Saturday, April 28, 2007


On the question of the causality of mystical experiences (caused by God? caused by the brain?), William James:

we must judge them by their fruits not their roots.

[For more on neurotheology and discussion, this blogginghead episode or this article by George Johnson, which comes to the same point: namely that neurotheology studies do not explain causality.]

Very interesting is their favorable comparison of James' psychology over Freud's.

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Sam's Club Republicans

Good intro piece on (Rep.)Gov. of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty by Matthew Continetti in the WeeklyStandard. [Continetti is the only WeeklyStandard writer I consistently find intelligent and I actually learn something from reading].

Pawlenty is one of the growing Sam's Club Republicans. Pawlenty in fact coined the term. Sam's Club Republicans are looking to cut taxes, find an affordable private-sector (but probably governmentally helped) health care fix, raise carbon emission standards, in a way "compassionate conservatism" (which Bush never tried).

The other options for Republicans is to stay hardline on the War on Terror (Giuliani, Romney, and McCain all doing this). Go for broke on hard core Reaganite libertarianism, state rights, and small government philosophy (Fred Thompson).

Or the way of a Pawlenty and perhaps more successfully Schwarzenegger.

The Upper Midwest (Minn., Wisconsin, Iowa), and the New West (Montana, Colorado) are heading Democrat. Ohio and Pennsylvania are. The whole country is shifting Democrat, even if the Republicans do manage to hold the Presidency in 08.

I would really like the Republicans to move towards #3 because with say a Democrat president and a close Senate, something like this Republican compromise on Health care seems much more better to me than an Edwards or left wing government command and control model.

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Failure of American Leadership

A blistering critique of the general core from the junior level of American military commanders. Read the whole thing and you will understand to the micron why the US is where it is in Iraq. This is the kind of discussion that needs to take place, not the immediate non-strategic thinking about pro/anti surge or when/how many troops to pull out.

--From Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, (2 Iraq tours, Bosnia, and 1st Gulf War)--my emphasis.

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This article began with Frederick the Great's admonition to his officers to focus their energies on the larger aspects of war. The Prussian monarch's innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia's security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick's successors were checked by France's ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick's prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America's Valmy.
America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lomborg on Newshour

Bjorn Lomborg, whom I consider to be one of the top 3 or 4 smartest people on the planet on Newshour.

There are multiple things going on but for convenience's sake a distinction between the science and the politics (or what to do).

There is another movie making the rounds (view here) The Great Global Warming Swindle on the position against Global Warming. While it is well crafted and (tries to be) convincing just watching it, the ideas in it fall through. Critical response point by point here via

The problem I have with RealClimate is not the science but the politics. RealClimate is just straight down the line pro-Kyoto Accords, call for massive carbon cuts, etc.

This is where Lomborg is so genius. Instead of this (what I think of) useless argument pro/con, you deal with the eventuality of change and how to create human resiliency networks to deal with the consequences.

Resiliency then is the buzzword. It cuts across security (terrorist-networks), health (AIDS-malaria), and environment (Climate Change). Doesn't get into blame games, massive economic cuts/anti-market forces as is common in green proposals.

BL says that right now it is $30/ton for carbon reduction. Better to spend the money on reducing the cost he says to $3 per.

Humans need wealth for resiliency.

Global Warming/Climate Change is not about saving the earth. The biosphere is going to explode with life due to Climate Change.

As Lomborg says we shouldn't care about climate change per se but rather its impacts on humans.

Viruses, bacteria, weeds, many different forms of life are going to flourish in a climate change/global warming scenario. Every phase of mass life extinction on the planet (think the dinosaurs) has led to a further explosion of different forms of life. Same with this. If there is human induced change (which I do believe but am not apocalyptically so) AND change or no we are in the midst of one of 6 or so major extinction periods of life on this planet, then we are headed for a major life flourishing.

Just not of the human variety. Humans will go extinct. Not the planet. Not the Earth. So let's cut out all "Save the Planet" bullshit. We need to talk about saving humans.

Global Warming is to the left what War on Terror is to the Right, a myth that keeps them from being responsible political beings who have to make decisions based on what is possible and what good can be done among the many many ills our society and planet faces.

This is Lomborg's point: you can only do so much so why not do what we can do, do well, and do less expensively than all the carbon cuts, and make human communities more resilient to deal with the consequences.

As he says, "Kyoto is a bad investment." Massive carbon cuts by the rich countries is not the issue. The mass of carbon is increasingly going to be in the courts of China and India. They are not going to stop development for the earth.

A basic understanding of Spiral Dynamics and human values systems will tell you why not.

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Joe Lieberman op-ed

On the continuing thread of how much tunnel-vision there is in the political class and talking heads circles, Sen. Lieberman enters the fray. His piece here.

He starts with saying there was not enough condemnation of the suicide attacks in Iraq last week (that killed almost 200). Immediately it became a talking point. Fair point, but one that was as equally true on left and right. The rest of his article then goes on to slam Democrats for voting for a timetable, so he might have followed his own wise thinking, but whatever.

Lieberman writes this about the upcoming vote for timelines:
This reaction is dangerously wrong. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of both the reality in Iraq and the nature of the enemy we are fighting there. What is needed in Iraq policy is not overheated rhetoric but a sober assessment of the progress we have made and the challenges we still face.
I agree with the Senator here. We do need sober assessment. It is unfortunate that the rest of his article gives us very little of one.

For the record, whatever the political gains of timetable tied to money bills, the real issue which neither side is doing is getting the strongmen in Iraq down to the table and work out a deal, if such a deal can be worked out. I think it has to be tried; I'm agnostic on whether it can be achieved. But everything including the sink has to be thrown at the possibility that such a deal can be hammered out.

Bush and the pro-surge folks are not having this talk because they are still locked into this notion of a central government. The Left is increasingly moving to just pulling out and having no sense of what else to do.

Lieberman points out two successes from the surge:
1--Decrease in sectarian Shia activity in Baghdad.
2--Tribal leaders in Anbar fighting "al-Qaeda."

