The iron law of bureaucracy

April 15, 2008

Jerry Pournelle has an insightful observation about how bureaucracies function:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.


Heh

April 15, 2008

Joe Lieberman:

One of my greatest missions this year is to convince Rush [Limbaugh] to support the Republican candidate for President!


I love the Aussies

April 15, 2008

Blunder wizards electrify nation.  (Via Tim Blair.)


At least there’s no guns

April 15, 2008

Dave S., a commenter at Tim Blair’s blog, nails it:

Well, I do go a-churchin’ every Sunday with a bunch of bitter folks who complain about how the government is evil and screws them over, and we yell an’ whoop it up when the preacher rails against them Italians and Jews, an’ then we …

Oops, wait a minute, that’s not me, that’s Barack Obama.

(Via Instapundit.)


New York Times: academic freedom “inexplicable”

April 15, 2008

In an April 4 editorial, the New York Times lambasts John Yoo, formerly a lawyer in the Justice Department, for his legal memo on interrogation that the Times says authorized torture. There’s a lot of blowhardiness to rebut here, and I’m not going to bother. But, there’s an astonishing statement in the middle:

Mr. Yoo, who, inexplicably, teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley, never directly argues that it is legal to [do various bad things].

(Emphasis mine.) Yoo, a tenured professor at Berkeley, took a leave of absence to work at the Justice Department before returning in 2004. During that leave, he produced a work of legal scholarship that proved politically unpopular. For the New York Times, that is apparently grounds for revoking his tenure. Nay, more than that; it is “inexplicable” that his tenure was not revoked.

Am I reading too much into one word? It’s hard to see what else “inexplicable” could mean, since “he has tenure” would otherwise appear to be an explanation. Moreover, I’m not the only one to read it this way. Other observers took it the same way, including the Dean of Law at Berkeley, who felt the need to put out a statement explaining academic freedom and tenure to the New York Times.

(Via the Volokh Conspiracy.)

UPDATE: Paul Campos, writing in the Rocky Mountain News, comes out and says it explicitly, and laments the lack of seriousness of those like Berkeley’s Dean of Law (and me) who think academic freedom might be an issue. (Via Instapundit.)


Impeach Xenu

April 14, 2008

Former celebrity scientologist Jason Beghe sits for an interview: “My experience, personally, and what I’ve observed for myself, is that scientology is destructive and a rip-off.”  (Warning: some very appropriate vulgarity.)


Liberals agree with Obama about rural America

April 14, 2008

According to the Rasmussen poll, 56% of Americans disagree with Barack Obama’s amateur psychoanalysis of rural Americans. (Via Instapundit.) That number actually sounded a little low to me, so I looked closer. Conservatives disagree 74%-12%, and moderates disagree 51%-27%. On the other hand, liberals tend to agree by a margin of 46%-33%. That’s nearly 60% of those with an opinion, and the numbers among Obama supporters are even higher. (The story doesn’t say by how much.)

So when Obama was explaining the bizarre, retrograde views of rural Americans to a crowd of San Francisco liberals, about two-thirds of his audience agreed. Please spare me the “he misspoke” spin. He was speaking clearly, telling his audience exactly what they wanted to hear. Either he was speaking from the heart or he was pandering; take your pick.

Come to think of it, this is no surprise. Liberals have been trying to psychoanalyze conservatives for years, since there has to be some explanation for their incomprehensible individualism and religion. As the Harley ads say, if you have to ask . . .


Clinton surges 20 points in Pennsylvania

April 14, 2008

According to the ARG poll, the Pennsylvania race has gone from a tie to a 20-point Clinton lead in the last week. (Via Instapundit.) Hmm, I wonder what happened?


Can’t anyone play this game?

April 14, 2008

Now that I’m a registered Democrat, I’m getting all kinds of interesting calls.  Yesterday I got a call from John Brenner, the mayor of York, Pennsylvania.  (Now, in case you don’t know me, Mayor Brenner and I don’t speak all that often.)  This was part of Obama’s ongoing damage-control, and I guess that Brenner was the best Obama-supporter he could find in rural Pennsylvania.

Anyway, Mayor Brenner told me that Obama was right, that we are bitter “frustrated” about the economy.  (That stuff about our religion, guns, and xenophobia didn’t come up.)  I was amazed.  They think it’s a good idea to call people up and tell them about their own bitterness?!  Even here in Pennsylvania, most people don’t need Barack Obama to explain their own feelings to them.  Brilliant, guys.


Iraqi government: “We will continue until we secure Sadr City”

April 14, 2008

Bill Roggio reports. Well, I hope so. Finishing the job would be against the usual practice of the Iraqi government, though.

(Via Instapundit.)


Iraq moves to ban militias from politics

April 13, 2008

The AP reports:

Iraq’s Cabinet ratcheted up the pressure on anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr by approving draft legislation barring political parties with militias from participating in upcoming provincial elections.

Al-Sadr, who heads the country’s biggest militia, the Mahdi Army, has been under intense pressure from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, to disband the Mahdi Army or face political isolation. . .

And in a new move to stem the flow of money to armed groups, the government ordered a crackdown on militiamen controlling state-run and private gas stations, refineries and oil distribution centers.


Alicia Keys: idiotarian

April 13, 2008

Well, this is disappointing:

[Alicia Keys] tells Blender magazine: “‘Gangsta rap’ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. ‘Gangsta rap’ didn’t exist.” Keys, 27, said she’s read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ’em dead” . . .

Another of her theories: The bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled “by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing.” . . .

Keys’ publicist, Theola Borden, said Keys was on vacation and unavailable for comment.


Stand back

April 13, 2008

Rachel Lucas is doing her taxes. She’s not happy. (Via Instapundit.) No quotes to pull on a family-friendly blog, I’m afraid.

I shudder to think of what she’s going to say next year after the Democrats reverse the Bush tax cuts. On the bright side: English probably could use a few new swear words.


Virtuality comes to Fox

April 13, 2008

A new science-fiction program is coming to Fox:

Fox has given the green light to “Virtuality,” a two-hour back-door pilot from “Battlestar Galactica” mastermind Ronald D. Moore.

The sci-fi project, from Universal Media Studios and producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, is set aboard the Phaeton, Earth’s first starship. It revolves around its crew of 12 astronauts on a 10-year journey to explore a distant solar system. To help them endure the long trip and keep their minds occupied, NASA has equipped the ship with advanced virtual-reality modules, allowing the crew members to assume adventurous identities and go to any place they want. The plan works flawlessly until a mysterious “bug” is found in the system.

Jonah Goldberg worries that this show sounds like the dreadful holodeck epsiodes from Star Trek. Perhaps, but I’ll withhold judgement. Moore did a good job on Galactica. He also worries that Fox cannot be trusted to shepherd a good science-fiction program, recalling Firefly. He has a point there.

It occurs to me that if you want to strand people in virtual reality (I’m speculating here), a better concept might be an all-virtual ship like the Field Circus from Charles Stross’s Accelerando. The Field Circus was a coke-can-sized starship carrying the uploaded minds of its crew in a virtual environment.


Today is Sunday

April 13, 2008

. . . or, as Obama likes to call it, Clinging-day, the day we congregate to share our bitterness over our poor job prospects.

UPDATE: David Freddoso has the same idea:

I’m headed to evening Mass in a bit. I might even get there early and pray for a few minutes beforehand, because I’m feeling especially bitter about the economy this week.


Chi-Coms deploy provocateurs to discredit protesters

April 13, 2008

Did the Chinese use an agent provocateur to attack a wheelchair-bound torch carrier in the name of Tibet? Chinese bloggers say yes, and the evidence is compelling.  (Via Instapundit.)


California Supreme Court rejects San Francisco gun ban

April 12, 2008

SFGate has the story.  (Via Instapundit.)


Creating enemies faster than they can kill them

April 12, 2008

In the battle for Iraq, one key factor working against the Islamists is the behavior of the Islamists:

Many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach. . . While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied. Fingers caught in the act of smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its wearer. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold. . .

A shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices some young Iraqis are making.

