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Monday, October 31, 2005

Serenity Character Quiz

You scored as The Operative. You are dedicated to your job and very good at what you do. You've done some very bad things, but they had to be done. You don't expect to go to heaven, but that is a sacrifice you've made for a better future for all.

Which Serenity character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com (via Llama Butchers)

Alito and the Family Medical Leave Act.

One of the big things the left is bringing up against Alito is his ruling on the family and medical leave act. From the spin, you would think that Alito said the entire thing is unconstitutional. Ann Althouse explains the reasoning, and the scole in this post: Alito and the Family Medical Leave Act. Bet you won't see anything similar in any major media publication.

Bush nominates Samuel A. Alito to Supreme Court

New York Times:

Samuel A. Alito has been a strong conservative jurist on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a court with a reputation for being among the nation's most liberal. Dubbed 'Scalito' or 'Scalia-lite,' a play not only on his name but his opinions, Alito, 55, brings a hefty legal resume that belies his age. He has served on the federal appeals court for 15 years since President George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1990. Before that Alito was U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey from 1987 to 1990, where his first assistant was a lawyer by the name of Michael Chertoff, now the Homeland Security secretary. Alito was the deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration from 1985 to 1987 and assistant to the solicitor general from 1981 to 1985.
Some people have wondered if the Miers nomination was a fake out from the beginning, whose main purpose was to ensure that 'the base' and therefore the Republican Senators were fired up enough to actually confirm a conservative judge. I still doubt that, but the Alito nomination gives some weight to that premise. From what I can tell of my first looking over of Alito, he is not an 'originalist,' and despite his nickname, much more like Roberts than like Scalia. I will also note that he has White House expirience, which may well mean a favorable view of executive power which I still think is Bush's first priority. I can here liberals all over the country wishing for Miers right now though....

Friday, October 28, 2005


Gib has tagged everyone with this: 1. Go into your archives. 2. Find your 23rd post. 3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it). 4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. 5. Tag five other people to do the same thing. My 23rd post is here. It is actually a pretty good one. This is the fifth sentence: "I will admit that I used to scoff at the very idea of nation building." Kind of fun. I also did the All about Gib Quiz on which I got a 50, but I was cheated by slow loading that caused me to get one wrong that I actually guessed right at.

Supreme Court candidate quiz

JUDGE EDITH HOLLAN JONES U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, appointed by
Reagan, born 1949 A Texan! Nearly nominated to Souter's seat by
G.H.W. Bush. You're hoping the son follows
through! Jones is considered radioactive by
Democrats, which you (and the administration)
might consider a plus!

New World Man presents: My favorite candidate for the Supreme Court
brought to you by Quizilla A very topical quiz indeed! (via The Anchoress)

Scooter indicted


I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury investigating the public unmasking of an undercover CIA operative. Charges included making false statements, obstruction of justice, and perjury, court documents show
These are serious charges, and Libby should be tried, and if convicted, punished for them. Of course there are some interesting angles here. No indictments about the actual unmasking of Plame. Rove, while still under investigation hasn't been charged, and I would bet probably won't be. That makes this a minor, not a major scandal and means it probably won't have much electoral effect at all. From a larger perspective, the whole mess is troubling. To begin with, it seems pretty clear to me that Wilson and Plame crossed the line from providing unbiased information to trying to control policy. They did so by being fairly dishonest and used some unethical, although probably not illegal, tactics. It is also pretty clear that the Whitehouse, while perhaps avoiding illegality it outing Plame, did potential damage to our intelligence service because of this fight. NOCs are important, and all they really have is trust that the government won't 'burn' them, or at least won't burn them unless it is really important. The Plame affair damages that trust, and the fact that Plame brought it on herself to an extent only slightly minimizes that damage.

U.S. economic growth still strong


U.S. economic growth quickened to a 3.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, faster than economists predicted and evidence the economy was able to withstand higher energy costs and Hurricane Katrina. The government's first estimate of the quarter's gross domestic product compares with a 3.3 percent pace from April through June, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. A measure of inflation watched by the Federal Reserve rose at the slowest pace since the second quarter of 2003. Companies pared inventories for a second quarter, setting the stage for stronger production that will help fuel the economy even consumer spending is held back by higher fuel bills, waning confidence and lagging wage gains, economists said. The Commerce Department provided no estimate of Katrina's effect on growth.
Some very good news. Economic growth is the silver bullet that solves all sorts of fiscal and social policy problems. A 3.8% growth rate means a doubling of wealth every 18 years. That can give us a lot of options.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Off the tracks

Peggy Noonan, who I often greatly admire has written an op-ed that I think is accurate in some ways, but fundamentally wrong. Her basic argument can be summed up by these two paragraphs:

I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with 'right track' and 'wrong track' but missing the number of people who think the answer to 'How are things going in America?' is 'Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination.' ... This is. Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
Read the whole thing to get the details of what she is talking about. It is obvious that our society and our technological capabilities are both evolving at an incredibly fast rate. The future has perhaps never been more uncertain and it is becoming increasing difficult to predict what society will be like. It is obvious that this future has its perils, and there will doubtless be perils that we cannot even imagine in the not too distant future. Peggy seems to understand the scope of this change, but not the fundamental nature of it. What we are experiencing I think is a dramatic empowerment of the individual, and a corresponding decline in the ability of the 'elites' to control events. Glenn Reynolds writes on this phenomenom frequently (it is the focus of his new book) and blogging is one aspect of it. We can easily imagine that liklihoods of the not too distant future, molecular manufacturing, biological redesign, and human-machine integration will accellerate that trend to an amazing degree. Indeed, that is the subject of another book that is making waves, The Singularity Is Near. The wheels are coming off, we are leaving the tracks. I submit though that this is because we are taking flight, not because we are crashing. I for one would rather soar through the air, then chug forward on the comfortable tracks laid down by our increasingly less important 'elites.' The challenges we will face that result from this extraordinary increase in individual power and autonomy will also be solved by this individual power. On 9/11, their was one success against the terrorists. It wasn't from the 'elites.' It was from a few brave individuals who acted and ended for all time the tactic of seizing a plane flying it into a building. A certain degree of caution about the changes in our future is wise. As I said, many problems will arise. Extreme pessimism about that is unwarranted though, the same factors that will allow these various problems will also allow us ever greater ability to solve them. We will not be entering utopia, but we are, I am certain, entering a better world. There may be no place for the 'elites' however.

Miers Withdraws

ABC News:

Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications. President Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down. He blamed her withdrawal on calls in the Senate for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege. 'It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel,' Bush said. 'Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.'
I was always ambivalent about the Miers nomination, although I think that the tone of the debate about her was poorly structured and I am not sure that the 'qualifications' that have been touted as necessary for a Supreme Court Justice are a good precident. From a political perspective, the timing of the withdrawal seems very smart to me. Most weeks this would end up being the 'big news' and be the focus of the weekend news shows and sunday papers. With Fitzgerald's investigation ending this week, the news will be all about indictments or the lack thereof. Either Bush gets all of the bad news out of the way at once, or the lack of indictments overshadows any weakness that might be percieved from the nomination. I wonder though how happy anyone will be about Bush's next nomination though. My bet is it will be Gonzales, even though he is also heavily disliked by the 'base.'

Wednesday, October 26, 2005



A few stars are still twinkling in the inky pre-dawn sky when Koyampurath Namitha arrives for work in a quiet suburb of this south Indian city. It's barely 4:30 a.m. when she grabs a cup of coffee and joins more than two dozen colleagues, each settling into a cubicle with a computer and earphones. More than 7,000 miles away, in Glenview, Illinois, outside Chicago, it's the evening of the previous day and 14-year-old Princeton John sits at his computer, barefoot and ready for his hourlong geometry lesson. The high school freshman puts on a headset with a microphone and clicks on computer software that will link him through the Internet to his tutor, Namitha, many time zones away. It's called e-tutoring -- yet another example of how modern communications, and an abundance of educated, low-wage Asians, are broadening the boundaries of outsourcing and working their way into the minutiae of American life, from replacing your lost credit card through reading your CAT scan to helping you revive your crashed computer.
Seems like a very cool idea. It is also an great example of how 'outsourcing' is a benefit to both sides of the deal. Which country benefits economically from this relationship, the U.S. or India? Clearly, it is both. India gets jobs it would not otherwise have, and an incentive to continue to develop competant mathematicians and scientists. The U.S. gets a better educated populace and one-on-one training for students who otherwise could not afford it. Beyond that of course the entire world will benefit from the ideas these educated people in both countries will generate and spread. Economics is not a zero-sum game with any gains for one side happening at the result of others. That is the wonder of a market based system, the fact that both sides gain from a trade.

