Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kerry and his flip-flops

David Brooks has some thoughts on bluebloods in Americans politics, say Bush and Kerry, with the latter taking a bigger hit. Thoughtful and amusing. How can this guy run as a friend of the lumpenproletariat? "Kerry’s second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is worth over $500 million. Between them they have a $4 million mansion in Georgetown, a $6 million townhouse on Louisburg Square in Boston, a $6 million summer home on Nantucket, a $3 million estate in Pittsburgh and a $5 million ski lodge in Idaho, which is a 15th-century English barn that was disassembled and imported to the U.S."

David M. Halbfinger writes a story for the New York Times no less on Kerry’s flip-flops. These flip-flops are real all right--Halbfinger says that this trait "seems to have been ingrained in Mr. Kerry’s personality"--and shouldn’t shock us that the GOP will hammer him with it. Frankly, it will be one of the most interesting to watch to see how Kerry deals with it during the campaign. "Throughout his campaign, Mr. Kerry has shown a knack for espousing both sides of divisive issues." There is a long list. But that doesn’t stop some of his supporters from making a virtue out of it: "Some aides and close associates say Mr. Kerry’s fluidity is the mark of an intellectual who grasps the subtleties of issues, inhabits their nuances and revels in the deliberative process. They call him a free-thinker who defies stereotypes. Others close to him say his often-public agonizing — over whether to opt out of the system of spending caps and matching money in this campaign, or whether to run against Al Gore in 2000 — can be exasperating." I liked this one best from a former aide who is maintaining that Kerry’s "complexity" as right for the times: "’Between the moral clarity, black and white, good and evil of George Bush that distorts and gets reality wrong,’ he said, ’and someone who quotes a French philosopher, André Gide, saying, `Don’t try to understand me too much,’ I’d let Americans decide which in the end is closer to what they need in a president, in a complex world where if you get it really wrong there are enormous consequences.’"

France and Germany

Colin May has some reflections on Germany and France (and, therefore, Europe). He thinks that the decline of Schroeder and the Social Democrats is imminent, and this really ends up isolating France, since Chirac needed the Germans in his anti-American gambit. The Germans are kissing up to the Americans again.

Tony Blair on terror/Iraq war

Tony Blair gave an excellent speech on the terror war and Iraq on March 5th.   

Suspicous Package

Baghdad, Iraq--I got a slow start today, in part because they found a suspicious package near the checkpoint to the hotel, and therefore locked the complex down. Eventually, the checkpoint reopened without comment or fanfare. People seemed relatively calm throughout, although the soldiers did have to heard curious children back from the scene. I never did receive confirmation as to whether it was real or a false alarm.

Interim Constitution Day?

Baghdad, Iraq—The Interim Iraqi Constitution was supposed to be signed today. But as CNN reports here, there have been delays.

The word on the ground is that the Shiites have put the brakes on the signing ceremony. A rumor I heard (and have not been able to confirm) is that Sistani, who is the cleric for the Shiites, has issued a fatwa against any Shiite who signs the document. The key issues appears to be the treatment of women, and, of perhaps greatest concern, the fact that the document states that Islam is "a" source of the law, rather than "the" source of the law. As a lawyer, I mist up over arguments which involve the meaning of the article "a." But of course, the difference is huge. If Islam is the source, then the state is essentially subject to the rule of the clerics, who would be the ultimate interpreters of the law. It is for this reason that I understand Paul Bremer to have said that he would not sign any document which made Islam the sole source of law.

The only other observation I can give you is that security was very tight in the Green Zone today. There were a considerable number of helicopters taking off and landing at any given time. Additional checkpoints were set up, and badge checks were frequent. This, of course, made it virtually impossible for me to complete my task of actually getting a badge of my own. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Demo echo chamber

First-term Rep. Rodney Alexander, D-

Louisiana may become a Republican. He thinks that Kerry is much too liberal to be the Democratic candidate. In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, and House and Senate Democrats, are excited by Kerry and are coordinating their attempt to retake the House and the Senate with the Kerry campaign. Pelosi said that they will create an "echo chamber on the issues of jobs, health care, education, the environment and national security." We hear you Nancy, and we think it is a great idea. Please coordinate to your heart’s content. I’ll bet anyone any amount that the Demos will not take back the Senate or the House. That would have been true no matter who the presidential candidate turned out to be, and that remains true with Kerry leading the ticket, as we used to say.

