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Michael Ubaldi, August 1, 2012.

Does modern music really sound the same?

I agree with the researchers to a point: the key word is "pop," as in music distributed by mainstream labels. Independent recording and publishing, the latter via the internet, have exponentially multiplied the variety of genres available to listeners — many of which, like ambient and soundscape, are non-belligerents in the Loudness War. Then there are traditional modes, like bluegrass and chamber; by definition eclectic.

There's some irony. Music today is probably the most diverse it's ever been, care of new technologies and ways of thinking. Yet one has to step outside of the old establishment — centralized media — to discover it.

Michael Ubaldi, July 22, 2012.

"He sends me the loveliest e-mails," claims Elton John in USAToday. "What I get from Rush privately and what I get from Rush publicly are two different things. I'm just trying to break him down."

This should be no surprise to anyone listening to Rush Limbaugh for more than a few minutes. Limbaugh's enthusiastic lectures espouse self-confidence and independence of government — the radio host spends very little on-air capital talking social mores. His biography shows jet-set freewheeling.

And yet the article suggests an unlikely acquaintance. After twenty years, shouldn't most people know the difference between, say, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Bennett? Or because the two men share faintly similar profiles — conservative 60-somethings, though one's a bon vivant while the other's kindly and genteel — are they both stereotyped as Neanderthal scolds?

Michael Ubaldi, June 29, 2012.

The Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act is Pyrrhic for the left at best. The law survived review only under the auspices of the legislature's basest function — taxing the populace — at a time when public toleration for taxes is low, at the end of the term of a president claiming taxation was never the law's intent. Entitlements don't allure like they did a few years and trillion dollars ago; in Europe, where the clock runs a few hours ahead, the carriage has already reverted to a pumpkin. Here, there is no love for socialized medicine.

Michael Ubaldi, December 16, 2011.

Writes John J. Miller:

So the professors have discovered U2. A new book, Exploring U2, looks like the very sort of thing that academics should not produce, with its entries titled “The Authentic Self in Paul Ricoeur and U2″ and “Vocal Layering as Deconstruction and Reinvention in U2.” Yet one of the pieces is by Stephen Catanzarite, a pop-culture writer who is not a professor (but is an NRO reader). It’s called “All That We Can’t Leave Behind: U2′s Conservative Voice.” . . . In his chapter, Stephen quotes Russell Kirk and stuff like that. It’s mind candy for conservatives who turn up the volume when “Where the Streets Have No Name” comes on the radio.

Wrote I (cross-posted):

October, of course, was written when the quartet was in a very different—a pseudo-monastic—stage of living and thinking.

But even Pop, reviled as U2's deviant mistake, is almost back-to-front chary and sober. "Discotheque," self-aware in its frivolity; "Do You Feel Loved?", reciting a plausibly monogamous encomium; "Mofo," likely autobiographical in its search for maternal approval; "If God Will Send His Angels," a then-trite-now-endearing commentary on the decade of cable television; "Last Night on Earth," a Faustian narrative; "Gone," another hard look at a showman's identity; "Miami," surface-deep but harmlessly plebeian; "The Playboy Mansion," a second, buzzword-strewn contemporary admonishment; "Velvet Dress," sultry but restrained. "Please" and "Wake Up, Dead Man" are orphans from Zooropa sessions, so their respective contempt and coarseness make for reasonable exceptions.

I will say, though: I don't enjoy U2's work as much these days, with its twelve-word songs that straddle secular rock-stars' idea of contemporary worship. Bono was better off tipsily stumbling into virtue.

Michael Ubaldi, September 21, 2010.

Glenn Reynolds links to one Steven Sturm who muses, How could Democrats cut November's menacing losses? He counts the ways (follow the link for his elaboration on each):

1. Capturing Bin Laden?

2. A horrible act of terrorism that served rallied the country the country around the Commander in Chief and, by extension, members of his political party?

3. Reports of favorable economic activity?

4. Something that showed Obama was "right" to bail out Wall Street and the automakers?

Interesting, although they're all — impropriety here and there aside — unattractive options.

1. The Taliban aren't the Borg, and the death of one man won't make Afghanistan any less challenging. Osama bin Laden matters far more to the political class than the electorate.

2. Barack Obama isn't George W. Bush. He has neither the guardian's instinct nor the moral vocabulary.

3. Americans had been spoiled by relatively strong employment over the last 30 years. Before 2008, maybe, just maybe, you heard that someone was jobless. Now it's a question of who doesn't know a single person among the unemployed. Brummagem economic reports matter nothing when a friend, a relative or a spouse can't find work.

4. Here we enter the sparkling gates of fairy tales, except that statism never has a happy ending. Besides, taxpayers would just as soon congratulate a corporation for not defaulting as they would munificently tip a waitress for getting the order right.

Democrats may squirm, but can't escape the simple truth that the center of attention begs a good performance.

Michael Ubaldi, August 13, 2010.

Jonah Goldberg:

The "70-30 issue" is a cliche in political circles: Basically, the idea is that there are all sorts of issues where 70 percent of Americans are for X and 30 percent are against X . . . . The trick for most/many politicians is to always be on the 70 side. . . . When you look at Obama’s troubles, it’s kind of shocking how he’s managed to maneuver the party to the 30 percent position (or allowed it to drift that way) on so many issues.

. . . One question I have, and maybe brother Geraghty or someone else around here knows the answer, is whether Bush got himself in a similar mess.

I don't think 70-30 applies, really. The matter is more one of the reception of leadership.

George W. Bush's approval — and mandate — collapsed when both the left and right anathematized the president over Katrina, and the general public was shocked by the disaster enough to have listened. Before that, the contention of Iraq slowly abraded Bush's ratings as a majority of Americans held fast to the hope that they were right in originally supporting the operation.

If a parallel can be drawn, it's between Iraq and the economy (an unfair comparison considering the gravity of the war, but as we know from the Nineties, different times trade in different values). Most Americans continue to hope that their leader a) intends to improve their quality of life, but more importantly b) is actually capable of doing so. Economic illiteracy plays some role, here: media and education have left many confused about how markets actually work, so unless splashed with cold water by a truly ideological GOP, the electorate is unlikely to summarily reject both tax-and-spend and its advocate president.

The point commencing a terminal fall in public approval will almost certainly lie, very unfortunately, in President Obama's inability to respond to the kind of exigency that only happens once every ten years or so. Second/Third World invasion (Carter, failed; H.W. Bush, passed)? Massive terrorist attack (Clinton, W. Bush; both passed)? Dishonor (Nixon, failed; Ford, arguably failed)? Unsupportable war (Truman, Johnson; both failed)?

Absent such an event, missteps here and there are small stuff. Obama may preside over a solidly Republican congress, but preside he will.

Michael Ubaldi, July 20, 2010.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Princeton University professor Alan Blinder gazes from the bird's eye view of an economy where the modest buy a lot and the rich buy a little, period. Who creates good and services whose demand necessitates proffering jobs that pay incomes? It is all our daily bread, mana from above, not from the hands of risk-taking men, as far as Blinder is concerned:

Let the upper-income tax cuts expire on schedule at year end. That would save the government an estimated $75 billion over the next two years. However, it would also diminish aggregate demand a bit. So, instead of using the $75 billion to reduce the deficit, spend it on unemployment benefits, food stamps and the like for two years. That would surely put more spending into the economy than the tax hike takes out, thus creating jobs.

Blinder's claims confirm that degreed thinking somehow displaces common sense.

Only the vernacular serves, here: unemployment benefits are socio-economic s___ sandwiches. Nothing can make them palatable, let alone any substitute for an American's average income. Living on what comes from the dole queue is just that. The money provides merely enough to get by; and paying bills and groceries doesn't precipitate growth. Yet Blinder would tax the very investors, entrepreneurs and customers of organizations that, with capital the government confiscated, would provide jobs to the unemployment?

If Republicans acknowledge that economic ends depend on political means, however, they hamstring themselves by opposing benefit extensions. Unemployment isn't welfare: most on its rolls wish to be removed as soon as possible. Furthermore, no volume of small, weekly payments will ever reach the size of federal embonpoint squeezed and groped by the politically favored. The right should seek, with a congressional majority, to divest Washington from "stimulus" and trade spending for tax cuts, the only real assurance Washington can give the private sector.

Do employers have good reason to justify their eponymity? I wager Yes. Stagnation won't last for half a decade if free rein is given to enterprise — unemployment would be halved in twelve months.

Michael Ubaldi, July 6, 2010.

Anne Applebaum looks up, declares democracy in trouble and references a heavily revised historical account:

By every measure, the world's autocrats have become more entrenched over the past decade. Countries as disparate as Russia, Venezuela and Iran have become adept at using the rhetoric of "democracy" — along with faked elections, phony political parties, even state-controlled "civil society" organizations — to deflect pressure for change.

But democracy promotion has also been unfairly discredited by the invasion of Iraq, a decision too often remembered as nothing more than a foolish "war for democracy" that went predictably wrong. The subsequent failure of Iraq to metamorphose overnight into the Switzerland of the Middle East is cited as an example of why democracy should never be pushed or promoted. This silly argument has had a strong echo: Since becoming president, Barack Obama has shied away from the word democracy in foreign contexts — he prefers "our common security and prosperity" — as if it might be some dangerous Bushism.

Recall that "the past decade" was nearly half-spent witnessing daring outbursts and full-fledged movements carried out by liberals in response to the deposition of the Taliban and Iraqi Ba'athists. As recently as 2005, men with no love for America — let alone George W. Bush — credited the Bush doctrine for their advances, such as Walid Jumblatt who admitted "[T]his process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq."

In fact, oppressed peoples of the world do look to the people and leaders of the United States for validation of ideals whose self-evidence, for them, is often in question. When did the tide begin to ebb? 2006. When Bush's political opposition, determined to discredit the occupation of Iraq and personally denigrate its commander-in-chief, seized a cardinal domestic victory in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — whether the president deserved it or not — the resulting traducement shattered the last of American unity on an intolerance for authoritarianism and the bizarre, totalitarian fanatics its stifling desperation breeds.

The men against whom the United States would "impose democracy by force," the cadres of secret police, roughnecks and wage-earning psychopaths, realized that the enemies of their enemy would, through the rule of law, occlude any measures to defeat them. They could return to the business of autocratic cruelty. Why worry when powerless assemblies — approved by an American president who shows more animadversion against markets and industry than juntas and regimes, himself invested in the "silly argument" against Iraq — will "condemn abusers" and do nothing else?

Michael Ubaldi, May 27, 2010.

Jonah Goldberg, this morning:

Don't get me wrong, I'm usually singing from the same "It's Obama's Fault and We Know It" songbook. But I just can't bring myself to agree with the folks who think that the BP spill is a major indictment of Obama. He may have handled the politics of this thing badly, by which I mean the PR, but unless someone can explain how Obama could have "taken over" and fixed this faster, I think a lot of the criticism is overboard. Not all of it; it sounds like Bobby Jindal has some legitimate complaints. But the notion that BP isn't motivated to cap this thing as quickly as possible and so therefore Obama needs to lean on BP harder is nothing short of crazy talk. Obama could have been on vacation for the last month and I'd bet the tempo of the BP operation wouldn't have been one minute slower.

Jonah is right, of course. If the BP spill is at all like Hurricane Katrina, it shows a disappointing example of many Americans' meager tolerance for tragedies that unfold largely out of the control of man and science — as well as an incomprehension of what supports modern societies.

The public misunderstands scale in two ways. At the same time the gusher cannot be plugged with a cork, the spill itself will not affect ecology on a wide-ranging and long-lasting basis — sorry, but one need not be an expert to deduce that. And in spite of several thousand offshore platforms quietly collecting a vital natural resource at this moment, hysterics and opportunists are actually persuading some to consider an end or curtailment of drilling. It's on the order of a naive teenager swearing off meat after he learns how it's obtained.

Details of the rig explosion are pertinent legally and professionally, but for goodness' sake, not philosophically. Nor are they valuable politically. I dislike President Obama and his administration, but what partisans cast as insouciance may very well be a realistic sense of the country's daily affairs — or at least a tacit admission of the limits to federal majesty.

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2008.

"Those who press this Ayers line of attack are whipping Republicans and conservatives into a fury that is going to be very hard to calm after November," writes David Frum. "Anger is a very bad political adviser. It can isolate us and push us to the extremes at exactly the moment when we ought to be rebuilding, rethinking, regrouping and recruiting."

I agree that Barack Obama's imputed character won't make a difference — in early 1996, William F. Buckley himself noted that the same 57 percent responding in a survey with dubiety for the Clintons' associates was happy to elect the Democratic incumbent. Those who (at least believe that they) support Barack Obama's stated policies and prospective methods won't care who's nurtured his political career.

And Frum is wise to reprove conservatives to avoid the same animus against Obama as the left holds against Bush. But I wonder if he should also warn us of the verbal, political, legal and physical violence that many leftists will visit on many of us.

I want to think that, if Obama wins, the next four to eight years will be as typical as Bill Clinton's tenure: venality and indolence just can't block out memories of Rush Limbaugh, Newt, 1994, and a limerence with the end of history. Yet there's that weird apotheosis. Those kids singing about transnationalism, the real hatred of Kos-style leftists, and the obscurantist actions of Obama's own inner circle in Missouri and Chicago.

Most people behind an electoral majority, if they decided in two or four years the next president wasn't worth their vote, would pull the single lever of power they have, but would leave many more levers to others. The direct current animating ideologues looks uncontrollable and deadly to the touch. We should be wary that our camp for "rebuilding, rethinking, regrouping and recruiting" could instead be spent in theirs for reeducation.

Michael Ubaldi, September 10, 2008.

Count me among those unconvinced that Barack Obama, offering the truism of lipstick on a pig, disparaged Sarah Palin.

But also count me among those who believe the Democratic nominee is a man of words only so long as they're not coming out of his mouth while he thinks of what to say. If George W. Bush mangles delivery when under pressure, Barack Obama mangles concepts themselves.

Were the United States guaranteed a McCain presidency, I would look forward to debates in which the senator from Arizona flattens the one from Illinois. But since there is a chance that a callow, flighty man could be the leader of the free world, there's reason to worry.

All that aside, this could be political payday for the GOP.

Michael Ubaldi, July 8, 2008.

Just how inevitable is an executive to be made of the Democratic Party's ought-to-be nominee? This man is elecutionarily gifted, handsome; one who is quite literally the new face of America. There's innervation in his speeches not seen since the end of the last decade, and it shows. The grassroots should, by fall, grant him apotheosis.

His challenger is a national fixture more in the strict sense of age than venerability; more recognizable as a greying statesman than the crippled, forebearing hero. He has two salient political attributes. One, rapprochement at best with his own party. Two, staunch affiliation with an unpopular president whom the public sees as persisting in a military campaign for a country whose name has descended, in the vernacular, to a four-letter word.

Twenty years ago, a stuffy, New England governor tried to deny the White House to a sedate vice president whose boss was ending a presidential term with record popularity. In July polls, the governor maintained leads of up to twenty points.

And by how many points does the first man average over the second man, this July? Five.

Michael Ubaldi, March 6, 2008.

From approximately 12:50 PM Eastern, Wednesday:

RUSH: Michael in North Olmsted, Ohio. Welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.

CALLER: Good afternoon, Rush.


CALLER: I am a longtime registered Republican. Every time I've had the chance to pick up a Republican ballot, I have. So if anybody's looking at voter rolls, they're not going to have any question as to who I am.

RUSH: Right.

CALLER: But, as far as I'm concerned, the Obama campaign has been courting me and it culminated in an automated phone call two days before the election. The salient phrase was, "It doesn't matter if you're registered with another party or an independent. Pick up a Democratic ballot and vote for change."

RUSH: Absolutely!

CALLER: They were asking me to unfortunately...

RUSH: Amen, bro. I know exactly what you're saying. They can go out and court you, and they can try to convince you to cross over and vote for Obama, and that's not "corrupting the process," and that's not being "ungentlemanly."

CALLER: Well, exactly. Exactly. As far as the broader left is concerned, they have gotten what they wished for if in fact listeners of yours — or other Republicans, or rightists, people who would not have picked up a Democratic ballot — did and knocked it to Hillary.

RUSH: I would even say this. Thanks for the call out there, Michael. I appreciate it. I would even say this to you members of the Drive-By Media and you Democrats, who say that what I did was corrupting the Democrat process because I have no desire for Hillary to win. How do you know that? Maybe I want Hillary to win your nomination, just like you guys wanted McCain to win ours. Maybe I want that. You guys gotta be very, very careful how you approach this, because in the process of coming after me, you are lancing yourselves.

The message from the Obama campaign was left on my answering machine. I gave it an auditory double-take because I couldn't believe the invitation.

Michael Ubaldi, February 27, 2008.

Your words moved, your movement affirmed.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Michael Ubaldi, January 10, 2008.

Though Figure Concord remains active, I am always working over at Game and Player. The editors and our contributors intend good things for the nascent year, and to start off we looked back at the last twelve months. In due attribution, Game and Player has published The Best of 2007 and The 2007 Booby Prizes.

