Saturday, November 17, 2007

NYT Doesn't Get It

This article from The New York Times online is entitled "Musharraf Refuses to Say When Emergency Will End." The Times is concerned that the General won't tell them when he will end the state of emergency he declared.

He has declared a state of emergency in response to unrest in Pakistan. These conditions are not of his doing, they are instigated by others who wish him ill. He doesn't know their minds but suspects that it will take time to put them back in their cages, metaphorically or literally.

So...he won't say when the state of emergency will end because he doesn't know the answer to that question. His candid answer would be something like "I'm not sure, but probably not soon." Knowing that answer wouldn't be popular, he didn't give it.

Quote of the Day

For 30+ years Dr. Henry Kissinger has been the world's leading diplomatic theoretician and practitioner emeritus. Interviewed in The Wall Street Journal online, he has this to say about diplomacy and the use of military power:
Diplomacy not backed by the potential use of force is impotent.

Which means, if you take it literally, that a militarily weak nation like Canada or Belgium cannot conduct meaningful diplomacy with the United States since their ability to exert force with respect to the U.S. is essentially zero. Fascinating, and probably true....

Steyn on Thanksgiving

Mark Steyn is a Canadian who lives in the States, and is unabashedly pro-American. See his hymn of praise to the U.S. Constitution, his analysis of the rarity of a long-lived constitutional democracy, and his celebration of the role of the U.S. in the world. This article left me close to choked up, in a good way. Take a look.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hillary = The Red Queen

Conservative blogger and pundit Hugh Hewitt has come up with a lovely nickname for Hillary Clinton, taken from Alice in Wonderland. He calls her "the Red Queen." If you remember Alice, the name is nicely over the top but feels right anyway. The Red Queen's "Off with their heads" sounds like something that would be in character for Hillary.

Second Quote of the Day

Democratic presidential hopeful and Senator Joe Biden is often too truthful for his own good, which can sometimes make him fun to listen to. The Washington Post quotes him as saying the following during the candidates' debate yesterday in Las Vegas:
The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here.

That is about right. Any voter who expects a top tier candidate in a debate to say exactly what is on his or her mind shouldn't be allowed outdoors without adult supervision. I bet the debate viewership was worse than PBS on a bad day. turns out 1.3% of Americans watched the debate, or roughly 4 million people, according to Matt Drudge.

Walters: Dems Endangered by Immigration

Dan Walters, of the Sacramento Bee, is maybe the best political analyst in California. He writes here that Democrats could be torpedoed by the illegal immigration issue, which is #1 among independent voters, and surprisingly strong among Democrats. He finds:
The angst also reflects polling that indicates illegal immigration could be a make-or-break issue with all-important independent voters, especially in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

And he further concludes:
And what of California? It hardly seems possible that the Democrats' enormous advantage in the state – million-plus vote margins in the last two presidential elections – could be threatened. But with George W. Bush off the ticket, it's not inconceivable that the angst over immigration among swing voters that also shows up in California polls could make it a battleground.

Particularly since CA is the recipient of many of those illegal immigrants. Have we forgotten that CA voters handily passed the now-infamous Proposition 187 directed at cutting off governmental benefits to illegal immigrants?

Foreign Alliances Not In Disarray

Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Boston Herald, makes the point that all of the Democrats' wailing about key foreign alliances in disarray is either just wrong, or out of date, or both. While certain of the positive relationships he mentions may be deteriorating (c.f., Australia, Germany), his general thrust is correct. He concludes:
The critics will say that all this is simply attributable to the rise of Russia and China causing old allies to turn back to us out of need. So? I would even add that the looming prospect of a nuclear Iran has caused Arab states to rally to us. All true. And it makes the point that the Bush critics have missed - that the strength of alliances is heavily dependent on the objective balance of global forces, and has very little to do with the syntax of the U.S. president or the disdain in which he might be held by a country’s cultural elites.

