Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Here's an excellent point from a WSJ editorial:
For all of Iraq's security problems, the present moment is one of remarkable promise. A constitution, written in a spirit of compromise rare in the Middle East, has now been adopted by a freely elected, multiethnic, multidenominational Muslim government. This government now intends to put the constitution to a vote and--what's more amazing--abide by the result.
Four years ago, such a scenario for Iraq would have seemed improbable, to say the least. That it should now be denounced as inadequate is perhaps the best measure of how much progress a free Iraq has made.
You have to balance complaints against the things people aren't complaining about to get the big picture.

Is anyone surprised to learn Helen Thomas is a cut'n'run moonbat?

The funniest line in a hilariously counterfactual column:
Whether viewed as a "mistake" or a "noble cause," the fact is that Vietnam survived and thrived after we departed.
Yeah, except for y'know, the millions who didn't survive the aftermath of our cowardly abandonment of an ally. Also, her definition of "thrive" apparently extends to living in the impoverished totalitarian hell of a Communist dictatorship. I'll have to notify Webster's to update their next edition of the dictionary.
I always thought the debacle in Vietnam and its aftermath had taught us a lesson. But apparently not.
Yes, Helen there is a lesson to learn from Vietnam. The lesson is: the moonbats in our media often want America to lose wars, they will generally do everything in their power to make that happen, and occasionally they will succeed with terrible consequences for all involved.

In responses to Dean Esmay's post mentioning my rehash of Fareed Zakaria's observations on GDP per capita and democracy as they relate to our efforts to democratize Iraq, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize finalist R.J. Rummel has posted a more thorough examination of the subject, with citations from the original study. Nice to hear from an authority on such matters (as opposed to my own semi-informed ramblings) .

Definitely worth reading. He also makes the interesting point that the historical data indicates economic growth in China, while liberalizing their economic situtation, is also likely to cement the dictatorship rather than lead to democracy. I found that surprising.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Another Iraqi Army unit steps up.
MUQDADIYAH, IRAQ – In the fertile "bread basket" of central Iraq's Diyala valley, roadside-bomb attacks have nearly stopped.
This ethnically complex patchwork of towns, villages, fields, and orchards, which US commanders call a "little Iraq," has seen its share of insurgent activity since 2003. But nowadays, the local Sunni Arabs appear inclined to climb aboard the US-backed political process, rather than trying to derail it through violence.
The relative peace in the breadbasket is the result of a carefully managed transition from US to Iraqi security responsibility, US and Iraqi commanders say.
While roadside-bomb attacks in July were down more than 30 percent compared to the same month last year, the drop has been especially drastic in August. The local Iraqi Army unit, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, officially took the lead in a roughly 1,158 square-mile battle space, containing nearly 300,000 residents, on July 31.
"We're responsible for actual security, and it is going well," says the unit's commander, Col. Theya Ismail al-Tamimi, a former intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein who has gained the Americans' respect by keeping constant pressure on the insurgents. "Attacks are a fraction of what they were," says Colonel Theya, as he is known to both his own troops and the Americans.
US troops recently closed down one of their forward operating bases near here, "since the area was so calm," Lt. Col. Roger Cloutier, a US battalion commander, says.
...
While the 2/2 evolved out of one of Iraq's earliest postinvasion army formations, its success can be replicated everywhere with time, the US commander says. "I can't speak outside my sandbox. But to different degrees, you have the same things happening all over Iraq."

This is certainly interesting:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Heavy fighting broke out in western Iraq between pro and anti-government tribes Tuesday
...
The clashes between the pro-government Bumahl tribe and the pro-insurgent Karabila tribe began after 2 a.m. in the western city of Qaim near the Syrian border, said the officials
Sounds like some of the Sunnis are signing up with the U.S. Judging from the names, I have a feeling this has a lot to do with the other headlines we've been seeing:
U.S. warplanes launched strikes in western Iraq on Tuesday which the U.S. military said killed an al Qaeda militant named Abu Islam among other fighters, and which a hospital source said killed at least 47 people.
...
A U.S. spokeswoman said some of Abu Islam's associates then drove around six km (four miles) to a house in Karabila.

"Around 8:30 a.m., a strike was conducted on the house in Karabila using two precision-guided bombs. Several terrorists were killed in the strike but exact numbers are not known," the statement said.
This could mark a sea change in the Sunni insurgency, if more tribes follow the Bumahl lead.

McQ at QandO notes some deficiencies in the Iraq coverage, but I think he's being far too kind to the media.

There is tons of good news about what we're accomplishing in Iraq; you can find it here and here and here and here -- but almost never here. It's not like the media are prevented from accessing any of those sources. I think it's self-evident the media is deliberately accentuating the negative in Iraq, just as deliberately as they misreported the Tet offensive. Why? Because, deep down, though they'd never admit it, most in the media would prefer that we lose.

Now, I’m not saying the media hates America or supports the terrorists or anything silly like that. Far from it. As in Vietnam, the press’ treachery is quite noble and well-intentioned. Most of them believe that losing in Iraq will teach America a lesson it badly needs to learn for its own good. From their perspective, Iraq (like Vietnam) was always an unjustified, "unwinnable" lost cause, so by helping us to admit defeat sooner they’re actually saving lives -- and besides, nothing short of a humiliating withdrawal will provide the necessary impetus to fix the horrible militaristic flaws they perceive in our foreign policy.

