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Friday, November 04, 2005

Reopening New Orleans Schools As Charters

Someone is seeing Katrina as an opportunity besides libertarians. Governor Kathleen Blanco has proposed opening the New orleans schools as charter schools. Bravo!!!

Thanks to Bill Suda for the link.

NYT Lying Or Just Misreporting?

Michelle Malkin nails the NYT on their selective quoting from a dead GI's letter. First is the portion the NYT printed and then is the longer passage with the omitted explanation. You judge what the NYT reporter was trying to portray.

NYT Passage:

Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. ''I kind of predicted this,'' Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. ''A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."

The whole passage of Starr's letter:

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Different message, I'd say. Intentional? Is that lying?

European Muslims' Unique Conditions

Intellectual Francis Fukuyama explains that the source of the problem for Europe with its Muslims is not the Middle East. He explains that 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims in Europe do not have the comfort of the Muslim society that makes almost all decisions through tradition and culture. European Muslims have choices to make. Yet, in Europe, Muslims are not accepted into the E Pluribus Unum mode.

Fukuyama writers:

Contemporary Europeans downplay national identity in favor of an open, tolerant, "post-national" Europeanness. But the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and, to differing degrees, it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan. Integration is further inhibited by the fact that rigid European labor laws have made low-skill jobs hard to find for recent immigrants or their children. A significant proportion of immigrants are on welfare, meaning that they do not have the dignity of contributing through their labor to the surrounding society. They and their children understand themselves as outsiders.

It is in this context that someone like Osama bin Laden appears, offering young converts a universalistic, pure version of Islam that has been stripped of its local saints, customs and traditions. Radical Islamism tells them exactly who they are--respected members of a global Muslim umma to which they can belong despite their lives in lands of unbelief. Religion is no longer supported, as in a true Muslim society, through conformity to a host of external social customs and observances; rather it is more a question of inward belief.

It is a world inside their heads rather than a modality developed over centuries of tradition and ethical analysis. It sounds like the Muslims are having their 1960's creating disaster at fever pitch and without the cool music

Paris Burns and Europe Simmers

The riots in France continue to escalate. Now the largely poor Muslim rioters are burning cars, reportedly over 300 last night. Also, a carpet factory and a bus depot were burned forcing firefighters to deploy over many Paris suburbs.

Meanwhile, as we watched the NYC CBS news this morning, the short blurb mentioning the riots never advised by name the identity of the rioters. The "reporter" just stated that the riots were a response to the deaths of 2 teenagers. Why the cursory reporting? We recognize the NYC 6:00 news is more focused on traffic, weather and the mayoral election, but, every time Scooter Libby sneezes and Dick Cheney says "God Bless You", we see a clip of Harry Reid saying "Watergate".

The Paris riots is major news. And it is simmering all over Western Europe. While economic conditions explain much of what could solve the crisis, Robert Spencer writes that the underlying issue is MULTI-CULTURALISM:

[A]mong a generation of Muslims born in Europe, significant numbers have nothing but contempt and disdain for their native lands, and allegiance only to the Muslim umma and the lands of their parents’ birth. Those who continue to arrive in Europe from Muslim countries are encouraged by the isolation, self-imposed and other-abetted, of the Islamic communities in Europe to hold to the same attitudes. The Arab European League, a Muslim advocacy group operating in Belgium and the Netherlands, states as part of its “vision and philosophy” that “we believe in a multicultural society as a social and political model where different cultures coexist with equal rights under the law.” It strongly rejects for Muslims any idea of assimilation or integration into European societies: “We do not want to assimilate and we do not want to be stuck somewhere in the middle. We want to foster our own identity and culture while being law abiding and worthy citizens of the countries where we live. In order to achieve that it is imperative for us to teach our children the Arabic language and history and the Islamic faith. We will resist any attempt to strip us of our right to our own cultural and religious identity, as we believe it is one of the most fundamental human rights.”

