Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Offense thieves

When you're arguing with someone who doesn't have a case, that person is very likely to declare herself "offended". This is not merely because her feelings are hurt – it's also a ploy.

Screaming "That's offensive!" is nothing but a ploy. Yes, you heard it here first, few who emit that utterance are actually offended.

They just don't happen to like what you're saying.

I'll explain precisely what is going on. Liberals trade on this ploy, using it as a standard response whenever their sacred cows come under scrutiny. If they were tolerant, they would simply accept that some will espouse what we despise. If they were honest, they would simply say what they mean. But tolerance is just another ploy, and honesty, well, it has never served the ends of the left, and never less so than here. A translation of what they really mean to say will illustrate why:

"I hate what you're saying, it makes me angry and you should shut your mouth! [expletives omitted]"

Of course, to exhibit such petulance would reveal their vaunted tolerance for the facade it is and demonstrate their moral inferiority. And telling others to shut-up is the stuff of neither polite society nor effective debate, so a different strategy is in order.

Hillary's vote on war in Iraq

...She was for it before she was against it.

(Hat tip: Betsy Newmark.)

In Iowa last weekend, Clinton was asked about her 2002 vote to suppport the Iraq war.


Asked about her vote by a man in front of a mostly adoring rally, Clinton trotted out the whopper. She said she was misled by President Bush about the resolution. "He said at the time he was going to the United Nations to put inspectors back into Iraq, to figure out whether they still had any WMD," she said, adding, "He took the authority that others and I gave him and he misused it."


Here are the facts. The resolution passed the Senate on Oct. 10, 2002, by a vote of 77 to 23, with support from Clinton, Edwards and about 20 other Dems.

Its purpose was clear from its title: "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq." Opponents, including Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), voted no because they thought it meant war was inevitable.

They had good reason to worry. Bush made it clear he intended to "disarm" Iraq and the resolution gave him that authority. He could use our armed forces, Section 3 said, "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to defend America and enforce UN resolutions. Separately, an amendment requiring Security Council approval for an invasion was defeated. Clinton helped to defeat that amendment.

Facts, you say? Well those can be ignored.


Richard Fortey, President Of The Geological Society Of London, writes on the subject of Intelligent Design.

The battle of Najaf - what went right

Last weekend, there was a ferocious battle in Najaf. The mainstream press has emphasized how "inadequate" Iraqi forces were – they had to call in an American air strike.

Was there anything positive about the battle?

Well, 263 of the militants were killed, and over 300 captured. Furthermore:

Striking first indicates improved intelligence. Iraqi forces striking first demonstrates improved Iraqi military capabilities. U.S. and coalition air and ground "back up" is an operational version of "strategic overwatch," which was the goal coalition forces set for themselves in 2004.

Mass murder in Najaf was thwarted. The rejectionist forces were destroyed. American defeatists and Middle Eastern fascists should take note.

Let's have a few more "defeats" like this one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

CAIR and Prager

A link to an article about CAIR's protest of Dennis Prager, and its effect.

...According to talk-show host and columnist Dennis Prager, who recently told the Los Angeles Times that he is proud to be attacked by the “radical Islamist organization,” it is much better to wear CAIR’s contempt as a badge of honor.

Publicity is another benefit of being publicly smeared by CAIR, as was evident on the evening of January 24 when a packed house came to hear Prager speak on “Islam, Iran, the West and Israel” at the North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, California.

Lies about Iraq and Nigerian Yellowcake

There are a number of accusations flying around regarding lies told about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of yellowcake from Niger.

Christopher Hitchens writes about them in Slate.

...Was there good reason to suppose that Iraqi envoys visited Niger in search of "yellowcake" uranium ore?

In a series of columns, I have argued that the answer to this is "yes," and that British intelligence was right to inform Washington to that effect.

It seems the only lie is "Bush Lied!!!"

To summarize, then: In February 1999 one of Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear goons paid a visit to Niger, but his identity was not noticed by Joseph Wilson, nor emphasized in his "report" to the CIA, nor mentioned at all in his later memoir. British intelligence picked up the news of the Zahawie visit from French and Italian sources and passed it on to Washington. Zahawie's denials of any background or knowledge, in respect of nuclear matters, are plainly laughable based on his past record, and he is still taken seriously enough as an expert on such matters to be invited (as part of a Jordanian delegation) to Hans Blix's commission on WMD. Two very senior and experienced diplomats in the field of WMDs and disarmament, both of them from countries by no means aligned with the Bush administration, have been kind enough to share with me their disquiet at his activities. What responsible American administration could possibly have viewed any of this with indifference?

The subsequent mysteriously forged documents claiming evidence of an actual deal made between Zahawie and Niger were circulated well after the first British report (and may have been intended to discredit it) and have been deemed irrelevant by two independent inquiries in London. The original British report carefully said that Saddam had "sought" uranium, not that he had acquired it. The possible significance of a later return visit—this time by a minister from Niger to Baghdad in 2001—has not as yet been clarified by the work of the Iraq Survey Group.

This means that both pillars of the biggest scandal-mongering effort yet mounted by the "anti-war" movement—the twin allegations of a false story exposed by Wilson and then of a state-run vendetta undertaken against him and the lady wife who dispatched him on the mission—are in irretrievable ruins. The truth is the exact polar opposite. The original Niger connection was both authentic and important, and Wilson's utter failure to grasp it or even examine it was not enough to make Karl Rove even turn over in bed. All the work of the supposed "outing" was inadvertently performed by Wilson's admirer Robert Novak. Of course, one defends the Bush administration at one's own peril. Thanks largely to Stephen Hadley, assistant to the president for national security affairs, our incompetent and divided government grew so nervous as to disown the words that appeared in the 2003 State of the Union address. But the facts are still the facts, and it is high time that they received one-millionth of the attention that the "Plamegate" farce has garnered.

Global warming? Place your bets!

Another way of looking at the question of global warming: the way hedge fund operators do.

The nature of the business makes hedgies into odds players. Not in the sense of "I know there are no spades left in the deck, so my straight has a lock on his hand," but in the sense of "The market is pricing this hand as if there were 8 spades left in the deck whereas I know that there are only 3." Or, to shift to an investment context, the calculation is "the market is pricing Deck Industries as if it has a 30% chance of getting that contract, but my specialized knowledge of the particular processes involved leads me to believe that its chance is actually 50%," or perhaps, "this company looks like a dog, but my technical expert says there is 30%-50% chance that its patents will be crucial to some major tech players."

The bet is that Mr. Market is mis-pricing assets, in the sense that the value it puts on them does not reflect the true probabilities, and that the hedgie, for some reason, has superior insight into these true probabilities. This does not mean that the hedgie is always right - a 60% batting average is great - or that the favored horse always wins. A 10% chance is a long shot, but it wins 10% of the time. So the hedgie, like a Las Vegas casino, wants to keep making bets at favorable odds.

Ok, so how does this apply to global warming? Well, there are several competing theories about what may be causing the observed warming – increased output of greenhouse gases, increased solar output, increased (or decreased) cosmic ray flux, and so on. Any one of these could be the cause – or some or all of them, or none of them.

What do we do with this information?

One could use it to start the Sun Cycle Investment Fund. This would be a beneficent enterprise, in the same way that the bets on Tradesports are useful. There is nothing like the opportunity to place a bet at favorable odds to trigger curiosity and investigation. In fact, maybe those known contemptuously as "the deniers" should establish an on-line betting market, a la Tradesports. Surely, all the scientists, politicians and journalists who assert that CO2 theory is indisputable would be eager to bet their own 401(k) money on the proposition. (Figuring out how to resolve the bets would be a problem, though. Tradesports deals with discrete events.)