Professors reported difficulty in recruiting graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears to be down, even in areas where the violence has largely subsided, according to worshipers and imams in Baghdad and Falluja. In two visits to the weekly prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of the militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr this fall, vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005.

Such patterns, if lasting, could lead to a weakening of the political power of religious leaders in Iraq. In a nod to those changing tastes, political parties are dropping overt references to religion. . .

Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a distance.

“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.

Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.

“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”

(Via LGF.)

As they say, read the whole thing. It puts in a nutshell what the whole war is about.


Olmert snubs Carter

April 12, 2008

Via LGF:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has turned down a request from former American president Jimmy Carter for a meeting during his visit to Israel next week. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both said that their schedules will not allow a meeting, but an anonymous Israeli official told the Washington Times, “You draw your own conclusions.” Other officials have expressed anger at Carter’s proposed meeting with Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

They might also be remembering Carter’s book.


Duke: keep quiet about rape hoax

April 12, 2008

Now that the Duke lacrosse players have been exonerated, Duke thinks that it would a good time for people to hold their tongue on the case. What’s changed? Duke is the one on trial now.

(Via Instapundit.)


Read the whole thing

April 12, 2008

Three very interesting articles on Iraq, via Instapundit:


Democrats oppose US exports

April 12, 2008

An op-ed in the Boston Globe makes an amazing observation about the Colombia free-trade pact. US markets are already open to Colombia; this effect of the agreement (which the Democrats oppose) is to open Colombia’s markets to us:

The agreement, which President Bush sent this week to Congress for an up or down vote, essentially makes permanent the trade preferences that Colombia has had for 17 years. What is new is that the treaty opens the Colombian market to US exports. . .

The Colombian government is making the bigger sacrifice because a permanent agreement removes uncertainty for investors. Trade, combined with US support for Colombia’s military and justice system, have helped Colombia beat back a leftist insurgency, largely demobilize right-wing paramilitaries, and spark a boom that has reduced poverty, unemployment, and the economic weight of drug mafias.

(Via Instapundit.)

So the Democrats (including both Obama and Clinton) are opposing this agreement for no reason whatsoever other than demagoguery.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times sees it.


First lady lands under sniper fire, really

April 12, 2008

Pat Nixon, not Hillary Clinton.  (Via Tom Maguire, via Instapundit.)


Obama insults Pennsylvania in San Francisco

April 12, 2008

The blogosphere is going crazy about Obama’s remarks insulting central Pennsylvania (and the Midwest) at a fundraiser in San Francisco:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

(Emphasis in linked article.)

Ace of Spades has the title I wanted to use: “Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin’, Banjo-Strokin’ Chicken-Chokin’ Cousin-Pokin’ Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons,” but he said it first. . .

Tom Maguire has a roundup. (Via Instapundit.) The best line, from his comments:

HALP US BROK O’BOMBA– WE R STUCK HEAR N ALTOONA.

Mickey Kaus makes a prediction:

Because Obama’s comments are clearly a Category II Kinsley Gaffe–in which the candidate accidentally says what he really thinks–it will be hard for Obama to explain away.

So far, Kaus appears to be right: “Obama standing by comments, fights back.”

I think what really could hurt him here isn’t just the insult itself, but the fact that he told it at a gathering of rich, San Francisco liberals at the exact same time as he was wooing the insultees in Pennsylvania.

UPDATE: Life imitates the Onion.  (Via Instapundit.)


Another reason Clinton is in trouble

April 11, 2008

Some tough questions are fair — many of them in fact.  You can’t laugh off every awkward question.  (Via Instapundit.)


NYT fictionalizes again

April 11, 2008

The New York Times invents a McCain gaffe. Unfortunately for the NYT, John Hinderaker checked the transcript.

UPDATE (4/17): Power Line notes that the NYT has finally issued a correction. The correction doesn’t seem right either, but it’s an improvement.  What’s more interesting is this bit from a follow-up post:

I’ve had an email exchange with someone at the Times who shed interesting light on the story. It turns out that the reporters who wrote the original story didn’t fabricate the claim that McCain said Iran was training al Qaeda in Iraq; that was interpolated by an editor who “changed the copy!” The paper’s spokesman declined my request that he identify the editor who juiced up the story to put McCain in a bad light.

I thought editors were supposed to be a strength of the established papers.


Don’t just sit there!

April 11, 2008

Michael Ramirez nails it:

(Via Power Line.)


Wright to give keynote address at Detroit NAACP

April 10, 2008

Press release here.  (Via everbody.)


McCain and Obama tied

April 10, 2008

A new AP-Ipsos poll puts McCain and Obama tied at 45%. Clinton actually does better, leading McCain 48% to 45%. (Via Instapundit.) Polls at this point don’t matter much, but this does underline the folly of trying to make calculations based on electability. I’m supporting Hillary, not because I think she’s easier to beat, but because Obama is really scary.


Poll: Few support national health insurance

April 10, 2008

A new Rasmussen poll shows that Americans are realistic about national health insurance; surprisingly so, given the impression promoted by the media. (Via Instapundit.)

  • 39% oppose it, while 29% support it. 31% are not sure.
  • 46% say the quality of health care would decrease, while only 16% say it would improve. 20% say it would stay about the same.
  • 42% say the cost of health care would increase, while 25% say it would decrease.

So a strong plurality believes that national health insurance would make care more expensive but worse. The partisan breakdown is more bad news for supporters:

  • Democrats support it by only a 35% to 26% margin.
  • Independents support it at the same rate as Republicans (just 25%), but are slightly more likely to be unsure (39%) than oppose it (35%).

An older poll says that while only 31% rate American health care as good or excellent, most (72%) of those with insurance are happy with their own coverage. (83% of those surveyed had insurance.)

Another older poll said that half of Americans support providing coverage to everyone, but that number drops to 31% if people would be required to give up their insurance for a government plan.

This is a body blow to nationalized health insurance. It also perhaps gives some explanation for Hillary Clinton’s difficulties. Her top issue turns out to be a loser.

It strikes me that for the nationalizers to have any shot, they need to convince people that they can keep their own insurance. It wouldn’t be true (how many employers would keep offering insurance when they could leave it to the government?), but with the media’s help, maybe they could pull it off. However, this poll shows that the media’s support has not been especially influential.


3.65 billion barrels

April 10, 2008

The estimate of the Bakken oil deposit is out, and it’s smaller than some had hoped. It’s still a significant amount, but by no means OPEC-crushing. (Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)


AP welcomes imaginary defeat

April 9, 2008

The AP runs yet another story on an insurgent victory:

Iraqi police say gunmen have released the 42 college students they kidnapped earlier in the day near the northern city of Mosul.

Brig. Gen. Khalif Abdul-Sattar says the gunmen initially released the only two girls aboard the hijacked bus. They later set free remaining occupants after making sure they were not members of the security forces. . .

Meanwhile, overnight clashes in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadar City left five dead and more than a dozen wounded, police said.

The incidents illustrate the continuing instability in Iraq as the top U.S. officials here prepare to brief the U.S. Congress this week on prospects for further reductions in the 155,000-strong American force. . .

The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the reported fighting in Baghdad that started Saturday night and continued with sporadic exchanges of gunfire until Sunday morning.

One can imagine the editor’s satisfaction. Insurgent victory: check. Clumsy mention of general unrest: check. Link to political agenda: check. No comment from the Coalition: check.

But wait, that bit about no comment from the Coalition is very specifically phrased. The Coalition had no comment on the story’s throwaway “meanwhile” bit, but what about the main story? The AP doesn’t say.

Fortunately we needn’t rely on the AP. Greyhawk tracks down a Coalition press release:

The Iraqi Army rescued 42 college students after they were kidnapped by insurgents in southwestern Mosul April 6.

The Iraqi Army detained one suspect, and Iraqi Police are currently searching for additional suspects.

After Iraqi Security Forces reported the kidnapping, a Coalition force aircraft spotted a suspicious vehicle thought to contain the students. The insurgents fled the scene after the vehicle was stopped.

(Via Instapundit.)

Ah, the students weren’t kindly released by the insurgents, they were freed by the (much derided) Iraqi army, who also captured one insurgent and left the rest fleeing for cover; all of which the AP would have known if they had exercised any due diligence. But diligence can ruin a perfectly good story, can’t it?