With US economic conditions allowing people to be entrepreneurs, a diligent intelligence apparatus enforcing the Patriot Act and the philosophy of E Pluribus Unum, we have escaped this European catastrophe in the making. More needs to be done with illegal immigration and border security but the key is recognizing how traditional American cultural values are a goal to be espoused to all of its citizens.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gun Defense Stories

Maybe Peggy Noonan's depression (see 2 posts below) will be lifted (it made me feel better) after she reads the following 2 stories carried on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense blog:

Would-Be Robber Dies After Being Shot By ClerkPolice Investigating Circumstances

Surrounding ShootingA would-be robber is dead after being shot by a convenience store clerk during an attempted robbery, police say.

Police said the man, 21-year-old Cortney Rivers, was acting suspicious while wandering around the Food Mart on the 9900 block Garland Road.

Police said Rivers then walked up to the counter and pulled a gun.The clerk also pulled out a gun and shot one round at Rivers, striking him in the head.

Rivers was transported to Baylor Medical Center in critical condition where he later died.

Police are conducting interviews and investigating the shooting to verify if it was justified.

And this one:

From the November 1, 2005 Macon Telegraph:
Police will not charge a Macon man who shot a burglary suspect in the arm Friday night on Houston Avenue, Macon police said.

Hubert O'Neal, 39, was shot twice in the arm and charged with burglary, according to a police report. He told police he was shot during a drive-by shooting, the report stated.

The shooter, Robert Nichols, 60, told police that he saw a man in his fenced-in yard shortly before midnight Friday, the report said. Nichols told police that he followed the man to the side of the house and the man came at him, the report stated. Nichols said he shot six bullets at the man, who jumped the fence and ran away, the report stated.

Nichols said his television had been taken from his house, and he discovered it covered in blood on the outside of the fence, the report stated. Macon police detective Jim MacDonald said because Nichols had a reason to fear for his life and was in a confined area of his home, he will not be charged in the shooting.

That poor television.

Where Oil Profit Taxes Should Go

An idea: Why not distribute the 10% tax on oil profits to car manufacturers who are losing money? Aren't they related in some way?

Taxing Oil Profits

Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA), the chairman of Senate Finance Committee is "extorting" money through threatened special taxes on profits from the oil companies because he and his constituents are offended by recent reports of the size of those profits. It seems that gas has become a popular commodity lately around the world and there are only so many suppliers and refiners. Did anyone think they would be losing money?

More questions in no order of priority but with a point (I hope):

Senator Grassley, is there any chance that the profits of big oil will spur others to explore for more oil and make its costly extraction worth the investment?

Don't profits in an activity lead others to join in the fun?

Didn't you learn somewhere along the way that being in control as a senator gave you psychic thrills unattainable elsewhere?

Don't your opponents realize that? Didn't you and your friends ensure your place in power by passing the campaign finance law?

Haven't other powerful friends of yours redrawn voting district boundaries to ensure re-election?

Will forcing oil companies to cede 10% of its profits decrease entrepreneurial activities? Does any of this matter?

Just asking.

And as Neal Boortz asks: Who's profits are they anyway?

Depression of the Elites

Blogging and all other electronic media have led the powerful elites into a depression. If you read Peggy Noonan recently, and I could only read part of it because the pessimism was affecting my ability to down a bagel, you'd have learned:

[T]hat a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon.

Is this an attitude created by the elites to hold power or is it that their particular world is coming apart? I think it is the latter. We are not accepting the opinions of the opinion-makers anymore. The public's distaste for moralizing Hollywood theatrics, the Left's denigration of the our attempt to combat Islamic terrorists, the soldiers giving their all in that battle with the MSM ignoring their successes, the constant drone about white oppression, the din of victims everywhere, has led the public to seek new answers. Woe to the MSM.

Meanwhile, the latest hot issue (is Libby over?) finds the NYT trashing SCOTUS nominee Alito. One reader of Chicago Boyz opines:

I think that they have a Screed-O-Matic somewhere at the New York Times. They just insert the name and hit the Republican Judicial Nominee button and the thing churns out the copy. I know that Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert use it all the time.

I just emailed to my Think Tank another example of the NYT auto-pilot in something I found in The Corner. John J. Miller wrote:

For reasons not worth getting into, I was reading the NYT obituary of Ronald Reagan this morning. It was published on June 6, 2004. It quotes Kenneth Lynn, a history professor at Johns Hopkins, calling RR "one of the most important presidents of the 20th century." There's more, and it's nice, pro-RR stuff. What the NYT doesn't say is that Lynn died three years earlier, in 2001. There's nothing wrong with drafting an obit in advance, so that a quality piece is ready to run at a moment's notice. But they do require updating.

