Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Brown University and slavery reparations

Brown University has set up a committee to examine whether Brown should pay reparations for slavery.

Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, the President of the university, and a descendent of slaves, has directed Brown to start what its officials say is an unprecedented undertaking for a university: an exploration of reparations for slavery and specifically whether Brown should pay reparations or otherwise make amends for its past. She, of course, claims that she will not bias the work of the committee, and then she says: "If the committee comes back and says, `Oh it’s been lovely and we’ve learned a lot,’ but there’s nothing in particular that they think Brown can do or should do, I will be very disappointed."

Arrests in Spain

ABC News reports that Spain has arrested five suspects including three Moroccans possibly linked to extremist groups in the Madrid bombings that killed at least 200 people. The other two suspects had Indian passports. Also being questioned were two Spanish citizens of Indian origin.

Terror war roundup

Rumsfeld is picking up some flack for having a piece of debris from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon on his desk. His accusers say that it is no different than an FBI guy picking up some debris at Ground Zero and keeping it, etc. His opponents ought to be ambarrased by this. I hope the President has a something on his desk reminding him; vertainly John Kerry could use one. I have a piece of the Berlin Wall chipped off by a friend.

This New York Post article mentions that the attacks in Spain occured on 3/11 and 2 1/2 years after 9/ll and exactly 911 days after 9/11. It is being reported in Norway that there are al Qaeda links to the Spain attacks. Powerline has a great photo of the huge Spanish demosntrations against terrorism. I heard that about 20 percent of the population turned out. A Basque expert claims in Newsweek that the attack in Spain could not have been perpetrated by ETA. U.S. Special Forces are folling around in Algeria, according to the Boston Globe, because Algeria (especially its Southern border with Mali) happens to be a great recruiting base for terrorists. And if you are wondering where John Kerry stands on any of this, be sure to read David Brooks latest groin-kick. The first paragraph gives you a hint: "The 1990’s were a confusing decade. The certainties of the cold war were gone and new threats appeared. It fell to one man, John Kerry, the Human Nebula, to bring fog out of the darkness, opacity out of the confusion, bewilderment out of the void.

Le Monde, I guess now imitating Kerry in changing its mind, says this (via Andrew Sullivan): ""If the trail back to Al-Qaida is confirmed, Europeans should rethink the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, as did the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001. . . . Will March 11 have in Europe the same effect as September 11 in the US? After having spontaneously expressed their solidarity with the Americans, the Europeans, preoccupied with other forms of terrorism, found that the Americans had become consumed with paranoia. Contrary to the latter in 2001, Europeans today discover not only their own vulnerability, but also that they are confronted with a new phenomenon, mass terrorism. Like the Americans, they may now be forced to admit that a new form of world war has been declared, not against Islam but against totalitarian and violent fundamentalism. That the world’s democracies are confronted with the same menace and should act together, using military means and waging at the same time a war for their ideals."

Kerry’s Europe

James Lileks has an op-ed entitled, "Europeans love Kerry’s nuance." Soon into reading it, you will see that it is not a pro-Kerry article; I love this paragraph: "On another level, though, Kerry’s remark sounds pathetically naive. Why does he think the Unnamed Foreign Leaders like him best - because they have America’s best interests at heart? They want to mire the United States in the tarpit of the United Nations again, and Kerry looks like the man to wade right in.

Europe can’t fight its way out of a paper bag, because it spends half its money propping up its paper bag industry, and the other half on bureaucracies regulating the strength and thickness of paper bags. Europe can only be the equal of American power with the willing cooperation of a president who stays up late at night wondering whether chain-smoking leftists in cafes on another continent might greet his next state visit with giant mocking puppets."

New Hotel

In addition to the rally yesterday, I also changed hotels. The move was a democratic act. You see, I got together with the roaches in my old hotel room, and they, having a clear and increasing majority, voted me off the island. My new surroundings appear to be better maintained. The hotels in Baghdad are a reflection of much of the buildings and infrastructure in Iraq. Both hotels at which I have stayed are in the "red zone," the area just outside the U.S. controlled Green Zone. (To my knowledge, there are no hotels available for non-government employees in the Green Zone.) And both were reasonably grand in their time. But both show the signs of years of decay and neglect. For example, in my old hotel, there were four elevators. If you were lucky, two elevators were operating at a given time. Most of the time, only one elevator was working for a building that had something like 16 floors. However, if you were unlucky, the operating number was zero. I lived on the eleventh floor, and, joining with Churchill, I have generally adhered to the principle that the feeling of a need to exercise should be met with a proper response: lying down. I therefore was pleased to be "unlucky" only once.

