Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Niall Ferguson’s view of the future of Europe is severe. The continent "is experiencing fundamental demographic and cultural changes whose long term consequences no one can forsee." The facts: population decline is as great as it was during the Blavk Death in the 14th century; the median age will be 50 by 2050, and the welfare state will need drastic reform since one in three will be 65 or older; immigration may be the answer, from Muslim lands, of course. Bleak.   

Fallujah is a reminder of why we are there

Bill Kristol considers the difference between Mogadishu and Fallujah, and emphasizes the contrasts, rather than the similarities. Our retreat from Mogadishu and American passivity triggered mischief around the world; not cutting and running in Iraq will have good consequences. Christopher Hitchens elegenatly makes it all even more clear. The "Dantesque scenes" from Fallujah should not lead us into existential despair. Rather, they should remind us that we did the right thing in going into Iraq in the first place, else all of Iraq would continue to look like Fallujah; "this ’Heart of Darkness’ element is part of the case for regime change to begin with."


Saturday (and Sunday) in Iraq

Well, things look brighter today in Iraq. A pizza shop just opened in the Green Zone, and after a wait of just over an hour, I had a little taste of home. Not as good as home, but a taste of home nonetheless. And then when I went into the PX, there it was: Season 2 of the Sopranos. The perfect inspiration for a long afternoon of writing.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to meet up with the 1486th unit from Ohio out at the airport. We tried to meet up there last week, but failed. This trip will keep me out of pocket most of the day, so unless I get lucky, I doubt that I will have any time to blog. I’ll be on the blog again on Monday.

The algebra of dating

Now, if I would have known the connection between algebra and dating when I was single, perhaps I would have paid more attention in my math classes. This fellow has figured out what your odds of succesfully getting a date based on a phone number attained at a bar. And it can be expressed in an equation. (Thanks to John Derbyshire at The Corner).

Georgia and gay marriage

The Georgia’s "House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, ensuring the question would be put before voters on the November ballot.

The 122-52 vote came after weeks of tension in the Legislature. In its first consideration of the ban, most of the Democratic-controlled House voted in favor of the measure, but it fell three votes short of the two-thirds required for passage.

On Wednesday, four Democratic members of the Legislature’s Black Caucus provided the additional votes needed to pass the amendment, putting their conservative social beliefs ahead of party loyalty."

As Ken Masugi notes, it is important to note "that four black Democrats helped form the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot. This could be the first sign of a questioning of the dubious established position that ’gay rights’ is a legitimate extension of traditional civil rights."

Answer from Hayward

The increase in unemployment alongside a rise in jobs is a typical anomaly of how labor statistics are generated. Basically, the labor pool (the number of people seeking work) expanded by more than the number of jobs. But the labor pool number is squishy and less meaningful than the jobs number, which is a solid number.

In past months, there have been times when the job number was flat or even falling, but unemployment went down, because the labor pool shrunk and the media would say "people are discouraged and gave up looking for work." Conversely, then, we should say today that the rise of the unemployment rate by 0.1 percent is good news, as it means people are encouraged by job growth to re-enter the labor pool. Don’t hold your breath for this interpretation to be given.

One final note: in all those fancy economic models that predict the outcome of presidential elections, the unemployment rate is never a significant factor. General GDP and job growth and the decisive factors. That’s why all those models are now predicting a comfortable Bush win. But of course, those models were wrong about Gore, and have other problems besides.

Hope this helps.

Question for Hayward

First, I just ordered two copies of your book on Jimmy Carter! I’ll give the second to a guy I don’t like, but who claims to like Carter; it’ll make him angry. Congratulations!

I have a question. Explain to me how over 300,000 new jobs can be created, yet the unemployment numbers go up by one tenth of a point. Someone just asked me this in class, and I fumbled.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Okay gang: My new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, is coming out from Regnery in May, but it is already being shipped at for those of you who can’t wait.

The subtitle gives a nice flavor for the argument: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry. ’Nuf said.

What time is it?

