Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Persecuting Christians for Sport

So now comes James Cameron, the Titanic guy, to claim Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had children, and was buried in an upper-class family tomb in Jeruselem, making the New Testament a pack of lies. How does this get any attention at all? Because millions of intelligent, secular liberal Americans have had it with Christianity, especially the Christianity that bonds together to elect George Bush president. If Christians are responsible for Bush and Iraq, then damn them. You go Cameron! You go Dan Brown and Tom Hanks! Down with Mel Gibson and other neo-Nazi Jew haters! The culture wars continue in full scream.

Cameron gets serious attention for a related reason. Its just lots of fun to watch Christians get so worked up over the latest assault on their faith. And the irony of piling on the Christian faith at a time when the entire Western World, without exception, is super-sensitive about saying anything negative about Islam’s greatest prophet—oh, such rich and lovely irony! Isn’t the stiff-necked world of 1957, the world of Hillary’s parents, so wonderfully, joyfully upside-down!

Seriously, seriously, it is impossible for a calm, thinking person to treat Cameron seriously. One understands how relics helped the Catholic hierarchy provide something concrete for illiterate peasants to hold onto, but Christianity isn’t about relics. It’s about the New Testament-- important documents written within two generations of Jesus’ death. Jesus lived, and non-Christain, near-contemporary Romans wrote about his crucifixion. Jesus may not have bodily risen to sit at God’s right hand. But everybody around him thought he did, and it’s the most important single belief in Christianity. So the people who hid his body must have wanted that site kept very secret.

Cameron’s tomb relics are for ignorant non-believers who are the 21st Century’s mirror image of the Church’s peasant-worshippers of Jesus’ prepuce.

Fox Beats FOX

Brit Hume's "Political Grapevine" yesterday reported the very item on Al Gore's energy consumption that this blog featured a day earlier. While this blog's jump is due to the normal news cycle's timing, it's great to beat the pros. Gore's office told FOX News that Gore "is signed up for a program to consume 100 percent green power — has installed solar panels and uses compact fluorescent bulbs."

Monday, February 26, 2007

How’s This for an “Inconvenient Truth”?

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a nonprofit research organization committed to free market solutions, reported that Al Gore’s Nashville mansion (20 rooms, 8 bathrooms) consumes more electricity monthly than the average American household uses in a year. The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, and Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—over 20 times the national average.

Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month to 18,400 kWh per month.

Friday, February 23, 2007

“No Child Left Behind”: Modest Success

The Economist takes a look at Bush’s effort to improve public schools. Tests, especially the nationally-administered “Assessment of Educational Progress,” have brought increased accountability to public education. And scores have risen slightly (see chart). But systemic rewards tied to passing scores mean superior students and those farthest behind get less attention than those on the cusp.

Like Steve Jobs, The Economist has little respect for teachers unions:

The toughest obstacle to improving the worst is the strident opposition of the teachers' unions to meritocracy. . . [B]ad teachers are nearly impossible to sack. . .So the worst teachers linger for ever, while many talented people who might otherwise become teachers shun a profession where their talents will be neither recognised nor rewarded.

All this would be technically simple to fix. Tenure could be abolished, principals could be allowed to hire and fire freely and teachers could be paid by results. School funding could also be made dependent on how many parents choose to send their children to a particular school, so that good schools would expand and bad ones would close or be taken over. But all this is politically impossible—especially with the Democrats, who grovel to the teachers' unions, in charge of Congress.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Throw $$$ at Public Education? Really?

Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby finds an unknown scholar at U.C. Davis, Peter Lindert, whom he says has published a “magisterial” work (apparently, the word “excellent” no longer suffices) justifying “quality” tax and spend programs. Mallaby notes that while Democrats are returning to power, they are collectively reluctant—“with the notable exception of John Edwards“—to endorse tax increases.

Unfortunately, education is the first example Mallaby gives of a “quality” spending program justifying a tax hike. If you believe that throwing more money at public education is a “quality” investment, than you are a Democrat, and John Edwards will help you.