Thomas Sowell on the Duke lacrosse team case

The larger tragedy is what this case revealed about the degeneration of our times and the hollowness of so many people in "responsible" positions in the media, in academia, and among those blacks so consumed by racial resentments and thirst for revenge that they are prepared to lash out at individuals who have done nothing to them and are guilty of no crime against anybody.

The haste and vehemence with which scores of Duke University professors publicly took sides against the students in this case is just one sign of how deep the moral dry rot goes, in even our most prestigious institutions.

Monday, January 29, 2007


President James Earl Carter (JEC) has a problem with the makeup of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation. It has TMJ.

Don't call a dentist – TMJ in this case means "Too Many Jews".

Someone thinks Iraq matters

Antiwar activists (or anti-Bush activists, as they usually reveal themselves to be within about 30 seconds) call the war in Iraq "a diversion" in the war against terrorism. Somehow, Al Qaeda doesn't seem to have gotten that memo.

...information has recently come to light regarding plans established by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which, if fully and properly presented to the American people, could go a long way toward helping reverse the disconnect among the populace between Iraq, the War on Terror, and our nation’s security.

In a recent appearance before Congress, Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Maples confirmed that documents confiscated in a raid on an AQI safe house “revealed that Al Qaeda in Iraq was planning terrorist operations in the U.S.” Given the timing – roughly six months ago – and the relative secrecy regarding the capture of these documents, it is not a stretch to suppose that they were among the computer files and other intelligence items recovered from the remnants of the building which had been used as a hideout and meeting place by terrorist leader Abu-Musab al Zarqawi until his death there at the hands of US forces on June 8.

Called "the first hard evidence al Qaeda in Iraq was trying to attack us here at home” by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, this plot demonstrates that AQI’s leader took his marching orders from Ayman al-Zawahiri – known as Osama bin Laden’s "right-hand man" – with frightening seriousness. In a 6,000-word memo sent shortly after the 2005 subway bombings in London, in which Zawahiri laid out the plan for a post-Iraq Islamist state (and the goal of using it to topple the regimes around it en route to destroying Israel), Zarqawi had been instructed to, among other things, use his forces to “attempt an attack inside the United States."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lacrosse feeding frenzy

From the Weekly Standard:

Mike Nifong's handling of the case was clearly outrageous. But he would probably not have gone so far, indeed would not have dared to go so far, had he not been egged on by two other groups that rushed just as quickly to judge the three accused young men guilty of gross and racially motivated carnal violence. Despite the repeated attempts by the three to clear themselves, a substantial and vocal percentage--about one-fifth--of the Duke University arts and sciences faculty and nearly all of the mainstream print media in America quickly organized themselves into a hanging party. Throughout the spring of 2006 and indeed well into the late summer, Nifong had the nearly unanimous backing of this country's (and especially Duke's) intellectual elite as he explored his lurid theories of sexual predation and racist stonewalling.

"They fed off each other," said Steven Baldwin, a Duke chemistry professor who finally broke his faculty colleagues' own wall of silence on October 24, publishing a letter in the Duke student newspaper, the Chronicle, denouncing his fellow professors for what he called their "shameful" treatment of Seligmann and Finnerty and rebuking the Duke administration for having "disowned its lacrosse-playing student athletes."

Carter's latest book

Kenneth W. Stein writes on his problems with Jimmy Carter's latest book.

But Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,[1] Carter's twenty-first book and his second to focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, is deficient. He does what no non-fiction author should ever do: He allows ideology or opinion to get in the way of facts. While Carter says that he wrote the book to educate and provoke debate, the narrative aims its attack toward Israel, Israeli politicians, and Israel's supporters. It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter's credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Right wing fundamentalists

Greg Sheridan, foreign editor with The Australian, asks a pertinent question:

Do the extremists really represent a tiny fringe or is there some much bigger mainstream part of Middle East society that supports extremism? More particularly, is there an element inherent to Islam itself that lends support to extremism?

The answer is not quite as reassuring as we might prefer.

It is difficult to get a guide to Islamic public opinion anywhere. One of the best is a joint Asia-Europe Institute and University of Malaya survey of Malay Muslim opinion in Malaysia. I have referred to this survey before, but not previously given its results in any detail. It was exhaustive in its methodology.

About 65 per cent of Malaysia's population is Muslim, and only Malay Muslims were surveyed. Malaysia is a moderate and generally tolerant country. It does not persecute its religious minorities, and it has developed successfully economically so that it can just about be considered a middle-class society.

Certainly it is vastly more successful and wealthy than it was 20 years ago. If there's a Muslim population anywhere that should feel happy and content it is in Malaysia. Successful, increasingly rich, Islam afforded a special status in the constitution, Malays given substantial financial, educational, housing and other preferences, persecuted by no one, they should be among the least paranoid people in the Muslim world.

If they are, then that is disturbing, for the results of the poll are unsettling to say the least. Here are highlights:

  • 73 per cent of Malays, if they could choose only one identity, would choose Muslim first, only 14 per cent would choose Malaysian while 13 per cent would choose Malay. So Islam trumps citizenship, which only just edges out ethnicity.
  • 77 per cent believe Malaysians should be allowed to choose their own religion but this is contradicted by a massive 98 per cent believing that Malaysian Muslims should not be allowed to change their religion. Freedom of religion means you don't have to convert to Islam, but if you are a Muslim you should have no right under the law to change your religion under any circumstances. This belief is very widespread throughout the Muslim world.
  • 73 per cent said their parents had had the greatest influence on their development as Muslims, an encouraging sign of the strength of indigenous Malay traditions as opposed to contemporary Middle East influences.
  • 49 per cent thought the Malaysian Government sufficiently Islamic, but almost as many, 47 per cent, thought it was not sufficiently Islamic.
  • 77 per cent do not want Malaysia to become an Islamic state like Iran, but 18 per cent do want Malaysia to become an Islamic state like Iran.
  • 57 per cent say Islam and politics should be separate but a substantial 40 per cent say they should be mixed.
  • 57 per cent do not want strict hudud laws (stoning for adultery, and so on) implemented in Malaysia but 32 per cent do want hudud laws.
  • 60 per cent say non-Muslims should not be subject to hudud laws but nearly a third, 28 per cent, actually want hudud laws to apply to non-Muslims. Similarly, some 31 per cent want sharia (Islamic law) to replace the Malaysian constitution.
  • 77 per cent, a staggering figure, believe that Malaysia's existing sharia laws (which govern family matters for Muslims) are not strict enough.
  • 76 per cent believe men and women in Islam have equal rights.
  • 57 per cent believe wives could disobey husbands to work, but 47 per cent say if the husband forbids work, the wife should obey.
  • 97 per cent, encouragingly, believe it is acceptable to live alongside non-Muslims and 79 per cent believe Malays should learn about other religions.
  • 62 per cent believe suicide bombings are wrong but a disturbing 12 per cent (the exact mid-point of Pipes's estimated range) support it.
  • 1 per cent like the US, 45 per cent dislike it and 39 per cent hate the US.
  • 3 per cent like Europe, 38 per cent dislike it and 19 per cent hate Europe.
  • 4 per cent like Australia, 37 per cent dislike it and 18 per cent hate Australia.