Sometimes, you take little things for granted, like Daylight Savings Time. It began last Sunday in Europe. It begins this Sunday in the U.S. And, per a recent order of the governing council, it begins tonight here in Iraq. Accordingly, for the next couple of days, I will be nine hours ahead of Eastern Time, instead of my normal eight.

The Technological Advances of Babylon

If memory serves me right, Babylon was greatly admired for the advance that was open sewers. Millenia later, many parts of Iraq still offer this modern convenience in the streets. I say this because my taxi ride through Baghdad this morning took me through some areas of the city with reasonable accumulation of free standing sewage. Talking to soldiers, the trash and the sewage are generally two of the things which they list as things which surprised them when they arrived. That said, Baghdad has cleaned up considerably in the last year. But as with most things, the answer is more complex than simply providing services. The people need to want to use them. Thus, a big issue here was not just getting trash service, but instilling a sense of pride and responsibility among the locals, who had become accustomed to simply dumping trash wherever was convenient. The soldiers have stepped to the challenge and provided examples in this area, cleaning out spaces onced filled with garbage to make usable green space for children. So even with the sewage & trash, it is easy to complain, unless you see how far the city has come.

The Election May Be Over Today

This morning’s March jobs report is the worst possible news for Kerry. The consensus estimate was for 123,000 jobs; the wildest optimists thought it might be as high as 200,000. But the number is (drum roll please): 308,000. (And it is possible this might be revised upward in a few weeks.) The stock market is poised for a monster upmove on the opening because of this news.

Kerry and gang can’t say this is a "jobless recovery" any more. But I’ll bet they try anyway.

Long Morning

Today is Friday, which is essentially the equivalent of Sunday here in Iraq. That means that the stores (including the internet cafes) do not open until late in the afternoon, and the streets are generally a little less congested. It is also the day of the manufactured protests at the mosques, where individuals are paid to participate by disgruntled fans of the former regime.

Because I could not check my email at the cafe, I made my way to the Green Zone this morning. It was a longer ride than usual, because four bridges across the Tigris were closed, and traffic did not seem to have taken a holiday. My taxi driver kept in reasonably good spirits, repeating "It is Friday. Go home and sleep" to the surrounding traffic. At one point he asked where I am from in America. I have lived enough places that this question could receive many answers, but for today, the answer was Chicago. "Oh, Chicago," he exclaimed. "Me, I am from Texas. Cowboy," he replied with a chuckle. When I finally got to the street leading to the Green Zone’s checkpoints, I found that it was closed. I tried to weasel my way through, but the Iraqi police would have none of it. So it was back to the hotel, to indulge the amoebas which had decided to have a bit of a party at my expense. I’m sure it will be all the rage soon. Just call it the Mesopotamian diet.

Clarke’s apology as grandiosity

Bill Buckley thinks that Clarke’s apology is, of course, silly and not warranted, yet, he sees it in a much broader political light as part of a comprehensive attack on Bush--for shortcomings in current history--a kind of attack which is rare in American politics: comprehensive and full of vitriol.

Charles Krauthammer also reflects on the apology; he calls it a pseudo-apology and a neat trick: "Indeed, one has to admire it -- the most cynical and brilliantly delivered apology in recent memory: Richard Clarke using the nationally televised Sept. 11 commission hearings to address the families of the victims. ’Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you.’

Many were moved. I was not. For two reasons. First, the climactic confession ’I failed you’ -- the one that packed the emotional punch -- was entirely disingenuous. Clarke did the mea culpa and then spent the next 2 1/2 hours of testimony -- as he did on every talk show known to man and in the 300 pages of his book -- demonstrating how everyone else except him had failed. And they failed because the stubborn, ignorant, ideologically blinkered, poll-driven knaves and fools he had been heroically fighting against within the government would not listen to him.

Message: They failed you.

Second, by blaming the government for the deaths of their loved ones, Clarke deftly endorsed the grotesque moral inversion by which those who died on Sept. 11 are victims of . . . George Bush. This is about as morally obscene as the implication (made by, among others, the irrepressible Howard Dean) that those who died in the Madrid bombings were also victims of George Bush."

