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August 30, 2005

Ummm... I don't think this was quite what Jesus had in mind

Who the hell are these people and what rock did they crawl out from under?!

(From Tim Blair, who knows wayyy too much about the seamy underside of America.)

August 30, 2005 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What not to do during a Hurricane

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(Liz Condo / AP printed in the LAT)

August 30, 2005 at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Ignoring the Elephant in the Middle of the Room

Radio show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, who I have never listened to and only rarely read, has been getting a lot of press lately. He is the subject of a long profile by Nicholas Lemann in this week's New Yorker (not available online, unfortunately). He also is mentioned prominently in a column by Tim Rutten in the LAT regarding the recent decline in talk radio ratings.

Hewitt has adopted the innovative policy of only granting interviews to people who agree to allow him to interview them -- and tape the entire proceeding for broadcast. He recently posted the transcript of his discussion with Rutten, which I found quite interesting. In it Hewitt takes Rutten to task for the declining circulation of the LAT, making a persuasive case (at least to me) that the LAT's obvious left wing bias is helping to erode its readership. He also chides Rutten, like the overwhelming majority of journalists, for refusing to disclose his political beliefs while insisting that his personal views are irrelevant to his work as an "objective" journalist.

For his part, Rutten, in his column, accuses Hewitt (and other talk radio critics) of fetishizing politics and insisting on seeing everyone and everything through the prism of partisan politics. He may be right in this, but this focus on the importance of political partisanship results from the stubborn refusal of journalists (as a class) to admit what everyone knows to be true -- that most journalists are politically liberal. How could this indisputable fact not color the allegedly "objective" reporting of the news of the day?! Why do apparently intelligent people like Rutten insist on maintaining the fig leaf of political neutrality? Do they really believe that their readers can't discern their ideological positions on the major issues of the day?

August 29, 2005 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

University of California: No Freedom of Inquiry Needed Here

Leila Beckwith, professor emeritus of pediatrics at UCLA, had an interesting OpEd in today's edition decrying the erosion of academic freedom in the (state financed and managed) University of California system. She described the following series of events, which I had never heard of and, frankly, find to be outrageous:

From 1934 to 2003, UC regulations defined academic freedom this way: "The function of the university is to seek and transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary, in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts."

. . .  Yet, in 2002, the University of California, in an egregious act of irresponsibility, backed away from these rules after a UC Berkeley graduate student taught a remedial reading and writing course titled "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance." By all accounts, including the instructor's, the course was strongly committed to the Palestinian perspective in the conflict with Israel and taught without any obligation to present alternative views or inconvenient facts. The original course description went so far as to encourage conservative thinkers to seek other classes.

Though the school rewrote that description, then-President Richard Atkinson also began the process of gutting its academic freedom rules, and, by 2003, the university had eliminated the statements quoted above from its regulations and removed any obligation for professors and instructors to aspire to maintain political neutrality in their courses or even inform students that other viewpoints exist.

Evidently there is legislation pending that would restore the previous status quo and confirm that UCal's mission is to open minds to reasoned inquiry, not enforce political indoctrination. Let's hope that it succeeds.

August 28, 2005 at 04:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Strategy for Winning in Iraq?

David Brooks' column in today's NYT discusses a provocative essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. Krepinevich argues persuasively for what he calls an "oil spot" strategy in Iraq: securing key areas and helping to restore civil society there and then slowly expanding out to the rest of the country. As Brooks summarizes:

The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

This makes a lot of intuitive sense, though it is reminiscent of the "strategic hamlet" concept in Vietnam. (This is not surprising since Dr. Kepinevich is perhaps best known for his 1986 book The Army and Vietnam.) However, the conditions in Iraq are much more favorable to making this strategy work: Iraq is much smaller and a larger portion of the population lives in large cities and towns, rather than isolated farming villages. Also, unlike in Vietnam, there is no need to move large numbers of people from their homes into new areas that can be better defended against terrorist attacks.

Of course, one of the drawbacks of this strategy is that it would probably require a lot more troops on the ground to provide security -- troops that we don't really have, as Slate's Fred Kaplan recently explained. Another problem is political, the Iraqi government would have to agree to effectively abandon parts of the country to the Jihadi's and Baathists in order to focus security and economic resources on areas that could be effectly protected.