Michael Ubaldi, December 19, 2007.

"As a child," writes John Derbyshire in today's National Review, "I was indoctrinated with some basic precepts regarding life among other human beings." One of them? "Don't mock another man's religion." But Derbyshire had been, this week, accused thereof. He was "jolted" and moved to a defense. Whatever my disappointment in his recent divestment from faith, Derbyshire is no active enemy of the churchman.

Even in facetious play as a curmudgeon, Derbyshire has never openly attacked Christianity. He treats the subject gravely. If we are looking for evidence of a contempt for religion, we find it in the writing of Heather Mac Donald and Christopher Hitchens.

Derbyshire bowed out of what appears to be a mischaracterization, by an increasing quarter on the right, of Islam. Refusing to participate cost him professionally. Short story: the New English Review, which he has called "Islamophobic," declined any future contributions from him. He's to be commended. Following guffaws at "the religion of peace" is a specious kind of Kirkpatrick Doctrine, in which American foreign judgment turns on whether something or someone is Muslim or not. It is failure of reason alone, Derbyshire's general opposition one which anyone can share.

A reader, offended in his perception that Derbyshire would "denigrate people who believe in Biblical creation," avowed that "The entire [New Testament's] plan of salvation is founded on creationism." Why drag John into it? Christians have not resolved and will not soon resolve disagreements over whether the Bible's descriptive passages are to be construed literally or phenomenalistically. If Derbyshire's correspondent thinks the rejection of creationism as a salient against him, he should also draw a cordon sanitaire between himself and millions of other believers. Many of the rest of us are satisfied in the conviction that God better demonstrated His power not by transubstantiating here and there, but contriving to make sound and automated that which we precisely comprehend through the sciences. His Gospels read as technical papers, Christ is disparaged.

How can a well-meaning, well-traveled, astute, lapsed Episcopalian vex? By the confluence of inattention and boredom.

Michael Ubaldi, December 14, 2007.

What took just two days to resolve was an apparent misfire and relief of command. On Wednesday, the Washington Post interviewed Bill Shaheen, New Hampshire co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, who expressed worry for Barack Obama with 24-carat unction.

"The Republicans," said Shaheen, "are not going to give up without a fight," and if Illinois' junior senator were the Democratic nominee, "one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use." But hadn't Obama already confessed, way back as a debutant, no less in memoirs sitting on a few million bookshelves? Yes, but forthrightness made Obama a primary source for his own youthful illicitness, Shaheen pointed out, and with such concern for his candidate's opponent, proceeded to give an example of inquiries. "When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?...It's hard to overcome."

Oh, those Republicans. To all but believers in Santa Claus, what Shaheen did is on the order of Cain telling God that brother Abel was actually spared forbearance of a cruel world. The press crowded around Clinton's campaign, which disavowed Shaheen's statements, then turned to Shaheen — who was no longer one of Clinton's staff. At a debate Thursday afternoon, one senator apologized to the other; then the other's campaign later decried a buzzer handshake. If Clinton GHQ did not intend to damage Obama through Shaheen, it was content to do so in preterition: advisor Mark Penn, the same evening, shrugged that "The issue related to cocaine use is not something the campaign is in any way raising," and he is still working.

Barack Obama's mea culpa was frank and descriptive: unprompted, he admitted to substance abuse and noted which drugs he took. That is welcome and disappointing: welcome because most elected officials, including Hillary Clinton and the sitting president, are reticent about their salad days; disappointing because illicit drugs remain formative to the last three generations, unforgettably defined when Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry affirmed marijuana use with an indignant "of course."

Mores contra culture invite confusion. Save for the phantasmagoric Ron Paul, no candidate espouses societal or legal approval of the libertine activities in which many of their colleagues, their children or they themselves have yet participated. This debases Barack Obama's redemption, his autobiographical peripety. Character is, in the Clintonian mind, irrelevant to politics. And it can easily be seen as a validation for behavior that, after all, hasn't prevented Obama from accomplishing anything. Obama's assessment, from a Reuters account of the candidate in a high school classroom: "Man, I wasted a lot of time." A student's: "I think everybody deserves to play around a little bit, you know?," which is not good; but also "He got his priorities straight," which is not bad.

Michael Ubaldi, December 11, 2007.

Asserted by the National Intelligence Council: Iran a) continues to process uranium to the point of the element's sustaining a fission reaction, b) was essaying to build an atomic bomb before it stopped testing in autumn of 2003, c) has not necessarily abstained from research of a weapon, d) only backed off because of international suspicion, e) may resume (or could have already resumed) military experiments, and f) even if years from the bomb would anyway proceed surreptitiously. Such were the contents of a tiny, declassified portion of a National Intelligence Estimate. Presenters were very confident in some places, but nowhere certain.

The first reaction of anybody's ought to be satisfaction that an Iranian program for nuclear weapons was taken for granted. But Tehran's hircine titular, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, can yet claim truth to Iranian denials — technically, to have said "We do not believe in nuclear weapons" at Columbia University this September would mean that they really don't, going on four years. And laws of political selection, when applied, simplified the report into an exoneration. Despite the meaning of the word "estimate" (a casual or considered judgment made without measuring or testing) or the feasibility of any determination of state secrets within a closed society (think North Korean, Syrian and Pakistani surprises), circumstances of the release have played out detrimentally to the right. Republican primary voters saw every major candidate act as he might under policy duress.

Mitt Romney, on Fox News with Greta van Susteren — one day after the release — interpreted "good news" from an apparent cessation. "What it suggests in the estimate is that the efforts on the part of the US and other nations to impose sanctions for their nuclear ambition has had an impact. And you certainly hope so because you want to make sure that our efforts are able to dissuade a nation from seeking nuclear weaponry."

Mike Huckabee, at roughly the same time as Romney, confessed innocence of the publication to reporter David Paul Kuhn. Questioned further, he was quoted as saying "I've a serious concern if they were to be able to weaponize nuclear material, and I think we all should, mainly because the statements of Ahmadinejad are certainly not conducive to a peaceful purpose for his having it and the fear that he would in fact weaponize it and use it." For all the derision at the Arkansas governor for having not read the report beforehand, Huckabee recognized the findings as tentative. "I don't know where the intelligence is coming from that says they have suspended the program or how credible that is versus the view that they actually are expanding it."

Fred Thompson, in a statement, concentrated on the report's wait-a-second-there qualities. "The NIE confirms that as recently as the fall of 2003, Iran was covertly working to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps they have since halted their covert nuclear weapons work, but meanwhile they continue to aggressively pursue a uranium enrichment capability, despite the fact that it makes no economic sense as a civilian program."

John McCain, asked by Fox's Chris Wallace specifically about military action: "The military option is always the ultimate last option, but I don't believe that it's, quote, 'off the table.' I would remind you that enrichment is a longer process. Weaponization, which is the other half of the equation, can be done rather rapidly. Iran remains a nation dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. Iran continues to export the most lethal explosive devices into Iraq, killing Americans."

Rudy Giuliani, pressed as McCain was by MSNBC's Tim Russert, answered (conversational transcript elided), "[Y]ou always leave open the military option in a situation, you've got to interpret that as between high confidence, moderate confidence. I think a fair interpretation is that...right now the short-term issue is not nearly as grave, but they go on to say that the long-term issue is still there, that they can't with any high degree of confidence say that they're not going to move ultimately toward nuclear weapons."

A summary of the test? Romney would appear the most collected, as well as the one of the five most reliant on espionage and diplomatic prevention. Huckabee spoke in generalities, perhaps the least willing to contemplate an intransigent dictatorship. Giuliani didn't contradict his platform but was cautious, and then equivocal when Russert brought up the topical intensity of one of Giuliani's foreign policy advisors, Norman Podhoretz. Thompson was — Thompsonesque, synthesizing prevalent rightist convictions into a sedate, practical message. The frankest candidate — sure of Tehran's regional belligerence, mindful of the Khomeinists' furtive attacks on Americans, rejecting "face-to-face talks" outright — was the purveyor of "straight talk" himself, John McCain.

Michael Ubaldi, December 7, 2007.

Susan Goldberg, longtime journalist and editor of the Plain Dealer, today spoke to The City Club of Cleveland. Radio station WCLV broadcast her address, "Reflections for the Future of Newspapers and Cleveland." Few display reporter Helen Thomas' rancor for independent media — Thomas quoted this week as calling amateur journalists "dangerous" — but one does find, pervasive among the press class, an animosity.

Goldberg first acknowledged weblogs only in consideration of them as tangential to her work. While some believe "they are changing the world," she said, as far as a newspaper editor is concerned "they are neither the problem, nor the point." Maladaptation in the information age, Goldberg suggested, causes her industry to slide, and could be remedied by changing the manner in which agencies advertise and solicit — and attract readers. To "learn from silicon valley," as she put it.

Later in her speech, however, Goldberg returned to independents. Bloggers, she charged, are "aggregators...stealing our news." To applause, she posed the city beat as arcana: if the established press didn't report urgent local news, "no one else would, because no one else can." That is ecclesiastical pique at the appeal of lay dilettantes, instructed by the persuasion that anyone who is not a journalist but peddles news wishes he were. In fact a political weblog, the higher its profile, is more likely a side trade of someone educated, specialized and accomplished.

True, bloggers are a collection. But when CBS News, three years ago, tried to pass off Word documents as thirty-year-old incrimination, the aggregators, ex vi termini, aggregated. Experts were consulted and corroborated in such immediate ways not possible ten years before; Dan Rather was reduced to a mutterer. Michael Totten, Michael Yon and other embedding freelancers have submitted more reflective dispatches and photographs from Iraq and the Near East than the most prepotent networks and bureaus. The latter spent the last five years aggregating, indeed: tentative assignments relying on native stringers.

A few moments of clarity came when Goldberg elaborated on statements made in the Plain Dealer. Editors and publishers must "think long and hard about what makes you special in your marketplace." With the customer in mind, "a front page that is made up only of things you can worry about is a failed front page." Yet in her peroration Goldberg reverted to cant. Vindication would come by harnessing the "power of diversity." Technology, professional reevaluation second? She wasn't done. Career journalists "must not tolerate the haters, because they will bring us all down," commence transmission of truth to power.

For now, only moments.

Michael Ubaldi, November 27, 2007.

Under a headline in the New York Times, "As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts," the lede observes the Democratic Party "trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy." Foreign prospects up? Try short-selling back stateside. Two more headlines, in coincidence to both the moment's politics and the 2008 general election, mark points that through triangulation instruct where the electorate might be found in one year.

The second announces a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Salvation Army. Though philanthropy may be a dialect of love's universal language, the 142-year-old charity — aside from its enumerated Christian doctrine — believes the local needy ought be addressed in more than grunts and gestures. So just as Army soldiers in Kiev speak Ukrainian, the Framingham, Massachusetts detachment enforced a prerequisite competency in English. This it qualified: a pair of employees, limited to Spanish, had to learn the language in one year or look elsewhere. They didn't; were fired, then, in 2005. The EEOC sued.

Such news impresses first on the gut, then the intellect. The two employees were immigrants, and in the restrictionist's book good examples of bad, refusing the common tongue a sine qua non of non-assimilation. For the many more of us unwilling to hold the émigré culpable for what is arguably a dysfunction of the postmodern American establishment, the EEOC looks silly. Foreign nationals inimical to modern culture? No, thank you. Charity denied court-affirmed workplace standard? Now you are in another place entirely. Polls substantiate what high value the country places on the ratification of English.

Headline No. 3 comes from the United Kingdom. Briton Toni Vernelli is a broadly affiliated environmentalist radical. She, if you permit, had herself spayed two years after a terminated pregnancy. Vernelli, known for such aphorisms as the one about serving a family hamburgers — "You might as well give them weed killer" — has not yet burnt down orphanages but was proud of her own vivisection for greater good. "Having children," she declared, "is selfish." There are the childless, and then — Ms. Vernelli. Again, impressions are swift and in the heart. The mot juste for it is: weird.

Each headline, traced outward, could converge next November. The former does so pretty directly, inasmuch as Democratic leadership was vilified by a party caucus for letting a Republican bill amendment, precluding similar actions of the EEOC, remain on a bill. The latter's line isn't too sinuous, either. Among those promoting depopulation is Alan Weisman, whose insistence that solutions to supposed ecological crises shouldn't "depend on our untimely demise" is contravened by the title of his bestselling book (The World Without Us) and proposal (one child per familial unit, of an uncomfortable likeness to China's own order). Notices for book club readings of The World Without Us could, as of last week, be found on the Democratic National Committee's website.

If the electorate is repelled, national moods could resemble those of 1993 and 1994, when a gauche Clinton administration gave the body public something laugh about and vote against. Maybe. James Carville, onetime janissary of said house, is on record drawing parallels of 2007-2008 to 1991-1992. Pollsters confirm that the newspapers and wires can still persuade majorities of their readers to think full employment and accelerative economic growth all for nothing if, say, petroleum doesn't carry the same guarantee as manna gathered between Elim and Sinai. But there is some comfort in speculating that leftists in power are also under a floodlight, and it isn't what we prefer to see. Twelve in and two out is as steady as any drive rightward.

Michael Ubaldi, November 9, 2007.

"I do not expect any operational impact whatsoever," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell assured on Japan's suspension of a six-year refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Whatever the accuracy of that, international consequences were so mild that one wouldn't have known without picking up a Japanese newspaper. But this is big, or at least bigger, in Japan.

October 31st was the last day of Tokyo's authorization of supply duties. There wasn't a renewal, so the tanker Tokiwa and destroyer escort Kirisame are now homebound for Nagasaki. Entreaty from the Liberal Democratic Party government, in the form of a bill, went out to the legislature in that last fortnight. Unfortunately, the Diet is split. The sponsorial LDP has the lower House of Representatives, and the critical Democratic Party of Japan snatched the upper House of Councillors in a July 30th shellacking. No mandate, no flotilla.

Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, the man and the politician, had to have militated for recent fortunes of the LDP more than any leadership or platform of the country's almost-uninterrupted majority party. Koizumi ended his term in near-weightlessness. He could count support of the people; promised reforms enacted; enlarged national profile; and momentum towards altering the pacifist constitution taken as part of Japan's 1945 surrender, public realization of dragging a ball and chain long after a sentence served. No amendments have been made since then. Only wordplay on the law's current language has allowed the LDP to claim basic military prerogatives, though under Koizumi, this worked.

In April, further preparations for a rewrite were made by the last prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who didn't last twelve months. Cabinet scandal begot suicide begot scandal; then the elections in July. Insisting that his polices were "not mistaken," Abe called the LDP's loss "no reason to flee." Six weeks later, Abe fled. Instructed by history, LDP prepotence isn't endangered by the DPJ, but the opposition party appears ready to strike out policies breaking Japan's geopolitical chastity, its first try recalling the Tokiwa and Kirisame.

A successor LDP government wants a compromise to get those ships heading back west, while it deals with the quibble of whether fuel went into ships defending civil liberty of Iraqis rather than that of Afghans. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Tokyo this week, and he wouldn't have solicited more involvement abroad if it weren't possible. Japan, to onlookers somnambulant, keeps putting one foot ahead of the other, somehow, staggering in the generally right direction.

Michael Ubaldi, November 7, 2007.

The following was disclosed in an agitated exchange between National Review contributors Mark Krikorian and John Podhoretz: Krikorian, opposed with vehemence to accommodating foreigners who come into the United States illegally, would also occlude all lawful means of entry. His own statement was that "immigration is incompatible with a modern society." Podhoretz was reproachful, as indeed the issue, rising in these last few years to the prominence held a decade and a half ago by crime and domestic negligence, has done so partly because its advocates are thought not to be the Know Nothing Party reincarnate. Well, the rejoinder was that there hadn't been any dissembling, and, too, those allies interested in preserving naturalization would be abandoned at convenience.

Were Mark Krikorian focused only on Mexican aliens, by their numbers the de facto "illegals," he couldn't design restrictionism by association. So his view that "America is a completely different place from a century ago" whereby "the high levels of immigration that we successfully accommodated in the past are deeply problematic today," involves the Indian national and Americans of Indian ancestry, and it runs into difficulty. An émigré from India while still a British colony was rare. A signally documented influx was between 1948 and 1965, amounting to several thousand. Less than one-third of the current population of 2.6 million arrived before 1990, with nearly a million coming since 2000.

Indians in the United States can be evaluated statistically and anecdotally. Only half are citizens and nearly a quarter "speak English less than 'very well.'" But rates and profiles of employment surpass those for the rest of the country, median household income $78,000 to the national average of $48,000. They predominate in the private sector and draw a tiny portion of federal entitlements. To the naked eye, to this pair, the southwest Asians in my apartment are a modest accompaniment to other classes here — mostly young professionals and the elderly. Couples and small families appear to outnumber singles. The women are seen wearing tilaka and sarees; they are reticent, which is respectable and keep their children close, which is admirable.