Russia and Saddam

Russia’s opposition to the toppling of Saddam at least in part is explained by this revelation from The New York Times: "A group of Russian engineers secretly aided Saddam Hussein’s long-range ballistic missile program, providing technical assistance for prohibited Iraqi weapons projects even in the years just before the war that ousted him from power, American government officials say." Did the Russian government know this? Of course. Gee, maybe this explains (and I bet there is even more) why these guys weren’t on our side.

Bush ads

The Bush ads are talked about everywhere. This Canadian paper’s headline, "9/11 ads have Bush in hot water," just about sums up the organized media frenzy on this for the last 24 hours. I watched TV news last night and this morning, and this was the top of the news in every broadcast. And, of course, this is silly (this is not news) and it was terrible slanted; the firefighters’ Union chief was interviewewed by everyone (but only FOX told you that the Union has been supporting Kerry since September), offended relatives of 9/11 victims, and so on. Three points on this. One, you can tell that all this is very organized. Kerry’s people (broadly understood) are prepared and well prepared and this attack mode will continue until the end. They are trying to pre-empt Bush on everything, most especially all those things that are clearly gto his advantage (e.g., 9/11, Kerry’s anti-war record, etc) and, I repeat, they are perfectly organized. Very impressive effort on their part. Second, trying to pull 9/1--and Bush’s wonderful reaction to it--out of the mix will not work. The American people understand that this is what Bush is about, and they trust him. The election has to do with war on terrorism, caused by the 9/11 attacks. And, they see through this kind of hard-edged politics as practiced by the Demos. Third, note that all this is going on without John Kerry speaking on the issue; others are speaking for him. This also will continue. The advantage (he thinks) is obvious: let his legion of supporters (including the media) run with the hard edge of the attack (this gets publicity for a few days) and then by the time he must address the issue, he can be very gentle and back off from the harshness of the others; he will then seem moderate and considerate by slightly dissasociating himself from the heated rhetoric. In the end, it will not work, or, will only have limited and temporary effect. How do I know this? I trust the sense American people more than I do the plans and schemes of media gurus and cmpaign consultants.

Guelzo on the Emancipation Proclamation

You can listen to Allen C. Guelzo’s Ashbrook Colloquium from last Friday (an hour and a half) on the Emancipation Proclamation (it was terrific, by the way!) and you can read Mac Owens’ book review from the current (paper) National Review.

It’s Not Easy Getting to Green

Baghdad, Iraq—On Thursday, I decided that I would make the journey from my hotel to the U.S. controlled Green Zone, which is just across the Tigris River. This being my first full day in Baghdad, I began by getting my bearings. I knew from the map that there was a bridge to the Northwest of my hotel, and I began making my way there on foot.

The area immediately outside the Green Zone is crowded and chaotic. Shops are squeezed together tightly, and trash and debris litter the streets. Mix in random street crime, and Baghdad outside the Green Zone is basically New York City before Giuliani.

The streets near the hotels smell of oil and diesel used to fuel generators (while it appears that electricity is constant now, these generators were presumably used in the past as backup for the hotels, and are now used to provide electricity to outdoor checkpoints). Traffic is heavy. Cars do not readily stop for pedestrians (indeed, in taxis I have had the distinct impression that the drivers accelerate in the presence of pedestrians), and there are no pedestrian crosswalks.

I was a few blocks north when I hit a checkpoint. By now, I had grown accustomed to being stopped by men with automatic weapons, so I dutifully opened my bag and submitted to a pat down. The security guard asked me for a badge. When I could not produce one, he fetched what appeared to be an American name Tom to translate. Tom explained that this was a checkpoint to the hotel, and because it had been hit recently, they were not allowing any past who was not a guest. I explained that I was simply walking toward the bridge to cross over to the Green Zone. It was clear that this was not a good idea. The area just north of the hotel was a rough neighborhood, Tom explained. Better to get a cab and enter from the south. With the assistance of one of the officers, I hailed a taxi and was off to the July 14th bridge. The cab let me out about 50 meters from the Bridge, and traveled on. When I got to the bridge, the American officers standing behind the official decoration of Baghdad—razor wire—informed me that the bridge was closed. The next closest bridge was the Jadriya Bridge, a considerable distance away. I hailed another taxi, and managed despite the language barrier to get a ride to the Green Zone.