Like the first drop of water after a walk across the desert . . .

Had my first cup of coffee in about two weeks today, or more accurately, a cup of Turkish coffee. I think that the cup contained the condensed grounds of all the cups of coffee that I would have had in an ordinary two week period.

Dems soft money and the 527’s

The newly created "527’s" are the Dems shadow party, according to this Business Week article. A good read that explains how the Dems are going to try to raise about $300 million from big donors like George Soros and just simply take over the media campaign from the poor Party. Here is how it starts, but read the whole thing: "In 2002, as campaign-finance reform was about to become law, a few savvy Democratic activists saw the future -- and it was potentially devastating. The problem: While the Democratic Party raised $520 million in the 2000 election cycle, nearly half of it came in big-buck "soft-money" donations that the McCain-Feingold Act would all but eliminate. In the upcoming Presidential election, the Dems would be even more badly outgunned by the GOP, which in 2000 pulled in $712 million -- but only $246 million of it in soft money. To make an end run around the new campaign law, these behind-the-scenes players rushed to set up political committees that can legally collect soft money, pay for issue ads, and encourage voter turnout."

India and Israeli ties

The India-Israeli ties seem to be getting stronger. The Times of India reports: "India is on the verge of finalising a counter-terror collaboration deal with Israel in what will mark yet another step-up in the burgeoning bilateral ties. An Israeli security team will soon visit India to train the security forces and intelligence teams for anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir. The deal will also include an agreement on intelligence sharing between the two countries."

Military’s cool gadgets

Phillip Carter, in Slate, reports on the DARPAT Tech conference meeting near Disneyland. "Here at the conference showcasing the military’s most radical new technology, you can touch microsatellites, see plans for the next generation of Navy missile, and even practice on a flight simulator designed to illustrate the challenges of hypersonic flight." There are some very cool things worth noting, including the "Phraselator" and the "Rapid Tactical Language Training System," which is "essentially a video game that allows soldiers to learn conversational Arabic in 80 hours of training."  

Spain’s reaction

James Lileks has some good thoughts on the terrorist attacks in Spain, and the Spaniards’ reaction to them. Here is the Reuters story on the millions of Spaniards taking to the streets chanting "killers." The Basque terrorist group, the ETA, claimed it wasn’t responsible for the horror. This is President Bush’s brief statement at the Spanish Embassy.

India and outsourcing

James Glassman is not amused by John Kerry’s attack on "outsourcing" (that is, hiring foreigners) jobs. He notes the economic value of trade for everyone, and also notes that India is not amused by the movement of Kerry, Hillary, et al, towards protectionism.

Accused spy

The Seattle paper has this for a headline:"Accused spy is cousin of Bush staffer", just in case you think there is no bias in the media. This (so called spy) was a staffer to Democrats, and sees herself as a peace activist, but the headline is the most important thing, isn’t it? In fact it was the distant relative, Andrew Card, who turned her in. You can find that massive fact buried in this MSNBC story about her.

More Just Asking. . .

Why is it that liberals complain that our gasoline is too cheap and that we need a 50 cent a gallon gas tax. . . but complain of "price gouging" when the market pushes the price of gas to $2??

I guess high-priced gas is no fun unless it is the government that profits from it.

Just Asking. . .

A question for liberals about outsourcing:

Why is outsourcing a bad thing . . . except when it comes to outsourcing timber industry jobs in the Pacific northwest?

We now import almost a third of the nation’s timber, because we’ve put so much American timberland off limits for logging. (Forestland in the U.S., by the way, grew by 10 million acres in the 1990s.) So, when are liberals and environmentalists going to start complaining about America’s dependence on foreign timber?

Anti-Constitution Rally

Baghdad, Iraq—This afternoon, about six hundred Iraqis gathered outside of a Baghdad
Mosque to protest the signing of the Constitution. More particularly, they
gathered outside the Mosque closest to my hotel. I first spoke to the Army regular manning the checkpoint at my hotel. He was told that the rally was against the Iraqi governing council, which the protesters believed they should have had a more direct hand in selecting. I asked whether the protest had been peaceful. He said that it had been peaceful for the most part, although when some security trucks were brought in, some members of the crowd threw rocks.

