The Alaskan National Guard

August 31, 2008

One point raised by Sarah Palin’s supporters is that she has military experience as Commander of the Alaskan National Guard. That point struck me as a little lame, although Palin has taken her military job more seriously than many governors (visiting troops in the Middle East and injured troops in Germany), it still didn’t seem very substantial. Certainly it never seemed convincing when Governor Bill Clinton made that point.

But, it turns out that there is much more substance to the Alaskan National Guard than I thought. A National Review correspondent writes that, due to Alaska’s location next to Russia, its National Guard is much more serious than any other. For example, it has a unit on permanent active duty manning a missile interceptor system protecting all of North America.

I’m glad to hear it. But, it still sounds lame. They need to get the facts out, and fast.

UPDATE and BUMP: Here’s two articles on the Alaskan Guard’s missile defense mission, from 2006 and 2007.  (Via the Corner.)

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Laser gunship tested

August 31, 2008

Extremely cool. I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the deniability aspect doesn’t make much sense, but it would be just as awesome used overtly:

According to the developers, the accuracy of this weapon is little short of supernatural. They claim that the pinpoint precision can make it lethal or non-lethal at will. For example, they say it can either destroy a vehicle completely, or just damage the tires to immobilize it. The illustration shows a theoretical 26-second engagement in which the beam deftly destroys “32 tires, 11 Antennae, 3 Missile Launchers, 11 EO devices, 4 Mortars, 5 Machine Guns” — while avoiding harming a truckload of refugees and the soldiers guarding them. It reminds me of how the Lone Ranger could always shoot the gun out an opponent’s hand without injuring them; if that could really be done from an aircraft circling overhead, it would certainly be an impressive feat.

This precision should make the ATL a highly effective anti-personnel weapon, able to target (or “assassinate,” depending on your politics) a specific individual in a group with sniper-like precision.


Non-stem cell breakthrough

August 31, 2008

A few months ago, researchers discovered that they could create stem cells from adult cells, thereby saving time and effort and avoiding ethical issues.  Now, that discovery has been one-upped.  A new technique skips the middle-man: it converts an adult cell into a different sort of adult cell, without creating any stem cell at all.


Transcoding is legal

August 31, 2008

A federal judge has ruled that converting video from one format to another cannot be, in itself, copyright infringement.  (Via Instapundit.)


Economics and law

August 31, 2008

RideLust makes a great observation (within a larger article summarizing the extensive evidence that red-light cameras don’t work):

Under our current democratic government, good laws (laws that benefit everyone) are a “public good” (their “producers” don’t receive enough of their value to make it worth the effort) and thus are under-provided; while bad laws (laws that benefit special interests at the expense of everyone else) are a “private good” (their “producers” receive most of their value) and thus over-provided.

(Via Bruce Schneier, via Instapundit.)


UCLA professor alleges its admissions violate the law

August 31, 2008

UCLA professor Tim Groseclose (known to readers of this blog as an author of the Groseclose-Milyo media bias index) is a former member of UCLA’s Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools.  He has resigned from the committee, alleging that UCLA is breaking California law by considering race in its admissions.

As the old adage goes, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.  Much of Groseclose’s evidence (pdf) is damning but circumstantial.  (For example, the university chancellor’s made remarks to the committee lamenting the decline in minority admissions and demanding that they put into place a new “holistic” system that would make it impossible for judge academic achievement separately from personal factors (pp. 3-4).)  So Groseclose, an economist, set out to look at hard numbers to see what the new admissions policy was actually doing.

Despite serving on the committee that oversees admissions, he was refused access to even a sample of the data.  After further agitation, it was decided that a “workgroup” would conduct a study that would be an official product of the committee.  Groseclose was appointed to the workgroup (they could hardly refuse him), but then the chair of the workgroup determined that the workgroup would not be permitted to look at the data either (p. 9)!  Instead, the workgroup’s sole purpose would be to hire an independent researcher who would do the study.

Groseclose’s motion that the workgroup should get access to a sample of the data was defeated by a 3-3 vote (pp. 9-10).  The same block of three votes (including the chairmen of the committee and the workgroup) that dismissed the motion also rejected several candidates to do the study and selected UCLA sociologist Robert Mare to do the study.  (Groseclose volunteered to do the study himself for free, which would have saved UCLA about $100k (p. 10), and with considerably stronger privacy guarantees than Mare (p. 11).)

The process gives every impression that UCLA has something to hide.  In fact, the workgroup chairman himself made an unguarded remark (p. 9) stating explicitly that he wished to control access to the data to prevent any dissenting report.

UCLA has responded to the allegations in an unconvincing fashion.  It trumpets the upcoming study when Groseclose has already shown the study to be part of the cover-up effort.


Obama: I rely on my incompetent staff

August 31, 2008

My paraphrase, of course. A Politico article discusses how Obama keeps blaming his staff for misrepresenting him on policy and tone (giving several examples, the latest being a nasty statement about Sarah Palin). Nevertheless, he relies on them utterly:

Obama’s penchant for publicly rebuking his staff stands in sharp contrast to his declarations about how important they are to his management strategy, as well as the all for one, one for all mentality that he encourages in them. . .

And at the Las Vegas debate, Obama said he relies on his staff to neutralize his disorganization, which he said was his greatest weakness.

“I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it, because I will lose it,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I’ve got to have somebody around me who is keeping track of that stuff. And that’s not trivial; I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run. That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s why we run not only a good campaign but a good U.S. Senate office.”

(Via Instapundit.)


How Palin got the nod

August 31, 2008

The Washington Post reports:

Their first encounter was last February at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Sarah Palin was one of several governors who met privately with Sen. John McCain, by then well on his way to capturing the Republican presidential nomination, and her directness and knowledge were impressive.

Later that day, at a largely social gathering organized by his campaign, McCain spent 15 minutes in private conversation with the first-term Alaska governor. “I remember him talking about her when he came back,” a McCain adviser said. “He said she was an impressive woman. He liked her.”

But few people outside McCain’s inner circle were privy to just how much of an impression Palin had made that day. . . By the time she arrived in Arizona last Wednesday to meet first with two top McCain advisers and then the next day with the candidate and his wife, Cindy, the job was hers to lose. . .

Far from being a last-minute tactical move or a second choice when better known alternatives were eliminated, Palin was very much in McCain’s thinking from the beginning of the selection process, according to McCain’s advisers. The 44-year-old governor made every cut as the first list of candidates assembled last spring was slowly winnowed. The more McCain learned about her, the more attracted he was to her as someone who shared his maverick, anti-establishment instincts.

(Via Polipundit.)


Russia blocks Georgians from returning home

August 31, 2008

It has dropped out of the news, but Russia is still flagrantly violating the cease-fire it agreed to by remaining in Georgian territory (even outside the breakaway regions) and blocking Georgian refugees from returning to their homes.


AP: New Orleans repeating its mistakes

August 30, 2008

This AP story ran last week, before Gustav targeted New Orleans:

Signs are emerging that history is repeating itself in the Big Easy, still healing from Katrina: People have forgotten a lesson from four decades ago and believe once again that the federal government is constructing a levee system they can prosper behind.

In a yearlong review of levee work here, The Associated Press tracked a pattern of public misperception, political jockeying and legal fighting, along with economic and engineering miscalculations since Katrina, that threaten to make New Orleans the scene of another devastating flood.

When your city’s life depends — literally — on levies, you ought to take them seriously.  Instead, New Orleans made them part of its system of patronage and corruption.  Apparently it still is.

It’s a little known fact that Katrina probably actually saved thousands of lives.  The Army Corps of Engineers investigation showed that the levies weren’t constructed properly and were doomed to fail eventually.  By breaking the levies when the city was largely evacuated, Katrina probably saved countless lives.  Imagine what would have happened if the levies had given way while the city was full.


Dog bites man

August 30, 2008

We interrupt this election blogging with news from Grant Street: new corruption allegations leveled at Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Oh wait, that’s hardly news at all.


Palin on CNBC

August 30, 2008

Video here of a conversation with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo about energy policy, from before she became McCain’s running mate. There’s nothing particularly newsworthy here, but she clearly knows what she’s talking about.  She also gets in some jabs at Biden for opposing the Alaskan pipeline.


Rasmussen: No bounce for Obama

August 30, 2008

Rasmussen finds the race in about the same place as before the Democratic convention.  This largely excludes any impact from the Palin pick.


Michael Moore is a class act

August 30, 2008

He sets politics aside and hopes that Hurricane Gustav peters out before hitting the Gulf coast.

Just kidding. He’s delighted to see Gustav looming:

I was just thinking, this Gustav is proof that there is a God in heaven,” Moore said, laughing. “To have it planned at the same time – that it would actually be on its way to New Orleans for day one of the Republican Convention, up in the Twin Cities – at the top of the Mississippi River.”