That is realpolitik, served up cold. The article is worth your time, Dr. K pulls together some good thoughts.

Quote of the Day

The following quote comes from Camille Paglia of, which I found reprinted in The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:
There's definitely something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign -- sometimes to her detriment, as with the recent ham-handed playing of the clich├ęd gender card. I suspect the latter dumb move, which has backfired badly, came from Ann Lewis (Barney Frank's sister), a fanatical Hillary true believer who has been spouting beatific feminist bromides about her for the past 15 years. Hillary seems to have acolytes rather than friends -- hardly a reassuring trait for a potential president whose paranoia has already been called Nixonian. Isolated monarchs never hear the bad news until the people riot and the lynch mob is at the door.

Whew! "Vengeful viragos, acolytes rather than friends, and Nixonian paranoia." That is some red meat.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

1960s Fatigue

Daniel Henninger writes for The Wall Street Journal, and his work can be uneven. However this week's column is spot on, check it out. He talks about the cultural division that occurred in the late 1960s and continues to this day, and I believe he has gotten it right. He sees the defining year as 1968, and he concludes:
What fell out of 1968 was a profound division over what I would call civic vision. One side...concluded from Vietnam and the race riots that America, in its relations with the world and its own citizens, was flawed and required big changes. Their defining document was the March 1968 Kerner Commission report, announcing "two societies," separate and unequal. The press, incidentally, emerged from Vietnam and the riots joined to this new, permanent template.

The other side was, well, insulted. It thought America was fundamentally good, though always able to improve. The Voting Rights Act passed in 1964 on a bipartisan vote, opposed mainly by southern Democrats. This side's standard-bearer called the U.S. "a shining city upon a hill." But after 1968, no Democratic presidential candidate would ever speak those words.

Read his article, there is lots more there and it is all good. His summary of all the ugly stuff that happened in 1968 is amazing - what a tough year that was.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Huckabee Weak on Immigration

A couple of days ago I asked "does anybody know Huckabee's record on immigration?" Here is the answer. According to this story on the CBS News site, Huckabee doesn't have a strong position against illegal immigration. They report:
Huckabee has been criticized for supporting pre-natal care for immigrants and educational opportunities for the children of immigrants.
I'm sure we'll hear more about this as the primary season goes on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Income Inequality Not on Rise

Paul Gigot, writing a Wall Street Journal editorial, summarizes the findings of a U.S. Treasury department study of income mobility. The study finds that income mobility is essentially the same as it has been for the last 40 years. So when populist candidates like Edwards and Huckabee tell you that the middle class is disappearing, they are simply wrong. The data do not support that view.

The Treasury study covered the period from 1996 to 2005, and looked at pairs of tax returns from those two years. That is, they compared how a taxpayer was doing in 1996 with how s/he was doing in 2005, and they did this comparison for nearly 100,000 taxpayers. They found:
The after-inflation median income of all tax filers increased by an impressive 24% over the same period. Two of every three workers had a real income gain.

Notice, that they talk about the real or after-inflation income, not just the dollar amounts. And Gigot quotes the Treasury as saying of U.S. taxpayers:
The basic finding of this analysis is that relative income mobility is approximately the same in the last 10 years as it was in the previous decade.

So ... let's not hear any more about the vanishing American middle class. The evidence suggests it is doing just fine.

Another Darwin Award

This article on the Fox News website reports the story of a fellow who tried to force his way through his former girlfriend's cat door. He got caught, and died.

In removing his DNA from the human gene pool he has given exemplary service to our species. I award him the Darwin Award, posthumously of course.

Brooks Admires McCain

New York Times columnist David Brooks flat-out admires John McCain. Agree or disagree, the article is a good read and a good argument for the McCain candidacy. I happen to think McCain irremediably shot himself in the foot with his strong support of the "amnesty for illegal immigrants" bill, thereby dooming his candidacy. However, stranger things have happened. About McCain, Brooks concludes:
Now he pushes ahead, building momentum, but desperately needing a miracle win in New Hampshire. Everyone will make their own political choices, and you might plausibly argue that the qualities John McCain possesses are not the ones the country now requires. But character is destiny, and you will never persuade me that he is not among the finest of men.