Armed with this information, I did what reporters in the region do. No, I did not go to the hotel bar. Rather, following the advice of the "opposite George" episode of Seinfeld, I did the opposite of what your
instincts say, and walked toward the rally. When I reached the edge of the
demonstration, I was greeted by reasonably heavy security, most of which was provided by the Iraqi police. After a pat down, I talked briefly to one Iraqi police officers. He spoke reasonably good English. After chatting for a moment, I thanked him for his service, and complimented his bravery. (The Iraqi police are the primary targets of terrorist attacks these days in Iraq.)

The rally continued in a reasonably orderly fashion for some time. I
recognized a taxi driver across the street, and hailed him for a ride. I chatted with him about the rally. He explained that every Friday they rally at a different Mosque. He dismissed the rally as essentially the work of supporters of Saddam. After a drive that involved a short detour on the sidewalk to get around the barrier, I arrived at the Green Zone. Just
another day in Baghdad. (More pictures appear on the Photos from Iraq page.)

Off the Wall?

Man has sex with pony, this leads two Dutch politicians to want to ban bestiality (now legal) in the Netherlands because "the animal can never consent to it." Drunken man asks eleven year old son to drive. The EPA is studying the chemicals released into the air when a bag of microwave popcorn is popped or opened. Authorities use crane to remove body of 700 lb man from apartment. The mayor of Fargo, ND, wants to promote his city as trendy vacation spot. School bus driver suspended after allowing the kids to bring an alligator into the bus.

Bush’s education policy

George Will explains that Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" education initiative has changed the terms of the debate. No wonder the Democrats are against it, we are now compelled to talk about standards and performance, rather merely how much more money to put into education to make it better (answer: it’s never enough). Will says, "It took decades to defeat liberal resistance to welfare reform. Resistance to education reform is crumbling more quickly."

Chess and war

The London Guardian runs an interesting article on the relationshiop between playing chess and making war. Researchers in Australia and Sweden are taking this quite seriously. It all sounds like fun, and some of it might be more useful than I would have thought. "One major difference between chess and war is that chess does not contain what the military terms ’information uncertainty’. Unlike a battle commander, who may have incomplete intelligence about his opponent’s level of weaponry or location of munitions depots, one chess player can always see the other’s pieces, and note their every move. So Kuylenstierna and his colleagues asked players to compete with a board each and an opaque screen between them. A game leader transferred each player’s moves to the other’s board - but not always instantaneously. For instance, one game modification resulted in a player being prevented from seeing their opponent’s latest two moves.

These games, and other variations on regular play, led the team to a clear conclusion: being stronger and having more ’battlespace information’ than your opponent are both less valuable when there is little information available overall to both sides - but the advantage of a fast pace remains. ’The value of information superiority is strongly tempered by uncertainty, whereas the value of superior tempo is much less affected,’ says Kuylenstierna.

Uncertainty is often a problem in war. So in practical terms, launching a rapid attack might provide a better chance of winning than trying to gain more information about the battlefield situation, or ensuring that you have numerical strength over your opponent."

Terrorism, global

Mac Owens, having recently returned from Israel, reflects on the lack of difference between global terrorism and terrorism against Israel. The terrorist attacks in Spain killed almost 200 people, and injured over 600. This is the worst terrorist attack ever to have taken place in Europe.

Death of marriage in Scandinavia

The majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock, and in some districts of Norway marriage itself has almost entirely dissappeared. Stanley Kurtz (in the Boston Globe) considers the decline (if not yet complete dissappearance) of marriage in Scandinavian countries. While it seems to be true that "in a place where de facto gay marriage has gained almost complete acceptance, marriage itself has almost dissappeared," it doesn’t follow that gay marriage is the cause of it. The decline of the institution of marriage is older and deeper than that and has to do in part with secularization of the society and the growth of the welfare state

The Other Shoe

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that questions have been raised about Justice Ginsburg impartiality after she spoke at a NOW Legal Defense Fund lecture series that is named after her. She then voted in favor of the position that NOWLDEF advocated in a friend of the court brief this term. I had wondered when someone would raise something like this. Ginsburg’s career before becoming a judge was that as an public interest advocate. She was counsel for the ACLU for years, and was involved in many of the most important gender discrimination cases heard by the Supreme Court. My sense is that the L.A. Times missed the real story. It’s not just that she appeared before the group, but I would find it difficult to believe that she does not attend social functions with friends who work with the ACLU and NOW--groups which file briefs before the Supreme Court every term. How is this different than Scalia going on a trip with his friend the Vice President? (Personally, I really don’t have a problem with either.) While there has been a drumbeat for Scalia’s recusal in the Vice President’s case, prepare for the deafening silence to be applied to the new found Ginsburg ethical questions.