UPDATE and BUMP: Oh geez, it’s worse than that. A Mudville Gazette commenter points out that the AP actually had reporters on-site, who put together a short film (“video essay“) about the rescue, but they still managed to get it wrong in print. On the positive side, the film is actually pretty cool.


Battlefield: Bad Company beta

April 9, 2008

The Battlefield: Bad Company beta gets a bad review from Amazon Game Room for having green friendlies and red enemies, making it unplayable for people with red-green color-blindness.  (Via Instapundit.)  Also, the BF:BC beta is getting bad reviews from my friends for being not a very good game.  Plus, just about everyone hates EA.

The Amazon review is titled “Gaming while color blind,” but, to be fair,  I think most shooters get this right.  Halo 3 paints characters red and blue, plus it floats an icon over friendlies.  Rainbow Six Vegas 2 has just the icon, which is good enough when it’s not clipped by a doorway.  In Gears of War, it’s humans or monsters.  Call of Duty 4 does have a floating name in red or green, but you can also look at the uniforms (and half the time you have to anyway).


Barry Lynn, call your office

April 9, 2008

The Minneapolis Star Tribune blows the whistle on a taxpayer-funded Islamic school.  (Via LGF.)


What is wrong with South Korea?!

April 9, 2008

Occasionally you see a story that is so bizarre, so unfair, you can scarcely believe it: More South Korean army cadets view America as their main enemy than North Korea. (Via the Tank.)

We protect their country from the north for half a century, asking nothing in return, and this is the thanks we get? We could use those troops elsewhere in the world; maybe we should. (Yes, I realize that it doesn’t serve our interests to allow Kim Jong-il to conquer the south and get a new lease on life, but it can’t hurt to talk about it. Maybe it could shock them to their senses.)


Cover-up at the University of Michigan

April 9, 2008

Terry Pell, for the National Association of Scholars, reports that the lawsuit (now dismissed) over the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative has brought out some very interesting pre-trial discovery. (Via the Corner.) Michigan’s claims in court that affirmative action admits were doing fine appear to have been false:

Last fall, [UCLA Law Professor Richard] Sander had submitted his preliminary findings to the court, including the revelation that minority students at the UM Law School failed the bar at more than eight times the rate of white students during the years 2004, 2005 and 2006.

According to Sander, this data contradicted sworn testimony by UM experts during the trial in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court case challenging the use of race-based admissions at the UM law school. . . UM Professor Richard Lempert testified that, “not to put too fine a point on it, Michigan graduates pass the bar. . . I think there might of have been a statistically significant difference favoring whites, but it was substantively sort of completely trivial.”

Sanders was also able to analyze the performance of minorities before and after the MCRI:

Undergraduate blacks at the UM who were admitted without a preference had a graduation rate of 93% — higher than the rate for comparable white students, and far higher than the graduation rate of the school as a whole. In stark contrast, UM undergraduate blacks who received a preference had a graduation rate of 47%.

When faced with the data that Sanders was uncovering, Michigan stopped cooperating. No wonder, Sanders’s evidence could have undermined their partial victory at the Supreme Court, and possibly could have even exposed Michigan’s witnesses to perjury charges.


Canadian bloggers sued

April 9, 2008

Canadian free-speech martyr Ezra Levant summarizes.  (Via the Corner.)

Too bad free speech is a uniquely “American concept.” Canada could use some.


More on the Bakken oil deposit

April 9, 2008

Business Week reports:

A long-awaited federal report on oil that could be recovered in parts of North Dakota, Montana and two Canadian provinces is to be released this week. . .

In 1995, the Geological Survey estimated that using technology available at that time, 151 million barrels of oil could be recovered in the Bakken, said Brenda Pierce, a geologist and program coordinator for the agency’s energy resources program.

Pierce said she would not disclose the study’s findings until Thursday. Asked whether the estimate would be an increase from the 1995 figure, she said, “There is industry in there and having success. There’s your answer.”

(Via Instapundit.)

Looks like this is for real.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE (5/20): For some reason, a lot of people are finding this post through search engines. Here’s my latest post on the topic.


Liberalism ⊢ False

April 9, 2008

When faced with a conflict between African-Americans and illegal immigrants, what’s a poor liberal to do?

The testimony was riveting this morning before the Los Angeles City Council when a group of black residents pleaded with the 15 elected council members to rescind Special Order 40, the longtime local rule protecting illegal immigrants from arrest by the LAPD.

(Via Instapundit.)

How to resolve this sort of issue? If your party is based on a political philosophy, you can have a debate on the merits. But if your party is just a collection of tribes, it comes down to one voice against another.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: The Corner has some background.


The enemy of my enemy is also my enemy

April 9, 2008

Hamas accuses al Qaeda of being too closely tied to Iran:

We found Iranian [currency], toman, at an Al-Qaeda headquarters that we uncovered. We have also captured Iranian weapons, not to mention audio and video recordings containing announcements by Al-Qaeda fighters that they had received training in Iranian military camps and that Al-Qaeda wounded were being transported to Iran for medical treatment. . .

The U.S. is our main enemy, but a more dangerous enemy is Iran. The U.S. wants [our] oil, and possibly it wants to establish military bases [on our soil], or to remain [in Iraq] for many years to come – while Iran wants to rule, [and] to eradicate and change [our] beliefs and ideas, [and] aspires to alter the demography of the Sunni regions, particularly Baghdad.

(Via Instapundit.)

Hamas needs to read the western media; then he’d know that al Qaeda can’t possibly have anything to do with Iran.


Mugabe arrests election personnel

April 9, 2008

This is Zimbabwe reports.  (Via Instapundit.)  Looks like they’re serious about that other 75%.


Jimmy Carter to meet with Hamas

April 9, 2008

Fox News has the story.  I’m telling you, in the zombie war, this guy will be trying to negotiate with Zack.


Another pizza robbery thwarted using legal handgun

April 8, 2008

KDKA has the story.  Let’s hope that Uno’s Pizza is more enlightened about self-defense than Pizza Hut.


Wecht jury hangs

April 8, 2008

Cyril Wecht escapes jail again, this time with a hung jury in his fraud and corruption trial.  (Come on, who doesn’t use public employees to run personal errands?)  After two corruption trials, a road-rage incident in which he intentionally hit a pedestrian (a neighbor, in fact), and a reckless driving case in which he ran a woman off the road, his total legal consequences have been a $98 fine and a $200k civil judgement.


The Tartan lands a scoop

April 8, 2008

The Tartan, CMU’s own fish-wrapper, lands a minor scoop at Michelle Obama’s rally at the UC:

Some students at the event questioned the practices of Mrs. Obama’s event coordinators, who handpicked the crowd sitting behind Mrs. Obama. The Tartan’s correspondents observed one event coordinator say to another, “Get me more white people, we need more white people.” To an Asian girl sitting in the back row, one coordinator said, “We’re moving you, sorry. It’s going to look so pretty, though.”

“I didn’t know they would say, ‘We need a white person here,’ ” said attendee and senior psychology major Shayna Watson, who sat in the crowd behind Mrs. Obama. “I understood they would want a show of diversity, but to pick up people and to reseat them, I didn’t know it would be so outright.”

This story got picked up throughout the conservative/libertarian blogosphere (LGF, the Weekly Standard, Instapundit, Gateway Pundit).  Honestly, though, I can’t see why anyone would be surprised by this.  Political rallies are always stage managed, and given the nature of Obama’s campaign — particularly in the wake of the Wright revelations — it’s no surprise that race is a big part of that management.  What I do find surprising is that the Tartan actually went off message here, if only briefly.


Italy becomes a haven for criminals

April 8, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has a shocking article about the state of the justice system in Italy.  In America, some commentators remark on the “contradiction” of falling crime rates “despite” more criminals being in prison.  In Italy, they tried the opposite strategy, and obtained the opposite result:

Less than two years ago, Italy’s prison system faced a crisis: Built to hold 43,000 inmates, it was straining to contain more than 60,000.