Do they conform? "Modern communications and transportation technology," Krikorian argues, "have made it so that immigrant ties with the old country are less likely to be severed." Possibly, as the canny foreigner may remain in America only as long as it takes to assemble wealth to carry back home. My own great-grandfather did this, emigrating in 1914, then selling his business to return to Italy in 1930 for comfortable retirement — no transoceanic wireless or shuttle necessary. And it was told to me that childhood friends, first-generation Indians, resisted here and there introductions and admonitions on heritage. Of Brahman name but American stock — they ate hamburgers with the rest of us. Never such conversation between us children, so implicit was our common nationality.

For support Krikorian turns to National Review fellow John Miller. "If the schools miss their chance [to inculcate American language and values]," is the warning, "un-Americanized children grow up to become un-Americanized adults — at which point their Americanization becomes much more difficult and unlikely." A demographic not in either man's mind but matching the description is the un-assimilated white, the foreign indigenous, plain to anyone under the age of forty: raised to mock civic obligation, shrug off national identity and wander the land as a tenant. Want to stride back towards homogeneity? Deport the suburban malcontent and have an Asian take his place. Constitutional amendment is in order, though no less radical than barricading the country.

Michael Ubaldi, November 2, 2007.

Margaret Thatcher, in her memoirs, gave fond remembrance to a debate from her early days in the House of Commons. The chamber fell into hilarity around the young MP when she flourished a vital sheet of statistics and declared, "Now I have the latest, red-hot figure." Without levity, Thatcher recalled the evaluation of her candidacy by Conservative selection committees, in those last years of distaff expectations. "Perhaps," she wrote, some of the men there believed a woman's place was away from Parliament, but "it was the women who came nearest to expressing it openly. Not for the first time the simplistic left-wing concept of 'sex discrimination' had got it all wrong."

If you have listened to the diagnoses of the several conditions said to animate former President Clinton, you may be familiar with the sentiment that Senator Hillary Clinton is afflicted with a form of virilism. There is nothing dainty or complaisant to her. She is witnessed as commanding and ambitious, whispered to be lordly and belittling.

If so, Mrs. Clinton disregards her doctors on this one. Seven years ago, campaigning for the seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, she was one of the most favorable implantations in the American political record. But competitor Rick Lazio executed a gambit, an affidavit to curtail unfashionable private contributions, with room for another signature, right there on the stage-left podium of his opponent. On tape, the first lady isn't startled by the salient but outraged, a mastermind waylaid by tactics. Clinton and her campaign protested Lazio's approach as the work of a heavy. Her massivity was still, after all, female.

Since the midweek chatter has been all about the last Democratic presidential debate. The New York senator was explaining herself on a matter — not quite defending a position as an outwork. Moderator Tim Russert, however, pushed her a little further back than anticipated, and Clinton improvised her way to a redoubt. The other candidates only partly acted on the trip-up, and, too, the question was somewhat off-topic. It may have vexed any of them. What Tuesday night conveyed was that Clinton is not invulnerable.

But, for the impeccable standard, just a scotch or two can vitiate. The Clinton campaign released a video montage titled "The Politics of Pile-On," a montage of opponents speaking Mrs. Clinton's name. Rallying at her alma mater, the senator said, "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys' club of presidential politics." Parse that: comparable, but exceptional, but stronger, but delicate, deserving both equal and special consideration. A generation earlier, Margaret Thatcher already knew this opportunism from an adage, Britain's former prime minister embracing her countenance as both iron and a lady.

Michael Ubaldi, October 22, 2007.

Google has acceded to the despot state in provision of internet content to China, allowing the People's Republic to constrict information and limit knowledge. Enter the phrase "human rights" into the search field and, one supposes, Google returns an error page — Did you mean: hunan rice? But that is the great compromise of engagement, the United States encouraging trade and enterprise to induce liberalism. Many concessions are made from engineering to child recreation; Google transgresses the principle of an amendment in high fashion, so headlines come easy.

What Google does stateside, however, should be looked over for its scruples. And: the company might be acquiring bad posture of its associates.

Websites and file servers have become nodes in a data collective, the scientific, esoteric, eclectic and trivial made accessible, manageable, redundant and secure. For the archivist, this is fruition on the order of Gutenberg's. Google will do and has done the work to conserve libraries — New York Public, Harvard, Stanford. The cost for this is, not illogically, proprietary stewardship. Don't use Google to search? Then you can't browse the digital stacks.

Boston and the Smithsonian declined the offer loudly enough to be heard in the newsroom, and while Google's apologia is sound — nobody has a right to view commercial replicas — the inclusion of public information with corporate assets is near the point at which purists muse about a countryside patchwork of toll-obstructed, privately owned roads. As the Boston Public Library president, quoted in the New York Times said, "We understand the commercial value of what Google is doing, but we want to be able to distribute materials in a way where everyone benefits from it." Google is correct — but clumsy in its use of heft.

A week ago, the Examiner condemned Google for rejecting a quartet of advertisements parodying the left-wing mobilizer, MoveOn. An editorial accused Google of having "censored" the campaign of Senator Susan Collins. "On its face," wrote the newspaper, "a policy that allows censorship of political speech critical of the trademark holder is a violation of the First Amendment." Not at all — it is by that freedom which a company such as Google can choose who can use its services and what they can say. Google isn't a state; its policy can be applied any way it likes. But it is a business, and strictly personal favoritism is something consumers disesteem.

Correction? From the example of Boston and the Smithsonian, done in the marketplace.

Michael Ubaldi, October 19, 2007.

So closes Week Thirteen of the private inquiry about The New Republic's editorial defense for publishing a trio of falsehoods by an active-duty soldier. Questions of verity have been answered, the public case closed: all claims not true, authenticated in sworn testimony of the auteur himself and men in the Iraq-based company so disparaged. A reckoning was promised by the magazine's head, Franklin Foer — that was in August. Nothing has come. Rumors have indicated the forced vacancy of a few positions, though without corroboration from, as we might want, The New Republic.

A few victories: the series was ended, sensation was revealed to be defamation, an oppositionist here and there is maybe seized with conscience on how they will object in the future. But if there is a dilatory plan being executed, it is working, and all that rightists can do about it is fume, You can't do that!

One case for penalizing The New Republic is analogized in economic terms: "credibility is a publication's only real currency." Plausible, though not an axiom to which an opinion journal is immediately liable. The word "credibility" means "the quality or power of inspiring belief," operative word "belief," as opposed to "trustworthiness." Plenty of the magazine's audience still believe in the stories, period; or believe in them as allegories. There is a great need, particularly on the left, to see the Iraqi campaign as a bouillabaisse of wrongs — somewhere evil occurs, go these thoughts, so resemblance is enough if facts aren't supportive. If The New Republic supplies truth claims that its subscribers accept, it has value.

Another difficulty in censure will be the peerage that continues between periodicals. The weekly head-to-head, right versus left, between National Review's Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart — not only of The New Republic but the magazine's former editor — is still on, apparently judged too important to suspend. National Review has editorialized, reproaching The New Republic, but allows one of its staff to — even if by association — legitimize it. Surely Goldberg hasn't been interrogating Beinart or refusing to speak until Beinart extracts information from his colleagues? That has the effect of fixing the exchange rate of the currency.

There are duties to weight The New Republic with, but not towards sentence or resolution, the political press having always dealt in outrages.

Michael Ubaldi, October 17, 2007.

This November, half a month away, will be in an odd year. Some prefer not to see the hustings come to disuse. Radio personality Rush Limbaugh, telephoned by a declared Army serviceman, offered a two-word phrase for the caller's reference to "these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media," adverse to war efforts. Limbaugh was speaking of mountebanks, one in particular mentioned on his program a few days before — even so, to listen regularly to the broadcaster, one cannot find evidence of animus against military dissent.

Tinker to Evers to Chance, the left reacted. An interest group plucked, from the above exchange, a charge — contempt for the free-thinking soldier! — and flipped it over to newspapers and networks, which passed to Congress the political grounds for reprimanding Limbaugh. Henry Waxman, from the House overwatch, announced a probation of talk radio, while a Democratic plurality in the Senate published a castigation of Limbaugh. Exceptions were fixed in the right places: Waxman hasn't the jurisdiction, nor the Senate the influence. Rush Limbaugh, hale after twenty years and of the stock of a comic entertainer, is at last glance amused. And neither censure correctly cited the original transcript; though, of course, mass processing of red meat precludes refinement.

But the commotion made a lot of noise, and Republicans on a first-name basis with the press covering presidential campaigns were expected to opine. Wrote Fred Thompson: "Congressional Democrats are trying to divert attention from insulting our military leader in Iraq and pandering to the loony left by attacking Rush Limbaugh." Vis-a-vis Mitt Romney: "There may be disagreements with individual opinions, but no one would ever dispute the fact that those members of the military who disagree with the war have earned the right to express that opinion." Two operations, the first reliant on the base, unequivocal; the second independent of it, tentative and in error.

Thompson, already endearing, further endears himself rightward. The former governor of Massachusetts, however, often displays self-disclosure through contraposition, What is Romney for? One must assemble it from what Romney isn't. His position statements notably begin with "I'm not." That is, "I'm not trying to take us back to Reagan-Bush," "I'm not a big-game hunter," "I'm not running for pastor-in-chief," or "I'm not a carbon-copy of Bush." Mitt Romney's convictions occupy negative space, caution having led to indefinition, and the candidate took a wrong swing in what should be considered the hour of playtime in national politics

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2007.

Representing, on television and radio these last several days, the Family Research Council and an undisclosed few million voters, Tony Perkins has generally spoken two lines on a subject. Each is a little apart from the other in meaning, allowing for a space in between which observers can read. "The intent here is not to create a third party," he said on Hardball ten days ago, asked about Rudy Giuliani's favor among those who accept the label "social conservative" and thereby diverge from the former mayor on several political and philosophical counts. Nevertheless, "If the party leaves those issues" having attracted Perkins' adopted caucus, "it's unreasonable for them to demand that they stay in the party."

Yesterday, in a conference call attended by Jim Geraghty of National Review, Perkins maintained that he doesn't believe it "ever good to sit out the process." But — again — what about Giuliani? Another dichotomy from Perkins: "It was not a declaration of intent" that a rightist group would disavow the Republican Party, "it was a declaration of principle." Well, now, that is a luxury of consecution. If your principle is to let me break before sinking every ball left on the pool table, you can protest to not actively intend anything unless we set up the game. If and until Perkins and his representation deliberate on the nomination of Giuliani no demand has been made of the GOP — yet as soon as they do, their relevant principle should necessitate such an intent.

Material to this round of artful warnings is the reason for departure from the party over and above a disagreeable presidential nominee. The ends of Perkins et al. could be served in two hypothetical Washingtons. One, a President Giuliani appoints to occupy eventual Supreme Court vacancies; Roe v. Wade is overturned; while Giuliani supports abortion he does so in the mode of a legislator, and abets the fifty states' task in statutorily conforming to popular majorities. Two, a Republican Congress holds, against a Democratic president, whatever line it is Perkins' advocacy "won't cross."

How that which the Family Research Council claims to have striven towards, "a culture of life," would be strengthened in quiescence is an explicative assignment for Perkins. Propounded currently is the selection of a candidate who is, notwithstanding leadership, a pro-life immaculacy; and as recourse, extraction of the "social conservative" vote, entailing the political diminution of millions.

Michael Ubaldi, October 5, 2007.

The reason why the hot water faucet in the men's room of our office building groaned like a dying elephant, I decided, was that we rented a cheap square foot. "Guaranteed employment" is a form of economic pyrite, the inclusive making of wealth a favor and not an obligation. Hire — the return from another's risk is enough to afford services. Termination — the returns can no longer sustain, nor justify, payment for those services. Those who answer to another at the start of a business day, however covetous, aren't treated to sleepless nights of trying to meet a coming payroll.

Forecasts for the company I left yesterday — historically bright — had, earlier in the year, showed a brindle. It worried, months later worrying more, and then it propelled action: reduction in force, or more palpably, layoff. Speculation on the floor was conflagrated, of course. Concerns were known, but their reports did not meet in sequence the dispositive action. Could the alarm have been more graduated, the directors' response to shortfalls more visibly even? A warning to staff of necessary cuts following the last quarter, given this week, might have inspired the kind of miraculousness of self-preservation. And then, the incisions could have been partial and discrete, affecting pay and other remuneration. Lopping off entire positions with little said beforehand is serious, yes, though it is also unsettling in that it is perceived as total and arbitrary. Among the living it's whispered, Who's next?

But right there is the subjective dimension of leadership. If not omnificent, executives have a limited set of remedies. The president of the company, in his exposition of the grounds for my respectful separation, defended the severance benefits as "generous" — they were — yet fumbled in a search for words when, in painful sensibility, he contrasted them with the highest beneficence of continued employment. "It is what it is," I interjected, and he agreed, and the formalities were over.

In presidential debates, especially those of the party out of the White House, the laid off worker is an anticipated guest on the presumption that he will be a) resentful and b) eager for federal subsidies. Were I to end up behind a microphone, candidates leaning forward with condescension at the ready, I would say: "I recently lost my job. I was given funds, based on what I earned, to support me until I could be hired by another. 'Uncle Sam's cut,' as my former employer put it, was over one-third of the payment and will, in probability, be directed to entitlements, none of which I wish to receive. If elected president, what would you do to spare the vulnerable from dependence on Washington, caused by a bankrupting by Washington?"

Michael Ubaldi, October 1, 2007.

Driving on lunch hour a week back, I tuned the car radio to the metropolitan classical music station and heard a voice amplified through a hall. The City Club of Cleveland, for its penny, was given an hour or so of thoughts from Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum. A psychologist and seminarian, Tatum is author of social dialectics "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and Talking about Race, Learning about Racism. A meticulous scholar, she was heard on-air to pronounce the word "alumni" so it rhymed with "honeybee," as would have the Romans.

Spelman was founded in Atlanta, four years after the end of Reconstruction; a redoubt for lettered black women, built by two Northerners on an altruistic mission. The college is a cloister now, or at least sounds like it envisioned by Tatum, whose profession seems to be the creation of problems for the purpose of devising solutions. Several times in the twenty minutes I listened, Tatum described feelings of estrangement among Americans who are black (it is manifest) but understood it to be the incompletion — rather than the consequence — of an identity that is dermatological and cultural. In the language of academia, Tatum reasoned against the persistence of "racial and sexual" prejudices. And then — an anecdote, a robotics team from Spelman competing twice at Georgia Tech but more duly, as the only one "all-female and all-black." Opportunity despite exception or differentiation, could she tell the pair apart?

At present: probably not. Recently, students had held a vote for favorite movies. Members of a race-founded campus organization noticed no dark faces between the chosen stars, and protested. This was, for Tatum, a "learning experience." For one, she noted, "African or Bollywood movies" were overlooked. Bollywood? While it troubled to hear that foreign individuals are mentally, if not statutorily, relegated to a compensatory class — surely most Indians, immigrant or in the homeland, do not consider themselves needy — Tatum's closing on the matter was more urgent. Pressured, the polling students "didn't do the same thing the next year" which, for Tatum, worked out happily because "sometimes majority rule doesn't work." No, it doesn't work for one disputant every time, but for he or she concerned with the chromatic order of people there is a religio loci, hallowed ground, on which democracy offends.

Michael Ubaldi, September 24, 2007.

One desk at Reuters, from the news editor to the copy editor on down, was either trying too hard or not enough. Article dateline — Johannesburg, South Africa. Friday, September 21st. No news made there on that day by George Bush, who was not, as reported in the article's third paragraph, orating. Nor had the president committed "an embarrassing gaffe," as one might otherwise presume by Reuters' headline.

The body of the article made Bush's intended usage clear inasmuch as it directly quoted Bush. "Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule," the president explained, asked in a press conference about Baghdad's sluggish parliament. "I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas." Hee-haw! The Reuters copy deigned to interpret this as "allud[ing] to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq," first draft perhaps naming all living members of the Nelson Mandela family, shortened for space.

Reuters, Reuters. How does one politely correct a practitioner's practice? President Bush was referring to the absence of prominent liberals living inside Iraq under Saddam Hussein, not the actual Mandela. One should hope that Reuters staff have some basic familiarity with classical rhetoric, and know the difference between a) literalism; and b) proper names assigned to demonstrative classes, or antonomasia. But that raises the possibility of a publisher, who markets news, choosing lampoons over verity — and then, inept ones. Exit Reuters, which either doesn't know any better or doesn't care.

Michael Ubaldi, September 21, 2007.

John Derbyshire, diagnosing himself with "Islamophobophobia," advises that he is "inclined to cut Islam some slack. It's a religion, bringing the consolations of faith to multitudes. Most of its believers are decent people, who pay no attention to the fiercer verses of scripture."

His National Review commentary is mostly on point. The business of interpreting present and incipient conflicts as the fallout of religious ejecta defies evidence of the benign actions of most Muslims, as well as the historical record of religion or culture having been misappropriated for acts of brutal domination.