An Extraordinary Woman

Broken Quanta offers up a beautiful tribute to his mother. Sometimes it is great to read something like this.

Iraqi Sunni parties form alliance


Three Iraqi Sunni parties have announced the formation of an alliance to contest upcoming legislative elections in December. The announcement on Tuesday that the constitution was approved cleared the way for the polls to elect a new Iraqi National Assembly. The parties urged Iraqis to take part in the polls and to reject any calls for a boycott. Sunni Arab parties largely boycotted last January's parliamentary elections. The three parties hope to increase Sunni representation in a national assembly that is currently dominated by Shia Arab and Kurdish parties. 'The leaders of the following political blocs, the Iraqi Peoples Gathering, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue, have agreed to run on one list under the name Iraqi Accord Front,' a joint statement said.
This seems like a very positive sign to me that despiute their dissatisfaction with the constitution, Iraqi Sunnis remain ready to participate in the political process. I continue to be pleased with events in Iraq, remarkably pleased in fact. It strikes me as odd that even with an obvious increase in IP and Iraqi Army effectiveness, the first democratically established constitution in the Arab world, a general decline in violence, and increased signs that Iraqi Sunnis are willing to participate in democracy that so many are still filled with doom and gloom about the prospect of success in Iraq. It certainly seems to me to be much more likely than not that a successful and stable democracy will be firmly established in Iraq within a couple of years. I expect that their will still be some violence. Such an Iraq will be a natural enemy of Al-Qaida and it will not be free of that threat (which nations are though?) There will of course be political disagreements and issues that will continue to arrise. The idea that these issues should be handled in a democratic fashion is taking root strongly though, and that itself makes a huge difference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Death of a Legend

New York Times:

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, died yesterday at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.
I don't know that I can fully grasp the contribution Rosa Parks and the other civil rights leaders of her time made. While there have, and remain, racial tensions the America I grew up in wasn't a segregated place. I have never seen a 'whites only' sign. For that I thank Rosa Parks.

Galloway Gave False Testimony

SWashington Post:

An anti-war British lawmaker gave false testimony to Congress when he denied receiving U.N. oil-for-food allocations from deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a Senate investigative panel said Monday. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., chairman of the subcommittee, and his investigators presented evidence that they say shows British lawmaker George Galloway's political organization and his wife received nearly $600,000 from the oil allocations. Congressional investigators said Galloway could face charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing a congressional proceeding, with each charge carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
While I am not surprised that Galloway took bribes, I must say that I don't understand what authority we would have to hold him accountable. Galloway isn't a U.S. citizen and I don't think we could have compelled him to testify, and thus I don't know that we can hold him accountable for not telling the truth.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Purple Fingers

Michael Yon has written about the latest Iraqi elections. As always, wonderful reporting.

Greenspan's replacement

New York Times:

President Bush will nominate Ben S. Bernanke, his top economic adviser, to replace Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a White House official said. Mr. Bernanke, 51, is expected to be named to the post at 1 p.m., said the official who asked not to be identified because of the pending announcement. A former Federal Reserve governor, Mr. Bernanke has long been considered the favorite for the post, according to political experts, Wall Street analysts and economists. Mr. Bush appointed Mr. Bernanke, a Republican and former professor at Princeton University, to head the White House Council of Economic Advisors earlier this year.
The markets seem to approve of Bernanke, which seems like a pretty good sign to me.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Blogger Burnout

Dean's World has some good advice on avoiding blogger burnout. Especially true is his first point:

Write about whatever you want to write about, whenever you want to write about it, for whatever reason you want to write about it. Period. No exceptions.
I tend to write about a lot of random stuff. Sure a lot is politics, with technology developments being a close second but, as a quick scan of my blog will reveal there is plenty of random stuff as well. I tend to enjoy posting all those stupid quizzes for example.

Google up

ABC News:

Google Inc. shares rocketed to an all-time high on Friday as an impressive round of quarterly results appeared to win over skeptics worried that the Web search company was more bark than bite. In an earnings report that showed the company outstripped Wall Street expectations for the fifth consecutive quarter since its initial public offering in August 2004, Google said on Thursday it saw a 'sea-change' shift to Internet marketing from print and broadcast. ThinkEquity analyst John Tinker echoed the term 'sea-change,' saying that Google's results show 'more and more firms are realizing that Internet advertising is effective.' 'They've come up with a new product that is changing the way people are advertising,' Tinker said. 'They are changing the way people are doing business.'
Google is doing some pretty amazing things, and they seem to be pretty savvy at connecting their technological improvements to actual profits. They will be a very interesting company to watch over the next several years. Accessing and organizing information is probably the single most valuable ability in an 'information economy' and that is Google's core competency.

Top Syrian Seen as Prime Suspect in Assassination

New York Times:

The United Nations investigation into the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon is focusing on the powerful brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as the main suspect, a diplomat with intimate knowledge of the inquiry said Thursday. A United Nations report on the February bombing of a convoy carrying Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, said the fiery attack, shown above, was planned by Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers. Though the report did not include names, the diplomat said the investigators were focusing on Syria's military intelligence chief, Asef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law. ... The diplomat, describing Syria as a "country run by a little family clique," said the involvement of any one in Mr. Assad's inner circle would be a severe blow to the government. "There is absolutely no doubt, it goes right to the top," he said. "This is Murder Inc."
Interesting stuff. My read on Syria is that the 'family clique' is more his father, Hafez al-Assad's clique. Whether Bashar himself is actually in control and supporting this sort of thing is harder to tell. It is possible that he is not, and that the U.N. investigation will give him the leverage to oust the 'old guard.' Regardless it is difficult to imagine that there will not be quite a bit of turmiol at the upper levels of Syrian government over the next few months.

Talk about your subcompacts!

Nanotechnology Now:

These single-molecule vehicles measure just 4x3 nanometers and have four buckyball wheels connected to four independently rotating axles and a organic chemical chassis. The Rice team found that the nanocars moved about on a metal surface by rolling of the wheels in a direction perpendicular to the axles, rather than sliding about like a car on ice. Copyright © Rice University. Credit: Y. Shira/Rice University
This is pretty amazing stuff. More evidence that everything we are used to is about to change. (via Instapundit)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Speak loudly (and carry a concealed hatchet)

Classical Values posts about a historical analog of Cindy Sheehan. Interesting.

Which General Are You?

Julias Caesar
You scored 51 Wisdom, 84 Tactics, 56 Guts, and 48 Ruthlessness!
Roman military and political leader. He was instrumental in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His conquest of Gallia Comata extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, introducing Roman influence into what has become modern France, an accomplishment of which direct consequences are visible to this day. In 55 BC Caesar launched the first Roman invasion of Britain. Caesar fought and won a civil war which left him undisputed master of the Roman world, and began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and heavily centralized the already faltering government of the weak Republic. Caesar's friend Marcus Brutus conspired with others to assassinate Caesar in hopes of saving the Republic. The dramatic assassination on the Ides of March was the catalyst for a second set of civil wars, which marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire under Caesar's grand-nephew and adopted son Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus. Caesar's military campaigns are known in detail from his own written Commentaries (Commentarii), and many details of his life are recorded by later historians such as Suetonius, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 11% on Unorthodox
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 92% on Tactics
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 53% on Guts
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You scored higher than 46% on Ruthlessness
Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test
(via Llama Butchers)

New Uranium Pellet Design

FuturePundit posts on a signifigant improvement in Nuclear fuel discovered by Purdue University. Fascinating stuff. I am convinced that nuclear energy is the only viable alternative to fossil fuels with current technology. Solar power, both from more conventional solar cells and engineered organisms is possible for the future, but even with pretty impressive improvements I think nuclear power will be the center piece of any post-fossil fuel energy plan.