More useful to public education’s future: the outspoken opinions of Apple’s Steve Jobs. According to the New York Sun, Jobs told an education reform conference audience:

“I believe that what's wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way.” . .unionization, Mr. Jobs argued, [constrains] schools from attracting and retaining the best teachers and from dismissing the less effective ones. This, in turn, deters quality people from seeking to become principals and superintendents. "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good? Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, ‘I can't win.'" Mr. Jobs. . . concluded by saying, "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

Put Steve Jobs in charge, and millions would support hiking taxes to help schools.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Media Miscues

Victor Davis Hanson takes apart Newsweek’s cover story comparing Bush to Ahmadinejhad in their mutual lust for war. Newsweek is using the logic of those who equate Bush with Hitler.

Hanson blasts the story’s authors for heavy reliance on anonymous sources, including:

• a senior Coalition adviser
• a U.S. official involved in the talks
• a participant who asked to remain anonymous
• Asking not to be named
• a diplomat who asked not to be identified
• a White House official
• A senior British official
• an Iranian intelligence official

Writers who quote anonymous sources can literally put any words they want into sources’ mouths.

There’s much more, and one should read the Hanson critique in its entirety. Hanson reminds us that Newsweek falsely claimed U.S. soldiers had toileted the Koran, a story that resulted in several unnecessary deaths.

Victoria Toensing is a Washington lawyer who helped write the law that would punish anyone who “outed” a CIA covert agent. Toensing knew from Day One that Valerie Plame wasn’t “covert” under the law. Toensing rips into a host of people and institutions for mishandling the Plame leak investigation, beginning with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and also including The Washington Post, which published her commentary. Like Hanson’s, Tonesing’s article should be read in full. Toensing specifically:

CHARGES THE MEDIA with hypocrisy in asserting that criminal law was applicable to this "leak" and with misreporting facts to wage a political attack on an increasingly unpopular White House. To wit:

Notwithstanding the fact that major newspapers have highfalutin', well-paid in-house and outside counsel who [should have known Plame wasn’t a covert agent], the following publications called for a criminal investigation:

· The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

· The Boston Globe

· The New York Times

Toensing said The Washington Post, which reported that "two White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife . . . to undercut Wilson's credibility," inspired the other papers’ actions.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Republicans Need Interest Groups

Democrats aren’t alone in viewing the electorate as a collection of interest groups. Mike Allen and John Harris, in Politico, report that Republican political guru Karl Rove feels the GOP needs to score gains in four areas:

Suburbanites: "The heart of our party is married couples with children, but they are also those that are most prone to be mobile in our society and hence less linked into politics."

Younger voters
: "That's where you set in motion things that come to pass not in a matter of an election or two, but a matter of a decade or two."

African-Americans: "You can't claim to be a great political party if you're getting 9 or 10 or 11 percent. One of the interesting things about the 2006 election is that we appeared to make gains in the African-American community even while we were losing a national election."

Latinos: "This group is rapidly growing. We do well among them in some elections and not well in others."

Allen and Harris add that Rove has a special interest in those who, like him, attended college but did not graduate. Rove’s current passion is the link between education and income.

Comment: While going after the African-American vote is symbolic—designed to show Republicans aren’t the racists they once were, Rove’s other three groups are key for Republicans to have a future in an increasingly suburbanized, multi-ethnic America.

Not only is the connection between education and income important, but also Republicans are America’s best hope for progress on improving schools. Democrats are wedded to the teachers’ union-dictated status quo.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Democrat's Market Approach to Universal Health Care

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) follows healthcare closely. According to Micheal Barone, Wyden wants a bi-partisan path to universal health care. Wyden:

notes that government single-payer health insurance -- the goal of some senior liberal Democrats in Congress -- was rejected by the voters of his liberal state by a four-to-one margin. He also notes that we don't have employer-provided auto insurance -- we buy that out of after-tax earnings. He argues that people should be able to buy health insurance as members of Congress and federal employees do, from an array of choices offered by private insurers.

He's looking [for] a political deal. . .Bush's standard deduction and a private insurance market in which consumers would have incentives to hold down costs. . . [and] universal coverage, with subsidies for low earners to pay for coverage. . . [A]dditional revenues from those with policies worth more than $15,000 [would] subsidize low-earners.