The difference between the Green Zone and the area outside the Green Zone is striking. The Green Zone housed numerous key facilities, so the buildings actually show more evidence of U.S. bombings than the area outside the Green Zone. That said, the streets appear wider, and the traffic is almost non-existent, differences which hits you immediately after the rush on the other side of the bridge. The other thing that hits you is the response of the children. It is hard to find a soldier walking down the street who is not accompanied by an Iraqi child. The children take to the soldiers easily, and the soldiers, bristling with armaments, respond graciously. Some of the children appear just to be tagging along, while others beg for candy or gum from the soldiers, who seem happy to oblige. The children also are everywhere selling things, most prominently DVDs—many of which are recent U.S. titles which have undoubtedly been bootlegged. It is clear that the proliferation of computers with DVD players and mini-DVD players has made movie sales big business for the young entrepreneurs.

While the streets are easier to traverse, as one might expect there are not many signs, such as the one I was interested in: “CPA HQ here.” That was where I was headed, in order to register as an American in Iraq and to get a CPA ID. I knew the CPA HQ was located at the palace, but having entered at a different bridge than I had intended, that did me little good. After asking a few people, I made my way to the security checkpoint at the palace. The army officer asked for my CPA ID. I explained that I was attempting to enter the CPA HQ to get an ID. “I can’t let you by without CPA ID,” he replied. To which I asked the pregnant question: “Is there any place outside the CPA HQ where I can get an ID?” Of course, the answer was, “No.” I then offered the most ironic look a man can give someone holding an automatic weapon. Understanding the look, he offered that I could get in with the authorization of Force Protection, or with an escort who had an ID. Unfortunately, my satellite phone proved to be out of power, and it was too late in the day to make either of these options viable. The ID would have to wait until Friday.

After dinner at the famous Green Zone café, I made my way back to the bridge. When I was just a few blocks away, I heard a loud boom coming from outside the Green Zone, followed by the wail of emergency sirens. When I arrived back at my hotel, the local news reported that there had been a rocket attack on three Iraqis traveling in a passenger car. The pictures betrayed that there would be no survivors.

Cell phones and terrorists

This is a very interesting story on how we (with a number of other nations, apprently starting with the Swiss) were able to trace

cell phone calls of terrorists, leading to a disruption of three attacks, and the capure of dozens. I thought they were smarter than to buy chips with pre-paid minutes on them!

Super Tuesday and beyond

Here is Andrew Busch’s take on the Kerry victory on Super Tuesday and how the nominating system is flawed. Everything about the election is hard to predict, but it is easy to predict that Americans will be sick to death of presidential politics by November. John Podhoretz thinks that it is time for President Bush to remind people of his accomplishments and not just through television ads. He should make the case for his presidency by giving some major speeches. Michael Grunwald thinks that if you disagree with something that John Kerry has said, just wait a week and you will find that he will have changed his mind. This guy’s views just keep "evolving"! Grunwald provides a nice "guide" to this evolution in the form of a chart. Very useful. Fred Barnes thinks that Kerry’s easy victory may be a curse in disguise because he hasn’t been seriously challenged by the other candidates, nor vetted by the press. The press will now have a go at him, as will Bush.

Kerry’s Highwater Mark

Peggy Noonan,

Fred Barnes, and

Dick Morris argue that Tuesday night was the highwater mark of the Kerry campaign. Kerry has become the Democratic nominee by default, he faced no serious attacks from a remarkably weak group of opponents in the primary. Noonan admits that Kerry is not insane which is what, she suggests, he had over Howard Dean and Wes Clark. Fred Barnes argues that Kerry would have been better off if he had faced and defeated a serious challenge in the primary process and become better known to the American people.

Now the battle begins, and close scrutiny of this Senator from Massachusetts who has the most liberal voting record among all U.S. Senators, according to ’National Journal’, and the Bush campaign will help define Kerry to the American people.

It will be a close race but I think Bush will win. There will be big debates about the War on Terror, about the economy, about same sex marriage, etc. but let’s face it, the biggest problem facing most Americans today is: obesity. Sounds like a good year for incumbents to me.