The thing is, I don’t know why anyone would be surprised at this. Moore’s reaction to 9/11 (other than to blame America), was to lament that the hijackers hadn’t attacked red states instead. This is not a good person.

UPDATE: It’s not just Moore either.


Palin for VP

August 30, 2008

I’ve been following Sarah Palin since she came out of nowhere to save Alaska in 2006.  I’ve also been following Bobby Jindal, the other future superstar on the GOP bench.  It’s an unfortunate fact that the GOP bench is not very deep right now.  I would have rather not have tapped either of them for another four years, but the fact is McCain needs a running mate now.

That said, Palin is simply awesome.  She has certainly accomplished more in her time as governor and mayor than Obama has in his time as senator and state senator.  This is easy since Obama has accomplished nothing at all, but we needn’t rely on that, because she has accomplished quite a lot in her short time in office.  First, she single-handedly cleaned up her state and saved the Alaska GOP, and had to scale mountains to do it: she came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent Frank Murkowski in the primary and former governor Tony Knowles in the general election, and then forced through ethics reforms that were opposed by her own party.

She has also fought against earmarks (again, sadly, against her own party).  She was the one who killed the most famous pork-barrel project ever, the “bridge to nowhere.”  Better yet (from Alaska’s perspective) she managed to hold on to the Federal money and spend it on more worthwhile projects.

She’s also been a leader on energy issues.  She negotiated a pipeline with Canada (not one of the other three candidates can make any such claim) and has been fighting to open up Alaska’s north slope for oil drilling.

Beyond her CV, Palin is simply really cool.  Her personal story is awesome, and she’s a terrific speaker.  Her first speech with McCain yesterday was electric and I think she’ll be very effective on the stump and at the convention.

Palin’s greatest weakness is her lack of experience compared to Biden.  Although one can argue that she has much more executive experience than all three other candidates combined, most people won’t see it that way, at least at first.  She needs to convince people that she is prepared for the office.  If she can do that, she’ll be a great running mate.

POSTSCRIPT: I confess to being overly glib above where I said that Obama has no accomplishments.  Obama does have one accomplishment, the Coburn-Obama-McCain-Carper earmark reform act.  Of course, he shares that accomplishment with McCain.


/AFK

August 30, 2008

I’m back. Did I miss anything?


AFK

August 27, 2008

No blogging for a couple of days. Back this weekend.


Biden’s plagiarisms

August 26, 2008

David Greenberg takes a trip down memory lane.  (Via Instapundit.)


Totten: Russia fired first

August 26, 2008

Michael Totten is in Georgia and has a lengthy account of the origins of the war, but he leads with a huge scoop:

Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Via Instapundit, who reports that, by curious coincidence, Totten’s site was under a denial of service attack earlier today.  I can confirm that I had trouble loading it earlier today, and it usually stands up perfectly well under an Instalanche.


Callous inconvenience as policy

August 26, 2008

Seattle is arbitrarily closing streets to discourage car use:

Car-free days is part of Mayor Greg Nickels’ campaign to encourage people to walk, bike or take mass transit.  One neighborhood is closed off to car traffic during selected weekends this summer.  On Sunday it was the area around 14th and Republican on Capitol Hill, a residential area that’s normally quiet anyway.

“I think it promotes awareness of whatever we’re promoting awareness of,” said resident Thomas Hubbard.

“A car passes by every once in a while, just people trying to get home. And they don’t know how to get home,” said resident Matt O’Connor. . .

Adding insult to injury, the cars owned by some residents in the neighborhood were towed because the city wanted to clear the streets.

Words fail me.

(Via the Corner.)


The price of national glorification

August 26, 2008

Human Rights in China has a post-mortem on the Beijing olympics. Here’s their conclusion:

The total costs of staging a show of national glorification will be borne by the ordinary people in China, a fact perhaps not immediately apparent to the foreign visitors who marveled at the splendid new architecture on the temporarily cleaned-up streets of Beijing. The Chinese government spent close to $43 billion to host the Beijing Olympics, the most expensive Games ever in Olympic history. That is almost one-third of the projected $146 billion needed to rebuild the areas devastated by the earthquake in Sichuan.

The serious air pollution and water shortage crisis in China was both temporarily addressed and worsened by hosting the Games. Although Chinese authorities and the IOC insisted that the air quality posed no problems for the athletes, it is Chinese citizens who will bear the health costs for the ongoing impact of environmental pollution, especially after temporary Olympics air pollution measures are lifted. The Beijing Olympics also consumed an estimated 200 million cubic meters of water—the equivalent of the annual water supply for one million people—all diverted from Hebei, a nearby province facing a severe drought over the past several years.

As the post-Beijing Olympics assessments begin, Human Rights in China looks forward to a time when the Chinese government truly puts the people first, and celebrates those working to build a true harmonious society in China.

(Via the Corner.)


Obama campaign seeks to silence critic

August 26, 2008

The Obama campaign is asking the Department of Justice to silence Harold Simmons, a man spending his own money to attack Barack Obama:

Sen. Barack Obama has launched an all-out effort to block a Republican billionaire’s efforts to tie him to domestic and foreign terrorists in a wave of negative television ads.

Obama’s campaign has written the Department of Justice demanding a criminal investigation of the “American Issues Project,” the vehicle through which Dallas investor Harold Simmons is financing the advertisements. The Obama campaign — and tens of thousands of supporters — also is pressuring television networks and affiliates to reject the ads. The effort has met with some success: CNN and Fox News are not airing the attacks.

What part of “freedom of speech” don’t they understand? In addition to trying to get the DOJ to investigate this guy (which presumably will not happen), they are threatening stations that accept the ads:

Obama’s campaign has written a pair of letters to station managers carrying the ads.

The letter calls the ad’s attempt to link Obama to terrorism “an appalling lie, a disgraceful smear of the lowest kind on the senator’s patriotism and commitment to the rule of law.”

Airing the ad “is inconsistent with your station’s obligations under Federal Communications Commission regulations,” the letter continues.

(Via JustOneMInute, via Instapundit.)

Also, remember the time when the word “lie” was reserved for statements or implications that were, you know, factually untrue? Here’s the ad Obama wants to squelch. It’s nasty, but every word is true.

Obama has also decided to run a response ad. Unlike Simmons’s ad, it actually does lie, by implying that McCain is running the ad when he isn’t. Other than that, the response strikes me as pretty weak. That’s mainly because there’s very little in Simmons’s ad to contradict.

POSTSCRIPT: Setting everything else aside, isn’t it strange that the Obama campaign has decided to make a big deal out of this? The media was covering it up for him before, but now they can’t.


More Olympic fakery

August 25, 2008

This is over a week old, but I’ve only now noticed it. The Telegraph reports:

Another section of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony has been exposed as faked – the children supposedly representing the country’s 56 ethnic groups were in fact all from the same one, the majority Han Chinese race.

The children carried the national flag into the Bird’s Nest National Stadium, before handing it over to soldiers to raise at the most solemn moment of the ceremony.

They were dressed in costumes associated with the country’s ethnic minorities, including those from troubled areas such as Tibet and the muslim province of Xinjiang. Such displays of “national unity” are a compulsory part of any major state occasion.

But the children were all from the Han Chinese majority, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the population and is culturally and politically dominant, according to an official with the cultural troupe from which they were selected. . .

The official guide to the opening ceremony said that the children did not just represent but came from China’s ethnic groups.


You reap what you sow

August 25, 2008

Obama asked for this with his too-many-houses ad:


Heh

August 25, 2008

Iowahawk’s latest scoop:

With new polls showing Barack Obama’s once-commanding lead over John McCain all but evaporated, the Obama campaign announced today it has begun deploying its vast volunteer army of downtown hipster douchebags to help reconnect the presumptive Democratic candidate with middle-American voters.

(Via Instapundit.)


David and Goliath

August 25, 2008

Lone accountant beats the IRS:

It took seven years, but Charles Ulrich did something many people dream about, but few succeed at: He beat the IRS in a tax dispute.

Not only that, but tax experts say potentially millions of other taxpayers could benefit from his victory.

The accountant from Baxter, Minn., challenged the method the IRS has used for more than 20 years to tax shares and cash distributed by mutual life insurance firms to their policyholders when they reorganize as public companies.

A federal court recently agreed with his interpretation.

Alas:

It’s not clear how many people could benefit from the ruling. Many of the 30 million policyholders are probably too late to seek refunds, since claims must be filed within three years of the April 15 tax deadline. That means the statute of limitations for taxes paid for 2004 ran out April 15, 2008.