So the government crafted an emergency plan. It swung open the prison doors and let more than a third of the inmates go free.

Within months, bank robberies jumped by 20%. Kidnappings and fraud also rose, as did computer crime, arson and purse-snatchings. The prison population, however, fell so much that for awhile Italy had more prison guards than prisoners to guard.

Many crimes are essentially unenforced:

Italy’s 2006 prisoner pardon — which so far has allowed 27,000 inmates to go free — worked something like a discount coupon. It lopped three years off every prison sentence, except ones for terrorism, Mafia-related crimes and a few others. A previous law already allowed anyone serving less than three years to perform community service instead of going to jail. So now, just about anyone sentenced to six years in jail doesn’t have to serve a day. . .  “Someone who commits bribery, insider trading, tax evasion, false bookkeeping, what have you, is pretty much guaranteed to go free,” says Bruno Tinti, a prosecutor in Turin.

One reason this state of affairs can endure is it is fully exploited by the ruling class:

[Prime Minister] Berlusconi, who is also one of Italy’s richest men, was convicted in two of the cases brought against him, but the charges were all eventually overturned on appeal or tossed out because the statute of limitations had expired. . .

The system has been a boon for other politicians here as well. More than 20 of the 945 elected members of Parliament have been convicted of crimes including associating with organized crime and committing acts of terrorism.

Former Sicily governor Salvatore Cuffaro, for example, was recently convicted of aiding and abetting a known Mafioso. Mr. Cuffaro, whose case is on appeal, is expected to be elected to the Senate this month.

Plus: terrorists released on furlough, mafiosos too fat for prison, and a strategy for killing your wife.


Chutzpah

April 8, 2008

Robert Mugabe is complaining of voting irregularities.

UPDATE: NPR has the audio up now.  Seek to 1:20.


Fox News notices D.C. gun crackdown

April 8, 2008

Fox News has noticed the D.C. gun crackdown story that the blogosphere noticed two weeks ago. They do advance the story slightly with this gem, though:

[Police Chief] Lanier is optimistic that the program will achieve its most basic goal: ferreting out illegal guns while making the most of a limited police budget. “It is not costing us anything,” she said. “I think this is a great use of resources.”

What? Unless the police are doing this after-hours and off-the-clock, which they obviously are not, this is certainly costing something. (Never mind the flyers, legal fees, etc.) So Lanier evidently believes one of two things: (1) everyone is awfully stupid, or (2) her police have nothing else that they might be doing.


Sadr increasingly isolated?

April 8, 2008

A few days ago I blogged the AP analysis showing a bleak outlook for Moqtada al-Sadr (and accordingly, a positive one for us).  Now, at the Corner, there’s another analysis that agrees with it.  Here’s hoping.


Liberalism ⊢ False

April 8, 2008

When faced with a conflict between gays and Muslims, what’s a poor liberal to do?

Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same-sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents. . .

Bristol City Council said the two schools had been using the books to ensure they complied with gay rights laws which came into force last April. They were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying, it said.

A big problem among 5-year-olds, I understand. Had Christians complained (England still has some, I hear), they would probably have been brushed off, but when Muslims complain, there’s action:

But the council has since removed the books from Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, both in Bristol.

A book and DVD titled That’s a Family!, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.

I’ll bet the gays are pissed. You know, a consistent philosophy is good thing to have. Even the liberals are starting to notice that. Well, some of them.

UPDATE: Link fixed.


California public employees exempt from tickets

April 8, 2008

It’s well-known that the police typically refuse to enforce traffic and parking laws against their own.  They call it “professional courtesy,” rather than the more appropriate “dereliction of duty.”  They also extend that “courtesy” to spouses and other family members.

In California, public employees with the barest resemblance to law enforcement (museum guards, for example) in California wanted in on the action, and not by the expensive and unreliable expedient of giving to police charities in exchange for a sticker.  According to the Orange County Register, they got what they were looking for through a special license plate program.  (Via Instapundit.)

Power corrupts.  I guess we should be happy that they’re not out shaking people down.  Still, the government doesn’t need to wink at this.  A good start would be to make it illegal for mark a private car as belonging to a police officer.  I’m sure they would find a way around it, but at least we would be sending a message.


MSNBC counterprograms McCain speech

April 7, 2008

MSNBC interrupts a McCain speech with “breaking news” of a mortar attack in Baghdad:

. . . an unremarkable development as Sadrists and insurgents have used mortars for harassment and interdiction (H&I) fires frequently throughout the war, usually to little effect. There were no known casualties at the time the story was reported, and there was no known targets of importance hit.  [There was no] legitimate reason for MSNBC producers to break into McCain’s speech, other than to try to undermine his message.

MSNBC needs to justify this “breaking news” event by proving that they have broken into other live events on their network to cover minor Green Zone mortar attacks during the campaign season.

(Via Instapundit.)

You cannot explain this sort of thing as mere incompetence.


The Internet: not obsolete just yet

April 7, 2008

The London Times has an atrocious article about how “the grid” may soon make the Internet obsolete:

The Internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds. At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

They seem to be falling into the trap of thinking of the Internet as a bunch of wires.  In fact, the Internet is basically just an algorithm for routing packets, so a replacement would have to be a new, better way to route packets. That’s not apparently what they’re talking about here. (I say “apparently,” because it’s not at all clear what they actually are talking about.)

The idea of grid computing (decentralized networked computing ventures, often consisting of volunteers) seems like a good way to handle the amount of data they expect to generate at the Large Hadron Collider, but it’s hardly new.

So what is new?  If we assume that there’s anything to do this article at all, the CERN guys are facing the problem of getting their data out to their grid participants.  (In most grid applications, such as SETI@Home, participants conduct large computations on small amounts of data, so this isn’t an issue.)  Here, a colleague tells me, they’re talking about a content delivery network using some dedicated bandwidth.

Sounds like a fine approach, but not a replacement for the Internet.  (In fact, they probably use IP to route packets over their network, which would make it actually part of the Internet.)  Semantics aside, it also doesn’t sound like something that will have any impact on most people lives, since the people who paid for the dedicated bandwidth are unlikely to let people use it to download films.

(ASIDE: What would be great would be if someone were to come up with a way for ordinary people to exploit the grid computing paradigm. . .)


A small correction from the LA Times

April 7, 2008

The LA Times admits it may have gotten a few details wrong:

An article March 28 in Section A about a typical day in the life of a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, as gleaned from reporting trips over the last three years, made several observations that Pentagon officials and officers of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo say are outdated or erroneous.

  • The article said that reveille was at 5 a.m., when guards collect the bedsheet from each detainee. There is no reveille sounded at Guantanamo, and officials say the practice of collecting bedsheets ended in late 2006 for compliant detainees and last May for everyone else.
  • The article said that lights were kept on in the cells 24 hours a day for security reasons, and that some prisoners grew their hair long to shield their eyes to sleep. Since September, all detainees have been issued sleep masks.
  • The article said that detainees at Camps 5 and 6 could see each other only during prayer time when an aperture in their cell doors was opened. The prisoners can also see each other when being escorted to showers or interrogation, during recreation time and when the aperture is opened for meal delivery.
  • The article referred to “the hour for rec time”; in fact, prisoners are allowed at least two hours of recreation daily.
  • The article said the prison library had 2,000 books and magazines; it has 5,000, including multiple copies of many titles.
  • The article said that once a prisoner had skipped nine meals he was considered to be on a hunger strike and taken to the medical center where he was force-fed. Medical officials say hunger strikers are force-fed only when their weight has fallen to 85% of their ideal body weight and a doctor recommends it.
  • The article said that prisoners at Camp 4, a communal compound, were awaiting transfer home. Camp 4 holds prisoners judged to be compliant with camp rules.

(Bulleting mine.)  As Kathryn Jean Lopez quips, “otherwise our story was accurate.”

You know, some publications do their fact-checking before they go to press.


Argh

April 7, 2008

Why on earth can’t the iPhone synchronize bookmarks with Firefox?