Response to Fallujah

A couple of comments have been posted, and more have been emailed to me suggesting what the proper response should be to Fallujah. I did not go into detail in my article yesterday, but suggested that "[t]hose who commit violent acts must be dealt with in the most serious manner. . . . . Failing to respond to the violence therefore would invite still more violence, not less." The difficulty for most people who saw the horrific images is to fight the inclination to make Fallujah one big glass parking lot. I am convinced that a strong response should be made (and will be made), but we should limit collateral damage to the extent that we can. Note that I did not say that there should be no collateral damage--we do not live in wonderland, and even with our technology, war brings unfortunate consequences. But in what is a tribal society, there is no need to create more enemies by targeting those who are not causing the problem. Sometimes this weakens what would otherwise be a more dramatic response, but I will give you one example of why prudence is necessary here. When the missiles were fired at the Al Rasheed Hotel a few weeks ago, we did not hear an immediate missile response. You see, the United States has the technology to track where a missile has been fired from, and to launch a devestating counter strike that will often hit the launch site before the enemy missile hits its target. But in an urban setting, sending a barrage capable of clearing one square acre of space is not necessarily prudent. Indeed in this case, the terrorist had placed the truck and launcher near a hotel, undoubtedly hoping that the U.S. would respond with heavy firepower and would be blamed for killing civilians.

What is the moral of this story: Our response should be decisive and should serve as an example, but it should be calculated to do the maximum damage to those most deserving. I have every confidence that the Marines will be up to this task.

Good economic news

U.S. manufacturers "boosted activity for the 10th straight month in March and factory jobs growth accelerated, cementing a key pillar in the recovery, a survey showed."

New Dean at The University of Chicago

Danielle Allen, professor of classics and political science at The University of Chicago, will become Dean of the University’s Humanities Division on July 1, 2004. Her latest book, Talking to Strangers, will appear in September from The University of Chicago Press.

Little Mary Sunshine

I thought I would take a moment to talk about a theme in my recent articles--that theme being that the acts of terror are not representative of the general sentiment in Iraq. For those who do not know me or my work, it might be good to know up front that I am not, nor have I ever been mistaken for, Little Mary Sunshine. Caustic and ascerbic are terms that friends have used to describe my literary inclinations. And whether I live up to those descriptives, my articles are generally aimed to shedding light and casting scorn on the failings of a theory or a candidate.

Why then, you may ask, the optimistic perspective in articles covering horrific acts? The answer is that it is something which has been foisted upon me by the people here. The Iraqis literally will seek you out to tell their stories, and they tell stories of hope for the future and rejection of the tyranny of the past. The soldiers, while at times more reluctant to talk to reporters, will tell you their stories, and they tell stories which reveal character and resolve. On some of the worst days in Iraq, I have been privy to some the best of humanity.

Why then, do other reporters not say the same? Here I can only speculate, but I think there are likely many reasons. First, I am fairly sure that some simply do not want to see it. I have written about this before, so I will not belabor the point. But for others, I think they do not report the good because it is difficult. It is difficult to recognize the good when you are in an area that is not safe, or when the events of the day show you the worst that human nature has to offer. It is easier then to side with the taxi drivers who decry that "Baghdad is lost" every time there is a street closing.

So for those of you who were worrying that I have lost my cynical edge--don’t fear, it is still there. It is just that the Iraqis and the men and women in uniform will not allow me to indulge it.

Reader Response

Yesterday’s posts evoked a fair amount of reader response. Those who know me expressed shock that I have survived. No, not survived the missiles or bullets, but survived without a steady stream of coffee until yesterday. Others expressed sympathy for all those who must have come into contact with me during the previous caffeine-deprived month. But the most common response was an admonition never to run across the street without body armor again. When I considered that one of the people who made this recommendation has the authority to issue death warrants, I felt obliged to comply.

Pictures from the Protest

As promised, the good folks at No Left Turns have posted my pictures from yesterday’s protest. You can see them here.