Recall: The Shia death squads have laid low because the Americans are doing their killing for them. And because the Shia have already won Baghdad. The cleansing of Sunnis will continue further, but basically it is done. So point 1 is a non-point.

2)This is the major flaw in Lieberman's analysis: the intra-Sunni fight. Neither of these two points leads to anything other than still a question about the failed state and the fact that there is no state and no political solution, nor one coming, in a one-state framework.

The enemy Lieberman says is the old stand in bogeyman al-Qaeda:
The suicide bombings we see now in Iraq are an attempt to reverse these gains: a deliberate, calculated counteroffensive led foremost by al-Qaeda, the same network of Islamist extremists that perpetrated catastrophic attacks in Kenya, Indonesia, Turkey and, yes, New York and Washington.
al-Qaeda in Iraq is not the Kenya, Indonesia, Turkey bombers. There is a viral theology/ideology but local resistance movements.

There is a split in the Sunni insurgency between the Islamic State in Iraq (sharia/caliphate) and Islamic Army of Iraq (Baathists mostly).

Lieberman goes so far as to say:
Indeed, to the extent that last week's bloodshed clarified anything, it is that the battle of Baghdad is increasingly a battle against al-Qaeda. Whether we like it or not, al-Qaeda views the Iraqi capital as a central front of its war against us. Al-Qaeda's strategy for victory in Iraq is clear. It is trying to kill as many innocent people as possible in the hope of reigniting Shiite sectarian violence and terrorizing the Sunnis into submission.

This is at best half-right and worse dangerously off course. As predicted, the surge plan was going to attract "al-Qaeda" elements to the smaller forward bases the Americans are heading to as well as to the rural areas on the outskirts of the cities (like south of Baghdad). This has happened. Which is why now the Americans are re-shifting their tactics because these places were not taken into account in the original plan.

The surge is straight outta Vietnam and assumes a rural agrarian society where people are not mobile. The counter-insurgency force can then create an oil-spot which keeps expanding radially out. In a mobile phone, urban zone, however, groups fade into civilian populations, they dis-assemble and then re-assemble somewhere else.

The Shia will continue to accept the body blows as long as the Americans continue to occupy. There is no political solution in this. The American presence is just putting a holding pattern. The surge we are told by Gen. Petraeus and Sec. Def. Gates is to buy time for a political settlement. But there is no political settlement to be had under the current circumstances. Everybody is just waiting for the Americans to leave.

Lieberman is right "al-Qaeda" is trying to push people to primary clan-militia loyalties. But this is no different in essentials from what has been going on since the beginning: the devolution and fragmentation of power.

But he is so wrong in assuming there is a battle for Baghdad. The battle is over. The clean up operations and attacks will continue for years. But the battle is over. The Sunnis lost. They have nothing really therefore to offer as a chip in a settlement scenario.

Hence the tribal leaders fighting al-Qaeda should be seen for what is possible in the future--these tribal leaders as the stakeholders of the future Sunni country/state of Anbar-istan.

Criticizing Obama Lieberman writes:
That is why the suggestion that we can fight al-Qaeda but stay out of Iraq's "civil war" is specious, since the very crux of al-Qaeda's strategy in Iraq has been to try to provoke civil war.
Again almost right. The reason you can not just fight al-Qaeda is not primarily because they are fighting to further explode the civil war but because they are so embedded in the society.

Lieberman with his Turkey, Indonesia reference still sees al-Qaeda in Iraq as some foreign entity. This is the same idea Bush has been peddling for a long time. They are not outsiders. They are perfectly connected into society. And the membership of these groups is fluid and alliances of convenience occur all the time. They are not so monolithic as Lieberman's platitudes assert.

There are no doubt some extremely hardline elements who will terrorize populations but the Americans for four years have shown they can not deal with this and efforts made in one area just moves them to another. These guys are not idiots. Even with the surge and the PMC there will not be/are not enough troops to maintain control. Hence they just shift.

Today the battle is "for Baghdad and Baquba" tomorrow it will be back to Ramadi, Tal Afar, and all the rest. The surge is shifting pieces around on the board but with no political solution in sight it is not clear that is much or anything more than that.

The only ones who are going to be able to fight these guys and deal with the consequences of their presence are in fact the tribal leaders. But the Shia government is not going to give them any aid because they know eventually it will end up being used against them. These tribal leaders may be anti-Salafi revivalism (much better than al-Qaeda) but most will likely be anti-Shia government as well. The black market on guns and weapons in Iraq is one of the fastest growing markets in the country.

In other words these tribal leaders that are touted now have to be supported for their position as future heads of a separate sphere from the Shia led government. The Sunni heartland is going to be an absolute mess for years to come. And that is sad--to answer the charge that is just another political talking point. We are discussing humans and there lives of disconnection will breed further criminality, gangs, terrorism, and despair. They have no buy-in nor do they have any chips with which to buy in the current schema.

Until Joe Lieberman and others like him realize this all this political jib-jab means next to nothing in my book.

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Stupid NY Post Post

One of the dumber op-eds I've read in awhile: from Amir Taheri. This is what happens when you still think in terms of traditional war images in this post-Cold War world. i.e. In winners/losers.

Taheri is commenting on Sen. Reid's statement that the war is lost. For the record, my position is the war was won in 2003 (against Saddam) and the peace was lost. [You'll not see the "p" word in Taheri].

Here's Taheri:
Because all wars have winners and losers, Reid, having identified America as the loser, is required to name the winner. This Reid cannot do. The reason is that, whichever way one looks at the situation, America and its Iraqi allies remain the only objective victors in this war.
Taheri then goes on to name three phases of the war:
1: Invasion against Saddam---America wins (I agree with him here)
2: Insurgency. Taheri claims America wins because elections were held (wow).
3: I don't know exactly what he means here so I'll just quote him:
The third and current war started toward the end of last year when the disparate forces fighting against the democratic government found a new point of convergence in a quest for driving America out. The Bush administration understood this and responded with its "surge" policy by dispatching more troops to Baghdad.
He does not mention the civil war going on first off which throws his whole op-ed into a Fantasyland feel.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to begin, so this might have a spray in all directions feel.