That's why you see the American casualty count being focused on to an extent that is almost comical. As far as the media is concerned, casualties are the news and any progress is a meaningless non-event since we're inevitably going to lose anyway; the only question from their perspective is how many lives will be wasted. Most wire stories on Iraq are written about American casualties, and all of these pointedly mention the number of American casualties to date. Economic progress and infrastructure improvement goes almost completely unreported. A tiny anti-war protest in Crawford draws an incredibly disproportionate media frenzy. It's all part of the pre-written narrative of defeat.

Fortunately, the liberal media monopoly on news has been broken, or we'd be in much more serious trouble. The MSM can still set the tone, but can't completely control the coverage anymore. Between news/opinion/analysis-aggregation bloggers like Drudge and Instapundit, military sites, milbloggers, independents like Michael Yon, and Fox News, news consumers have far more choices than they did in the 1970s. Which is a very good thing. Because as General Giap already understood and America learned, journalists don't just write the first draft of history: sometimes they make it, too.

UPDATE: Think I'm exaggerating? Think again:

Someday, as a fragmented Iraq spirals further into religious madness, terrorism and civil war, there will be a bipartisan inquiry into this blundering intrusion into another people's history.

UPDATE 2: I swear, I did not read this New Yorker piece until after I wrote the above. But the match... perfect! It's so uncanny it's almost scary.
Thirty-odd years ago, it didn’t require all that much perspicacity to see that the Vietnam War could not be won

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A question I hear a lot of people ask is "Can we really bring democracy to Iraq? What are the chances democracy can take root in an area and culture that has had so little experience with it?" How about some historical perspective on democratization, as it pertains to our goal of bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq?

Surprisingly, from that viewpoint, in the end almost everything we see happening— the violence, the constitution, the debate over sharia—is probably a sideshow. Based on history, there is one variable, lurking well behind the headlines, that is likely to matter the most in the question of whether Iraq ultimately becomes a free and democratic nation: GDP per capita growth.

Two political scientists, Adam Preworski and Fernando Limongi, looked at statistics for every country in the world for the last 60 years. In virtually every country in which democratization has succeeded — and we’re talking about countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan — it has happened during a period where GDP per capita was between about $1,500 and $6,000. Those under $1,500 have lasted less than 8 years on average. In between $1,500 and $3,000, democracies last an average of 18 years. If their economies grow to $6,000 per capita GDP, they usually join the ranks of rich, free, democratic nations: historically, the chances of such a democracy failing is only 1 in 500. No free democracy has ever failed to stay free and democratic once it reached $9,000 GDP per capita; thirty-two democratic regimes have lasted around 800 combined years above that level. These numbers cut across many cultures and nations, and apply regardless of previous democratic experience.

GDP per capita in Iraq was $2,100 in 2004. This year, it may break $3,000 as economic growth was 50% in 2004 and may be close to that in 2005. A lot has been quietly done behind the scenes to help that growth continue, such as the creation of an independent central bank, tax cuts, lifting of restrictive tariffs, a relatively stable currency, setting up systems to protect property rights, etc. History suggests these will ultimately be decisive in the question of whether Iraqi democracy succeeds.

That’s not to say the democratic processes currently underway are meaningless or unimportant; far from it, as they’re laying the foundation for democracy in Iraq. This just suggests that the ultimate success or failure of that Iraqi democracy doesn’t rest on any constitutional phraseology, religious/secular divisions, or technicalities of gov’t structure, but rather on Iraq’s economic future.

(historical figures from the study; you can find them in The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria, who also writes for Newsweek)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Jeff notes a post from Lump on a Blog which makes a lot of good points regarding war coverage, which Jeff echoes in his own post.


I agree with Lumpy, but the chances of Iraq looking even remotely like a theocracy are practically zero. It's amazing to me that anyone takes it seriously. Even the Shia clerics don't want a theocracy. In fact, as far I can tell, no one in Iraq is even seriously suggesting rule by clerics.

The “Iraqi theocracy” meme seems to be the 2005 edition of the 2004 “elections will never happen” meme advanced by Chomsky and others.

I think I already know what the 2006 memes are going to be: “The troops will never come home” followed closely by “We’re cutting and running” when the troops do come home.

Then for the next 5 years the press will breathlessly report every little snag as evidence the whole mission was a failure, ignoring the free press and democracy and prosperity until suddenly we wake up one day and Iraq has become W Germany.

Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time.

“The troops returning home are worried. ‘We’ve lost the peace,’ men tell you. ‘We can’t make it stick.’ ... Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American. ... Never has American prestige in Europe been lower.... Instead of coming in with a bold plan of relief and reconstruction we came in full of evasions and apologies.... A great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease. The taste of victory had gone sour in the mouth of every thoughtful American I met.”
-- Life Magazine, January 7, 1946

While oil may be a bit scarce of late, the world's supply of irony appears to be in no danger of running low.

Let's take a moment and remember how Saddam treated protesters.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Here's an incredible piece of reporting. Yon probably could use an editor, but it still makes all the MSM reporting look like a pile of puke.

The thing that really made me angry was the "catch-and-release" policy. Dammit, how are the warfighters supposed to prevail when the lawyers are sending the bad guys right back out there?? Gah!!

This is one more reason why it's so important the Iraqis get up to speed. They're not nearly so perfectionistic about due process. Not that due process is a bad thing, far from it, but come on already. We can't put known terrorists back on the streets of Mosul to kill our soldiers.

Some more good news on that front btw:
US general sees significant withdrawal in Iraq

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.
Note that our wonderful press immediately tries to cast it as a retreat driven by political pressure. Sigh.