Transparent aluminum

Air Force testing new transparent armor:

Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor -- stronger and lighter than traditional materials -- that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows. The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm -- as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles.
Beam me up Scotty! (via Vodkapundit)

Increased Doubts on Miers

Washington Post:

Meanwhile, several constitutional law scholars said they were surprised and puzzled by Miers's response to the committee's request for information on cases she has handled dealing with constitutional issues. In describing one matter on the Dallas City Council, Miers referred to 'the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause' as it relates to the Voting Rights Act. 'There is no proportional representation requirement in the Equal Protection Clause,' said Cass R. Sunstein, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. He and several other scholars said it appeared that Miers was confusing proportional representation -- which typically deals with ethnic groups having members on elected bodies -- with the one-man, one-vote Supreme Court ruling that requires, for example, legislative districts to have equal populations.
I don't think you need an ivy league education, experience as a judge or time in academia to have a solid understanding of the Constitution and Constitutional law. Miers is apparently trying to prove me wrong with answers like this. I will be interested to see the confirmation hearings, but if this sort of thing is typical of her reasoning I will have to move from 'somewhat troubled' to 'downright opposed'.

Lileks on Culteral Imperialism


There are reasons to protect local culture, of course. American culture is The Borg, assimilating all. Drop a VCR and a TV in a remote Amazonian village, return a year later, and what do you find? Nothing, because you forgot to supply the generator. But leave one of those, and within six months the kids will be running around saying “No Luke I am your father” and making whoom-whoom lightsaber sounds. This fact gladdens the heart of some, since it shows that American values – freedom, justice, explosions – are universal.
Cultures should never be viewed as a static thing. Borrowing ideas from others (even Americans) improves rather than diminishes a culture.

Go Joan!

Listen to this! (via Of the Mind)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Volokh Conspiracy - Gay Marriage Debate

Maggie Gallagher, a well known Gay Marriage opponent, is guest blogging on the Volokh Conspiracy. In a few weeks, Dale Carpenter a prominent proponent of same-sex marriage will be guest blogging. Should be an interesting set of posts. You can see all of Gallaghers posts with this link. So far she has made a fairly good, non bigoted case on the issue. I disagree with her, but that is more based upon my view what the likely outcomes will be (which we obviously don't have empirical data on) than on most of the facts and premises she presents.

Montoya Award

Crosblog has another Inigo Montoya Award up, perhaps the most deserved yet.

Blogs at school

CNET News.com:

As a middle-school teacher, Clarence Fisher is used to spending some time each evening grading papers and reviewing lesson plans. But this year he's got an additional after-school task: updating his students' blogs. Fisher set up online personal journals--Web logs or blogs--this fall for each of his students at Joseph H. Kerr School in the Canadian town of Snow Lake, Manitoba. His combined seventh- and eighth-grade class generates about a dozen entries a day on topics ranging from classroom assignments to weekend plans, which Fisher reviews before posting online.
I think that blogging could be a great tool in teaching. Pretty neat stuff.

Hussein on Trial

New York Times:

Saddam Hussein defiantly faced a panel of Iraqi judges today in a heavily guarded courthouse in central Baghdad, as he was asked to answer charges for a 1982 massacre and begin the long process of public reckoning for the decades of brutal repression that he brought to Iraq. A live-television feed that began around 12:45 p.m. showed a silver-haired judge in black robes reading aloud the names of Mr. Hussein and seven other defendants. The judge sat upright in a black leather chair with a white marble wall in the background. The area where the defendants sat, most of them wearing light-blue or white robes, was surrounded by barriers of white metal bars.
I'm usually all for innocent until proven guilty, but Saddam is already 'proven' guilty and the trial is a mere formality. As an aside, am I the only one who sees a resemblance here?
Saddam Hussein Paul Krugman

Deficits don't matter?

I have been trying to understand the theory in these papers (from this Skeptical Optomist Post.) The basic idea is that with a fiat currency, government spending effectively creates 'money' and government taxation both provides the money's value and destroys it. Since the government can create money the focus on deficits from a traditional viewpoint (that of you or I in our personal finances) is inappropriate. It is certainly an interesting way of looking at things, and I am sure it is correct to at least a certain extent. I am going to have to mull over this for a while. If you want an interesting way to look at government fiscal/monetary policy the articles are certainly worth reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Public Service Announcement II

For the person who came to this blog looking for "how to perform the justus." I am afraid that must remain classified at this time. Tongue exercises are involved however.

Sharia in Iraq

Dave Price has a good post up at Dean's World on the issue of Iraq's constitution allowing sharia law. Well worth reading. Basically, I agree with him that the protections in the Iraqi Constitution are strong enough to allow an adaptable society to emerge and will let Iraqi's deal with various social issues over time. Sure, their is a chance that Democratic institutions will fail and religious theocrats will take over Iraq, but that chance isn't really increased by the Iraqi Constitution allowing sharia law, indeed I would think that the constituion decreases that chance. I am sure I will not agree with every decision a democratic Iraq will make. I often disagree with a democratic France, a democratic Britain and certainly I have my disagreements with a democratic America.


The Anchoress on Halloween, and why she loves the holiday so much. I am also a big fan of Halloween. It tends to be the biggest party my friends and I have all year, and is a great way to just have fun.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Defense of Miers

Mathew Skully, a former speechwriter for President Bush, writes an interesting defense of Hariet Miers in The New York Times:

My friend David Frum expresses the general complaint when he asks, in his blog, when did Harriet Miers 'ever take a risk on behalf of conservative principle? Can you see any indication of intellectual excellence? Did she ever do anything brave, anything that took backbone?' To translate: When all the big-thinkers were persevering year after year at policy institutes and conferences at the Mayflower Hotel, or risking all for principle in stirring op-ed essays and $20,000 lectures, where was Little Miss Southern Methodist University? If four years observing the woman is any guide, the answer is she was probably doing something useful.
Ouch. I am still not totally convinced in Miers, but I am increasingly disliking the criticisms of her that most are leveling. She seems accomplished enough to be a Supreme Court Judge to me, and while I have some questions about her constitutional philosophy, it seems a hard sell that she won't be 'conservative' enough. The detractors of the Miers nomination seem to me to be mostly mad that they won't get a huge battle in the Senate rather than actual problems with the nomination. Given some of the arguments these people have made about other Judges what they are saying about Miers often seems hypocritical.

The Iraqi Vote

This Spiral of Lies post expresses something that I think is very true:

I am watching the results of the Iraqi Constitutional voting, amazed. Amazed that no one is talking about this vote in the proper historical context. Because today will be as important to the War on Terror as the fall of the Berlin Wall was to the Cold War.
I remember quite vividly the fall of the Berlin Wall. It probably is as integral to my political beliefs as anything else. I was a senior in high school, which put that event right at the time my political viewpoints were beginning to solidly form, it was part of my growing up. I don't know if those who are much younger than me can understand our view of the world before the Berlin Wall fell and then the breakup of the Soviet Union. Nuclear apocalypse seemed not a question of if, but when. We didn't go around moping that the world was about to end, but in the back of our mind was the certain knowledge that armageddon was just 30 minutes away and it seemed inevitable that someone would be crazy or foolish enough to pull the trigger. The TV movie The Day After was considered as much future history as it was fiction. It was just a question of inevitable. And then, out of nowhere, the Berlin Wall was being torn down. I think that since that time I have fundamentally been an optomist. I believe that people are generally good and want to be free, to work out their own destiny, fearful as that may be sometimes. I am not naive, I remember Tiananmen Square as well as I remember the Berlin Wall. Good doesn't always win over evil. But good can win over evil, and usually will if we don't forget that it can. Tiananmen Square taught me that a peaceful protest will not route a tyrant. The Berlin Wall taught me that people everywhere long for freedom. The two together are why I believed, and believe, invading Iraq was necessary and moral. There are other reasons as well, reasons why it was in our interest to do so, but without the U.S. military Iraq would not have seen freedom for at least a generation. Without the spirit of the Iraqi people and their desire for freedom the U.S. military could at best exchange one tyrant for another. Obviously Saturday's vote wasn't as dramatic as the fall of the Berlin Wall. In many ways, the most striking thing about the vote is the absence of drama. Little violence, and an air of almost normalcy in the voting. The huge news of the day was that there was no news. Think about that for a minute and realize just how dramatic that really is. Of course things could still go bad in Iraq. The violence is certainly not over and there remain political disputes in Iraq's future that could erupt into civil war. Things continue to improve in Iraq though, and dramatically so. When the Berlin Wall fell, no one knew if it would mean a lasting peace or not. No one could have been sure then that two years later the Soviet Union would no longer be a country, and that it would have disappeared peacefully. There were real chances that things could have gone wrong; horribly, disasterously wrong. Thankfully they didn't. Iraq could go wrong as well, but the odds are a lot better that it won't, and looking better and better with each milestone passed. (Spirit of Lies post via Instapundit)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

U.S. position on Science eroding?

