Saturday, December 20, 2003

Poliblogger is up with a new Toast-o-meter. Don't miss his analysis of the week's event on the political candidates.
This is what is hanging on the wall of Saddam's cell.
One American, who has been inside the cell, told 60 Minutes the walls are covered in white tiles. On one wall, there is a poster that shows the faces of the 38 former Iraqi officials who have been killed or captured. They include the pictures of Saddam's two dead sons, Uday Hussein and Qusai Hussein. On the opposite wall of Saddam's cell hangs a portrait. Saddam Hussein now spends his day looking at a picture of President Bush.
John O'Sullivan looks at the pain certain European and Canadian leaders had to undergo as they congratulate the United States on the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Never has so many congratulations been offered through such painfully gritted teeth. European leaders, Democratic politicians and media Big Feet all felt compelled to celebrate the capture of Saddam Hussein. After all, as the guardians of the moral conscience of mankind they are supposed to disapprove of dictatorship, torture and mass murder even more than most people. But since welcoming the downfall of Saddam also meant giving aid and comfort to U.S. President George Bush, that took all the fun out of it.

Listening to European politicians as they followed up their praise for the skill and bravery of the U.S. soldiers who nabbed Saddam with stern demands for the United States to share authority in Iraq with the international community or to hand over Saddam to be tried at the Hague, one was reminded of Muslim clerics condemning Sept. 11. Yes, it was shocking and tragic, of course, but so were racist slurs on Muslims in the West, and "secret evidence" in terrorism trials, and visa rules that discriminated against Middle Eastern countries, and Western colonialism, and the medieval crusades, and the Spanish Reconquista, and.... In both sets of instances, the qualifications sounded more important and certainly more heartfelt than the condemnations or congratulations they were qualifying.

Education Gadfly has authored a wishful holiday fantasy, "Twas the Day Before Vouchers." (link via Joanne Jacobs)
Washington Whispers has had a look at Dean's college transcript and the courses he took.
While it lists his parents' home address on New York's glitzy Park Avenue, Dean's transcript is a road map of late-'60s anti-Establishment politics, with a healthy serving of courses on revolutionary movements: "History of Soviet Union," "Marxism Existentialism," "Soviet Foreign Policy," "Reason and Revolution," "International Communism," "Marxist Theory," and "Chinese Politics." And, of course, there's a less-than-radical class on "President and Bureaucracy."

Remember that this was a pre-med student. These are the courses he elected to take in the few spaces for electives that I imagine a pre-med student in the 1960s might have had.

UPDATE: Paul, a reader wrote to inform me that Dean was a poly sci major at Yale and not pre-med. So, his choice of courses makes somewhat more sense.
Howard Fineman ticks off all the reasons why Bush looks good to be reelected.
Michael Kinsley looks at politicians deal when good news for their opponent, like our capturing Saddam Hussein, is bad news for them. Kerry and Dean don't get high marks.
Eugene Volokh predicts that the Court will eventually find in favor of the Bush administration in Padilla v. Rumsfeld.
What contract law says about the Fellowship of the Ring. This is a very attempt to show how law students would analyzes Sauron's offer to the Dwarves for the ring. (link via Volokh)
How politicians get to have their pork and condemn it too.
Apparently, Wesley Clark plays for the New England Patriots. Do people really base their votes on a candidate's favorite football team? And who believes that Clark, a Louisiana native, became a Patriots fan before he entered the New Hampshire primary?
Virginia Postrel explains what Christmas light displays tell us about the virtues of capitalism.
Donald Lambro notes that Dean is garnering criticism from the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute and the Washington Post for his foreign policy stands. No one likes his lame suggestions for dealing with North Korea by giving them everything they want in exchange for more promises.
In preparation for a major foreign policy address in Los Angeles on Monday, Mr. Dean met with reporters to explain how he would deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons buildup, missile defense and other national security matters.

In the interviews, he said he would enter into immediate bilateral negotiations with North Korea and offer them a major economic and energy assistance package and a nonaggression treaty in exchange for ending their nuclear weapons program.

Mr. O'Hanlon and other foreign policy analysts reject such an approach as naive, noting that it had been tried before under the Clinton administration, only to see North Korea ignore its pledges to halt weapons development.

"It comes too close to buying the same horse. We already gave North Korea incentives in 1994 to eliminate its nuclear weapons capabilities and then they violated that commitment," the Brookings scholar said.

"And now Dean wants to offer them even more benefits to comply with an agreement that they already promised to comply with. It almost verges on appeasement," he said. "It would be seen at best as throwing money down a rat hole and appeasing a Stalinist dictator at worst."

Such idealistic naivete might play well in the Democratic primaries where many voters don't seem to recognize that we live the real world and that there are actually bad guys out there who don't mind lying and breaking their promises, but I doubt if it will play well with the rest of the post 9/11 population.
Speaking of howls of opprobrium. Can you imagine if Bush advocated use of technology that he owned a financial stake in? Well, Wesley Clark has done so.
The President of the National Tax Payers Union argues that it makes little sense to subsidize NPR and Public Television these days.
In discussing NPR, Richard Rahn observes that the public subsidies and leftward tilt are related events: ``NPR will never be fair and balanced. Because it depends on government, it will always support government spending over the rights and needs of taxpayers. It attracts a staff that is hostile to the private sector and that loves government.''

PBS and NPR have proven quite capable of generating healthy cash flows. Successful PBS children's programming has produced tremendous revenues.

For example, the show Dragon Tales -- which had received more than $4 million in federal subsidies -- now brings in buckets of cash through sales of books, DVDs, CDs, and other items. Another PBS series, Clifford the Big Red Dog, also has generated big bucks from traditional sources as well as from lucrative deals with candy and cereal makers.

But beyond great success in marketing, PBS and NPR get generous support ''from viewers like you.'' Most recently, Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, gave the staggering sum of $200 million to NPR. Surely, with this massive new amount in hand, NPR is more than capable of completely weaning itself from taxpayer dollars.

In the 1960s, when television comprised just the three major networks, the Internet was undreamed of and media choices were greatly limited, there was more rationale for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and having tax dollars flow to PBS and NPR.

Today, we live in a different world. It is time to recognize that taxpayers can get a far better return on their dollars elsewhere.
This makes a lot of sense, but can you imagine the howls of protest if Republicans tried to do this.
The makers of South Park were able to work really fast and get Saddam into this week's episode. If you missed it, it will be rerun at 10 pm tonight.
The New York Times looks at the Republican Party's efforts at GOTV or "get out the vote" campaigns.
Both parties and their allied groups, including labor unions for the Democrats and independent groups set up by liberals and conservatives alike, have increasingly focused on get-out-the-vote efforts since the mid-1990's, when the A.F.L.-C.I.O. undertook a concerted effort to get more union members to the polls.

In 2001, in a variety of off-year races, the Republican Party tested techniques for communicating with potential voters and motivating them to go to the polls. In one precinct it used paid callers to contact voters; in another it used local volunteers. It tried knocking on doors in one neighborhood and just leaving literature on doorsteps in another. It provided people in one area with absentee ballots to make it easier for them to vote.

The most compelling lessons, Republican officials said, were that it pays to start early and that personal contact by local volunteers carries far more weight with voters than any of the other options. Done right, the Republican studies concluded, the grass-roots operation could result in a difference of three or four percentage points in the outcome, enough to determine a winner in a close race.

Those conclusions were put to use by Republicans with some success in the 2002 midterm Congressional elections, in which the party regained control of the Senate and expanded its majority in the House. And they are the basis of the plan the Bush campaign, working hand in hand with the Republican National Committee, is putting into effect for the 2004 elections.

But Democrats and their allies said they were not yet convinced that the Republican effort would be as successful as the Bush campaign hopes it will be. Karen Ackerman, political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. said: "The strength of our program is that the way voters get their information, through their union, is from an institution they trust. That's the foundation of why we were so successful. Whether that can be duplicated by the Republicans, we'll have to wait and see."

It's interesting to see campaigns returning to the tried and true rather than all the heavy media advertising. With the new campaign rules, these sorts of GOTV will be even more important.
There seem to be a misstatement or some little gaffe almost every day from the Dean campaign. The latest was Dean's supposed dis of Clinton. Dean had to spend the day backtracking and proclaiming how much he loves Clinton and Clinton loves him. As if the Clinton people aren't doing everything they can to find an anti-Dean candidate and sink his candidacy.
Neil Cavuto says that nothing succeeds like success.
Well now the big guy's being detained and de-liced, and the bugs we call our friends are desperately trying to scramble back into the picture because they now see the bigger picture: a liberated Iraq, a freer Iraq, an independent Iraq and a no-Saddam-coming-back-ever Iraq.