John Hinderaker's essay on casualties is simply astounding, especially this piece of badly-needed perspective:
...between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.
Twice as high as high as in Iraq. Now, I'm a news junkie, and I was amazed to hear that. I would wager not 1 in 100 people know that fact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Too funny not to link: Another classic from IowaHawk. (h/t Insty)

Saw a report on the news today that Alhurra, the U.S.-sponsored Arabic news channel, is gaining significant audience share and rating higher in credibility. The story also noted Radio Sawa, a sister venture, is gaining popularity as well. This appears to be the source of the news story:
Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa are now reaching a total unduplicated audience of 35 million adults (15 and over) per week according to the latest ACNielsen survey released today. This represents the fourth consecutive audience increase since the inception of the ACNielsen surveys of the stations. The latest survey also shows that in spite of high levels of anti-American sentiment throughout the region, both Alhurra and Radio Sawa are regarded as credible sources of news and information by their audiences.
According to ACNielsen, Alhurra the satellite television station reaching 22 countries in the Middle East has an adult audience of 21.3 million each week in just the nine countries surveyed. ACNielsen also reported that Radio Sawa, the Arabic-language radio network broadcasting music and news, has a weekly audience of 20.8 million adults.
The survey reported that news on Alhurra and Radio Sawa was a powerful programming factor for their audiences. Seventy-seven percent of the Alhurra audience said they were interested in watching Alhurra for the news. Radio Sawa listeners in the broadcaster's key markets ranked the station as one of their top two choices for radio news and information.
Alhurra and Radio Sawa also scored well in news reliability. The ACNielsen survey reported that 77 percent of Alhurra's viewers and 73 percent of Radio Sawa's listeners consider the news reliable. Compared to the ACNielsen surveys a year ago, news credibility for Alhurra took major jumps in three key markets: in Egypt 70 percent to 92 percent, in Jordan from 46 percent to 68 percent, and in Lebanon from 53 percent to 79 percent.

Al Franken, eat your heart out.

The fact Arabs are finding the network more and more credible after a lot of initial skepticism suggests Alhurra is living up to their vow to be truthful and objective. That must be quite a novelty in that corner of the world.

This, too, seems to suggest the trend has been going on for a while now.

Like Voice of America, these are the little things that win Cold Wars. And make no mistake, we're in another Cold War now, with Iran and Syria and even nominal allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Jordan. It's the same old quiet struggle of liberty vs. tyranny against a backdrop of occasional outright war.

Every human being has a fundamental right to freedom and democracy. And, hopefully, the truth shall set them free.

Here are some constitutional thoughts that you might find interesting:

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats.

Whence these apropos observations? Ben Franklin, regarding our own Constitution. (h/t Instapundit)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Breaking news from the world of science: although we're not entirely certain, pregnancy is apparently caused by movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline.
School officials are not sure what has caused so many pregnancies...The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.
And all this time I thought it was well-established that pregnancy is caused by sex. Boy, my high school health teacher has a lot to answer for, misleading us like that.

And I'm keeping my girlfriend away from the TV.

There's been a lot of caterwauling this week about Islam being "the a source of law" in Iraq's constitution, generally done alongside the claim Iraq could become another Iran, but I think way too much is being made of this issue.

The problem with Iran is not sharia. The problem is that Iran does not respect the democratic process. The sharia laws as practiced in Iran are extremely unpopular with Iranians, but since the clerics can veto not only the legislature but even who is allowed to run for office, the will of the people is ignored. That cannot happen under Iraq's constitution. As long as the democratic process is respected, Iraq should be OK. Any laws that are too restrictive will be voted out. That's the fundamental reason democracy works.

We already know that the vast majority of Iraqis want democracy, want a unified Iraq, and want secularism mixed with traditional Islamic values. There have been numerous polls to that effect. The Iraqis can see how theocracy has failed as clearly as we can, indeed more so living right next door to it as they do. The Iraqi religious leadership itself says clerics should not run the gov't.

As for the constitution itself, I’ve thought for a while now the best outcome would be the dissolution of the parliament and new elections. This would have several benefits including increased Sunni participation, greater legitimacy and reduced pressure for Islamic law.

Unfortunately, it’s always been the least likely outcome. Politicians never want to give up power.

Of course, if they really wanted to compromise, they could just leave the contentious issues out of the constitution and kick them down the road to the next elected legislature. They don’t want to do that precisely because the people presently in power realize their influence will wane after the next elections.

I wouldn’t particularly mind seeing the the new constitution defeated in the referendum either. It’s a low standard, though. To be defeated, 2/3 of the people in 3 provinces must vote against it, and that's how many provinces the Sunnis control. It doesn’t take much to get 34% of people in one out of three provinces to vote for something.

I think it will probably pass, and that while some Sunnis won't like it in the end that won't matter much as long they get representation in the following elections. People tend to forget we rammed a Constitution right down the Japanese’s throats, literally at the barrel of a gun. At least Iraqis have some input into theirs. And there are amendment periods specified for a couple years from now.

If the referendum is in fact defeated, I’m sure we’ll hear lots of hysterical rhetoric about how democracy in Iraq has failed, but of the course the reality will be that the democratic process has succeeded in doing what it was supposed to: reflecting the will of the people and requiring compromises. And then there will be new elections, with the aforementioned attendant benefits. As long as participation in that process continues, democracy is succeeding. When the major parties start using guns and bombs instead of ballots and words, that’s when democracy has failed.