Overall, these results are staggering. They show a substantial residual moderation, but a degree of genuine intolerance among even the majority and authentic extremism among a substantial minority.

It's hard to believe Islamic opinion is not substantially more extreme in the Middle East. The task of reforming the extremism in Islamic cultures remains vast.

Iraq + Al Qaeda?

Link to a post at which looks at the conclusions of the 9/11 commission.

Signs of success in Iraq

Bill Crawford, a blogger at All Things Conservative, offers a lengthy piece on signs of success in Iraq.

Lt. General Graeme Lamb, Deputy Commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq, sees 2007 as the year that Iraq moves forward, and says he sees plenty of progress to base his optimism on:


Ramadi. Four months ago I don't think there was any policemen in the town. Seven hundred and ninety-one now.

They were shot at from a building. Two hundred policemen drawn together surrounded the building, cleared it. Now, that's just an example of some progress.

I then look at some of the economic issues. I look at the megawatts of power that are coming on line. I see some of the reconstruction programs that are going out. Now, that gives me a degree of optimism.

The Al Qaim region routinely was described as an out-of-control "wild west" where the Marines were fighting, with only limited success, to control the smuggling of insurgent fighters and weapons from Syria.

Today, Marines walk the downtown beat, chatting with residents, fielding their complaints, encouraging them to contact the Iraqi police if they suspect insurgent activity

Not just a surge

Contrary to what we might believe from news accounts, there's more to the President's New! Improved! Iraq policy than just adding more troops.

Instead of clearing an area of insurgents and then leaving, as U.S. troops have been doing for too long, they'll now clear and stay, to secure the neighborhood. They'll stay to provide what has been most missing in this war and what poll after poll say that Iraqis want more than anything else: protection and peace.

Heretofore, we've seen the "whack-a-mole" strategy. Now, we're leaving people to watch each mole to make sure it stays whacked.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Different takes on what matters

Last night was the State of the Union speech. Following that was the Democratic "rebuttal". One interesting contrast is the way Bush and Webb look at poverty.

President Bush's proposals tend to target various aspects of what might be called absolute poverty. By contrast, Sen. Webb is interested in relative poverty.


President Bush has proposed an array of policies that confront different aspects of real deprivation as experienced by the poor here and abroad: bad education, lack of legal status and fear of deportation, lack of health care and disease. Of course, also critical to poverty alleviation is the ongoing success of the US economy, which, as the president mentioned, has created 7.2 million jobs since the beginning of the current expansion. Jobs are both the best way out of poverty and, as presidential aspirant John Edwards has said , a source of "dignity and self-respect." By calling for a balanced budget in five years, without raising taxes, President Bush made a bid to preserve a business climate in which prosperity will continue.


While the president is interested in dealing with specific aspects of poverty and deprivation, he is not interested in the position of poor people relative to others. Senator Webb is. "When I graduated from college," remarks Senator Webb, "the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it¹s nearly 400 times." Or again, "Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth." In each case, the statistic he cites is a ratio: the average worker's wages compared to those of the CEO; wages and salaries compared to national wealth. That the average worker is much wealthier in absolute terms than he was thirty years ago does not seem to interest Webb much: what matters is that his relative wealth has decreased.

Ironically, Senator Webb needs to do a better job of matching words and beliefs.

Sen. Webb calls for "measure[ing] the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street." Quite right. But President Bush said not a word about Wall Street. He is interested in job creation, health care, and foreign aid. It is Sen. Webb who thinks the state of the nation depends on how the elite are faring.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

And he's a Nobel Peace Prize winner...

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

Twenty years before he joined Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin in Washington for that famous handshake--and proceeded to become Clinton's most frequent foreign guest at the White House--Yasser Arafat planned and directed the murder of an American ambassador and his deputy chief of mission. From the first moment of the deadly operation, which took place in Khartoum on March 1, 1973, the State Department possessed direct evidence of Arafat's responsibility, yet neither the State Department nor any other government agency made public its knowledge. Indeed, as recently as the summer of 2002, the State Department denied that such evidence existed. Across seven administrations, the State Department hewed to silence and denial.

The U.S. State Department is an accessory to murder. It's time to execute it.

The department should be disbanded, its entire staff let go, and replaced with a new department. The Administration also needs to explore why the State Department's loyalties seem to lie everywhere except with America, and change the way the Department is run so its people are less exposed to toxic influences, or at least exposed to a lot more of an antidote.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Airplane security

According to, Israel is planning to implement a security system designed to prevent 9/11-style hijacked airplane attacks.
A simple but technologically sophisticated ID system will guarantee that the man at the controls of aircraft is the pilot and not a suicide hijacker. The "Code Positive" system uses a credit-card-sized device personally and exclusively issued to pilots that will enable them to identify themselves and assure security officials that they are in full control of their aircraft, according to Danny Shenar, who heads security at Israel's Transportation Ministry. "Using this card, it will be possible to verify that the person flying the aircraft is indeed the person qualified to fly it," Shenar told Israel's Army Radio, according to Reuters.
Shenar added that it would be impossible for a hijacker to force a pilot to hand over identifying details, or otherwise pose as a legitimate member of the flight crew. "You can't bluff this system," he said.
Hmmm. Well, you can get good security by relying on three items: something a person has (e.g., an ID card), something he knows (e.g., a PIN or other number), and something he is (some sort of biometric parameter). Right now, the device mentioned sounds like a SecureID card, which is an electronic card displaying a number that changes every few seconds. It changes in a fashion that is predictable, if you have the underlying equations, but not otherwise. (Probably something like a random number generator with a predetermined seed number.) If your system is secured using SecureID, you can't tell anyone else the access number and have it valid for more than a few seconds. Someone else has to steal the physical card in order to use it for any length of time without the authorized user's cooperation. Alternatively, the card might simply transmit a code over the radio, without the user knowing what it is. In order to make such a device unusable by a thief, the authorized user has to be required to supply other information such as a password. A voice-print match might also be required, though I'm not sure how well identifiable characteristics are preserved during radio transmissions. Assuming this system really is designed in such a way that only the authorized pilot can access it, I can see other problems. What if the pilot has a heart attack, or is otherwise incapacitated without a hijacker on the plane? Will anyone else be able to assume authorized control of the aircraft? Or does loss of consciousness on the part of the pilot mean the plane gets shot down, no matter who else was available to take the controls? Pilot illness or incapacity is a rare event, but I'm sure it happens on occasion. I'm also sure it's a lot more common than 9/11-style attacks. That means a plan that assumes a non-authorized pilot is an Enemy will be wrong most of the time. Some number of planeloads of innocent people will be shot down in exchange for every 9/11-style attack foiled. Is Israel willing to pay that price? Are pilots flying into Israel willing to pay it?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Journalistic malpractice

It seems there's a story from the New York Times which is, strictly speaking, true. But there's a lot more that doesn't reach the headline.

It is, in the seething, barely constrained words of Michael Medved, "journalistic malpractice." Medved sheds a little clarity on the numbers behind the story, which the paper attributes to an NYT analysis of 2005 Census Bureau data.
  • The 51% includes girls from 15 to 18, the vast majority of whom are unmarried and living with one or two parents.
  • It includes widows -- a growing segment of the population -- who are hardly making a statement against marriage just because their spouse died.
  • And it even includes women who are married, but whose husbands are temporarily away on business. That includes the wives of our military men, who, I'm sure, are thrilled that their sacrificial service to our country in support of their husbands is being interpreted by the NYT as being a choice against marriage.