And:

The government could appeal the ruling and likely will fight future refund claims, perhaps hoping for a different outcome in a separate court, tax experts said.


Biden is third most liberal Senator

August 25, 2008

According to National Journal (which rated Obama the Senate’s most liberal member), Joe Biden is the Senate’s third most liberal member.  Although he scored less liberal than Barack Obama, he managed to beat out Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders, who came in fourth.

So the Democrats have taken it on themselves to nominate nearly the most liberal ticket possible out of the Senate.  Hillary Clinton is a moderate by comparison, ranked 16th most liberal.

(Via the Corner.)


Army urges speedy production of FCS

August 25, 2008

Jane’s reports:

US Army officials continue to push for speedy production of Future Combat Systems (FCS), saying they are confident the system will save lives after observing its performance in a limited preliminary user test near Fort Bliss, Texas in late July.

Army officials tested the FCS ‘Spin Out 1’ kit during a training exercise from 27 to 31 July, operating the network of weapon systems in a mock village between White Sands Missile range and Fort Bliss. . .

FCS Spin Out 1 consists of a Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) for precision fires; a ‘B-kit’ computer system to share imagery; unattended sensors; an aerial drone known as the Class I Block 0 Micro Air Vehicle (MAV); and a ground-based robot known as the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

Cool.


What is jihad?

August 25, 2008

When I first learned about Islam, I was taught that “jihad” was the Islamic doctrine of holy war. Certainly this is Hamas’s view:

The Slogan of the Islamic Resistance Movement:

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.

Since 9/11, however, we’ve been told that jihad refers not to violence, but to a personal struggle for self-betterment. It’s even suggested that the violent interpretation of jihad is Western (!) in origin. So who’s right?

A Muslim group at USC has compiled a searchable database of the Koran and ahadith. (It’s a very impressive and professional effort, I must say.) So I searched it for “jihad”, and found some informative passages. Here are just a few:

Sahih Bukhari, book 52, number 42:

Allah’s Apostle said, “There is no Hijra (i.e. migration) (from Mecca to Medina) after the Conquest (of Mecca), but Jihad and good intention remain; and if you are called (by the Muslim ruler) for fighting, go forth immediately.

Sahih Bukhari, book 52, number 44:

A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” He replied, “I do not find such a deed.” Then he added, “Can you, while the Muslim fighter is in the battle-field, enter your mosque to perform prayers without cease and fast and never break your fast?” The man said, “But who can do that?” Abu- Huraira added, “The Mujahid (i.e. Muslim fighter) is rewarded even for the footsteps of his horse while it wanders bout (for grazing) tied in a long rope.”

Sahih Bukhari, book 24, number 547:

Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) ordered (a person) to collect Zakat, and that person returned and told him that Ibn Jamil, Khalid bin Al-Walid, and Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib had refused to give Zakat.” The Prophet said, “What made Ibn Jamll refuse to give Zakat though he was a poor man, and was made wealthy by Allah and His Apostle ? But you are unfair in asking Zakat from Khalid as he is keeping his armor for Allah’s Cause (for Jihad). As for Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, he is the uncle of Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) and Zakat is compulsory on him and he should pay it double.”

Mohammed certainly seemed to see jihad as a military struggle, at least in many cases.

UPDATE (12/30): Updated link to the Hamas “covenant”.


Michelle Obama pushes uninsured to other hospitals

August 25, 2008

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Sen. Barack Obama’s wife and three close advisers have been involved with a program at the University of Chicago Medical Center that steers patients who don’t have private insurance — primarily poor, black people — to other health care facilities.

Michelle Obama — currently on unpaid leave from her $317,000-a-year job as a vice president of the prestigious hospital — helped create the program, which aims to find neighborhood doctors for low-income people who were flooding the emergency room for basic treatment. Hospital officials say such patients hinder their ability to focus on more critically ill patients in need of specialized care, such as cancer treatment and organ transplants.

Obama’s top political strategist, David Axelrod, co-owns the firm, ASK Public Strategies, that was hired by the hospital last year to sell the program — called the Urban Health Initiative — to the community as a better alternative for poor patients. Obama’s wife and Valerie Jarrett, an Obama friend and adviser who chairs the medical center’s board, backed the Axelrod firm’s hiring, hospital officials said.

It’s quite possible that the poor patients that Obama is holding at arms length are better off for it.  Certainly the University of Chicago would make that argument.  But does anyone think that the argument would avail a Republican if his people were tied to this?  A Republican would be crucified for it.


Origin of the Taliban

August 25, 2008

An interesting essay by Michael Rubin.  (Via the Corner.)


Pelosi on Catholicism and abortion

August 25, 2008

Nancy Pelosi says that the Roman Catholic church has condemned abortion for only about 50 years. Ed Morrissey says she’s lying, but I think it’s much easier to assume she’s simply an idiot. Morrissey goes on to refute her claim, but that hardly seems necessary, does it?

ASIDE: Recalling last Earth Day, Pelosi really does seem to have a problem when she speaks on religion.

UPDATE: Another (unnecessary) rebuttal (pdf).  (Via the Corner.)


Don’t know much geography

August 25, 2008

Tim Kaine, the Governor of Virginia, says that Delaware borders Virginia.  The sad thing, this isn’t Kaine’s biggest gaffe this month.


A little late, Trent

August 25, 2008

Trent Lott concedes the GOP might have gotten a little carried away with the pork:

“But you know what, in my heart I knew [John McCain] was right,” [Lott] said of his pork barrel ways. That’s no way to do business, we shouldn’t be doing all that earmarking — it got completely out of control.

“It got out of control with Republicans and that’s why we are being punished a little bit,” he added. “Because we forgot how we got there, what we believed in, the principles that after 30 years put us in the majority, gave us the White House, the congress, the senate, the house. And then we ran out of ideas…”

(Via Instapundit.)


Preschool benefits unclear

August 24, 2008

An interesting op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. (Via Instapundit.) A few key points:

A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia’s universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee’s preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade.

What about Head Start, the 40-year-old, federal preschool program for low-income kids? Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly found that although Head Start kids post initial gains on IQ and other cognitive measures, in later years they become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids. . .

If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children. A 2005 analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Likewise, Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after universal preschool.

The only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are very intense interventions targeted toward severely disadvantaged kids. . .

There’s a political angle too: Barack Obama seems to be making some insupportable claims about pre-school benefits.


Boo hoo

August 24, 2008

Jane Hamsher and MoveOn think that the media coverage of Obama hasn’t been fawning enough; some critical articles have leaked through. They want the AP’s Washington bureau chief fired. (Via Jammie Wearing Fool, via Instapundit.)


Kos: best VP rollout ever

August 23, 2008

Kos shows us why it’s best to delay evaluating something until it has actually happened:

This has been the best veep rollout EVER. But alas, all good things must come to an end. . . And is there a better example than this that old media is getting left out in the cold?

Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room begging viewers to stay tuned so CNN can bring them coverage of a text message.

Brilliant! We’ve got a lot of campaign a head of us, but this has been the Obama campaign’s finest operation thus far.

I love seeing the old media left out in the cold as much as anyone, but I love seeing Kos be proved wrong even more, so I’m delighted to report that I learned about the choice of Biden from CNN around 1am last night, long before the next message went out.  Hours even before that, Biden looked almost certain from Fox News’s report of activity at his home.

CNN and Fox getting the story early is presumably the reason why the text message went out in the middle of the night, rather than when people were awake as the campaign promised.

In retrospect (note to Kos: best time to evaluate things), dragging it out until the last possible moment was too clever by half.  With camera crews camped outside the homes of all the candidates, there was no way to keep it a secret.


AP analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence

August 23, 2008

Of course, AP analyses are worth about what you pay for them.  Still, I think it’s interesting that even Obama’s choir is grumbling about this.

(Via Instapundit.)


Biden’s pattern of plagiarism

August 23, 2008

It turns out that Niel Kinnock isn’t the only one that Biden has plagiarized:

During his first months at Syracuse University Law School, in 1965, Biden failed a course because he wrote a paper that used five pages from a published law-review article without quotation marks or a proper footnote. Since Biden was allowed to make up the course, the revelation was front-page news only because it kept the copycat contretemps alive.

He was lucky not to be expelled.  A youthful indiscretion?  Perhaps, but remember the Biden has (bizarrely) held out his college performance as evidence of his superior intellect.

(Via Power Line.)


Biden on Obama

August 23, 2008

(Via LGF.)


Russia remains in Poti

August 23, 2008

The AP reports.