. . . Democrats. . .who seek more government provision of healthcare will probably be uninterested. But [there’s] the apparent success of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. Many Democrats believed that seniors would have a hard time choosing policies from an array of choices and that they would end up being gouged by private insurers. But polls indicate that the vast majority of seniors are pleased with the results. . .

Thursday, February 15, 2007


What a remarkable chart! Chris Shays is the only Republican representing any of America’s five wealthiest congressional districts, and Shays barely held his seat last November. Shays won by just 6,600 votes, squeaking back only by publicly crawling away from Bush and toward the “get out of Iraq” voters who dominate his district. Wealthy people support liberal Democrats.

The American elite is liberal, because “liberal” doesn’t mean what it used to. Our elite, as with all elites, wants to hold on to what it has, and fights hard to do so. As economist Robert Frank wrote, "Animals will fight viciously to protect territory that they hold, but they won't fight nearly as hard to extend their territory."

America’s establishment turned liberal in the 1960’s, and secular liberalism is now the establishment’s religion. As we have said, liberals dominate the permanent government, the media, entertainment and the arts, academia, and philanthropy/non-profits. Liberals and conservatives divide big business and religion. Of the elite groups, conservatives dominate only small business and the military. The media is especially fierce in defending its current power position. No wonder conservatives want to change the status quo.

Liberals have a word that helps nail down their continued control: “stakeholders.” Democracy is about people, voters, and capitalism empowers people, consumers. But when we legitimize “stakeholders’” as a special category, we further entrench the status quo. “Stakeholders” are mostly parts of the Democratic coalition—the recognized leaders of labor, Hispanics, African-Americans, women’s causes, and other defined pressure groups.

This big, gummy mass makes it harder for America to turn the wheels of change.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Common Myths about Iraq

1. Iraq is too immature to be a democracy.

India proved sixty years ago that a multicultural, poor country can become democratic.

2. Iraq is entirely separate from the war on Islamic Extremism.

The Islamic extremist war against the West has two major camps—Shia Iran and al-Qaeda. Both gain from a U.S. defeat in Iraq.

3. We’ve been in Iraq too long—World War II lasted less than 4 years.

More Americans died in the first month of World War II than have died in Iraq so far. It’s ethnocentric to say World War II began in December 1941. Japan invaded China in 1937.

4. We can’t afford the cost of Iraq.

Military spending during Vietnam was 9.2% of GDP, and was 6.2% during the Reagan era military build-up. It’s currently at 4% of GDP.

5. Too many Americans have died in Iraq.

American combat deaths in Iraq have averaged 2 a day each year of the war. In Vietnam’s fourth year, American combat deaths averaged 38 a day.

6. The American people voted to get out of Iraq.

American failures in Iraq and Republican corruption, symbolized by the Mark Foley scandal which Democrats knew about in advance but held for the election, accounted for the Democrats’ victory in November. Given a choice between staying to win in Iraq or leaving without winning, the American people remain divided.

7. Bush lied about WMD.

Saddam’s own people, even Saddam himself, thought Iraq had WMD. Saddam had WMD before, had used them, and was obstructing UN inspectors at every turn.

8. Bush lied about Iraq seeking yellowcake from Niger.

Ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson reported that Iraq was trying to get yellowcake from Niger, then lied about his findings in an effort to damage Bush politically. Wilson worked for Kerry during the 2004 election.

9. Bush lied about al-Qaeda in Iraq.

As Christ said, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Because Saddam so hated the U.S., al-Qaeda’s 9.11 success threatened to bring these two U.S. enemies together. Saddam’s wealth and pursuit of WMD made Iraq a particularly dangerous base for al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S.

10. Bush won’t listen to his military advisors.

The U.S. military is no monolith. Some criticize Bush for putting too much faith in military advice. Presidents have to fire generals who fail.

11. Our record in Iraq is one of continuous failure.

The initial war succeeded. Iraq held three successful elections and formed a unity government. Most provinces are free of the insurgency. Al-Qaeda insurgents succeeded in generating a vicious cycle of sectarian violence in Baghdad by destroying a year ago the Shiites’ most holy Golden Mosque of Samarra.