Of course, breaking out those numbers from the 51% would tell a different story, and apparently one the NY Times doesn't want to tell.

Libraries and the ALA

Here's an article on the American Library Association and its position on children accessing pornography in libraries. Among other quotes:

"Parents who would tell their children not to read Playboy 'don't really care about their kids growing up and learning to think and explore,'" Krug claims.[3]

Judith Krug is described as "the de facto leader of the American Library Association [ALA].


I don't think I've seen yet in the discussion these words from CS Lewis on The Efficacy of Prayer:

Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate.

He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers, or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to cooperate in the execution of His will...

It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind — that is, His overall purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.

He also points out that prayer is a request - it may, or may not, be granted. That simple realization immediately invalidates all the "medical" studies into the efficacy of prayer, which are junk science whatever result they come up with.

Intelligence and wisdom

Murray continues with part 3 of his series on education.

the top 10% of the intelligence distribution has a huge influence on whether our economy is vital or stagnant, our culture healthy or sick, our institutions secure or endangered. Of the simple truths about intelligence and its relationship to education, this is the most important and least acknowledged: Our future depends crucially on how we educate the next generation of people gifted with unusually high intelligence.

Only a small fraction of the Federal education budget went to educating gifted students. There are gifted student programs at the state and local level, but having been through one, I'm not sure how well they work. About the only thing ensured by identifying a student as "gifted" is that he'll be steered toward college.

What should the gifted be taught?

We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.

This is accomplished by, among other things, a return to a classical liberal arts education. But do read the rest of it.

The aim here is not to complete an argument but to begin a discussion; not to present policy prescriptions, but to plead for greater realism in our outlook on education. Accept that some children will be left behind other children because of intellectual limitations, and think about what kind of education will give them the greatest chance for a fulfilling life nonetheless. Stop telling children that they need to go to college to be successful, and take advantage of the other, often better ways in which people can develop their talents. Acknowledge the existence and importance of high intellectual ability, and think about how best to nurture the children who possess it.

Iraq 101

Link to a piece addressing some of the more common statements about Iraq.

“Our safety does not depend on Iraq.”
In what isolationist pipe dream?
“We should have never gone to Iraq in the first place.”
Using this as a pullout reason is like debating the best course of action during open-heart surgery, then walking out of the operating room without making sure the heart is beating and stitching the patient up.
“We should include Iran and Syria.”
Bashar Assad might be pushed around a bit, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will never be a friend, ally, or even cordial with the United States, lest his Islamic street cred be tarnished. Ahmadinejad didn’t visit Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Rafael Correa over the weekend to play poker, but to cement alliances against the United States.
“We can’t force them to be a democratic country.”
We didn’t exactly force thousands of Iraqis to walk miles down dirt roads and wait for hours for the chance to cast a ballot.
“Polls say we should pull out.”
And military policy should be based on polls?
“The American voters don’t want to be in Iraq.”
Funny, because they reelected George W. Bush, who initiated the Iraq invasion and ran on a platform of staying the course, over John Kerry, the senator who ran on a flip-flop against the war.
“The American public is war-weary.”
So you just surrender?
“Bush just doesn’t want to be embarrassed by losing.”
If he was so concerned about acting with the intent of sparing his feelings, he would have tried to follow poll sentiment and reverse his low numbers a long time ago.
“An automatic pullout would save lives.
It may spare some U.S. soldiers until the emboldened Islamic radicals, backed by the same populace that cheered when the Twin Towers were brought down, proceed with strikes against our foreign installations and here at home.
“The war is all about Big Oil profiting.”
It’s going on four years now and we haven’t swiped Iraq’s oil yet; in fact, Bush’s proposal last week advanced profit-sharing legislation to spread the wealth among Iraqis.
“We’re not even wanted there.”
Sure, Muqtada al-Sadr doesn’t want us there. The Sunnis who love Saddam (but failed to riot en masse after his hanging as predicted) don’t want us there.
“It’s their civil war and we shouldn’t interfere.”
It’s their civil war — being fueled and supplied by the same outside Islamist entities that would like to destroy the West as well.
“How come we aren’t trying to find bin Laden?”
How do you know that we’re not?
It’s also not all about Bin Laden.
... While he should face the music for his crimes, Osama is not some fly-by-night cult leader whose frenzied sect will die with him.
“Why are we spending money to rebuild Iraq when we could build schools here?”
Ever heard of the Marshall Plan?
“The war has turned European sentiment against the U.S.”
Going back to what kids learn in elementary school, since when is doing the popular thing more important than doing the right thing?
“The toll has been too high.”
The U.S. death toll has passed 3,000 after nearly four years. In the three-year Korean War, more than 36,000 Americans were killed.
“We should let the United Nations handle it.”
Because they do so well everywhere else?
“Would you send your child off to fight in Bush’s war?”
This is the U.S., not Uganda, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a child soldier here. Young though they often may be, they are still adults who made a conscious decision to join the military and serve when needed, where needed, and should be respected for their choice.
“Isn’t Kim Jong Il a bigger threat than Saddam was? Why haven’t we taken him out?”
And you know who would be complaining if we did? Everybody who complained about the U.S. going into Iraq!

Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She blogs at GOP Vixen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hewitt and Hitchens on Iraq

HH: Mr. Hitchens, in your column at Slate, you write in large parts of Iraq, still there are people who dread what might happen in the event of our withdrawal. After having talked with them about this, do you think in the aftermath of a sudden or even a phased over three, six month withdrawal, conditions in Iraq would be as bad or worse as when the Brits withdrew from the mandate in Palestine, or as bad or worse as when the United States withdrew from Southeast Asia, and the Cambodian holocaust followed?


CH: Oh, well, I see what you mean. Well, the problem with the British withdrawal from Palestine was they had at different times promised to hand it over to both sides, to both the Zionist movement and the Arab nationalist movement. So they’d already created the conditions for a war before leaving, where we aren’t, I hope, doing that. I mean, though I think the Maliki government needs to be rebuked for some of its sectarianism, we aren’t conclusively identified with one side in this confessional war. And I’ve been relatively scrupulous about that. I worry about that changing, I have to add. When I hear people talk about Vietnam, I always want to say, and in fact, I always do say, we’re not fighting the Viet Cong there, I wish we were. We’re fighting the Khmer Rouge. And that’s what it would be like, and in the areas where even for a brief time these people have been able to take over a town or a village or a district, it’s been Taliban plus. Now under no circumstances could any responsible Congress or president, or United Nations possibly consent to having a country of the importance and sophistication of Iraq run by these goons. It’s just out of the question. It must be agreed by all that cannot happen.

HH: So you believe the holocaust that would follow in Iraq from a precipitous American withdrawal would rival, or perhaps even exceed that of Pol Pot in Cambodia?

CH: It would be a very rash person who didn’t think that that worst case would be the actual one. And look, again, the awful thing is some of it’s happening as we speak. I mean, almost anyone in Baghdad now, at any rate, who has a qualification, or any money, or any education, or any resources of any sort, is already gone. Perhaps as many as a million and a half, we don’t actually know, have moved to Jordan, some of them to Syrian, some even to Iran, anywhere to get out. Life is becoming intolerable there.