I also think they fear a suddenly talking Saddam, someone who might prove eager to cop a deal to dodge a bullet. To me, at least, the French particularly seem a little too solicitous, a little too congratulatory and a little too slovenly. Perhaps they fear the former Iraqi dictator will spill more than the beans on weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps they sense Saddam will spell out how he got those weapons, or the materials, supplies and maybe even the advice for those weapons. I always thought when we were debating this war, the French doth protested too much. The cynic in me suspects it wasn't all over the horrid reality of war but what that war might uncover.

The bigger issue for the global community is recognizing the wisdom of the war itself. It's beginning to strike more and more people, even critics of this war, that we were right to topple this government, that nabbing Saddam in a ditch all but ditched any argument against our being there in the first place. Americans didn't say that. The delirious and happy faces of scores of flag-waving and celebrating Iraqis said that, showed that and reveled in that.

Apparently, Moammar Gaddafi has gotten the message. Note that Gaddafi approached the British on the eve of our opening attacks on Iraq in March.
John Lott says that the move by the NRA to start a television station marks the end of campaign finance reform.
When is a television station not a television station? How about if it is owned by the National Rifle Association? It may not seem momentous, but the NRA's announcement this week that it might buy a television or radio station has sent shockwaves through campaign-finance-regulation advocates and may ultimately undo last week's Supreme Court decision upholding McCain-Feingold. If the NRA were recognized as a media organization, it would be free to say what it wanted about political candidates, not constrained by any campaign-finance laws. No worries about restrictions on independent campaign expenditures.

General Electric or Time Warner or Viacom own television companies and can easily produce positive news coverage for favored candidates. No one would seriously think of limiting the number of their favorable news stories for a candidate or the ads that they could take out advertising the favorable show. But right now the NRA is not the media and without getting a media exemption, the campaign-finance laws restrict what radio or television ads the NRA can run.

So what distinguishes the NRA from these companies? Surely, not that they are nonprofit. Churches own radio and television stations and publish newspapers.

Possibly the NRA is simply different because it has a well-known political opinion. But doesn't the New York Times or the Washington Post also have a well-known stance on gun control? Newspapers can run an editorial or news stories supporting candidates any day. Unlike everyone else, the media can mention a candidate's name during the 60 days before the general election. Yet, the NRA is forbidden from placing an ad next to the editorials in those very same newspapers.

It is not even really clear whether the NRA even has to buy a television station to qualify as part of the media. The NRA already is one of the biggest magazine publishers in the country, with about a dozen publications, and provides news on their website.

Just this September when the Supreme Court heard the challenges to the newest campaign-finance rules (the McCain-Feingold law), Justice Anthony Scalia anticipated this problem with campaign finance. During the oral arguments he noted: "if history teaches us anything, [it] is that when you plug one means of expression, the money will go to whatever means of expression are left."

By trying to become part of the media, the NRA has shown ultimate unenforceability of campaign-finance rules.
I wonder how many cable companies would add the NRA station. Perhaps in some of the red states and maybe on satellite, but I can't see it getting a position on many of the big cable companies. So, its impact would be limited to places where the voters already support the rights of gun owners and vote Republican.
Jim Hoagland says that one big reason we were able to capture Saddam was that we have given up our attempt to pacify the Sunnis and instead got tough with them.
The dictator's arrest was a direct result of a change in tactics by the U.S. military, and an indirect result of a change of heart by administration decision-makers about the strategy for terminating an occupation that seemed to be bogging down only a few months ago.

The change in tactics was visible. Saddam was tracked down as part of an escalating military roundup of his kin and other Baathist fugitives who had previously moved with impunity in the Sunni heartland around Baghdad. The get-tougher tactics replaced CIA-inspired efforts to buy off or otherwise co-opt Sunni influentials and tribes, who took the money but never delivered.

The Sunni Arabs make up less than 20 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, but they have for a millennium monopolized privilege and power in the territory of Mesopotamia, lording it over a Shiite Arab majority based in the south and a Kurdish Sunni minority in the north.

Less apparent was the dawning realization in Washington that the Sunni strategy favored by the intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracies was bringing no results but was increasingly alienating the Shiite majority, which had acquiesced to or supported the coalition occupation.

"In the summer it became clear that if we lost the Shiites we would lose the country," says one U.S. official. "The priority became understanding and trying to respond to their political needs rather than winning hearts and minds in the Sunni Triangle. That's important. But this was important and urgent."

Bob Novak has some interesting tidbits if they're to be believed. He reports that George Soros is getting concerned about Dean. He also says that Senator Lugar is in the lead to replace Colin Powell at State. That would be a nomination that would sail through the Senate but probably dismay conservatives.
If anyone had any doubts about the BBC, this edict would end those doubts forever.
BBC bosses have banned reporters from calling tyrant Saddam Hussein a former dictator.

Instead, staff must refer to the barbaric mass murderer as “the deposed former President”.

The astonishing edict was seized on by MPs last night as more proof of a Left-wing bias inside the BBC against the Iraqi war.
St. Cloud Scholars has some interesting discussion of Minnesota's social studies standards and the changes that were made due to public comment. Personally, I rarely look at, much less care about, my state's social studies standards. For my AP classes my job is to prepare them for those tests. For the non-AP classes in U.S. History there is enough to teach in American history that I don't have to worry about what a bunch of bureaucrats and a few public school teachers came up with.

St. Cloud Scholars also links to Norman Draper's column about the range of what is discussed in Minnesota classrooms of US history. It sounds like there is a conflict between what the legislators want: more celebration of America's history, versus what the teachers want: more discussion of all the groups who have suffered throughout American history.
Place the new proposed state requirements for U.S. history side by side with a high-school U.S. history course description, and you'll probably wonder: Whose history is this, anyway? What's being taught in metro-area high schools can be at odds with what Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke and her citizens committee want Minnesota kids to know.

A high-school U.S. history course syllabus is more likely to pose questions about why America has shortchanged minority members and women and dumped on blue-collar workers, and to highlight women's suffrage, the environmental and civil rights movements and the Vietnam War.

The state proposal doesn't ignore those but is more likely to feature names and events such as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, the Battle of the Bulge and agricultural implement pioneers Cyrus McCormick and John Deere.

Even the language used -- "robber barons" vs. "rise of corporations" -- is a tip-off that this is one of the battlegrounds in America's culture war, which often pits conservatives against liberals, Republicans against Democrats.

I think that intelligent teachers can walk the line between these two approaches. It would be wrong to be all of one or all of the other. As I prepare my students for writing AP essays, I tell them that it is always safest, whatever the prompt, to show that it is partly correct and partly wrong. There are few blanket statements one can make about history that are all one way gloom and doom versus another way of fireworks and celebration.
The Media Research Council has awarded its Most Notable Quotables to show media bias. There is a boatload of liberal vapidity exposed in these quotes. Since I'm the top who likes to read the ending of a book first, I'll skip right to the winner.
Quote of the Year

First Place

“If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.”

– Charles Pierce in a January 5 Boston Globe Magazine article. Kopechne drowned while trapped in Kennedy’s submerged car off Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, an accident Kennedy did not report for several hours.

Friday, December 19, 2003

William Tucker explains why we're suffering a shortage of flu vaccines. As you might have guessed, the problem lies with liability laws and government interference. Bill Frist has been attempting to close the loopholes in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Act, but, as far as I know, the bill has fallen through. Demagogues bring up the picture of poor children destroyed by an allergic reaction to a vaccine and ignore the problem of hundreds of thousands of people going unvaccinated because companies are afraid of being sued. (Link via my husband's page)
As I expected, the story about Haliburton overcharging the army for delivering fuel was a big nothing and had a perfectly logical explanation. Poor Haliburton has become the iconic whipping boy for the left simply because of its association with Cheney. Each accusation is shown to be worthless when the facts are presented. Typical.
Hugh Hewitt Thinks that Dean has jumped the shark. But the Deanie babies don't know it because they just talk to each other and live in their own little insulated world of Deandom.
The Dean operation, however, has attempted to invest its Internet-driven dynamic with mystical properties, which is why the campaign allows its blog to connect with dozens of unofficial blogs, and why it blurs the line between campaign staff and volunteers. The creation of an atmosphere in which a $50 contributor believes himself to be instrumental in setting campaign policy is likely to produce more $50 contributions. And more enthusiasm. And, curiously, the danger of thinking the campaign bigger than it is, and thus immune to the costs of nuttiness.

The nuttiest 1 percent of the American electorate is going to number around 1 million voters. Gather those people in one place, let them talk to each other and cheer each other on, and they are going to begin to assume that their 1 percent is much more numerous than it is, much more powerful, much more authentic than the 99 percent not at the rally.

This appears to be happening among the Deaniacs. They believe themselves to be far more numerous than they are, and to think that their self-referential assurances of virtue and victory carry weight beyond their chat rooms.