12. We should negotiate with Syria and Iran, because they share our interest in avoiding an Iraqi civil war.

Syria and Iran share an interest in seeing the U.S. out of Iraq. Negotiating with them would be like negotiating with North Vietnam to end our involvement in that conflict. It’s called surrender.

13. We needn’t worry about Iran annexing Iraq. Ahmadinejhad has such a weak hold on power that Western economic pressure will bring him down.

The ayatollahs who are Iran’s true rulers seem quite pleased with Ahmadinejhad’s aggressive, anti-Western actions.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Poor Get Richer

According to the Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal 2007 Index of Economic Freedom, economic freedom is increasing worldwide, and so are incomes. The index’s average freedom score is the second highest in its 13 years of existence, only slightly behind last year’s, and every global region has expanded freedom in the last decade. The report finds that the higher GDP rates that come with economic freedom "seem to create a virtuous cycle, triggering further improvements in economic freedom. . .[C]ountries that increase their levels of freedom experience faster growth rates."

Two reports accompanying the findings make the case for expanded freedoms. Columbia University professor of economics Xavier Sala-i-Martin destroys the myth that the income gap is widening:

when population weights are factored into the equation, the evidence shows that "individual income inequality declined substantially during the past two decades. The main reason is that incomes of some of the world's poorest and most populated countries (most notably China and India. . .) converged rapidly with the incomes of OECD citizens."

And Swedish economist Johnny Munkhammar notes that while Europe’s more advanced economies restrict labor freedom at the cost of low growth and high unemployment,

"many Eastern and Middle European countries experiment successfully with freedom." Contrary to socialist views, labor freedom and improving social conditions actually go together. . . "If the world wants to achieve both more jobs and better living standards, [labor] freedom is essential."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Not Edwards

Here is how John Edwards proposes to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons:

we ought to put an offer of both sticks and carrots on the table. We ought to make it clear that there are things that America and the Europeans are willing to do [including] making the nuclear fuel available to them, . . . combining that with a set of economic incentives that will be very attractive to the people in, in Iran who’re already feeling an isolation from [Ahmadinejhad]. And then on the stick side say, “But there will be consequences if you don’t give up your nuclear program. And the consequences are the economic decline that you’re seeing within your own country will be accelerated, . . . because the bank—the banks in Europe and the European governments will not continue to do economic business with Iran.”

Edwards cannot be taken seriously as a possible president.

During his Sunday “Meet the Press” apppearance, Edwards also came out strongly for raising taxes to finance universal health coverage—in effect, socialized medicine. Edwards is the same person who ran in 2004 as the senator from North Carolina, the only moderate in that year’s field of liberals. Since he couldn’t even carry North Carolina (or South Carolina, the state of his birth) for Kerry-Edwards, he has now gone completely to the far left, trying to outflank Obama, a genuine, committed progressive, and Hillary, who has always been a progressive at her core. Edwards’ trial lawyer background makes him suspect to begin with. So his open pandering to the Democrats’ leftist primary base on Iran and national health insurance raises even deeper questions about Edwards’ core beliefs.

Hillary will win if she can run ahead of Giuliani and McCain in the polls; that takes care of the only strike against her. That’s how it was with Nixon in 1968. Once polls showed Nixon could be elected president, party faithful were only too happy to nominate him.

Obama? He’s running successfully for Vice President.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Iraq: Oil Production Target Lowered

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
Jan. 2007: 73

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.10 (Revised downward, 1/07)
actual: 1.66 (1/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 3,590 (12/06)

Since our last monthly report, American KIA's dropped from December's 91. But 73 KIAs is well above the average for last year, or any year. The mainstream media closely covered the sharp rise in KIA's in December, but has unsurprisingly made little reference to the monthly total for January.

Authorities dropped the oil production target substantially in January, from 2.5 million barrels a day, the prewar peak, to just 2.1 million barrels a day. December's output was above that target, but January production dropped to only 1.66 million barrels a day.

Electricity output remains low during the winter, though it rose slightly in January from December's level of 3,500 megawatts.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Games People Play

As I’ve suggested, it’s alarming how little the West notices the serious threat to our way of life.