Point #1, and this is absolutely crucial: there is no effective central government, democratically elected or otherwise. The idea that the second phase was won by having elections is beyond moronic.

The government only has power on the streets to the degree that they have influence with militias. This is equally true for Shia and Sunni legislators.

#2: Open-source warfare is predicated on keeping a hallow state. Not a totally collapsed state but an ineffective state. A state apparatus that can not achieve good will/trust among the people and therefore they align with the militias. And the militias do not have the responsibility of having to run a government. Who would want to run Iraq? That is so Cold War, 1980s which Taheri is completely lost in.

#3 Consequently, the whole talk of winners and losers assumes this black/white world. There are multiple winners in a failing state. Taheri assumes gangs have to gain political state power to be winners: it's exactly the reverse. As long as lawlessness reigns, then the gangs are the winners. It's a non-zero sum game friend. There's a reinforcing feedback mechanism that for every suicide or car bomb attack that occurs the Shia blame the government thereby joining say the Mahdi Army. The Mahdi Army increase is used as a recruiting tool by Sunni jihadist elements. The militias want each other. They are the ones who want to create the us/them black/white worldview.

--So in a backwards way Taheri got it right on black/white just the wrong players.

#4 Taheri assumes (for ideological reasons?) this unity between the American force and the Shia government. The Shia government is just using the Americans to gain their own objectives which are not those of President Bush. The UIA is a Shia theocratic regime. Their goal is not a unified, non-sectarian government.

--Remember Friedman's Law of Middle Eastern politics, look at what the politicians say in public in their own language to their own people, not what they say in English to Americans. What they say in public is we Shia are victorious.

The "winners" of this war are the following:
--Criminal Gangs, Kidnapping Mafia Like Rings
--And I would argue (though Taheri tries in vain to de-construct this view) Iran.

The "losers" the Sunnis.
--Particularly the 2 million refugees.
--And to a lesser degree the neighboring Sunni regimes who continue to lose face.

The peace was lost and the Shia are going to be faced with attacks from Sunnis for a decade or more.

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HFord on Charlie Rose

Interview with HF on Charlie Rose.

Want to highlight something he says, but doesn't have time to follow up on. He says (following his campaign) that a year from now we will be closer to Biden's soft partition. That was a message to the other Democratic presidential candidates, especially Obama and Clinton.

What they got me thinking was this: events are going to shift in that direction, which may be good for a Democratic nominee. Obama's main weakness of his speech is his Iraq policy--he needs to move, in my mind, to the Biden plan.

So I think the talking points about deadlines/benchmarks loose-strict, numbers of drawdown, forces over the horizon, etc. are all pretty worthless for now. The Democrats are going to continue to fund the war, Bush is going to keep troops to the end of his term.

And by 2008 the partition will be in effect seems to me.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Invisible Children

Wonderful citizen journalism (three young American guys on a journey to Africa) about children in Northern Uganda who sleep in cities, parent-less, to avoid the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). In the West there is a fadish tendency to look romantically on magical thinking. But this is magical thinking (purple) in the real world. It is brutal.

The stories of the children and their trauma is beyond heart breaking.

Sudan and Uganda are the new Congo and Rwanda. Although to be fair, the civil wars in Uganda and Sudan are roughly 20 years in the making.

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Christ the True Vine

Spent last weekend in Seattle at Church of the Apostles (Episcopal and Lutheran). Went to the Mission Learning Day with Brian McLaren.

Big thanks to Karen Ward and the whole crew at COTA.

[For a basic overview of emerging church movement, here].

Sadr Most Brilliant Iraqi politican?

He calls for protests to the construction of walls.

As I've written often, Sadr is deeply influenced by the most popular politician in the Arab world--Sheik Hasan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah. While I do not support Nasrallah/Hezbollah, the man is a genius. In fact, there are few politicians on the planet who have such clarity of vision and can lead/harness a people for political ends as well as Nasrallah.

Nasrallah sleeps night to night in different locations. He evades attempts on his life. The strength of his support comes from his deep and abiding anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli policies. Sadr is also on the lamb in hiding from assassination. This gives them street cred.

Though Nasrallah is a Shia he is more approved of in Egypt (a Sunni country) than their own leader, Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, and the House of Saud all lob the "Shia crescent" meme because their populations are more and more drawn to Hezbollah, Hamas (Iranian-Hezbollah supported), and Syria to a degree.

Sadr is no moron. He is no Nasrallah for sure, but he is a decent imitator. He certainly has figured out like Nasrallah the key is to be anti-American, anti-occupation. PM Maliki is considered a pawn of Bush. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim lived in exile in Iran and is seen as too much of a Iranian-puppet.

Like in Lebanon, Sadr has called for peaceful resistance. He realizes also like Nasrallah that the key is to keep a hallowed out state, not destroy it completely. It forces people to local loyalties as John Robb would say. The Pottery Barn thesis holds for them as for us---you break it you own it. So Sadr doesn't want to topple the regime, lest he own it. He wants it weakened and unable to provide security, employment, or civil services to the populace, so his Mahdi Army and its social outlays can (like Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas).

And when things get to the breaking point, pull a protest that unites Shia-Sunni. Nasrallah did it with the Israeli war and his support of Hamas. Sadr is now doing it with the Wall. Sunni clerics marched with him in his last protest. The walls in Iraq reminds of the Palestinians---yet more proof that the Shia now own the Palestinian issue. Sadr is doing this not the Sunnis.

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Question to the Right on Anbar.....

A thought occurred to me today after reading this article by Steve Schippert in NationalReview which is a paean to Sheikh Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi a Sunni Tribal leader fighting so-called al-Qaeda in Iraq (for why I don't like the term here), one of the successes of the surge touted by the WeeklyStandard for example.

These same individuals on the right, including John McCain, also argue that if the the US prematurely withdraws from Iraq, the terrorists (al-Qaeda in Iraq?) will follow us back here to North America.