The casualty-aversion myth

Given that the casualty-aversion myth is once again front page news--the Fellujah incident reminding Dan Rather and the others that something similar happened in Mogadishu in 1993 (and Beirut earlier) and that we pulled out as a result--this long piece by

Lt. Col. Richard A. Lacquement, Jr. for the Naval War College Review is worth reading. He understands that our enemies tend to think that once we have casualties in a conflict we will turn-tail and run. He considers this historically and finds it not to be true. He also asks whether casualty sensitivity affects our national security objectives. He thinks this latter question is more difficult to answer. Our will and resolve is being tested. It is common knowledge that our enemies--bin Laden included--think that Mogadishu exemplifies our character. Lacquement argues that we have always had the stomach for such things and, I add, most certainly since 9/11. Let our enemies not understand this. That’s fine.

Following Campaign Finance

This web site,, is an interesting and convenient way to learn about campaign finance, including 527s etc.

It is also easy to find out who has given money to candidates, just type your zip code into their search engine. The site is sponsored by the ’The Center for Responsive Politics .

Iraq, promise punctuated by peril

Our man in Iraq--I talked with him yesterday and he is doing fine and, like any young and adventureous American male, is enjoying the little pleasures in life, coffee from his own small coffee maker in his own room--Robert Alt has some thoughts on the Fallujah horror and how to think about it: we have to reflect on both the hope and promise of Iraq, even as we witness acts of horror. "This is the paradox of transitional Iraq: promise punctuated by peril. And this is worth remembering the next time you see a tragic picture from Iraq. Do not mistake the few people rejoicing at death and destruction for the average Iraqi, who is attempting to rebuild himself and his country for a better life."

Fallujah and barbarism

Peggy Noonan has a few words to say about the barbarity in Fallujah yesterday: "It is hard not to hate the teenagers and young men who celebrated under the bridge where they hanged the charred bodies. They are human expressions of nihilism. They take pleasure in evil, and they were not shy to show it. They are arrogant. They think barbarity is their right.

If this time, in this incident, these young men are left unchecked, their ways and attitudes, their assumptions and method of operating will only be encouraged, and spread. So we had better check them." By the way,
The New York Times shows a large above the fold color photo of two charred bodies hanging off the bridge in Fallujah. Does anyone want to argue that the Times is not on the Left? So much for all the news that’s fit to print.

Liberal radio

Here is a review of the Al Franken "Air America" gamble from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Instapundit is following it and has some useful links, if you are interested. It’s off to a rocky start, with some six stations running it. It is noted that it displaced a Korean and a Chinese station in the San Francisco area, by the way. I have not heard it, but have seen many (too many) news reports on it, and I am not impressed. As far as I’m concerned, I would like it to be succesful, just to see what that may mean in substance. But I doubt that it will be. It is an artificial creation, brought on by arrogant liberal money (and mind-set). It is born from the top down, rather than from the bottom up as is the case with Rush and the other conservative shows. Rush and the others grew--and kept--their audience the hard way, by being interesting and amusing; and all the while the audience knew that it was getting something other than CBS and CNN. They were predisposed to listen and, once they did, they were hooked. The liberals--when they are able to pick up a station that runs Franken--will listen out of ideological duty, then they will be bored, then they will stop. It won’t last.

Freedom of Speech

There was a large demonstration in Baghdad today to protest the Coalition’s decision to close down an Iraqi newspaper based on the claim that it had been printing stories encouraging readers to commit violent acts against Coalition forces. The initial language reported from the paper as the inciteful language seemed less than fully persuasive on that count. While I am having trouble pulling up the article, the language used by the banned paper was something to the effect of "if the Coalition continues to do X, they should not be surprised if there is more violence." I am going to withhold judgment, however, because the Coalition does have an interest in preventing attacks on its members, and either the translation or cultural context of such statements may not accurately convey the urgency of the message. If, however, the statements are this bland, then it would seem a questionable call by the administration. This of course raises the question of freedom of speech and language which is meant to encourage or incite violence. While U.S. Courts have taken a fairly broad view on the issue, it is generally agreed that incitement to violence is not protected speech, particularly in times of war or insurrection.