Wow! That is some serious hero worship, and quite possibly deserved.

A Walk in Musharraf's Shoes

Foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens writes an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal's Online Journal. His premise is to examine the current Pakistani situation from the viewpoint of General Musharraf himself. As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh-In, it is "veeeeeery interesting." Here is a key paragraph:

Abroad, the conventional wisdom is that you have shredded what little legitimacy you had and that your days, politically or otherwise, are numbered. You think they're wrong. You're probably right.

I believe Stephens thinks Musharraf will ride out this current unpleasantness. He concludes:
Your support, both at home and abroad, may never again be what it was, but the absence of support does not necessarily mean active opposition. In your case it will probably mean reluctant acquiescence to the facts you lay on the ground. Were you a democrat, you might feel ashamed to carry on ruling that way. Soldier that you are, it won't make you lose much sleep.

It will be interesting to see if Stephens' channeling of Musharraf turns out to be correct.

Hillary Thinks Iowans Are Stupid

Yahoo News reports a David Sirota write-up about two statements concerning foreign trade, made by Sen. Clinton, one four days after the other. The first is from the Associated Press and was delivered today:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants to take a close look at foreign trade deals. She says she'll call a 'time out' on trade agreements if she wins the White House.

The second was delivered four days ago, and is reported by the New York Times:

Clinton Says Yes to Peru Deal... Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, after prodding from a rival campaign, has issued positions on several trade deals currently before Congress, including her support for an agreement with Peru that is dividing her party.

In response to the apparent conflict in these two statements, Sirota concludes:
I'd say this is talking out of both sides of the mouth. She says she's for a "time out" - but only later. Not now, when the Senate votes really count. Iowans should trust her when she's elected, even if she doesn't follow the spirit of what she pledges right now. And I'd say she thinks Iowans are too stupid to notice.

I don't know about too stupid to notice, but it does seem to be another example of her trying to have everything both ways. Does anybody remember her being both for and against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants? Hat tip to the other DrC for finding this article.

Tribalism, Islamic Terror and Street Gang Violence

Here is a reference to a dense article from The Claremont Institute by Stanley Kurtz looking at the work of Akbar S. Ahmed who was once governor of the Waziristan region of Pakistan. Essentially, it looks at the tribal ethos and the way it interacts with militant Islam. The article itself is interesting, particularly for foreign policy wonks.

One thing the article suggests to me is that the Pushtun tribes in Waziristan behave in ways similar to the violent youth gangs of our U.S. inner cities. The tribal emphasis on collective guilt, honor, humiliation and revenge is very like what plays out on our mean streets. Perhaps this is what humans do in the absence of law and order?

"Liberal" Isn't Popular

John Hinderaker of reports some findings of a Gallup poll that are interesting. People were asked if they view themselves as "highly conservative," "conservative," "liberal," or "highly liberal." He summarizes the findings thusly:
A recent Gallup poll found that only 23 percent of voters call themselves liberals, while 39 percent describe themselves as conservatives. That ratio of close to two to one has been pretty constant for a number of years. Further, 7 percent of Gallup's respondents call themselves "very conservative" today, compared to essentially zero twenty years ago. It's shocking to recall, as Politico notes, that as recently as 1988, 15 percent of respondents said they were "very liberal." That seems inconceivable today.

I think those numbers are darned revealing, considering how unpopular W has become. The more extreme members of both major parties constitute the primary electorate. Thus Democrats have to run as liberals to get nominated, and reinvent themselves as moderates to get elected. Republicans don't have this dilemma to the same extent, because more folks are conservative.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Millennials Are Coming....