Finally, in reading Dr. Krepinevich's essay, I was struck by the significance of this strategic observation, highlighting the critical role played by US domestic opinion in determining the success or failure of our efforts in Iraq:

The current fight has three centers of gravity: the Iraqi people, the American people, and the American soldier. The insurgents have recognized this, making them their primary targets. For the United States, the key to securing each one is winning "hearts and minds." The Iraqi people must believe that their government offers them a better life than the insurgents do, and they must think that the government will prevail. If they have doubts on either score, they will withhold their support. The American people must believe that the war is worth the sacrifice, in lives and treasure, and think that progress is being made. If the insurgents manage to erode their will, Washington will be forced to abandon the infant regime in Baghdad before it is capable of standing on its own. Finally, the American soldier must believe that the war is worth the sacrifice and think that there is progress toward victory. Unlike in Vietnam, the United States is waging war with an all-volunteer military, which gives the American soldier (or marine) a "vote" in the conflict. With over 150,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers must rotate back into those war zones at a high rate. If confidence in the war wanes, veterans will vote with their feet by refusing to reenlist and prospective new recruits will avoid signing up in the first place. If this occurs, the United States will be unable to sustain anything approaching its current effort in Iraq. A precipitous reduction in U.S. forces could further undermine the resolve of both the American and the Iraqi people. At present, U.S. Army and Marine Corps reenlistment rates are strong. Army recruiting, however, is down substantially.

The insurgents have a clear advantage when it comes to this fight: they only need to win one of the centers of gravity to succeed, whereas the United States must secure all three. Making matters even more complicated for the coalition, a Catch-22 governs the fight against the insurgency: efforts designed to secure one center of gravity may undermine the prospects of securing the others. For example, increased U.S. troop deployments to Iraq -- which require that greater resources be spent and troops be rotated in and out more frequently -- might increase security for the Iraqi people but erode support for the war among the U.S. public and the military.

Given the current state of domestic opinion polls, the MSM liberal consensus (witness Frank Rich's latest in this same issue of the NYT), and the PR triumph of Cindy Sheehan's media circus, we have our work cut out for us on the home front. If Krepinevich is right, the fight to win hearts and minds in this country may well be the decisive factor in determining our ultimate victory or defeat in Iraq.

August 28, 2005 at 07:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2005

Report from the trenches in a different kind of war

Seeing this BBC report on the arrest of men in Morocco and Turkey in connection with the recent Zotob computer worm, my suspicious mind immediately thought a new cyber front had opened in the war on terror. Fortunately (I think), it appears that the two men were garden-variety fraudsters involved in some sort of bankcard scam.

While researching this story, however, I stumbled across this fascinating "day in the life" account of one of the people on the front lines in the global effort to protect our computers and networks from worms, viruses and other forms of attack. It's pretty interesting reading.

August 27, 2005 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

The Lie We Are Living

Breaking 11 years of silence on questions about group differences in intelligence, Charles Murray is moved to comment by the academic Borking Larry Summers received last Spring.

Elites throughout the West are living a lie, basing the futures of their societies on the assumption that all groups of people are equal in all respects. Lie is a strong word, but justified. It is a lie because so many elite politicians who profess to believe it in public do not believe it in private. It is a lie because so many elite scholars choose to ignore what is already known and choose not to inquire into what they suspect. We enable ourselves to continue to live the lie by establishing a taboo against discussion of group differences.

His point is that by abandoning our principles (as well as our intellectual integrity) in an effort to pretend that humanity conforms to our desired vision of how things should be, rather than to how they actually are, we have:

. . .  crippled our ability to explore almost any topic that involves the different ways in which groups of people respond to the world around them—which means almost every political, social, or economic topic of any complexity.

It is a long article, but well worth reading. (Hat tip to Instapundit.)

(Murray, of course, was the co-author of the controversial 1994 best-seller The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.)

August 26, 2005 at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

More on the Fight in Mosul

Michael Yon has another riveting account of the struggle against the jihadi terrorists in Mosul. It is very much worth your time.

August 25, 2005 at 06:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hollywood oddities

There have been some real whodunits lately among the Hollywood set. Earlier this week, a music producer disappeared in Topanga Canyon after calling friends in the middle of the night saying that he was being pursued by a an unknown group of assailants. Friends and relatives hypothesize that his disappearance may have something to do with a Nigerian internet scam. (I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I didn't make it up.)

Elsewhere in Tinseltown, a movie producer was found dead in his car outside a convenience store in a small town in northern California on August 1st. Even worse, his 9 year old daughter died in the car with him, reportedly having been smothered by her father's body when he suffered a massive heart attack. Oregon blogger Roguepundit has more details on the bizarre circumstances surrounding this incident, but the unanswered questions remain legion.

Bizarre.

Update

The missing record producer, Christian Julian Irwin, was found five days later, washing his jeans in a stream in a secluded part of the canyon beneath his home. According to an LA County Sheriff's official, "He was very delusional. He obviously suffered some mental setbacks." No mention was made of any pharmaceutical products that may have played a part in his adventures.

(Anyway, I had never believed that Nigerian email scammers had anything to do with his disappearance. They are all way too busy trying to track down and abduct this guy.)

Roguepundit has another follow-up post on Terry Martin Carr, the dead movie producer. Autopsy results support the view that he died of a heart attack and that his weight caused his daughter to suffocate. There is, however, no explanation of why he suddenly left his wife in a restaurant/supermarket and drove off with their daughter.

August 25, 2005 at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Mr. Wonderful's Bad Day

Gerard Vanderleun from the American Digest is back from vacation with an amusing story.

August 24, 2005 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack