back….

In war-ruined Angola, the Chinese have leapt into one of the world’s most inhospitable investment environments, offering a $2bn oil-backed credit at a time when western banks and international institutions have been cautious about lending. An agreement between Angola and the International Monetary Fund has been held up, largely because of IMF concerns about how the government manages its oil money. Similar misgivings have prevented the holding of an international donors’ conference. “The Chinese are offering the loan as an alternative to working with the IMF,” says Princeton Lyman, director of Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

A geopolitical power challenge is underway by China in Africa. And it is succeeding.


This from Laurent Murawiec , senior fellow at the Hudson Institute & author of "Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West"

Not very effective suicide bombers tried to ram three explosive-packed cars through a gate at the huge Saudi oil-processing facility at Abqaiq today. Security forces' fire stopped them right there, at the gates of the complex, one mile away from anything lucrative target. Oil prices went up a little bit (they did not “soar,” as some soaringly hysterical media claimed: $1.26 was added to the price of a barrel, a mere ripple in an ocean of thick oil).

Various Saudi princes, from King Abdullah to Interior Minister Nayyef, had averred that al-Qaeda had been eradicated from the kingdom; since the kingdom's principal output, besides oil and natural gas, is jihadis, this was hard to believe. Their statements have now been given the lie: to send three cars packed with explosive into the highly sensitive oil facilities in the middle of the highly protected Saudi petroland shows that a serious terrorist infrastructure is still in place. All three cars were reportedly marked with Saudi Aramco logos, which suggests, as in every terrorist hit that has occurred in Saudi Arabia in the last few years, some inside complicity.

Terror hits are part of every negotiating process in the Middle East: A terror group that wants a pay raise, or has other demands in mind, will kill people or sabotage or destroy objects in order to make a point--as a mode of self-expression, it's faster than elections and it emphatically conveys the message. Since there is a continuum rather than a chasm between the Royal Family and the jihadis, the latter are making a point indeed: we exist; we are a threat; we could do worse, gimme, gimme, gimme. One wonders how much the timing is influenced by the atrocities committed across the border in Iraq by the jihadi cousins of the Saudi al Qaedists.

Also, at a time when the Saudi leaders are manifesting a great deal of unhappiness and angst with the nuclear strides made by neighboring Iran, one may wonder whom the hit came from and why: to remind the kingdom of the vulnerability of its oil resources may be of benefit to several different players--the eastern oil province's population is 80 percent Shiite, most of them, it is true, of Sistani's persuasion. Still: Middle Eastern politics does not have the biblical simplicity of, say, Italian politics, or the transparency of Chinese politics."


Rich says: "The Sunnis are apparently furious at us for not protecting them against Shiite revenge attacks. Incredible. One of the crazy aspects of Iraq at the moment is that the Sunnis are trying to provoke a civil war that they can't win. Now, I know most Sunnis probably don't want a civil war, but they are the ones with the most power to crack down--through intelligence tips and moral suasion--on the fanatics in their midst who are fomenting the sectarian violence. I have long wondered if the Sunnis would ever clue into the fact that we are the strongest force in favor of just and competent government in Iraq, and if we leave prematurely, they are the ones who will pay the heaviest price. Maybe they will begin to get it now"
Rest at NRO

Strategypage on Iran and The Golden Mosque

Austin Bay tipped me to this article at Strategy page. Excerpt:

from today’s StrategyPage newsletter:

IRAN: Taking Heat for Supporting al Qaeda

February 24, 2006: Why blame Israel and the U.S. for attacks on Iraqi Shias? Simple, the government is openly supporting Sunni Arab terrorist organizations, as part of their “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” campaign against the United States. This is a dangerous tactic, because most Iranians are well aware of the fact that Sunni Arab Islamic terrorists eagerly kill Shia Moslems. Always have, always will. Shia and Sunni Islamic terrorists have worked together against a common enemy (the U.S. or Israel), but always with the understanding that Shia and Sunni can never be permanent allies.

The government signed more trade agreements with Syria. These agreements basically provide economic aid to prop up the pro-Iranian dictatorship in Syria.

February 23, 2006: The extremists now in power are losing support because of continued Sunni violence against Shias in Iraq, and economic problems in Iran. The government reaction to the recent attack on a Shia shrine in Iraq was particularly poorly received in Iran. Blaming the U.S. and Israel, and ignoring any mention of Sunni Arab thugs every Iranian knows is responsible, has not gone down well at all.

February 22, 2006: The government responded to the bombing of a Shia shrine in Iraq by blaming Israel and the United States for the attack.

February 21, 2006: Russia is trying to broker a deal to manufacture nuclear fuel for Iranians nuclear power plants, so that Iran will not have to (and not be able to create nuclear material for atomic bombs). Iran has refused, and knows that Russia is just going through the motions. Russia will veto any UN attempts to punish Iran, because Iran is becoming a major buyer of Russian goods (including weapons).

"Standoff in Iraq"

Victor Davis Hanson is just back from Iraq, and he writes:

It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.

The Iraqi military goes out now on about half the American patrols, as well as on thousands of their own. It is not the Fallujah brigade of early 2004 — rather, it is developing into the best trained and disciplined armed force in the Middle East. While progress in reestablishing the infrastructure necessary for increased electricity and oil production seems dismal, in fact, much has been finished that awaits only the completion of pipelines and transmission lines — the components most vulnerable to sabotage. It is the American plan, in a certain sense, to gradually expand the security inside the so-called international or green zone, block by block, to the other 6 million Iraqis outside, where sewers run in the streets and power from the grid is available less than 12 hours per day.

The nature of the debate has also changed at home. Gone is “my perfect war, your screwed-up peace” or “no-blood for oil” or even “Bush lied, thousands died.” And there is little finger-pointing any more that so-and-so disbanded the Iraqi army, or didn’t have enough troops, or didn’t supply enough body armor. Now it is simply a yes or no proposition: yes, we can pull it off with patience, or no, it is no longer worth the cost and the lives.

Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing. They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent. Insufficient body armor and unarmored humvees are yesterday’s hysteria. Our generals — Casey, Chiarelli, Dempsey — are astute and understand the fine line between using too much force and not employing enough, and that the war cannot be won by force alone. American colonels are the best this county has produced, and they are proving it in Iraq under the most trying of conditions. Iraqi soldiers are treated with respect and given as much autonomy as their training allows.

Again, the question now is an existential one: Can the United States — or anyone — in the middle of a war against Islamic fascism, rebuild the most important country in the heart of the Middle East, after 30 years of utter oppression, three wars, and an Orwellian, totalitarian dictator warping of the minds of the populace? And can anyone navigate between a Zarqawi, a Sadr, and the Sunni rejectionists, much less the legions of Iranian agents, Saudi millionaires, and Syrian provocateurs who each day live to destroy what’s going on in Iraq?"

Be sure to read it all!

"Dogs Not Barking"

Cori Dauber at Ranting Profs says:

I find this Times article about Muslim-Christian tension breaking out into violence in Nigeria simply astonishing. Many people look to the Times to fill in the blanks, to educate them about the world. That's a responsibility they should take seriously -- and one I thought they did.

But look: first, there's this description of recent violence.

Conflicts between religious and ethnic groups are common and deadly in Nigeria. In 2002, riots over a beauty contest held in Kaduna in northern Nigeria left more than 200 people dead, and thousands of others have died in such clashes in the last few years.

Given the topic of the article, it might have been helpful to know that the violence in that case was coming largely from the Muslim community in the country. Ironically, the issue was, once again, perceived offense from the press to the Prophet. The Times wording here carefully elides both the cause of the violence and who was responsible for it."

Be sure to read the rest

"Not Good"

Cori Dauber over at "Ranting Profs" says:

The situation in Iraq is just flat bad, and there's no point trying to sugar coat any of it. All we can do is wait and see how things break.

Update: That said, it is important to note, as the Post does, that this marks the distance the country has come since 2004. There would have been absolutely no way, during that earlier crisis, for the American military to step back and let Iraqi forces take the lead in restoring order."

"The Iraq Violence"

The Wall Street Journal says:

"The Iraq Violence
The Baathists want a sectarian war.

Friday, February 24, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Critics of President Bush's Iraq policy have been predicting--and, in some cases, hoping--that without Saddam's iron rule the country was destined for sectarian civil war. Following Wednesday's devastating attack on the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra, it would be foolish to dismiss that possibility.

Shiite mobs have vented their anger in cities across Iraq, vandalizing Sunni mosques and killing scores in apparent revenge attacks. Moreover, this has happened against a background of two years of ethnic retrenchment--especially in the melting pot of Baghdad, where many Shiites and Sunnis alike have been forced to flee their homes for the relative safety of neighborhoods dominated by their own kind.