HH: Well given that, and this is a key question, given that you think it’s certain that that kind of scale of horror would follow, do the people urging, whether it’s Murtha or anybody else, urging the precipitous withdrawal, will they bear the moral culpability for the slaughter that follows, if in fact, we are obliged to leave?

CH: I know that there are some Democrats who wonder about this in a responsible way, and there are others who worry about it in a more politicized way, thinking in gee, how would we avoid getting blamed if that happened. What they will do is say well, we never asked for the war in the first place, the President cheated us into it, et cetera, et cetera. But that would be a pretty tinny thing to say, if the whole of Iraqi society is denuded and driven back to year zero.

HH: So you’re saying yes, they will bear the moral culpability?

CH: Yes, they will. Yes, I think anyone who talks about withdrawal has to face this question, and indeed has to be faced with it.

Surges and specifics in Iraq

Austin Bay looks at the President's plan for reinforcements in Iraq, and at some other steps that can be taken.

Consider two specific policies Bush discussed. The "hydrocarbon law" he advocated is a version of the "oil trust" concept many economists and Iraqis have advocated for several years. The state of Alaska has a similar program. Iraq considered instituting an oil trust in the 1950s, prior to the demise of its monarchy. The oil trust would put several hundred dollars a year into the pockets of every adult Iraqi. It immediately invests everyone in the economic success of Iraq's new democratic government.

It's saving elephants in Africa. It might save democracy in Iraq.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Journalism in Iraq

Amir Taheri makes some important points about the troubles that western journalists have in covering Iraq. They don't know the language and they must rely on interpreters whose own biases they have no way of verifying.


Many of the interpreters are former Baathist officials who have a stake in portraying Iraqi hatred of the coalition. Others are just out for a buck and are happy to spin stories if it gets them hired again and again as interpreters. It's often too violent and dangerous to go into some areas so the reporters have to rely on such second-hand reports that they can't verify themselves as they would in the United States.

As Taheri predicts, one day historians will have a more complete picture of what has been going on in Iraq outside of the areas of violence and we will be able to judge how well the media has operated under the limitations of violence and language barriers. And the ability of the media to fairly cover a war as it occurs will be as much in question here as it was in 1898 in the Spanish-American War.

Iraq, Just wars, etc

This from The Anchoress.

How can a Christian support the war?

When did Jesus say there should be no war? Jesus recognised that some things simply were what they were. He was, in some ways, the ultimate pragmatist; “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21) and “”A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.” (Matthew 10:24) Scripture says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven/A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant./A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.” (Eccl 3;1-3)

And wrt Iraq:

Meanwhile Siggy has a long, thoughtful look at what we’re really trying to do for Iraq, and for ourselves, at this point.

The President’s ‘team’ isn’t America or the Coalition forces. The team Mr Bush refers to are the Iraqis themselves. The last quarter of this last game being played will determine the outcome for the Iraqis- and not for the Americans or Coalition partners. Regardless of the outcome, America and her Coalition partners have given Iraq and the Arab world a once in a generation opportunity to rewrite their own destinies and the destinies of their children. The choices they make are their own.

We are giving the Iraqis a final chance to take control of their lives. If they choose to remain immobilized or only half committed, we can go home with a clear conscience. We offered them a Marshall Plan and long term commitment of partnership and opportunity. We offered them a future.

State Department on the Iraq War

State has permitted its very able counsel, John Bellinger, to blog this week on the invaluable international law site, Opinio Juris. The arrangement is described here, and Mr. Bellinger has already provided a very comprehensive and substantive explanation of, for example, why the use of force (indeed, the prosecution of war) is appropriate against al Qaeda under international law, and how the administration views the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (which got so much attention as a result of last year's Hamdan decision and the subsequent passage of the Military Commissions Act).

Readers may be alarmed — as they should be — by the degree to which modern international law strait-jackets the use of force in self-defense, such that actions that should be commonsense (e.g., making war against an international belligerent capable of projecting power on the scale al Qaeda has) seem to require extensive, factitious justification capable of jumping through numerous legal hoops. Such are our times, when issues that are not essentially "legal" are nevertheless looked at as if they were legal problems.

But given that this is the lay of the land, the Opinio Juris posts amply demonstrate that President Bush is not presiding over the cowboy administration of the international media's imagination. The administration has thoughtful positions — particularly well articulated by Mr. Bellinger — and it would be nice if its officials got out and engaged with critics more often.

Zero tolerance

Service animals have to be allowed to accompany their people, right? Apparently the administrators at the W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y. don't agree.

John Cave, 14, is deaf, but it doesn't keep him from going to public school. He even has a new specially trained assistance dog to help him. But that's the trouble: the W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y., says the boy "doesn't need the dog" at school and, when the boy brought the dog anyway, school officials called the police. Responding officers refused to arrest the boy after confirming state law says public facilities cannot bar disabled people from having service dogs. Still, principal Timothy Voels refuses to let Cave bring the dog on school grounds if he has the dog with him, closing the door when he arrives. "All I wanted to do was give my son one more step toward independence," says John's mother, Nancy.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kucinich on Iraq

Clayton Cramer has some comments on an e-mail sent around by Kucinich supporters. Kucinich gets a few of the critical details about Iraq wrong.

Dennis Kucinich -

*The Kucinich Plan for Iraq*

Dear Friends,

In November of 2006, after an October upsurge in violence in Iraq, the American people moved decisively to reject Republican rule, principally because of the conduct of the war. Democratic leaders well understand we

Nope. There was certainly some voters who rejected Republicans because of the war, but this was more a rejection of how well it was being fought, than the idea of the war itself. The largest group that switched in November did so because of Republican inability to rein in corrupt members.

regained control of the Congress because of the situation in Iraq. However, two months later, the Congress is still searching for a plan around which it can unite to hasten the end of US involvement in Iraq and the return home of 140,000 US troops.

There are 140,000 troops remaining in Iraq right now. What about them?

Oddly enough, there is more support for the Iraq War among soldiers serving there than among Americans that are here. Perhaps because they have a clearer understanding of the situation.

The US sent our troops into Iraq without a clear mission. We created a

No, the mission was clear: overthrow Saddam Hussein; clean out WMDs; and establish a democratic state. There were clearly failures to accomplish this last mission, at least partly because of serious errors in judgment by the Bush Administration in the first year of the occupation.

financial, military and moral dilemma for our nation and now we are talking about the Iraq war as our problem. The Iraqis are forgotten. Their country has been destroyed: 650,000 casualties, [based on the Lancet Report which surveyed casualties from March of 2003 to July of 2006] the shredding of the social fabric of the nation, civil war, lack

No one (except perhaps Kucinich) really believes that Lancet article. The numbers fail all rational measurements (as I, and many others, have discussed before), because it would require more than 1000 deaths a day for most days of the occupation. Even other antiwar groups, such as, assert the numbers are absurdly inflated.

of access to food, shelter, electricity, clean drinking water and health care because this Administration, with the active participation of the Congress, authorized a war without reason, without conscience, without international law.

Wrong on all counts. The concern about WMDs was real, and widely shared, not just by the U.S. government, but by every governmental intelligence service around the world.

Without support of international law is a false claim. The existing resolutions that the UN Security Council had passed provided sufficient basis for action. Iraqi funding of terrorist activities, as well as providing asylum for one of those indicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, as well as providing asylum for Abu Nidal (who led the hijacking of the Achille Lauro which led to the murder of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer) all provided sufficient international law justification.