Check out this article from the CBS News website on the Millennials, young people born between 1980 and 1995. It says they are spoiled, expect wonderful success, and aren't convinced that they have to work and sacrifice to get it. I am sure glad I don't have to supervise people this feckless. My graduate students don't resemble the folks sketched in this article, yet. When they do I will quit teaching, again.

On the other hand, bosses should tell subordinates"nice work" when the work they are doing is good, even though they are only doing what you pay them for. And that has been true for all of the 35+ years I've taught Management. Maybe what is changing is that subordinates are less willing to work for someone who never gives them an "attaboy" or a "good job." In a sellers' labor market, I can't say that I blame them.

Giuliani Flip-Flops on Immigration

As Iraq winds down, illegal immigration will be a major, perhaps even the major, issue in the 2008 presidential election, particularly among primary voters who normally vote Republican. If you don't agree with this premise, stop reading here as this posting is not for you.

This Washington Post editorial itemizes several ways in which Rudolph Giuliani was pro-immigrant (mostly illegal) as mayor of New York City. Now as he runs for the Republican nomination for President, he says he is anti-illegal immigrant. That constitutes a major flip-flop, of the same order of magnitude as several of those made by Mitt Romney as he moved from the liberal politics of Massachusetts to the much more conservative politics of the Republican primaries. If the WaPo's fact-checkers have done their job well, if the claims hold up, Giuliani's former tacit acceptance of illegal immigrants will come back to haunt him.

I believe many Republican primary voters will only pull the lever for candidates they trust to be tough on illegal immigration. That leaves out most of the front-runners: McCain, Romney and Giuliani. Of these three, McCain has the worst record but it appears the other two aren't reliable on this issue either. Does anyone know Gov. Huckabee's record on illegal immigration? I think Thompson is clean, but I'm not certain of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hoagland on Pakistan

Here is another view of the situation in Pakistan by a long-time foreign relations columnist in The Washington Post. Jim Hoagland thinks Pakistan is a unique case, and one where democracy has little or no chance of success anytime soon. He quotes a Pakistani diplomat as saying there has only ever been one free and fair election and that was thirty-seven years ago in 1970. Perhaps his most insightful comment is the following:

An Islamic state carved out of the imperial British version of India, Pakistan -- like other religious states -- tends to see its national destiny as a matter of divine will rather than personal responsibility.

It has proven nearly impossible to reason with people who believe they are instruments of God's will.

Fred Ain't Dead...Yet

I was talking with a woman who has watched the TV commercials of several presidential hopefuls of both parties. Although she isn't particularly pro-Thompson, she thought his TV spots were far and away the most impressive. She said he could connect with you through the camera, where the others could not. "You really felt he was talking to you as an individual." In other words, he is a talented actor. In this mediated age, that is a powerful tool. Hearing that, I believe it is too soon to count Fred out.

10 Rules of Presidential Politics

Go check out this article on by Patrick Ruffini. He lists 10 things we should have learned from the political process going on before us. I think he has hit upon several old or new truisms of presidential politics. In Dave Letterman top ten countdown format, here are his ten pieces of wisdom:
10. Politics abhors a vacuum.
9. Announcement bumps always fade, but....
8. Get in early.
7. Second-timers don't win.
6. Nice guys finish last.
5. Be the guy (or gal) people want to vote for.
4. You actually have to want the job.
3. Primary debates don't matter, but the post-spin does.
2. You can buy an early lead in IA/NH for about $2 million.
1. Issues are secondary.

You won't understand what he means in several of these unless you go read his article.

Steyn on Pakistan

After taking a couple of snide shots at the writers' strike and the 'talented' people whose lines they write, Mark Steyn segues to the Pakistan situation and makes a lot of sense about that muddled mess. Take a look at his column in the Orange County Register.