On the day of Dean's launch of a torpedo into his own ship--the self-evidently absurd statement above--the candidate met with the faithful at L.A.'s House of Blues. The Los Angeles Times, clearly smitten, ran a front page story on the event--in the entertainment industry driven Calendar section, complete with three big pictures of Dean, one of the crowd surging towards the stage on which Dean performed, and another of Rob Reiner, alpha male of the Hollywood left, welcoming Dean to movieland. The event was a fabulous success, with chanting and fervor and all the great stuff the Dean campaign loves to telegraph.

Dean's astonishing statement about Saddam's capture had been made earlier in the day, and the amazed reaction had begun to register across the country, but it had not made its way into the sealed room that the Dean campaign has become. The Times reported that Dean doubled down, stating that while it was a good thing the tyrant was captured, "We are not any safer in America because that happened!" The account continues: "Supporters, shoulder to shoulder, waved, jumped up and down, and snapped pictures."

Hmmm. The vast majority of Americans think bagging Saddam was a good thing, and that it has made them safer. Dean has mobilized most of the Americans who believe that capturing Saddam doesn't affect their security. There's no one at the campaign or in the House of Blues or on the web to say, "Ah, excuse me, but that's pretty nuts."

To everyone on the inside, it looks and feels like a majority. It feels really, really big.

It must be big. Just look at all those blogs, all those contributions, all that passion!

John Anderson, Ross Perot, and yes, even George McGovern, must be amused.
(Link via my husband's page)
Here's a defense of Texas' redistricting plan.
Ralph Peters discusses the importance of the documents that we got with Saddam.
Jonah Goldberg has an interesting idea for how to solve all the gerrymandering problems.

Last week, when everyone who understands the First Amendment was rightly having conniptions over the Supreme Court's ruling that political speech can be severely regulated under the rubric of "campaign finance reform," the court also heard arguments in a major redistricting case brought by Pennsylvania Democrats. They're upset because they have a statewide advantage of some 445,000 votes but Democrats hold only seven of the state's 19 congressional seats. Their claim: Congressional districts are being drawn unfairly.

Truth be told, I don't particularly care much about the details of this case. The Democrats complain that the Republicans redrew the map so as to eliminate three Democratic seats. The Republicans say, you guys did it to us for decades, it's your turn to suck eggs.

OK, I may not be capturing the legal subtleties as well some scholars might. But the point is, it was ever thus. Gerrymandering - drawing districts for partisan advantage - is neither unconstitutional nor new. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the only districts that violate constitutional principles are the ones excessively and explicitly gerrymandered along racial lines - you know, like the North Carolina district that snaked along Interstate 85 looking something like an X-ray of a colonoscopy.

Jonah must know that my next topic in AP Government is Congress and we'll be talking about gerrymandering. His article might make the reading list for the class. Thanks, Jonah.
The Washington Times has a roundup of the efforts to remove nativity scenes from public property this year.
Ann Coulter has a classic piece on the liberals' demands that we appeal more to the United Nations and the French.
On Fox News Sunday, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., said of Saddam's capture: "This is a great opportunity for this president to get it right for the long term. And I hope he will be magnanimous, reach out to the U.N., to allies who've stood away from us."

It's as if he were reading my mind! After listening to all the bellyaching from European leftists for the past eight months, I think I speak for all Americans when I say I've been on tenterhooks waiting for the right opportunity to grovel to the French. And now we have it – a major win is the perfect opportunity! That Kerry has an uncanny sense for what the average American is thinking.

Actually, he lost me with that one. Maybe it's a good opportunity for the French and the United Nations to reach out to us, but by what logic is this an opportunity for us to reach out to them? As I understand it, the situation is: We caught Saddam. So the obvious next move is ...

(a) Put him on trial.
(b) Get information from him.
(c) Torture him.
(d) Turn him over to the Iraqis.
(e) Appeal to the French.

What was interesting about Kerry's suggestion was that it was the exact same suggestion liberals were making when they claimed the war was going badly. The day before Saddam's capture, the New York Times editorialized: "The way to deal with all that is going wrong in Iraq remains as clear as it was on the day that Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat operations. ... Instead of driving away France, Germany, Russia and Canada with financial sanctions, the president should be creating the room for compromise ..." Damn that Bush. He squandered the good will of a bunch of people who hate our guts.

Apparently, this is what liberals mean by "a plan":

Military setback: Appeal to the French.
Military victory: Appeal to the French.
Saddam captured: Appeal to the French.
Osama captured: Appeal to the French.
Osama catches Saddam: Appeal to the French.

E.J. Dionne likes John Edwards' optimistic sounding tone. That's all well and good for Edwrads, but he still doesn't have any traction. It's that whole gravitas thing. He just doesn't have it. And he can't even count as the Southerner who could keep the South for the Democrats since he wouldn't eve carry his own state, my state of NC.
Scrappleface has caught Clark's new campaign promises.
Clark Would Have Caught bin Laden, Dumped Laura Bush

(2003-12-18) -- Wesley Clark, the Democrat presidential candidate, said yesterday that if he were president he would have captured Usama bin Laden by now and jilted First Lady Laura Bush.

"I would have gotten him," said Mr. Clark of Mr. bin Laden. "And I would have divorced Laura. I just don't find the woman attractive."

A spokesman for the Clark campaign said, "The former general's rich fantasy life and spirituality contribute to his geopolitical acumen."

Mr. Clark also noted that if he were Franklin D. Roosevelt, he would have captured Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini in early 1941.

Here is the Duh! headline of the day.
U.S. Says Catching Bin Laden Difficult
Oh, so that explains why we haven't caught him yet. I thought all this time that it was a cinch and we were just waiting for the moment to make the biggest political splash. I still think that during the Democratic Convention would be the optimal time. That's when Jim McDermott and Madeline Albright told me he'd be found.
John Podhoretz takes on the wacky 9th Circuit ruling saying that all the Guantanamo prisoners have the full due process rights under the Constitution. I guess they have never heard of war before. Regarding the ruling of Jose Padilla saying that the President can't hold him without the power given by Congress. This is reminiscent of Ex Parte v Merryman during the Civil War when the Chief Justice ruled that the President didn't have the right to suspend habeas corpus, only Congress did. Lincoln basically ignored Roger Taney's ruling that Merryman had to be released and later asked if "all the laws, but one, go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated." I think Bush should just ask Congress to give him that authority. Interestingly, Chief Justice William Rehnquist has written a book about civil rights in wartime titled All Laws But One. I believe that Rehnquist is sympathetic to the exigencies of wartime demanding certain limitations of civil liberties.
Jonathan Chait who sparked attention recently by describing his Bush hatred now has started a blog devoted to his hatred of Dean: Diary of a Dean-A-Phobe.
I realize that there is a certain irony here. Earlier this year I wrote a piece for TNR that defended hatred of President Bush. (I argued that hating Bush may lead to irrationality--rooting against the capture of Saddam Hussein, or, say, nominating Howard Dean--but it's not irrational in and of itself.) But recently I'm finding that Dean hatred is crowding out Bush hatred in my mental space. It's not that I think Dean would be a worse president than Bush--he'd probably be better, although that's extremely faint praise given that Bush is the worst president of the last 80 years. Bush is like the next-door neighbor who lets his dog poop on your lawn and his kid shoot bb's at your house and who says something irritating to you every day on his way to work. Dean, on the other hand, is like the ne'er-do-well who's dating your daughter. You realize the neighbor is a worse person than the boyfriend, but the boyfriend (and the frightening prospect that he'll become your son-in-law) consumes more of your attention.

....But even if true, this latest comment demonstrates once again Dean's incurable habit of handing Karl Rove the rope he'd use to hang Dean if nominated. The biggest problem with Dean's Iraq position is that he gives off the vibe that he likes to equivocate about the bad guys rather than recognize them for what they are. So even if it's narrowly true that Americans are no safer, it sends off a terrible message to the voters. Look, it's also true that Saddam Hussein made some great improvements in Iraqi health care and domestic infrastructure. But a candidate would be crazy to say that. What makes this all the more disturbing is that the comment came in the speech that was supposed to re-brand Dean as a responsible foreign policy centrist.
(Link via Andrew Sullivan)
John Hawkins at Right Wing News takes up what James Taranto said yesterday about how liberals used to oppose fascism, but now they prefer to support anyone who opposes our country.
Here's quote of the day from James Taranto,

"...(C)ommunism, evil though it was, at least was premised on a universalist vision of a better world. Why does the left now defend fascist regimes? Because they're no longer for anything; what's important is what they're against: America, Israel, "Eurocentric" civilization. The motto of today's reactionary left ought to be "The enemy of my country is my friend."

I hate to say this, I really, really, do, but Taranto is dead on target with that quote. If you don't believe it, just look at any program or piece of legislation that's being seriously considered by the President and Congress and ask yourself, "Would our country's enemies support our oppose this" and then look and see where each political party comes down on it. You will find that nine times out of ten, the Democrats will be coming down on the same side as America's enemies.