*These are the elements of the Kucinich Plan: *

*1. The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw.*

The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases. A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and

Wrong. The insurgency, much of driven by non-Iraqis, started within a month of the occupation, and before any indication of permanent bases.

close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy. Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

This is delusion, at best. The native forces involved are using power tools to torture people to death. No surprise: this is part of how the Baathist government operated for decades.

The foreign fighters, on the other hand, have repeatedly stated that only one thing will stop their attacks, not just in Iraq, but everywhere, and that is a world that is Islamic.

*3. Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the United States and turn over all contracting work to the Iraqi government.*

The contracting process has been rife with world-class corruption, with contractors stealing from the US Government and cheating the Iraqi people, taking large contracts and giving 5% or so to Iraqi subcontractors.

Actually, much of the corruption has involved Iraqis, where it is, after all, a part of their culture.

It is noteworthy that after the first Gulf War, Iraqis reestablished electricity within three months, despite sanctions. Four years into the US occupation there is no water, nor reliable electricity in Baghdad, despite massive funding from the US and from the Madrid conference. The

Yes, because there weren't forces running around Iraq blowing up power lines and killing repair crews. Police states are very efficient that way.

greatest mystery involves the activities of private security companies who function as mercenaries. Reports of false flag operations must be investigated by an international tribunal.

Which is more credible? That private security companies are pretending to be al-Qaeda operatives? Or that a group that has engaged in mass murder and rape of civilians in East Timor, in East Africa, in Spain, in Britain, and in America, is doing this? Kucinich is part of why the left is completely unbelievable--that they are prepared to believe this, rather than the obvious.

*4. Convene a regional conference for the purpose of developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq*.

The focus should be on a process which solves the problems of Iraq. The US has told the international community, "This is our policy and we want you to come and help us implement it." The international community may have an interest in helping Iraq, but has no interest in participating in the implementation of failed US policy.

This is delusion of the highest order. Iran has for decades sought to dominate the Persian Gulf, under both the Shah and the Ayatollahs. The notion that they will suddenly be primarily interested in stability in Iraq--a country that caused them enormous suffering during the eight year war between those two countries--is idiocy.

A shift in US policy away from unilateralism and toward cooperation will

Unilateralism? There were 38 countries that participated in the invasion of Iraq.

provide new opportunities for exploring common concerns about the plight of Iraq. The UN is the appropriate place to convene, through the office of the Secretary General, all countries that have interests, concerns and influence, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and the European community, and all Arab nations.

The Secretary General's office has been a serious source of corruption through bribes involving the Oil for Food program, and even involving outgoing Sec. Gen. Annan's son.

And with that, he gives up.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Iraq war, our just cause, and the big picture

Ultimately, we are engaged in the larger, nonmilitary struggle called the War on Terror, which has its military applications. We are trying to teach the world the lesson we taught them in World War Two: If your government engages in genocide, as Saddam and Hitler did, we will dish out the consequences. If your government thumbs its nose at the world community, as Hitler did to the League of Nations, and as Saddam did to the United Nations, we will dish out the consequences.

Regardless of whether there were stockpiles of nukes and chemical weapons or not, there was a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, and that was Saddam. The mass graves prove that. The children locked up in Iraqi prisons prove that. If you think he had nothing to do with 9/11, his nose-thumbing and middle-fingering of the UN, which served to embolden those who think us weak, proves that he did beyond the shadow of a doubt.

American Digest blog

A blog worth following.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rabinowitz on the Duke University case

The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz looks at the Duke University rape case. She brings her perspective from having examined a number of child abuse panics that didn't pan out.
Mr. Nifong is no anomaly--merely a product of the political times, a prosecutor who has absorbed all the clues about the sanctified status now accorded charges involving rape, child sex-abuse and accusations of racism. Which has in turn ensured their transformation into weapons of unequalled power. Like others before him, the DA quickly grasped the career possibilities open to him with such a case and proceeded accordingly--denouncing racism, and the rape and assault of a helpless black woman, and the Duke athletes guilty of these crimes in every media interview available to him (and they were many). For all the public shock and fury over his behavior, there is little that is new or strange about Mr. Nifong. We have seen the likes of this district attorney, uninterested in proofs of innocence, willing to suppress any he found, many times in the busy army of prosecutors claiming to have found evidence of rampant child abuse in nursery schools and other child-care centers around the country in the 1980s and throughout most of the '90s. They built case after headline-making case charging the mass molestation of small children, and managed to convict scores of innocent Americans on the basis of testimony no rational mind could credit. Law officers who regularly violated requirements of due process in their effort to obtain a conviction, they grasped the special advantage that was theirs: that for a prosecutor dealing with molestation, and wearing the mantle of avenger, there was no such thing as excess, no limits to what could be said of the accused. In court, rules could be bent, any charges presented, and nonexistent medical evidence proclaimed as proof positive of the accusation.
Indeed. I once described the child molestation trials as the Witch Trials of the 1990s. The Duke Lacrosse players' rape trial may be the Witch Trials of the 2000s. Let's hope this fad doesn't last the whole decade.

"Natural state" of societies

We Americans tend to think of our society as the natural way of things. We expect everyone in the world will just naturally desire liberty, impartial justice, the rule of law, and equal rights. Here's an article by Arnold Kling which discusses a couple of papers. The main point made in those papers is that the natural state of a culture – the most stable form of culture – is marked by a small privileged elite, and an unfree majority.
NWW claim that there are three types of societies. Primitive orders are small bands of hunter-gatherers, and they are of little concern here. Limited-access orders are societies that provide meaningful political and economic rights only to narrow elites. Open-access orders are capitalist democracies that give political and economic rights to most citizens. NWW argue that limited-access orders are the "natural state:" they are stable, they resist economic progress, and they only rarely make the transition to open-access orders.
As applied to Iraq, we have the question of how to take a society that's solidly "limited access" and turn it into an "open access" society. What conditions make this possible?
NWW argue that three conditions are necessary before a transition from a limited-access order to an open-access order is even conceivable. These three "doorstep conditions" are: 1. rule of law for elites
(Meaning elites maintain or lose their power through due process, and not through changes in personal loyalty relationships)
2. perpetual life for organizations
(Meaning organizations can be expected to outlive their key members, and thus are not held together only by personal loyalty)
3. political control of the military

...the NWW standard of political control of the military is very difficult to obtain. It requires a consolidated military force, separate from each faction, with the individual factions disarmed. To attain this outcome, a balanced coalition of powerful elites must agree on a set of rules and procedures that govern the use of military forces, and the coalition must have mechanisms that can ensure that such rules and procedures will be followed.

Arnold Kling blogs here.

Wealth and inequality

Here's an interesting take on income, wealth, and inequality.
Inequality of wealth or income should be of absolutely no importance per se. What matters is inequality of consumption. The best video game system a billionaire can afford is the Playstation 3. The best video game system a working class American can afford is also the Playstation 3. In this article I list some other examples of such consumption equality. In today's economy, the rich and lower middle class buy many of the exact same goods. This wasn't true 100 years ago. Wealth, therefore, has lost some of its privileges and consequently real inequality has decreased.