But I think this piece of information (on the tribal leaders) could be turned around and used as evidence for why we should get out. i.e. The tribal leaders are going to handle al-Qaeda so there is no fear of them coming back to the US. And our occupation is only making the job of somebody like an al-Rishawi harder--because we are creating more of the "al-Qaeda" types they are fighting. And the government we are supporting of al-Maliki is not funding al-Rishawi and never will.

Juan Cole has for a long time argued that al-Qaeda will be crushed by the Tribal Leaders. No one would accuse him of supporting the right/Bush.

My own view is that AQI groups may get pulled out of Anbar (although I doubt that) but that there are always going to be some around no matter what. It is a virus that can be contained but not eradicated. Certainly not for 2 generations at least. But again they are not coming to the US, not when they can attack the groups they are really after: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraqi governments.

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Depression about Hillary and Rudy

A smart piece by Michele Malkin (yes I'm positively quoting Malkin) that makes me more depressed about Hillary. If that's possible. [Strangely this is putting me into the same camp as Andrew Sullivan].

The piece derides Hillary for a slew of badly thought out, conceived, and farcical comments to black constituents during the last year. I agree with this statement by Malkin:
Mrs. Clinton, whom conventional wisdom mistakenly casts as the smarter, more disciplined politician of the household, didn't learn from her hubby's Sister Souljah triumph.
In other words conventional wisdom is way off. Hillary has a streak of the stupid in her that I fear.

Rudy. More depression. If I'm worried by Hillary's stupid streak, my fear of Rudy's is his mean, f--k everybody streak.

Following up on positivity to theorists I don't normally go in for, a double dip on Andrew Sullivan. I like this post of his on Rudy's recent foreign policy speech to launch his presidential bid into overdrive. He calls Rudy the Jack Bauer candidate.

Killer line:
The logic of Giuliani's case is therefore an open-ended occupation of much of the Middle East - an idea that seems extremely September 12. Has he learned nothing from Iraq - except the need to create more Iraqs? The "offense" argument is so crude, in other words, as to be meaningless. The question is not about "offense" or "defense"; it's about smart offense and dumb offense. We've seen dumb offense. Look at what it has accomplished.
This is an important line because as Kevin Drum correctly notes, Dems have weakly responded to Giuliani.

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Harold Ford Jr Op-ed

The guy I consider the most visionary of American politicians. Op-ed here. It's more visionary and less detailed on how to get these things done. But he wants to start a conversation and I like where he is headed.

He calls for an idea primary and has started a website to that effect. Website here. Democrat version of what Gingrich has called for on the right.

Ford is now head of the DLC and is the standard-bearer for New Democrats. Notice the Dems he cites in the piece: Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, JFK, Clinton. No George McGovern, Daily Kos.

He is a Democrat so it leans leftward of course. The tag line of the thinking is "equal opportunity". But I think it can work with a local conservative-based thinking.

Ford writes:
The core values of the New Democrat movement are the same as in 1992 when Clinton was elected president. We believe in equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. We believe in responsibilities as well as rights, and in every citizen's duty to give their country something back. We believe America must stand strong in a dangerous world, and America cannot be strong abroad unless opportunity and responsibility are strong at home.
Policies I'll highlight:
1)Rebuilding American Army. Understanding the Long War. Not just being as he says the "anti-Bush" party.

2)To beat Salafi extremism we need to offer better ideas. Smashes Bush correctly on this point.
Ford writes:
Our strategy should draw on all of America's might -- a dynamic economy, smart diplomacy, and the moral example of a thriving, multi-ethnic democracy. America should lead the way in launching a Greater Middle East prosperity plan to spur investment and growth in the world's most dangerous region, and bring it into the world trading system. We need to tap the talents of Muslim-Americans to tell our country's story and challenge fanatics who murder innocents in the name of Islam. And we need a patient, peaceful plan to support Muslim aspirations for greater individual liberty and democracy -- even if that puts us at odds with friendly autocrats.
3)Re-build international institutions:
Every crisis shouldn't come down to a choice between unilateral U.S. action and a United Nations that doesn't have the strength or coherence to intervene. If an expanded and reformed Security Council can't or won't do the job, we'll have to look for another forum, such as a worldwide Democracy Coalition.
4)Good stuff on universal education.

5)Break up Dept. of Homeland Security (Amen).

6)An interesting one: call for American to be the most pro-family nation on America.

7)One I've been for for a long time: universal civilian service by age 25. Do not read army in that though.

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Martin Amis on "Islamismophobia"

"When green attacks orange, amber wins."----Ken Wilber
Sometimes in sympathy with the left, Mr. Amis doesn't hew to any ideological orthodoxy, but is disturbed by the moral mushiness of some Britons on the subject of Islamist extremism. He has been called Islamophobic, but says "Islamismophobic" would be a better (though still imperfect) term. "It's Islamismophobia. The situation in Britain is ridiculous and contemptible. Some left-wing people--it's a bit insulting to the left to call them that . . . see someone with a grievance who hasn't got white skin and they think, Well, we must have done something really horrible to them. There's this masochistic view that we can't be right about anything. The woozy left has made itself an apologist for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, imperialist and genocidal. But at least they're not white!
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The End of Blair

This is very sad personally for me. Tony Blair will announce his resignation May 9th. Blair for me was a major influence on my own political thinking.

He is leaving at the absolute nadir and it calls into question this move I have been afraid of--increasing isolationism in foreign policy. He never got a budge from Bush (which he I think was owed) on global warming or Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Although hopefully Obama's foreign policy speech shows a very Blair-ian sensibility to it.

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Fred Thompson Debating Conservative Philosophy

This is cool even though tort reform is not one of my favorite topics.
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Conservatives will have to judge for themselves the merits of Thompson's arguments. But what we're witnessing here is the rare instance of a potential presidential candidate debating political philosophy with the some of the nation's top conservatives (in this case, NR's Ramesh Ponnuru), as opposed to rival candidates. And it's a substantive debate -- not the usual aide-written stuff most candidates slap their name to. My guess is that conservatives will love this, whether they agree with Thompson or not, because so few candidates are willing (or able) to do it.
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Problems with Reporting on al-Qaeda in Iraq

Case in point, this article from the WashingtonTimes.