It is nonetheless somewhat encouraging to see that the largest protest since I have been here is one aimed at protecting speech. I actually walked through the protest. There were some who appeared to be genuinely protesting; others seemed to be waiving Shia colors as much as anything; and a large number seemed to be there because it was the thing to do in Baghdad on a balmy Wednesday night. The crowd was a bit unruly, and had thrown rocks at some soldiers. About half an hour after I left the crowd, there was an explosion in the distance. It did not appear to be in the direction of the protest, but I could not tell on the ground if it was related. I have posted some photos of the demonstration here. [UPDATE: My apologies for the typos in the original post, but I was typing furiously to get this up before the cafe closed.]

Errand Day

A good bit of today I spent doing errands. I wrote and filed the story with NRO this morning, reviewed a book proposal, and got a haircut. Of course, a haircut here also involves a shave, with a straight-edge razor. I must admit that as I sat in the chair, my head leaning back, with the barber running his razor over my jugular, scenes from old gangster films involving Columbian neckties ran through my head. But the barber didn’t even nick me, which is more than I can say for many a barber visit in the States.

When I filed the story this morning, I ran across the street to the internet cafe, so I did not take the time to get into my normal "desert reporter attire" of khakis, a long sleeve shirt (hiding my bullet-proof vest), and boots. Instead, I just threw on a shirt, some shorts, and sandals, and made my way out. What struck me was that the Iraqi security guard doing the pat down still patted down my legs below the shorts. This seemed wholly unnecessary, and reaffirms my belief that these security details (and the TSA at the airport for that matter) should be replaced with leggy models.

Optimism in the land of Hamurabi

Robert Alt (who is, I am almost sorry to say, a lawyer) writes from Iraq about a meeting Paul Bremer had with about 70 Iraqi law students about the appointment of an Inspector General to root out corruption in Iraqs ministries. Alt’s meeting with the students was, he says, "surreal." It was not the sort of meeting he would have had with students in an American law school. Alt is also showing off to them by claiming some knowledge of Hamurabi’s codes; but that’s another story. A good read.   

Clarke and Iraq

This is a partial response to John’s note below on Rice’s testimony. John is right that Rice’s testimony may have been orchestrated in advance, and that she is likely to get the better end of the conversation, partly because, as George F. Will argues, Clarke has already de-authorized himself. What I think may be an even bigger set up, or orchestration, if you please, is the one that is coming from Clarke and Democrats (and so far only alluded to in his testimony) regarding Iraq: They want to push the Iraq (neocon conspiracy and all that) vs. War on Terror point to its logical conclusion. That is, Bush (pushed and shoved and persuaded by Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al) decided to go into Iraq very early and would have done it even if 9/11 had not happened. This is their gambit to nibble away at Bush’s integrity, at the trust he has established between himself and the people post 9/11. That is the orchestration that is going on, and it is not being conducted by Bush and his people, but rather his political enemies. If Bush continues to be esteemed by the American people because of his actions and words after 9/11, Kerry cannot win. The Democrats (using Clarke and others) need to break this trust, and they are going to use Iraq to do it. That’s what Clarke is really up to.

Condi’s Testimony

Perhaps I’m off-base, but isn’t it possible that the Bush administration’s hemming and hawing about whether National Security Advisor Rice would publicly testify before the 9/11 committee was orchestrated in advance? I would suggest that it was decided immediately after Clarke’s testimony that Rice would appear. By initially refusing the committee’s request, the president was able to make it clear that this was a one-time phenomenon, not a precedent-setting event--and since the committee is not compelling the National Security Advisor to testify, I question how important a precedent this could set in any case. Also, it has served to focus more attention on Rice, who is perhaps the administration’s most effective and persuasive speaker. It is almost certain that many, many more will tune in to watch her testimony than heard Clarke’s. The result is that this might well lay to rest his accusations far more effectively than if she had appeared before the committee immediately thereafter.

The Long International Nightmare is Over

Today marks my fourth week in Baghdad, and I am pleased to announce that after what had become a quest, I now have a working coffee maker. Getting to this fine day saw the destruction of one power converter, one power adapter, and one coffee maker. I celebrated this momentous occasion with six cups of coffee this morning. If that doesn’t deserve a mug, I don’t know what does. 