Instapundit has a long post on this report in which the National Acadamy of Science claims that the U.S. advantages in science and technology have begun to erode. There are a lot of good points in the Instapundit post, some made by Glenn and others by email contributors. Let me say first, I think scientific research is a good thing, and we should do more of it. There is a definate place in this for Government funding, particularly in the 'foundational science' arena that has few, if any immediate applications. While I think more science is a good thing, I don't necessarily think that our 'losing our advantage' is necessarily a bad thing. First off, to the extent that we are losing our advantage because other countries are doing more science, that is a good thing. Scientific knowledge is not a zero sum game. If a Pakistani scientist discovers or invents something that is likely to help, not hurt, our economy. More science is better, no matter who is doing it and some of our advantage in the past has been not many other people were doing it. I would rather have less 'advantage' and more science being done in total. The other thing about this study that is interesting to think about is that probably not all 'science' is covered by it. We have in some ways a very narrow definition of science. At it's core, science is two things, understanding how the world works and then taking that understanding and using it to benefit us. From that perspective, we all do science all the time. Earlier this week I encountered this Skeptical Optomist post about Paul Romer, with links to some of his interviews and articles. Paul Romer is the New Growth Theory guru, and I think well worth paying attention to. The core of Paul's theory is that economic growth is primarily a function of ideas, better ways of doing things. While a lot of those ideas are 'scientific' a lot of them are not, or at least not very fundamental science. One of Romer's examples of a new idea that promotes economic efficiency is the redesign of coffee cups at your local Starbucks so that all sizes have the same lid. This didn't take groundbreaking science, but increased a efficiency a little in a lot of places. Thousands of similar small new ideas have as much effect, perhaps more, as the big flashy new ideas that get all the press. I think it is pretty obvious that the U.S. is the world leader on small simple new ideas by an even greater margin than it is in the area of 'big flashy' scientific ideas. As an example of this, while Japan is lauded as a technological and manufacturing leader it's economy has stagnated. This is largely do to massive inefficiencies in its domestic markets, for example, the ubiquity of 'mom and pop' stores, which are protected by the Japanese political system. In contrast, the U.S. invented Wallmart (which, love it or hate it, is an incredibly complex and technological invention.) This increase in domestic efficiency has more than offset Japan's manufacturing edge. Inventing Wallmart probably wouldn't be counted as 'science' by the National Academy, but it's contribution to our economy has been incredible. One of the things brought up in Instapundit's post is that it is hard for research scientists to get jobs, and even when they do the pay isn't that great. Some of this is a valid problem, but there is another perspective here as well. Some, probably most, of the generation of Romer's 'new ideas' is in areas that aren't really science, as I have talked about. For example, the technological aspects of generating a functional MP3 player isn't really all that hard. What is tough, is building an MP3 player that the people will love.

I would guess that the technicians behind the iPod were compensated less than the designers and marketers of the Ipod. I would also be willing to state that they deserved that compensation. Another example is the Internet. While the scientists and technicians (and Al Gore) who developed the fledgling internet did a great thing, the real heroes of the internet are a different group of people. They were the guys who figured out that the internet is a really great way to exchange porn. Without them, I am convinced that the internet would be a minor tool for academics, rather than the extremely useful tool for ordinary people that it is today. They didn't invent the technology of the internet, what they did was create a compelling reason for lots of us to start using the internet. They were basically in marketing, and as the usefulness of the internet increases dramatically with the number of users of the internet, their simple, non scientific idea has made a huge difference. Science is good, and we should definately fund it. Our economy is more dependent on lots of simple, some would say trivial, new ideas than it is on hard scientific advancement though.

Public Service Announcement

For whoever came to my blog by searching for "how to do justus" A nice dinner is a good start.

Screed away!

Lileks is impressive as always:

If Chavez’ opportunistic eco-twaddle smacks of the sort of religious eschatology you get from Pat Robertson, it should. The pious leftism of the international nomenklatura is a religion. The United States may not be their Great Satan, but it’s the devil they know. The bureaucrats and the EU anointed are the priesthood - and the Nobel peace prize is the means of bestowing sainthood.
It seems pretty obvious to me that most people need some sort of religion in their world, a simple way to summarize the 'big picture' and keep everything in perspective. That being the case, all else being equal I prefer those religions that have been around for a while and, while not free of fault, have actually managed to improve and help (or at least not hurt too badly) their societies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Zarqawi's losing strategy

Austin Bay in RealClearPolitics:

When Al-Qaida's zealots blow up trains in Spain or subways in London, those are attacks of their choosing conducted on 'infidel terrain.' The genius of the war in Iraq is a brutal but necessary form of strategic judo: It brought the War on Terror into the heart of the Middle East and onto Arab Muslim turf. In Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's theo-fascists have been spilling Arab blood, and Al Jazeera has noticed that, too.
Read the whole thing. The decision to make Iraq the central front in the war on terror has an interesting moral dimension. It is, I believe, to our benefit to have a hugely high stakes nation, Iraq, up for grabs as it were to force the terrorists to fight for it. Rather then a decades long battle where Al-Qaida and like groups occassionally attacks various targets it transforms the central front of the battle to a more traditional one where we can effectively defeat them. It is a battle that they cannot choose as well, a democratic Iraq is a direct threat to the ideology of Al-Qaida and a an insurmountable obstacle to the re-establishment of the caliphate. We, and Al-Qaida, have seen the virulence of the Democratic domino effect in other places, and it is reasonable to suppose that the same effect would happen in the Arab world which would end a good portion of Al-Qaida's appeal. They have to fight in Iraq no matter how long the odds are against them. The moral question though is are we justified in thrusting Iraqis into this war? Ultimately of course we hope, and I believe, that it will benefit them directly. I can certainly also be argued that even with the chaos and death in Iraq now it is an improvement from the time of Saddam. Many Iraqis seem to believe this based upon the polls that have come out. One can also make the argument that Iraq would have had to fight this same fight, and with much less favorable circumstances eventually if it ever was to achieve a free and democratic status. The fact remains though it is was our choice, not theirs, to wage this battle there. It was the only place we really could, and was (and is) the most favorable for us, but it has certainly killed many Iraqis. In war moral issues become confused, the necessary, no matter how vile, becomes in it's own way the moral choice. Perhaps this is a case of that. I hope, and still believe, that this decision will be seen as a good one for Iraq as well as for us. Certainly the fact of Saddam's horrendous nature helps in that. I also believe in the tremendous value of democracy and freedom, and think that as Iraqis fight these terrorists they are also coming to share these values.

Deal on Iraqi Constitution

Los Angeles Times:

Top Iraqi politicians said late Tuesday that they had reached a deal to persuade leading Sunni Arabs to support a draft constitution that will be the subject of a national referendum Saturday. Under the terms of the compromise, Sunni leaders would drop their opposition to the constitution if the current National Assembly requires its successor to renegotiate the charter. A new legislature is to be elected in December, and the deal mandates that a second constitutional referendum would be held within four months. 'If the present National Assembly approves this amendment, we will change our attitude to say yes,' said Ayad Samarayee, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni Arab group.
This seems very signifigant and very positive.