What people say and what they will actually risk are very different. This is especially so when opining in a public which has been warded, for decades, by an authoritarian government — like one seated in Cairo, Islamabad or Amman — that tolerates Islamic-sounding, fascistic speech. Is it less trouble if you aren't the only man in the coffeehouse who rejects jihad as combat? Yes, so you nod, in hopes no one makes a house call. A notable minority of declared Muslims in the United States and Britain approve of terrorism, according to surveys, but the same principle applies. How many ignorants, or even dabbler socialists, wearing a shirt featuring Che Guevara are waiting for the signal to grab a Kalashnikov and round up their peers to cull the anti-revolutionaries, or whatever?

The benefit of the doubt need not be given men who say the Prophet Mohammed impels them to kill. As written in this space before, Islamism, a set of relevant doctrines no older than the last century, is cursorily spiritual but decisively totalitarian. Islam is a medium only. Were the mosque to suddenly come to no use, the class of Third World criminals who broadcast from the minarets would abandon it. How quickly would Islamophobes then break off from their stalking of Muslims — in time?

Michael Ubaldi, September 19, 2007.

One objection to the sight of David Petraeus testifying on Capitol Hill would be that it swelled congressional pride, as lawmakers dilated on the general's inferiority and impertinence. Last week's meetings were an appeal, by the American commander, of the majority's prejudgment on the Mesopotamian front. Petraeus sat across from legislators who did not believe in the Iraq from which he said he came — not only the mission, but the actual place.

In technicality, House and Senate proceedings were normal. Legislative prerogatives include scrutiny of military leaders and the executive office compelling them; assessing national objectives while contemplating resources and interests; and, yes, accompanying ostentation. Democrats excused a left-wing organization's obscure comparison of Petraeus to Benedict Arnold. What of it? — much worse was done to Abraham Lincoln and his men in uniform. The representative institution, and by consequence the public, is inured to disgrace. Comportment of the televised Mrs. and Messrs. was that defined by a sticker seen on an air hand-dryer twenty years ago, in a restroom along the highway: PUSH BUTTON FOR A MESSAGE FROM YOUR CONGRESS.

General Petraeus and the US ambassador to Iraq spoke confidently, with so few malleable sentences that the opposition had to fish abstractive directives to Baghdad from out of the White House in order to portray the campaign as yet awry — and then the two returned to the front, Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Hill bombast will cause problems, though, if it is taken seriously. The ammoniac self-consciousness of intellectuals is at work, columnists exaggerating a two-day attraction, some arguing to readers that Petraeus affirmed whatever followed their own persuasion. But the general did not appear before officeholders and cameras to sell newspapers and journals. He is waging war according to his dissertation and forte, counterinsurgency operations.

Personification of the campaign (reducing it to the essay of one four-star general) and a series of strategic and tactical adaptations (insisting on its figurative title) not only diminishes scale and complexity but confines Iraq to a property in Washington. Mere impressions of theater conditions are reified, actual circumstances over there — whether effected or supported by American troops, or the product of spontaneous Iraqi civility — are overlooked. We prefer to call politicians statesmen, but for now deliberations over an advance or retreat are conceded to those who care most about, in no strict order, grandstanding, expedients and re-election.

Michael Ubaldi, September 12, 2007.

Police can and do err when serving warrants with the advantages of surprise, armor and paramilitary weapons. The consequences of which being loss of property, dignity or, with infrequent tragedy, life, neither apology for nor defenses of the operations easily resolve mistakes. A 92-year-old Atlanta woman was shot dead ten months ago but should not have been a suspect or target, and while it turns out that the undercover policemen carrying out a "no-knock raid" hadn't the authority, the killing serves to characterize all arrests beginning with the smashing of a front door. Another storming of the wrong house or apartment, another staggering headline.

The libertarian's celebrated cause, now, is becoming exercised over seeming arrogations of the state, and police work that might go wrong in a hell of a lot of ways is too plausible an excess to ignore. Reason magazine lately features every bungled raid as part of a theme. Amid indignation, some questions that are asked each time should be, even if the strongest answers are different from the libertarian's. Are those moments of confusion, brought on when SWAT teams refrain from asking Hello, can we take you to jail? from outside, so crucial? Can police take more pains to get it right every time? Is any of this even within an agency's purview?

Members of these special teams can answer the first question; the constitutionally learned can help on the last. As for the second one, in 2005, says a criminologist at the Eastern Kentucky University, law enforcement agencies raided 50,000 times. How many foul-ups? Fifteen. At point-oh-oh-oh-three failures, a department yearly issuing five thousand speeding tickets should have only two of the fines overturned in court.

Unfortunately, as discussion about these stories continues it usually unravels into hostility for government, and one can observe a lot of Reason's readers telling each other how much they hate cops. At the end of the tirade is a moment often missed: reminding the irate libertarian that he knows, talks and openly protests executive missteps without reasonable fears, given that he lives in one of a few affording countries.

Michael Ubaldi, September 8, 2007.

Ramesh Ponnuru reports that Andrew Sullivan is talking funny, this time with a reader on the topic of abortion. A letter written to Sullivan asserts that philosophies against abortion "cannot be formulated in any fashion that is coherent to someone," because, in making a forced choice during an imagined fire at a fertility clinic, to administer the principle that "even the earliest zygote should be treated as a person" is to "do what we all know is repugnant, saving the far greater number of embryos, pretending that they are people." Then? One must reject inviolability of the womb "to recognize that yes, there is a great difference between a person and an embryo."

The implication of Sullivan's correspondent, as Ponnuru noted, is that a pro-life position is refuted by logic itself. But this isn't correct, as least as stated in the prevailing pro-choice conjecture. Assume the major and minor premises respectively are 1) All innocent human life is worth protecting, 2) No human embryo qualifies as a living person or for that matter innocent; from which follows a conclusion that 3) No human embryo is worth protecting. We have a universal affirmative, followed by a universal negative, from which another universal negative is drawn.

As truth, the claim may be so; thereby all the controversy. Illustrated, diagrammed, it is patently wanting: there are, between Venn's circles, instances where the embryo, alive or instead a pretend person, should be safeguarded. This argument, at its rational fundament — which is where Sullivan and his advocate want to take us — is invalid.

Michael Ubaldi, September 5, 2007.

Weren't those an electric six weeks? Wall Street reproved itself, pitched a little, and having since righted, is heavenward as before. At close range the loss of worth to one's holdings can be roughly measured as about twenty-five degrees. Pull away to even the beginning of last September, let alone the same month five years ago, and the 2007 correction is lost in the oscillations of a Dow Jones line graph that trends positive. Start as early as when Warren Buffett's finances were not only technically at risk and the matter is reduced to buying and selling for more profit than anticipated.

In accounting one's stocks, there should be a column reserved, if in the mind, for those monies neither saved nor invested but instead sent to Washington, D.C.; marked for sequestration and yet spent, on or off a budget, anyway.

I was given, as a gift for my college graduation, shares in a well-known company that deals in paints and sealants — which, if turned in, could have been traded for a cheap suit at the time. In seven years their value has quadrupled. The little robin's pride of a nest egg of mine is probably close in worth to Social Security withholdings with less than half the ante. My 401k, like everybody else's, is inaccessible outside of an emergency. But it is, by George, really there. The ration of the New Deal, with its promissory literature rewording expropriation into clauses of entitlement, has the consistency of play money.

The American citizen is programmed to receive as much of a bad return as the federal government can manage. Why the prolongation of a moribund result of 1930s socialism? Part power, part obligation, part unfamiliarity with a country that is now majoritarian investor-class. What if an employer tells his company to invest in their place of work because "the goal is to make you rich by the time you retire, even if you are having so much fun that you want to keep on working"? He knows something, and the congressman should listen closely.

Michael Ubaldi, August 27, 2007.

The Democratic Party tenders another weird first, and it is the candidate's wife as campaign associate and chief spokesman. Michelle Obama is thought to have most recently disparaged Hillary Clinton, herself a target of Elizabeth Edwards, who has made oblique comments about the other two — and all this when only one of the three women is running for president.

Exchanges are in a leftist dialect and symptomatic of the anxiety that favored class membership still produces among Democrats. One reads that Edwards regretted that "We can't make John black and we can't make him a woman," presumably because her husband's character and policies will be tertiary to caucus voters; and elsewhere maintained "sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues," as if men make inferior obstetricians or family counselors, or that the 19th Amendment passed for state legislators' fear of returning home and being sent straight to the doghouse.

Midway through this month, Michelle Obama was convulsed with the political current. "We're still playing around with the question: Is he black enough?" Well, OK, that standard is, as Obama put it, "nonsense," but the physical attribute is on the left a cultural and metaphysical affiliation, ones with which the Illinois senator has openly aligned. Being invoiced as the black patron of a taxi driver? Barack explained to Paula Zahn that "there's nothing wrong with that, and I'm not ashamed of that." Chatting with Robin Roberts in May, Mrs. Obama did so as a member of "the black community." But if the Obamas are financially and professionally exemplary, and of broad heritage, while most black Americans aren't, what do they share with the rest of that "community" but skin color? In its modern usage, the word "racist" tends to mean "bad," rather than "applying race as a primary determinant of traits or capacities" — and a crucial metric of individual worth is lost.

So last week, Michelle Obama leveled a charge aimed at nobody in particular, though process of elimination left only the Clintons. Back to malfeasance in the Lincoln Bedroom and Oval Office? Could be, with several months to go. Democrats are entwined with politics of artifice, in their own little world, and it bemuses to watch, which is natural to tragedy.

Michael Ubaldi, August 22, 2007.

Urgency in language works only when that to which attention may be directed is imminent and veritable. Legislative moves — one in June, another in July — to rescind the war-making authority exercised by President Bush in Iraq were founded, ostensibly, on political acknowledgment of a public dissatisfied with news from the front. On the cusp of August and September, official and independent reports tell of an enemy breaking (there goes veritableness) and a liberal Iraqi state showing promise with continued support (followed by imminence). One, two, three, five, ten and more opponents of White House policy, most of them Democrats, are speaking very differently than they had been.

Qualification: they are trying. With repudiation of the Iraqi campaign left in a wake months or years long, Washington's more massive personalities are turning clumsily; Senator Hillary Clinton, for one, with the familiar grace of a battleship. The presidential runner and her staff aren't throwing out old speeches but reworking them, and the integration is so far mishmash.

On the offensive of General David Petraeus? Yes, agreed the senator, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, "in some areas, particularly in al Anbar province, it's working." So the mercurial terrorist can be outsmarted and, as gains accumulate, defeated strategically? Yes, but Mrs. Clinton, through her words, stepped forward in time and turned to face her audience years from now. "We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." Her answer to that didactic need was bureaucratic, rather than historic, as if a soldier ever learned how to beat an unfamiliar adversary in any way other than by engaging him. And mission fulfillment? For the troops, "I think the best way of honoring their service is by beginning to bring them home."

After proposing retreat from a campaign that looks favorable, Clinton's meditation was that foreigners "have to want to be on our side." Where the departure of American forces has allowed gangs to retake towns and villages, if there is malefaction after a President Clinton has withdrawn the military, why, the senator thought a deserted Iraqi must choose "to say nothing or maybe to tell somebody."

The balance between the hardened political left and the public is not easy. Popular opinion recognizes that it is many times preferable to have a prime minister and his parliament trying their best impression of hard-times India than a Godfather and his demented sons play-acting the reign of Joseph Stalin. In a decade, the only fact relating to Iraq mattering at all to nine-tenths of the population will be that the United States won. So Clinton, and others, want to zig and zag.

Michael Ubaldi, August 20, 2007.

President Bush gave the press a made-you-look moment when, a couple of Thursdays ago, he was interpreted by a Washington Post reporter to foresee corporate tax rates lowered between now and the day he leaves office. Places where the word "corporate" is a dysphemism and "tax" a compliment issued warnings against any such thing. Before a cause could be organized the president corrected the Post's account. "[W]hat we'd really be talking about," Bush said, "is a simplification of a very complex tax code that might be able to lower rates and at the same time simplify the code." Of course, "might" is read by the mistrustful as "most certainly will," but again, a Democratic legislature should make unnecessary any marches and sit-ins for the sake of federal confiscation.

Former senator Fred Thompson, who appears poised to win his campaign for assuredness to run for president, spoke, according to columnist David Broder, the kinds of words that are not meant to accompany numbers. Thompson claimed that the balance of elected officials and all candidates prescribe "status quo," insofar as "Republicans say keep the tax cuts; Democrats say keep the entitlements." He did, like George Bush, call tax law "an unholy mess," but he did not identify the state's takings from business as too much. That Thompson was thought by Broder to be forthright is more about Broder's leanings than anything else, because when figures are lined up, the angle of the senator's populism swings away from what is.

The United States government snatches up as much as 35 percent of a corporation's taxable monies — five percent more than do the Australians, and the stubborn statists in England. The rate is double that of Hong Kong, still arguably the best place in the world to do business; it is slightly less and slightly more than twice the respective rates of Singapore and Ireland. If Fred Thompson inveighs against the American citizen and taxpayer "getting a free ride," does he believe, too, that Singaporeans are living the life of Riley?

Assumptions on two questions keep the political class in darkness: 1) where the country's antediluvian fiscal policy stands with the rest of the productive world; 2) how magisterially high corporate taxes diminish the market and, yes, Washington's revenue.

Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2007.

A study of Brian Eno's discography entails sorting through tight competition for the British musician-producer's most influential album: good luck. Entering hereabout was a loan from the library, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, produced and released by Eno, and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, in 1981.

Eno, in 1979, several solo works after his retirement as oddest member of the equivalently flamboyant art-band Roxy Music, began a search for "music where music wasn't supposed to have been." He was taping radio broadcasters and other forms of speech, then putting the excerpts to music. Byrne soon joined the project and, according to the pair's enthusiastic distractions, Bush of Ghosts was — as Byrne reflected in 2005 — conceived first as "an imaginary culture," then a sort of futurist dance record. When finished, the album was comprised of eleven tracks, each song cradling samples of the human voice, taken from mass media and introduced, without the aid of sequencing electronics, "by trial and error." Rhythms and instrumentation were of African music, both from mother continent and New World.

What does it sound like? Danceable; deceptively of traditional culture, since the two used "cardboard boxes for kick drums, biscuit tins as snare drums"; busy in some moments, but prudently so; and then in other moments, accompaniment suitable for driving late at night.

The album, which was re-mastered for a 2006 edition of 18 tracks, is credited by one retrospective with having inspired "hundreds of artists in genres ranging from DJs to alternative to electronic." Bush of Ghosts is indeed excellent, with all of Eno's eclecticism and few of his pensive inconsistencies — a rare omnibus record, not a more typical curious, uneven pastiche. But it isn't well-known, nor are examples of its influence conspicuous in either pop or rock as are others, so while it predates the sampling era, the album can't be thought of as seminal. It may even be too unusual for the wide appeal demanded by a masterpiece, such as Eno's 1978 Music for Airports.

For the musician, it is instructive — and thanks to associates of Eno and Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is now heuristic. A website, "in keeping with the original spirit" of the album, provides, to anyone interested, every contributive track for two of the record's songs. They can be used in new creative works. Take and give back: a showcase of third-party mixes is right up front.

A brief review of that, however, exposes the poverty of today's avant-garde. Here Eno and Byrne named their album after a grotesque novel by the Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola — which was in fact about ghosts and bushes — whereas the title connoted, for a couple of entrants, the sitting president of the United States. Tiny imaginations discern only a conspiracy. It could be worse, as for some the word triggers coprolalia.

That's the bad news. One can, easily enough, just listen to Eno and Byrne.

Michael Ubaldi, August 13, 2007.

What to make of it? All soldiers' talk is difficult to believe, goes the proposition, and some truths are just as incredible, thus there is some truth to soldiers' talk. The general experience, cultural impressions, corroborate. But the conclusion does not logically follow the premises, which is why validity ever demands proof.

Exhibit A is one Army private who has gotten himself into a lot of trouble. He deployed to Iraq within the last year and, from his post, submitted to leftward magazine The New Republic a series of accounts, since abbreviated, from time on duty. The private's articles were lurid and derogatory of men in war, written in a narrative conscious of that and contrived to ensure readers were, too. The private's articles were also false, according to a statement from the military — and dozens of refutations from communities of readers and some journalists on the right who as a group prompted the Army's investigation.

The soldier's game should have ended at a retraction from The New Republic. Instead the published tales are an introduction to a larger story, as The New Republic, along with a diffuse part of the left, haven't disavowed the fictionist, while sounding less and less concessionary to fact than a goodness of fit. Disapprobation of the military, when one listens in, sharply moves from broad epithets to ambiguous charges of atrocities; probably because the view of the former is preconditioned by certitude in the latter. One of the private's stories told of drivers of tracked vehicles habitually chasing down stray dogs. No one familiar with the vehicles, or the relationships of the men inside them, says it could have been possible as described. And from the direction of the left slides this: worse acts have been carried out, so why not a few dead dogs?