As Dick Morris wrote: "THE Democratic Party slit its throat last night, abandoning 12 years of pragmatism to indulge in a nominee who’s very unlikely to win.
While John Edwards closed the gap that separated him from John Kerry, the front-loading of the nominating process proved too drastic to permit second thoughts. Once the Democratic voters had discarded Howard Dean and embraced Kerry, they did not have the dexterity to rethink Kerry in the light of the Edwards alternative.

Too bad for the Democrats: Edwards would have been a much stronger candidate in November than Kerry will be. He is not the extreme liberal that the front-runner is and has not had 20 years in the Senate to demonstrate how out of touch he is with American values and ideas."

Leon Kass Responds

Leon Kass , Chairman of the President’s Council on Bio-Ethics, responds to criticisms of recent appointments made by the President to the Council. He defends the appointments of Ashbrook friends, Diana Schaub and Peter Lawler.

Bremer and Borders

You heard it here first. Paul Bremer announced yesterday that the U.S. would be increasing security at Iraq’s borders following a string of terrorist attacks which seem to have been caused by individuals coming in from outside Iraq. Prior to his issuing that statement (or, at least, prior to my hearing the statement), I had blogged about the lackluster security at the border during my crossing.

Hot Day

It is supposed to be an unseasonably hot 95 degrees F here today in Baghdad. Boy am I glad that it is still winter.

First Shots

Sitting in the courtyard of my hotel last evening, I heard what was for me the first volley of gunfire since I arrived in Iraq. It was distant, but not too distant. It brought back warm memories of my junior high days, when I went to school a block from Compton, California during the gang wars of the 80s.

The Road to Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq—I have arrived in Baghdad, safe and sound. The journey appeared to have been delayed a day when British Airways again could not find my bags last night. Thank goodness for the Internet, on which I was able to find that the bag had arrived last night. I received the bag containing the ever vital body armor at about 3:30 a.m., and I was on the road by 4:30 a.m.

The first challenge was that my driver spoke very little English. This would be a long and quiet ride. Of course, any drive in Jordan and Iraq is interesting. The drivers have a rather nuanced understanding of lanes and passing, even if they have a less than nuanced understanding of theirs horns.. On the drive to my hotel from the airport in Amman on Sunday, for example, the taxi driver spent much of the time driving the dead center between the lanes, and would not shift over completely even if there was a car in one of those lanes, preferring instead just to lean a bit less in the lane with the car. Put this kind of driving on a long section of two lane road with hills and blind switchbacks, where cars weave between tanker trucks, and you begin to understand why some have called the Jordanian side of the road to Baghdad one of the most dangerous roads on earth—even without terrorist assistance. While there are speed limits, they are largely ignored once you get out far enough, so we spent much of the journey with the speedometer buried at its maximum of 100 miles per hour. Add to that a broken air conditioner, March temperatures that are already warm, and the added heat from several pounds of bullet-proof vest, and you have yourself a pleasant ride.

After driving for a few hours, we stopped at a roadside café. The place was relatively sparse, with plastic tablecloths and a kitchen upstairs from the eating area. But what caught my eye was the wall. Pastered over a considerable space were business cards and signs from reporters. There was the Washington Times, Fox News, NPR, CBS, Reuters, and CNN, just to name a few. While the café did not look like much, it was clear that this was a normal stop for the drivers.

For several hours, there was little to see, with barren desert reaching toward the horizon in every direction. There was a camel crossing sign, but like deer crossing signs in the U.S., the camels know better than to cross there.

We reached the border about four hours into the journey. We first needed to clear the Jordanian side. The station was like going to the District of Columbia DMV (the crown jewel of all DMVs) without understanding the language. Picture if you will the huddled massed packed into a room, the immigration officer shouting over a microphone in such a way that it was almost impossible to understand him even if he were speaking your language, and a pattern of pushing and jockeying for position which stood as a vivid reaffirmation of the non-western world’s general rejection of lines and cues.

It was only at this time that I learned, through his passport, that my driver was Iraqi. By contrast to the mobs in the Jordan offices, the entry into Iraq was quick—too quick if you ask me. The man behind the desk stamped the passports without question. While there was a cursory inspection of the vehicle on the Jordanian side, there was no inspection on the Iraq side. The lax security at the border should give pause to anyone who had concerns about the possibility of weapons—including WMDs—floating through Iraqi borders.