Syrian Minister commits suicide


Syria's interior minister, who was head of the country's military intelligence in neighboring Lebanon for nearly 20 years, has committed suicide, officials said. Ghazi Kanaan's death was reported Wednesday, days before the expected release of a United Nations report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a prominent opponent of Syria's presence in Lebanon. The 63-year-old Baathist major general died in a Damascus hospital of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the interior ministry and other government ministers.
A very interesting development that naturally leads us to wonder if this was in fact a suicide. I doubt we will ever no for sure, but it is certainly plausible that he was assinated to dead-end the investigation into Hariri's death. Beyond that, Kanaan was a key figure of the 'old guard' that many think are actually running Syria. There was some indication that Bashar Al-Assad was fairly moderate before he became President of Syria, but their have been little signs of that since then. It will be interesting to see what result from these events.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ed Koch's strategy

Ed Koch lambasts the New York Times and the Democratic party for their response to terrorism in general and George Bush's speech last week in particular. He makes some very good points, and the whole thing is well worth reading. He goes on to give some advice to the President on a particular strategy that he espouses:

I propose that we put the UN Security Council on notice that we will leave Iraq by the end of this year. My belief is that the UN, particularly France, Germany and Russia, knowing we will leave, will have a greater interest in maintaining peace in Iraq than we have, either a regional interest, e.g., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan; or a commercial interest -- oil and vendor contracts with Iraq -- e.g., Germany and France. They will then understand that it is in their interest to have us remain with them proportionately providing troops and sharing the costs of war. We should provide them with these choices. Indeed, whether they come in or not as a result of our threat of withdrawal, we will be strengthened on another front. As a result of our being in Iraq to the extent that the largest number of our worldwide forces -- 149,000 American soldiers -- are tied down, we are unable to be a vital threat to North Korea, Iran and Syria. Those countries believe that, because we are in Iraq and bereft of allies, we are a paper tiger whose demands and threats can be ignored with impunity.
I have to disagree with him on this. First off, I think you have to be very careful about bluffing if you aren't willing to follow through. If we follow this strategy, and they still refuse to provide meaningful support in Iraq we would be in a very bad position. We would either have to go back on our word or abandon Iraq and live with the consequences of that choice, consequences that would be horrible in my opinion. America is often seen as a feckless ally already, and abandoning Iraq would reinforce that opinion and embolden Al-Qaida immensely. Perhaps if the gains were good enough, and the likelihood of a successful bluff succeeding high enough, that would be worth the risk. Neither of those factors seem true to me though. Germany is simply not going to have a significant presence in Iraq. Politically it is impossible for them, and even if they had the will, their military is degraded to such a degree that they do not have the capability. France while marginally better off as far as capabilities, is equally unlikely to participate for political reason. Even at it's best, it would be hard pressed to match the number of effective troops that Britain is mustering. Russia's military while still numerically significant is probably unable to logistically support such a deployment. Frankly, they can't deal with Chechnya and it is unlikely they could be much help in Iraq. While the economic possibilities of Iraq might tempt Russia, and an increasingly authoritarian Putin might be able to politically work a deal like this, it is unlikely that they would be very capable and unlikely that they would even try without an equal commitment from France and Germany. Beyond those arguments though, which address the likelihood (or lack thereof) of Koch's proposal succeeding it is unclear to me that even if it would succeed that the gains would be worth it. A big part of the focus in Iraq is training the Iraqi troops. A lot of this training is being done by joint operations with American forces. Probably the biggest single thing we are trying to do is build up the Iraqi NCOs to be the backbone of the Iraqi Army. The NCO culture that our military is so dependent on is pretty much entirely absent in Russia, it has been degraded into non existence in Germany and France, well, lets just say having the French train the Iraqis to be an effective fighting force seems like a stretch. There are perhaps three countries, Britain, Australia, and Israel, that have the technology and training to 'keep up' with U.S. forces in an engagement. Our other allies are appreciated, and perform valuable work, but on a battle field they are often more trouble then help. The individual members of these other forces may be very brave and dependable, but they simply don't have to tools to work along side the modern U.S. military. Perhaps in a few years their will be a forth nation, Iraq, that can accomplish this feat. There is already one unit there that is considered 'level 1.' We won't get more level 1 Iraqi units by bringing in level 3 militaries though. For the most part, if we want to do this we have to do it ourselves.

Althouse: Mellowing on Miers.

Althouse: Mellowing on Miers.:

Thinking about it that way has begun to thaw my opposition to Miers. Why is it not a good thing to have one person on the Court who approaches constitutional decisionmaking the way a lawyer would deal with the next legal problem that comes across the desk? Perhaps the Court is harmed by an excess of interest in the theoretical. A solid, experienced lawyer like Miers, with no real background in constitutional law, might look at the text, the precedents, the briefs, and use the standard lawyer's methods to resolve the problem at hand. What is wrong with having that style of analysis in the mix? We need a safeguard against the excessively theoretical.
This is an interesting way of looking at this issue, and not a bad one. Miers is not stupid, and I think she is certainly intellectually up to the job of being a Supreme Court Justice. In truth, we need intelligence on the bench probably less than we need wisdom, and I don't know that we have any reliable test for that. I remain worried about Miers, but not for any of the reasons commonly cited. I think her history and credentials are plenty good for the Supreme Court. I have no worries about her being 'conservative' enough (in fact, if that sort of thing were to be a problem for me I would worry about the opposite.) She is the President's pick and I imagine that in many ways her ideology matches his. She will probably on most issues be a good judge, and I expect I will agree with her about as much as I agree with any of the Judges. I also don't have any patience for those who are upset at this nomination because they were looking forward to an apocalyptic showdown in the Senate, and (hopefully) driving the Democrats screaming and wailing under the conquering feet of the glorious Republicans. We don't need that kind of battle, it serves no useful purpose and while elections matter, and the President and the Republican party therefore get to pick who they want on the court, the President is the President of the whole country. If an judge that is acceptable to Democrats is also acceptable to him, that is a good thing and not a bad thing. In an ideal world both parties would be concerned with what is best for the country and while they may at times disagree on what that is, they would also at times agree. Partisanship is natural, and a fact of life, but we shouldn't celebrate it or desire more of it. My concern with Miers is simply that she, along with Roberts, and probably even more adamantly, seems likely to be an extreme supporter of executive power. I am a bit worried that such a dramatic shift of the court in that direction could lead to unfortunate results in the future. The power of the executive branch has grown considerably since the writing of the constitution, and while some of that is good and a necessary response to changing conditions, I worry about the trend continuing too far (and too fast.) If I am right that this is the reason Bush has chosen her, and I am strongly convinced that I am, then Bush will not nominate a strict 'originalist' to the court. (Althouse link via Instapundit)

Hear no Evil

Environmental Republican has tagged me to list the seven people who never should publish or speak another single word publicly ever. There are many people I disagree with. There are also many people who I think are ill informed on the issues or who have drawn incredibly erroneous conclusions. There are numerous people who I never wish to read or hear speak again. However, there is no one who I think shouldn't publish or speak. In fact, I wish more people would express their thoughts and opinions in a public manner. That is what blogging is about, at it's core, the idea that everyone now can share their thoughts and opinions no matter how ill informed or poorly reasoned. It is certainly true that speaking can have negative effects on people in various ways. The solution though is never censorship but more speach, to confront those ideas that are wrong and explain why they are wrong. If I ever find that the only way I can win an argument is to shut up my opponents, it means that my argument is the weak one. Free speech and the free exchange of ideas is not a necessary evil, it is an unmitigated positive good. (Scott at Environmental Republican is certainly not a censor and I am sure that he regards this as a joke, it is not an issue that I personally joke about however. The seductive desire to just shut up one's adversaries rather than perform the tough job of confronting them is too close to all of us I think.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