Iraqi Taxis

A large part of my daily life involves taking taxis around Baghdad. The drivers often speak little if any English, and I speak little if any Arabic. It is therefore an interesting dance to get where I am going. For example, a common destination is the Green Zone, but I have yet to find a driver who understands the words "Green Zone." After a series of trials and errors, I have settled on the phrase: "Hotel Al Rasheed." Most of the drivers understand this, and will take me to the gate closest to the Rasheed. (Because of the difficuly in getting through security, the taxis drop you off at the gate, and do not attempt to drive through.) On a couple occasions, however, they have taken me to Rasheed Street, which is not particularly close to the gate.

The cars vary tremedously, from old 1970s Toyotas and Peugeots to large American cars, to well maintained BMWs and Mercedes Benzs. The traditional taxis are painted orange and white, but many taxis are virtually indistinguishable from any other car, making it difficult to know who to hail. If you are leaving a gate or your hotel at a reasonable hour, there are often drivers who will call out to people like me who they recognize as foreigners.

The drive itself is generally something straight out of those films they used to scare you in drivers ed. You know, "Blood on the Highway," and "Red Asphault." Driving on the wrong side of the road at full speed toward an oncoming car is not unusual. I have not seen a taxi actually hit anyone or anything yet (which I consider nothing short of a miracle), but a soldier from Ohio I chatted with last week says he has had his foot run over, and has been hit by mirrors of passing cars on numerous occasions.

Last night, the poker game at the Green Zone cafe got out late (just to show that all war zones are like M*A*S*H). I got a ride to the gate from a gentleman who took my shirt in a particulary unfortunate hand of Acey-Ducey, and sought a taxi. It took a considerable amount of time for one to pass by, and the unmarked car ultimately arrived, I was not entirely sure it was a taxi. Nonetheless, when I asked if he was a taxi and gave the name of my hotel, he responded affirmatively, and we were off. As we crossed the bridge, he asked where I was from. I said, "United States." His eyes lit up, "American!" He then said Saddam’s name with something like a spitting gesture, and "America good." Doubtful as always about the sincerity of sentiments offered so freely to strangers, I tried to ask him a question after that, but it became apparent that he did not speak much English. But when we arrived at the hotel, I asked him how much for the trip. He quickly responded. "No, no. For you. No." Funny, after that, I no longer questioned his sentiment.

Where’s the Kroger?

When you walk the streets in Baghdad, there is something noticeably missing: supermarkets. There are small convenience stores which sell sodas and water, some fruit stands, and the occasional café, but no grocery stores sufficient to meet the food requirements of the local population. The reason, as explained to me by Col. Ferrari, a security planner for the military, is that Iraqis do not pay for food. Rather, they receive an allotment of food for the month. The U.S. had considered giving the people a fixed monthly stipend for food, but opted instead to do the actual food distribution, which I believe is similar to the system utilized by the former regime.

Of course, distribution issues exist not only with electricity and food, but also with fuel. Because of the refining capacity in Iraq was not sufficient to accommodate post-war consumption, the U.S. imported large amounts of fuel. They then all but gave the fuel away (I believe that once again Iraqis are not accustomed to paying for fuel), charging something like a penny per liter for fuel. It did not take long for the Iraqis to realize, however, that they could resell the fuel at huge profits in Jordan and Kuwait, where the fuel was purchased to begin with. So the fuel was being exported as soon as it was imported.

These are just a few of the issues facing the country in reconstruction. Reminiscent of the fall of the Soviet block, the people here were and largely still are dependent on the government for the basics of life. And of course, when the people are this dependent on the government, shifts to more capitalistic and democratic systems are, while not impossible, certainly more difficult.

Gray Davis’s Iraq?

One of the major infrastructure issues that the U.S. has struggled with in rebuilding Iraq is the power supply. From my hotel, you can hear the near constant hum of large generators, which assure that I have power throughout the day and night. But when I go just down the block to the internet café, hardly a visit goes by where the power does not drop out at some point. This system of blackouts is the norm for Iraqis.

To understand why, you must first know that Iraqis do not pay for power—not under Saddam’s regime, and not now. While there was a move to shift to a pay for service, when the first collectors were killed, the idea was discarded. In a system where there is not incentive not to use, it is not surprising that while the U.S. has made huge strides in improving electricity production, Iraqis have kept pace by increasing consumption in a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. Thus, without the California option of, to quote Dennis Miller, charging “mini-bar prices” for electricity, the only option is rationing electricity, with regulated blackout periods. This is how electricity was managed under the old regime and that is how it is managed now.