The article is titled Al-Qaeda linked Sunnis claim bombing. The bombing that is that killed 9 American soldiers.

The article however correctly notes the following:
The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al Qaeda in Iraq
The group is the Islamic State of Iraq. The group is an umbrella organization of native Iraqi Islamist Sunni resistance. al-Qaeda in Iraq is part of this umbrella. Hence the title as al-Qaeda linked.

The other main organization of Sunni resistance is the Islamic Army of Iraq. Confusing no doubt. The Islamic Army is not does not seek a Caliphate.

Not to mention criminal gangs and more importantly that these groups are small cells of fluid membership and the lines are not as clear as such categorization lends credence to.

[For some great up close coverage, this video from PBS Frontline (The Gangs of Iraq). Warning some graphic imagery and descriptions of torture, bodily mutilation, and murder. There's a horrific and profound scene of an unarmed man shot lying on the ground screaming "There is no god but God", the Islamic confession of faith].

So it's not un-true the title of the article that is, but the impression it gives I think it unhelpful. That al-Qaeda is going around blowing things up in Iraq, in fact doing the most important attacks. al-Qaeda has generally merged with Salafi Sunni Iraqi resistance.

Continuing to talk as if "al-Qaeda" in Iraq means something is problematic at best, counter-productive in worse situations, a cover for continued occupation at its worst.

Islamic State of Iraq is not going to attack US domestic soil. It is not that kind of "al-Qaeda". There is going to be intra-Sunni conflict between the criminal gangs, the Salafi puritanical jihadis, the "secular" or Muslim Brotherhood-like Baathist jihadis (Islamic Army of Iraq), and the tribal leaders in Anbar. Not to mention each is going to fighting the now dominant Shia government and in certain cases the Kurds (e.g. Kirkuk).

Different thinkers point to different Sunni groups coming out of that fight victorious, but regardless there is not enough local support for full-on Taliban like Salafism in Iraq. Nor the Middle East or Arab world in general.

The reason they gain strength is because of the American occupation.

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Keith Ward on Evolution-Religion (non)debate

The always insightful Keith Ward in the Tablet (Anglican theologian, very adept on religion-science)--my emphasis:
When a biologist says that mutations are random, what is meant is that they occur in many ways, most of which fail to produce organisms well adapted to the environment. Some mutations, perhaps very few, are adaptive, but the best scientific way to explain mutations is to look at their chemical or physical causes, not their outcomes. Nevertheless, mutations do throw up adaptations that are progressive, in forming more complex integrated organisms that are better able to recognise and respond to their environments. Moreover, the physical environment is such that some biologists hold that we can even predict the sorts of organisms that will be adaptive, so that the existence of intelligent life is almost inevitable, given the facts of mutation and the physical constraints of the environment. Evolution is a process that, on the one hand, throws up a wide variety of organic changes, few of them beneficial. But, on the other hand, it produces intelligent life with quite a high degree of probability. Those are the facts. Whether the process is "blind" or intelligently created is not a scientific question that could be experimentally answered. The "blind physical forces" view is as non-scientific as the "intelligent creation" view. Perhaps both should be banned from biology classes, and discussed in philosophy classes.
It is actually that simple, but simple doesn't sell books for Richard Dawkins, doesn't create controversies or ideologies. Or for fundamentalist creation-science folks nor intelligent design. Ward is neither of the latter two categories and it is only the stupidity and arrogance (and mythic unscientific irrationality I might add) of the atheist naturalists who continue this non-debate over nothing.

Just take out the word "random" and "natural" from random genetic mutation and natural selection. Random and natural are value-terms. The best science is agnostic. All it can describe are changes in state, physical causality, and movement on the chess board of life. It can't describe whether the game is meaningful or not.

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A very sad day with the death of 9 US soldiers. It's always a sad day, but this gives it a different feel.

Life is infinite. The tragic loss of life is infinite. This is why I don't like arguments about body counts--like 30-40,000/day of hunger and disease. That's infinitely infinite.

Just for the record, Sen. Reid's statements that war was lost was A)bad politics but more importantly B)wrong.

Just not the way the conservatives who are attacking him think. The war was not lost. The peace was. Read Ali Allawi's book, from an Iraqi insider where he says exactly this. The subtitle of his book (The Occupation of Iraq) is Winning the War, Losing the Peace.

Thinking it is a war that is still to be decided only gets more Americans, Brits, and Iraqis killed.

The Other Side of the Argument in Iraq

Readers of my blog know my position on Iraq.

This article by Kate O'Beirne (NRO) about Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn, probably the best and smartest Republican in the House by my lights) is the best I could find for those on the other side of the debate. Shays was a strong critic of things like de-Baathification, Rumsfield's Pentagon, Abu Ghraib, etc.

Article here.

The points are the ones you often hear in the talking points: the tribal leaders in Anbar fighting al-Qaeda, increased security in Baghdad (unfortunately the death rate the country over is just as high), etc.

My main disagreement: towards the end of the article O'Beirne (summarizing Shays) argues that Democrats got what they wanted from the 2006 election results......a SecDef, Commander, and a "new strategy."

There is no new strategy and that someone as bright as Kate O'Beirne (who is quite sharp) falls into this stupidity is sad. I can't guess whether she just doesn't know the difference between a strategy and a tactic (which would be very bad) or she does know better in which case she's making herself a mouthpiece for propaganda (which is much much worse). Either tarnishes her image.

The surge is a change in tactic. Not strategy. And certainly there is no new goal.

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clipped from
David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and tireless author of books on topics as varied as America’s military failings in Vietnam, the deaths of firefighters at the World Trade Center and the high-pressure world of professional basketball, was killed yesterday in a car crash south of San Francisco. He was 73, and lived in Manhattan.
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Random Factoid

Weirder--the symbol for atheism is an atomic symbol. WTF?
Facing lawsuits by veterans and their families, the Bush administration relented yesterday and agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle -- a five-pointed star inside a circle -- on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds.
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Violence Spreading to Ethiopia

Story here from Wapo.