TNR on Biden

August 23, 2008

The New Republic profiled Biden in 2001. (Via the Corner.) Here are a few excerpts:

It’s a bright early October morning on Capitol Hill. Joe Biden is bounding up the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building, wearing his trademark grin. As he makes for the door, he is met by a group of airline pilots and flight attendants looking vaguely heroic in their navy-blue uniforms and wing-shaped pins. A blandly handsome man in a pilot’s cap steps forward and asks Biden to help pass emergency benefits for laid-off airline workers. Biden nods as the men and women cluster around him with fawning smiles. Then he speaks. “I hope you will support my work on Amtrak as much as I have supported you,” he begins. (Biden rides Amtrak to work every day and is obsessed with the railroad.) “If not, I will screw you badly.”

A dozen faces fall in unison as Biden lectures on. “You’ve not been good to me. You’re also damn selfish. You better listen to me…” It goes on like this for a couple of minutes. Strangely, Biden keeps grinning–even fraternally slapping the stunned man’s shoulder a couple of times. When we finally head into the building, Biden’s communications director, Norm Kurz, turns to me. “What you just witnessed is classic Senator Biden.”

Another:

Biden’s mouth does him as much harm as good. ” He gives Castro-length speeches,” says one exasperated Senate staffer. In Democratic caucus meetings, he is famous for declaring, “I’ll be brief,” and then talking the room into a stupor. (Biden’s colleagues have been known to burst into laughter when he makes that promise.) People who know Biden also warn that his loose talk often reflects muddled thinking. In his classic study of the 1988 presidential candidates, What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer wrote, “Joe often didn’t know what he thought until he had to say it.” In one recent committee debate, recalls an observer, Biden delivered a rambling explanation of his opposition to a foreign aid amendment, by the end of which he had seemed to talk himself out of his original position.

And one more:

In fact, the only thing Biden likes better than reminding people about his anti-terrorism bill is reminding them that he predicted the September 11 attacks. On September 10 Biden delivered a foreign policy speech to the National Press Club complaining about the administration’s fixation on missile defense. “The real threat comes to this country in the hold of a ship, the belly of a plane, or smuggled into a city in the middle of the night in a vial in a backpack,” Biden said. So give the man credit. Just not as much as he’s been claiming. “Literally as recently as yesterday, I spoke to the National Press Club and talked about the fact it is just as easy to fly from National Airport into the White House as it is to, you know, do the same thing in New York,” Biden told ABC News. Unfortunately Biden said no such thing. His speech didn’t mention National Airport or the White House–or any kamikaze scenario at all.


Obama: U.S. should be more like China

August 23, 2008

The human gaffe machine strikes again.  (Via Instapundit.)


FactCheck.org: Obama ad misleading

August 23, 2008

The non-partisan Annenberg Political Fact Check finds that Obama’s ad linking McCain to Ralph Reed is misleading.


Russia withdrawing from Georgia?

August 22, 2008

I’m skeptical, but, for what it’s worth, the AP is reporting mixed signs of a Russian pullout.

UPDATE: It appears that at least a partial pullout is underway.  The AP and the Washington Post are both reporting that Russia is out of Gori at least.  They are also both reporting that the pullout is incomplete.


A basic disconnect

August 22, 2008

For the record: I still don’t really care whether China cheated in the “women’s” gymnastic events by falsifying their ages. But I do find it fascinating that the Chinese (and the IOC) see the Chinese government’s say-so as conclusive.

There seems to be a basic disconnect here between the Chinese authoritarian mentality and ours. We don’t trust our own government, much less the government of China. The disconnect seems to leave them unable to form actual arguments, leaving them to fall back to statements like:

“Surely it’s not possible that these documents are still not sufficient proof of her birthdate?” [Chinese coach Lu Shanzan] asked. “The passports were issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The identity card was issued by China’s Ministry of Public Security. . .”

“The Chinese government and the Chinese athletes must be respected,” he added.

The Chinese government would have us believe that obedience to authority is a fundamental aspect of Chinese culture, and not just the training of its totalitarian regime.  Is it true?  I don’t think so; just look at Taiwan, and at Chinese expatriates throughout the world.  But I suppose China would argue that those others have abandoned Chinese culture.


Recalling Sebelius

August 22, 2008

Another rumored VP candidate for Obama is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.  Sebelius first came to my attention last year when she politicized a tornado disaster.  For reasons unknown, her emergency management teams blocked volunteers from helping in the devastated town of Greensburg.  But what made her famous was her claim that the war in Iraq was hampering recovery, because all the needed equipment was in Iraq.  This briefly made her the darling of the media, but it turned out to be false.  The Pentagon, when asked, said there was sufficient equipment in Kansas, plus additional resources she could have asked for (but did not) from neighboring states or the Federal government.  Indeed, only a tenth of the Kansas National Guard was deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In fact, Sebelius’s claim never made any sense in the first place.  (This was obvious to me when I first saw it on the news.)  Units don’t ship out to Iraq with their heavy equipment; they move personnel but use the equipment that is already there.  The only way the Kansas National Guard’s equipment could have been in Iraq if it was part of the initial buildup.  Even if that were the case (which seems unlikely), they would have had plenty of time by 2007 to replace it, and would have had their own leadership (Sebelius) to blame if they had not.


Carter supports Colombian free trade agreement

August 22, 2008

This puts most of the Democratic party to the left of Jimmy Carter on trade.  (Via the Corner.)

Recall that the Democrats changed the House rules to avoid a vote on the deal, for no reason whatsoever.


Say it so ain’t Joe!

August 22, 2008

Rumors are abounding that Obama will pick Joe Biden as his running mate. It strikes me as a bizarre choice. Biden is the premier windbag in an assembly of windbags (the U.S. Senate), a man who likes the sound of his voice so much he forgets to ask questions at confirmation hearings. It’s well known that he had to withdraw from the 1988 Presidential race after it was revealed that he plagiarized portions of his speeches.

And then there’s this, which I had forgotten:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a formal statement today acknowledging that he had misstated several facts about his past last April in a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. . .

Most of Mr. Biden’s statement was in response to a report in this week’s issue of Newsweek magazine on a tape recording made by the C-SPAN network of an appearance by Mr. Biden at a home in Claremont, N.H., on April 3. It was a typical coffee-klatch style appearance before a small group. . .

The tape, which was made available by C-SPAN in response to a reporter’s request, showed a testy exchange in response to a question about his law school record from a man identified only as ”Frank.” Mr. Biden looked at his questioner and said: ”I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.”

He then went on to say that he ”went to law school on a full academic scholarship – the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship,” Mr. Biden said. He also said that he ”ended up in the top half” of his class and won a prize in an international moot court competition. In college, Mr. Biden said in the appearance, he was ”the outstanding student in the political science department” and ”graduated with three degrees from college.” . . .

[The article goes on to show that four of these five claims were false.  For example, he graduated 76th out of 85.  The moot court prize was (probably) true.]

Mr. Biden acknowledged that in the testy exchange in New Hampshire, he had lost his temper. ”I exaggerate when I’m angry,” Mr. Biden said, ”but I’ve never gone around telling people things that aren’t true about me.” Mr. Biden’s questioner had made the query in a mild tone, but provoked an explosive response from Mr. Biden.

So by his own admission, when Biden gets angry, he tends to make things up — or (worse) he can’t remember the truth.

(Via Kausfiles, via Instapundit.)


The farce continues

August 22, 2008

Now it’s ten days until Russia says it will be out of Georgia.


Obama gives Putin cover

August 22, 2008

Obama draws an equivalence between Operation Iraqi Freedom and Russia’s invasion of Georgia:

Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again on Wednesday for invading another country’s sovereign territory while adding a new twist: the United States, he said, should set a better example on that front, too.

The Illinois senator’s opposition to the Iraq war, which his comment clearly referenced, is well known. But this was the first time the Democratic presidential candidate has made a comparison between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s recent military activity in Georgia.

“We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

It’s not just that Obama cannot see the difference between building a democracy and destroying one.  But even in the analogy were valid, it’s not at all helpful to be giving Putin cover right now.  Can’t he see that?

This man wants to be President of the United States.  Lord help us.

(Via Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit.)


How dangerous is Russia?

August 21, 2008

An analysis by Ilya Somin:

Let’s take the hard power first. The Soviet Union was able to pose a serious military challenge to the US by pouring vast resources into its military – as much as 40 or 50 percent of GDP, according to some estimates. Today Russian military spending is a tiny fraction of America’s (about 10%). Even if it wanted to, Putin’s regime lacks the power to impose the kinds of draconian sacrifices on its people that it would need in order to rebuild its military power to Soviet-era levels. The poor performance of Russia’s military in conflicts with weak adversaries such as Georgia and the Chechen rebels suggests that its forces have deteriorated in quality as well as quantity.