However there are also unregulated blackouts. The U.S. has been installing miles of new cables to renovate the electrical system. But the bandits who roam the desert have been pulling it down for the copper. This causes random outages in power, and leads some Iraqis to the conclusion that the electrical system is performing worse now than under Saddam. Aside from generally improving crime control, there does not seem an easy solution, because it would be virtually impossible to effectively monitor the miles of cable running across the deserts. This explains why keeping the lights on is a bigger challenge than merely assuring sufficient power generation.

The Spanish Bombings

By now, I presume that you have all seen the news about the bombings on the Spanish trains. I just wanted to offer a couple observations. First, soon after the bombings, CNN World interviewed one of Spain’s foreign ministers. She read the CNN interviewer the riot act for referring to the Basques as “separatists” rather than “terrorists.” The CNN anchor protested that they did so because separating is the Basque group’s goal. Spain’s foreign minister would have none of it, and insisted that this was terrorist organization. I generally thought that it was good to see CNN taken to task for trying to be too neutral on matters in which neutrality is not required. When a militant group brutally kills average citizens riding the train to work, we don’t need to focus on their objects—they are terrorists. Or are we too uncertain to place moral disapproval on anyone?

The second observation is a personal one. I was in Spain in 2002 on the anniversary of September 11. Sitting in a cafe, the waitress walked over to me and my friends and, upon recognizing us as Americans, offered her apologies: “This is a sad day for you.” The Spanish people were very sensible about the war on terror, and were among the first to fully support the United States. The reason, which was highlighted in the papers while we were there, is the Basque threat. They have lived under the specter of terror for years, and it means that they speak sensibly—and, as CNN learned this morning, candidly--about such things.

Where are the adults?

Joseph Epstein has to be one of the great essayists still writing, and this one is proof. He writes on today’s ideal that one should seem as young as possible. He reflects on the causes, and the history, and bemoans its presence and explains what it means. "The tone of national life is lowered, made less rich," for one thing. He considers the phenomenon in journalism, television, political correctness, self-esteem, and the general coarsening of life, and so on. But more deeply felt is the greatest of sins (according to George Santayana), the strangling of human nature, leads to his last paragraph, worth quoting (but do read the whole things as you are completing whether or not 14 year olds should have the right to vote, as some have proposed in California): "This is of course what is being done in cultivating perpetual adolescence, while putting off maturity for as long as possible. Maturity provides a more articulated sense of the ebb and flow, the ups and downs, of life, a more subtly reticulated graph of human possibility. Above all, it values a clear and fit conception of reality. Maturity is ever cognizant that the clock is running, life is finite, and among the greatest mistakes is to believe otherwise. Maturity doesn’t exclude playfulness or high humor. Far from it. The mature understand that the bitterest joke of all is that the quickest way to grow old lies in the hopeless attempt to stay forever young."

In favor of a Constitutional Amendment

Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese III, writes a solid op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal on the meaning of the same-sex marriage chaos brought about by the courts. He claims legal chaos--we are in danger of redefining marriage out of existence altogether--is afoot in the land regarding this fundamental question, and that the only thing that is likely to stop it is a uniform definition of marriage, and he claims that a Constitutional Amendment is necessary. He claims that this need not necessarily mean that states would not continue to have regulatory responsibility. He concludes: "The very consideration of an amendment that focuses on marriage would be an important vehicle for a nationwide debate about the nature, purpose and legal status of the institution of marriage. States are already strengthening their laws, passing state defense of marriage acts and considering state constitutional amendments -- all of which should be encouraged. A meaningful national conversation about an amendment to defend marriage will further this process and become the centerpiece of a larger and longer-term effort to promote and strengthen marriage and the family.

The defenders of marriage did not choose this debate or force this issue on the nation. Americans are a wonderfully tolerant and very reasonable people. But the issue having been joined, and the decision having been forced, we must now act on our basic principles and deepest convictions -- to preserve constitutional government and protect marriage."