Gunmen attack a Chinese run oil facility in Ethiopia--near the Somali border. Open-source 4th GW at its best/worst. Target civilian critical infrastructure institutions, kill foreign and domestic workers. 69 dead so far.

The article does not name whether a group has taken responsibility for the attack (edit: read update below).

First major attack I can think of on China in the Global South of this magnitude. They are going to increase in the next decade sadly. Meanwhile the Bush administration still keeps China at arms length and other even more hardliners in the administration want a war with them.

In relation to Somali itself, chaos is breaking in Mogadishu. Story here. Another instance of letting the forces come into urban terrain, losing the "war" and then swarming to kill the peace.

Update: The group behind the attack has been id'ed: The Ogaden National Liberation Front. They are Ethnic Somalis living in Ethiopia who (surprise, surprise) want an independent mini-state in the region.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Restive Iraqi South

The British have never had control of the South. It is going to be intra-Shia conflict (already is), with the Mahdi Army growing stronger by the day.
Right now the British have about 7,100 soldiers in Iraq while the US has slightly more than 150,000 soldiers in Iraq. The British in Basra are proportionally suffering three times the combat deaths as the US this month... so much for the quiet south.
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McCain on Energy Independence

What could have been in 2000.

As President, I'll propose a national energy strategy that will amount to a declaration of independence from the fear bred by our reliance on oil sheiks and our vulnerability to the troubled politics of the lands they rule. When we reach the limits of military power and diplomacy to contain the dangers of that cauldron of burning resentments and extremism, energy security is our best defense. We won't achieve it tomorrow, but we must achieve it in our time.

The strategy I propose won't be another grab bag of handouts to this or that industry and a full employment act for lobbyists. It will promote the diversification and conservation of our energy sources that will in sufficient time break the dominance of oil in our transportation sector just as we diversified away from oil use in electric power generation thirty years ago; and substantially reduce the impact of our energy consumption on the planet.

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The Second Most Important Speech Obama Has Ever given

I think. Read the whole thing here.

He has raised the bar on foreign policy vision for all the other candidates. I think he's really taken it to Hillary with this. It is bold and brilliant on many levels and puts a real shot to the meme that he is without ideas and is running on a theme (hope) and his person.

I like this very much. It gets beyond a move towards isolationism nor the stupidity of the current administration's failed policies and strategies:
So I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good. I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it's time to fill that role once more.
My only critique would be an over reliance on the ability to control certain nuclear proliferation spreads. Although God willing something on that front could be achieved and certainly many rational steps can be taken at least to secure sites.

Here some Barnett in this line?:
And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world's forgotten corners - because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path - who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.
Or this one?:
A 21st century military will also require us to invest in our men and women's ability to succeed in today's complicated conflicts. We know that on the streets of Baghdad, a little bit of Arabic can actually provide security to our soldiers. Yet, just a year ago, less than 1% of the American military could speak a language such as Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, or Korean. It's time we recognize these as critical skills for our military, and it's time we recruit and train for them.
And more importantly:
One of the Navy captains who helps run the base recently told a reporter, "Our mission is at least 95 percent civil affairs. It's trying to get at the root causes of why people want to take on the U.S.'' The Admiral now in charge of the Task Force suggested that if they can provide dignity and opportunity to the people in that region, then, "the chance of extremism being welcomed greatly, if not completely, diminishes."
And lastly his claim to be the President:
It's time we had a President who can do this again - who can speak directly to the world, and send a message to all those men and women beyond our shores who long for lives of dignity and security that says "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now." It's time, as well, for a President who can build a consensus at home for this ambitious but necessary course. For in the end, no foreign policy can succeed unless the American people understand it and feel a stake in its success - and unless they trust that their government hears their more immediate concerns as well.
Ask yourself who can fulfill that role, for Obama has named it perfectly. That is what 2008 is about above all else.

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sacrificium Dei

Everything submits to the Divine, naturally.

The tree grows and bends its branches, its leaves growing in due season. It is in perfect submission to God.

The soil, the air, the rain. The leopard, the mountain bear. The comet, the asteroid. All are as they have been made to be.

Everything submits, except the human.

It only has the choice to submit. The choice to live the paradox that true freedom comes from true obedience. But the human is racked be fear and enmity, with God, self, and neighbor.

The human alone knows that it knows. It is the source of fear and inspiration, hope and sorrow.

What is left? What else is there? Who will sacrifice the heart?

On Stopping Construction of Iraqi Wall

clipped from
The mainstream US media will sidestep this point, but al-Maliki pretty explicitly said that the reason he called off the wall building is that he doesn't want his government compared to that of Israel. That is, the Adhamiya wall is being likened in the Arab world to the Apartheid Wall being built by the Israelis in the West Bank. Al-Maliki made the statement in Cairo, and when he referred to the "other walls" he didn't want the one in Adhamiya compared to, he pointed toward Israel. The Western press is bringing up the Berlin Wall as part of his meaning, but the videotape makes it absolutely clear that his referent was Israel's project.
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Niall Ferguson on VTech Black Swans

Very short and smart piece by Niall Ferguson. The term is coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (often used by John Robb).

The term refers to a completely unexpected event. If you lived in North American all your life all you would ever see are white swans. But in Australia, swans are black. You would never have guessed this. And moreover, humans tend to retroactively argue back to the idea that they could have predicted these black swans. Ferguson believes the VTech murder was such a swan and that the media coverage, true to form, has argued back to how we should have known/did know this was coming.