What students need

David Brooks reflects on college admissions. Or, more specifically, he addresses high school students who are worried about which college will take them. He has some thoughtful points about the relationship (or lack of) between good grades and being a good student. Or, even better, having the character necessary to become a good student. He also considers what a good education has to do with getting into a so-called top college (not much, most of the time, it turns out). Needless to say, these are questions close to my heart. The students I take into the Ashbrook program are not only very good students, but also--somehow--show me that they are (at least pontentially) very serious people. I don’t have a formula for this. It is based on a personal interview lasting--normally--well over one hour. I have also learned that such an interview is better when at least one of the parents is present. When I explain how different, how difficult, how important, this higher education is going to be than what they may have expected, I like to see the reactions of all the parties, not just the student alone. It turns into a much more revealing conversation both for the the student and me (and, of course, the parents). Although I can say more on this subject, let me only say for now that I try to talk about what they are going to study, how they will study, and what virtues it takes to study these important things. I focus on the difficult. Because they are used to a reverse focus (talk about how many pools we have on campus and how good the food is, etc.), they are a bit surprised by such discourse, but are (almost) universally pleased when someone--often for the first time--talks to them as if they were adults, rather than children just being told what to do, again. I explain to them that they are on the verge of real leisure (skole in Greek, hence, school), how that differs from the necessary (as in laboring in the fields else you don’t eat) and that they should take advantage of it.

As a rule, they take to it like duck to water. And they most certainly don’t have to go to Princeton to drink from the best well.

The Right College

David Brooks has a really nice piece in the New York Times today on going to the "right" university. His last several paragraphs confirm what a number of Ashbrook Scholars have told me about what they discover when they meet students from other schools at conferences or internships. It’s a fine reminder that education is a long, patient labor of love over hard questions, and it can be done by anyone, anywhere.

More on Clarke

Christopher Hitchens has some thoughts on the al Qaeda-Iraq connections and what that has to do with Dick Clarke’s work and testimony. John O’Sullivan also considers Clarke’s testimony and the larger political purposes of each side and he guesses that the voters will trust Bush.
Morton Kondracke argues that although it has to be admitted that neither Clinton nor Bush waged a war on terror pre-9/11, voters know that Bush is conducted one now.

Kerry on the Cold War

Peter Kirsanow reminds us--correctly--that John Kerry had a certain view of the Cold War, above and beyond his anti-war activity once he returned from Vietnam. This view should not be surprising from the post-1960’s Liberal crowd.

Kirsanow quoting Kerry: "During his 1971 congressional testimony about the Vietnam War, a man who would one day seek the Democratic party’s nomination in the 2004 presidential race was asked by a senator to assess the threat of Communism, not just to Indochina, but to world peace in general. The witness responded, ’I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.’" Like I say, this isn’t all that shocking, is it? After all, even Jimmy Carter held a view similar to this and, if I recall correctly, he said he changed his mind only the Soviet monster bit in Afghanistan (1979).

Rice to testify

It was just announced that Condi Rice will testify under oath in front of the 9/11 Commission. A deal has been struck, whereby (somehow) this will not set a
precedent. I actually thought that she shouldn’t testify publicly and under oath for three reasons: One, it will set a precedent for any future NSC chief to testify on policy issues, a very bad idea that may affect future conversations and advice given to a president. Two, there is a danger that this will turn into a shouting match between Rice and Clarke--he said, she said--that the Demos will try to use for ordinary partisan advantage in the campaign. While this attack on the Bush team hasn’t worked so far, it may open up other avenues of attack and she will be the one at a disadvantage. If she doesn’t say everything she knows about anything asked of her--even if the silence is due to sound reasons of national security--she will be the one who will be the accused of stonewalling or lying by the Democrats. Three, the public conversations will continue to move away from what Clinton did not do regarding terrorism, which is the intent of the Democrats. Oddly, even though they have already been successful in doing that, they still have not gained any political points. This is proof that the people overwhelmingly (still) trust Bush and his administration on the conduct of the war on terror over any Democrat, including Kerry.