Kerry, the Europeans, and the (few) voters

Tony Blankley wonders who John Kerry was talking about when he said last weekend: "I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ’You’ve got to win this, you’ve got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that.’" The truth is that he hasn’t met with any, ewhich then makes the Kerry remark especially stupid. Does he really think that (aside possibly from the Florida donors he was talking to) this is to his advantage in the presidential contest? Does he really think that Americans will be more likely to vote for him because Chirac and Schroeder would prefer to have him in office rather than Bush? What his comment reveals is that he--just like Reagan’s opponents in the 80’s--is as embarrased by the Bush presidency and regrets that Americans are seen as Cowboys. This is the heart of the reason he is a Massachusetts liberal and will not be elected. I venture to suggest that a very large minority of Democrats cannot have enthusiasm for such a candidate, with such inclinations. This point is related to this report in the Boston Globe about how the Demos have exagerated the turnout for the primaries. "Democratic turnout in the party’s presidential primaries through Super Tuesday was generally low -- in the aggregate, the third-lowest on record," Lewis Gans said, Terry McAuliffe’s hype to the contrary notwithstanding. I’m beginning to think thagt this whole primary run, Dean’s lead, and Kerry’s underserved vistory, is nothing but a media creation. I’m betting they can’t keep it up, no matter how many mistakes the Bush campaign makes.

Buckley on The Passion

William F. Buckley takes exception to those who simply praise Gibson’sThe Passion. Although he admits it shakes and moves the viewer, he thinks it is much too bloody, and unnecessarily so.

Running to a meeting

I’ve got a meeting to which I need to run. I’ve got a lot to update you on, but it will have to wait until this evening.

The Passion in Baghdad?

I previously mentioned the booming market for bootleg DVDs in Baghdad. Because they are bootleg, I have seen many titles for sale that were in the theatre when I left the states. While walking into my hotel a couple of nights ago, I saw for the first time a copy of Mel Gibson’s Passion for sale. Now I’ve seen everything.

The View from Iraq

Here is a link to some pictures from my travels so far. I hope to be adding some more soon.

What is marriage?

Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation has a very good, and comprehensive review of the gay marriage issue. (It is in the Chicago Tribune, and registration is required.) He rightly asserts that the effects of judicial decisions is to redefine marriage: "The claim is rather simple: Homosexuals, like heterosexuals, have the right to "seek autonomy" in their private relationships, including "personal decisions relating to marriage." That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court said last year in Lawrence vs. Texas. The choice of marriage partner is a private matter, stemming from personal autonomy, and thus a civil right.

By extension, says the Massachusetts Court, the traditional definition of marriage is arbitrary and irrational. Not only does it violate the dignity and equality of all individuals, but banning persons of the same sex from marrying is discriminatory and serves only to reinforce prejudice against homosexuals." But, Spalding maintains (and I agree), "Contrary to the opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, marriage in not an ’evolving paradigm.’ Nor is it an artificial, socially constructed concept." So, what to do? He reluctantly (because he is a supporter of limited constitutionalism) endorses a Constitutional Amendment. He says that prudence dictates it because "Society has never before been confronted with such a concerted legal and political effort to forcefully redefine and undermine one of its most basic institutions." Thomas Sowell also has something to say on this matter. He claims that marriage is not, as the pro gay marriage folks would have it, a matter of an individual’s right; it is a "social contract because the issues involved go beyond the particular individuals. Unions of a man and a woman produce the future generations on whom the fate of the whole society depends. Society has something to say about that." Hence the large bodies of law established over the centuries. Fool with all that, at your peril, he argues.

Bush’s poll numbers and the liberal media

Bush’s poll numbers are down, according to this Washington Post-ABC News poll. You can look at the details yourself, but I just want to point to two things. First, such poll numbers some eight months before the election are not that important. Indeed, it is arguably the case that given the two month-plus hammering Bush has taken from the Demos, these numbers are not too bad. Also, if you are going to be down, now is a good time, not September. Two, these numbers also reflect the pounding that the administration has been taking from the press. With my trusty XM radio I get a chance to listen a lot to CNN and I can tell you that--in my humble opinion--CNN’s attacks on the President are relentless and naked. This compares favorably to the 1980’s when, in the midst of a great economic boom, Dan Rather of CBS would--every single night of the week--talk about how bad things are, etc. It was amazing, and amazingly stupid, and, in the end, the American people weren’t fooled. It is the same now. The economy is on a roll, yet not enough jobs are being created, says CNN; sure the Iraqis just signed an amazing constitution, but bombs are going off, they’re really looking for security, not freedom, says our Socratic CNN reporter; Kerry is campiagning in Texas, Bush is meeting with the president of Mexico, so, of course, CNN says that Bush is also campaigning in Texas. It goes on. I am betting that the American people are much smarter than these fools think. So don’t panic.

Why Demos lost the South

James Taranto reflects briefly on why the Democrats have lost the South. The short answer: it is the most conservative part of the country (and that has nothing to do with race). Although thoughtful, this isn’t the last statement on the issue, but it is worth a look since it will be brought up again and again.