Just think about it. Do you think Al-Qaeda would rather see the Patriot Act stay in place or would they prefer to see it scrapped? They want it gone and so the Democrats. Which party always seems to be trying to cut defense and intelligence spending...hint: it's not the Republicans. The overwhelming majority of which party favored removing Saddam Hussein, an implacable enemy of our country, the GOP or the Dems? Which party in essence wants to give the UN a veto over the use of our military, the GOP or the Dems and what do you think...oh, let's say Syria would prefer we did? Iran and North Korea -- do you think they want us to build a national missile defense shield? Of course they don't and neither does Howard Dean who plans to cut off funding for it...just like the Democrat Party cut off funding for the Vietnamese which led to a Communist takeover of the country we spent so much blood and treasure trying to save.

Now don't get the wrong idea, I'm not calling anyone a traitor or a member of the 5th column, but I will say that there are a lot of Democrats, perhaps even a majority of them in Congress, who systematically oppose almost every attempt to make our country safer and more secure while offering up only the most flimsy of excuses in the way of an explanation.

I chalk their behavior up to a empty-headed-utopianism, reflexive opposition to Republicans who usually end up on the right side of security issues, a generalized desire to see America weakened or punished, the pervasive dislike for the police, military, and our intelligence agencies that runs rampant on the left, or some combination thereof. That assessment of course doesn't include Dems like Joe Lieberman or Zell Miller, but at least since the McGovern years, the hawks have been outnumbered on the left.

A Seattle columnist says that, even in the granola Northwest, the democrats need to find a centrist message to win out there.
Even the most insular Seattle liberal -- well, maybe not Jim McDermott -- has to recognize that needed support is to be found in the center, the center of the electorate and of the country. A hard-line, hate-Bush campaign will only work as a turnoff.

Our city recently welcomed Dean with a summer crowd of 8,000 people at Westlake Center.

But 8,000 folks showed up for George McGovern on Labor Day in 1972; 12,000 people greeted Walter Mondale downtown in 1984; and 15,000 braved rain-drenched supporters turned out at the Pike Place Market for Michael Dukakis, the night after he tanked in a 1988 debate with George H.W. Bush.

All these guys lost -- badly.

Fridays are wonderful because the weekend is coming up AND because it's the day for Krauthammer's column. Here he is on Saddam's dental exam.
In the old days the conquered tyrant was dragged through the streets behind the Roman general's chariot. Or paraded shackled before a jeering crowd. Or, when more finality was required, had his head placed on a spike on the tower wall.

Iraq has its own ways. In the revolution of 1958, Prime Minister Nuri Said was caught by a crowd and murdered, and his body was dragged behind a car through the streets of Baghdad until there was nothing left but half a leg.

We Americans don't do it that way. Instead, we show Saddam Hussein -- King of Kings, Lion of the Tigris, Saladin of the Arabs -- compliantly opening his mouth like a child to the universal indignity of an oral (and head lice!) exam. Docility wrapped in banality. Brilliant. Nothing could have been better calculated to demystify the all-powerful tyrant.

Krauthammer thinks that this will be the beginning of the end of the pan-Arabist movement. I'm not so optimistic. Someone else will emerge to fill that vacuum.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

James Taranto says that Bush can use NY v. Sullivan to sue Dean for defamation of character.
Two weeks ago, we were the first to note that Howard Dean was trafficking in wacko conspiracy theories, telling talk-show hostess Diane Rehm that the Saudis tipped President Bush off in advance of the Sept. 11 attacks. In today's Washington Post, Dean offers what he seems to regard as a defense: "I acknowledged that I did not believe the theory I was putting out."

Bush would seem to have an open-and-shut case if he wanted to sue Dean for defamation. Under the rigorous standard the U.S. Supreme Court set forth in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), a plaintiff who is a public official cannot win a defamation lawsuit without showing that the defendant acted with reckless disregard for the truth. Dean's "defense"--that "I did not believe the theory I was putting out"--would seem to be the very essence of reckless disregard.

Then again, maybe a suit against Dean isn't worth the president's effort. After all, in order to collect damages, he'd have to show that Dean's defamation actually harmed Bush's reputation.

Unfortunately, Taranto is going to take a break until after Christmas. Read the entire column. He has some hilarious entries.
Steven Milloy demonstrates the bogosity of the arsenic in the water flap.
Jim Lileks is a national treasure. Here he is on the Dems and Saddam's capture.
The reactions from foes of President Bush were predictable. You'd swear that if you jabbed the average Democratic presidential candidate awake at 3 a.m., he'd shout, "Unilateral cowboy yellowcake carrier landing fake-turkey photo op!"

Joe Lieberman acted like a grown-up, but John Kerry insisted we could have found Saddam sooner if we'd had allies. Here the French, working for us this time, could have deployed their elite squad of truffle-hunting pigs to sniff out the bunker.

John Edwards, attempting to move his poll numbers to a sum larger than his shoe size, laid out his vision in a Des Moines speech: "A one-dimensional foreign policy in a three-dimensional world will not secure our nation." Ah yes, the old nuance deficit. Bush's solution is always the same -- bombs and bluster. Hence the big craters in Tehran, Pyongyang, Riyadh and Paris.

What bold new thinking would President Edwards bring to this multidimensional world? A new U.N. Security Council resolution opposing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Splendid idea. Just don't enforce it! Make it something nice and stern, with words like "strongly pledge" and "emphatically reject." Then take a vote and have a nice long lunch; New York is full of great restaurants. It's fun being a U.N. diplomat! And while you're up, make a resolution against killer asteroids and musicals based on Boy George, OK? Thanks; kisses.
This is a funny story about how lawmakers of both parties vote against the appropriations bills and then take credit for the goodies that are in them when the bill passes. Or, as poly sci people call it - credit claiming, which, as my AP Government kids know, is one of the advantages of incumbency even when they don't vote for the bill they're taking credit for.
Here's David Letterman's Top Ten List of other things Saddam's daughter said.
Top Ten Other Observations Made By Saddam Hussein's Daughter

10. "Once you get to know him, he's really nice until he kills you"

9. "The real crime is he's not getting a penny from being on those playing cards"

8. "If anyone wants a giant portrait of Saddam, I've got a garage full of them"

7. "When Uday and Qusay hear about this, they're gonna lose it"

6. "My dad isn't as screwed as the New York Giants"

5. "Compared to the Jacksons, my family is not so odd"

4. "That 'Lord of the Rings' crap is an absolute nerd-fest"

3. "Oprah's nuts if she doesn't appear on the Super Bowl of Love"

2. "While in Tikrit, try the Iraqi kabob at Ernies. Thank me later"

1. "That wasn't Saddam -- that was Nick Nolte"
Here's the story of the five year old kid who was a hostage during the first Iraq war who refused to sit on Saddam's lap.
This almost sounds like an Onion story. A Tampa charity group offered a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless at a local Carrabba's Grill. The food came from a ritzy Tampa restaurant and was the standard Thanksgiving fare. I admit that I'd rather eat Carrabba's than turkey, but I'm not homeless.

Now, a homeless activist is complaining because they weren't given Carrabba's food as they thought they would be. So, he's spending the money to rent buses to bring in protestors to picket the Carrabba's for providing space for many homeless people to have a tasty free meal. Talk about biting the hand.....
In an interesting counterpoint to France's ban on schoolgirls' veils, Saudia Arabia has banned female dolls. Yup, that will preserve each country's civilization.
"Cold Mountain" beat out "Return of the King" in Golden Globe nominations. This might be a very interesting year for the Oscars.
Truth and justice shall triumph. Bjorn Lomborg has been cleared of scientific dishonesty.
Bjorn Lomborg, the author of a controversial book attacking the environment movement, was cleared yesterday of "scientific dishonesty" by the Danish science ministry.

The ministry overturned a ruling in January by the Danish committee on scientific dishonesty (DCSD), part of the Danish Research Agency, that Mr Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice".

Mr Lomborg hailed yesterday's decision as "brilliant". It provided confirmation that freedom of speech extended to the environmental debate, he said.

In its report, the ministry criticised the committee for failing to provide evidence either that Mr Lomborg had been biased in his selection of data or that his methodology had been dubious.

It also said the committee's judgment had used "condescending and emotional" language. And it was a "clear mistake" that the committee had failed to give Mr Lomborg an opportunity to defend himself before publishing its judgment.

This scathing assessment of the DCSD ruling meant that critics would have to find solid arguments to attack his work, rather than rely on mud-slinging, Mr Lomborg said. The ministry's report, which examined only the procedural aspects of Mr Lomborg's treatment by the DCSD, is unlikely to halt the controversy over Mr Lomborg's arguments.