Exhibit B is an Iraqi interpreter whom embedded reporter Michael Totten interviewed two weeks ago. In a leading photograph the native, "Hammer," is wrapped up like the Invisible Man, all the better to conceal his identity from those who would kill him for wanting to live like a Westerner. Totten asks Hammer two basic questions: What was life like? and What has life been like? Hammer speaks floridly, and with his recitation of crimes — first Saddam's, then those of the new state's enemies — sounds cagey. A well-meaning tramp? He goes roundabout, and some abominations are detailed.

Held to the same standard as the private's pulp, Hammer's individual claims are without evidence, and so it should be conceded when a doubter asserts it. But such is done by ignoring the categorical differences between the American military and the natures of the Hussein regime, al Qaeda and the Mahdi gangs; all three to which violence and cruelty are essential, the organizations' agents having institutionally recorded torture and murder.

Further clarification is unnecessary: the respective environments of Exhibits A and B are in patently separate classes. The New Republic hasn't budged in deference to this, however, because its editors seem to believe that A and B aren't so far apart. The thrust of the articles, after all, was the ethical miasma, the dehumanization, of armed conflict. If so, The New Republic may not be temporizing to protect employments but to preserve a wartime mythos, which in popular culture abounds. Most heartbreaking is that the private may have made it all up because he couldn't find in war exactly what he wanted, and so tried to novelize the last quarter-century's revisionist cinema, the kind of emulation induced by historical pornography.

Michael Ubaldi, August 10, 2007.

Bridge 9340 may have been architecturally flawed from the drafting board and if so, Minnesota's state bridge engineer offered, would lead to the question of "why the bridge stood for 40 years before collapsing." But such a line of reasoning is invisible to the theology of Congress, which holds that in Washington, D.C., all things are possible unless that prepotent, bursarial hand can be obstructed.

Senator Harry Reid, a believer, began the night of the accident, saying that a stubborn president slowed funding to civil construction. Members of Reid's party insinuated that appropriations could have been spent on the Mississippi River bridge only a week or two before, if not for the prospect of a captious White House veto.

From the bosom of federal embonpoint of their own helping, legislators denounce the one man in Washington for whom spending is not constitutional prerogative — as cheap. President Bush could have responded in many ways. What, after his signature, would the bridge have been reinforced by churning c-notes into a special portland cement? He chose practicality: "if rebuilding bridges is that big a priority," then spend it on that, "as opposed to helping individual congressman or senators realize pet projects in their districts." As if it were Washington's responsibility? The state of Minnesota maintained the bridge, and as any other, mostly through its own transportation budget.

Abetting the Democratic charge were newspaper headlines reporting 70,000 bridges in the United States earning a certain black mark from the Federal Highway Administration. Seventy thousand! — until one realizes that even bureaucracies close bridges and roads that are unsafe. And, too, that there are over 500,000 bridges in the country, very few the size of Bridge 9340, almost half of them locally owned; and, if the temptation to blame the president lingers, that in 1992, black marks went to 118,000 bridges.

One benefit to taking "what the good Lord gives you," as a gentle handyman once smiled to me, is a lessening of man's capacity for awesome feats making the perfect into an enemy of the in-any-way sensible. The least we can be thankful for is that the horrible event has not caused hallucinogenic trials of whichever public official can be trussed the most easily, as did the flooding of New Orleans.

Michael Ubaldi, August 6, 2007.

The magazine of my alma mater, Syracuse University, arrived in the mail last Wednesday. Its jacket, typically glossy, was for this issue a pleasing, roughly textured matte, perhaps intended to conciliate alumni like myself who — uninterested in reading about the school's banal leftism — seldom get past the cover before throwing the periodical out.

I thumbed the last few pages of collegial announcements, then looked at content. One page featured a West Bank tour by an SI Newhouse School of Public Communications photojournalism graduate. Beneath an artful print of two little girls tripping through the same interstice in Israel's security barrier a terrorist bomber would, the alumnus described the town of Qalqilyah as "encircled" by the barrier and therefore "at the mercy of the Israeli government," a quotation accompanied by the editors' relation that the locality was "thriving farmland, now devastated."

The girdling of Qalqilyah is actual. Justification for such a thing, of course, is lost in the other two oblique phrases. Removed is the town's anchorage in the Islamist gang war and the extrusive danger therefrom.

Can Israel's government be blamed for defense of a state that is itself surrounded? Jerusalem has lately been provisioning foodstuffs to Gaza residents after the region's usurpation by Hamas. Also, indirectly, condoning the civilian use of "organic eggs, corn, mango, tomatoes and other vegetables" as projectiles — delectably ripe return-fire to terrorists' rockets launched at the Jewish city of Sderot. Mercy, indeed.

Michael Ubaldi, August 1, 2007.

As we purpose to make right, we may need to reconcile our neighbor Democrats.

Good news from Iraq is sustained, on top of which comes better news. Parties, mostly leftward, with every incentive not to reverse their disapproving stances, are turning around. Headlines started to echo what soldiers have repeated — enough time and the enemy can be outwitted, outmaneuvered and beaten. Monday, a pair of academics leaned back towards confidence by calling the Iraqi front "a war we might just win," even against impatience; in the New York Times, no less. On television, journalists acknowledged that Baghdad's government can, if it is allowed by a lengthened American mission, toddle in the direction of liberal sovereignty.

If the enemy loses Iraq, whatever remains among Islamist and Arabist terrorists will be forced to eat years of rodomontade, conceding a democratizing state where once ruled the world's second-worst tyrant. That will ease staunching of the Near East's current effluence and, through reform, preventing any more. A lot of totalists who aren't religiose maniacs might give up the ghost, having witnessed the basest criminals on earth failing first to knock the free world over, and then unable to outlast it.

Then there is the Democratic Party, caught unprepared by circumstances. Spoiled after a smooth couple of seasons? Probably, since members are still insisting that what is over there isn't. Once victory has existential import, verifying Iraq as a place that must be by Congress' own arguments won, Democrats — if they are unwilling to ally with the president — can only push further, and propose to cede every front, as some caucuses on the edge already have. Those are actions realized in the most distracted American mind as reckless. In the politician's mind, electoral non-starters whatever the national mood.

Reported from Capitol Hill, fair winds are, for the opposition, "a real big problem." Leftists, Democrats, want to resume support for the Iraqi campaign? Let them. One corollary: political repatriates must, to sincerely accredit trials and success, swear off partisan antipathy of George Bush.

Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2007.

Rudy Giuliani ascendant, efforts to run the former mayor's skeletons to ground are underway. Last week, a commentator on the left found the reel of a speech Giuliani gave at a rally, the fall before the 1993 New York mayoral race.

In the carefully edited twenty-five seconds of film we see Giuliani behind a podium, much younger and quite different from his appearance today. He is dressed for an office but as an adjunct, not management: light button-down shirt and tie, large and blocky spectacles, receding hair casually swept across. Rudy Giuliani is an unlikely empire's potentate. He looks staid. He isn't angry, but is, with a raised voice, midway through a rebuke of then-mayor David Dinkins.

"The mayor doesn't know why the morale of the New York City Police Department is so low," Giuliani says into the microphone. Cut to protesters marching, voiceover: "He blames it on me, he blames it on you" — cut to Giuliani, quick zoom as the man shouts, "bull——!"

The sight of today's leading Republican presidential candidate "unhinged," suggested the presenter, might weaken Giuliani's bid to "win the support of GOP 'values voters.'" Has he — have those in agreement — ever watched a stem-winder, or heard men talking roughly? How, on a New York street, could the word in question surprise, let alone offend? Were Giuliani censuring, from the left, a Republican reputedly laying city hall's bad fortunes on the force, not a single facet of the performance could be judged as heterodox to a tradition the last century gave the country almost to surfeit, speaking truth to power.

Least implausible is that Giuliani physically resembles William Foster from the movie Falling Down but even then, Michael Douglas' protagonist did something of a wry public good with his blunt-force vigilantism. The intense reformer is ever a sympathetic character, and Rudy, who was simply using words, has had voters value them highly.

Michael Ubaldi, July 25, 2007.

In June I registered a creative work with the United States Copyright Office. Amid the submission instructions was a sentence in italics — "Please note that our mail service is severely disrupted" — followed by, in parentheses, a pointer to an explanation. Mail sent to an address on Capitol Hill, read the notice, undergoes screening that can take as long as a business week.

Three to five days? These pains bring one to ponder whence and whither. I went back five years, the detriment of anthrax in letters having long been out of mind. An associated memory from the time was of grumbling over the many burdensome searches in airports, each new complication intended to prevent the last clever trick pulled by a terrorist or other lunatic.

Traveling by airplane two months ago, I witnessed a dramatization of the argument in favor of profiling before the boarding gate. A man in his seventies was lifted from his wheelchair and bundled by two Transportation Security Administration workers through the metal-detection arch. There is a man or woman at the bureau, expecting disgrace if the one slipping past the checkpoint brings down a flight, who will maintain that if the elderly can lose their pension to a con man they can be a terrorist's dupe. But we still inquire, mostly seriously: Had the security department supposed a man of this age and infirmity might seize the steward's cart, roll up the aisle while bombarding the cockpit door with bags of peanuts, proclaiming himself the great-great-great grandson of King Philip's siege engine, Bad Neighbor?

Unless we find undisputed evidence that everyday people can be matriculated into a study of how to destroy innocents, hundreds or thousands at a time, arguments supporting the offensive removal of those already tenured in such clandestine schools remains valid. Our vulnerability is less of a lack of "security" than a count of the many openings attendant to living free. How many loopholes do we wish to close?

Michael Ubaldi, July 23, 2007.

Could it be that Osama bin Laden absconded from life altogether? Following an early July videotape of Ayman al-Zawahiri, a message from the Saudi terrorist was snatched by allied intelligence. There is no surprise in al Qaeda agitprop continuing to emerge, nor one in the age of footage of the old man suggesting bin Laden is long deceased. What does astonish is the fixation of Washington's political class on one whose significance in either world events or the organization he founded has diminished by any metric. Dead or alive, pseudo-religious fascists from the Philippines to Birmingham, England get along fine without Osama.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate details the persistence, if not the recrudescence, of al Qaeda, particularly in rugged, southwest Asian middles of nowhere. Well, whatever the setbacks in Pakistan's frontier — or those in Afghanistan's — every fair-weather salient towards Kabul attempted by the Taliban and al Qaeda for the past six years has been either turned away or smashed. Al Qaeda's mythology has been countervailed by four, going on five years of the gruesome killing of Arabs and Muslims trying to instate civil order with fair and regular elections.

The Bush administration, which these days jumps if the opposition says Boo, is yet lucid and confident about the difference between celebrity and centrality. Where did, say, the Islamists in Tehran come up with their fashion of totalism? Not a Saudi millionaire's boy gone bad. Who do most Democrats demand "be found"? Osama bin Laden. It makes you wonder when one's case for victory in war rests on chasing after a very likely dead man.

Michael Ubaldi, July 20, 2007.

Printed in the London Times last fortnight, the words of Pius Ncube, archbishop of Bulawayo: "I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe," meaning the vampiric despot Robert Mugabe. "We should do it ourselves but there's too much fear. I'm ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready."

Four years ago Ncube's fellows used a neologistic verb, "to Saddam" — as in, "Mister Bush, please Saddam us" — while begging to be pulled from the nightmare of the former Southern Rhodesia. As a dictator, Robert Mugabe is in his own class of paltriness, insisting that the skeletal Zimbabwe is still his kingdom. In retaliation for, or perhaps in spite of, the Catholic leader's clarion, Mugabe reportedly muttered about the clergy and chastity, then singled out Ncube himself.

What with Zimbabwe's rotted judiciary, a civil suit from a man accusing Ncube of cuckolding him should have been only a slight impediment. But a week later, the archbishop wouldn't accept the quotation in the Times.

"Any intervention should build," said Ncube on July 10th, inanely, "on support of the region and the negotiations they are engaged in." Wait for the African Union to force Mugabe into a fair election, he resolved — on the order of proposing, Wait for Mugabe's distant cousins to tell the old crook to ease up some.

We do not know, at this hour, if the archbishop was refuting or recanting. Nor are the adultery charges, however convenient for Mugabe, necessarily contrived. And while a fallen man can still do good he does in willful sin, whether serving God or the world, less than he might. Mugabe will terrorize and starve people in the meantime. If the Times story was true, here is some friendly counsel to Pius Ncube: responsible civilian and military commanders will not, with the intention of deposing a brutish kleptocracy, commit soldiers who have each been issued a semi-automatic good intention.

Michael Ubaldi, July 18, 2007.

The national conversation on war has turned acrimonious, and contributors at National Review are at it again, depreciating liberal reform in an attempt to tighten up their arguments against the left. Beware: opposition to the so-called "theology of freedom" — the axiom stating liberty's universality — is relativistic and deterministic at its base, and simply an expedient.

If Arab Muslims, goes the line of reasoning, a) have managed this long without democracy, b) must they, then, have done it partly out of a preference for order over freedom, and c) furthermore, if state media over there broadcasts public apologia for whatever inhumanity has carried on in the odd police state, can't this be d) evidence of a culture impermeable to Western assertions of dignity and individuality? Conclusion: leave them to their savagism.

First, one can draw a parallel between governance in predominantly Muslim areas of the world and those in the Christian world half a millennium ago. Thrust aside romanticism, and medieval Europe was ruled by gangsters — incapable of the volume and precision of the Near Eastern brand of barbarity only because it was the metal age. The church of Jesus Christ was once subordinate to totalism and its abominations; Islam is lifted for the dissimulation of another violent criminality, but it is thus today. The Bosphorus is a kind of temporal chasm a naturalist might delineate as he stumbles across an immaculate aboriginal tribe.

Second, inheritance is not inherence. People born into a society can, in movements, be separated from it. Claims that "Muslims are this way" conflate Near Eastern societies with the people in them. "Culture matters," finishes editor Rich Lowry, "and that's something Bush is very reluctant to acknowledge." But culture, Mr. Lowry, only matters while it is left intact. Where are the Teutonic, Latin, samurai cultures that led to martial radicalism in the industrial age? Gone, effaced, by the occupations and exhortations of democratists.

Michael Ubaldi, July 17, 2007.

Here and there, Republicans are moody, disconsolate, resentful. The not-very-happy are led by immigration fetishists, so unrelenting for an absolute remedy to Mexican illegal aliens — and incensed that George Bush, as pledged in 2000, governs contra — that they have in numbers threatened to leave the party, disavow the president and by consequence permit Democrats the White House and Congress. Wartime national security would be traded for vindication, while the new immigration policy thrown in would be Mr. Bush's times two, without the reservations — and these disgruntled rightists could get even madder.

Peggy Noonan, who went on sabbatical in 2004 to assist the president's reelection campaign, signed off on what, in the Wall Street Journal last Friday, read like a discursive letter on fraternal ennui does before simplification, by the editors of Dear Abby, to an intelligible five sentences. No more about "great relief to see there are actually a number of little fish like you, trying hard to swim upstream" athwart "left-liberalism reigns." Ms. Noonan notices that President Bush "doesn't seem to be suffering" from second-term disappointments. She finds "the seemingly effortless high spirits," the equanimity, "jarring."

Such are explosions of passion. Those waylaid by creation's great check on rational thought have forgotten, or simply ignore, rules of political geography: if a president acts, it may be that Jane happens to approve yet Missy does not; and then the other way around tomorrow. This is not politics but the disparate opinions of two or more people. If Missy or Jane react to disagreements with a furor, the deduction is: they want a sweetheart, not a statesman, and once they get it, will be mercurial as any lover.

Segments of the Republican base aren't pleased at a number of officeholders for many good reasons. But a lot construe idle congressmen or senators as more than figures of synecdoche, demanding that the whole party go.

How to deny re-election to Senator Chuck Hagel, knowing that Rhode Island elected a man even more recalcitrant than Lincoln Chafee? Or to Senator George Voinovich, after a double-take of Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown? Nebraska's attorney general, Jon Bruning, is preparing for a primary challenge to Hagel. Bruning relays that "Al-Qaeda has declared Iraq a major front in their global campaign," and as for Baghdad's government, "Benchmarks may be established to measure progress and develop strategic goals but should not be used as a part of a timeline to force an early surrender" — none of which you will ever hear Hagel say. He's pretty good on borders and taxes, too.

Jon Bruning is to Hagel as Stephen Laffey was to Chafee, and Pat Toomey was to Arlen Specter. Are malcontents serious about applying pressure to Republican points of leverage? Or are they in a rage, and can't think straight?

Michael Ubaldi, July 13, 2007.

Did the Danish National Space Center's Henrik Svensmark realize that peer recognition would be the laying of hounds on him?

"I simply thought," Svensmark confessed in an interview with Discover magazine, that causality between the sun and climate "would be very interesting, and I certainly had no idea it would be viewed as so controversial." The physicist hypothesizes that temperatures and weather respond to changes in cloud activity caused by levels at which Sol's irradiation disrupts "energetic particles coming from the interstellar media." Calling the intercalated agency "cosmic rays," Svensmark conducted a recent experiment with air, ionization, ultraviolet lamps and a skylight.