UPDATE: Bill Roggio has similar thoughts, notes that apparently Islam will only be "a" source of law. Pejman Yousefzadeh also notes this change, and makes the point that supplemental legislation will be important. (h/t Instapundit) Jeff Goldstein has some interesting analysis as well.

UPDATE 2: Norm Geras has analysis from Brendan O'Leary. The level of detail is impressive.

Here's a great blog by a moderate Saudi Muslim living in Britain:

Welcome to Sunny Saudi Arabia
Our Government suddenly seems to have taken fright that the oil may soon run out, and have seized upon foreign tourism as a source of revenue.

RP: And what about couples who aren't married, or gay couples?

M: Well as you know, we behead homosexuals, and stone adulterous or loose women to death, so it's probably best if we don't let them in in the first place, otherwise there'll be no end of paperwork.
Great stuff.

Monday, August 22, 2005

You swollen-headed warmonger, your ridiculous clamour for "human rights" is nothing but a shrill cry!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Freedom and transparency versus terror and crime.

All the pieces are in place for Iraq to continue to improve at the phenomenal rate it does now.

Think of last year. Remember the siege of Fallujah? The police stations overrun in Mosul? Nothing remotely like that has happened this year. This year was elections and political wrangling and constitution writing and (later) more elections.

Omar at ITM notes a bit of a change from a year ago:
From Al-Sabah:

The residents of Fallujah are asking the authorities to increase the number of voters' registration offices in the city as the existing ones are not enough to finish the registration process of all eligible voters before the day of the referendum planned for October 15….

Well, the way things change in Iraq can be really surprising sometimes; just try to compare between Fallujah 12 months ago and today's Fallujah!
Things really are getting better.

This kind of rhetoric is both untrue and unhelpful, no matter which side of the aisle it comes from.

Meanwhile, it looks increasingly like the Constitution may not be agreed upon by Monday, which will probably result in another deadline extension but could mean dissolution of the gov't and new elections. As others have pointed out, this might be a good thing. It looks like this time there would be full Sunni participation, which would give the next legislature (and the resultant next constitution) more legitimacy. There's also the fact secular Iraqis don't like what they're hearing from SCIRI, and may gravitate toward Allawi. Interestingly, Al-Sistani, whom we haven't heard much from lately, has quietly continued pushing against the idea of theocracy.

Above all, we should be happy that fractious democratic politics, not civil war, is what seems to be breaking out in Iraq.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More good news from Iraq. Here's an interesting LAT story that highlights one reason why democracy works so well: it tends to encourage participation.
Next Time, Sunnis Intend to Be Heard
Many regret boycotting the parliamentary election in Iraq. They say they won't repeat the mistake when it comes to a new constitution.
BAGHDAD — Suhail Najim spent Iraq's last election day holed up at home, watching television and joining other Sunni Arabs who boycotted the polls to protest the presence of U.S. troops in his country.
Today the former tourism official is so eager to vote that he has visited three registration sites to ensure that his name is on the rolls for the planned October referendum on a new constitution.
The January boycott, now widely viewed as a political blunder, left Sunnis underrepresented in the National Assembly and with a limited role on the committee charged with crafting a new constitution. Instead, both bodies have been dominated by Shiites and Kurds.
Determined to regain some of their clout, leading Sunni clerics who once called elections under occupation a farce and condemned voting as an act against Islam, are using the same mosque pulpits to urge followers to register.
The media focus on all the scrapping over the Constitution tends to obscure the rather amazing fact that they're talking about a Constitution. That alone is a huge departure from the "whoever has the most guns rules" politics of the last three decades.

Even if they fail to produce a Constitution by Monday, it's far from the end of the world or the failure of the democratic process. It just means new elections, and a new chance to reach consensus. As long as the debate is happening with words rather than guns, the cause of freedom and democracy is advanced. As Thomas Jefferson noted during our own decade-long attempt to create a Constitution: "An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry."

Read an interesting Glenn Reynolds column today regarding efforts to "re-wild" the environment:
But then "fluffy bunny" syndrome extended itself to become "fluffy mountain lion syndrome." ...In the end, of course, people started to be eaten... This is, as Baron notes, something of a parable -- and not merely a parable of man and "nature." One need only look at the treatment of such other topics as crime, terrorism, and warfare to see examples of the same sort of misplaced sentimentality and willful ignorance. Tolerance of criminality leads to more crime; tolerance of terrorism leads to more terrorism; efforts to appear defenseless lead to war.
I think Glenn hits on the fundamental philosophical debate at the heart of the right-left dichotomy in world politics today. The Left tends to think we can create a predator-less world through social engineering and negotiation, via the government. The Right tends to believe the world cannot be changed, that there will always be predators, and that they must be dealt with, either directly or by being strong enough to deter them.

As is often the case, the truth probably falls somewhere in between.

The Cold War is an interesting example. The Left was too predisposed to treat the Soviet Union as a non-predator, and to believe unilateral disarmament would coax them toward peace; the Right correctly discerned this not to be the case, but underestimated the possibility of change, and were very surrised when the Soviet Union collapsed, reformed, and became the relatively democratic and benign entity it is today. If you'd told a 1980s Cold Warrior the world would look the way it does today, he'd probably laugh at you in disbelief.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It has begun.

The potential here to transform our lives is gigantic. The amount of information encoded in three-dimensional protein folding is truly enormous (several distributed computer projects have been built to deal with this problem), meaning the possiblilities for biological innovation are equally enormous.