Don’t question their patriotism

April 7, 2008

The Stranger (an extreme leftist alternative paper in Seattle) reports from a conference of Washington’s 43rd district Democrats:

There was some time to kill as multiple tallies of the delegates and alternates were done, and when the time-killer of taking audience questions had run its course and the idea of teling [sic] jokes had been nixed, someone suggested doing the Pledge of Allegiance to pass the time. (Are you listening, right-wing bloggers? This is going to get good.)

Yep.

At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate’s hat) was shouted down.

(All emphasis original.)  (Via Instapundit.)

Nice.  I grew up in Seattle, just five blocks outside the 43rd district.  (The 46th is not too different.)  It’s sad to see how things have changed.  When I was growing up, the area was reliably liberal, but still patriotic.  We sent Scoop Jackson to the Senate for thirty years.  Now the area is best represented by Baghdad Jim McDermott.


We have nothing to fear but Victory itself

April 7, 2008

Stephen Green’s title was so apt that I had to steal it. He notes the NYT’s latest effort to discredit Gen. Petraeus in advance of his testimony is to point out that he is “politically astute.” (Via Instapundit.) Green observes that one doesn’t become a general without being politically astute, which is certainly true. (Being good at leading a war effort is optional.)

But I think it goes further than that. To lead a war effort effectively now requires politics, and it has at least since the Tet Offensive. North Vietnam discovered that the way to defeat America is not to win on the ground — which cannot be done — but to target the media and useful idiots in Congress.  To win a war today (at least one lasting longer than the initial patriotic surge) requires political management, not just military management. Indeed, I suspect it has always been so, but the government used to hold a greater control over information that it does today.

Today’s Islamists have been playing by the very same playbook as North Vietnam, and the media are delighted to play their part.  For a general today, political astuteness is not a negative (as the NYT implies), nor merely inevitable (as Green suggests), but an absolutely essential quality if we are to win.  I suppose that’s why the NYT sees it as a negative.


Mugabe mobilizes his thugs

April 7, 2008

Having insufficiently rigged the first round of voting, Mugabe is determined not to make the same mistake again:

Zimbabwe was bracing itself yesterday for the possibility that President Robert Mugabe, forced into an expected election runoff against his opposition challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, could mobilise an army of thugs to beat, intimidate and terrify voters, while taking emergency powers to vary the electoral regulations so as to make ballot-stuffing easier.

Both Britain and the United States are exercising strong diplomatic pressure on Mugabe not to follow this route. But some diplomatic observers believe that it may be the ageing despot’s only way of keeping his vow to die in State House.

Mugabe’s deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, who claimed last week that the president’s Zanu-PF party had let him down in the first round of voting, predicted a resounding victory in the second, saying: “We only applied 25% of our energy in the first round. That [the runoff] is when we are going to unleash the other 75%.”

(Via Instapundit.)

Oh dear, the first round was only 25% rigged?

Also, an explanation of why the official results matter; not because of the tally, but because the runoff can’t be scheduled until they’re released:

The official tally has yet to be declared and when MDC lawyers went to the High Court yesterday in an attempt to force an announcement, their way into the building was blocked by police from Mugabe’s office over the road. One of the lawyers, Alec Muchadehama, said the police had threatened to shoot them. The case was eventually postponed until today.

The longer the delay in announcing the presidential election result, opposition activists say, the more time Mugabe will have to mobilise his forces.

Reports yesterday suggested that attempts to intimidate the opposition could already be under way. According to one African news agency, Zimbabwean soldiers beat supporters of the MDC in some parts of the country to punish them for “premature” election victory celebrations. At least 17 people were said to have been beaten so badly that they had to be taken to hospital.


Absolut alternative history

April 6, 2008

Absolut Vodka ad

I noted last week’s controversy over an advertisement by Absolut vodka that seemed to advocate reversing Texan Independence and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but didn’t blog it because I didn’t have anything to add.

Now Absolut has issued their apology, including this jaw-dropper:

Absolut said the ad was designed for a Mexican audience and intended to recall “a time which the population of Mexico might feel was more ideal.”

“A time which the population of Mexico might feel was more ideal”? What about that period might today’s population of Mexico prefer, the universal poverty or the political chaos? The Mexican presidency changed hands four times in 1846 alone, most notably when the army deposed President de Herrera for the crime of trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the border conflict with the United States.

I can understand Absolut trying to appeal to Mexican ultra-nationalists (the very thing they are trying to deny), but appealing to the halcyon days of 1846 Mexico simply makes no sense.

UPDATE: SKYY® Vodka, Made in the USA, Proudly Supports Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. (Via Instapundit.)  Ain’t the market grand?


Charlton Heston, 1923–2008

April 6, 2008

Another great American has passed away. The NYT has a respectful obituary.


Casus belli

April 6, 2008

Iranian forces are not only present in Iraq, but actively participated in the recent battle for Basra, the London Times is reporting.  (Via Instapundit.)

The war in Iraq seems to have entered a fourth phase.  First there was the brief war against Saddam.  Second there was domestic insurgency, largely by Baathist dead-enders, which was longer than the invasion but shorter than the conflict that has followed.  Third was the al Qaeda insurgency, which succeeded for a while but has been largely defeated by the surge.  Significantly, both the second and third phases were against non-state actors.

Now the war seems to be changing its character again, to a direct conflict between Iran and its Iraqi surrogates on one side, and Iraq and the Coalition on the other side.  In retrospect we were too slow to adjust to each of the previous shifts, and I fear we will be too slow in this case as well.

In a sense, the new problem is easier.  Iran poses a conventional threat that we can address.  Deterrence is now a plausible strategy, which it never was against al Qaeda or the Baathist dead-enders.  But we need a credible threat of escalation, and plan for action if that fails.  It doesn’t appear that we have either, and if we did, it doesn’t seem as though the Democrats (who have no desire any more to win) would permit us to carry one out.


AP: Basra crackdown has strengthened al-Maliki

April 5, 2008

Since the flareup in Basra ended, observers have been trying to discern the consequences of the Iraqi Army’s brief campaign. Al-Sadr agreed to the government’s demand for his militia to lay down their weapons, but a concerted propaganda effort has tried to paint him as the victor. Now, from the Associated Press (of all places) comes convincing evidence that PM al-Maliki’s hand has been strengthened:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s faltering crackdown on Shiite militants has won the backing of Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that fear both the powerful sectarian militias and the effects of failure on Iraq’s fragile government. . .

The head of the Kurdish self-ruled region, Massoud Barzani, has offered Kurdish troops to help fight anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.

More significantly, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi signed off on a statement by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing support for the crackdown in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

Al-Hashemi is one of al-Maliki’s most bitter critics and the two have been locked in an acrimonious public quarrel for a year. . . On Thursday, however, al-Maliki paid al-Hashemi a rare visit. A statement by al-Hashemi’s office said the vice president told al-Maliki that “we can bite the bullet and put aside our political differences.”

It goes on:

“I think the government is now enjoying the support of most political groups because it has adopted a correct approach to the militia problem,” said Hussein al-Falluji, a lawmaker from parliament’s largest Sunni Arab bloc, the three-party Iraqi Accordance Front. Al-Hashemi heads one of the three, the Iraqi Islamic Party.

The Accordance Front pulled out of al-Maliki’s Cabinet in August to protest his policies. The newfound support over militias could help al-Maliki persuade the five Sunni ministers who quit their posts to return.

If he succeeds, that would constitute a big step toward national reconciliation, something the U.S. has long demanded.

I’m still concerned that Maliki didn’t follow through with the crackdown in Baghdad, but this is a promising sign.

UPDATE: Thoughts from Ed Morrissey and Dean Esmay. (Via Instapundit.)  Maybe the Democrats won’t make this the center of their argument questions at Petraeus’s next testimony after all.


Australian planes attacked by laser pointers

April 5, 2008

News.com.au has the story:

Australian terror experts are investigating a series of recent laser-pointer attacks on airplanes after several reportedly linked incidents to determine whether they were carried out by an organized group, reports showed. . .

Government officials also are considering a ban on the lasers after pilots of six planes made emergency complaints of the distracting light being shone into the cockpits and had to alter their flight paths into Sydney when they were targeted in a “cluster attack” last Friday.