The drive was much the same until we reached the outskirts of Ramadi, the first major city along the route. I fnoticed a section of charred pavement. Then I saw the remnants of what once was a car, strewn about 20 feet off the opposite shoulder of the divided highway. My driver pointed to the car. “American,” he said gravely. He made a motion like someone manning a gun turret before saying “Ramadi . . . Saddam.” Enough said. A little further and we came across what appeared to be an abandoned, entrenched position, with a hole for a gunman and dirt piled up on all sides for protection.

It was when we hit Ramadi proper that we hit our first set of U.S. troops, which were present in varying degrees for the rest of the trip. When my driver saw the first Humvees, he smiled and exclaimed enthusiastically, “Americans . . . good, good.” Of course, it is difficult to know for certain whether he was saying this because he believed it, or to curry favor with his paying passenger. The language barrier prohibited me from inquiring too much further.

The next major city was Al Fallujah, and again we were greeted with a piece of charred pavement, this time accompanied by an obliterated guardrail. The driver makes the motion of a bomb going off. Given the location of the explosion, there is little no need for further explanation: this was an IED—the lingo the military uses to describe improvised explosive devices. IEDs are generally radio controlled, and are disguised in dead animals, behind rocks, or in cans in order to evade detection. They have wreaked havoc over the country, and are responsible for some of the recent, coordinated attacks thought to have been orchestrated or assisted by AQ.

It was about 4 pm when we arrived in Baghdad, which put us in what looked like rush hour traffic. The driver had no idea how to get to the entrance of the cluster of hotels which provide American security, and, upon finding them, he was especially nonplused to find that he could not drive up, but had to park some distance away. (While I did not appreciate the inconvenience, I found the nice man with the machine gun’s not letting us go further with an uninspected Suburban comforting.) Both of the hotels in this area are showing the signs of conflict: both were previously subjected to bombings. In no small part because of these attacks, guests must pass multiple checkpoints to enter the hotel, and in the final stop you are given a pat down in front of a M-1 tank, which minds the street and assures that you mind your manners.

Upon getting to my room, I collapsed. I will give you an update on the city soon.

Bill Clinton for VP?

Stephen Gillers has a modest proposal for John Kerry: make Bill Clinton your running mate. Maybe that will help Kerry get (keep?) his momentum (or mentum, which is momentum with half the enthusiasm missing") which Walter Shapiro asserts he will have a tough time doing.

Milton Friedman meets Adnan

Amman, Jordan--Today I purchased my ticket from Amman to Baghdad. The Jordanian JETT bus line previously made regular trips, however I was informed that they stopped service sometime after the war. Small private enterprise has jumped in to pick up the void, offering what the locals call GMC service--although they nearly always pronounce it GMZeee service. Essentially, it is a GMC shuttle to take you and at most a few other passengers to Baghdad.

These local drivers already understand a fair amount about capitalism. For starters, the rate that they are charging contains (although they do not say this) a risk premium--that is, they charge more because the endeavor is risky for them, both in terms of their own safety and in terms of their property.

The travel agency I went through was a small shop across from the sprawling King Abdullah Mosque. My taxi driver, Adnan, served as my interpreter for the transaction. Once I purchased the ticket, the travel agent ordered one of his assistants to fetch tea for me and the driver, as well as a small cup of extra virgin olive oil, which we were to taste on our fingers with the tea. It was at this time that I learned that the man with the GMC line was not the only one who understood a thing or two about capitalism.

Upon tasting the olive oil, Adnan explained that prior to purchasing his taxi, he used to own a restaurant. Among his specialties was a dish served with a generous amount of high quality olive oil. But then, Adnan explained, the Ministry of Price Controls issued a decree stating that you could not sell olive oil at such and such an amount for more than 200 fils (or about 28 cents in U.S. dollars). The problem was that it cost Adnan more than 200 fils to purchase the quality olive oil for the dish! Some of the other restaurants figured out a way around it: use cheaper oils, and add material to color it so that it looks like quality olive oil. There were other price controls that hit Adnan hard, including a price on lamb. He was thus faced with a choice: reduce quality to continue making some profit, or go out of business. Already tired of the long hours of managing a restaurant, Adnan headed for the door. I delivered a few words to the effect that this is but one reason that price controls don’t work. I was preaching to the choir.

There you have it. A little lesson on the problems of price controls, offered by a taxi driver over tea in Amman.