Evolution is billions of blind drunks stumbling around a room full of power tools for billions of years, almost always bumping into sharp, deadly things and killing themselves but occasionally finding something useful. Now Mankind has entered the room and begin setting up lights and labelling the tools.

I’m really looking forward to the day when they can grow and implant “accessory organs.” You know, something to keep me thin and healthy and attractive no matter how much I eat or how little I exercise, a backup for my heart, lungs, liver, etc., an organic Weblink so I can access Instapundit and Wikipedia directly from my brain (the combination of the two is often useful) without all this tedious typing and clicking, maybe some antioxidant organelles to prolong my life a few decades…

And the best part is, the coolest stuff probably hasn’t even been thought of yet.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by.

The thing I've always found attractive about bioengineering versus other transformative technologies like nanotech is that much of the work is already done for us; understanding how to bioengineer things we want is mostly a data processing/modelling problem, and the growth of those capabilities has been governed by Moore's law. While nanotech still has immense materials science and engineering problems to overcome, the evolution of life on Earth has provided billions of examples of tiny biological factories that (obviously) already work in real life. Once we can model protein folding, it could be possible to design an entire organism virtually, then code the instructions into a single cell which would build itself into what you wanted, exactly like what happens with a fertilized human egg. No exotic materials required, just the same stuff we're made of.

John Cole notes another conviction of an abusive soldier.

John thinks this has to be indicative of something sinister at higher levels, perhaps even as high as the civilians in the Bush admin. I can understand his suspicion, but I tend to disagree on the grounds this kind of thing has been proven to be human nature.

The experiment very quickly got out of hand. Prisoners suffered — and accepted — sadistic and humiliating treatment at the hands of the guards, and by the end many showed severe emotional disturbance.
...
Prisoner “counts”, which had initially been devised to help prisoners get acquainted with their identity numbers, devolved into hours-long ordeals, in which guards tormented the prisoners and imposed physical punishments including long bouts of forced exercise.
And that wasn’t even a real prison.

Of course, the perpetrators need to be punished, and if anyone can provide a scrap of evidence that this was ordered or condoned by anyone higher-up, those people should be punished too.

One of the great ironies of the whole Gitmo debate: even as we’re accused of violating people’s rights, we are releasing terrorists, some of whom have been killed or captured fighting us again in Afghanistan.

We can’t lock people up just because we think they’re terrorists—nor should we. If they take a vow to not fight us again, some are being released.

It’s not a perfect system. It’s not a perfect world, either. We’re doing the best we can.

Transparency and accountability. That’s all we can ask.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Well, I can't blame these people for wanting to escape their mismanaged economic hell, but still: Good Lord.

Why, why, why are leftists so determined to ensure I never vote for another Democrat?

Lileks:
The hard left in America needs to realize a bald, cruel fact: Anyone who sees no
moral distinction between Israel and the mullahs of Iran, or sees the U.S.
attempt to set up a constitutional republic in Iraq as equivalent to the Syrian
occupation of Lebanon, suffers from incurable moral cretinism. The more the
fervent anti-war base embraces these ideas, the more they ensure that no one
will trust the left with national security. Ever.

When the left embraces people like Cindy Sheehan, it makes it very hard to be a centrist.

(h/t Glenn)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

There goes Zarqawi, winning hearts and minds again.

Earlier I noted the absence of pro-American propaganda. With enemies this crazy, maybe we don't need any.

Jeff notes Sin City is out today. This is one of the few DVD releases in the recent past that I've actually been anticipating with some interest.

I found the movie terribly disturbing, vivdly entertaining, and immensely appealing in the theater, as well as being very interesting just for what it is. This is another example of the kind of incredible movies Hollywood can produce these days, thanks to huge budgets, innovative technologies, and societal liberties: all the things that make America the greatest country in the world.

Of course, I'm a sucker for entertainment built around comic books or comic-like plots, with powerful, engaging villains and anti-hero heroes. That's probably why I'm such a big fan of Glen Cook novels.

Monday, August 15, 2005

There’s a lot of carping that the admin is now lowering expectations, but I think it's really the expectations of critics that have been raised. Imagine if you had told someone in Jan 2003 the following:

"By August 2005, not only will the regime have been removed from power and its leaders be on trial, but Iraq will have held successful elections and be on the verge of approving a new constitution. Fewer than 2,000 American soldiers will have been killed by hostile fire, and resistance will be light, scattered and very unpopular among Iraqis."

You'd have been called delusionally optimistic. Now that situation is cause for despair. Of course, it doesn’t help we have certain Americans producing the same kind of anti-American propaganda the Tojo regime and the Nazis used to produce to demoralize Americans. And of course the institutions that produced the pro-American World War II propaganda (you know, the cute patriotic little toons of Mickey Mouse beating up Hitler, etc) were a terrible danger to our freedom (those warmongering fascist bastard cartoonists) and are now very defunct, because we’re much too enlightened for that kind of jingoism these days.

The good news for Iraqis is that Bush will be in office for 3 more years, and he’s not going to give an inch even if his approval rating drops to single digits. By then the Iraqis should have the situation pretty well under control, or at least as under control as it’s ever going to get.

The Iraqis have some strategic advantages we don’t, beyond rapport with the locals and speaking the language, such as the fact they’re not nearly as squeamish about dealing with insurgents as we are. For instance, our guys have to charge or release people within 3 days. The Iraqis are under no such obligation – and the insurgents know it, as they’re reportedly begging to be taken by American forces when they have the choice between us and Iraqis (I guess they haven’t heard Ted Kennedy’s speech about Saddam’s torture chambers re-opening under U.S. management). And with so many Iraqis being killed by insurgents, it’s hard to fault them for being less than completely gentle captors to their tormentors; this is one situation where the perfect is the enemy of the good. (Anyone here watch NYPD Blue? Sipowitz would know what I mean).