The planes changed their flight paths into Kingsford Smith airport after pilots were targeted by four green lasers around 10:30 p.m. local time.  Authorities said it was a co-ordinated attack lasting 15 minutes.  The laser beams appeared to have originated from the Bexley area in southwestern Sydney.

Some sort of countermeasure seems appropriate, but a ban on laser pointers just doesn’t seem workable to me.


Aussie commissioner proposes presumption of guilt

April 5, 2008

When “human rights” are at stake, you just can’t afford to let little things like presumption of innocence get in your way. (Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: Fixed the link.


Wisconsin voters bring court to heel

April 5, 2008

After years of bizarre, activist rulings from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Wisconsin voters had had enough, and turned an extreme liberal justice out of office.  (Via Instapundit.)

Naturally, it didn’t sit well with some liberals that voters might actually use their power:

In the wake of Justice Butler’s defeat, some liberals have declared that elections for the state’s supreme court should end, and its members be appointed by the governor. Tom Basting, president of the Wisconsin Bar, claims that “judges are different from other elected officials” and “that means some of the standards voters typically use when evaluating candidates don’t apply to judges.”

On the contrary, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had set itself up as an openly political body, a second legislature of sorts:

In Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients, [it] declared unconstitutional the state’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. It argued that the caps bore “no rational relationship to a legitimate government interest.” That conclusion was bizarre, since the legislature had specifically passed the caps to make malpractice insurance “available and affordable,” and the caps worked. In 2004, the American Medical Association judged Wisconsin to be one of only six states not in a medical malpractice crisis. Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg concluded that under the court’s reasoning in that case, “almost any law is subject to being struck down.”

If the liberals are going to make courts into policy-making bodies, they shouldn’t be surprised when the voters want a say.


Arab poll: 55% say speech justifies violence

April 5, 2008

The Gulf Times of Doha, Qatar reports:

A YOUGOV poll commissioned by the Doha Debates has concluded that nearly one-third of all Arabs believe that Saudi Arabia is at greater risk from religious extremism than any other country in the world. . . Asked under what conditions violence is permissible, more than 60% cited Western interference in a Muslim country, while 55% said offensive words or behaviour was a trigger.

(Via LGF.) (Warning: I don’t know if the Gulf Times is at all respectable (their website certainly isn’t very professional), so take this with a grain of salt.)

Let me parse this result. In this poll, only 5% more said that Western interference justifies violence than said that offensive speech justifies violence. Given that we in the West deeply believe in free speech, I think this gives us a useful benchmark for how seriously to take complaints about “Western interference.” That is, we can debate whether we should be in Iraq on its own terms, but leaving to placate Arabs is sheer foolishness, since our presence in Iraq is only barely more offensive to them than our free speech.


Is Obama still a smoker?

April 5, 2008

ABC News has the bombshell, the story that could bring down Obama’s entire campaign:

Last August, I ran into Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, outside the Senate chamber in the Capitol. . . As any close friend or family member can attest, I have an unusually keen sense of smell and immediately I smelled cigarette smoke on Obama. Frankly, he reeked of cigarettes.

Obama ran off before I could ask him if he’d just snuck a smoke, so I called his campaign. They denied it. He’d quit months before, in February, they insisted. . . Except. . . last night on MSNBC’s Hardball, Obama admitted that his attempt to wean himself from the vile tobacco weed had not been entirely successful. . . Now I wonder about last August.

(Via Hot Air.)

I’m joking, of course, but given today’s vilification of smokers, I suspect this story could do some real damage. More damage than his choice to associate with various crazy people have done him.

Some are saying that that he has every right to lie about a matter so irrelevant as whether he is still smoking. I don’t agree. Unless you are a spy or something, you should tell the truth, or decline to answer. Of course politicians lie, but I don’t have to approve.

Besides, as Tom Maguire has pointed out, Obama has made this political:

Money is tight under the current Administration, but Obama needs donations to run his campaign. Since Obama has quit smoking, we can follow Obama’s lead to donate to his campaign. Quitting smoking and donating the savings to his campaign–that makes sense and cents.

No, I think a better defense is simply that he could be telling the truth. Cigarette smoke sticks to clothing, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the smoke-filled back rooms that Obama is spending so much time in right now isn’t merely figurative.


Obama advisor calls for protracted presence in Iraq

April 4, 2008

According to the New York Sun:

A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

(Via Instapundit.)

I can’t decide between two theories:

  • This is deliberate misinformation, intended to moderate opposition to Obama from left-leaners who nevertheless want to win the war.
  • This recommendation is for real, from an adviser that has gone off the reservation.

In the latter case, the adviser will probably be fired in short order. (Maybe in the former, too.)


Xbox Live fails again

April 4, 2008

The new maps for Call of Duty 4 released today. Naturally, Xbox Live has collapsed under the strain, as it does every single time anything happens.


Distance learning

April 4, 2008

An e-mail received today:

Hi. I am not a student at your school but the professor of my class is out of town and I am stuck on a homework problem. If you could help me then I would appreciate it. I need to work the following problem, using only rules of inference and not conditional or indirect proofs.

. . . logic problem follows . . .

It used to be that when you tried to get strangers to do your homework for you, you would pretend it wasn’t homework.


More missile defense coolness

April 4, 2008

The YAL-1 Airborne Laser, explained in a Boeing promotional video.  (Warning: fairly cheesy.)  Apparently they’ve licked the problem of atmospheric distortion by analyzing the return from a tracking laser before firing the high-energy laser.


NY legislature takes a stand against libel tourism

April 4, 2008

The New York legislature has unanimously passed the Libel Tourism Projection Act.  I’m not sure how much this will actually do to address the problem, but it definitely sends the right message.

(Via LGF.)


UN Human Rights Council sinks even lower

April 4, 2008

No longer content with using the UN Human Rights Council to protect themselves from criticism, Arab and Muslim countries now seek to use it to curtail free speech elsewhere:

Arab and Muslim countries defended Tuesday a resolution they pushed through at the United Nations to have the body’s expert on free speech police individuals and news media for negative comments on Islam. . .

Pakistan’s ambassador, Masood Khan, speaking on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, denied the resolution would limit free speech. It only tries to make freedom of expression responsible, he said.

“Responsible” speech, of course, is speech that we don’t disapprove of.  Well, surely this was controversial, right?  They only won narrowly, right?

The statement proposed by Egypt and Pakistan . . . passed 32-0 last week at the council.

Oh.

(Via LGF.)


Mugabe cracks down

April 4, 2008

Mugabe makes clear he has no intention of leaving power:

Zimbabwe’s government staged separate police raids on Thursday against the main opposition party, foreign journalists and at least one democracy advocate, raising the specter of a broad crackdown aimed at keeping the country’s imperiled leaders in power.

With the government facing election results that threaten its 28-year reign, security officers raided the Miekles Hotel in central Harare on Thursday afternoon, searching rooms that the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, had rented for election operations. . .

About the same time, a second group of riot officers sealed off the York Lodge, a small hotel in suburban Harare that is frequented by foreign journalists. A lodge worker . . . said six people were detained, including Barry Bearak, a correspondent for The New York Times who was later located in a Harare jail.

Raids on the opposition party, arrests of foreign journalists, and no official election results yet.  Yep, I’m sure this runoff is going to be fair.


Best error message, ever

April 4, 2008

From Call of Duty 4 on the Xbox 360:

Error during initialization: Microsoft error SESSION_FULL when calling XSessionJoinRemote() for session gameSession for clientNum 12 — xuid 9000001965691

What, no stack trace?


Obama owes lead to Chicago

April 3, 2008

Tom Elia makes a striking observation:

Of Sen. Obama’s 711,000 popular-vote lead, 650,000or more than 90% of the total margin— comes from Sen. Obama’s home state of Illinois, with 429,000 of that lead coming from his home base of Cook County.

That margin in Cook County represents almost 60%of Obama’s total lead nationwide.

Interestingly, Sen. Obama’s 429,000-vote margin in Cook County alone is larger than the winning margin of either candidate in any state.

(Via Instapundit.)

I’ll come out and say what neither Elia or Reynolds wants to say, but everyone is thinking.  This is Chicago; is there any good reason to believe those votes are real?  Does Obama even have a significant lead at all?