Atlantic Media has established an award in honor of Michael Kelly. The only person I can think of who comes close is Charles Krauthammer. And he already has a Bradley Prize.
Check out what Photoshop and a picture of Saddam can do.
Dean is well ahead of his rivals in the latest CBS poll. But he lags behind "Don't Know." The funny thing is that Kerry lags behind Al Sharpton. I guess he'll have to go on SNL. Sharpton probably had an uptick from his stint there singing "I feel good!" Now, that was impressive. What can Kerry do to top that? I guess it will be back to posing in the wet suit.

I see that Outside the Beltway has the same take on this poll. Great minds....
Larry Miller zeroes in on something I had noticed - how fast Saddam grew his beard.
AH, SADDAM, SADDAM, SADDAM. What has it all come to, eh, my friend? All those palaces, all those solid gold toilets, all those deliciously terrified looks in people's eyes. All that hard work, and you just wind up looking like Jerry Garcia after a show.

(By the way, I love Garcia. No kidding. I was a Deadhead from the first day Hamilton played them for me in school, and I always will be. It was The Dead and Zappa for me, no one else. In fact, my honors thesis was on Zappa. I was a music major, and my cum laude title was, "A Harmonic And Motivic Analysis Of Frank Zappa." For the record, and for reasons that were not entirely inexplicable, the music department did not award "laude," and I said, "Lordy!" But never mind that now.)

Most important aspect of Hussein's capture: Could you grow a beard like that in seven months? I don't think I could. I mean, you've got to hand it to him: A full head of black hair, and he looks like Aristotle in a week. Don't get me wrong, the guy's up there (or down there) with the worst humans in history, and a few minutes after dying I think he's going to be having conversations like, "So you're saying the poker goes in another inch every year? Wow, and I thought the 'no virgins' thing was bad news." But he sure can grow some hair.

I noticed the same thing about John Brown who goes from being clean-shaven in Kansas in 1857 to looking like Moses in 1859 with a full white beard.

These guys have mad hirsute skills.
Lileks looks at how Dean is bringing Gore over into the wacko crowd.
Item! Dean, talking to Diane Rehm -- the Mother Teresa of Beltway radio -- excoriated Bush for undue privacy in the Sept. 11 investigation. It produced some "interesting" theories, Dean said, such as the idea that the Saudis warned Bush of the imminent attack. Very clever, this; it allowed Dean to move the charge from the fever swamps of Internet forums to the national spotlight. Did he believe it? Oh, no -- but it's interesting, he said, and can't be disproved. OK, then: Dr. Dean sealed his gubernatorial records, and this makes some suspect he was an abortionist who sold the sundered remains to Satanists for Black Mass rituals. Hey, it's an interesting theory. Until we see the records, who knows?

All these items are part of a disquieting trend: the mainstreaming of the extreme. Think of the GOP at the peak of its pique in the '90s. The Republicans didn't nominate a ranter who trafficked in "interesting" theories about Bill Clinton whacking Vince Foster for discovering the family coke ring. They nominated decent old Bob Dole, America's Poster Dad for erectile dysfunction. The party's nut jobs seethed in the margins -- which is why Bush could later win on the "Kinder-Gentler 2.0" program of compassionate conservatism. Republicans didn't want revenge so much as they wanted to win.

But the Democrats want revenge. For Florida. For Bush's refusal to let France and Germany decide American foreign policy. For invading poor, helpless, never-hurt-a-fly Iraq. For making the Dixie Chicks feel uncomfortable. Not for drilling in ANWR, but for wanting to. For this and a thousand other sins, Bush must pay -- and if al-Qaida detonates a nuke in the Baltimore harbor during President Dean's term, it'll be Bush's fault for toppling the fascists of Iraq without the approval of Syria and China.

If Gore wants these people on his side in '08, it's because he thinks they'll still be spitting mad in four years. And he's right. They will be. They will hate Bush more than Osama bin Laden, right up until the day the Islamists target mixed-gender schools, abortion clinics and gay-rights counseling centers.

Then they might finally realize it's not only their war too -- it always has been.
Even Spinsanity, a liberal-leaning media review, finds that Dean is not being honest.
Newsweek shuts down the Telegraph story about Mohammed Atta training in Iraq as a story based on a forged document. The question I have is that if the document was found by our guys in Iraq going through Iraqi files, who would have planted such a document before the Iraqi government fell. I'd like to know when the document first appeared.

Update: Dan Spencer, California Yankee informs me that the document came through the Iraqi Governing Council. Well, I wouldn't trust much of what they say or leak. I've seen several rumors that came via the Council and little of it was borne out. California Yankee still has some faith that the FBI is pooh-poohing the memo too early and wonders about the spaces in their time chronology.
Mickey Kaus is indulging in some political science about what would happen if Dean ran as a third party candidate if he didn't get the Democratic nomination. Would that be the end of the two-party system?
Everett Ehrlich himself emails to note that while the Electoral College tends to reward big nationwide parties, "there's the countervailing point that a more divided field makes it easier to win states." Combine that point with the possibility of quasi-parliamentary Electoral College bargaining, as just discussed, and I wonder if I was too quick to concede that the Electoral College set-discourages third parties. After all, if you have a solid third party you can maybe grab a bunch of states and hold the balance of power, no? Certainly third parties would do better in this system than if the presidency were decided in a single national popular vote. The so-called Duverger's Law--"most votes wins all" elections create two party systems--would only apply within each state's Electoral contest. In the entire Electoral College, it would not apply, since the Electoral College isn't a "most votes wins all" system. Under the Twelfth Amendment, you need an absolute majority to win. A 49 and a half % plurality won't do. Hence the room for third parties to make up the difference. Vote for a third party, in such a system, and you don't "waste" your vote, as long as that party has a chance to win the electors from your state. [Then why've regional third parties, historically, withered and dies?--ed. Possible answers: a)They don't inevitably wither. They have to be affirmatively courted and coopted by the major parties. But they have been affirmatively courted and coopted. b) Voters are fooled by the illusion that they are voting in a single national "most-votes-wins-it-all" election, so they don't vote for third parties even when that would be rational; c) I'm wrong on the possibility of Electoral College deal-making; d) parties do more than elect presidents--they elect Congressmen, mayors and dogcatchers by giving voters an easy way to tell friends from foes. Thanks to this ideological "branding," they're hard to displace. But less hard than before! ...
Sounds like my AP Government class. Maybe, Mickey would agree to come in and guest teach. The kids would be thrilled to have a respite from me.
Apparently, Bush told the Australian Prime Minister that he feared that Lieberman would be his toughest opponent in November. Lieberman should start cutting ads right now with that in it. (Link via Instapundit)
This post is for all my Hobbit-crazed students who are going to rush joyfully from their last midterm tomorrow straight to the movie theater to have a well-deserved moment of relaxation watching "The Return of the King."

Here is an article about all the changes from the book to the movie.

Jonah Goldberg has a very favorable review. He almost, but not quite makes me want to see it.
At this point, writing a conventional review of The Return of the King seems sort of futile. If you've seen the first two installments of the film, why on earth would you not see the third, no matter what I said? And if you haven't seen the first two installments, maybe you should get back on your medication or contact the authorities so you can get someone to free you from the basement radiator you've been handcuffed to.

Jonathan Last doesn't think it measures up to the first two installments.
BACK IN 2001, in the golden age of cinema, when studios routinely put out classics like "A Beautiful Mind," "Moulin Rouge," and "I Am Sam," Hollywood observers dismissed the Academy of Motion Pictures' snub of "The Fellowship of the Ring" with a wave of the hand. "Oh don't worry," the sophisticates sighed, "Peter Jackson will win for 'Return of the King' so that the trilogy can be recognized all in one shot."

It was a fine sentiment, except for one small detail: Suppose the Academy had taken the same approach towards "The Godfather"?

Which isn't to say that "Return of the King," the final installment of Peter Jackson's brilliant Lord of the Rings, is "The Godfather Part III." That wouldn't be entirely fair. But it would be uncomfortably close to the mark.
Robert Samuelson has a great column about how ridiculous the Supreme Court's decision on campaign finance reform is.
To justify abolishing basic constitutional rights, the court cites the danger that wealthy interests could, through campaign contributions, capture government for their purposes. But if the wealthy are trying, they either have botched the job or are remarkably charitable.

Consider. In 2000 (the latest figures) the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 26 percent of federal taxes and the richest 10 percent paid 52 percent, says the Congressional Budget Office. Meanwhile, most spending goes to the poor and middle class. In fiscal 2003 federal spending, excluding defense and interest payments, totaled $1.6 trillion. Of that, 81 percent went for social programs, including $475 billion to 47 million Social Security beneficiaries, $249 billion for 41 million Medicare recipients, $161 billion for 40 million Medicaid beneficiaries and $25 billion for 21 million food stamp recipients. Similarly, most regulations target businesses.