Iraqi constitution, commentary

Here is a paragraph by paragraph commentary on the interim Iraqi Constitution by Nathan Brown of George Washington University. I have not studied it, but it looks serious enough to warrant a look.

Petraeus and the 101st Airborne in Baghdad

Here is Rick Atkinson’s third, and last, article on Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, and the move into Baghdad.

Life in the Green Zone

Having offered the story of a shuttle driver, I thought I would give you a little more information about what life is like for workers in the Green Zone. Everyone works seven days a week, and the average work day tends to run from around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning until about 7:30 in the evening, at least for most of the people with whom I have spoken. When a civilian employee first arrives, they are housed in what is affectionately called "the homeless shelter"--a room with around 200 cots. (It is also called "Jurassic Park," based on the noises that come from the dark corners of the room.) They will stay here for a number of weeks (the number seems to be getting longer), until a trailer is prepared for them. The trailers are classic college dorm living. You and your roommate (yep, roommate--doesn’t matter that you’re 50) share a small room, which itself shares a bathroom with another unit. At the entrance to this housing development is a lovely sign calling the place "River Villas."

Meals are offered at a common dining area. When you get tired of the standard rotation of food, there is the Green Zone cafe, where you speak to Achmed if you would like a warm beer. There are also two Chinese restaurants. I have eaten at one of these, and I must admit that the food was better than the Chinese food I got in Medina, Ohio! Finally, there is a sports bar in the Al Rasheed, which has a big screen for catching the games (although one of the screens invariably has soccer on), and which offers adult beverage.

Given the amount these people work it is not surprising that a worker should say to me following the Al Rasheed rocket attack of a couple of nights ago, "[A]t times you forget where you are . . . until something like this [the bombing] happens."

ACLU and another Ten Commandments issue

Powerline notes another ACLU lawsuit, this time against Duluth, MN, where a monument to the Ten Commandments stands outside city hall. Take a look and follow the two links.

Kerry and Iraq

Time explains how Kerry would undo the "mistakes" of Iraq. And then runs this interview with him on the same theme. It is right to characterize Kerry as "uncomfortable" (as Time does) with these issues. He will not be persuasive on these positions on Iraq (I emphasize the plural). He doesn’t like unfair questions. Welcome to the Major Leagues, Senator Kerry.

Iraqi interim constitution (full text)

Here is the full text of the Iraqi interim constitution signed today. I finally found it.

Alt and the driver

Robert Alt in Baghdad, reflecting on the rocket attacks on the al Rasheed Hotel and on the patriotism of his shuttle driver, Stephen C. Turner, Sr.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Shanna Flaschka

Rich Policz

Pedro Aqui

Andrew Boyle

David Hausser

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter March’s drawing.

CNN and the Constitution Iraqi Constitution Signing

To second Schramm’s point, here in Baghdad, CNN was playing a re-run of Larry King’s December interview with Martha Stewart up until the moment that the ceremony began. They did cover it live, but you would think that a little "pre-game" commentary would have been more useful/important than finding out about how Martha made prison shivs out of old doilies and toothpicks.

More on the Al Rasheed Bombing

Here is the Fox News report on the Al Rasheed bombing of last night.

Nine Days

That’s how long it has been since I’ve had a cup of coffee. Be very, very afraid.

Samir’s Concern

Samir, my driver from Amman to Baghdad, did not speak much if any English. We had originally been scheduled to depart from Amman at 2:00 am on last Wednesday morning, but were not able to leave until about 4:30 because of yet another delay in getting my luggage. I had explained to Samir’s boss, who spoke a little English, the reason for the delay. I am not sure how well his boss conveyed this information to Samir, because at every stop where he found someone who spoke English, Samir had a translator tell me that next time I make this trip(!), we should start earlier. He did not say why, and I thought that it was because of the afternoon traffic in Baghdad, which seemed to raise poor Samir’s blood pressure.

Throughout the trip, Samir would point off to a direction, sometimes making a motion like a missile, and say "Ali Baba"—which is local slang for bad guys. I have just heard that the Ali Baba are much more prominent on the roads after 2 pm. If we had left at 2 am as originally planned, then we would have been in Baghdad before the ever important 2 pm, but because we left at 4:30 am, we did not arrive until 4:00 pm. Samir was therefore justified in his concern.