What did he learn? That which parties responsible for declamations of "global warming" — recently criticized by J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green, authors of methods in scientific prediction, for substituting consistency for verity — haven't borne in mind. First, results of the experiment corroborated Svensmark's theories, but introduced many more questions that Svensmark intends to study before accosting bodies politic and public. Second, there is still the robust possibility that since, shrugs Svenmark, "we can't predict the sun...we couldn't do anything about it."

And the brain trust at the United Nations spurned Svensmark's work as "extremely naive and irresponsible." Humanists are the unlikely disparagers of Copernican reasoning. Sun, moon, stars — all removed from the account of Earth as a cynosure, Man as a tragic figure. Would that a vis-a-vis meeting with outer space return awe and modesty to scientific discourse. Considering how clarity still eludes us, somebody might impute cosmic marvels to the mephitic contrails of our rocket ships.

Michael Ubaldi, July 11, 2007.

At noontime yesterday came the revelation of departures from John McCain's presidential campaign executive staff and its implication for the senator's middling run. The pundit class would be innervated again by a Senate television feed broadcasting a temperamental scene, that of McCain making his first open statements about Iraq since his last visit, by chastising Barbara Boxer. "A lot of us are driven by principle," reads the transcript. "And a lot of us do what we think is right no matter what the polls say."

Estimates on the political wires put the Democratic Party's next interjection of war policy just days or weeks from now. Public dismay surely encourages this, though neither shows defeatism to be politically scandent nor materially observant. Two months of reported gains across Iraq culminated in Ayman al-Zawahiri's remote admission that the front is crucial to al Qaeda. As the New York Post suggested yesterday, all it takes is one man named David Petraeus to substantiate his command's bearing as the object of victory, and request more for soldiers and their mission, to force opposition caucuses into an abandonment not only of the commander-in-chief but American servicemen, too.

What if pessimism can no longer be sustained? The support of a fourth or a third of the country could be in play. If the president is not to which the disaffected could return, he can move stepwise: Your friends and loved ones, under a sterling generalship, have won this campaign. And in characteristic self-deprecation, add, This was always and obviously right and possible — even to me.

Americans will follow the first statesman credible enough to assume leadership in this, the war on Third World fascism. John McCain continued through published remarks — "We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat," he warned — and set the example of a man, dimly prospective for nomination, looking further and higher. Republican presidential contenders in manifest solidarity on the war, behind George Bush, would serve interests of both the one and the whole. Nothing can be had if Iraq and the Near East are lost.

Michael Ubaldi, July 9, 2007.

That the president so preoccupies the disputative passions of the other party makes him, for antagonists, a cincture. Ted Sorensen, aide and counsel to John F. Kennedy, responded ten days ago to an invitation for a Democratic president's January 2008 inaugural address. Had Sorensen penned the same theme for January 1961, President Kennedy would not have offered his "welcome" to "defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger," or the cadence of obligation to "the survival and success of liberty." He rather would have promised to renounce the Eisenhower doctrine, demolish interstate highways, and retract the conferment of statehood to Hawaii and Alaska. Leftists, noted Jonah Goldberg, "get hung up on George W. Bush's mistakes."

Political fortune can swing on the rejection and demise of opposing movements and their leaders, but seldom does unpopularity alone usher in a paradigm. If majorities in the House and Senate had been delivered by the electorate along with a reformative mandate, Congressional approval would not be dropping below twenty-five percent.

Other polls imply where George Bush's detractors could be left behind. A March survey had less than half of respondents rating the president as trustworthy — roughly 45 percent — and the Associated Press noted the declension as a "collapse in the character test." Probity has long been Mr. Bush's saving grace, and yes, its perception is weakened. But rating in the forties after four years of rebukes in which the word "lie" figured first or second means otherwise when President Clinton, in his seventh year, scored about double in job approval — almost 70 percent — while having the trust of one out of four people. In a poll last Thursday, Bill Clinton's favor rested under seven executive peers, just above Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

A friend who voted against the president after working on John Kerry's campaign assured that he didn't "think Bush is a bad man." National expressions corroborate that still, so George Bush may leave partisans with a retiree whom, flaws or failures, Americans find hard to dislike. It is not inconceivable that he will make the quickest transition from beleaguered politician to revered emeritus since Harry Truman.

Michael Ubaldi, July 2, 2007.

Troubles persist at the peace-processing plant. One and one half decades ago Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was taken at his selectively public word that but for Israeli garrisons, he and his Arab fellows would have independence, nationalism, civility — and detente with the Jewish state beside them.

The effort to rehabilitate terrorists and turn a gangster into a gentlemen was supplied with manpower, resources, and nominal demands of conduct and governance. To Yasser Arafat, of course, one step closer to his patrons' definition of peace was his apprehension of the end of Israel. Western patience became extenuation, and then indiscrimination. The domain comprised of the Palestinian territories was to be the first state built on the cusp of the fanciful "end of history," and instead rose up as an industrial monument to antisemitism. Following the violent takeover of Gaza by Iranian proxy Hamas, it is now a staging ground for total war against American interests and allies.

Arafat is dead; his deranged beliefs still dwell. From Washington, the word is that calls for any reckoning are importunate: confidence in anyone but Arafat's protége is too much worry, and, too, the supplementary guns have already shipped out. Were President Bush to have the political strength or will, he might think about methods used to piece together neighborhoods, then societies, of good men — as accomplished in Mosul, Ramadi, and Tal Afar. American troops would move into the Palestinian slums and kill or capture every man who serves Fatah or Hamas. Then they would establish and safeguard a parliament attended by bookkeepers, streetsweepers, greengrocers, and all other manner of the mistreated, deluded people who have known the forced choice between one thug and another thug first as righteousness and then as democracy.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, our forces and those governing in Ramallah would be under exceptional assault by the opponents of liberalism, but then, whither Oslo? For the greatest chance for peace in Palestine now: send in the Marines.

Michael Ubaldi, June 29, 2007.

Twenty minutes before last Friday's departure from Charlotte to Cleveland, I made an observance as part of my irregular flying tradition — stepping into a nearby bookstore to purchase a copy of Discover magazine.

Cover story: "Science and Islam." In it Zaghloul El-Naggar, an Egyptian geologist and Islamist, establishes the theme through a series of statements. First, that a Muslim's practice of the scientific method is spiritually licit; second, that Western modernity has caused the Near East's degradation; four pages on, that the human archetype, Adam, is authenticated in the academy, rather than the mosque, by the word of Mohammed. "What proof?" asks the reporter. "It's written," answers El-Naggar, "in the Koran."

A Tunisian geneticist, next page, complains of difficulties in her obstetric exposition to people living under sharia mores, "giving them bad news that may also go against what they believe." Implication is clarified by the comparatively liberal brother of the dictator of Jordan, El Hassan bin Talal. "Are we talking Islam or Islamism?" He says that when the Ottomans fell and the empire was shattered, "we shifted to being dogmatic," and grew benighted.

The error to commit, turning from the last page of the article, is to regard religion with secular determinism, look at Europe half a millennium aforehand and perceive causation between the wane of the church and the wax of worldly knowledge. Fathers of Islamism — El-Banna, Qutb, Mawdudi, scholars and not holy men — wrote doctrine sharing the most with the twentieth century's implacable collectivism. Provisions of the Prophet's teachings were mostly decorative.

A contemporary obtrusion, something titled "post-normal science," is borrowed in the apologetics for curtailing industry, subduing consumers and even driving out unbelievers literally as "Holocaust deniers," all on the suspicion that every year — especially if July really heats up — is the last before climatic doomsday. It is tendered by one of its authors because "the traditional 'normal' scientific mind-set fosters expectations of regularity, simplicity and certainty in the phenomena and in our interventions. But these can inhibit the growth of our understanding of the new problems and of appropriate methods for their solution." Translated: science is a drag on the revolutionary force.

There is not a trace of religiosity in this new crusade. So, we look more closely, and — matching fingerprints on Islamist and militant environmentalist white papers are from the hoary hands of the totalitarian.

Michael Ubaldi, June 27, 2007.

One week ago, the Tribune-Chronicle reported a third and fourth appointee to the office of the Ohio Attorney General whose acquaintance with state counsel Marc Dann appeared more personal than professional. Advice to demur in a letter to the editor would not have been apt for the message Dann twice delivered to the filing reporter a day later, inasmuch as it is unprintable.

Appointment One was of a Youngstown detective sergeant, dismissed over a remunerative impropriety; Appointment Two, the editor of a small newspaper once employing Dann's wife, as yet sustained. Appointment Three is of the wife-to-be of a political contributor, and Appointment Four is the one whose journalistic mention prompted Dann's cursing and, according to a press secretary, resolution on having rightly paid in kind by "responding as a father."

The attorney general's relationship with Mavilya Chubarova is reportedly one of guardianship; Chubarova recently graduated with a bachelor's of fine arts and occupied both a creative and associative position in Dann's campaign last year. Working for the state, under Dann, she will earn the salary of a beginning schoolteacher.

There is nepotism and there is jobbery, and then there is employing relations because, when an elected official chooses on a basis of qualifications and character, they are the first to come to mind. Can Chubarova manage an executive role in the communications department? The present author, as one who holds a B.F.A. and went to work six years ago for someone he knew quite well, would commit that deliberation to the province of enterprise.

It's Attorney General Dann who can confirm that "constituent coordination" is not a sinecure. He could also explain the ferocious anger in having to clarify what, we are to assume he believes, was a commensurate hire.

Michael Ubaldi, June 25, 2007.

The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, may run for president, and former White House political director Ed Rollins, writing in Sunday's Washington Post, thinks that could "turn out to be a good thing for American democracy." Rollins, to show us why, engages in good-natured sophistry; as former Republican administration officials do when they are convinced that Ronald Reagan's political heir presumptive is someone to the left of Walter Mondale.

Why Bloomberg? Rollins begins factually. The mayor is, indisputably, serving a second term. And? He enjoys wide public approval that, when he was still a Republican, was given strongly by opposition voters. And? He is "one of the least ideological." Here Rollins infers, wrongly, that an independent registration implies pragmatism. If "unaffiliated" does not mean "indifferent," a very deliberate choice has been made. Ideologues eschew parties precisely because they interrupt the flow from notion to policy.

Speaking of beliefs, Rollins attempts a convertend: a favorite axiom of the fortieth president's into one of the would-be forty-fourth's. "There is no limit to what a man can accomplish," Reagan espoused, "if he doesn't care who gets the credit," and that speaks to civic and personal humility. Bloomberg says, "Working together, there's no limit to what we can do," which could mean stock options for a five-year contract and a non-disclosure agreement. Similar statements, suggests Rollins — well, at least they are homophonic.

Mayor Bloomberg's watchword is "control." He has raised taxes and allowed city hall to promulgate so restrictively that statutes include the expunging, from food, of a certain type of grease. The actor minimized government; the entrepreneur exalts it to a desideratum. "An energizer, a force that gives other unaffiliated and justifiably frustrated citizens a candidate to support" — for what, the liquidation of those frustrating, consecutive daily choices?

Another quality Rollins attributes to Bloomberg is that Bloomberg isn't H. Ross Perot. Now, Perot would have treated the United States like a miniskirted stenographer, yes, but Bloomberg's misconception would simply be different. Based on his own tenure, the mayor should run the country like an apartment: payment on first of month, approved furniture and appliances on premises, two cats maximum. On that, we have no guarantee that Landlord Bloomberg will allow rent control.

Michael Ubaldi, June 15, 2007.

Where were you when Senator Harry Reid derogated the war effort? Depending on how busy you are, several different places.

There was the time Reid assumed that because a commander-in-chief is not above reproach he is liable to calumny, and called President Bush a "loser." In April, the senator personally conceded Iraq to Syria, Iran and all of the resident enemy. On Wednesday, Reid was one signatory of a letter denying the credibility of both General David Petraeus and the Gregorian calendar, asserting the failure of an Iraqi counterterrorist strategy that a) could not be evaluated before autumn, especially since b) it is actually producing tactical successes. The day before, it was reported, Reid said that he called another general, Peter Pace, an "incompetent" sycophant.

Asked about his latest run of expressions, Senator Reid, as he has done before, gainsaid. Strangely, a number of the leftist constituents to whom Reid spoke about Pace, who want to hear more of that stuff on Capitol Hill, claimed not to have overheard the story. Why would they fib? There isn't a good reason. It has been suggested that Reid really spoke, and no one remembers.

How? The human mind is sensitive to transience, while imperceptive to graduation. Strike a snare drum softly and then heavily: the difference is easily appreciated. Play a roll that grows louder over ten seconds or so, and listeners might be surprised by the magnitude in volume finally registering.

People know what Senator Reid said because one commentator affirmed the remark. Yet he did so with a scrupulous qualification of anything to do with President Bush or the Iraqi campaign. Indeed, "incompetent" was the word but boy, did he ever agree. Almost metrical, with "disastrous" this and "lies" that, the man's writing read like a Mad-Lib.

Unwinding from the left for four years now has been a tapestry of billingsgate. It won't be cut off soon, which is the worst that can be done to enlistees who intend to be shipped to the front; so if the rest of us continue to notice the slights and insults, we at least know we haven't too been coarsened.

Michael Ubaldi, June 13, 2007.

Invoking the Vietnam War these days mostly serves politics, and did even back when Iraq was simply a foreign country to which American troops might go. Because the memory of that campaign in southeast Asia is domiciled in reductionism and plain ignorance, it is rather easy to persuade that anything claimed about Vietnam presages what happens in Iraq; when in fact very little does, except the inhumanity and stifling that will follow American retreat, though that has occurred everywhere, from the Philippines in 1942 to Somalia in 1993.

President John Kennedy, almost fifty years ago, chose the former French colony — then ruled by the strongman Ngo Dinh Diem — as a rampart against Communist advance. Military participation, at first secret, increased gradually and was to preserve a state that wasn't totalitarian, be it despotic or otherwise, before its intended withdrawal. President George W. Bush formally and publicly sent the armed forces into Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein with a democrat after the dictator spent a decade boasting to have what wasn't allowed by his own signature, and began to show all signs of associating with those with whom he shouldn't have. But come on — on topic, the one name connotes the other.

Meanwhile, a kind of Ngo Dinh Diem is going white-knuckled over sovereignty that isn't legitimate but which he wants to keep very badly; who is a circumstantial and irksome ally of the United States; and whose northwest frontier is being swallowed up by fascist paramilitaries who lack popular support yet face no patriotic resistance, either. Therein we have Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

In March, General Musharraf defamed and ejected the chief magistrate on grounds that Musharraf is in charge of Pakistan because he says he is. An uproar followed, and protests have flecked the country in the months since, one in particular dissolving into bloody riots. If the citizenry's demands and Washington's urges prevail, there will be an executive referendum soon — an authentic one that could attract liberals from exile.

Since late 2001 Pakistan has been, for certain pragmatists, a good model for "fighting terror" without entanglement in the "distractions" that are civil society and the election of democratists. Why not do business with whomever is answering? That question was taken by the Kennedy administration to be rhetorical, though its implicit meaning would change within two years, as Henry Cabot Lodge, John Kennedy's legate, sent cable after cable elaborating on his damnation in August 1963, stating that "there is no possibility, in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administration."

A misbegotten regime is weakening under Musharraf, leaving a nation to be taken advantage of by the enemy, and all without the supposedly upsetting and occluding impositions of democracy. Forty-four years ago, Washington turned to the soldiers who had Ngo Dinh Diem and his adjutant brother executed. It cannot be argued that this careful reliance on the native idiom was prudent.

Trouble is ahead, of course. Islamabad has flirted with parliaments but the Pakistanis are encumbered by the inter-services intelligence, or ISI — which, not unlike the intra-war German army, is apart from the state and a reservoir for the will to govern by clandestinity and repression. Several political parties look and sound like al Qaeda and the Taliban, fit for Western cynics who will say that elections must include the inimical, too. Musharraf's decline nevertheless stimulates the conversation on the origins of tyranny: where exactly, violent ideologies come from and how the men who live by them can be beaten.

Michael Ubaldi, June 6, 2007.

Circannually, a good friend and I can agree, and this time it was over a bill just passed by the New York State Assembly. Legislators in Albany wish to succeed where their colleagues elsewhere in the Union repeatedly fail, and, too, without rectifying what courts rule as lapses in constitutional observance. "Dissemination of violent and indecent video games to minors," states a bill known innocuously as Number A08696, could earn one so convicted the same sentence as a rioter, or voyeur, or a bomb-hoaxer. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft would be required by law, through hardware or software, "to prevent the display of violent or indecent video games."

The two of us thought this, in my friend's words, "asinine." However ambiguous the legal definition of obscenity — a bequest of the last century's Supreme Court that set distasteful creative work within bounds of protected speech — entertainment has been fairly evaluated by the citizen, not the statesman, for decades. And the judiciary recognizes this, to say nothing of a parent's injunctive disconnection of a television set. Statutes in at least eight other states have been struck down, and yet the political class believes that it is charged to denude the social stations of those whom elected it.