Maybe there's strong evidence that big contributions have corrupted lawmaking. Actually, there isn't. The court majority asserts that there is, but in a 119-page decision the justices devote only one paragraph to the evidence. They mention three controversial proposals that allegedly foundered on contributors' influence. Who said so? Well, two former senators who favor McCain-Feingold. What else would they say?

By contrast, many academic studies have examined the impact of contributions on legislation. Summarizing about 40 studies, three social scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded: "The evidence that campaign contributions lead to a substantial influence on [congressional] votes is rather thin." Generally, members of Congress follow their political philosophies and constituents' interests. Even big contributions are so splintered that individual donors' influence is weakened.

The court's main justification is "the appearance of corruption" -- a concept first embraced in the landmark 1976 case Buckley vs. Valeo. This is lawyer-speak for political correctness.

If enough important people believe big contributions corrupt, then Congress can legislate even if actual corruption is negligible. Of course, the logic is self-fulfilling. If "appearances" matter, then "reformers," crusading journalists and sympathetic judges will establish "appearances" by constantly deploring the seediness of fundraising -- the peddling of "access" -- and stigmatizing incidents when big contributors win congressional victories. Legislators who got contributions and sided with their contributors are automatically assumed to be corrupt captives. It's guilt by association.

Though it seems rather over the top to compare it to Plessy v Ferguson. Whatever the decision was, it was a horrible abrogation of the First Amendment.
French President says that religious symbols should be banned in French schools. What he means here is what Muslim girls wear. If the French are scared of Islamicists in France, they should do something about it directly instead of worrying about schoolgirls' clothes.
Dean's rivals keep jumping on Dean's comments on various matters, but nothing seems to faze him in the polls. What doesn't kill him makes him stronger.
It seems rather irresponsible for Thomas Kean to be giving out insinuating hints and dramatic accusations about how 9/11 could have been prevented before the commission comes out with its report. Either issue a report or shut up.
Hmmm. I smell desperation in these reactions to a Bush administration proposal to extend peer review to government science research that will affect policy. Count up the quotes from critics in this story of the proposal to the quotes defending the policy. It's about 20:1. I am not exaggerating. A perfect example of media bias for my beleagured AP Government students trembling in fear for their midterm today.
Apparently, Michael Jackson is converting to the Nation of Islam. Oh, yeah. I sense the race card getting ready to be played.
Dean says that he was the one who thought up the remark that finding Saddam hasn't made America any stronger and he's not backing away from it no matter how much flack he gets.
Howard Kurtz gives you a picture of what it is like to hank with Dean's top campaign aides for a few days. Sounds like Howard is collecting anecdotes for a campaign book.
Saddam is providing great comic fodder.
Thanks to photo-doctoring computer software, clever comics turned the bearded image into a dozen variations of Santa Claus, bearing such mottos as "Saddam Claus," "Merry Christmas from Baghdad" and "Saddaclaussein." Already, the mock Saddam Santas are available as e-mail greeting cards.

He also has been turned into a homeless man, holding up various signs reading "Will Dictate for Beer" and "Will Terrorize for Food."

There are Saddam satire ads for Gillette razors, Snickers candy, the kitschy Chia Pet houseplant and the "Dummies" series of how-to books. Saddam is the cover draw for "Hiding in Holes for Dummies — A Reference for Gutless Dictators."

His face also was placed on mock publicity for the edgy makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," in this case "Queer Eye for the Hopeless Guy."

In parody news stories posted online, Saddam has been accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction in his beard, sending out Viagra-themed spam e-mail and being explosive himself because of a "dangerous hummus/jalapeno mixture," according to Innographx News.
I love the American spirit.
Madeline Albright insists that she was just joking when she told Morton Kondracke the administration probably had Osama hidden away somewhere and would announce his capture at the politically opportune time. Kondracke insists that she was not smiling when she said it. Whatever the truth, the fact that she would have even thought that a joke about that would be a funny crack to make to a reporter, a reporter for crying out loud, shows how out of touch she is with reality. Remember, this is the woman who thought Kim Jong Il was rational Could it truly be that Bush has driven them so craqy with hatred that they've lost their political protection cloaking devices?
The Washington Post has a very sharp editorial against Dean's foreign policy sppech Monday. I can't remember seeing the Post come out so strongly against a primary candidate at this point in the process.
In his speech Monday, Mr. Dean alone portrayed the recruiting of allies for Iraq as a means to "relieve the burden on the U.S." -- that is, to quickly draw down American forces. Only he omitted democracy from his goals for Iraq and the Middle East. And only Mr. Dean made the extraordinary argument that the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made Americans safer."

Mr. Dean's carefully prepared speech was described as a move toward the center, but in key ways it shifted him farther from the mainstream. A year ago Mr. Dean told a television audience that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies," but last weekend he declared that "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States." Mr. Dean has at times argued that the United States must remain engaged to bring democracy to Iraq, yet the word is conspicuously omitted from the formula of "stable self-government" he now proposes. The former Vermont governor has compiled a disturbing record of misstatements and contradictions on foreign policy; maybe he will shift yet again, this time toward more responsible positions.

Mr. Dean's exceptionalism, however, is not limited to Iraq. It can be found in his support for limiting the overseas deployments of the National Guard -- a potentially radical change in the U.S. defense posture -- and in his readiness to yield to the demands of North Korea's brutal communist dictatorship, which, he told The Post's Glenn Kessler, "ought to be able to enter the community of nations." Mr. Dean says he would end all funding for missile defense, a program supported by the Clinton administration, and also has broken with Mr. Clinton's successful trade policies, embracing protectionism. Sadly, on trade his position is shared by every Democratic candidate except Mr. Lieberman (and Ms. Clinton).

It is Mr. Dean's position on Iraq, however, that would be hardest to defend in a general election campaign. Many will agree with the candidate that "the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at unbelievable cost." But most Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Here's the advice that Alexis de Tocqueville would have given the Iraqis about building a successful democracy.
Here's a media ethics story. A Kerry staffer sent a NY Times reporter an e-mail criticizing Dean on foreign policy and requesting that it be used as background. The reporter ignored the request and published the information and the Kerry attempt to attack Dean. Thus, a potential story showing Dean's zigs and zags on the war becomes a inside the beltway story about whether a political operative can preemptively claim to be "on background." The poor Kerry team just can't catch a break.
Eugene Volokh reports that the Sixth Circuit has upheld Ohio's ban on partial birth abortion.
National Review has an interesting profile of John Rhys-Davies and his views of the clash of civilizations we're involved in right now and what Tolkien can teach us about this.
Rhys-Davies, however, runs contrary to the prevailing political sentiment of the industry that feeds him. "You do realize that in this town [Hollywood], what I've been saying is rather like, sort of — oh well, I can't find a comparable blasphemy ... but we've got to get a bit serious." Surveying the room, he said: "What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is and what a joy it is. From it, we get real democracy. From it, we get the sort of intellectual tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you around this table...." He continued by saying, "The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world." He pointed out that while projected population statistics in Western Europeans will be falling sharply over the next 20 years, Islam will become more prominent in those countries.

"There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western Civilization in Europe that we should think about, at least, and argue about," he said. "If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn't matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western Civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss."

Recognizing the sheer politically incorrect nature of his commentary, he summed it up by saying, "I am for dead white male culture" — utilizing a derogatory catchphrase used on college campuses to describe Western Culture.

As Rhys-Davies stood to leave the room, he jokingly asked the writers to make sure to "put verbs in my sentences" and concluded by saying: "By and large, our cultures and our society are resilient enough to put up with any sort of nonsense. But if Tolkien's got a message, it's, 'Sometimes you've got to stand up and fight for what you believe in.' He knew what he was fighting for in World War I."

Here's more fallout from campaign finance reform. A secretive organization fronted by a former Democratic congressman is running ads against Dean without identifying who is funding it. This is legal, but not what the reformers had in mind.
The NY Times/CBS tracking polls show the effects of Saddam's capture on Bush's poll ratings from before and right after. Of course, such results are ephemeral but they do show how perceptions about the war affect everything else.
The first poll's findings included red flags for President Bush as he heads into next year's re-election campaign, particularly in the measure of people who thought the country was heading in the right direction, a historically reliable early indicator of the political strength of an officeholder. In that poll, 56 percent of respondents said the nation was heading in the wrong direction, compared with just 39 percent who said it was on the right track.

But by Monday, that measure had nearly flipped, with the number of Americans who said the nation was heading in the right direction rising to 49 percent, with 43 percent saying things were going awry, the second poll found.

Even the perception that the economy is getting better, which has been something of a weak suit for Mr. Bush, improved to 39 percent this week from 34 percent last week.