I am doing my part to keep the MSM elites financially afloat (though I will not subscribe to Dowd and Krugman on-line). We do need to read "the source" of the liberal, cosmopolitan, elitist opinion, don't we? And as a side benefit, there is the crossword puzzle on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All That Is Ever Needed Is Dialogue

Back to the riots in France, BBC News reports Chiraq is attempting to calm things. They quote:

"The law must be applied in a spirit of dialogue and respect," Mr Chirac said. "A lack of dialogue and an escalation of disrespectful behaviour will lead to a dangerous situation," he told a cabinet meeting, according to a spokesman.

That is the kind of sweetalking that Saddam needed to hear from Bush instead of all that militaristic "Axis Of Evil" threats that make other nations angry. Nice words worked on North Korea, didn't it. Expect the riots in Paris to subside immediately once Jacques soothes them.

Actually, we may be seeing what a quagmire looks like within the boundaries of a Western nation. I'll take my quagmire somewhere else, thank you.

Discrimination: Just A Few More Days Only

In his usual clear, economist's way, Thomas Sowell captures the essence of what "civil rights" are. A calendar from 2005 that extols the things Republicans have done for blacks is upsetting to him. Not that the party should not counter the false portrayal of them as "ant-civil rights" but, he says:

The whole case for civil rights is that every American is entitled to them. Civil rights are not about doing special things for special groups.

For instance, how are civil rights protected when affirmative action means discrimination against Asians and Jews who merit entry into a given college or grad school? I know, it was to be done for a short time and Sandra O'Connor believes it needs just a renewal for say another decade. You 5 year old Jews and Asians (and you Italians, too) do not have to worry when your time comes for higher education. Your hard work will be rewarded in 10-15 years.

Remember Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy? He was doing solitary in "the box". To show the warden could not break him, when they pulled him out, he asks for "just a few more days. I was really getting into myself."

France Is Making Our Predictions Come True

This blog has been predicting the fall of France since we started. Has the fall begun?

There has been 6 days of rioting between French Muslims and the gendarmes. Paris suburbs have seen Molotov cocktail and rock throwing versus rubber bullets in rioting in Aulnay-sous-Bois among other suburbs. One of the major reasons we read and hear for this rioting is the poverty and lack of employment of large portions of the Muslim population.

The French have the nerve to criticize the Bush Administration? I guess their sizzling economy has given them an inflated ego. Get it?

Their growth in the 2nd quarter was 0.1% compared to the killer 0.3% of the whole Eurozone. As of May their unemployment rate was close to 10% with much of the employment in government jobs. No wonder the unemployed Muslims are angry at the government. The government is "The Man" there.

Harry, we want to follow France exactly why?

Actually, the MSM has failed to report on Muslim riots in England and Belgium as well reports EU Rota.

Why is there such poverty and unemployment? Of course, EU taxation, regulation and laws do not help light the fuse for entrepreneurs (see this from Von Mises website) to create companies that create jobs.

Harry, you want to raise taxes exactly why?

Insurgents Banking On Another Tet

I received this from fellow Think Tank member Evo Riguzzi, a retired Army General. It is from a soldier stationed in Iraq. It lays out the political climate in Iraq, the strategy of the insurgents and the response and dedication of our soldiers. Read all of it, especially the part about the battalion from NYC. Thanks, Evo.

The letter:

The insurgents continue to have the capability to surge their attacks for a brief time, but then have to taper off. Generally we see surges after we have dealt them a significant defeat, and they are using the surge in violence to attempt to regain the initiative. They do not have the capability to conduct sustained operations. Having said that, I assess that we will see their best attempt at a surge for the next three months. We have the Constitutional Referendum 15 OCT, followed by the start of Saddam Hussein's trial on 19 OCT, coupled with the month of Ramadan (currently a week into that) (much more glorious to become a martyr during Ramadan), followed by the National elections on 15 DEC.

