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Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2005.

Market expectations that reach into superstition are never pleasant to see fail: this morning's announcement of new non-farm payroll jobs in April totaling less than half of predictions has sent Wall Street south for the weekend and will undoubtedly give bears and opposition parties a talking point or three. Alongside the disappointment, however, is another stepwise decline in national unemployment, from 5.2% two months ago to 5.1%. And, as reliably as all else, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' household report shows powerful job creation. National Review's Larry Kudlow has more.

Kudlow could certainly lend a hand to this reporter, who sees "erratic behavior" in robust average payroll growth across a reasonable monthly ebb and flow.

Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2005.

Steve Malzberg took Bill Bennett's place behind the microphone on the former Education Secretary's six-to-nine radio show this morning, and I overheard his response to a caller arguing that between talk radio and the occasional newspaper endorsement for a Republican candidate, the mainstream media couldn't possibly be leftward. He was circumspect.

Rightist politics establishes itself in radio, cable television and the internet; leftists are apprehensive, emphatically denying their intact (if shriveling) controlling media interest. Is it because the deejays, the shock jocks, the East Coast talk shows, National Public Radio; the Public Broadcasting System, the broadcast networks; the sitcoms, the serials, the adventures and the reality shows; the musicians, the artists, the critics; the filmmakers, the screenwriters, the actors, the playwrights, the novelists; the wire services and the newspapers; can't stand competition?

Michael Ubaldi, June 2, 2005.

Returning to NASA's Mars Exploration Rover for the first time in weeks, one can take for granted dozens of new photographs and discoveries because of Spirit's and Opportunity's solid construction — the rovers now having outlived their factory specifications by nearly sixfold. Venerable or not, the rovers' ability to chew gum and walk at the same time is something mission commanders are happy to show off. Spirit's patient observation of dust devils has paid off with a short film of one of the wind phenomena. The rover has also been rummaging about a nearby rock outcropping. Opportunity, while struggling for purchase on a dune, has been stargazing and captured the above image of our planet in Martian twilight; reminding us that two bodies as astronomically close as Earth and Mars are, for our metric, very small and very far from one another.

Michael Ubaldi, June 2, 2005.

Gangsters in Iraq continue their descent towards feral butchery; capping several recent low-impact car bombs with a cowardly drive-by shooting on a bustling market. Police and soldiers, undeterred, are reportedly completing preparations for the security cordon in Baghdad known as Operation Thunder while civilians, terrorists' primary targets for months, are unafraid and approaching peaceful life in freedom. Mohammed Fadhil read a local paper report on a very Western protest against a very Near Eastern staple — tobacco. Freelance journalist Michael Yon, meanwhile, visited the sanctuary that is northern Iraq's Kurdistan: a place spared from Saddam Hussein's wrath by twelve years of Allied jet fighter patrols, where the intentions of liberators were understood both before and long after March 2003, and where terrorists haven't a toehold. Reconstruction moves forward. The rule of law expands while the tracts of thugs shrink.

Iraq's enemies still win more headlines than heroes and protectors. But for how much longer?

Michael Ubaldi, June 1, 2005.

Sung to the tune of Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Tears on My Pillow."

I don't remember much
I missed the Q&A
But John Bolton's too blunt a man
For the gang in Turtle Bay

Tears on my lectern, faint in my heart
Caused by you (you)

If we could send an angel
I wouldn't hesitate
I'd gladly give right back
The U.N. potentate

Tears on my lectern, faint in my heart
Caused by you (you)

Bolton's not a nice guy, Bolton goes too far
When he meets those reprobates
He'll call them what they are
If we could send a sucker
I wouldn't hesitate
Kickback cash in Switzerland
Will keep my grandkids safe

Tears on my lectern, faint in my heart
Caused by you (you)
(I vote) No-no-no [fade]

THE INSPIRATION: Help Ohio's own sobbing senator dry his eyes here.

Michael Ubaldi, June 1, 2005.

A single economic indicator failed to measure up to expectations yesterday and, as predicted, it's fodder for doomsayers:

A surprisingly weak reading on the manufacturing sector sent stocks mostly lower Tuesday as investors feared that the economy has indeed run into a soft patch.

The Dow spent the entire day in the red despite an equally "surprising" rise in reported consumer confidence — blue chips fell sharply in the afternoon but if the manufacturing report had been positive and confidence down, we might have read the same conclusion drawn from a different antecedent. Average quarterly growth and keen optimism, weightier than a report on a market sector that has been blazing for the better part of two years, are left out. Why settle on a bevy of good news when there's that one spot of bad?