Lucas Morel
finds that while "The Passion of the Christ" could be considered an assault on the senses, "its spiritual message still comes through." He thinks it is compelling and profound, and succeeds in its attempt to get viewers "to be introspective and to seek further."   

Wet Mars

"Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that the Red Planet was once wet enough for life to exist there, but the robot has not found any direct traces of living organisms, NASA scientists announced Tuesday.
A study of a fine, layered rock by the rover detected evidence of sulfates and other minerals that form in the presence of water. The finding suggests that if there had been life present when the rocks were formed, then the living conditions could have permitted an organism to flourish. The study, however, has found no direct evidence of life."

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ashura . . .

The Shiites are celebrating Ashura, a holiday which falls on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram. Like any holiday in Iraq, it has been marked by coordinated violence. Here is a map highlighting the recent violence, courtesy of Fox News.

Marriage and diversity

Julie Ann Ponzi has a sound opinion on the homosexual marriage question. She argues that "diversity" in nature is a good thing, and that should affect how we view what marriage really is: "The coming together of man and woman in marriage is one of the most beautiful and highest achievements of human nature. In this union between a man and a woman we create something greater than the sum of its parts. A husband and wife are not just roommates. They are a microcosm of what society can be. We can learn to live with diversity. We can overcome even the most incredible differences. We can make something even more beautiful together than we can on our own or with those who are just like us. Marriage is the ultimate test laboratory for tolerance. But it is also a helluva lot of work. And maybe that’s the rub.

It is ironic, is it not, that liberals who clamor for diversity in every other aspect of human relations, now argue for homogeneity in marriage. For, ultimately, that’s what homosexual marriage is. It is a redundancy."

Spencer Warren on The Passion

I blogged yesterday (below) about an essay by Spencer Warren about the classical understanding of how to portray violence in visual art. Mel Gibson’s The Passion prompted me to remember Warren’s essay. Well, it turns out that yesterday the Claremont Institute posted this review by Spencer Warren of The Passion. The bottom line--Warren thinks highly of the movie, but also thinks Gibson overdid it with the violence.

Bush economy better than Clinton?

J. Edward Carter, chairman of something called Economists for Bush, has an interesting article comparing the first three years of the Clinton economy with the Bush economy in the same period (up to nine months before the election). Very revealing, not the sort of things you see on CNN. Nice chart.

Operation American Freedom

Amman, Jordan -- As Schramm has reported, I am currently on my way to Iraq to report on the progress of Iraqi regime change for the next few months. Before I provide an update of my trip to date, it is worth saying a few words about how this project came about, and why we are doing this.

By my recollection, the idea for this project was hatched about six months ago. Schramm decided that he should send the most horrible weapon ever devised by man to Iraq--a lawyer. I was struck at that time--and I still am today--by the disconnect between what was being reported on the news, and what people (mostly those unburdened by press credentials) returning from Iraq were saying. The former gave us only body counts, while the latter provided numerous examples of the slow success of regime change, both from the point of view of the soldiers and the Iraqis. While there is a certain bias to news coverage in favor of "bad" news, the drumbeat here was and is particularly pernicious . . . and particularly political. This skew is not particularly surprising coming from outlets such as CNN, which admitted to knowing yet failing to report about Saddam’s recent (pre-war) atrocities, lest it lose access to the country whose last confrontation with the U.S. put the network on the map.

This media disconnect is particularly disconcerting given the importance of the U.S. effort in Iraq. The effort to oust the Saddam and replace him with a democratic regime is an historic undertaking. The removal of a bloody tyrant and the attempt to bring freedom to an oppressed people is one worthy of the American people. But the task is one filled with both promise and peril. If regime change is done well, then Iraq will serve as an example in the Middle East and will likely contribute to the stability of the region. However, if regime change is done poorly, then Iraq will also serve as an example both of democracy in the Middle East and of U.S. foreign policy, and its failure would likely further destabilize the region.

Because so much is at stake, the skewed media perspective which provides the lone window into the region for most Americans is all the more dangerous. Dangerous because it misinforms Americans as to what our role is in Iraq, what kind of progress is being made, and therefore what sort of action we should take next.