Bush, back up in polls

USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that "For the first time since mid-February, Bush leads Democrat John Kerry, 51%-47%. With independent Ralph Nader in the race, Bush leads 49%-45%, and Nader receives 4%." And then: "When the poll asked who would be more trustworthy in making a decision about sending U.S. troops to war, Bush beat Kerry, 52%-41%. That’s a considerable shift from Feb. 1, when Kerry led 50%-45%." There is more. And then there is this Pew Research poll: "A week’s worth of criticism of his pre-Sept. 11 record on terrorism has had little impact on President Bush’s support among voters. He is now running even with Sen. John Kerry in a head-to-head match-up among registered voters (47% Kerry- 46% Bush) after trailing Kerry by 52%-43% in mid-March. Voter opinions have been fluid in this early stage of the presidential contest, but Bush has held his own against Kerry with regard to personal qualities, while the Massachusetts senator has lost support on key issues like health care and jobs. And on the central question of which candidate would do the best job of defending the country against future terrorist attacks, Bush continues to lead Kerry by a wide margin (53%-29%)."

The Most Conservative Press Pool Ever

The CPA uses "pool" reporters when they have limited space or wish to keep the number of press small at a particular event. In these cases, a reporter, a video crew, and a still photo crew provide the content for all outlets which wish to cover the event. Today I was the print pool reporter, and Fox News was the Video crew for an event at a local law school announcing the appointment of Inspectors General to root out corruption at the Iraqi ministries. So if you see more balanced stories on the news tonight or in the paper tomorrow, you know why.

I interviewed a number of law students after the event, and they were very enthusiastic when they learned that I had studied Hammurabi (the ancient giver of laws), and that I taught constitutional law in the United States. It may be the first time in my life that I have had groupies, surrounding me asking for my autograph, and asking numerous questions about opinion in the United States. They were very pro-American, exclaiming "we love America," and they denounced Saddam as a "monster." The funny thing is that these positions would place them out of the mainstream at most elite law schools in the United States.

New journal on technology and society

The New Atlantis is a new journal,devoted to clarifying "the nation’s moral and political understanding of all areas of technology—from stem cells to hydrogen cells to weapons of mass destruction. We hope to make sense of the larger questions surrounding technology and human nature, and the practical questions of governing and regulating science—especially where the moral stakes are high and the political divides are deep." There is an article by Diana Schaub on ageless bodies, by Paul Cantor on poetry and science, and one by Peter Lawler on happy souls. There is more, and it all looks good.

The Transition Has Begun

As promised, here is my NRO article on the transfer of the Ministry of Health from Coalition to Iraqi control.

Poll of military spouses

Tom Ricks writes a long article for the Washington Post on a recent poll conducted by the Post, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. This is the first non-governmental survey of military spouses (95% are women) conducted since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Here is the poll (PDF file). Even though long, it’s worth reading, and is far more optomistic than the title implies: Most of the spouses are coping well, and, unlike in past wars, they are not going home for the duration of their spouses’ deployments, but are staying at or near bases, and are supporting one another. Note the effect technology (e-mail, especially) has had on the separation of husbands and wives. About half say they expect their spouses to reinlist, and about a third say they will get out. If these percentages prove true, that will be good news for the army. The reinlistment of senior sergeants will be watched with special care, since they are thought to be the backbone of the military.

Kerry and his church

Time magazine has a piece on "Kerry’s faith" (he’s a Catholic). Although the article seems to indicate that the Catholic Church has problems with Kerry’s positions, it ends by, in effect, arguing that Kerry has problems with the Church’s positions. All this (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) was not an issue when Kennedy ran and won. Will Kerry be helped in those states with a large plurality of Catholic voters (for example, in some Midwestern and Southwestern swing states)? He ran strong among Catholics in the primaries. He voted with abortion rights advocates last week on the Unborn Victims of Violance Act (it passed the Senate, 61-38). I expect this to become an issue.


Mitch Potter, of The Toronto Star, writes on what Iraqis think about Saddam now. Where is he? Will he be tried? What is he saying? Rumors abound, and, as one Iraqi is reported to have said: "Saddam taught us how to feed on rumour." And the BBC claims that

after eight months on the run, the hiding place of the ousted Iraqi leader was given away by an aide known as "the fat man". The BBC says Mohammed Ibrahim Omar al-Musslit gave away the secret after being arrested and interrogated.