Applied to VTech, here's Ferguson:
Over 20 years of university teaching, I have seen my share of taciturn, moody young men. Many have had difficulties with girls. Some have needed counseling. A few have required psychiatric treatment. I have often contemplated the risk that one of my depressive students might commit suicide. But the risk that one might kill 32 people? Never.
But more broadly, a key quote:
Why, Taleb asks, do we tend to confuse improbability with impossibility? Partly, he suggests, it's because evolution did not favor complex probabilistic thinking. But our flawed way of thinking also reflects the development of Western philosophy, social science and history. The Platonic school of philosophy encouraged us to prefer simple theory to messy reality; it also inclines us to select only the data that fit our theories. Taleb especially abhors the tendency of economists and others to assume that everything conforms to what is called the normal distribution, or bell curve.
When applied to history, Ferguson's task:
YET IT IS Taleb's assault on traditional historiography that is most relevant here. Since Thucydides, it is true, historians have encouraged us to explain low-probability calamities (like wars) after the fact. Such storytelling helps us to make sense of a random disaster. It also enables us to apportion blame. Generations of historians have toiled in this way to explain the origins of such great calamities as, say, World War I, constructing elegant narrative chains of causes and effects, heaping opprobrium on this or that statesman. There is something deeply suspect about this procedure, however. It results in what Taleb calls the "retrospective distortion." These causal chains were quite invisible to contemporaries, to whom the outbreak of war came as a bolt from the blue. The point is that there were umpteen Balkan crises before 1914 that didn't lead to Armageddon. Like Cho, the Sarajevo assassin Gavrilo Princip was a black swan — only vastly bigger.
And then even wider, to globalization itself:
Perhaps the most provocative of Taleb's many provocations is his hypothesis that, as a result of globalization and the speed of electronic communication, the size and incidence of black swans may be changing. Yes, the integration of international markets seems to reduce economic volatility. But by magnifying the effects of herd-like behavior (another of our evolved traits), it also increases the tendency for winners to take all — the "Harry Potter" phenomenon — and for disasters, when they strike, to be comparably huge.
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My First Boyhood Crush

From Gallery of Star Wars photo (on the upcoming release of 30th anniversary text of Star Wars) on Wired.

Steven Pinker on Less Violence

clipped from
The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset ("War is not an instinct but an invention"), Stephen Jay Gould ("Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species"), and Ashley Montagu ("Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood"). But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler
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Sunday, April 22, 2007

(Terence) Samuel Speaks

clipped from

The president this week, in renewing his threat to veto the emergency war supplemental that Democrats will send him soon, warned that, "We cannot legislate defeat in this vital war." But failure is not always defeat, and in Iraq they are not interchangeable. American forces are in no danger of defeat in Iraq, because the insurgents can't win in any traditional sense: Victory and defeat are variables in a military equation, and militarily, the insurgents do not measure up. To talk about victory and defeat in Iraq is to cling to the notion that Iraq is a military problem with a military solution. It is not.

The volatile politics of the Middle East are a continuous refutation that military successes or defeats are ever as conclusive as we might expect.

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Bad News On Israeli Settler Front

Article from NyTimes here.

Gist of the article....because of PM Olmert's abysmal approval ratings (lower than Bush if you can believe that) settlers are reclaiming territory in the disputed, er occupied lands. The family in this article returned to Hebron.

Olmert was elected recall on the platform of following through on Sharon's disengagement plan. The election of Hamas and the disastrous conflict with Hezbollah has cost Olmert his support. He is now feckless and ignored. This is a consequence of the dis-engagement plan being a unilateral operation. It has given credence to the far-right in Israel (Likud) that the only way to preserve Israeli's position is essentially unconditional promotion of the settlement/occupation and long term war and mobilization of society for war.

End with this quotation from the article:
“We have to put an end to this idea that if we give up our homes we will get something peaceful from terrorists,” said Yishai Hollender, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, which represents settlers in the West Bank.
Update: Story from Wapo---fighting breaking out in West Bank. Israeli soldiers kill three Palestinians. Hamas calls for revenge. We may be on the verge of a 3rd intifada.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Soul Discernment

From my Ignatian-Jesuit training, a meditation on discovering one's true gift to give this world.

--Remember back to the 1-3 times in your life when you felt that everything in life, if just for a fleeting glimpse, fit. You were so totally yourself that you were completely available to be in life to serve.

Where your deepest passion meet the world's bleeding.

Deeply place yourself back in those moments. What did it feel like? Who was there? Who wasn't? What did you do? For whom? With whom?

In other words: what was the common element(s) to those few moments? When you have found that, then you have found your calling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

on the supreme court

Not a comment on the actual ruling today, which I generally think was the right idea. Although given that there is another procedure that accomplishes these (very rare) abortions, I'm not sure this will actually stop any abortions from taking place. But I guess the argument/plan would be to use this ruling as a stepping stone, precedent to make layers upon layers of (so-named) rights peeled back.

This is the best site I found for pro/cons to each side of the argument on dilation and extraction (so-called partial birth). It shows not surprisingly there has been disinformation on both sides.

But what it did remind me of is that I think it is long past the time the Supreme Court be limited to a number of years. I would vote 10-15, but the number usually thrown around is 20. With individuals living longer and the near total (to my mind) partisanization and politicization of the courts debate--by both parties/sides--there needs to be a limit put on. Everybody knows John Paul Stevens is waiting around to see if a Democrat gets elected in 08 so he can retire.

The reason I thought of this was in her dissenting opinion Justice Ginsberg hinted that this ruling would hold for now, leaving open whether it might change in the future....say with a Justice changeover. [Is Kennedy retiring anytime soon? He's the only vote that matters now.] While I would be open to a sanely argued counter to the ruling, I was less than pleased with Ginsberg's alarmist bogey man and reference to putting women back where they belonged.

My Sermon for Next Week


A very good piece with Pastor Mark D. Roberts on HughHewitt, discussing the Virgina Tech murders. One thing Hewitt does I like is read the names of some of the deceased, their bios, their life story. It's important people murdered are not forgotten for what they gave in life, even though they have been cut short. Especially so short for those as young as students. Evil wins when the good they have done is lost.

The main point Roberts keeps stressing that I want to hold up is that Americans are not good mourners. People want immediately to move to being healed and ok. Our society does not leave bodies in the house to be mourned over for days. We hide death in our society. It's not something that can be consumed. We don't do the consuming. We are the consumed in death.

The only way to turn death into a consumption model is to turn funerals into "life celebrations" or "masses of resurrection." I'm not a big fan of these. At least not in substitution for a funeral or some recognition of the sorrow of death, the inherent tragedy of life. If someone wants to have such a PowerPoint presentation of a Life Lived, after the time of mourning. What in the old days were post-funeral meals at the family home.