If, I opined, the state senate were to pass the measure and send it to an approving Eliot Spitzer, the law might be enforceable for a day or two before a court kept it in suspension for its eventual review and rejection. My friend chose to accept the open civic invitation of his state representatives, and sent each one a reproving letter.

New York's junior United States Senator, Hillary Clinton, has stood out in front on federal regulation of video games. Unlike her fellows — such as Joe Lieberman, who is an assiduous moralist — she is categorical in her regulatory designs. As Clinton campaigns, Clinton talks, and when she does that Clinton's little wheels turn, and Clinton waxes imperious.

"Let's do some reality shows about innovation," she said the other day. "And let's have some cash prizes out there to try to get young people to start thinking that way. I've long said if we could have some have some really good programming about math students and engineers that would get people excited and, you know, they could walk around in great looking clothes and be really attractive, you know, more people — " all available transcripts imply what Clinton meant to say next, as the senator's beatitude was either complemented by applause or from that point ineffable in the senator's likely state of rapture.

The question, Why doesn't Hillary go to Hollywood? was answered before the end of March 1993. Shall H.R. Clinton's Washington command the production of edifying breakfast cereal? Probably. Hyperbole is redundant. Now, my friend would prefer to vote straight-ticket Democrat, but one has to wonder where he — or any one of the many like voters his age — is going to put his particular intolerance for bureaucratic immoderateness when it comes time to vote, for or against statism, in a primary, maybe a general election. He did not, this time, include in the mail drop a letter to Clinton's office.

Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2007.

The flagellantism of Republicans, like any proclivity, is taken to in a crisis. A president with spare authority collaborates with an eager, elder lawmaker of the opposition. They wish to change laws governing borders and immigration. Democrats have Congress. Republicans in the upper chamber work in concert with the majority and approach a final bill. In the lower chamber, the minority murmurs of trying legerdemain with rules of order, anything to stop passage.

Via radio, television, web: whom do voters on the right seek vengeance against? Their own party.

Equanimity holds at a premium. William F. Buckley, Jr. called the legislative work "a mess" — but added, "Messes are a part of democratic rule." Michael Barone admonished the effort. Polls show skepticism of the diminishing returns of "reform" of this kind, and that Americans "must be convinced first that this time border security is for real." Most other commentary is fustian and angry, as if George Bush and his phalanx were to be exiled in the tradition of Greek mythos.

David Frum spent a few days last week publishing letters. One writer, a doctor, declared that he, a member of the "active grass roots," was "leaving the Republican Party." I wrote to Frum: however understandable the frustration, where would people like this fellow go? "I think," Frum replied, "the fear is that they will be demoralized and stay home, like in 1974."

Why is immigration policy commensurate to the resignation of Richard Nixon, to a president culpable of a perversion of the rule of law? The Republican malcontent may argue that abetment of citizenship granted to intruders, however earnest, is unforgivable inasmuch as it is ideologically unsound. But if disgruntled doctors and their wives renounce volunteering and voting, and both federal and state Democratic majorities increase, won't ensuing legislation be that to which they even more strongly object?

The vexed rightist might then claim voters' prerogative to define a party, chastening whomever is remiss. Yes, but that is carried out locally, and delicately, and within the party, not by walking away from it. So in denouncing the whole party, a fraction of a fraction of the electorate may, over a single domestic issue for which it currently has no other advocates, deepen the punishment of Republicans in the meantime? Of course! is the rejoinder — after all, up from discord ascended Ronald Reagan.

Yes, but Ronald Reagan once proposed to "improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows," to wit, illegal aliens. He — how do you say? — had to compromise. This is an unfortunate opportunity: no matter what Democrats do, Republicans will fault Republicans.

Michael Ubaldi, May 23, 2007.

Retired Marine and daily commentator W. Thomas Smith, Jr. returned this week from Fort Jackson with photographs. Under an open South Carolina sky, Army recruits marched to a site furnished with instruments and obstacles, and followed drill instructors through tactical exercises. In one picture a file of young men, ungainly in accoutrement, squinting at the sun; in another, a squad inside a beige transport truck. Particularly, Smith caught a simulation at Anzio Range, "where basic-trainees learn how to fight and survive a convoy ambush." He noted that a supervisory lieutenant colonel had participated in the deposition of Saddam Hussein — little question, then, where the surprise attack might be meant to take place, and against whom.

It has come to be a performing art to renounce the Iraqi campaign or those conducting it on grounds that it has lasted this many years and claimed this many soldiers' lives because a master stroke was not delivered. Against that is a justification for Western unpreparedness in reproof: in Iraq and Afghanistan are the wars Washington refused to fight as long as it could defer, and in the thirty years after the betrayal of Saigon, neither the GI nor his commanders would have any idea as to what form the enemy assumed. Years of fighting would need to pass before apposite men were granted the proper materiel.

Widely understood is that the terrorist — the transnational criminal — cannot stand up to the modern, freeman soldier. What he does instead is deprive that soldier's army of a neat victory, and compound homefront impatience with horror through licensed and inventive killing. Existentialist traces are touched off, goodness of purpose depreciates, and pretty soon majorities consider enjoining a war, if at least to end its disappointments.

That is how the enemy intends to succeed, anyway. Americans and allies have learned much of the Eastern thug since 2001, even more since 2003. They have an eminent advantage in resources and, miraculously, martial confidence. Decaying dictatorships produce radicalism, and Iraq's outcome is pivotal in judging whether an infusion of civility can — against a centrifugal, information-age threat — be defended.

What if hardships delivered a prevailing understanding of the enemy? And the enemy realized that winning lessons in Iraq were to be shared with the Lebanese, the Israelis, the Afghans, the Pakistanis, the many besieged Africans? That adversary might work to thwart any practice of diligence.

Michael Ubaldi, May 20, 2007.

Four conclusions can be drawn from the most striking five minutes of last Tuesday's Republican presidential debate.

Congressman Ron Paul started the series of exchanges with a soliloquy on foreign affairs, using the candor that one of exceptional opinions might reserve for an invitation to dissent. It was an attempt to verbalize opinions for an audience without the same inchoate prepossessions, Paul's historical claims as peculiar in that night's setting as an excavation suddenly decompressing a tomb's relics into a downtown square. Out of the ramble came the assertion nobody standing behind a microphone liked, one which led Rudy Giuliani to disregard protocol and chide the congressman: that al Qaeda's murder is logically justified.

For his defense, Paul antedated the planned construction of military bases in Iraq, and compared the United States with China as if the relevant basis were the adoption of a national flag. But he also dismissed "the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics" while attributing to the Founders a rule to "be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them," indicating diametric troubles from the opening days of a Paul administration.

Reporter Wendell Goler asked the question a careful listener should have: if September 11th invalidated assumptions of the scale, intent and bearing of threats from overseas, why wouldn't the balance of the Republican Party abjure "non-interventionist foreign policy"?

In order: one, Ron Paul will now be identified by name, and as an eccentric; two, drawing a cordon sanitaire around the United States, on a map from sixty years ago or earlier, is less acceptable on the right, even now; three, Wendell Goler deserves top billing and a raise; four, although some maintain that each of Paul's competitors wanted to object, all but one had an undisclosed reason not to speak out, and thus the greatest plausibility as an articulate wartime commander-in-chief remains Rudy Giuliani's.

Michael Ubaldi, May 10, 2007.

A month ago, none of the men campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination met the approval of commentator Peggy Noonan. There were two qualifications, one a regard for the executive position as an exalted one for uncommon men, the other a determination to somehow transcend normalcy and become so paramountly qualified; apparent in both, the fastidiousness that sometimes accumulates in the writing of the author in question.

"Candidates on the trail today," Noonan reproved in the Wall Street Journal, "would be better off keeping as their template for the office Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln — the unattainable greats." Noonan was part of a collaborative publication on presidential leadership from three years ago, one in which the founding triumvirate was included. Surely she must have considered the raw material from which these men's heroic legacies were made?

Before Abraham Lincoln was final arbiter of a great American dispute, there was Abraham Lincoln the kindly knockabout and then Abraham Lincoln the obstreperous partisan. A newly elected Whig representative in Washington, January 1848, Lincoln decried American entry and supremacy in the Mexican War. He literally anathematized President James Knox Polk by suggesting that "he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven against him." The independence of Texas was, to Lincoln, obverse to the freedom of Mexican subjects. What he thought of the militarist Santa Anna we don't know, as Lincoln must have run out of invective.

That was as a Whig, and that was politics. Thirteen years later Lincoln would be in controversy himself, spoken of vividly but perhaps not always in the reverence Noonan might infer from his settled biography.

There is a war on now, and the president conducting it bears in defamation all the names Lincoln called President Polk. It isn't Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, the tacitly running Fred Thompson or even the contrarian Ron Paul who is insulting George Bush or devaluing the office or making a cad of himself. A common esteem is held among them but not by one for himself. Can you or I humbly institute greatness? The candidate who tries that would probably not be the fulfillment for somebody who reads like she is hoping to vote for a living saint.

Michael Ubaldi, May 8, 2007.

This one doctor of mine, who I have written about before, sidesteps the manners of most people and nearly every doctor by talking politics as soon as he enters the examination room and shakes my hand. So it was this afternoon. A handshake, greeting, smile, and then: "Which one?"

He knows that I am on the right, once at the head of my little city's Republican party. The inquiry's subject — declared and intimated GOP presidential candidates — was obvious. Still, my response was long, about three-quarters qualification that I thought germane. I have no reason to vote against any of them, I said, not right now; too much can happen. But, I continued, looking off to the side, if the primary were today my choice would be — Giuliani.

"Mine too," my doctor said. "And that would be a crossover." The former mayor, in his words, "knows what is going on" and has demonstrated noble competence, most strikingly so in Manhattan. "He's a New Yawkah," my doctor laughed, from the City himself. Then came a frown with the contemplation of provident commentary on Giuliani's chances outside his hometown.

Such pessimism, I volunteered, must be drawn from caricatures of the Republican base and the broader country. How much, I couldn't know for certain, but sharp refusal is a suspicion of those who live, corporally or sympathetically, in Washington, D.C. It is contravened by polls, including one taken with a sample of two disparate, likely voters, whose respondents agreed that as it all looks right now, neither party would be too disappointed if its letter succeeded the name of Rudy Giuliani.

Michael Ubaldi, April 22, 2007.

Michael Nifong, Durham County District Attorney is a liar, in the final analysis of evidence. Three varsity lacrosse players at Duke University, falsely accused of rape and wrongfully indicted by Nifong, have done no crime as submitted. Matters of race and privilege, which once concerned commentators as much as the charges did, may still be germane but from very different premises — and now probably not mediated with the same urgency, or zeal. The young men are free to try to salvage their reputations. Nifong, who himself won a full term to his office while doing unspeakable things to Lady Justice, is, too.

Assessing this in a strictly legal sense, it's appropriate for us to say "Poor, poor boys," and a plurality of thinkers and talkers, certainly most on the right, are in such a chorus. Michael Nifong and associates made the courtroom a theater, and told lies that will persist.

Not in dispute was what was supposed to happen, and what went as planned, on the night of March 13, 2006.

Did college lacrosse players ravish a woman at said place and time? No. Was the woman one of two strippers hired to commemorate the Duke team's prime sportsmanship? Yes. Did that turn out raucous fun as advertised? Not really, based on a timeline provided last year by the defense. One of the — gentlemen? — made a lewd request of one stripper. A relative standard of decency emerged and the player was slapped, then the mood was shattered, and the night-gone-wrong fell into the confusion of which spurious indictments are composed.

If the obscene remark never came, and the show ended at normal time, the lacrosse team and the strippers were still involved in an old transaction, an exchange of the basest tender and mutual scorn. By contract, there was not to be an abundance of charity or trust. A tease is itself deceit, and each party has as its cruel purpose to receive what it wanted, not to lose much for that, and especially not to get unlucky. Enter the staple entertainment at an athletic celebration.

When Hilaire Belloc spoke apropos, he knew of a place we all patronize, usually for, oh, very chic and humorous and incidental and venial services — a place thought to be not as dangerous as warned but is still, in all its carnal surfeit, the underworld. The question then becomes what the lacrosse players were guilty of. At which point it is difficult, and embarrassing, to answer.

Michael Ubaldi, April 17, 2007.

Bursting through a consequentialist hedge, with the most lethal weapons he can find, does the madman come.

Three dozen murders at a premier university, Virginia Polytechnic Institute: that can't be ignored by the sensible mind. To appreciate the event, however, isn't necessarily to understand it. When pallbearers are called for unexpectedly, and because of something atrocious, philosophy is naturally taken to, as well — but possibly as a compulsion, even an indulgence. The question to be resisted, unless one means to give succinct, narrow answers, is that which begins with the word "why."

An affluent South Korean; decadal resident alien; bright enough to study, abroad, literature in another language — the murderer? Well, he wasn't thinking like most of us. Malice can be explained, or repressed, as readily as hunger. Mass shootings committed by youths, a modern phenomenon, are the work of the same temperament that has always been responsible for acts of cold blood.

That the pleasure in harm is widely incomprehensible should brace, not bewilder. The record of the crime is now under the weight of condemnation, the names of the dead announced, witnesses expounding with portraits of heroism in those spare moments. Eudaemonia is thataway; here, savagery is called wrong, and that is the best we can do.

Michael Ubaldi, April 10, 2007.

One of nature's clerics preaches without incardination — that is what hurricane specialist William Gray said, four days ago, of the man both formerly vice president and sedately minded. "For someone of his stature, he's a gross alarmist." Al Gore, Gray protests, "doesn't know what he's talking about."

Richard Lindzen, meteorology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is as uncharitable to Gore's liturgy. Immaculate truth as Lindzen understands it confers "no such thing as an optimal temperature," and even if there were one, the industrialized world's own average rising far above it, "meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing."

Meanwhile, outside the tropics: after the first weekend that I heard, on the radio, a baseball game called on account of snow my local team, the Cleveland Indians, rescheduled the beginning of their regular season for a stadium in Wisconsin. Groundskeepers at Jacobs Field were slow in shoveling the diamond.

Climate worry isn't science. It's impassioned, hallucinatory sentiment. Happily, it may soon meet reason, and then its end. Where anecdote once happened to corroborate the claim, glances out the window nowadays reveal skies darkening, brightening; and temperatures rising and falling commensurate to the seasons. Yes, it gets too hot and too cold, then snow or rain falls on entirely the wrong day of the year, but to call weather mutable is to call it normal. Lurid possibility no longer acceptable for censure, a demand for proof is going to be made, and the "global warming" shamanists have none to adduce.

Michael Ubaldi, April 9, 2007.

Madame Speaker? One first shy of where Nancy Pelosi must have wanted to be. The majority party's doyenne traveled to Near Eastern capitals this last week, and for that had to at least try on the title of Madame Emissary.

While packing, Mme. needed to untangle herself from controversy over her short tour. The Bush administration didn't want Pelosi to go to Syria because, explained a representative, "to have high-level U.S. officials going there to have photo opportunities that [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad then exploits" dragged American foreign policy in a direction the White House considered backwards. The speaker thought this was unfair. "It's interesting because three of our colleagues, who are all Republicans, were in Syria yesterday and I didn't hear the White House speaking out about that."

True, members of both parties from a Congress restless in the president's second term have pilgrimaged, several of them stopping in Damascus to patronize the man whose totalitarian regime endures seven years after the death of its founder, resisting the Westerly democratist push. Pelosi, who is politicking all the time, should know why she was singled out. Straying legislators have received the administration's open disapproval, including Republican Arlen Specter when he, in December, accompanied three Democrats. But as the frequency of these trips increased so did the profile of those taking them. Ranking senatorial committee membership doesn't compare to tertiary executive standing. The Damascene audience of three congressmen preceding the speaker might be identified as Who?, Who? and Who?, whereas one familiar with just a dozen Washington names probably knows Nancy Pelosi.

Once overseas, the emissary practiced grandma diplomacy. She was photographed wearing a native bonnet; then shaking hands with a nice, smiling man who lives in the watchtower of a police state. And then she misspoke to a degree of international incidence, with an artlessness that almost charmed. Talks with the nice, smiling man "enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks." Mr. Olmert issued a correction to the world, insofar as Israel was waiting for Bashar Assad to enjoin Syria's terrorism, thus far from ready.

Some press accounts did not report this contradiction. Others assuaged Syria's blameworthiness by placing it at the end of an accusation of Bush's. "The White House accuses," but, you know, maybe not rightly. That Damascus extrudes fascism, of course, wouldn't be an assertion but an acknowledgment of asseverated fact, as if the weatherman were to accuse stratus clouds of supporting rain.

Propitious were two news items coming from Iraqi Kurdistan in the same week: the first, by Patrick Lasswell, was about an old torture facility in Suliamaniya known as "The Red Building"; and the second, a dispatch from correspondent Michael Totten, among the Peshmerga, on Kurdish soldiery. The Assad state regularly tramples its populating Kurds, and as Pelosi's itinerary skipped Baghdad, the speaker's magniloquent determination that "the road to Damascus is a road to peace" was a peculiar and consequential choice for recognition.