Europe’s nemesis

Although what Fouad Ajami argues has been said before, yet the style and grace of the piece makes it better than the norm. The title, "The Moor’s Last Laugh" (to be compared to the "last sigh" of the last Muslim king of Granada as he looked back from one of the hills at his lost dominion) is a give away. What the Moors lost in 1492, demography may be giving them back: there are 15 million Muslims in Europe and, claims Ajami, they are not assimilated. In the end, they agree with Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual godfather of radical Islamism, that "A Muslim has no nationality, except his beliefs." The faith has become portable, and the radicals find it more convenient to work out of London and Hamburg, than to press on their own rulers. Satellite TV is of great assistance in this effort. For Europe, nemesis is near.   

Which Candidate is More Like Hoover?

As this article points out, folks in Herbert Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa are uncomfortable with the Kerry campaign’s repeated efforts to tie President Bush to the disastrous administration of Herbert Hoover. They were particularly chagrined when a bus tour of 51 unemployed people--sponsored by the AFL-CIO--came to town and flocked to the Herbert Hoover Museum and Library for a photo op.

Of course, as the story mentions, there are two problems with the attempts to draw parallels between Hoover and Bush. The first is that unemployment in 1932 stood at nearly thirty percent, while today it is less than six percent. The second is that in 1932 Democrats hammered Hoover for raising taxes and jacking up tariffs--both of which Democrats support today.

Small jaws, big brains

Scientists--of a certain sort, anyway--have finally figured out why human beings have such large brains compared to other mammals: we started having smaller jaws and it is this to which we owe both our big brains and sophisticated culture. This single genetic mutation that weakened our jaw muscles happened about 2.4 million years ago, a new study suggests.

"Over the past 2.5 million years, human brains have grown enormous compared to those of other primates. Human brains are now roughly three times the size of those of chimps or gorillas.

One possible reason is that changes in the environment forced early humans to invent tools, and those with the biggest brains had greatest manual dexterity, which led to yet more sophisticated tool use. Alternatively, selection may have favoured larger brains because they permitted more complex cultures.

But why did this process occur in humans and not in other primates? According to Hansell Stedman, an expert on muscle disorders at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it was a simple mutation in a gene found in our jaw muscles." Isn’t this fun?

British poll

Iain Murray argues most Brits remain of the opinion that the war and the American alliance were and are in Britain’s interests.

"Overall, the poll shows that the Anglo-American alliance is in good shape, and broadly supportive of its geopolitical thrust over the past year. The issue is complicated by the low personal esteem in which the British hold both Tony Blair and George Bush, but when it comes to policy, the current Anglo-American direction is clearly preferred to any other."

Middle East ripples

I wonder if the changes in the Middle East have anything to do with our policy? Moammar Gadhafi’s son said Wednesday Arab countries should support President Bush’s campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East. Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said: "Instead of shouting and criticizing the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people. The Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside." He even praised Israel, where sons do not tend to take power after their father dies. He said, "Many Arab countries are now following the policy of inheriting the leadership, but there are hundreds of Libyans who are better (suited) than I."
On the other hand, Colonel Kadhafi, may have intentionally insulted Tony Blair by showing him the sole of his shoe when the latter visited Tripoli last week.

Syria is appealing to Australia to put in a good word on their behalf to the U.S. It wants to shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven. I remind you of this Neil MacFarquhar story in the
New York Times a few days back. And see below for more.

IEAE officials are back in
Iran, but it is being reported that senior Iranian officials are overseeing efforts to conceal key elements of the country’s nuclear program from international inspectors, according to Western diplomats and an intelligence report (not from the U.S.).

Things flying, fast and small

The test of an exotic type of engine called a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or

Scramjet was a success. NASA’s X-43A travelled about seven times the speed of sound, or Mach 7. Unlike a rocket, the scramjet doesn’t need to carry its own oxygen to combust the fuel they carry aboard; scramjets can scoop it out of the atmosphere. In the meantime, at a conference on low intensity conflict, Israel has unvelied a tiny drone plane, small enough to fit into a soldier’s backpack. The smallest weighs less than a can of soda.