Roberts is right: that there is time to be sitting in emptiness. Even Job's friends, not as smart as they are, sit with him in silence for days before saying anything.

This type of death is not a natural one, if that is the right term. It is an unjust and cruel. The inability to be with people in their suffering, loss, wanting to make everything ok is a symptom of the dis-ease within ourself. That is about us--not them which is what anything should be about now.

Article up at Holons

My '06 piece (originally for Integralworld, cross-posted on this site) called Dr. PersianLove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love an Iranian Bomb has been put up in the latest issus of Holons. The read more link just sends you back here.

[I learned this randomly by noticing that article had gotten a massive jump in hits in the past day. I scanned so quickly through the page the other day I missed it. It's sorta hidden down bottom right sidebar.]

Also shout outs to C4, Joe P., WH, and Dan O'C. for their pieces on the spread.

Good young conservative thinkers?

There was a question raised on a recent Bloggingheads about any really insightful conservative voices out there. I'm especially thinking of young, post-Bush/Rovian conservative voices.

There is this article by RadicalMiddle I pointed to earlier on the change to radical middle-hood among conservatives.

Satin (Radical Middle) names the following candidates:

--Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam (their blog here), author's of the Sam's Club Party Republican theory. Yes. Definitely on board with these two. In fact the first two to come to mind when in Bloggingheads, Eric Alterman raised the question.

--Brink Lindsay. The author of the Liberaltarian thesis: the libertarians should line up with Liberals. Lindsay on Bloggingheads here defending his thesis---which I don't particularly buy. So not really on Lindsay. I see the trend line (scarily) among Liberals heading more towards protectionism than libertarianism.

--Charles Murray. Author of the controversial In Our Hands. While I generally like the idea--other than the inevitable **** massive uptick in drug use and criminal gang activity, it has absolutely no shot of happening so far as I see it. Not until some massive collapse of the entire welfare/governmental patronage system, in which case the whole receive checks from the government thing goes out the window because the government will have no such funds and mass chaos will be breaking out in the streets, social dis-location and regression will have ensued.

--Romesh Ponnuru (of NationalReview). Satin points out that Ponnuru does have some good stuff on tax reform. But his book on the Abortion Debate Party of Death really turned me off. I've written extensively on abortion, and readers will know I am not some "pro-death" person, but these kind of titles and partisan stupidity is just more of the Ann Coulter-Al Franken dumbing down of our culture and political discourse. So yes/maybe on taxes, no on all else?

While on NationalReview, two other names: Jonah Goldberg and Rich Lowry.

Goldberg, like Ponnuru also has a flaccid (are we even trying anymore?) book coming out with the grandiose title: Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian*** From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Yes, because as much as I love Hillary Clinton (I don't want her to get the Dem. nomination) when I think of her the obvious next political figure I think of is Mussolini. So she's simultaneously a Fascist and a Socialist commie? I know the guy writes other stuff some of it interesting, but really how can you take someone seriously as a thinker with this garbage? [Liberal or conservative?].

Lowry. I generally like the guy, see him on PBS Newshour. But his stands on the Iraq War have been flip-flopping. He is part of this crowd that I just can't guy. Guys like Lowry are so much smarter than this administration and why they are sacrificing their party's future for these guys is beyond me. I just don't get it.

Another Satin candidate, David Brooks (speaking of the token conservatives on NewsHour). Brooks is an attractive figure in certain ways. But if you look at the 10 point list of Brooks' ideas that Satin outlines, they are basically neo-liberal. There's hardly much difference between a Brooks and a Clinton-ite conservative Democrat. Not surprisingly Brooks wrote an article this year saying Neo-liberalism was dead so that he could fill up the space they formerly inhabited. Kill them, then occupy their territory. Easier to just announce what is the case--he's basically a neo-lib. Fair enough.

The only other candidate I can think of, very bright guy, another Blogginghead is Daniel Drezner. He is a self-described libertarian so he doesn't fit the conservative label perfectly. He did vote for Bush in 2000 (and 2004 if memory serves right) but has since become disillusioned with the administration's incompetencies.

Satin also John McWhorter who is brilliant no doubt. His writings on race appear conservative I guess given the identity politics flirtation on the left. But McWhorter is an avowed Democrat. So I don't think he counts as a conservative.

Foreign policy a Flyntt Leverett is another strong (non-neocon) conservative.

And lastly I guess I should mention Andrew Sullivan. By many other conservatives' standards he is off the reservation. But he still considers himself a con. He's been right (in my mind) on the torture question, the outrageous spending habits and big government ir-responsibility of this administration and the dumbfounded-ness of how small government conservatives keep backing him (at least until 2006). I don't think his Christianist argument makes sense relative to the Bush people. And his book which has some good stuff in it talks about a return to empiricism and a mood of self-criticism/doubt/skepticism. Ok, but not much beyond that in terms of specific policy recommendations.

I ask and anyone feel free to suggest some names, not because I'm anti-conservative but because I actually do want to be reading some good conservative stuff. But the NationalReview Townhall, and the WeeklyStandard are just not getting it done for me. Of course the classic texts (Hayek for example) are still deeply worth the read. (The Standard's reporting on the surge is from Kimberly Kagan the wife of Freg Kagan architect of the surge tactic. His brother, Robert writes pro-surge in the WashingtonPost. This is not good.)

But this current crop of Republicans for president is looking not like the Who's Who but the Who's Left? Although as I've said before if its Rudy versus Hillary I have no idea which way to go. I have deep reservations about both. I say this because my worry in a Long War is that neither party go too far into exile. Such a party tends to become weird and support weird, even paranoid/conspiratorial type thinking.

***Editor's Note: Correction thanks to MD. I had the title wrong. I originally did not have the Totalitarian Temptation piece of the subtitle. Also I had originally written that Charles Murray conceding rise in drug use. That is from a memory--which may be faulty--from a speech I saw him give not from his book. I have deleted in case I was. I.e. I still the think the charge of drug rise is correct whether Murray admits it or not.