Here are the top ten things learned from Saddam's papers.
Top Ten Secrets Learned From Saddam Hussein's Papers

10. "Saddam" is Kurdish for "Duane"

9. Had just acquired a New York City cabdriver's license

8. Surprisingly, dots his "I"s with hearts

7. You won't find a bigger Clay Aiken fan

6. Four of clubs? Gay

5. His "divine plan for world domination" was written on back of Blimpie's coupon

4. Continued to name himself "Iraqi of the Month" right through November

3. Was working on a book of "You Might Be a Dictator If..." jokes

2. Funneled money to ABC to throw Trista and Ryan a fabulous wedding

1. He wrote letters to "Penthouse" under name "Sexy in Spider Hole"
Christopher Hitchens evokes what it must have been like to live in Iraq under Saddam.
Try to imagine seeing his face on your front page every day for three decades, and hearing that voice and seeing that face every time you turned on the radio or TV.

Try to imagine being unable to escape from it when you went to the opera, the cinema, the theatre, or the football. For millions of Iraqis under 35, this indoctrination started at infant school, where lesson one was that Big Daddy was supreme, and could do what he liked to your or your family.

Kanan Makiya's brilliant profile of Ba'ath Party rule, The Republic of Fear, had a title that was, if anything, understated. In Baghdad in the old days, I knew people who said you could smell the fear. Others said no, you could taste it. The one who came closest said you could actually eat it.

Just the mention of the name was enough to bring a look into the eyes of almost any Iraqi: the look of a broken dog that is once again shown the whip. This is why I can't stand those who refer with a sneer to the courageous Iraqi opposition as "exiles".

THE risk of uttering the mildest criticism of Saddam entailed savage torture followed by brutal execution, with the same being visited upon your family.

Those thousands who fled Iraq had no guarantee they would not be followed by assassins and murdered overseas. Many were.

Those who remained were used as cannon fodder in crazy and destructive wars, or shovelled into mass graves.
Madeline Albright thinks that we might already have Osama Bin Laden and are waiting for a politically crucial moment. She now enters the Jim McDermott crazy bin.
David Brooks looks at Dean's world vision.
Dean is not a modern-day Woodrow Wilson. He is not a mushy idealist who dreams of a world government. Instead, he spoke of international institutions as if they were big versions of the National Governors Association, as places where pragmatic leaders can go to leverage their own resources and solve problems.

The world Dean described is largely devoid of grand conflicts or moral, cultural and ideological divides. It is a world without passionate nationalism, a world in which Europe and the United States are not riven by any serious cultural differences, in which sensible people from around the globe would find common solutions, if only Bush weren't so unilateral.

At first, the Bush worldview seems far more airy-fairy and idealistic. The man talks about God, and good versus evil. But in reality, Dean is the more idealistic and naïve one. Bush at least recognizes the existence of intellectual and cultural conflict. He acknowledges that different value systems are incompatible.

In the world Dean describes, people, other than a few bizarre terrorists, would be working together if not for Bush. In the Dean worldview, all problems are matters of technique and negotiation.

Joanne Jacobs links to a Texas story about a program to pay high school students for each AP test they pass and to pay teachers for each student who passes a test. I'd so clean up! Of course, this would heighten the competition among teachers about who gets to teach AP classes.
Whatever happened to all the Saddam look-alikes Hussein supposedly had?
Even David Broder thinks that the Supreme Court went too far in banning independent advertising two months before an election.
Far more troubling are the law's restrictions on broadcast advertising about federal candidates in the period leading up to a primary or general election. Such ads -- "Tell Senator Jones he's wrong on this issue" -- are indistinguishable in effect or intent from ads saying, "Vote against Senator Jones," the court ruled. So it upheld the new restrictions, saying that groups of any sort that buy them must adhere to the same limits on contributions and disclosure requirements as parties and candidates.

Such independent ads are a pain to the candidates -- a wild card in their election campaigns. But I must agree with Scalia that the restrictions Congress has placed on them are a boon to incumbents and a limitation on core First Amendment rights of speech and association. If I join the National Rifle Association or the Friends of the Earth and find that they cannot use my annual dues to say in a TV spot that Representative Smith has been voting against our interests, but first must solicit me for a PAC contribution, my rights have been restricted.

Journalists and others who depend on the First Amendment have reason to question the cost of this reform victory.
Brent Bozell looks at the media coverage of Saddam's capture.
George Will pays tribute to a century of flight.
Jonah Goldberg wonders the war in Iraq would look like if it were a movie.
Isntapundit captures the evidence of how CNN avoided any coverage of the anti-terror marches in Iraq.
Michael Moynihan defends the use of "Red Dawn" for the operation code name for nabbing Saddam. (link via Instapundit)
Thomas Sowell has a great column about how history is being taught poorly to students because we insist on using modern mores to judge people of a different time period.
One of the reasons our children do not measure up academically to children in other countries is that so much time is spent in American classrooms twisting our history for ideological purposes.

"How would you feel if you were a Native American who saw the European invaders taking away your land?" is the kind of question our children are likely to be confronted with in our schools. It is a classic example of trying to look at the past with the assumptions -- and the ignorance -- of the present.

One of the things we take for granted today is that it is wrong to take other people's land by force. Neither American Indians nor the European invaders believed that.

Both took other people's land by force -- as did Asians, Africans and others. The Indians no doubt regretted losing so many battles. But that is wholly different from saying that they thought battles were the wrong way to settle ownership of land.

Today's child cannot possibly put himself or herself in the mindset of Indians centuries ago, without infinitely more knowledge of history than our schools have ever taught.

Nor is understanding history the purpose of such questions. The purpose is to score points against Western society. In short, propaganda has replaced education as the goal of too many "educators."

The Washington Post has a long article on Clark's role in Kosovo.
Instapundit reports that the BBC totally omitted the story of the Iraqi foreign minister excoriating the UN for its lack of efforts to stop Saddam's butchery.
Here's a 1956 review by W. H. Auden of The Return of the King. (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
It's funny to see Kerry accuse Dean of being all over the lot on Iraq. Kerry has been no Rock of Gibralter himself. Meanwhile, his and some of the other candidates' statements could serve as an ad next summer for the GOP.
Gosh, Mark Steyn is so the man. He's coined a new phrase about the left: "the bike path left."
It's odd that when something big happens, as on Sunday, the Democratic candidates seem irrelevant to the story, like asking a lacrosse expert what he thinks of the Super Bowl. They get interviewed and they trot out their lame clichés, about the need to "internationalize" Iraq, by which they mean not Tony Blair, John Howard, the Poles and Italians, but Kofi Annan, The Hague, the French, the Guinean foreign minister, all the folks who proved unwilling and unable to deal with Iraq before the liberation and who have given no indication of being likely to do any better after. The Democrats' indestructible retreat to this dreary line gives them the air of a gormless twit in a drawing-room comedy coming in through the French windows every 10 minutes and saying, "Anyone for tennis?" You can't help feeling that, on the big questions roiling around America's national security, the Dems don't really have speaking parts: if this was Broadway, they'd have been written out in New Haven.

There was a revealing moment on MSNBC the other night. Chris Matthews asked Dr. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in an American court or at The Hague. "I don't think it makes a lot of difference," said the governor airily. Mr. Matthews pressed once more. "It doesn't make a lot of difference to me," he said again. Some of us think what's left of Osama is already hard enough to scrape off the cave floor and put in a matchbox, never mind fly to the Netherlands. But, just for the sake of argument, his bloodiest crime was committed on American soil; American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.

So what does get the Dean juices going? A few days later, the governor was on CNN and Judy Woodruff asked him about his admission that he'd left the Episcopal Church and become a Congregationalist because "I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church over the bike path." I hasten to add that, in contrast to current Anglican controversies over gay marriage in British Columbia and gay bishops in New Hampshire, this does not appear to have been a gay bike path: its orientation was not an issue; it would seem to be a rare example of a non-gay controversy in the Anglican Communion. But nevertheless it provoked Howard into "a big fight." "I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group," he told Judy Woodruff. Fighting, fighting, fighting.

And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.
Read the rest. Steyn is a jewel.
It's ironic that Gore's endorsement of Dean seems to be doing more for Lieberman than for Dean.
Will the new hot demographic next year be "security moms?"
Security moms are not the whole picture. In key battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, women of all stripes are once again expected to be pivotal in choosing the next president.

"The gender gap has been a critical factor in every election since 1980, and I suspect it will be once again," said Larry Sabato, University of Virginia political scientist. "But it's a complicated chessboard and not a checkerboard, because women, like men, are divided into about 100 different categories."

While more women tend to vote Democrat than Republican, they also tend to approach voting with a pragmatism that transcends party loyalty. Many are classic swing voters: They are ballot-splitters and party-switchers. Their political allegiance is elusive.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Scrappleface reports that Dean is demanding Saddam's release.
Dean Demands Saddam's Release, Recapture by U.N.
(2003-12-15) -- Democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean today said the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "lacks legitimacy because it was a unilateral effort by American forces."