I call this a win

Anti-terror TV Show Angers Arabs:

A new television series being broadcast around the Middle East tells the story of Arabs living in residential compounds in Saudi Arabia and the militant Islamists who want to blow them up so they can collect their rewards in heaven - 72 beautiful virgins. The show's message: terrorism is giving Islam a bad name, and Muslims are suffering because of the actions of a few.
This seems like a major step toward Muslims confronting the sickness that has sprung up within their culture (see the Gaijin Biker post if you doubt this is a problem within Islam.) We will see if this has any real effect, but my bet is that it, and other things like it, will be a major turning point. (via Smash)

I blame Michael Brown


Desperate Pakistanis Wait for Quake Aid Desperate Pakistanis huddled against the cold and some looted food stores Monday as international aid still had not reached remote areas of mountainous Kashmir after a monster earthquake flattened villages, cut off power and water, and killed tens of thousands. Officials predict the death toll, now estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000, will climb and fear that more could die from exposure or disease with winter just six weeks away. The United Nations has said 2.5 million people near the Pakistan-India border need shelter.
Getting aid to disaster victims quickly is hard, even in the best of circumstances and the Kashmir area wasn't the best of circumstances before the earthquake there. Pakistan, both harder hit than India and even poorer will have a very tough time helping the survivors and cleaning up the mess. While help is pouring in from all over, including the U.S. Military, that will take time to be effective as well.

Quake kills 'whole generation'

The Courier-Mail:
A WHOLE generation had been wiped out in the areas most devastated by the weekend's huge quake in Pakistan, a military spokesman said today, as UNICEF estimated up to 40,000 had been killed in the disaster. The roads leading into Pakistani-controlled Kashmir - the area worst affected by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake - were blocked by landslides. Power and water supplies were down, hospitals and schools destroyed. A senior official said the quake had killed between 30,000 and 40,000 people in Pakistan and injured another 60,000.
This has been a horrible tradgedy, the scale of which we probably can't imagine here in the west. Katrina killed around 1000 people and was the worst natural disaster in this country in my lifetime.

Breakthrough on Ag Subsidies

Business Week:

New offers from the United States and European Union to cut aid to their farmers could herald a breakthrough in deadlocked global trade talks, just two months before a deadline for a framework treaty, ministers said Monday. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman gave negotiations a boost early Monday when he laid out a new proposal on agricultural tariffs and subsidies, saying the EU and Japan must now promise to do more to cut aid to their own farmers. The EU responded with a proposal to make deeper cuts in subsidies to its own farmers. But the necessary reforms are expected to be a tough sell to farmers on both sides of the Atlantic who have profited from generous government handouts.
Agriculteral subsidies are among the worst things our government does. It wastes public monies, distorts the market, hurts consumers and is devastating to the third world. Anything that will help reduce or end this is something that I applaud.

Robot Rally Winner

The Seattle Times:

A driverless Volkswagen was declared the winner yesterday of a $2 million race across the rugged Nevada desert, beating four other robot-guided vehicles that completed a Pentagon-sponsored contest aimed at making warfare safer for humans. The contest displayed major technological leaps since last year's inaugural race, when none of the self-driving vehicles crossed the finish line. Stanley the VW Touareg, designed by Stanford University, zipped through the 132-mile Mojave Desert course in six hours and 53 minutes Saturday, using only its computer brain and sensors to navigate rough and twisting trails. The Stanford team celebrated by popping champagne and pouring it over the mud-covered Stanley.
Way cool. It is amazing how much better all the contestants did than last year.

Friday, October 07, 2005


This hurts. (via Lileks)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Battle For Mosul IV

Michael Yon has another report up. This one is primarily about the Iraqi police and army. Some incredible stories, some incredible courage. Here is a taste:

The enemy began slaughtering the ISF, and American officers estimate that about 600-700 ISF have been killed in Mosul since November 2004. These numbers are difficult to verify; when I asked ISF officers (police and army), they agreed that this might be an accurate estimate for Mosul, but nobody seems to know and the Iraqis don’t share the American penchant for detailed statistics. ... Amazingly, these Iraqis continue to load up in those little trucks and go to work, knowing the odds are that they will, sooner or later, get shot or blown up. In a previous dispatch I stated that the only true martyrs I've seen in Iraq are these men, ordinary in most respects, who step forward and put everything on the line, for the idea of Iraq. But they also have a powerful example to follow now: one that gives them the courage to face these odds. In West Mosul every one of their leaders has been wounded in combat, some more than once, but they get right back into the fight—taking up positions in front.
Read the whole thing. Yon is the best reporter on the planet as far as I can tell, and if you don't read his perspective on Iraq, you are missing alot of the picture.

Bush's speech

CNN.com transcript I was going to find a few parts to except, but I would have ended up just quoting the whole thing. This speech is why I supported Bush in the last elections and illustrates why I am convinced that he has the right vision to defeat Islamist Terrorism. Read the whole thing. I just wish that he would say this sort of thing more often. America needs this to be reminded of this from time to time.

Governator News

Earlier this summer I was seeing some news stories and blogging opinions that Schwarzenegger was done based upon some approval ratings and weak support for his initiatives that are on the ballot this November. I keep an eye on Schwarzenegger news because, a) he is really cool and b) I think his plans are pretty ambitious and will be good for California and the rest of the country. In particular I like his move to change how redistricting in California is done. It seems now that those predictions of Schwarzenegger's demise were a bit off base. Take a look at this SurveyUSA Election Poll which shows all 5 propositions leading by a comfortable margin. Very interesting. (via Powerline)

The Volokh Conspiracy - -

Todd Zywicki of The Volokh Conspiracy shows us Kelo in action. While I have somewhat come to terms with this decision (I don't agree with it, but I think the problems can be remedied in other ways) this is an example, perhaps extreme, of why this decision was a bad one.

DARPA 2005 Robotic Road Rally Preliminary Photos

Picturs of the contestants at DARPA's Robotic Road Rally. Hopefully this year will go better than last year.

Nobel for Chemistry

New York Times:

Three scientists share this year's Nobel Prize Chemistry for developing a chemical reaction that swaps out pieces of molecules in a swing-your-partner-around square dance manner, it was announced today. The chemical reaction, developed over the last 35 years, enables a more efficient and more environmentally friendly way to manufacture of plastics, drugs and other materials. The winners are Yves Chauvin, 74, who retired a decade ago from the French Petroleum Institute in Rueil-Malmaison, France; Robert H. Grubbs, 63, a professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology; and Richard R. Schrock, 60, a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Each will share one-third of the $1.3 million prize money that accompanies the award bestowed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 'This was a widely expected prize,' said Peter J. Stang, a professor of chemistry at the University of Utah and the editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. 'People knew this was an important reaction. It was very innovative. It was a new way of doing things.' Much of chemistry revolves around the manipulation of organic, or carbon-based, molecules. Such reactions, for example, turn petroleum into plastic. Traditional processes for producing plastic require high temperatures and immense pressure to break and re-form chemical bonds between the carbon atoms.
This is a well deserved prize. One thing that we sometimes forget about with all the more exciting advances in computers and genetics is how important materials science is. This also brings up an important point:
Metathesis reactions tend to be more efficient, requiring less energy and producing less waste. Thus, in addition to benefiting the environment, the processes also tend to be more profitable for chemical companies. The milder reaction conditions of metathesis also allow the manufacture of new materials not previously possible.
Environmentalism and Industrial efficiency can, and often do, go hand in hand. It is unfortunate that so many environmentalists are anti-technology when technology is the best hope for the triumph of their cause. The obvious trend is industrial processes that are both cleaner and cheaper. While regulation (and tax credits in some cases) can speed up this process it can, and often does, hurt it.