On the Ground

The blog about the missile attack last evening was probably one of the first reports from the scene. I actually wrote the brief blurb and sent it via my satellite phone from the edge of the bunker. A few things struck me about reporting such things from the ground. First, you have to remember to count the missiles. It may sound silly, but most people want to know how many were fired, and in the heat of the moment, counting is not exactly what is on your mind. The second thing you realize is that if all you see and hear are explosions, it is very difficult to tell what type of munition caused the explosion. Thus, last evening, when the first explosion occurred, a number of people thought it was a car bomb. When the next missile hit, however, it was apparent from the numbers that these were mortars or missiles, and not car bombs. But how to tell the difference between mortars and missiles? I am told that some of the folks who have been here for a while can tell the difference by sound. I could not, and therefore I tried to be non-committal on the type of device.

AU Grad in Afghanistan

This is Sgt. Jim Brereton of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry,
10th Mountain Division somewhere in Afghanistan. He is a friend of mine and was a student at Ashland, and good enough for government work, as they say, but what always struck me about Jim was his character and the fact that he was a lover of his country and not only because it was his, but because it was good. This is not a man who needs to prove either his manhood or his patriotism—he has been in Injun Country before—but here he is, again, chasing down bad guys. As Lincoln said, "God bless the soldiers."

Iraqi interim constitution signed

The interim Iraqi constitution was signed this morning, without changes. This is a significant day in the history of Iraq, and, likely, the region. It was mentioned on CNN this morning and the report was the most banal and prosaic one I ever heard (even from CNN): The reporter did not see the massive fact, did not see the meaning of the event. The Iraqi people have an interim constitution! They are on their way toward establishing a government that is limited in some fundamental ways, an unheard of thing in that part of the world. In drafting and signing it, they have already come a long way toward what we loosely call democracy. I wish them well.

Atkinson on Petraeus II

Here is Rick Atkinson’s second article on Maj. Gen. David Petraeus going into Iraq last March.  

Kerry as "pandescender"

Andrew Sullivan (writing for the London Times) has some thoughts on condencending Kerry’s inclination to also pander to voters, an unusual combination. "Here’s a word that deserves to be entered into the political lexicon. The blogger Mickey Kaus coined it. It’s "pandescender." It stems from John Kerry’s remarkable political ability to both pander and condescend to voters at the same time. In a word, it’s what’s obviously wrong with the Kerry candidacy for president of the United States, and, even in the early post-primary glow of his anointing, is troubling even die-hard Democrats as they confront president Bush in the fall."

Missile Strike Aimed at Al Rasheed

Al Rasheed Hotel, Baghdad—Approximately eight mortar or rocket rounds were fired into the Green Zone moments ago. The target appeared to be the Al Rasheed Hotel. None of the rounds hit the target, however onlookers at the scene referred to this as the most intense round of attacks in recent memory.

I was standing at a shuttle stop just outside the Al Rasheed when the rounds hit. The first sounded as if it were at a reasonable distance. But the second was close enough to loosen the fillings in your teeth. The flashes from the detonations were clearly visible from my vantage point, about 100 meters from the hotel. The passengers on the shuttle quickly took refuge in the bomb shelter. A few moments later, the helicopters were in the air.

Many onlookers were surprised that we did not launch an instant rocket response. Generally, attackers cannot get off more than two rounds before we launch a response. There are two theories as to how they got off so many rounds. First, the attack may have involved multiple attackers coordinated from multiple locations. This level of coordination may be an indication of AQ’s involvement. Second, the missiles may have been launched from a highly populated area.

Atkinson on Gen. Petraeus

Rick Atkinson writes a story of the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus (a doctor, fixing him up after he was shot in the chest, said "That’s the toughest guy I ever had my hands on."), and the drive toward Baghdad. Two other articles to follow.

Teenage pregnancy down

Apparently, an "extraordinary demographic shift" is taking place: teenage pregnancy is down: "The teenage pregnancy rate in America, which rose sharply between 1986 and 1991 to huge public alarm, has fallen steadily for a decade with little fanfare, to below any level previously recorded in the United States. And though pregnancy prevention efforts have long focused almost exclusively on girls, it is boys whose behavior shows the most startling changes." Apparently, it’s not just more sex with more contraception. The change seems deeper. Worth pondering. "Nowhere are the changes more surprising than in poor minority neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx, which a decade ago were seen as centers of a national epidemic of teenage pregnancy."

Roy Moore interview

Former Alabama Judge Roy Moore is interviewed in The New York Times. Short and interesting. Note that he opposes a Constitutional Amendment on marriage.