Without giving away the plot, let's just say that he isn't convinced Bhutto will do a better job than Musharraf. Here is his clever segue:
Gen. Musharraf is – as George S. Kaufman remarked when the Germans invaded Russia – shooting without a script. But that's because he presides over a country that defies the neatness of scripted narratives. In the days after 9/11, George W. Bush told the world that you're either with us or against us. Musharraf said he was with us, which was jolly decent of him considering that 99.9999 percent of his people are against us.

That is the sort of decision elected leaders cannot make and hope to get reelected. Remembering that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, how would we feel about the mad mullahs taking over the country?

Iraq No Longer Hot News and ....

Check out this Los Angeles Times report of a Pew Research Center poll which finds Americans are less interested than formerly in stories about the Iraq war. That has to be bad news for Democrat presidential hopefuls, whose netroots base is rabidly opposed to the war and expects their candidates to rant about it.

Except for national defense and terrorism, most other issues work better for Democrats than Republicans: the economy, oil prices, housing slump, health care costs. The piece concludes with an apparent non sequitur:
Americans haven't elected a sitting legislator as president in 47 years. And four of the last five elected presidents have been governors. The fifth one was a sitting vice president.

This isn't a non sequitur because both of the two leading Democrats are "sitting legislators" while the leading Republicans are not, and one of them is a recent governor. Specifically, that trend is a bad omen for Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain, Dodd, and Biden; great news for Governors Romney, Richardson, and Huckabee; and somewhere in the neutral range for Mayor Giuliani, and former Senators Edwards and Thompson. Isn't politics a great spectator sport...?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Peggy Noonan on Margaret Thatcher

Writing in The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal, Peggy Noonan pens an unflattering (to Hillary) comparison of Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. To summarize her view in one sentence, Thatcher wanted power to accomplish good things for Britain, while Clinton wants power to have power.

The best part of the article is a Thatcher joke, which Peggy relates as follows:

Margaret Thatcher held a meeting with her aides and staff, all of whom were dominated by her, even awed. When it was over she invited her cabinet chiefs to join her at dinner in a nearby restaurant. They went, arrayed themselves around the table, jockeyed for her attention. A young waiter came and asked if they'd like to hear the specials. Mrs. Thatcher said, "I will have beef."

Yes, said the waiter. "And the vegetables?"

"They will have beef too."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Bush Duck May Not Be Lame

This article from the German publication Spiegel, translated into English, takes the view that George W. Bush is far from powerless as a wartime President. The author suggests that W is winning the Iraq war, influencing the campaigns of the Republican candidates to replace him, and driving the foreign policy agenda for the balance of his presidency and most likely for the next president as well.

That is not the description of a duck that is lame. I don't think this article will be popular with the Euro-trash audience for which it was written.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Fat Live Longer

This New York Times article reports the results of a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study examined the death rates per 100,000 for people of normal weight, people thought to be overweight, and those who are underweight. For the first time, the study examined why the "overweight" actually have lower death rates than those of normal weight. They found:
Linking, for the first time, causes of death to specific weights, they report that overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

The view of earlier centuries - that it was healthy to be a little fat - was correct. This is really good news for those of us who buy plus sizes and haven't seen our feet for several years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I'm Okay, We're Not Okay

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times online, does a really nice piece of social analysis. He reports polling data which shows most Americans (around 2/3 ) are satisfied with their own lives but unhappy with the direction of the country. His conclusion is interesting:
These voters don’t believe government can lift their standard of living or lead a moral revival. They want a federal government that will focus on a few macro threats — terrorism, health care costs, energy, entitlement debt and immigration — and stay out of the intimate realms of life. They want a night watchman government that patrols the neighborhood without entering their homes.

That works for me.

Another Data Point on Climate Change

This article from The Scotsman indicates that Scotland had in 2007 an unusually cold and wet summer. This environment was tough on song birds which normally breed there.

This report seems to be more bad news for the global warming folks. I'm trying to work out how global warming makes Scotland colder.

Gender Influences Tastes

That men and women often like different movies, books, and TV shows is sufficiently well-known to be uncontroversial. That men and women like different cars has been the subject of good-natured banter on such TV programs as CBS's NCIS.