Some person named Barry Casselman thinks the way I do:

the West is in denial of what is truly happening in the world. This self-delusion is the most dangerous response possible to the intense and rapid change all over the planet. This self-denial takes many forms, including obsessions with abstract issues of little real consequence, e.g., animal rights, capital punishment, celebrity gossip, political correctness, etc. It is accompanied by the rise of secular mandates and the suppression of spiritual values. It exhibits excesses of greed that threaten both capitalism and representative government. The malign forces that conspire against the West, however, are not paralyzed. They are moving and growing at great speed.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Global Warming: The Tyranny of "No Debate"

Clive Crook, writing in the National Journal, wants a rational look at global warming solutions, which he views as impossible in the current “poisoned atmosphere (forgive the expression).” To even begin the discussion, Crook goes through a ritual denunciation of Bush, saying his “ill-founded and appallingly executed war has discredited all of the administration's foreign-policy,” and “by skewing his [tax] reforms so outlandishly in favor of the rich -- when the incomes of the highest earners were leaping ahead in any case, and when middle-income households were doing much less well -- Bush has discredited that whole line of thinking.”

But most of all, Bush has made calm discussion of global warming impossible. Crook writes:

there is no such clarity on the costs of climate change -- not even on the costs of the warming experienced so far (that question, in fact, get surprisingly little attention). As for future warming, it seems close to certain that it will happen, but determining how much is very difficult. . .My point is this. The awesome obtuseness of the administration on the issue has created a falsely confident and passionate opposing consensus. . .

Focused on opposing Bush, the global-warming consensus has no appetite for complications and doubts of any sort, about how big a problem this is going to be, or about the best ways of addressing it, even though some of those ways might be immensely expensive. . .For instance, some experts have credibly criticized the economic forecasts underlying the IPCC's simulations on technical grounds. That is apparently impermissible: The critics were immediately dismissed as climate-change deniers.

Another example: In thinking intelligently about how to respond to climate change, policies aimed at adaptation should be weighed alongside steps to slow the rate of warming. Some mixture of the two is sure to make the best sense. Again, however, to talk of adaptation -- to talk of weighing costs against benefits in any methodical way -- is to be regarded as an ally of the White House.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Relax. We're a Superpower.

although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Prof. David A. Bell, John Hopkins University
Los Angeles Times 1.28.07

Here are some reasons liberals oppose the Iraq war:

• “Pre-emptive” wars are wrong, making us the bad guys.

• War undermines efforts to redistribute resources at home.

• War is a Republican tool for retaining power.

• War is unnecessary, since Islamic extremists don’t threaten our way of life.

While pre-emptive war is suspect, we learned with World War II that it’s better to go after aggressors sooner rather than later. While war takes resources from worthy programs at home, war’s worth it if we face a genuine threat. On the other hand, while Republicans are serious about protecting America, if the threat isn’t real, Republican warriors do look suspiciously political.

So it comes down to “How real is the Islamic extremist threat, anyway?” It seems that millions of Americans, and most of the rest of the world, believe America is a superpower fully capable of defending itself against any small band of terrorists. They believe this, even though the combination of 9/11’s success and the portability of weapons of mass destruction suggests otherwise. Their belief sets aside what we know about terrorism’s asymmetry. Small groups of people willing to lose their lives are able to inflict incredible damage on a society.

Can Islamic terrorists threaten the existence of the world’s superpower, to put the danger in its most extreme form? A few nuclear weapons, or a coordinated chemical or biological attack on our major cities, could cripple the world’s leading democracy, and yes, it could transform America as we know it. Are we right to organize against this threat, and carry our defense to Islamic extremism’s homeland?

Here’s an easy way to answer the question. Do you feel America is run by rational people who have our nation’s and the world’s best interests at heart? Or do you feel irrational people have captured America who will do anything, especially exaggerating a foreign threat, to hang on to power?

If you don’t trust our leaders, then I guess the right battle to fight is the one for political control at home. Forget going overseas.

Trouble is, the leaders are rational. The threat is all too real.