At this point, it’s unlikely we can “lose” in the sense of the elected gov’t being overthrown by Baathists or Zarqawi’s loons. People forget the insurgency, while extremely vicious and quite capable of grabbing headlines, is actually very weak militarily. They aren't remotely a match heads-up even for the 170,000 half-assed troops now being fielded by the democratic Iraqi gov’t. Setting off roadside bombs and running away from every fight is not exactly a show of strength in the contest over who rules Iraq. The insurgents can't take or hold an inch of ground; Fallujah was the last place they even tried. And the democratic gov’t gets stronger every day. In two years, the Iraqi troops will number 250,000+ and be much better trained and equipped. The gov't also has $2.5 billion a month in oil income on its side. The insurgency has only what the Baathists have stashed and Al Qaeda can raise, and munitions in Iraq are getting more expensive, as are the not-very-committed mercenary thugs that carry out most of the attacks.

The problem is not that administration goals are being downgraded, it’s that people outside the administration are now setting a totally unrealistic goal of a violence-free Iraq as a condition for declaring victory. Ain't gonna happen, at least not anytime soon. Free and democratic, yes, maybe; as peaceful as Vermont, no. The essential condition of victory, control of the country, was mostly achieved in the first three weeks of the war, finalized after Fallujah, and cemented firmly into place by the standing up of the Iraqi forces, who are now good enough to stand their ground: they have not lost a single police station or checkpoint to insurgents in over a year this year. The promised democracy is well underway. So what are we missing that our troops need to be there? Not a lot but training, an implied threat of overwhelming force against anyone in the military ambitious enough to mount a coup, the building of democratic institutions to make that last part unnecessary, and the time needed to do all those things. And those are generational commitments.

Looking back at our successful transitions of fascist states to free democracies, it’s easy to spot a trend regarding troop deployments. So, when are our troops coming home from those 60-year German and Japanese quagmires, anyway? How about that 50-year Korean quagmire?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I think Cindy Sheehan presents a real problem for the Democratic Party. Sheehan is a sympathetic figure, but she’s also a bit too far outside the mainstream to garner wide support. Sheehan’s position is: We invaded Iraqi for oil, we should throw Iraqi democracy to the wolves and bring the troops home now, screw Israel, and oh, btw, she’s not paying her 2004 taxes. Are these position Democrats agree with?

What should have been an embarassment for Republicans has instead become a lefty freak show. Atrios and Daily Kos and the whole lefty ‘sphere are dragging their party into the ground by exposing how nutty their base really is, and the media is proudly displaying them in all their glory, most left-wing enough themselves to be oblivious to the irony.

What does Joe Lieberman think when Cindy says “My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel?” What do Jewish voters think?

Is Cindy Sheehan the new voice of the Democratic Party? They’d better hope not.

This sort of puts Abu Ghraib into perspective:
Judge: Frat Could Face Torture Charges

"U.S. soldiers were charged with torturing Iraqi prisoners for doing far less than what happened in that basement," Glusman said.
Remember, pledges volunteered for this kind of treatment.

To be clear, I'm not arguing the abuses at Abu Ghraib should not be punished. They should be. But they were nothing like this.

The fact that the "torture" at Abu Ghraib doesn't even rise to the level of fraternity initiation hazing should give pause those hysterically claiming Saddam's torture chambers were merely re-opened under U.S. management. And that's besides the fact torture was official and encouraged under Saddam, while the U.S. abuses were carried by a few rogue elements who were punished.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
















More gratuitous kitten pics. Brothers are apparently either very dirty or delicious, or both, as they spend at least half an hour every day cleaning each other. They also spend about the same amount of time fighting. Go figure.

And here's another somewhat rare feline trait: fetching. Smokey loves chasing these little mice so much, he'll run downstairs and carry them back to you to throw again. Pip will do the same with little sticks or twist ties. Of course, being cats and not dogs, if you ignore either of them when they want to fetch they'll attack your feet rather than waiting with patient adoration. You gotta respect that.

James Wolcott penned (keyboarded?) a very insightful column the other day. So insightful, in fact, that I took the liberty of applying his arguments to his own stance on the war in Iraq. The results, surprisingly, were sentiments that made much more sense and were far less hyperbolic than his own.
The fact is that by subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride. When you align yourself with the likes of Hugh Hewitt, author of that polemical gem of understatement If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It, or Michael Ledeen, you've allied yourselves to political gangsters dedicated to waging permanent war abroad and cultural war here.
The fact is that by opposing Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you have made common cause with Ba'athists, bin Laden, Zarqawi, and Taliban fundamentalists who are truly dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride. When you align yourself with the likes of Saddam Hussein, author of perhaps 2 million murders, or Mullah Omar, you’ve allied yourself to real political gangsters dedicated to waging permanent war abroad and terrorist war here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The plain fact is that the mainstream media have been too busy depicting our troops as victims to have much time left to tell about the heroic things they have done, the far greater casualties which they have inflicted on their enemies, or their attempts to restore some basic services and basic decencies to this country that has been torn apart for years by internal and external wars -- even before the first American troops arrived on the scene.
You don't say. But this is the part that really makes me angry:
That fact has now been belatedly recognized in a New York Times opinion piece, but with a strange twist.
After briefly mentioning a few acts of bravery in Iraq -- including a Marine who smothered an enemy grenade with his own body, saving the lives of his fellow Marines at the cost of his own -- the Times' writer said, "the military, the White House and the culture at large have not publicized their actions with the zeal that was lavished on the heroes of World War I and World War II."
Think about that spin: The reason we don't hear about such things is because of the Pentagon, Bush and "the culture at large."
Gah!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We the good ones must have our say soon.
And indeed they must.

In related news, the Nuremberg verdicts were overturned due to "too much anti-Hitler and anti-Nazi bias."

UPDATE: Negative portrayals of Hitler in media draw criticism, are removed.

Just when it was looking like I was dead wrong.... I get proven right. And then some.
CNN has reviewed and agreed to run a controversial ad produced by a pro-abortion group’s that falsely accuses Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of filing legal papers supporting a convicted abortion clinic bomber, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
The news network has agreed to a $125,000 ad buy from NARAL for a commercial which depicts a bombed out 1998 Birmingham, AL abortion clinic. The Birmingham clinic was bombed seven years after Roberts signed the legal briefing the ad question!
However, the non-partisan University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Factcheck.org reviewed the NARAL ad and found it to be “false.” Factcheck.org found "in words and images, the ad conveys the idea that Roberts took a legal position excusing bombing of abortion clinics, which is false."
Boo-yah! Score one for disgusting hyperpartisan smear campaigns! In your face, decency and honest debate of the issues!

The ancient Roman gladiators' arena's got nuthin' on the brutality of our Senate confirmation process.

Sigh. I was really hoping I was wrong.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I've been a big fan of Scrappleface since I first ran across it in my first foray into the 'sphere during Rathergate (prior to that, I'd heard of but never read a "weblog"). Posts like this are why.

The great thing about Scott Ott and other brilliant conservative satirists like David Burge of IowaHawk is their ability to totally reframe an issue by juxtaposing unlike arguments in a way that's quite surprising, yet oddly appropriate.

I'm not sure this really advances the debate.

A brief note to Cindy Sheehan:

Please remember, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi mothers are still pulling their children out of mass graves because of Saddam Hussein. And these people have (or in some cases, had) mothers too.

Your son died in a noble cause. We honor his sacrifice best by fulfilling his mission and ensuring he did not die in vain.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What's this?

The media is reporting good news from Iraq? Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse?

Be afraid, people. Be very afraid.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Scott Kirwin over at Dean’s world decries outsourcing, and I am forced to (mostly) disagree.

I think the world needs free trade agreements, which includes free labor markets. It’s the only way poor countries will ever grow their economies. One of the ironies of the globalization debate is that a lot of the same people who oppose outsourcing are the very ones who think we should give more global aid. In other words, we'll give you enough of our money that you don't starve, but keep your grimy Third World hands off the jobs that might provide sustainable economic development and free you from dependence on aid.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the victim of unfair trade practices in virtually every trade relationship we have. We carry a lot of the trade "free riders" in Japan, Europe, and China that continue to restrict the ability of their consumers to import goods through currency devaluation and barriers to entry. On the other hand, our consumers benefit handsomely from the arrangement: not only is inflation practically nonexistent, you can now buy a pretty decent new car for around $7,000 - $10,000, which wasn’t possible a couple decades ago. Europeans and others like to decry the crass "consumer culture" of the United States, but the fact is that other developed countries in general simply cannot afford to live the way we do -- and a big part of the reason is their trade practices. Plus, the influx of imports makes our businesses the most competitive in the world.

Some economists argue the resulting trade deficits have a negative impact, but we haven't seen much evidence of that, at least not yet. Interest rates remain near historic lows, and GDP growth is one of the strongest of the developed countries.

Something else that often gets overlooked is that a large part of our prosperity can be traced back to the interstate commerce clause. We live in the largest real free trade zone in the world – the United States of America.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

While most of the recent headlines understandably dwell on the violence in Iraq that has tragically claimed the lives of so many Marines the past few days, progress is still ongoing. The liberal Brookings Institute’s Iraq Index reports that electricity production (rated as Iraqis’ highest concern, higher even than security) is now significantly higher than prewar and close to the all-time postwar high reached last August, another 4,000 Iraqis have joined the real freedom fighters in Iraq to defend their nascent democracy, and some interesting details are leaking out now about the structure of the new democratic Iraqi government.

The committee has also settled on a government with three branches: legislative, judicial and executive.
Sounds familiar. I know I’ve heard that before somewhere
The legislature, according to the three delegates, will be parliamentary and will consist of two chambers, a National Assembly and a Council of Provinces and Regions, both of which will be directly elected. Thamir al-Ghadban, a former oil minister and a committee member, said that the National Assembly would probably be elected in a regional system of balloting rather than a nationwide vote, and that the membership of the Council of Provinces and Regions would be proportional to the provincial populations.

I know a lot of people thought Iraq would be better off under party-slate elections, which I believe is what Germany has, and that’s how the current Iraqi legislature was elected under the interim constitution. Under that system, voting for the legislative bodies is done nationally and seats are allocated by percentage of votes received. The advantage is that voting, at least in theory, then becomes more about ideas than geography and ethnicity. On the other hand, direct election makes the people feel like they have “their representative” and tends to help rein in corruption through local accountability, which tends to be more demanding than intraparty accountability because you vote for the person not the party. In modern America we’re fortunate enough to have evolved a system that gives us the best of both worlds: we have what sometimes nearly amounts to national party-slate elections, because there are only two parties with real power, they have general intraparty agreement on how they lean on the major issues, and for the most part they aren’t region-based, but we also have direct elections and the accountability that goes with them. This wasn't always so, of course; in the old days politics was much more geographic, and winning the Presidency meant fashioning inter-regional alliances.

Which brings me to the executive branch:

The presidency will be essentially ceremonial, Mr. Ghadban said.

Obviously Iraq has had some issues with a heavy-handed executive branch, to put it mildly. But as they say, you need to fight the next battle, not the one before. A Presidency with at least some authority might have helped form inter-regional policy alliances, much the way we see Senators Kerry and Clinton "moving toward the center" in our own elections. The worry is that the directly elected legislature will become a breeding ground for regional/ethnic factionalism, with no real check from the executive branch. But I expect Iraq will muddle through as long as those in power remain committed to the democratic process.

Some other details:

Under the current draft, there will be a "higher council of the judiciary," with the duty to select judges, and a national court to resolve disputes between the central government and regional authorities.

This is interesting. Look for this to become a political hot potato over the next several years. In America’s earlier years, the judiciary, fearful of civil war, often bent over backwards to compromise between regional factions, leading to things like the Dred Scott decision and the Missouri Compromise. One wonders how the Kurds, with their militias, will react to being overruled. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone really wants civil war, so I think it’s likely it won’t ever come to use of force.

In addition, the constitutional committee has agreed to create several independent governmental institutions, including a central bank and religious endowments authorized to maintain the country's religious centers.

Central bank: good; central funding of religious centers: maybe not so good. But as long they aren’t creating an maintaining an official state religious institution (with all the nightmare possibilities that evokes), it’s probably not that big a deal for Iraq in the long run.

But what I think is maybe the most important thing is something not mentioned in the article: there are constitutionally provided “amendment periods,” I believe at two and four years. As Glenn points out often, democracy is a process, not an event. Iraqis may elect some, shall we say, regrettable officeholders their first few times at bat (expect a lot of negative Western media coverage from the likes of the NYT if/when it happens, which is probably a good thing in many ways). But the great saving grace of democracy is that it’s an iterative process: every election is a chance to refine the ideals of the nation. It took America 100 years and a Civil War to free blacks, and longer to give women the vote and treat minorities as equals. But we got it right in the end – and so will the Iraqis.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by.

Jeff takes on a public service role in warning us about Michelle Malkin's new book: Exposing Liberals. He makes a good point; how much liberal do we really want to see exposed, anyway?

Can the “Liberals Gone Wild!” video be far behind?

These liberally soused girls know how to have fun! Get ready* for Madeline "All-Night" Albright and Hillary "Let me HillaryCare for you, baby" Clinton flashing the goodies, undulating in some “progressive movements,” and engaging in a little “Democratic caucus” of their own!


*By which I mean have your retinas surgically removed.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than two years of war, occupation and insurgency have
turned Iraq into possibly the most psychologically damaged nation in the world, one of the country's top psychiatrists said on Thursday
Gah.

Yeah, those 30 years under Saddam, with the 1.1 million killed in the Iraq-Iran war, the invasion of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf War, the hundreds of thousands stuffed into mass graves in the Shia uprising, the gassing of Halabja, the secret police who maimed and killed anyone who criticized Saddam's rule, the rape rooms, the suppression of all independent newsmedia... all that was paradise. It had no psychological effect and isn't even worth mentioning in the article.

Let's take a closer look at the good doctor:
Dr Harith Hassan, the former head of Baghdad's Psychological Research Center
Anyone want to give odds as to whether Saddam's totalitarian thugs had a hand in selecting the head of that center?
"Iraq is one of the most stressed, oppressed countries in the world -- you can see the suffering every day, every hour, even every minute," Hassan told Reuters in an interview
Not was oppressed under Saddam (you know, back when there were zero free newspapers, zero free radio stations, zero free TV stations, zero free speech rights, zero access to cell phones, and owning a satellite dish or an Internet connection was a crime punishable by death), but is oppressed, under the elected government and the interim constitution that guarantees the rights of Iraqis and has led to all kinds of new freedoms.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Just tuned into AA; sounds like they're finally discussing the big scandal:

Franken: "This Gloria Wise business has Karl Rove written all over it. Those lying liars are doing that thing where they lie again. When will they stop telling these lies? [unintelligible]Randi, what do you think?"

Rhodes: "I don't know, but just wait till those poor kids hear what Bush has done to them! BANG!!"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Too cool not to link: Glenn has SpaceShipOne pics!

Turns out it has a final flight tomorrow morning, before retiring to the Smithsonian.

Sweeeeeet.

The lack of media coverage is odd, though.

Dean (the non-screaming one) notes another Draft Condi website, but doubts anyone with no election experience can win the Presidency.

Hey, it's not unprecedented. Remember "I Like Ike?"

Plus, there's already a catchy theme song, courtesy of Bow Wow Wow:


I know a girl who's tough but sweet
She's so fine, she can't be beat
She's got everything that I desire
Sets the summer sun on fire

I want Condi, I want Condi

Vote for her when the sun goes down
Ain't no finer girl in town
You're my girl, just what the doctor ordered
So sweet, you make my mouth water

I want Condi, I want Condi

Condi on the beach, there's nothing better
But I like Condi when she's wrapped in leather
Some day soon I'll make you mine,
Then I'll have Condi all the time

I want Condi, I want Condi
I want Condi, I want Condi
For the record, I don't think she'll be the nominee, but I do think she's the best Veep pick.