Minimum Wage

Even if raising the minimum wage has no effect on employment numbers, it can still hurt workers.
Fewer Advancement Opportunities
Let's say an unskilled worker, whom I'll call John, is worth $7.25 an hour to an employer. John went to a horrible school that didn't teach him any marketable skills. John, however, is ambitious and hopes to advance in the job market by getting on-the-job training from an employer.
Two firms want to hire John. The first offers him a job that pays $7.25 an hour but provides no useful training. The second pays $5.25 an hour, but offers training and could someday lead to a management position. This training is costly for the firm to provide, but the firm is willing to give John the training since it is paying him only $5.25 an hour.
A $7.25 an hour minimum wage could, however, stop the second employer from giving John his costly on-the-job training. If the business couldn't pay a lower salary in return for providing training, then the firm most likely wouldn't give John the training.
Worse Working Conditions
I predict that if the higher minimum wage is enacted bosses will yell more at their low skilled workers. By forcing companies to pay higher wages to low skilled employees, a higher minimum wage reduces the net value of these workers to their companies.
A higher minimum wage also reduces the total number of jobs available to unskilled workers. Consequently, raising the minimum wage makes it easier for bosses to replace any unskilled workers who quit. Under a higher minimum wage, therefore, bosses lose less if their mistreatment of employees causes some workers to leave. So unskilled workers who keep their jobs after a minimum wage hike can expect their bosses to treat them a bit worse than before.
Hire Different Types of Employees
For any given wage it offers, a firm tries to hire the best workers it can. At a wage of $7.25 an hour firms will be able to attract higher quality workers than they can if they offer only $5.15 an hour. Consequently, even if the minimum wage doesn't cause a company to hire fewer workers, it will cause the firm to hire different types of workers.
Perhaps today some firm could hire either an inner-city teenager or a middle-class grandmother. The firm might prefer to hire the grandmother but, let's say, the grandmother won't work for less than $7 an hour whereas the inner-city teen would accept a wage of $5.15 an hour, so the firm hires the teen. If the minimum wage is raised to $7.25 an hour, however, the firm would quickly replace the teen with the grandmother. So even in the extremely unlikely case that a higher minimum wage doesn't reduce overall employment, it will likely reduce employment among our nation's lowest skilled individuals.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Are local markets greener?

(Hat tip: John Ray)

...local may not necessarily mean greener. Supermarkets pack large amounts of food into a single lorry, while a farmer may carry only a small amount in a 4x4. A Defra report found that the supermarkets’ centralised distrubution systems, with lean supply chains and fully laden lorries, could generate less pollution than a larger number of smaller vehicles travelling locally. It also found, for example, that it was better for the environment to import winter tomatoes from Spain than to grow them here in heated greenhouses.

VDH on the Surge in Iraq a war of counter-insurgency the political solution must be contemporaneous with military operations that destroy and humiliate the insurgents. Only that way do the vast majority of indifferent citizens not only see greater prosperity and security by allying with the new government, but also nothing but death and destruction should they join the terrorists and militias. So while we restart the political process by insisting on greater Sunni participation, and hope we can fund more job-creating industry and commerce, we must be merciless to those who would derail all this. If we have a surge, that means sending combined Iraqi-American units on proactive operations to destroy the terrorists and their supporters. If we don't, then the additional numbers will only offer bigger targets and added prestige to the terrorists who operate despite increased American investment.

Bottom line: Pouring in more soldiers won't go any good. Changing the rules of engagement so it's too expensive to be an insurgent will do lots of good.

Required reading

Price Theory: An Intermediate Text This is a book written by David Friedman, the son of the late Milton Friedman. David lived with a top-notch economist and economics teacher. He also got a degree in college -- in physics. I'm sure this enhanced the clarity of his explanations. In any event, this is a wonderfully clear book, and although there's some content that's missing from the webbed version (due to copyright issues), and the webbed version isn't as nice as the printed version, it's free. (Though he does have a section titled, "Why you should buy this book".)

Friday, January 05, 2007

If Israel went away...

What if Israel left the Middle East? A thought experiment...
Suppose that by the application of some miraculous power the people of Israel were to agree to be transported instantaneously to somewhere else in the world, say, oh, New Mexico. (Assume that the people already in New Mexico are agreeable.) Then let ten years pass. What would then be the situations in New Mexico and in the place where formerly there was the state of Israel?
Well, New Mexico would do substantially better, and in a few years' time, might rival California in wealth. Based on history, the situation in the Middle-East would be less fortunate.
In Lesser Palestine, formerly known as Gaza, the result of being left alone to govern themselves has been chaos, featuring an impotent government and regular running gun battles in the streets between rival "political" parties. Evidence of actual governance, of civil society, of an economy, or of any real interest in having any of these, is scant to the point of invisibility. Given the deserted resources of Israel to play in, do we suppose that they would play nicer? How long would it take to wreck the industrial infrastructure left behind and turn it into primitive weapons and burned-out headquarters for a welter of gangs and minifactions? And, absent those Jews, what would they even be fighting over?
I'm sure they'd find something.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Un-Qaeda

This is part II of an exploration into the possibility of an anti-Qaeda -- an underground, stateless, anti-terror group.
In his controversial remarks a few weeks ago, Newt Gingrich wondered whether a new kind of Geneva Convention might be necessary:
"And, I further think that we should propose a Geneva convention for fighting terrorism which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous."
Maybe international laws and treaties are just too clumsy to address such groups. Maybe, as is discussed in the article, it's necessary to fight fire with fire.
Might we then conceive of a similar organization that serves as an antibody?

What might be the characteristics of such an "Anti-Qaeda"?
One of the prerequisites would be freedom of movement: The forces of Anti-Qaeda would possess the ability, whether legal or not, to cross international borders at will.
Anti-Qaeda would be free to develop its own network of contacts throughout the world. Many of these would be within the intelligence agencies and militaries of established states. These contacts might actively feed information to Anti-Qaeda as a result of the policies of their states.
Alternatively, they might do so merely out of sympathy with the goals of Anti-Qaeda, and might be approached and recruited in the same manner that foreign intelligence agencies attempt.
One way or another, money would not be an issue for Anti-Qaeda. Through some system of donations, it might raise funds directly from sympathetic people all over the world. It might receive contributions from states, though it will be hesitant to do so if strings are attached. For example, a state might fund the organization with one large endowment-like contribution, allowing it to operate as a trust in perpetuity, though without any oversight from the state.
This comes to a final characteristic about Anti-Qaeda: it would operate best in an environment of state forbearance. States might gain information about Anti-Qaeda activities that would make for evidence in prosecutions, but they might decide not to enforce the law in the case of Anti-Qaeda.
All of the above describes how an organization such as Anti-Qaeda might be imagined. But it leaves out what its purpose might be. Would it be narrowly defined, such as merely chasing terrorists? Might it be broader in scope, such as commencing military activities against states that support terrorism? The answers to these will probably depend upon the nature of relationships that Anti-Qaeda has with states in the West who will be best positioned to thwart its goals, whatever they are. In fact, whereas the critical vulnerabilities of other military forces in the past have been national will, or materiel and logistics, or doctrine, Anti-Qaeda's might be its relationships with states that can stop it.
And of course, if any of the Anti-Qaeda's forces should be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of their actions...