This project is designed to provide some counterbalance. It will be different from the standard reporting in several ways. First, unlike the majority of publications, we will not just be reporting from within the Green Zone in Baghdad. While I certainly will spend time there, Iraq is bigger than Baghdad, and I intend to explore it. The plan therefore is to provide reports, for example, on the Shiites from Basra and on the Sunnis and Kurds from Mosul. Second, the project will include both embedded and non-embedded reporting. From my contacts with the DOD, the vast majority of reporters do one or the other. Third, it will be for a period of months, not weeks. Most embedded reporters are in country for a period of only 4-6 weeks. Fourth, the product of the reporting will be varied, including blogs with pictures, as well as standard newspaper and magazine reporting. And finally, the perspective will be different--that is, it will be written from a perspective that the regime change, if done right, is a worthy goal. This is not a cheerleading expedition, however. We will look to expose failings as well as successes. But unlike the vast majority of the media, we do not look to cheapen the sacrifice of the fallen by reporting only upon their death, while ignoring what it is that they died for.

Aristide abducted?

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now claiming that he was taken forcibly to the Central African Republic by the U.S. from Haiti. Rep. Maxine Waters seems to agree. Aristide said that "White American, white military" had forced him to, leave. Jesse Jackson is calling for an investigation. Colin Powell is not amused at all of this.

George Soros smashed

Daniel I. Davidson smashes George Soros’ book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy" in Sunday’s WaPo. Soros may be rich and lucky (and Hungarian born), but he is an idiot. And I’m glad that even ordinary folks see it. Note these few amazing lines from the review that reveal how unlearned and silly Soros is, Davidson writes: "It is startling to read a man who considers himself something of a philosopher acknowledging that he was ’not even aware of natural rights until I started studying’ the neoconservative ’view of the world.’ He believes that ’Leo Strauss, who supposedly influenced Paul Wolfowitz and other neocons, cottoned on the first sentence of the declaration [of Independence] and derived, from the idea of self-evident truths the concept of natural rights,’ a concept that Soros believes ’plays an important role in the ideology of American supremacists.’ He thinks that natural rights are ’associated with conservative arguments and papal pronouncements’ and that it is appropriate to distinguish between his concept of the open society and natural rights.

As the Columbia Encyclopedia states, ’the classic expressions of natural rights are The English Bill of Rights (1689), the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), the First 10 Amendments of the Constitution of the United States (known as the Bill of Rights, 1791), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (1948).’ There is no opposition between the open society as expounded by Soros and the doctrine of natural rights."

As Churchill, so Bush?

Andrew Sullivan is often hard to disagree with. Here he compares Churchill the war leader and what happended to him after the war--he lost big time to Clement Atlee--with what may well happen to Bush: He could be seen to be succesful in the war, therefore his services are no longer needed by November. And, it will also be the case that because Bush (like Churchill during the war) expanded the size of government, he has little credibility when he criticizes Kerry on spending and his liberalism regarding the size of government. This would, in effect, make Bush the architect of a liberal takeover.

Boys, Choirs, and the War

Edith Foster writes a lovely mediation on the relationship between boys, choirs, and the war. Her start: "If you’re like me, your school or community choir is the only forum in which your children memorize any amount of great poetry. My experience is that the kids remember the music and the lyrics of the songs long after the rehearsals and concerts are over. It is, therefore, especially important to know what kinds of poems and songs they are learning at choir practice. To illustrate this point, allow me to briefly describe my experience with two choir concerts: last year’s spring concert, sung as the campaign in Iraq was in progress, and this year’s."  

Violence in Art and Violence in the Passion

I haven’t seen The Passion yet. My wife & I avoided the first week because we generally avoid long lines at movies. We’re still hesitating, though, because the reviews say the movie is so violent. Our doubts reminded me, however, of this excellent posting by Spencer Warren on the Claremont Institute’s website.

The short of it--really good movie directors appreciate that the way to impress a movie audience is not to show the violence on the screen, but instead to suggest it off-screen in a way that makes the audience’s imagination do more of the work. This rule of thumb stems from a classical understanding of art, and in particular a classical understanding of the objects and limitations of visual art. If Warren (and the classics) are right, The Passion may suffer on an artistic level. But we’ll have to go see the movie to judge for ourselves.

News You Can Use--Maybe. . .

Not to be missed was the Saturday New York Times business page article entitled, "Pfizer Gives Up Testing Viagra On Women." Seems the little blue pills just don’t work on the fairer sex.

The money quote, from the had of Pfizer’s "sex research team," is: "Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women. With women, things depend on a myriad of factors."