"It's great that Saddam Hussein was caught, but we did it all wrong and he should be released immediately," said Mr. Dean, "This will allow him to be recaptured later by a true multilateral coalition led by the United Nations."

The former Vermont governor noted that U.S. forces acted pre-emptively to surround the area where Mr. Hussein had hidden, and declined the former Iraqi leader's offer to negotiate.

"It's just another example of cowboy diplomacy," he said. "The Bush administration's ignorance in foreign policy and military matters is stunning. Did they read Mr. Hussein his Miranda rights? Did he get his phone call? Was there even a search warrant? We in the global community demand the justice that only the United Nations can legitimately deliver."
Time Magazine has 10 questions for Dennis Miller.
Who in politics inspires you? George Bush. He's been dealt an amazingly heavy hand of cards here, and I think he's doing his best ... Bush had the balls to start something that's not gonna be finished in his lifetime. The liquidation of terrorism is not gonna happen for a long time. But to take the first step? Ballsy.

Explain how the war in Iraq makes sense to you as a response to 9/11. Like there's no chance that the secular state of Iraq and Islamic fundamentalists cohabitate? They both think we're Satan. How about that as a nice point of departure for them car-pooling? I wish there was a country called al-Qaedia that we could have invaded, but there wasn't. (Saddam was) the only one who had a home address.

A lot of California Republicans want you to run for Senate. Will you? At some point that involves moving to Washington, D.C., sitting in a room all day with a moron like Barbara Boxer. I'm just not interested. I like open minds, and I think in Washington right now, we might as well start painting those people red and blue.

Should we be worried that the country seems increasingly polarized politically? I'm not worried. Most Americans will let liberals and conservatives play their games because most Americans don't pay attention. They're out there earning a living, trying to bounce their kids on their laps and watch Trista and Ryan's wedding.

(Link via Poliblogger)
Buzz Machine has some more on Saddam jokes. Here are some from Leno.
: They showed video of Hussein being inspected by a doctor. And then they took a DNA sample from him. Which had to be humiliating. One day your president of the country the next day you’re being forced to give a DNA sample. And Clinton said, "tell me about it.”
: At the time of his capture, he had $750,000 in cash on him. They think he may have been trying to buy three gallons of gas from Halliburton.
: Reaction coming in from all over the world to Saddam Hussein’s capture. The British government praised the U.S. The Spanish government said it was a great day. And the French government praised Saddam for the way he surrendered. "We couldn’t have done it so quickly ourselves.” [pa-dumdum! - ed]
: In fact when he was captured he was surrounded by the only nine remaining people who didn’t want him caught – the Democratic presidential candidates.
Here's Lileks on the fall of Saddam.
Many have noted that the sight of Saddam looking like Nick Nolte’s mugshot will have a harsh effect on our old seething friend, the Arab Street. They will see him looking like a piss-soaked bum with matted hair and bags under his eyes that look like Kathy Bates’ bosom, and they’ll see the Proud Example brought low, the man who had stood up to America humbled and unmanned. (That always makes me wonder how many fellow Arabs a man can kill before that crime exceeds the virtue of Standing Up to America. Half a million? One? Two?) What struck me was his expression when the doctor poked around in his maw for a suicide pill – he had the standard reflex familiar to anyone who’s been in a dentist’s chair. The intimacy of the act makes you look away. You look up; you endure; you disengage until it’s over. Saddam humiliated himself. A big bald Yank stuck a stick in his mouth and he couldn’t even look him in the eye.

This was their hero? His army evaporated. His statues came down like cheap plastic bowling trophies. He ran away. He hid in a hole. There’s your man, O brave foes of American imperialism. It’s Ozymandias in reverse, really – in Shelley’s poem, the stumps of the great statue punctuate the vast and trackless desert, and when we are asked to look upon Ozymandias’ works and despair, it’s a comment on the smothering hand of time. Nothing remains. But now the entire world can look upon Saddam’s works, and despair for different reasons. We see what he did. We see everything that remains; we see what he didn’t do. It’s possible to build a reasonably prosperous society that invests in its people, doesn’t invade its neighbors, opposes Israel and stands up to America. (Just look at France.) He failed to give his people anything but the geegaws and baubles stolen from successful cultures. Streetlamps and telephones: so what? It was the sort of government that would institute rural electrification only to reward friendly tribes and power the testitcle-clamps in the torture cells.

Saddam’s failure isn’t his alone. The entire political construct he represents is a miserable man too tired to resist when it’s finally pushed against a wall. One hopes the point is made: when the US Army turns your way, your barber and your tailor are no help at all. When you’re a ragged hairy thug dragged from a bolt-hole who’s having his back teeth interrogated by a grim buff Murcan soljur who would really prefer to be home for Christmas, there’s a chance Paris and Berlin won't take your calls.
It's so ironic to see these universities which supposedly prize freedom of speech shutting down those conservatives who just want to have a little satirical bake sale.
Andrew Sullivan does a lovely fisking of Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton for their vapid calls for "internationalizing" our efforts in Iraq.
The Bush administration appealed at great length to the United Nations to sanction and contribute to Iraq's liberation. France, Germany, and Russia were the critical powers that prevented that from occurring, just as Russia had prevented exactly the same kind of U.N.-sanctioned coalition to free Kosovo and Bosnia from the threat of Milosevic in the 1990s. But now that the liberation has occurred, is some sort of international coalition being stymied by the Bush administration?

Here's what the president said on December 11: "We're constantly working to get foreign countries involved [in rebuilding Iraq], but I want to remind you we've got over 60 nations involved now. When you hear me talk about 'our' efforts, I'm talking about the efforts of a lot of countries, we've got a large coalition involved."

Who does that leave out? Well, first off, the United Nations. Is this a function of American policy? Not at all. The administration was only too happy to work with the United Nations in the early days after liberation--but after the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in August, the United Nations split of its own accord. Last week, Kofi Annan ruled out any change in this position. He said, "I cannot compromise the security of our international and national staff." The U.N. report on the possibility of a return to Iraq concluded: "Under the circumstances, it is difficult to envisage the United Nations operating with a large number of international staff inside Iraq in the near future, unless there is an unexpected and significant improvement in the overall security situation." So the notion--insinuated by Howard Dean--that the United Nations is somehow being kept from participating by the Bush administration is simply untrue. Moreover, there is no international body that could provide the kind of legitimacy for the occupation that the United Nations could. And it won't. Dean doesn't even address this. Because if he did, his entire argument would collapse.

NATO? Well, many NATO countries are already involved in reconstruction in Iraq. Britain has been stalwart and is still occupying large swaths of the southern part of the country. The Italians and Poles have a presence. Spain is supportive. Turkey was willing but was ultimately turned down. France's condition for involvement is the kind of accelerated transfer of sovereignty that would guarantee chaos. The same applies to Germany. But even if these latter two countries did send the modest numbers of troops they have available (it isn't a large amount), the occupying forces would still be overwhelmingly American and British. No amount of renaming or redescribing the coalition will persuade those Iraqis eager for an end to occupation that their country wasn't liberated primarily by the United States.

....Again, what this amounts to, at best, is window-dressing on an occupation; and an abdication of American responsibility to see the Iraq reconstruction effort through. And, when you think of the first practical step toward such a new authority, it falls apart. A critical power that would lend the kind of international "legitimacy" that Senator Clinton craves is France. But this week, France again refused to send any troops until sovereignty has been transferred; and Senator Clinton wants to delay that transition of sovereignty even longer than President Bush does. Again, she is essentially arguing against herself. Dominique de Villepin graciously offered to reconsider parts of Iraq's debt to France, and also to help "in the humanitarian domain, of course, and in the cooperative domain, whether it be education, health or even archeology." Memo to Hillary: That's not troops. And it amounts to very little that would make the slightest difference to Iraq's transition.

It's good, of course, that many in the Democratic Party leadership now want to reassure Americans that they are not merely the antiwar party. But in their vague and convenient allusions to an "internationalization" option that simply doesn't exist, they are mistaking fantasy for reality. Worse, they may be coming up with an option that they themselves know is unfeasible--merely in order to keep a distance between themselves and the coalition's fate in Iraq. That's putting short-term partisan gain over serious grappling with national security. Which is what many of us suspected of the Democrats in the first place.

I wish that someone would call these people on this point every time they go on TV and call for internationalization. Their only answer is that they would have been so much sweeter that they wouldn't have ticked off France and Germany like that cowboy Bush did. Balderdash! There is nothing we could have done to have gotten France's support to topple Saddam. So, all they're offering is a French veto of American foreign policy. I don't think that will be a popular talking poin with the American voters.