Here is an article from Forbes that deals seriously with the automotive taste difference. Not surprisingly, men are much more likely to buy heavy duty pickup trucks, Corvettes and large SUVs while women are more likely to buy Saturns, Volkswagens and Hondas.

I'm of the opinion that it is okay for men and women to have different tastes in cars, books, movies, booze and decor. The existence of these differences does not, a priori, constitute discrimination against anybody. The issue of whether these gender-based taste differences are learned or innate is quite another matter, one upon which I do not choose to opine.

Drivers Licenses for Illegals Unpopular

A Washington Times - Rasmussen Report poll, reported here, finds over three quarters of Americans oppose giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Republicans oppose it by 88% and Democrats oppose it by 68%, according to the article. Similar percentages opposed giving state scholarships to illegal immigrant college students and favored local police checking immigration status of traffic stops and acting to deport any found here illegally.

Referring back to the Barone article profiled two days ago, it looks like illegal immigration may become a major issue in the campaign of 2008. If so, the Democratic candidates are on the wrong side of the issue in the minds of most voters, including those in their own party!

When an opponent takes careful aim and shoots him or herself in the foot, your humble scribe is moved to say "Oh, the joy...."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Conservative Humor Alert

A hat tip to my buddy Earl for forwarding along the following bit of conservative humor. The original source for it I do not know, a quick web search finds many postings.

Schedule of Events

7:25 pm ~ NONRELIGIOUS PRAYER AND WORSHIP - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
7:45 pm ~ CEREMONIAL TREE HUGGING - Darryl Hannah
8:15 pm ~ GAY WEDDING PLANNING - Rosie O'Donnell
9.00 pm ~ MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR SADDAM AND HIS SONS - Cindy Sheehan and Susan Sarandon
10:00 pm ~ "ANSWERING MACHINE ETIQUETTE" - Alec Baldwin
11:30 pm ~ OVAL OFFICE AFFAIRS - William Jefferson Clinton
12:15 am ~ "TRUTH IN BROADCASTING AWARD" - Presented to Dan Rather by Michael Moore
12:30 am ~ SATELLITE ADDRESS - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barone on Immigration Politics

Take a look at this National Review Online article by Michael Barone on the likely impact of immigration on the 2008 presidential race. He concludes that the Republican nominee will be on the popular side of this issue (unless he is John McCain) and the Democratic nominee will be defending an unpopular position.

Describing the overwhelming majority of Americans who opposed the amnesty bill proposed in the Senate and supported by President Bush, Barone says:
They want the current law to be enforced. It bothers them that we have something like 12 million illegal immigrants in our country. It bothers them that most of the southern border is unfenced and unpatrolled. It bothers them that illegal immigrants routinely use forged documents to get jobs — or are given jobs with no documents at all. You don’t have to be a racist to be bothered by such things. You just have to be a citizen who thinks that massive failure to enforce the law is corrosive to society.

That description works for me, what do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Quote of the Day: A Grim Polka

My quote of the day comes from a Peggy Noonan column in OpinionJournal, The Wall Street Journal's online OpEd page. Contrasting Hillary Clinton's political style with that of her husband Bill, Peggy opines:
He was light on his feet. She turns every dance into the polka. And it is that amazing thing, a grim polka.

"Hillary's grim polka" will do for today's lovely turn of phrase.

Attack on Iran Inevitable?

Okay, enough happy travel blogging, back to grim reality in the international realm. In that spirit, check out this Asia Times Online article by Spengler about the need for an attack on Iran's nuclear capability. Here is the key material:
The West has no choice but to attack Iran, because Iran believes that it has no choice but to develop nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: this attack will destabilize the entire region, past the capacity of the king's horses and king's men to reassemble it. The agenda will shift from how best to promote stability, to how best to turn instability to advantage.

I'm not sure I agree but it is an interesting analysis.