Saddam's legacy

Now that Saddam Hussein has reached the end of his rope, what is his legacy? One legacy, from his trial, is a rarity -- a tyrant facing a fair trial.
The next to last thing Saddam ever expected was a hangman's noose. The last thing he expected? A fair trial based on law and evidence. Saddam got both. Despite Ramsey Clark's clucks and howls, Saddam's trial was fair. The evidence was presented. The toppled tyrant got to pose and parade and accuse, just like Serbian mass murderer Slobodan Milosevic did during his U.N.-sponsored trial for genocide. Saddam mimicked Slobo's courtroom antics and theatrics, then added his own "big mustache" brand of arrogant tirade. Saddam certainly got more than his fair share of global airtime. ... The Strong Man expects to die in one of two ways -- with a 9 millimeter ballot (i.e., assassination or suicide) -- or old age. Hitler went by his own hand; Stalin and Mao succumbed in bed. A public, legal trial followed by court-sentenced execution? That isn't going to happen unless ... unless a democracy replaces a tyranny.

He needed pardoning

When James Earl Carter was elected President, I remember the political wags* saying his first act would be to pardon Ford for pardoning Nixon.
For example, Time magazine's cover story on the pardon in September 1974 declared that "Ford's first major decision raised disturbing questions about his judgment and his leadership capabilities, and called into question his competence." The cover carried suggestive sub-headlines like "Squandered Trust" and "Premature and Unwise." Such was the media's mood toward this man's actions in office.
Now that he's been cited as opposing the Iraq war, he's a hero. But what did he really think?

Washington Post bigfoot Bob Woodward highlighted that Ford had told him in a 2004 interview that he thought the Bush team made a mistake in making the primary justification for the war in Iraq the removal of weapons of mass destruction. Ford didn't say he opposed the war itself, although he did say he would have delayed war and tried to make sanctions work.

So the media shorthand became "Gerald Ford opposed the war," as NBC's Brian Williams incorrectly reported, and so many others have subsequently repeated. Another reporter has Ford firmly on the record supporting the war, even if with a caveat. Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News reported Ford told him in May that "Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him, but we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction.

That was a bad mistake." On Sunday morning's "Face the Nation" with CBS's Bob Schieffer, DeFrank was unequivocal, stating he interviewed the former president no less than four times over a four-year period, and each time Ford came out in support of the war. ABC and NBC newscasts couldn't find one second of airtime to even mention DeFrank or his differing story line. Indeed, ABC went even further in the opposite direction. On Sunday's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Time magazine Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney declared that it was "unpardonable" that Ford hadn't shared his allegedly antiwar opinions with Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, two men who had once served under him.

And here is Rich Lowry's piece:
With time, everything we thought we once knew about Gerry Ford has come untrue. He wasn't a corrupt tool of Richard Nixon pardoning away his predecessor's crimes in exchange for the presidency. He wasn't a failure. And he wasn't clumsy or stupid. All of these judgments were once part of the conventional wisdom about Ford, a conventional wisdom that dissolved as his presidency became more distant, and thus easier to see clearly. Ford's pardon of Nixon demonstrates the long-term advantage of doing the right thing, and what is often its short-term cost. The pardon put Ford's public-approval rating in a downward spiral from the 70s to the 30s. That is the very definition of a political disaster, and Ford had to take the unprecedented step of testifying before Congress as a sitting president to try to beat back accusations of a corrupt deal.
People forget just how bad Gerald Ford was supposed to have been, according to the news reports of the time.

Rape at Duke University II

More by Thomas Sowell about the Duke Lacrosse players.
Why not just drop all the charges, as the students' attorneys have asked Nifong to do? Nifong cannot afford to drop the charges. Just as this case was the salvation of his career, by enabling him to win the black vote with inflammatory charges against white students accused of raping a black woman, so this case could mark the end of his career, in view of charges of his own misconduct that could lead to disbarment or even to criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice. Nifong is riding a tiger and he can't just get off.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Time to cut their losses?

James Taranto thinks it's time for the press to cut its losses.
The deteriorating situation in Iraq coupled with the targeted killings of reporters in several countries made 2006 the deadliest year on record for journalists, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression report. At least 82 journalists lost their lives as a direct result of their work--up from about 60 the previous year--with war zones proving the most dangerous locales, the group reports. "A lot of those journalists were killed in war zones, particularly Iraq, where 39 journalists, at least, lost their lives this year," said Julie Payne, manager of the Toronto-based group.
We don't ever remember a journalist saying that war reporting just isn't worth the risk--that the networks, wire services and newspapers should cut and run from Iraq or any other war zone. Do journalists think theirs is a more noble calling than the liberation of a country?

Do you feel a draft?

Senator Charles Rangell is pushing for reinstatement of the military draft. He seems to think it will cut down on our use of the military. It might not. Walter Williams looks at the question, using the tools of economics:
Let's apply a bit of economic logic to it, but first get a pet peeve of mine out of the way: The term "draft" is a euphemism for what is actually "confiscation of labor services." The Defense Department can get all the military personnel it wants on an all-volunteer basis; it could simply raise wages. Indeed, there exists a wage whereby even I would volunteer my services.
(Um... Is it "volunteering" if you're paid a fair wage?)
The draft is needed when the military wants to pay soldiers wages lower than those earned in the non-military sector of our economy. ... Some argue that depending on an all-volunteer military is too expensive. That's wrong. The true cost of having a man in the military is what society has to forgo, what economists call opportunity costs. Say a man worked producing televisions for which he was paid $1,000 a month. If he's drafted, he's not producing $1,000 worth of televisions. The sacrificed $1,000 worth of televisions is part of the cost of his being in the military whether he's paid $68 a month or nothing a month. One effect of the draft is to understate the full cost of military operations. In 1959, prior to my being drafted, I drove a taxi for Yellow Cab Company in Philadelphia earning about $400 a month. In August that year, I started earning $68 a month. The military budget saw a cost of $68 as opposed to the $400 worth of taxi services society had to forgo.
So in other words, by imposing a draft, the U.S. Military forces someone else to pay the actual cost of each soldier's labor. Rather than paying the $400 (or $1000, or whatever) the soldier is actually worth, based on what the market is willing to pay him, it pays a much reduced amount, and the rest of the cost is borne by someone else -- namely the rest of the economy. Now, here's one cold, hard law of economics. When you subsidize something, people use more of it.
Simple economics suggests that if the cost of a resource is understated, there will be bias toward greater and more wasteful use of that resource. Contrary to Rep. Rangel's assertion, a draft would tend to give rise to greater, not less, use of the military.

Prager on Ellison

This is the latest salvo in Dennis Prager's battle to have the Bible present at Keith Ellison's swearing in. Why is it so important to him?
If you want to predict on which side an American will line up in the Culture War wracking America, virtually all you have to do is get an answer to this question: Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah? ("Divinity" does not necessarily mean "literalism.")
And in fact, it does seem to correlate remarkably well with the divide known as "right vs. left". Other Prager articles on the subject: America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on A response to my many critics - and a solution

Rape at Duke University

The more I hear about the rape charges against the Lacrosse players at Duke University, the more they stink. Prosecutor Mike Nifong has engaged in very questionable practices, and seems to be facing some rather serious ethics charges. Who in his right mind would do this? Tomas Sowell points out:

Nifong's actions are inexplicable only if you assume that his purpose was to get at the truth about what actually happened at the party where the stripper claimed to have been raped.


His inflammatory outbursts against the Duke students in the media are not inexplicable. Neither was his failure to follow standard procedures in presenting the accuser with a lineup that included only white Duke lacrosse players.

Under Jewish law, a person who bore false witness against someone in court would receive the same punishment the defendant would have received, had the testimony been believed. Mike Nifong deserves to go to prison for the maximum term the Lacrosse players could have been sentenced to.

Saddam: RIP

Not only is he merely dead, he's clearly most sincerely dead. Now what?