THE DOW ALSO RISES: A second manufacturing report, just two percent shy of estimates, is enough for Wall Street. Perhaps the excitement has something to do with two years of expansion, whatever the rate fluctuations.

Michael Ubaldi, May 31, 2005.

The governor of Al Anbar province in Iraq, kidnapped three weeks ago, was killed in a gunbattle initiated by his terrorist captors. The military's report reminds us who stalks democracy in the Fertile Crescent:

With the exception of the governor, all the dead and wounded were foreign nationals.

Iraq is, and always was, at the front line of the war.

Michael Ubaldi, May 31, 2005.

Ethnic Balkanization masquerading under the alias "multiculturalism" may lead New York City to translate [city websites into six] different languages and risks the failure of previous attempts, writes National Review contributer Jim Boulet, Jr.:

Washington State's attempt to use translation software led to nothing but complaints.

Example: a statement by Washington's Secretary of State Sam Reed, proposing "statewide mandates to restore public trust," was translated into Chinese as "Swampy weed suggests whole state order recover open trust."

Back in college, my diatonic and chromatic harmony professor told a poignant story about the limitations of internet translation software like the popular, web-based Babelfish. He and a few colleagues entered the idiom "Out of sight, out of mind" and instructed Babelfish to translate the phrase into Chinese, then back into English. The result? "Invisible idiot."

FOR THE RECORD: My professor must have used a different program. Babelfish produces "Stemming from sight outside brains," which isn't "invisible idiot" but not exactly desirable for the sake of clarity, either.

Michael Ubaldi, May 31, 2005.

A tragic story that continues to be written: the New York Times divulged critical American intelligence information for questionable reasons, and Bill Roggio of Media Slander is looking for answers.

Michael Ubaldi, May 27, 2005.

After Operation Matador in Qaim, Iraq came Operation Peninsula south of Baghdad; and then Squeeze Play inside the capital; followed by New Market in Haditha and greater Al Anbar Province; and yesterday, Iraq's ministers of defense and the interior announced Operation Thunderbolt, the latest in a rapid sequence of what Wretchard of Belmont Club calls "battalion-sized blows."

For cynics and skeptics this impressive thrust of Iraqi and Allied force against a terrorist amalgam is redundant and in vain, on grounds that a successful military liberation would not have required moderate-scale offensives bisecting the country two years after officially ending major combat operations; but that requires believing Iraq's troubles are only self-inflicted and self-contained. The reportedly maimed terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is an al Qaeda import from Jordan; he drives gangs of foreigners in naked attempts to disrupt and destroy the way of life overwhelmingly embraced by the Iraqi people. The only notable malcontent from the country is Iran's grotesque marionette Muqtada al-Sadr who, after recently preying on college co-eds in the southern city of Basra, was driven back down by peaceful protest. Ba'athist Syria, reeling from an expulsion from Lebanon and consequent internal democratic unrest, has repeatedly provided the free world with evidence of its desperate assault on a liberal, free-market Iraq. A merciless superintendence has kept Syria under the Assad regime for decades; the February arrest of Saddamites and last week's terrorist-interdiction claim, when Syrian officers work in Baghdad alongside terrorists, only begs how Damascus chooses a speculative sacrifice.

Near East dictatorships spared Saddam Hussein's abrupt end are losing their war, their last war, against the free world; for combative regimes, that cascade follows the campaign in Iraq. Retired General Robert Scales was correct when he told Brit Hume three months ago that "absolutely," good things were to come of the Iraqi security forces assembled and trained by the Allies: overcoming criticism and early embarrassing failures, police and soldiers have not only surpassed the enemy in size and capability but are nearing a relatively close parity with American and multinational troops, one from which they can reliably trade operational postures. The enemy does not have any advantage: Syria's position in the wake of Lebanese independence is increasingly compromised; Iran's manipulation of Europe's appeasers is hardly a reflection of its weaknesses, culturally inferior to the Shiites of Iraq and Lebanon, and straining under staccato democratic riots; putative American allies Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others can only hope to slow liberalization, the smallest gains of political expression enough to turn popular attention away from fantasies about Washington and Jerusalem, and to their respective capital cities.

The two sides — good and evil — cast Iraq as the world's lodestone for emancipation. One catalyst was intentional, the other totally unforeseen — at least by men. America, human dignity's single most powerful national influence and advocate, laid a template on Iraq; hope met diligence and the occupation succeeded in founding a common good. The Iraqis, and those around them, have taken to it. Iraq's enemies, in sharp irony, will have made the free country, through their abuse and carnage, much stronger in heart and hand than we could have imagined. That preeminence began with the spring offensive.