Senate sets standards on detainees


In a break with the White House, the Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure Wednesday that would set standards for the military's treatment of detainees, a response to the Abu Ghraib scandal and other allegations that U.S. soldiers have abused prisoners. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a victim of torture while a prisoner during the Vietnam War, won approval of the measure that would make interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual the standard for handling detainees in Defense Department custody and prohibit 'cruel, inhuman or degrading' treatment of U.S.-held prisoners. The White House has threatened to veto the $440 billion military spending bill to which the measure was attached, and Vice President Dick Cheney has lobbied to defeat the detainee measure. White House spokesman Scott McClellan objected that the measure would 'limit the president's ability as commander-in-chief to effectively carry out the war on terrorism.' But McCain struck an emotional chord with his colleagues as he recalled his more than five years in a POW camp. 'Our enemies didn't adhere to the Geneva Conventions,' he said, referring to the international agreement on the treatment of prisoners of war. 'Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. 'But every one of us -- every single one of us -- knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them.' Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired four-star Army general, endorsed McCain's effort. "The world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers," Powell said in a letter that McCain read on the Senate floor. "Such a reaction will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib.
I am in agreement with McCain on this one, and I certainly hope that the President won't dust of his veto pen to block this. Arguements could be made on whether what is in the Army Field Manual is the right standard or not. Not being familiar with that document I couldn't say. Having a clear list of rules on this is obviously needed however, and so far the President, in probably his single greatest failing, has not provided that.

Blair blames Iran for Soldiers deaths


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeated British suspicions of Iran's involvement in the deaths of eight British soldiers killed in Iraq this year, a claim that Iran has strongly denied. Blair was speaking at a joint press conference today in London with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Earlier, Britain accused Iran of responsibility for the deaths of the eight British soldiers killed in Iraq this year. A senior British official said members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps had been supplying explosives technology to a Shi'a group operating in southern Iraq. He also suggested Iran was cooperating with some Sunni groups in Iraq. Iran has denied all those charges. It insists it wants a stable Iraq, and has countered that Britain is the one fomenting instability in the country.
That is quite a serious charge. I think it is patently obvious that Iran has been supportive of Al-Sadr and his ilk. Supportive is one thing though, giving them bombs is something else.

The Anchoress takes Conservatives to the woodshead

The Anchoress:

This is absurd and disgraceful. I am seriously disappointed by what I am reading everywhere - from The Corner to Hugh Hewitt and all spots in between: overheated rhetoric, defensiveness, barely-concealed (and too-effusively denied) contempt and class-conscious snark. I’m consistantly telling the left to “grow up.” Now, I say it to my friends on the right, fully aware that I will most likely be taken to the cyber-blogshed for it by folks on both sides (and go ahead and dump me from your blogrolls, too): GROW UP. For heaven’s sake, GROW UP.
She certainly has a point. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why Ask Why?

Christopher Hitchens on the recent Bali bombings, and why negotiation with Al-Qaida is impossible.

Salmon flavored Pork

Learn all about it at Of the Mind.

More thoughts on Miers

John Hinderaker of Power Line comes to the conclusion that I am leaning toward on Miers:

I don't think Miers was one of the best nominees Bush had available, but no one asked my opinion (or Will's). The bottom line is, the President gets to appoint Supreme Court justices. Miers is easily--very easily, in my opinion--within the range of qualified nominees that it would be improper for the Senate to reject. I think her qualifications are better, for example, than Ruth Ginsburg's were. I think it would be very foolish for Republicans to start campaigning for Senators to refuse Miers confirmation, on the theory that we would then get someone better. If Bush gets another nomination, we probably will get someone about whom I am more enthusiastic, but in the meantime, Miers is the President's nominee and she ought to be confirmed.
It is an interesting question on what the role of the Senate Confirmation should be. Some think that it is the role of the Senators to be a reletively equal partner in picking the Supreme Court Judges with a definate interest in assuring that their views of the most qualified and ideologically favorable (to each Senator's ideology) candidates get the job. Others lean toward a notion that the Senate's real job here is to assure that the minimum qualifications are met, and as long as that happens, they should defer to the President's choice. I certainly lean toward the second line of reasoning. Historically, so have most Republicans, the confirmation of Ginsburg being exhibit A on that. Democrats have leaned more toward the first interpretation than Republicans do, although they have historically given a lot of deference to the President in this regard. The Roberts confirmation was of course a big shift toward the Senators as equal partners philosophy. It is interesting then to observe the response to Miers throughout the conservative chattering heads. I think it fair to say that a fair amount of hipocracy is being displayed on this issue. Of course it is a seperate issue entirely between acknowledging that a President has a right to choose the Supreme Court Justices and agreeing with that decision. It is certainly allowable for a disgusted Republican to lower or cease supporting the party over this nomination. It is certainly allowable criticize the choice, and explain why X nominee would have been better. I am still a bit up in the air about how much I personally agree with the Miers nomination. I am leaning toward not ideal, but acceptable and not worth getting to worked up over.

Bush Is Preparing for Greenspan Successor

New York Times:

Now that he's tackled the Supreme Court openings, President Bush is preparing for another high-profile nomination: a successor to Alan Greenspan, whose 18-year run at the Federal Reserve comes to an end in just over three months. Often referred to as the second-most powerful person in the United States, Greenspan's last day is expected to be Jan. 31. Speaking at a wide-ranging news conference on Tuesday, Bush touched briefly on the White House's efforts to select a new Fed chairman. He called the process to find Greenspan's replacement ''ongoing.'' ''There is a group of people inside the White House ... who will bring forth nominees,'' Bush said. What is the president looking for in a new Fed chairman? ''The nominees will be people that, one, obviously can do the job and, secondly, will be independent,'' Bush said. ''It's important that whomever I pick is viewed as an independent person from politics. It's this independence of the Fed that gives people, not only here in America but the world, confidence.''
This is at least as important as a supreme court nomination. There are some who think Alan Greenspan has done a bad job. I am definately not one of them. From what I can see he has pretty brilliantly managed the economy, as far as it can be managed anyway. (via Honest Partisan)


Greedy Clerks Board Discussion:

Cheney: 'Look, just tell him that you couldn't find anyone, but that you think you could probably just do it yourself.' Miers: 'There's no way I can pull that off.' Cheney: 'He'll go for it, I swear!'

Interesting stuff

The Speculist: Better All The Time #22 Some of this I had already seen, some of it I hadn't. Check it out.

Iraq makes about-turn on Constitution voting rules

Mail & Guardian Online:

Under United Nations pressure, Iraq's Parliament on Wednesday reversed changes to an electoral law that critics had charged made it harder to reject the new and deeply divisive Constitution in next week's referendum. ... The latest change in voting rules came only three days after MPs altered them in a way that drew sharp criticism from the US and the UN as well as the increasingly alienated Sunni Arab minority. The political flap revolved around the terms under which the charter would be approved, and what could block its adoption. Wednesday's measure, approved by 119 of the 147 MPs present, places all voters on an equal footing. The Constitution will be approved if a simple majority of all those who turn out to vote say yes and if two-thirds of voters in at least three provinces do not say noGood!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Rise and Rise of the American Empire

This Sigmund, Carl and Alfred post on how different the American Empire is from Empires of the past, and how unlikely it is that the American Empire is on the verge of a fall is a great read. I don't see any sign of an immanent or even an eventual collapse. Time of course eventually destroys everything, but I wouldn't hold my breath on 'the American Empire' being gone any time soon.

Bolton at Yale

yaledailynews.com: I love this bit:

'He was extremely rude, extremely belligerent, everything the Democrats called him in confirmation hearings,' Jed Glickstein '08 said. 'He was all those things, but in the end he won the debate.'
Heh! (via The Anchoress)

Darfur Genocide Over...

But only because the 'job' is done. Johann Hari has a depressing analysis up. Read the whole thing. This bit is especially poignant:

The Darfur holocaust is a bleak demonstration of how little the most powerful institutions in the world are motivated by basic human morality. Confronted with a clear example of the most terrible crime of all, they have all conspired to carry on working with the killers as if the holocaust in Darfur is at best a minor inconvenience.
I haven't blogged on Darfur in a while. Basically I guess I ran out of things to say. It is horrible and no one seems willing to do anything to stop it. The United States has been probably the best on the issue, and we have been pretty crappy.