There is a danger this violence--the first truly widespread backlash against anti-Shiite terrorism--could be the tipping point beyond which neither U.S. forces nor Iraqi authorities can re-establish control. But it could equally be that this week's glimpse of hell will be the medicine that pushes Iraq away from the brink.

Hope for the latter is strengthened by our familiarity with the good sense of most Iraqis and the knowledge that the violence on both sides is the work of a few. Despite the hardships of the past few years, most Iraqis pride themselves on their cosmopolitanism and bridle at questions about their ethnic or sectarian background. "I am an Iraqi" is a common reply."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Goood Morning to the Mainland!

Eric Umansky at Slate says:

Everybody leads with the Iraq clashes. About 140 people have been killed since Wednesday's bombing of a Shiite shrine. In one incident, gunmen at a fake police checkpoint executed 47 people who had just come from a protest against the bombing. Iraq's largest Sunni religious organization said 184 mosques have been attacked, 10 clerics killed, and other 15 abducted. Also, seven GIs were killed in two roadside bombings. Meanwhile, the main Sunni coalition pulled out of political negotiations, complaining that the government and the Shiites now in charge are at the least turning a blind eye to reprisal attacks. The government declared a daytime curfew for central Iraq today.


Harbor Exit

Charles Krauthammer says:

Gleeful, and shamelessly hypocritical. If a citizen of the UAE walked into an airport in full burnoose and flowing robes, speaking only Arabic, Democrats would be deeply offended, and might even sue, if the security people were to give him any more scrutiny than they would to my sweet 84-year-old mother.

Democrats loudly denounce any thought of racial profiling. But when that same Arab, attired in business suit and MBA, and with a good record running ports in 15 countries, buys P&O, Democrats howl at the very idea of allowing Arabs to run our ports. (Republicans are howling too, but they don't grandstand on the issue of racial profiling.)

On this, the Democrats are rank hypocrites. But even hypocrites can be right. There is a problem. And the problem is not just the obvious one that an Arab-run company, heavily staffed with Arab employees, is more likely to be infiltrated by terrorists who might want to smuggle an awful weapon into our ports. But that would probably require some cooperation from the operating company. And neither the company nor the government of the UAE, which has been pro-American and a reasonably good ally in the war on terror, has any such record.

The greater and more immediate danger is that as soon as the Dubai company takes over operations, it will necessarily become privy to information about security provisions at crucial U.S. ports. That would mean a transfer of information about our security operations -- and perhaps even worse, about the holes in our security operations -- to a company in an Arab state in which there might be employees who, for reasons of corruption or ideology, would pass this invaluable knowledge on to al Qaeda-types.

That is the danger and it is a risk, probably an unnecessary one. It's not quite the end of the world that Democratic and Republican critics have portrayed it to be. After all, the UAE, which is run by a friendly regime, manages ports in other countries without any such incidents. Employees in other countries could leak or betray us just as easily. The issue, however, is that they are statistically more likely to be found in the UAE than, for example, in Britain.

It's a fairly close call. I can sympathize with the president's stubbornness in sticking to the deal. He is responsible for our foreign relations, and believes, not unreasonably, that it would harm our broader national interest to reject and humiliate a moderate Middle Eastern ally by pulling the contract just because a company is run by Arabs.

This contract should have been stopped at an earlier stage, but at this point doing so would cause too much damage to our relations with moderate Arab states. There are no very good options. The best exit strategy is this: (1) Allow the contract to go through; (2) give it heightened scrutiny by assigning a team of U.S. government agents to work inside the company at least for the first few years to make sure security is tight and information closely held; (3) have the team report every six months to both the executive and a select congressional committee.

CBS Uniquely Showcases Murtha's Slam of Bush, Insistence Iraq Already in Civil War

CBS is really open now with their Bush hostility

Brent Baker at Newsbusters covers Thursdays CBS News

All the broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday led with fears of “civil war” in Iraq, a topic of much cable focus too during the day, but unlike ABC and NBC, the CBS Evening News decided to highlight a slam at the Bush administration from a liberal hero, crusading anti-war Democratic Congressman John Murtha. After presenting the administration's view that Iraq is not falling into civil war, CBS White House correspondent Jim Axelrod showcased how, over still shots of Murtha, in uniform, getting a medal and in Iraq: “Democratic Congressman John Murtha, a former Marine colonel who's among the most outspoken critics of the war, says the administration is misjudging." Viewers then saw a soundbite from Murtha: “It's not going to get better. They've been overly optimistic. This is a civil war where two participants are fighting with each other trying to win supremacy, and our troops are caught in between." (Partial transcript follows.)"