Our enemy is not stupid, and he knows that if the Iraqis adopt a constitution and elect a government in DEC, the insurgency has no chance of prevailing. The Iraqis have tasted freedom, and they like it.

Establishing a constitution and government in the next 75 days will build a firm foundation for an Iraqi form of democracy, and the insurgents will not be able to wrestle that away from the Iraqi people.

The bad guys also assess that if they can get the American public to become non-supportive of the war, they will be able to win because we will withdraw before we have established a democracy and trained the security forces to defend it. They have studied the Tet offensive, and assess they can lose tactically and operationally and win strategically as the NVA and VC did 37 years ago. Should be an interesting three months as they try to create an Iraqi Tet. We will smoke them tactically and operationally; just have to keep the strategic fight going in the right direction.

Recently the insurgents have been more ruthless in their attacks. I find a couple of techniques particularly loathsome: shooting a van full of families, placing the wounded members (women, children) on the road, and waiting for Coalition forces to come to their aid, detonating the IEDs when our guys arrive; and targeting the ambulances and hospitals that are taking care of civilian casualties from previous IED attacks. However, these attacks on innocent civilians are driving a deeper wedge between the populace and the insurgents vice intimidating the Iraqis to join the insurgency or stop supporting the Government.

Our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines continue to excel in all that they do. One of our MP battalions is an Army Reserve unit from New York City. They have a large number of NYC police officers in their ranks. Each day, they dedicate the day to one of the police officers or firemen who was killed in New York on 9-11. The battalion commander writes a letter to the next of kin, and informs them that his battalion is dedicating that day's operations to their father/husband/son, sends them a picture of the unit at Abu Ghraib, and assures them that their loved one's sacrifices are not forgotten. I was at Abu Ghraib on 11 SEP this year, and this MP battalion and the combat support hospital (also an USAR unit from the New York - Philly area) conducted a very moving remembrance ceremony, with numerous testimonials of Soldiers who were involved in the aftermath of the attacks on that day.

As I travel about Iraq and work with the Iraqi Government, I amazed at how completely Saddam Hussein destroyed the infrastructure here. By funneling all oil revenues into his personal gain, and that of his cronies, nothing was done to repair roads, develop sewer systems, provide potable water, or develop an electric grid capable of supporting the population. Once you get past the hundreds of thousands of people he murdered, tortured, raped, and maimed, his rape of the country's infrastructure is truly astounding. The damage we are working to repair did not come from our three week attack or the looting afterwards; it stems from decades of abuse and neglect.

Things have been picking up. Our task force had three KIAs and a number of wounded last week, which is high for our relatively small organization. I literally drove into a firefight last Monday coming back from Baghdad. It was interesting observing the Iraqi Army operate against the insurgents; not on a par with our guys, but definitely better than the enemy. We helped with the wounded, but the Iraqi Army had things well in hand, and we continued on our way after they finished things off. The Army and Police are getting better every day, and that causes the Iraqi people to gain confidence in their security forces.

Well, time to head to the hooch, clean my weapon, and hit the rack. My correspondence will probably be more intermittent than normal between now and the first of the year. The bad guys should present ample opportunity for us to kill them when they mass to try to create a Tet-like environment, but we have to keep the press honest so you all get a sense of what is really happening. Schools are opening, water lines are being run, electricity generation is increasing, roads are being repaired, and a democracy is being born. Exciting time to be in Iraq with so many great young Americans making a difference.

Have a great week. You know I will.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Alito Is No Gamble

There is a market for everything, and if I had any money after buying the kids shoes and my own cable/internet bill, I'd wager on those cool bets on Tradesports. According to the market, as reported by Don Luskin, Tradesports has Alito's chances of confirmation at 78%. The online "prediction market" has chances of greater-than-50 Senate votes at 94%.

I'd bet on Alito's successful vote except I swore off all betting 27 years ago. I made bets through a bookie friend of mine and, like Pete rose, only bet for the Celtics to win. My recollection is that I had the Celts plus 3. They were winning by 2 and right at the end of the game Dave Cowens was fouled in the act of shooting. In those days they received 3 foul shots to make 2 and Cowens, an 80% free-throw shooter, missed all 3 foul shots.