Election Change for Iraqi Constitutional Referendum

New York Times:

Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders quietly adopted new rules over the weekend that will make it virtually impossible for the constitution to fail in the coming national referendum. The move prompted Sunni Arabs and a range of independent political figures to complain that the vote was being fixed. Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign to vote down the proposed constitution said they might now boycott the referendum on Oct. 15. Other political leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would seriously damage the vote's credibility. Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces. The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.
I have to say I don't approve of this. I think it is a horrible mistake by the Shiites and Kurds and will make it very tough to convince Sunnis to join in the process. It also opens up a legitimate question of whether the Shiites and Kurds will follow the rule of law after a constitution is approved and if they have any real commitment to protect the rights of Sunnis. The main justification for this change seems to be the following:
Other Shiite members of the assembly defended their action. They said that if only people who came to the polls were counted in the referendum, insurgent attacks could frighten away so many voters that the constitution could be rejected on the basis of a small, unrepresentative sample of voters.
That is possibly a fair argument, but if so there are better ways to handle it. Having a minimum turnout requirement for example (say 50% turnout?) or that provinces vote can't be counted might be a fair compromise. That would also have the upside of those who are against the constitution needing to encourage voter turnout. My guess is that this rule won't stand and a more sane response will be coming out of Iraq on this issue. In the end it will probably be a pretty valuable 'growing pain' for the nascent Iraqi democracy. It is certainly worth keeping an eye on though.

Why Miers?

I've been reading up on Miers a bit, and reading many of the blog entries and the screams from pundits. The fundamental question that I came out of it with was why did Bush pick her. Let me first off all discount a few of the common theories. Bush didn't do it just because he could, or because he wanted to 'stick it' to any group. That doesn't fit him at all. He probably didn't pick her because he felt weak and had to bow to Senate Democratic pressure as some have suggested. While that might have precluded some of the more extreme conservative candidates, Bush and the Republicans have enough power to get just about anyone confirmed. While they probably do want to avoid a filibuster showdown, Miers isn't an especially good choice for the 'too competent to be opposed' plan (like Roberts was) although she won't have a lot of paper trail to use against her. Despite the obvious fact that she is very loyal to Bush, that alone doesn't explain this choice either. I don't think it 'cronyism' as some have alleged. Personal loyalty won't really mean much in a couple of years and I don't think any President picks a Supreme Court judge without considering their legacy. He expects Miers to be basically competent at least, and I also expect that he expects a certain type of voting from her, and he figures he can count on her for that type of voting more than anyone else. The question then, is what does he see in her, that he doesn't think he can get from someone else. It could of course be originalist jurisprudence. There are though many others who would fit that choice, and have a much stronger reputation. In addition, when we look at the Roberts pick, it seems pretty clear that he is not a 'originalist' and is much more pragmatic so it doesn't seem that originalist philosophy is all that important for Bush (or Miers who helped pick Roberts.) Miers is of course an evangelical Christian, and I think we can assume that she is at least personally opposed to abortion. How she would legally rule is a tougher question, but again it seems unlikely that Bush would be focusing narrowly on this issue. I am pretty sure that all things being equal Roberts will maintain the status quo on abortion, so I don't think it is a huge priority for either Bush or Miers. One point though (and I saw this mentioned on a couple of blogs, although I cannot remember which ones) is that Miers (and Roberts) is probably supportive of executive power, especially in times of war and in relation to the war on terror. That to me seems like it might be the main reason Bush chose her. I think it pretty obvious that since 9/11 Bush has made the focus of his Presidency fighting terror. To that end, it is not unlikely that he wants a Judiciary that is friendly to executive power, both for himself and for his successors. Most of the 'originalist' type judges certainly cannot be counted on to support that idea. When we also consider that Bush certainly seemed to want Gonzales (and might still want him if he gets a third pick) this hypothesis seems even stronger. If this notion is correct, it still leaves me troubled about Miers. I am not as instantly anti-government power as some. My basic approach is that security and liberty must be balanced, and without a sure understanding of the threats and capabilities of our enemies (most of which is classified but probably known to Miers) it is hard to be sure where the proper balance is. If nuclear terrorism is a real possibility in the near future than that would justify more extraordinary measures, while if nukes are (as we hope) pretty unobtainable to terrorists the threat is weaker and less power is justified in government hands. That doesn't mean we should blindly trust though. I look skeptically at expansions in government power and want to make sure that they make sense and don't go to far. Miers will be in a position to help expand executive power, and assuming I am right, that is her purpose in being on the Court. That troubles me more than a little, although I am not 100% certain it isn't needed. Update: Here is a good post by Beldar on why it is unfair to consider Miers a purely crony appointment.

Nobel prize for medicine


An Australian scientist who has won the 2005 Nobel prize for medicine has said his discovery was 'bloody obvious'. Robin Warren, who shares the prize with his colleague Barry Marshall, said he was 'thrilled' to be recognised, but had always believed in their work. The two scientists have described how they were initially shunned for insisting stomach ulcers were caused by a bacterium, not stress. Mr Marshall finally swallowed the bacterium himself to prove his point. ... Mr Warren said he was a "little overcome" by the award. "It is nice to be officially recognised and it gives some sort of a stamp of approval, but we believed it within a few months because it was so bloody obvious," he told reporters.
Quite a pair of guys.

Grand Jury Re-Indicts DeLay on New Charges

ABC News:

Rep. Tom DeLay was indicted for a second time in less than a week by a Texas grand jury looking into campaign contributions, a development the former U.S. House majority leader called 'an abomination of justice.' The latest indictment, for one count of conspiring to launder money and one count of money laundering, was brought hours after DeLay's lawyers attacked on technical grounds another indictment handed down last week. District Attorney Ronnie Earle did not return repeated phone calls from The Associated Press, but legal experts say the new charges from the Democratic prosecutor were likely filed to head off a potential problem with the previous charge.
It seems more and more likely to me that DeLay will avoid conviction in this matter. I have mixed feelings about that. One the one hand, he is a type of politician I very much dislike, focused on power and perogatives without much principle. One the other hand, even if this prosecution is totally legit and not political, it certainly feels political. While that isn't anything new, prosecutions for political purposes could damage us far more than DeLay's slime ever could. Pretty much, there isn't a 'win' anywhere as far as I am concerned.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Giuliani to consider presidential run


Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Sunday he will contemplate next year whether to run for president in 2008. 'I will be considering it next year,' Giuliani said during a visit to Denmark. But he added that playing with the idea of running for the Republican nomination for president did not mean he would actually do it. 'Sometime you warm up and get ready and you don't get in and pitch,' he told reporters, in a baseball analogy.
Giuliani is second pick for the Republican nomination in '08 (first is Rice, but that ain't gonna happen.) I really hope he decides to run.

Gabrielle still hanging around Xena

The Register:

Astronomers at the WM Keck Observatory have identified a moon orbiting Xena, a body they argue is the 10th planet in our solar system. They have called the moon Gabrielle, after Xena's sidekick in the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess.
Interesting stuff.


I caught the movie over the weekend. I thought it kicked ass! I don't know how much people who aren't fans of Firefly will be able to get into it, but for those of us who are, it is wonderful.

Bush nominates Harriet Miers to Supreme Court


President Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers on Monday to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush announced his choice in a televised Oval Office event saying, 'For the past five years Harriet Miers has served in critical roles in our nation's government.' Miers said she was grateful and humbled by the nomination. (Watch: Miers has little judicial experience -- 2:30) 'It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts in our society,' she said. If confirmed by the Senate, Miers, 60, would join Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second sitting female justice on the bench. O'Connor became the court's first ever female justice in 1981.
I don't know much about Miers. At first glance, her primary trait seems to be loyalty, which is a good thing in many areas but not particularly something I want in a Supreme Court Judge. She doesn't have any expirience as a judge, but has a pretty illustrious career as a lawyer. The New York Times did this profile of her a year ago. Right now, I have to say I am not extremely happy with this pick. Roberts impressed me because he seemed to be the smartest, most competant choice out there. Miers seems to be a pick for what she is expected to do, not the kind of judge she is. Perhaps I will change my mind as more information comes to light on this.