"Able Danger - Out of Gas?"

MacsMind gives us Weldon's summary:

"In his Washington D.C. office last Thursday, a slightly tired Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa) was lamenting to Canada Free Press the ongoing suppression of Able Danger.

Eric Kleinsmith and two colleagues had given testimony in open session before the House Armed Services Committee the day before.

Weldon said that he had found it demoralizing that sincere witnesses, who had turned out for the hearings in full military dress, had been identified on committee papers as "only Mr."

In 1999 and 2000, "Mr.’s" like the then-Major Kleinsmith was chief of intelligence for the U.S. Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity at Ft. Belvoir, VA. and was finding huge success with data mining used to support a top secret unit of Special Operations Command that subsequently pinpointed al-Qaeda cells around the world–code name "Able Danger".

As Weldon has been trying to flag the western world, Able Danger, through computer scanning of some 2.5 terabytes of classified and unclassified data, identified five "nodes" of active al-Qaeda intelligence–long before 9/11. One of the nodes identified was active in Brooklyn, N.Y. Another was in the faraway port of Aden, Yemen, where the USS Cole was attacked.

But Able Danger and the intelligence it discovered have been withering on the vine due to lack of interest.

"Neither my own party nor the Democrats want to hear the truth about Able Danger," Weldon ruefully told CFP.""

Free Speech Lawsuits Filed Against Penn State and Temple

My hat is off to FIRE for the great job they are doing in forcing Colleges to get rid of censorship on campus. Why such a problem? Here is FIRE's answer.

Why then, do these universities persist in promulgating unlawful rules? The answer may be as simple as that they think they can get away with it. It’s an unfortunate fact that speech restrictions, for whatever reason, are far more popular with college administrators than with students or the general public. Further, these administrators seem not to believe that they will ever get caught at it—they know that few college students would risk jeopardizing their career prospects from the very beginning by challenging an unfair policy. Those students who do so are courageous, but they are in the vast minority. Administrators, ideologues, and risk managers weigh these concerns, and in all too many cases, they decide that the supposed “benefits” of censorship (which are almost always illusory) outweigh the potential legal and PR drawbacks of getting caught.

It is FIRE’s job, and the job of attorneys like David French, to change this cost/benefit calculus. FIRE’s advocacy, as well as its Speech Codes Ligitation Project (currently challenging an unconstitutional speech code at Troy University in Alabama) is part of this process, as are the twin lawsuits filed this week by David and ADF. With these lawsuits, though, we have high hopes that students at Penn State and Temple won’t have to wait too long."

Read it all

CBS Records $9B Loss on TV, Radio Charges

Scylla & Charybdis had this.

Bummerdietz says,:

You have to try very, very hard to lose $25 million per day.
You also have to work very, very hard to authenticate obvious forgeries .... oh, never mind."

The WaPo Gets it Right on Asbestos

Pat Cleary at "Redstate" discusses this WaPo editorial today.

"Anyone who thinks the tort system can handle asbestos claims should consider some numbers from the Rand Corp. think tank. Of the $70 billion paid out in settlements for asbestos-related injuries since the 1970s, about $41 billion went to lawyers; only $29 billion went to sick people. A system of compensation that burns up more than half the dollars it consumes in administrative costs is utterly broken. The grotesque legal fees have contributed to the bankruptcy of 77 U.S. companies so far, costing thousands of workers their jobs.""

Read Pats comments here.

""Everyone's Hyperventilating": 'Today' Expert Cressey Backs Bush Port Plan

Newsbusters says,

You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.

Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"

Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't.""

Americans Say Iran is Their Greatest Enemy

You keep threatening us, we will eventually believe you. Hat tip, Protein Wisdom

Gallup says:

More Americans consider Iran the United States' greatest enemy today than any other country, according to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey. Iraq, North Korea, and China are also mentioned frequently by Americans as the United States' greatest enemy. This poll marks the first time that Iran has topped the list as the United States' greatest enemy; in previous years, Iraq or North Korea ranked first. Republicans are more likely than Democrats, and men are more likely than women, to say Iran is the country's greatest enemy.

The poll, conducted Feb. 6-9, 2006, asked Americans, without prompting, to name "one country anywhere in the world" that they "consider to be America's greatest enemy today." Thirty-one percent say Iran is the greatest enemy, while 22% say Iraq, 15% say North Korea, and 10% say China.

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