I lost the bet even though the Celts won the game. I decided that I would not let my team's victory be soiled by a monetary loss.

Still, this Alito bet looks too good to pass on.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Botaxes And Frivolous Purchases

3 weeks ago the NYT in the NJ section wrote about the NJ tax on cosmetic surgery. They call it cheekily "Botaxes". The condescension of the writer towards people who purchase medical services for physical enhancement is palpable. How do you like this comment:

How often do you feel like applauding the State Legislature? But this was a surprisingly innovative idea. Consider: A cash-strapped state and 1.3 million residents without health insurance, their hospital costs reimbursed by aforementioned state. At the same time, hordes of people willing and able to come up with substantial sums to buy firmer bodies, more symmetrical faces.

But there is hope since the revenues are not matching the expectations:

But doctors argue that Botaxes, as some wit dubbed them, discriminate against women, the majority of their patients. (By which logic, the sales tax on lipstick should be lifted, too.) They complain about cumbersome paperwork; they worry that consumers will head for Pennsylvania or New York. Medically necessary reconstructive surgery remains exempt, but ''we really don't want to open the door to taxing any medical procedure,'' Dr. Hetzler explained to me.

The reason doctors are persuading legislators, though, has more to do with financial disappointment. State forecasters predicted that Botaxes would raise $24 million a year. Instead, first-year revenue amounted to just $7.5 million. Now even Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who introduced the legislation, says he's inclined toward repeal because ''economically, it hasn't made sense.''

Note the writer's plea for more such taxes:

[A]fter writing checks for $8,500 or more for trimmer triceps, kicking in a few hundred additional bucks for those who can't afford heart bypasses seems reasonable.

So Mr. Cryan, a modest proposal: Let's expand, not repeal. I suggest a Tanning Tax on patrons of those carcinogenic salons. And, in a blow for gender equality, a Toupee Tax. And perhaps a surcharge, the Just Plain Pathetic Tax, on red sports cars for buyers over 45.


Politics About DC Desk Jockeys

Leave it to Christopher Hitchens to boil the Blame, I mean Plame, matter down to its essentials:

Mr. Fitzgerald, therefore, seems to have decided to act "as if." He conducts himself as if Ms. Plame's identity was not widely known, as if she were working under "non official cover" (NOC), as if national security had been compromised, and as if one or even two catch-all laws had been broken. By this merely hypothetical standard, he has performed exceedingly well, even if rather long-windedly, before pulling up his essentially empty net.

The letter of the law is to stop anyone from "outing" a spy. Plame is as much a spy and I am. She is a desk jockey just like thousands others who walk into the CIA HQ uncognito.

Hitchens finds this so ironic of the Left:

The outrage of the left at any infringement of CIA prerogatives is only the least of the ironies in the indictment of Lewis Libby for discussing matters the disclosure of which, in and of itself, appears to have violated no known law.

On that note, who is one of the heroes of the Left from the 60s? Daniel Ellsberg, who provided the media the Pentagon papers. When the left assumes power someday in Washington, will they so quickly pursue such a prosecution?

While holding strong libertarian views, I am as big a national security guy as you'll find. Confusing as that should be to you (it is to me), I saw this whole affair as a big "whatever". Once my old hippie buddy compared it to Watergate, I knew the public would see it as a big over-blown (again) snooze-fest. I did not know Libby before this controversy and wish him well. But the big fish have swum away.

This political games will likely have no discernible effect per Mark Steyn who writes:

It's quite possible that the electorate will have a throw-the-bums-out attitude to the Republicans in 12 months' time, but I'd say it's almost completely unfeasible that they'll be in a mood to throw the Dems in.

There are not a lot of competitive congressional districts, and those that are are mostly in Democrat blue states that, if not yet red, are turning distinctly purple. The Dems' big immoveable obstacle remains their inability to articulate a set of ideas that connects with the electorate. James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are said to be working on a Democrat version of Newt's Contract with America, but Greenberg's a pollster and Carville's an attack dog. Whatever their charms, these aren't the ideas guys.

This controversey has moved the Move-Ons but the electorate is with me. Whatever. The bigger question is why VH-1 moved Bonaduce to 11:00 (from 10:00) on Sunday.

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