Russia’s “soft power” deficit is even more glaring than its relative lack of military power. Unlike Communism, which at its height appealed to intellectuals and others all over the world, the ideology of Russian nationalism has little if any appeal to anyone who isn’t Russian. Indeed, most of Russia’s neighbors find it offensive and threatening, which is why they are now uniting behind Georgia and drawing closer to the West. States such as the Ukraine, Poland, and the three Baltic countries are no match for Russia individually; but they can certainly hope to counter it collectively – especially given the poor state of the Russian armed forces. The more nationalistic and aggressive Russia becomes, the more its neighbors – most of whom have powerful historical memories of brutal Russian imperialism – are likely to unite against it. . .

Finally, it is far from clear that Russia will continue on the course set by Putin. If oil prices decline and Putin’s military adventures meet with setbacks, the political pendulum could swing back in favor of more liberal forces.


Deep dialing

August 21, 2008

A new service, called Fonolo, is spidering automated phone service trees so you can bypass them.  Sounds great.  Unfortunately, it’s in closed beta so you can’t try it right now.

(Via Rich Sloan, via Instapundit.)


Child abuse in Senegal

August 21, 2008

Don’t read this AP story if you have a weak stomach:

It hurts too much to lie on his back, so the 7-year-old has spent the past month stretched out on his stomach. His two grandmothers sit on the hospital bed beside him, fanning the pink flesh left exposed by his teacher’s whip.

It’s progress that Momodou Biteye is in the hospital at all. It’s also encouraging that the Quranic teacher who did this to him is behind bars.

But what is most significant is that the boy’s father – a poor farmer who sold part of his harvest to pay for the bus fare to the hospital – filed the charges against the teacher himself. In doing so, this man with cracked lips and bloodshot eyes braved the wrath of his entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal’s Islamic schools to be holy.

It gets worse.

(Via the Corner.)


A good idea to fight DUI

August 21, 2008

Megan McArdle suggests a good idea for fighting drunk driving among teens:

[Institute] driver’s licenses for convicted DUIs that tell bartenders not to serve you. Combined with a zero tolerance policy, this would be a pretty effective deterrant to drunk driving for teens. Right now, groups of teens drink together, in secret. But if your friends can drink at a bar, and you can’t, you’ll find your social life dramatically curtailed. Teenagers are very sensitive to penalties that separate them from their friends. I’d lower the drinking age to 16, as in Europe, but require licenses to show that you haven’t had a DUI.


Russia barricades Georgian port

August 21, 2008

Russia, which claims to be withdrawing from Georgia, has blocked land access to Poti.


McCain and the Surge

August 21, 2008

The Washington Times has an interesting (and long) article on McCain’s years-long effort to change U.S. policy in Iraq that finally succeeded with a letter to President Bush in December 2006.  The article shows that McCain, more than any other politician, deserves the credit for turning Iraq around.  Rarely can a senator boast this sort of accomplishment.

(Via Hot Air.)


Michigan court voids “reform” initiative

August 21, 2008

Good news in Michigan: a stealth initiative to (in their own words) change the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats, has been tossed by a Michigan appeals court.  The case now goes to the Michigan Supreme Court.  Background here.

(Via the Corner.)


Iran satellite launch failed

August 21, 2008

Aviation Week reports.  (Via Perfunction, via Instapundit.)


Obama concedes the Surge worked

August 21, 2008

The Washington Times reports. (Via Instapundit.)

Apparently the speech was part of an effort to court military voters. I suspect military voters are not as stupid as he thinks.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty points out that, just one month ago, Obama was saying the precise opposite, word for word.  (Via Just One Minute.)


Network comics favor Obama

August 21, 2008

Andrew Malcolm writes:

A hilarious new study of late-night political jokes, due to be released later today, finds the network comedians clearly avoiding humor about Democratic candidate Barack Obama, while piling the jokes on President Bush and Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton. . .

The study covered all jokes between Jan. 1 and July 31 in late-night monologues by Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, David Letterman, Stewart and Colbert. . .

The center found that the network shows broadcast only 169 jokes about Obama, compared with 428 about Bush. McCain drew 328 jokes. Hillary Clinton, who dropped out of the presidential race and much political news in early June, still drew more than twice as many attempted yuk lines (382) as Obama. . .

The study did not explore why Obama got off so lightly on the network shows from New York and Burbank. So we’ll all just have to guess: probably out of simple respect for Obama’s long public service.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama skirts fundraising rules

August 20, 2008

CBS’s Denver affiliate is reporting that Obama is selling tickets for his free acceptance speech to top Democratic supporters for $1000 a piece.  It’s probably not illegal, but the cloak-and-dagger nature of the operation makes it clear that they know it looks bad.  Also, once CBS4 started asking questions, the secret web page disappeared.


Russia starts forest fires in Georgia

August 20, 2008

Reuters reports (video).


Speak for yourself

August 20, 2008

Jay Ambrose says Obama was wrong to call Americans selfish:

Barack Obama, in a discussion with evangelist Rick Warren about his Christian faith, said he had been guilty of a “fundamental selfishness” that had contributed to regrettable youthful behavior.

Then he confessed for the rest of us.

“Americans’ greatest moral failure in my lifetime,” he said, “has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

Sorry, but he can hang that one up. Whatever the case is with his own selfishness, the evidence of an internationally superior American generosity is impressive, beginning with the numbers on our charitable giving. We give twice as much as the British per capita, and according to The American magazine, seven times as much as the Germans and 14 times as much as the Italians.

Even in inflation-adjusted dollars, the amount given each year just keeps getting larger, and meanwhile, we do far more volunteer work than in other industrialized countries.

We could do more, but there’s no way to make this a uniquely American failing when we manage better than most.

(Via Instapundit.)


Granny makes burglar call 911

August 20, 2008

This kind of story makes gun-control advocates sad:

An 85-year-old great-grandmother in Fayette County busted a would-be burglar by pulling a gun, then forcing him to call for help while she kept him in her sights.

“Yes, um, there’s a ma’am here and she thinks I broke into the house, which I didn’t, which I was just coming up here,” the suspect told a county 911 dispatcher.

Then, the suspect said, “Here’s the ma’am,” and handed the phone to Leda Smith so she could explain what was happening at her Springhill Township home.


Tim Kaine for VP?

August 20, 2008

A bunch of people are talking about Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as a smart running mate for Obama.  If Obama does pick Kaine, won’t McCain start saturating the air waves with Kaine’s claim that Obama arranged the Russian “cease-fire”?  Obama doesn’t need a running mate that makes his defense credentials even weaker.


No protests in China

August 20, 2008

The Washington Post reports:

Two elderly women were sentenced to a year of labor re-education after they applied for permits to demonstrate during the Olympics against their 2001 eviction from their homes, according to the son of one of the would-be protesters.

Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, went to Chinese police five times between Aug. 5 and Aug. 18 to seek approval to protest. . .

They will not have to go to a re-education camp — at least for now — the order stated. But their movement will be restricted and they are likely to face other requirements. If they violate any provisions of the order or other regulations, however, they could be sent to a labor camp. . .

In response to international pressure, China said it would allow protests in three parks during the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games. However, no one has been granted permission yet. The police have received 77 applications with 74 of them withdrawn voluntarily and the other three rejected, according to the state news agency Xinhua. . .

Wang Wei, China’s top Olympics official, has characterized the fact that there are no protests as a good thing. “I’m glad to hear that over 70 protest issues have been solved through consultation, dialogue. This is a part of Chinese culture,” Wang said at a news briefing Wednesday.


Zogby: McCain takes the lead

August 20, 2008

Take this with a grain of salt, since it’s a Zogby poll, but still:

In a sharp turnaround, Republican John McCain has opened a 5-point lead on Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential race and is seen as a stronger manager of the economy, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

McCain leads Obama among likely U.S. voters by 46 percent to 41 percent, wiping out Obama’s solid 7-point advantage in July and taking his first lead in the monthly Reuters/Zogby poll.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Battleground gives McCain a slight lead as well.


Not like the Cold War

August 20, 2008

Frederick Kagan writes:

The poor Russian general staff officers complain that they cannot even plan properly for the pull-back . . . since the Georgians can’t seem to get their act together despite the assistance of Russian soldiers, tanks, and combat aircraft in their country. The most Orwellian claim of all came today, when the spokesman for the Russian general staff explained that Georgian troops were attempting to reconstitute their combat capabilities and were concentrating around Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. What an outrage! How dare the Georgians prepare to defend their capital! It is nothing less than an act of provocation, according to the Russians.

Comparing the current Russian rhetoric to the Cold War is, to some degree, unfair — to the Soviet Union. When the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Moscow was meticulous about creating a fictitious Afghan government that “requested” the “fraternal assistance” of its socialist ally to the north, even if the leader of that government, Babrak Karmal, was not in Afghanistan at the time. Soviet operations to crush dissent in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland also followed “requests” from the leadership of those countries to their “fraternal socialist allies” to the east. Since the Soviets went to great lengths to explain the theory whereby they were always the “peaceloving peoples,” even when they invaded other countries, they also worked hard to preserve a veneer, however thin, to support the theory.

Putin, by contrast, feels no such obligation.


This is getting insulting

August 20, 2008

Fox News reports that Russia now pledges to leave Georgia by Friday.  Apparently they think we’re stupid.  I’m afraid they might be right.


After Musharraf

August 19, 2008

National Review looks at the future of Pakistan.  It’s not entirely pessimistic.


“Born alive” background

August 19, 2008

The Illinois “born alive” bill that Obama helped to scuttle was no flight of fancy. It was a response to the practices of a Chicago-area hospital:

Were there “already” laws protecting premature infants, as Senator Obama has at various times stated in defending his vote against the born-alive bill?

The answer is that no law was protecting them. We know this for certain because the Illinois attorney general at the time, Jim Ryan — the man charged with enforcing state laws — wrote a letter on July 17, 2000, expressing his finding that Christ Hospital was breaking no laws in leaving premature babies to die after they survived abortions. . .

Note that this is this is the very reason legislators were trying to pass the born-alive bill in the first place.

(Previous post.)


CNN misses the point

August 19, 2008

The idea to a political fact-check is to report the actual facts, not echo a campaign’s claims. CNN is missing the point:

BLITZER: Senator Obama blasts opponents for distorting his record on abortion-related legislation. We’re checking the facts.

. . .

BLITZER: So just a recap, Mary, what is the basic difference between these two bills?

SNOW: Well, 2003, the National Right to Life Committee will say the language is very similar, but what the Obama camp pointed out is that it lacked a provision to protect Roe v. Wade. That was the measure that was added two years later, so that is the explanation why the campaign said and Obama has said that he opposed that 2003 law.

The Obama camp may have “pointed out” that the bill lacked that provision, but it’s not true. The NRLC has the documents to prove it, and the Obama campaign has conceded the truth. If CNN cannot even “check the facts” accurately when they’ve already been established, what good are they?

(Via the Corner.)


Silly season, revisited

August 19, 2008

It’s the one-week anniversary of Obama arranging the Russia-Georgia cease-fire (according to Obama campaign surrogate, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine).  Well done, Obama!


Russian tanks smash Georgian barricade

August 19, 2008

Video here.  Unless the barricade was intended to keep Russia from leaving, I think we can safely assume they were not withdrawing.

Russia’s interpretation of the cease-fire agreement seems to be: we go wherever we want, and we don’t shoot you (much).


FEC chills free speech

August 19, 2008

The FEC has determined, apparently, that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to political speech, precisely the area in which it is most important.  (Via Instapundit.)


Russia advances, despite withdrawal pledge

August 19, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Russian troops briefly seized control of the economically vital Georgian port of Poti Tuesday morning, a day after Moscow said it had begun pulling its forces out of Georgia.

Some 70 Russian peacekeeping forces entered the port grounds Tuesday morning on armored personnel carriers, jeeps and an army truck, according to Georgian government and port officials. They detained 20 Georgian soldiers and confiscated their weapons. They left about four hours later for their base near the Georgian town of Senaki, taking the detainees with them. The Georgian soldiers were driven away on top of APCs, handcuffed and blindfolded, and Russian soldiers trained their automatic rifles on them as they rode back to Senaki.

I guess this non-withdrawal stuff isn’t really even news any more.  In a month, Russia will still be in Georgia but the West will have forgotten.  Then Georgia will quietly cease to exist.


Russian ethnic cleansing

August 18, 2008

The London Times reports:

“The soldiers told us they had an order from Putin – leave or be killed.” Manana Dioshvili showed no emotion as she described how Russian troops forced her to flee her home. Her former neighbours nodded in agreement, huddled together in a kindergarten whose windows had been blown out by a Russian bomb.

“That’s how they explained themselves to us,” she recalled of the moment they fled the ethnic Georgian village of Kurta, near the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

“They said, ‘Putin has given us an order that everyone must be either shot or forced to leave’. They told us we should ask the Americans for help now because they would kill us if we stayed.”

Vardo Babutidze, 79, was not lucky enough to be visited by Russian soldiers. Her husband Georgi, 85, was shot twice through the chest by an Ossetian paramilitary who came to their house to demand weapons.

“We didn’t have any guns, so he shot Georgi in front of me without saying a word,” she said. “A neighbour helped me to bury him in our garden and then I just fled.”

Manana Galigashvili, 53, whose husband Andrei stared vacantly from a bed behind her, said that Ossetian soldiers had returned later and torched the house. They, too, had left after a soldier threatened to slit their throats.

Frightened refugees told similar stories all over the city of Gori yesterday as the Russian army extended its reach deep into Georgian territory despite a ceasefire agreement signed by President Medvedev that requires them to withdraw.

(Via Hot Air.)

Why is Russia pretending to withdraw when it isn’t? They can only keep up the facade for so long, so what does it gain them? If they are there to stay, why not admit it? Here’s a theory: perhaps Putin does plan to leave eventually, but he’s buying as much time as he can to weaken Georgia further by killing or scattering its people and by damaging its remaining infrastructure and military.


No Russian withdrawal

August 18, 2008

Surprise, surprise. Russia is not withdrawing from Georgia:

Russia’s deputy chief of staff insisted Monday that Russian troops and tanks have begun to withdraw from the conflict zone with Georgia, but left unclear exactly what Russia thought that zone was. Yet in the key Georgian city of Gori, there were no signs of a Russian pullback.

The statement by Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn came amid uncertainty about whether Russia was fulfilling President Dmitry Medvedev’s promise to begin a troop pullout Monday after signing an EU-backed cease-fire.

Nogovitsyn told a briefing in Moscow that “today, according to the peace plan, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and reinforcements has begun” and said forces were leaving Gori.

However in Gori, Russian forces seemed to be solidifying their positions and the only movement seen by Associated Press reporters was in the opposite direction from Russia — toward the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, 55 miles to the east.

The U.S. State Department was also unable to confirm a Russian troop pullout.

Four Russian armored personnel carriers, each carrying about 15 men, rolled Monday afternoon from Gori to Igoeti, a crossroads town even closer to Tbilisi. Passing Georgian soldiers who sat by the roadside, the Russians moved into Igoeti then turned off onto a side road.

Why does Russia bother to pretend it’s withdrawing when it isn’t? All I can think is that they are trying to prolong the diplomacy, which will end once they admit they’re not leaving. But what are they concerned about the West doing that they want to delay?

UPDATE: The BBC secretly filmed Russian troops not pulling out, and damage done by Russian troops to the port of Poti (where Russia claimed not to be).


What the hell?

August 18, 2008

In case you needed any more indication that the Bush Administration has lost its way: Libya will receive reparations for Reagan’s 1986 air strike. (Via the Corner.)

More here.


The Saddleback debate

August 18, 2008

McCain wins big.  Byron York summarizes.


Obama campaign admits misrepresenting “born alive”

August 18, 2008

The New York Sun reports. Part one, Obama accuses his critics of lying about his record:

When it comes to his abortion record in Illinois, Senator Obama is taking flak from all sides. . . [Abortion foes] say his opposition to legislation aimed at protecting infants born alive after a botched abortion demonstrates his extremism on the flash point social issue.

The conservative attacks have intensified in recent days, with opponents of legalized abortion sending out missives against Mr. Obama and a YouTube video circulating that casts his position on abortion as more extreme than even the most stalwart supporters of a woman’s right to choose, including Mrs. Clinton and Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The presumptive Democratic nominee responded sharply in an interview Saturday night with the Christian Broadcast Network, saying anti-abortion groups were “lying” about his record.

“They have not been telling the truth,” Mr. Obama said. “And I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying.”

He added that it was “ridiculous” to suggest he had ever supported withholding lifesaving treatment for an infant. “It defies common sense and it defies imagination, and for people to keep on pushing this is offensive,” he said in the CBN interview.

This statement is clear, isn’t it? Obama says he never supported withholding lifesaving treatment for infants. He said it’s “ridiculous,” and his critics “are lying.”

In fact, Obama is the one who is lying. He did do exactly that, and his excuse for doing so — that the measure didn’t have a provision to protect abortion rights — is untrue. As I noted last week, the National Right to Life Committee has found the documents to prove it. The NRLC then demanded that Obama declare the documents forgeries or apologize.

ASIDE: No one is more a scoundrel than the man who lies in accusing another of lying.

Now, the Obama campaign has conceded the facts, and adopted a vague new excuse. Part two:

The dispute flared again last week when a leading opponent of legalized abortion, the National Right to Life Committee, posted records from the Illinois Legislature showing that Mr. Obama, while chairman of a Senate committee, in 2003, voted against a “Born Alive” bill that contained nearly identical language to the federal bill that passed unanimously, including the provision limiting its scope.

The group says the documents prove Mr. Obama misrepresented his record.

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported “was not the bill that was presented at the state level.”

His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law.

Will Obama apologize for calling his critics liars? (Just kidding.)

(Via Pro Life Blogs, via the Corner.)

UPDATE: In case this is hard to follow, David Freddoso tells the whole story in one place (except Obama’s concession of the truth, which happened subsequently).


UIC covers up Obama-Ayers documents

August 18, 2008

Stanley Kurtz has been trying to look at documents in collection of the University of Illinois – Chicago. The documents pertain to Obama’s tenure on the board of (former terrorist) Bill Ayers’s organization, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Despite early assurances from UIC librarians, they keep finding reasons not to let him see the documents.

UPDATE (8/19): UIC has issued a statement.


Kremlin propaganda feeds atrocities

August 18, 2008

The Telegraph reports:

Most of the Ossetians, as well as the Chechen irregulars who joined them, were more interested in pillaging, . . . but many, according to witnesses whose accounts have yet to be verified, also went house-to-house in Georgian villages, both in South Ossetia and outside the breakaway province, on raping and murdering sprees.

Last week, until orders came from Moscow to rein them in, the Russian troops occupying Georgian territory either did little to stop the irregulars from looting or committing atrocities or actively encouraged them.

Manning a checkpoint outside the Georgian town of Kaspi, 25 miles southeast of Gori, four young Chechen soldiers admitted that their South Ossetian allies had carried out reprisals against Georgian civilians – but insisted they were justified.

“Do you know what the Georgians did in Tskhinvali,” demanded one fighter, who identified himself as Sulim. “They killed 2,000 people. Georgians were crushing small children with their tanks.”

From the beginning of hostilities, officials in Moscow were quick to declare that “genocide” was taking place and that up to 2,000 people had been killed in attacks deliberately aimed at Tskhinvali’s civilian population.

Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, went on television to claim that Georgian tanks were crushing children and Georgian soldiers were beheading civilians.

Yet the first independent human rights activists attempting to calculate the civilian death toll have so far only been able to confirm the deaths of 44 people according to records from Tskhinvali’s only hospital.

According to Human Rights Watch, the respected New York-based body, the Kremlin’s deliberate exaggeration of the civilian death toll was inevitably contributing to the scale of reprisals against Georgians.

Asked whether he had personally seen any children crushed by Georgian tanks, Sulim replied: “No, but I heard Putin say it so it must be true.”

Russian propaganda has been so convincing that not even the few independent media outlets that normally criticise the Kremlin in Russia have spoken out against the Georgia war.


Russia claims to withdraw

August 18, 2008

The AP reports:

Russia said its military began to withdraw from the conflict zone in Georgia on Monday, but left unclear exactly where troops and tanks will operate under the cease-fire that ended days of fighting in the former Soviet republic. . .

In Moscow, Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn told a briefing that “today, according to the peace plan, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and reinforcements has begun.” He added that forces were leaving Gori, which sits on Georgia’s main east-west highway.

Earlier in the day, Russian forces around Gori appeared to be solidifying their positions, and it was not immediately possible to confirm the withdrawal with AP journalists there.

The cease-fire that Russia and Georgia signed obligates Russia to withdraw completely from Georgia:

According to the European Union-brokered peace plan signed by both Medvedev and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, both sides are to pull forces back to the positions they held before fighting broke out Aug. 7 in the Russian-backed Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia.

But Russia doesn’t even pretend it will follow the accord:

Nogovitsyn said the Russian troops are pulling back to South Ossetia and a security zone defined by a 1999 agreement of the “joint control commission” that had been nominally in charge of South Ossetia’s status since it split from Georgia in the early 1990s.

Georgian and Russian officials could not immediately clarify the dimensions of the security zone. Nogovitsyn said only that “troops should not be in the territory of Georgia,” but it was unclear if that excluded patrols.


British anti-American attitudes based on ignorance

August 18, 2008

The Telegraph reports:

A poll of nearly 2,000 Britons by YouGov/PHI found that 70 per cent of respondents incorrectly said it was true that the US had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000. More than 50 per cent presumed that polygamy was legal in the US, when it is illegal in all 50 states. . .

Tim Montgomerie, [director of America in the World], said factual inaccuracies and mistaken assumptions have contributed to Britons and Europeans taking a hostile stance towards their most powerful ally, which often acted against national interests. . .

The survey showed that a majority agreed with the false statement that since the Second World War the US had more often sided with non-Muslims when they had come into conflict with Muslims. In fact in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the US has sided with the former group. Those conflicts included Turkey and Greece, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and and Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

Asked if it was true that “from 1973 to 1990 the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons,” 80 per cent of British respondents said yes. However the US sold just 0.46 per cent of Saddam’s arsenal to him, compared to Russia’s 57 per cent, France’s 13 per cent and China’s 12 per cent. . .

Almost a third of Britons believe that “Americans who have not paid their hospitals fees or insurance premiums are not entitled to emergency medical care”; by law such treatment must be provided.

Via Instapundit, who adds this:

Reader Hank Bradley emails: “And the British public gets its information from where? The BBC. This poll says more about the BBC than it does about the poor fish who learn about the world from it.” Indeed.


Take that, Vlad!

August 17, 2008

Germany says Georgia is on-track for NATO membership. And, Ukraine has decided to join the missile defense system. (Via Instapundit.)

If Georgia survives, even without South Ossetia and Abkhazia, this could be a net win for the West, given that Europe is now alerted to the danger Russia poses.

UPDATE: That’s a very big if, though, since Russia appears to have no intention of leaving Georgia.


Oh, I’ll be holding my breath then

August 17, 2008

Russia promises to begin troop withdrawal Monday.


Judge removes juror for refusing to convict

August 16, 2008

Judges hate jury nullification, but this is the first time I’ve heard of one tampering with the jury to prevent it.  (Via Volokh Conspiracy, via Instapundit.)


Why we fight

August 16, 2008

Michael Ledeen writes eloquently on why we still have wars:

For many centuries, it was taken for granted that no modern country could move from dictatorship to democracy without considerable violence. . .  And yet, Spain accomplished a seemingly miraculous democratic revolution. . . Portugal followed suit shortly thereafter, albeit with some dramatic moments and a few street clashes, but the new model–dictatorships could indeed fall, and democracies could be created, peacefully.

Then came the Age of the Second Democratic Revolution, the years of Reagan, Thatcher, John Paul II, Havel, Walesa, Sharansky and Bukovsky, replete with revolutions from Chile to Taiwan, from Romania and the rest of the Soviet Empire to South Africa and Zambia. With the indifference to history so characteristic of our world, we quickly forgot the conventional wisdom and by now we take it for granted that neither war nor violence is required to end tyranny. All we need is patience and the proper invocation of the new rules: free and fair elections, the rule of law, and so forth. History had ended, liberal democracy was triumphant.

The belief in the inevitability of peace and democracy rested on one of the great conceits of the European Enlightenment, namely the belief in the perfectibility of man. In this view, man’s basic goodness (as found in “the state of nature”) had been corrupted by a selfish society . . . , but that once the heavy weight of misguided was lifted, man’s intrinsic goodness would reemerge. . .

It was all wrong, as are most beliefs in the vast impersonal forces that are held to determine human events. . .  Machiavelli is not the only sage who recognized it, but he put it nicely:  “Man is more inclined to do evil than to do good.”  Rational statecraft starts right there.

(Via the Corner.)


Texas school district will permit teachers to carry guns

August 15, 2008

Fox News reports:

Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change last October so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements.

Superintendent David Thweatt told FOXNews.com the policy was initiated because of safety concerns. . .  The Texas superintendent linked gun-free zones with the uprising of school shootings in recent years.

“When you make schools gun-free zones, it’s like inviting people to come in and take advantage,” Thweatt told FOXNews.com.

In order for teachers and staff to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; must be authorized to carry by the district; must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition that is designed to minimize the risk of ricochet in school halls.

Thweatt said the small community is a 30-minute drive from the sheriff’s office, leaving students and teachers without protection.


NYT doesn’t understand the corporate income tax

August 15, 2008

Power Line spots an egregious error:

As dumb as the Levin-Dorgan press release was, however, it wasn’t dumb enough for the New York Times. The paper got out its calculator, multiplied the gross revenues of the companies in the GAO study by 35%, and came up with this classic of economic ignorance:

At a basic corporate tax rate of 35 percent, all the corporations covered in the study in theory owed $875 billion in federal income taxes.

In theory, a company pays 35% of its net income to the feds, not its gross receipts. That reporters and editors at the New York Times should be ignorant of this basic fact is shocking. How in the world can these people purport to instruct the rest of us on economic matters, when they lack the most fundamental understanding of how our tax system works?

The NYT story is here. They’ve since edited it and added a correction:

An article on Wednesday about a Government Accountability Office study reporting on the percentage of corporations that paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005 gave an incorrect figure for the estimated tax liability of the 1.3 million companies covered by the study. It is not $875 billion. The correct amount cannot be calculated because it would be based on the companies’ paying the standard rate of 35 percent on their net income, a figure that is not available. (The incorrect figure of $875 billion was based on the companies’ paying the standard rate on their $2.5 trillion in gross sales.)

I know the New York Times has had cutbacks, but they still have editors, don’t they? Not one editor understood how the corporate income tax works? We might want to keep that in mind when reading NYT editorials.

It’s even worse than Power Line says, because the correction is wrong too. There is actually a very good way to estimate the tax liability of these companies, which is to look at the actual tax paid. Almost no corporation is going to make the mistake of failing to pay the taxes that their own books show they owe. Corporations reduce their taxes by clever accounting, not by outright failing to pay. So the NYT’s mistake is not just a failure of calculation. The calculation they were trying to do was fundamentally nonsensical. They could argue (as Levin and Dorgan do) that corporations’ accounting unfairly lowers their taxes, but that argument cannot be illustrated by this sort of back-of-the-envelope calculation.

(Via Instapundit, who quips “It was my understanding that there would be no math.”)

UPDATE (8/17): More New York Times innumeracy, including the prevalence of 1-square-foot apartments.  (Via Instapundit.)


Questioning patriotism

August 14, 2008

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter questions the patriotism of McCain’s foreign policy adviser.  Not in a vague way, like most allegations of questioned patriotism; he comes right out and says it.  (Via Instapundit.)

I guess it’s okay when Obama and his apologists do it.


Chinese “Women’s” Gymnastic team under scrutiny

August 14, 2008

Are the Chinese cheating by using underage gymnasts? Probably. I don’t much care.

This got me thinking, though. If they wanted to test for this (as they do for doping), couldn’t they use leg x-rays to determine the gymnasts’ ages? I don’t know how precise they are, but it certainly seems they ought to be able to distinguish between 13- and 16-year-olds.


The Kansas City experiment

August 14, 2008

I have no idea what prompted it, but John Derbyshire at National Review takes on the question of whether we can improve schools by throwing money at them:

Is wishful thinking really such a mighty power in the land?

Reader A:

Mr. Derbyshire — How can you say we don’t know how to close the school achievement gap? We’ve never really tried, not with real resources.[Me] False. The idea that you can close the gaps by spending oodles of money was tested to destruction in Kansas City, 1977-97. Vast sums of money were spent. The achievement gap didn’t budge, though several Kansas City education bureaucrats got modestly rich. Anyone — including any presidential candidate! — arguing that we can equalize school achievement by spending more money, should be confronted with the Kansas City case.

Derbyshire cites an eye-opening Cato Institute publication chronicling the disaster of the Kansas City public schools.  In the mid-1980s, a Federal judge awarded the Kansas City schools the right to spend–literally–as much as they wanted to improve their schools, with no consideration of cost, and ordered state and local taxpayers to foot the bill.  The results were not pretty.  The district succeeded in spending a lot of money, and built a lot of shiny new buildings, but accomplished nothing else.


Russians fire on journalists

August 14, 2008

Hot Air has the story.


U.S. and Poland sign missile defense pact

August 14, 2008

The Washington Post reports:

Poland finally agreed on Thursday to host elements of U.S. global anti-missile system on its territory after Washington improved the terms of the deal amid the Georgia crisis. . .

The signing comes after Prime Minister Donald Tusk had been holding out for enhanced military cooperation with the United States in return for consent to host 10 interceptor rockets at a base in northern Poland.

Washington says the interceptors and a radar in the Czech Republic would form part of a global “missile shield” protecting the United States and its allies from long range missiles that could in the future be fired by Iran or groups such as al-Qaeda.

“We have crossed the Rubicon,” Tusk said just before the deal was signed.

“We have finally got understanding of our point of view that Poland, being a crucial partner in NATO and an important friend and ally of the United States, must also be safe.”

Officials said the deal included a U.S. declaration that it will aid Poland militarily in case of a threat from a third country and that it would establish a permanent U.S. base on Polish soil in a symbolic gesture underlining the alliance. . .

Russia has vehemently opposed placing the shield installations in central Europe, saying they would threaten its security and upset the post-Cold War balance of power in Europe.

Hmm, I wonder what caused the sudden breakthrough?


Russia fails to withdraw from Georgia

August 14, 2008

The Washington Post reports:

Two days after signing a French-brokered ceasefire, Russian troops showed no immediate sign of vacating positions around the central Georgian city of Gori, where they arrived in force a day before. Wire services reported from the area that Georgian police had approached the city for what they expected to be the beginning of a handover, but left after what the Associated Press described as a “confrontation” at a Russian checkpoint.

The status of Russia’s presence in a second strategic town, the port city of Poti, was unclear. Georgian officials said that Russian troops remained in Poti, while a Russian military spokesman denied that was the case. . .

Russia on Tuesday agreed to stop offensive operations and pull its troops out of Georgian territory, but a day later took over the frontline city of Gori, seized munitions at Georgian military bases and set up positions along the country’s main east-west highway. Paramilitary fighters accompanying the troops looted homes and stole cars, witnesses said. . .

Russia denied many claims of violations of the cease-fire pledge. But Lavrov acknowledged the presence of Russian soldiers outside Gori and in the western city of Senaki, the site of another Georgian military base. “We have never concealed this,” he said. “They are there to neutralize a huge arsenal of arms and military hardware which they found there totally abandoned. It was necessary to neutralize them in order not to create a threat for civilians.” He promised that reports of looting would be investigated.

At least it appears that Russia has stopped its advance, but with Tbilisi cut off from the rest of Georgia, Russia doesn’t need to advance any further.

UPDATE: Defense Secretary Gates says Russia now appears to be beginning to withdraw.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Georgia claims that a column of 100 Russian tanks is moving further into Georgia.


Low attendance at Olympics

August 13, 2008

The Washington Post reports that people are staying home in droves:

Chinese Olympic organizers acknowledged Tuesday they were struggling to handle an unforeseen and baffling problem inside Summer Games venues and at the showpiece Olympic Park.

Not enough people.

Two weeks after announcing they had sold every one of the record 6.8 million tickets offered for the Games, Olympics officials expressed dismay at the large numbers of empty seats at nearly every event and the lack of pedestrian traffic throughout the park, the 2,800-acre centerpiece of the competition.

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his third gold medal Tuesday in an arena with at least 500 no-shows, and there was a smattering of empty seats Wednesday morning as he captured his fourth gold in the 200 butterfly. The U.S. softball team played in a stadium only about 30 percent full on Tuesday, while the day before, 10 of 18 venues did not reach 80 percent capacity, officials said. Meantime, crowds of tourists and fans have been thin in the extravagantly landscaped Olympic Park, which holds 10 venues including National Stadium.

To remedy the problem, officials are busing in teams of state-trained “cheer squads” identifiable by their bright yellow T-shirts to help fill the empty seats and improve the atmosphere. They are also encouraging residents to apply for access to the heavily secured park.

There are also fewer foreign visitors than expected:

[Some] said the more strict visa restrictions in place this year could be keeping foreign ticket holders away. Across Beijing, hotels and tourist sites are reporting below-average attendance for August. Many of the foreigners in Tiananmen Square, under tight security for the Games, are not individual tourists but part of Olympic delegations.

“Business is worse than at this time last year,” said a receptionist at a 22-room hotel in Beijing’s Chongwen district, where rooms cost $28 a night. “It’s the season for traveling and last year the hotel was full. The Olympics should have brought business to Beijing, but the reality is too far from the expectation.”

Whatever the cause, the attendance problem has blindsided Chinese organizers, who expected jammed arenas for even obscure sports and throngs across Olympic Park.

It’s also possible that some people who might have been inclined to visit didn’t feel like being spied on.

(Via Instapundit.)


Hamas scion converts to Christianity

August 13, 2008

Fox News has an interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader and now a Christian seeking asylum in America.