This underscores another aspect of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers in establishing the Electoral College.  With the College in place, a single corrupt city can steal only one state.  Without it, one or two cities like Chicago or Seattle could steal the entire election.


Canada will stay in Afghanistan

April 3, 2008

Prime Minister Harper made the announcement today:

Canada accomplished what it set out to achieve at the NATO summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday, including having the conditions met for extending the country’s mission in Afghanistan.

(Via Instapundit.) 

Between that, and the French pledge of more troops, it’s a good day for the Afghan people, and for the global war on terror.


US News rankings for programming languages

April 3, 2008

The US News and World Report rankings of graduate programs are out.  In addition to ranking schools by strength in fields overall, they also rank specialty areas such as programming languages.  (No permalink.)  Let’s take a look:

1 Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA
2 University of California–Berkeley

Berkeley, CA
3 Stanford University

Stanford, CA
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA
5 Cornell University

Ithaca, NY
6 Princeton University

Princeton, NJ
University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign

Urbana, IL
8 University of Texas–Austin

Austin, TX
9 Rice University

Houston, TX
10 University of Wisconsin–Madison

Madison, WI

This list seems pretty much random.  I’m glad to see my school on top, but the rest of the list is so strange that I can’t honestly take much satisfaction from it.  The University of Pennsylvania, which has one of the strongest groups in PL, doesn’t make the list at all!

Are all the US News rankings this bad?  Probably, yes.  One of the principles I’ve learned is when the media is wrong about anything of which I have direct knowledge, it’s probably wrong about everything else as well.

BONUS: Glenn Reynolds has some related thoughts about law school rankings.


NATO endorses missile shield

April 3, 2008

NATO leaders agreed to extend our missile defense system to cover Europe by installing a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland.

Missile defense is now official policy not only of the United States, but of NATO as well. Hopefully this will make it hard for the Democrats to shut down a system that is already installed and working. Honestly, I don’t understand why they continue to oppose it. The system is built and has passed 28 of 29 tests since it was deployed. Reagan, their nemesis, has passed away. It simply goes beyond reason now.

BONUS: An interesting video on the state-of-the-art in missile defense. (Via Instapundit.) It’s half an hour long, but well worth it if you’re interested in missile defense. (Bear with it, they do eventually point the camera at the screen.)

UPDATE (6/17): Sigh, the testing record link is stale now. I assemble my own chronology here. With my conservative methodology, I calculated a 23-2 record.


Zimbabwe runoff is back on

April 3, 2008

It’s hard to keep up with the pace of events in Zimbabwe, but it seems to fluctuate between three states:

  1. Mugabe will steal the election outright.
  2. Mugabe will rig the results enough for a runoff, which he will try to steal.
  3. Mugabe will leave office voluntarily.

State three always seemed far-fetched, but there was enough talk of it from supposedly informed sources that I began to hope.  Now things appear to have settled into state two.  This isn’t good news; Mugabe now knows how many votes he’s going to have to steal to win.  Expect to see him “win” the runoff by a narrow margin.


What’s three little years among friends?

April 3, 2008

The Independent runs a 2005 photo as evidence of a depression in 2008. (Via Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit.)

BONUS: Roger de Hauteville spots an MP3 player on the impoverished man in the foreground.


Columbia Journalism Review rebukes Obama and media over 100-years distortion

April 3, 2008

The Columbia Journalism Review actually gets the story right:

Ever since John McCain said at a town hall meeting in January that he could see U.S. troops staying in Iraq for a hundred years, the Democrats have been trying to use the quote to paint the Arizona senator as a dangerous warmonger. And lately, Barack Obama in particular has stepped up his attacks on McCain’s “100 years” notion.

But in doing so, Obama is seriously misleading voters—if not outright lying to them—about exactly what McCain said. And some in the press are failing to call him on it.

Next, CJR goes on to rebuke the media for not calling Obama on this:

Still, some outlets continue to portray the issue as a he-said, she-said spat. A long takeout on the controversy by ABC News, opining that McCain’s comment “handed his Democratic opponents and war critics a weapon with which to bludgeon him,” is headlined: “McCain’s 100 Year Remark Hands Ammo to War Critics: McCain Haunted by January Remarks Suggesting 100 More Years in Iraq.” And today’s L.A. Times story, headlined “Obama, McCain Bicker Over Iraq,” is similarly neutral.

To be fair, the ABC News piece does provide the quote in its full context, giving enough information to allow conscientious readers to figure out the truth. That’s better than the L.A. Times piece, which says only that “McCain has stressed since then that he meant that U.S. troops might need to remain to support Iraqi forces, not to wage full-scale warfare”—instead of simply telling readers that it’s clear from the context that McCain did indeed mean that. Still, neither piece stated high up and unequivocally that Obama is distorting McCain’s words.

(Via Hot Air.)

I think the media rebuke is the more important one. Unlike politicians, newspapers actually care a little bit about their reputation for honesty.


Sign of the times

April 2, 2008

Another use for the iPhone: Sometimes it’s just too much trouble to get up from your armchair and walk two steps to your computer.


Cool

April 2, 2008

Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall somewhere?  Soon you can.


Firefly as evil misogynist fantasy

April 2, 2008

Wow.  It’s hard to know what to say about this.  (Warning: vulgarity.)  Jonah Goldberg thinks it’s hilarious, but I actually find it a bit disturbing.  How does one get to the point of seeing the world through that kind of lens?

(For the record:  All four of my regular readers know about Firefly already, but in case you haven’t, it is simply the best show ever to grace the small screen.)


China provides intelligence on Iranian nuclear program to UN

April 2, 2008

This AP story seems potentially important.  It’s frustratingly short of information on the substance of the Chinese briefing, though.


Whither NATO

April 2, 2008

Stephen Green asks whether NATO serves any purpose any more:

So now we’re inviting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.

Great. Uh… then what?

NATO used to mean something. It used to do something. Namely: defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. If Russian tanks ever came streaming across the North German Plain, we had a plan in place to deal with it. . .

If Russia were to attack Ukraine, what would we do? Lithuania? How about even Poland, or eastern Germany? Do we have a plan? . . .

Well, no.  NATO isn’t a defensive alliance anymore. It’s a club. . .  It’s an alliance without a plan, and without even a real enemy.

Actually, I think NATO’s primary purpose is the same as it ever was, to defend Europe against Russian attack.  Whatever else NATO does is a sideshow.  For now, of course, the Russian threat has receded, and that’s reflected in NATO’s clubliness.  In the future, who can say?  Particularly in light of Putin’s recent belligerence, I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that the Russian threat is gone forever.

The reason to expand NATO is simple: to consolidate our gains.  We’re pushing the tripwire all the way back to Russia’s doorstep.  Conquerors typically start with a few small countries that no one cares much about before they start the real campaign.  We’re telling the Kremlin that at their first sign of aggression, they will have to deal with us.

Make no mistake: the Kremlin sees this.  That’s why they scream bloody murder every time NATO expands.  I’m not saying that Putin has any plans to expand, but I’m sure he hasn’t ruled it out.  This makes it look a little less attractive.

So, sure, we should have a plan for a war with Russia.  What’s more, I’m sure we do.  If, God forbid, we ever need to fight that war, I’m sure the plan will fare no better than any other plan ever does.  Still, at least we’ll be starting a little farther east.


More on Basra

April 2, 2008

Allahpundit is puzzled by all the differing accounts.  He guesses:

My hunch, as I’ve said before, is that this will end up like Israel’s war with Hezbollah insofar as (a) the media pronounced it an unmitigated disaster, (b) the damage to the bad guys was much greater than reported, and (c) even so, the mission ultimately failed to cripple a lethal Iranian proxy, leaving it to regroup and fight another day after it’s been extravagantly resupplied.

I worry that he might be right about (c), which is why I find Roggio’s report somewhat reassuring.

UPDATE and BUMP: Instapundit has more.