Ah, modern science discovers the obvious once again. Maybe Pfizer should sell each dose of women’s Viagra with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates.

"John Kerry’s odd come-to-Jebus moment"

In this morning’s edition of the Bleat James Lileks comments on John Kerry’s answer to the question of whether God is on our side:

“We pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.”

He juxtaposes this to one of the president’s statements:

“The liberty we prize is not American’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”

Then finally asks,

Which one best represents the face of America you’d like the President to show to the world?

Lawler and Schaub on Bioethics Council

President Bush has appointed Diana Schaub & Peter Lawler to the Council on Bioethics, chaired by Leon Kass. Good appointments! Diana is a regular Summer instructor at the Ashbrook Institute for Social Studies teachers (she is co-teaching one with Lucas Morel this Summer), and Peter has written for these pages. You might also want to see his book, Alians in America: The Strange Truth About Our Souls. Congratulations to both of them, and to the President.

Ralph Ellison

Lucas Morel’s op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times reflects on the work of Ralph Ellison. It is a fine piece. Monday marks the 90th anniversary of Ellison’s birth. Invisible Man, according to Lucas,

"made ’invisibility’ a metaphor for our inability to see each other’s full humanity. Published in 1952, the novel chronicles a black man’s search for identity in an America that refuses to ’see’ him. As Americans struggle today to become more colorblind in their public and private interactions, Ellison’s writings offer much to improve our social and political vision."

"Ellison, who died in 1994, observed that the ’high visibility’ of blacks in a predominantly white America made their individuality ’un-visible’ to most whites. ’If the white society has tried to do anything to us,’ he remarked, ’it has tried to keep us from being individuals.’ But though the nation’s founders committed the ’sin of American racial pride,’ they also committed the ideal of human equality to paper. In so doing, Ellison believed they gave blacks and other minorities the firmest ground for the extension of America’s promise to all of its citizens."

Read the whole thing, or even better, get Lucas’ new book (officially published on March 1st by the University Press of Kentucky) called Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man. It includes essays by Lucas, James Seaton, Danielle Allen, Thomas Engeman, John F. Callahan, and others. You can order it by clicking here.

Social Democrats take hit

Schroeder’s Social Democrats take a big hit in elections in Hamburg. Leider.

Boorstin dies

Daniel J. Boorstin has passed away. Although his book "The Image" (1962) was mandatory reading in many of my college courses (you know, the latest "in" sort of thing according to the with-it faculty; he coined the term "pseudo event") I stopped reading him after a while. There was something soft in his attempts to understand America. Yet, he was disliked by some nasty people, so I suppose he couldn’t have been all that bad. The WaPo eulogy states: "He had been criticized for oversimplification and overlooking the more complicated moments of American history, from McCarthyism to Vietnam, and for overlooking the more complicated movements of American scholarship, from multiculturalism to feminist studies." RIP

France not to see "The Passion"

Oh, this is choice! French theaters don’t want to show "The Passion" for fear that it will spark a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

Dying languages

Jack Hitt on dead (or dying) languages and whether they ought to be saved. Such pieces are always interesting to me, but I don’t think we ought to be thinking about languages the way we think about museums. If they’re not alive, be off with them! Besides, if there is anything in a dying language worth the saving, another will pick it up. "Remuneration? O that’s the Latin word for three farthings."

Skimming in Iraq

Susan Sachs of the NY Times writes on this theme: "In its final years in power, Saddam Hussein’s government systematically extracted billions of dollars in kickbacks from companies doing business with Iraq, funneling most of the illicit funds through a network of foreign bank accounts in violation of United Nations sanctions.

Millions of Iraqis were struggling to survive on rations of food and medicine. Yet the government’s hidden slush funds were being fed by suppliers and oil traders from around the world who sometimes lugged suitcases full of cash to ministry offices, said Iraqi officials who supervised the skimming operation."

Barone on Gaddis

Michael Barone also has an opinion on the John Lewis Gaddis thesis we have brought up before. And, he doesn’t think the Democrats, John Kerry included, could so easily change American foreign policy even if they wanted to. He cites to advantage both John Quincy Adams and FDR.


George Will has some opinions about the primary election (for the GOP US Senate seat) in California. Perhaps he is being optimistic, but he sees a way Bush cpould carryb the state if Rosario Marin wins th primary. Pay attention to the numbers Will cites.