Clinton fired for unethical conduct during Watergate inquiry

April 2, 2008

Dan Calabrese has a blockbuster column on Hillary Clinton’s unethical behavior while serving on the legal staff of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings.  (Via Hot Air.)  There’s a lot of material here, but here’s the juiciest thread:

Jerry Zeifman, a lifelong Democrat, supervised the work of 27-year-old Hillary Rodham on the committee. . . When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation – one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career. . .

She was one of several individuals – including [Burke] Marshall, special counsel John Doar and senior associate special counsel (and future Clinton White House Counsel) Bernard Nussbaum – who engaged in a seemingly implausible scheme to deny Richard Nixon the right to counsel during the investigation.

The actions of Hillary and her cohorts went directly against the judgment of top Democrats . . . that Nixon clearly had the right to counsel. Zeifman says that Hillary, along with Marshall, Nussbaum and Doar, was determined to gain enough votes on the Judiciary Committee to change House rules and deny counsel to Nixon. And in order to pull this off, Zeifman says Hillary wrote a fraudulent legal brief, and confiscated public documents to hide her deception.

The brief involved precedent for representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding. When Hillary endeavored to write a legal brief arguing there is no right to representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding, Zeifman says, he told Hillary about the case of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who faced an impeachment attempt in 1970. . .

The Judiciary Committee allowed Douglas to keep counsel, thus establishing the precedent. Zeifman says he told Hillary that all the documents establishing this fact were in the Judiciary Committee’s public files. So what did Hillary do?

“Hillary then removed all the Douglas files to the offices where she was located, which at that time was secured and inaccessible to the public,” Zeifman said. Hillary then proceeded to write a legal brief arguing there was no precedent for the right to representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding – as if the Douglas case had never occurred.

The brief was so fraudulent and ridiculous, Zeifman believes Hillary would have been disbarred if she had submitted it to a judge.

(Emphasis mine.)  The credibility of Zeifman’s charges are bolstered (if Clinton’s subsequent behavior weren’t enough) by his contemporaneous notes of the affair:

Zeifman says he was urged by top committee members to keep a diary of everything that was happening. He did so, and still has the diary if anyone wants to check the veracity of his story. Certainly, he could not have known in 1974 that diary entries about a young lawyer named Hillary Rodham would be of interest to anyone 34 years later. But they show that the pattern of lies, deceit, fabrications and unethical behavior was established long ago.

This revelation won’t change the coveted Internet Scofflaw endorsement.  Here at Internet Scofflaw we aren’t under any illusions regarding Hillary Clinton’s character, but we still see her as the lesser of two evils.


More on Pizza Hut’s defenseless-driver policy

April 2, 2008

The Pizza Hut driver who last week shot an armed robber is still not back at work, according to the Des Moines Register:

Spiers, who has a valid handgun permit, said he’s been “pretty much in the dark” about his job since the incident. . .  “I just know that, given what happened, it’s not likely I’ll have a job anyway,” Spiers said. “Right now, I’m just taking some time off, trying to cool things down.”

(Via Instapundit.)

People aren’t happy about this:

A state senator said he would stop buying Pizza Hut products if the pizza chain fires a Des Moines delivery man who shot a teen who tried to rob him at gunpoint. . .  “What I want everybody to know … is that there is people out there supporting this man and his right to defend himself,” Zaun said.

As I see it, Pizza Hut’s defenseless-driver policy is part a consensual business arrangement between them and their drivers, so they would be within their rights if they fire him (as reprehensible as it would be to do so).  On the other hand, any purchases that we might make at Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Taco Bell in the future are consensual business arrangements as well.


Obama takes money from oil interests, ad notwithstanding

April 2, 2008

Factcheck.org takes Obama to task on his latest ad:

Technically, that’s true, since a law that has been on the books for more than a century prohibits corporations from giving money directly to any federal candidate. But that doesn’t distinguish Obama from his rivals in the race. . .

  • Obama has accepted more than $213,000 from individuals who work for companies in the oil and gas industry and their spouses.
  • Two of Obama’s bundlers are top executives at oil companies and are listed on his Web site as raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the presidential hopeful.

(Via Instapundit.)


A secret change to tenure rules?

April 2, 2008

At Baylor University, Inside Higher Ed reports:

Senior administrators have come to believe that departmental standards were not rigorous enough and so applied new standards, which have never been shared with faculty leaders, let alone with those who submitted tenure portfolios under the old standards. Largely as a result, tenure denials at Baylor this year — which have been about 10 percent annually in recent years — shot up to 40 percent.

(Via Instapundit.)

Setting aside the unfairness of this, Baylor is shooting themselves in the foot here.  It really can hurt recruiting if prospective hires worry that they won’t be treated fairly.  I can think of one major institution in particular (not mine, in case you’re wondering) that developed such a bad reputation that it was unable to hire anyone that would meet their standards for tenure.


Automating attractiveness judgements

April 1, 2008

Determining whether or not a face is attractive no longer requires human computation. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have implemented an automated system to judge whether a face is attractive or not. (Via Instapundit.) The system is based on the idea that the most beautiful face is one whose features are close to the average.

The psychological research doesn’t sound new; I first heard the observation that beautiful equals average about 20 years ago. On the other hand, the vision problems implicit in the project sound hard. (For example, the article doesn’t say this, but surely they must locate the cheekbones in order to judge whether a face is attractive.)

In a way, though, this work is a pity. Now that a computer can tell whether a face is attractive, we’ll have to give up any hope that people will start using CAPTCHAs based on pretty faces. Oh well.


Operations in Basra continuing

April 1, 2008

Bill Roggio reports at the Long War Journal that the Iraqi Army’s operations are continuing against those Mahdi Army elements that refuse to lay down their arms.  To the extent that peace has fallen, it’s because most of the Mahdi Army has obeyed al-Sadr’s call to lay down their arms.

The mainstream media seems convinced that this is a defeat for al-Maliki, but I don’t get it, at least not yet.  If the Iraqi government ends as the sole military power in southern Iraq (other than the coalition), Maliki wins.  The possible problem is that Sadr has been able to preserve his base of power after defeats in the past, but it looks as though Maliki may finally be wise to him.


Mugabe may leave office

April 1, 2008

Earlier today the talk was of a runoff election between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.  This would give Mugabe another shot at rigging the election, which apparently he didn’t do well enough the first time.

Now that talk seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Official sources are now saying that Mugabe is prepared to step down, and the sticking point is getting agreement from the army chief of staff.  Gateway Pundit has a roundup.  (Via Instapundit.)

I’m still skeptical about this.  I find it hard to believe that Mugabe would ever leave office voluntarily, but I hope I’m wrong.


Belichick: no other cheating, we swear

April 1, 2008

Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, insists that the time they got caught was the only time they ever cheated.  The Patriots are under investigation again after allegations that a former employee has illegal tapes of a St. Louis Rams practice.

Best quote:

“I’ve never seen a tape of another team’s practice. Ever!” [Belichick] said Tuesday. “Certainly not that one.”

He also argues that their successful season proves they aren’t cheating any more.  I’m not sure I follow his logic.

For the record: I don’t see anything really wrong with gathering intelligence at any open event, but the rules are the rules.

Also: Why the hell is the US Senate involving itself in this?


China under pressure

April 1, 2008

Stop blocking the internet, Olympics committee tells China.  The IOC wants journalists to have uncensored access to the Internet during the games.  “More backbone than I’d expected,” remarks Glenn Reynolds.  I guess I agree, but only because I expected none at all.  China’s likely response is “or what?”, to which the IOC can have no response.  They lost whatever leverage they had long ago.

On the other hand, Bhaichung Bhutia has some backbone.  A national sports hero of India, he has refused to carry the Olympic torch because of the China’s crackdown in Tibet.  Plus there’s this gem:

China was infuriated last month when Tibetan protesters broke into the Chinese Embassy compound in Delhi.

Yep, it’s bad when your embassy is violated.

Finally, no April Fool: I agree with Nancy Pelosi about something.


NYT hits a new low

April 1, 2008

The New York Times goes where it must to find the desired narrative; in this case a news story written in the first-person by a former captain from Saddam’s army.  (Via Instapundit.)  Wow.

UPDATE: Instapundit prints a letter from another NYT reporter defending the article.