A murmur about the illegality of the tour has gone up, and will probably quietly go back down. Since the average resident of San Francisco is agog over any insult to Washington, and something near a national majority shrug their shoulders at the why and when of deploying consuls, the speaker will be, after this trip, neither unelectable nor irrepatriable. Still, in her peremptory summons to an American ally, and her silence on the crucial provinces in northern Iraq, Nancy Pelosi made obvious the loyalties that would be most highly valued, two years from now, by a Democratic president.

Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2007.

Historical precedent is one reference when trying to assess the last fortnight. Her Majesty's sailors were snatched in allied waters by Iran and were at least legally maltreated, drawing a response from London that generosity defined as forbearance. Today, it was announced that all captured hands would be let out.

Only one event can be precisely compared: that being the last time Britons were seized out of turn by Iranians, which was just under three years ago, captivity lasting only three days. The 1979 Khomeinist mobbing of the American embassy in Tehran and the 1982 Falklands War are germane to the belligerent nation and injured nation: the first, a kind of inaugural ceremony for a brutal theocracy; the second, a stultifying lesson to Argentina in the extant duties of a protector. Noted in passing, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis may most plainly show what elected men are willing to go to war over and if so, when.

Dissimilarities are obvious. Tony Blair has at his command nuclear weapons but is not John F. Kennedy, either in terms of obligation or temperament. Iran's compass is a regional one, widened through insidious, rarely overt, actions. And from what the public has seen of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letters, Tehran's title may have all the ebullience of Nikita Khrushchev but none of the penmanship.

A cursory summation of the crisis — Kennedy discovers atomic weapons in Cuba, confronts Moscow and occludes Soviet convoys, Moscow accedes and strips Cuba of its arms — deludes. The White House was reluctant to believe that the Soviets would solve their problems with intercontinental ballistic delivery by placing limited-range missiles about one hundred miles from the United States. Kennedy would remain dubious for six weeks, from late August to mid-October, until photographic proof was brought to his bedside study.

The president was only, if ever, resigned to the eventuality of striking Cuban launch pads if Moscow could not be castigated into a rescission. He contemned Curtis LeMay and the general's stolid preparation for aerial bombardment, in Richard Reeves' biography telling his staff of the military, "If we listen to them, and do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell them that they were wrong." There was deliberation, vacillation, in the Oval Office. A naval blockade and stateside mobilization came to be the favored policy. John Kennedy disregarded protocol several times, withholding reply to the enemy's targeting of U2 flights and even the fatal downing of one of the surveillance craft airborne over Cuba.

At the end of two weeks, a couple of days before Moscow's salient would be sheared off by American warplanes, the Politburo's concession, under pen name Khrushchev, was sent over the radio. From Reeve's account, John F. Kennedy likely thought of his threat of force as more of a bluff — the Soviet yield was peripety, a miracle.

Reeve's own summation was that the president "could not risk nuclear war or even send troops to die" for the subjects of contention. American victory was not unqualified. Missiles in Italy and Turkey, depicted as little Cubas off a Russian coast under the tint of moral equivalence as well as Khrushchev's own fervid correspondence, were soon after removed. Their strategic function was maintained as they were superseded, but a certain political and moral penalty was paid. Up to and during the confrontation, the president was braced by the country's support. A year earlier, nearly nine in ten Americans wanted the army in free Berlin, war or not; and welcomed Washington to devise new atomic weaponry even if Moscow was still abeyant.

In October 1962, a majority in the United States wanted a blockade, but not an invasion of Cuba. John Kennedy had a minority party rebuking him for not acting sooner or more firmly, and still navigated limits other than those self-imposed. Today's Blair government is burdened with complacency in politics and culture, restrained by low martial strength, and meanwhile continues its attendance at most fronts of the war. As of this morning, all sailors will return alive.

Although the prime minister is suffering invective, it isn't clear whether charges of pusillanimity spring from something more than pique. If Tony Blair and his American ally will keep the atomic bomb from Tehran, and the decisive moment is still years ahead, then Iran's harassments will be ignored. Attacking the Khomeinists for those unfortunate fifteen would have duly satisfied patriotism; justice, too. What about strategy?

Michael Ubaldi, March 28, 2007.

Will he act for the sake of utility? Or cooperation? Science News magazine reports, as noted by a resourceful John Derbyshire, that contemporary magazine Nature will publish experiments conducted by neurologists to better understand the vitality of empathy in ethical judgment — with especial focus on that operation in a damaged brain. "The researchers propose," wrote Science News, "that prefrontal damage dilutes emotional reactions to harm that one inflicts on others. People with such damage thus solve moral dilemmas by following social conventions for helping as many folks as possible and hurting as few as possible, rather than by considering personal feelings."

What seemed to diminish the study's comparison of sentimentality and reason, however, were both the familiarity of scenarios and the narrow margin outside of sensible choices. One example, holding the power to prevent or acquiesce to the stilling of a child, was a suppressed and disfigured memory of MASH's Hawkeye, unforgettable through a blubbering Alan Alda — so one might have the wrong kind of vicarious experience. Another example begged what logical or sympathetic action would justify, all things the same, committing manslaughter of five instead of one.

I was reminded of a situation once posited by Glenn Reynolds. If you were in 2005 New Orleans and urged to evacuate, but had transport space so limited that bringing along the family dog meant forgoing vital supplies or even your neighbor, would you leave Rover to a watery end? Reynolds, in his famous dispassion, stated that he would place the life of man well over man's best friend, and received a swell of letters from indignant readers.

But the hypothesis was a good one; it provokes in a way that others couldn't. So in John's case: if Long Island were about to become a shoal and Boris didn't fit in the Derbyshire car, would he — ? Step back. Are dogs people? They aren't. Can dogs swim? They can. May lost dogs be replaced? Nominally, by all means. That is, anyway, subjectio the mind deploys in an argument with the heart, an argument it will on average lose.

Michael Ubaldi, March 21, 2007.

War fronts — across the world, in Afghanistan but primarily Iraq — are more events in process that receive, from the broader left and the established press, a fictive treatment. Conditions of the campaign in Iraq, reasonable as relative to other American wars but arduous in the contemplation of the United States today, still run apart from the place as portrayed by the newsman.

Without a luculent narrative, consequent to the postmodern press and the form of war itself, those who are curious search for ways to quantify the action in the Near East. Statistics are one of the more scientific attempts; and two of the latest surveys, which have been emerging from Iraq since almost immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, reduce the statewide impression of Iraqi insouciance or malice to an illusion. Two-thirds of one respondent sample prefer to be as they are now — period.

See, if you read the paper or watched the broadcast networks every day you might instead remark, if the topic came up, that people over there miss the placidity of totalitarianism. Error can lead to certain numbers, but the polls match others, and so the conclusion might be that we do not quite have an idea of how awful life was in Ba'athist Iraq; or how distilled the essence of freedom remains amid shifting scenes of violence. Who knew about this? Or do Iraqis simply not watch the news?

This same week columnist Christopher Hitchens resubmitted his vote as a minister of intellect: Yes, depose Hussein and equip the Iraqis for civil governance. As part of his apologia Hitchens ran through several trick questions. Was President Bush headstrong; had Hussein obviously divested himself of physical WMD; might Hussein have still disarmed and reformed; was Hussein opposed to Near Eastern and Islamist terrorism? Answers: No, no, no, and no. Easy work, if only the foregoing premises, the trick questions, weren't conceivable to between thirty to sixty percent of the American population.

Earlier this month freelance military embed Michael Yon asserted that what independent writers and political participants invest in remonstration against the press "might be better spent ignoring the irritant and offering alternative sources, in view of how critical any and all media coverage is to shaping public opinion which in turn determines the outcome of this war." He then mixed metaphors, holding this dispute responsible for "friendly fire casualties."

Returning to the first picture in words, Yon is well-meaning but mistaken. Mass media whose operators are supposed to be impartial to what they record and report — used instead for the dissemination of falsehoods, often deliberately — is a vector, what it injects into the body public not an irritant but a pathogen. Knowledge itself becomes variolate with untruths that are first acceptable and then contributive to wider perceptions, be they philosophical, epistemological or empirical.

Why does Michael Yon refer to mainstream war correspondence in the third person? Many people believe what they incorrectly think to be right not because they want to persist under challenge, but because they haven't enough reason to reject their primary sources.

Michael Ubaldi, March 20, 2007.

A headline from over the weekend read "Gonzales' Hold on Job Grows Uncertain." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales let go a number of Justice Department prosecutors, resulting in anathema from congressional Democrats and solemn coverage from the press. What Gonzales is impelled to do is probably a) beg forgiveness, b) reinstate the fired lawyers, c) resign, or d) all three. Only probably, because I have not read any articles on the subject edited in the major newsrooms.

There is no need to do so. I know that the prosecutors are political appointees, chosen and installed by attorneys general who were themselves appointed by an elected representative; and so would not have been employed according to the competitive standards, or under the elaborate protections, of classified public employment. Serve at one's pleasure, and cause for hire is just as subjective as that for dismissal. Gonzales could have handed each and every prosecutor in the building a pair of bongos, asked the ones unable to play the percussion solo from "Wipe Out" to leave — and would have violated only etiquette, maybe taste.

But the press has interpolated into the business of an attorney general a practically legal obligation to keep lawyers who are competent and assigned to politically sensitive investigations, and there isn't any. By avoiding this, I have missed out on bad information about the civil service and an example of disingenuous journalism. Inquiring newsreaders would be best informed if they read the story of the story: found in opinion magazines and columns, authored by writers who know that they are, as affirmed editorialists, being read with scrutiny.

Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2007.

What to call, if we were to define them, Rudy Giuliani's manner and bearing? Yesterday, National Review's John Derbyshire tendered a neologism, "SOBness." Amusement aside, the lexicon can in fact supply a word, one that I found some time ago but kept from speech and writing because it is used by no one and, appearing slightly antique, defensibly so. The word is "hardihood." It denotes, says Merriam-Webster, "a resolute and self-assured audacity [or disregard for prudence or convention] carried to the point of insolent impudence [or boldness that, intentionally or not, offends]."

Giuliani, a man of hardihood? He was a prosecutor among whose noted quarry were mobsters; as a mayor of the city with deeper foundations than the site of two seminal American documents and the current seat of the federal government, promulgator of change where thought to be intractable. Crime and poverty in New York City fell under his municipal tenure, and if Giuliani was responsible, his managerial idiom — confrontation, repudiation, etioliation of standing political interests — must be credited.

The question can be answered by inference, too. Leftists regard Republicans who are affable as half-witted, and Republicans who are assertive as autocrats — so if the habitual response to George Bush or Ronald Reagan is "dumb," Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani have drawn out, respectively, Time magazine's 1994 cover beholding "the politics of anger," and this one documentary portraying the former New York mayor as a tyrant.

A greater demand for scrutiny of what was said by the yet-exploratory presidential candidate in public or private has produced stories from rightists, now. However aspersive, unless all of them are false it is unlikely that, personally, Mr. Giuliani is a very nice man. For probity, he has marital infidelity and acrimony in a past that might well be attributed to callousness.

Rudy Giuliani, if he runs, will not try for the papacy; and though primary caucuses may not admit an adulterer, the Oval Office has never been the professional residence of naifs. Pertinent, then, is if Republicans want a candidate who is, among other qualifications, more fluent and consistent with the foreign missions of the sitting president than the sitting president, who can seem pretty dispirited these days — and if the balance of an electoral majority will vote for hardihood.

Michael Ubaldi, March 7, 2007.

A day or two before NASA announced its firing of Navy captain and astronaut Lisa Nowak, Florida police made public a series of e-mails traded between astronauts Bill Oefelein and Colleen Shipman. Bill and Colleen were having a romance shortly after Bill and Lisa had one that was an affair, and if it were possible to osculate through alphanumeric code, these electronic letters were a wholehearted effort.

Officials also released interrogation transcripts. In one of them, Miss Shipman told of the assurance Oefelein gave her on the woman with whom Oefelein used to tryst. Shipman was worried that Nowak might try something desperate and foul — like what Nowak, in fact, seems to have tried — and she told police that Oefelein "said, 'No, no, no, she's not like that. She's fine with it, she's happy for me.'"

Two conclusions to draw. First, that Bill Oefelein, in all testimony of the English language, is a breezy adulterer. Second, that it has been a very long time since Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee took a photograph of themselves seated behind a table with a model Command Module as centerpiece, each man's head bowed and hands pressed together in supplication, and sent a print to manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, Joe Shea, inscribing "It isn't that we don't trust you, Joe, but this time we've decided to go over your head."

That the three astronauts would be killed soon after, in a cockpit fire during an innocuous communications test, consigns the photograph to augury. But it was a joke and, everybody says, Gus' idea — played by men, on men, who were involved in a common effort for most of the time, going home when they could to their wives.

Against the tarnishing adage that some work should only be undertaken by men, as brothers, lies the fact of women undertaking, qualifying and in many cases thriving. But then the workplace is now where a lot of fooling around goes on, and the more critical the job the less margin for error in people who love and, where applicable, attempt kidnapping or murder. Disregard the absurd: Lisa Nowak could not have tampered with a shuttle to send her rival and six collaterals hurtling toward a Himalayan peak, or sought reassignment to the right crew to push the interloper out an airlock. One still has three astronauts not as fixedly dedicated to their mission as another three, Gus and Ed and Roger, who weren't exchanging love notes during Gemini or the onset of Apollo.

There are properties of human physiology that the epochal leap into spaceflight hasn't expunged. Apostles of millenarianism, weighing this failure of the latest age, will decide whether man's transfiguration is as ever maintained yet to come, or not to be.

Michael Ubaldi, March 5, 2007.

Men of science, prepare your laboratories. Two Democrats who want to be President of the United States transform when they travel to the American south, enter churches and sermonize on electoral politics.

Speech of the afflicted takes on a distinct character. Rhoticisms are dropped, so the last syllable of words ending in "ar," "er" and "ore" become respectively "ah," "uh" and "oh." Senator Barack Obama exhibited this symptom and a second one, locution as if impersonating Jesse Jackson, when he named himself heir apparent to the civil rights movement. His first visit to Selma, Alabama was a homecoming, Obama said, "When people ask me whether I've been to Selma before" — last word rhyming with "Dafoe."

The senator did not talk like this before his return and accession to, presumably, King's throne. However, Obama's affectation convinced. Hillary Clinton's own adenoidal bray, suggesting Edward G. Robinson, did not. The title Clinton chose at Selma's First Baptist Church was "beneficiary," maybe the equivalent of a foreigner made duchess by marriage.

Another sign of an alteration is the suffusion of Biblical themes in one's language. Obama, in Selma on Sunday, invoked Moses fourteen times. In front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on the Friday preceding, to distant sons of the prophet, zero times.

Also strange is the reconstruction of time. The 1960s, and inequitable conditions before then, occupy both the past and the present. Obama retold the stories as if his life antedated them, even though he was, in as many words, consummation "of the movement." Progress, yes? Or progress, no? Will providential men forever be in need?

More, the style of remonstrance contradicts. Obama chided, "I don't know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white," and he omitted the "g" from "conjugating," at the very least. Why use adventitiously poor diction when rebuking the use of poor diction? Is it — because the uncouth or uneducated need to be understood, or respected, even while they remain in error? Should we sit down with the unresponsive student, settle on two plus two equals five, and then slowly work to four?

Preliminary diagnosis: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have visited a population suspended in caricature, and have contracted an acute, complacent vanity. No Americans to meet and court in Alabama, as such. Democratic executive aspirants are busy "gathering Negroes," evidently finding it quaint, practicing the near obscene.

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2007.

Glenn Reynolds picked up a report from National Geographic on astronomers and atmospheric scientists speculating that the earth's recent apparent increase in average temperature is heliogenic, not anthropogenic. A Mister Habibullo Abdussamatov asserted that whatever man combusts, he "cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance." Heat, you say, produced by the sun?

That convinced me to renew my subscription to the magazine. I had let it lapse this February after cover story upon cover story heralded what I thought couldn't be denied as quack physical and social science. Believe me, I would look hard for sound journalism; or the other way. If National Geographic indeed still values factually responsible, and perhaps less sensational, reporting, that is worth thirty-four dollars annually. And if there are poorly supported articles, well, I know where to take a good disputation.

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2007.

What would you do with Darfur if you won the heart of it, we might ask of those who blow kisses at the Sudan. A lot of them might answer with a non sequitur, and demand that a particular American man in elected office leave his position, though he has no liability for the northeast-African Islamist eradication of black farmers. After that, we will find two organizations settled prominently on the internet. One is called Save Darfur, the other Darfur: A Genocide We Can Stop. The former appears blessed with sponsorship but the latter managed to procure a photograph of Bette Midler with one hand to her face, tightened in a delicate grimace.

So, what would they do? Funds, of course, require support, e.g., your dollars. But with those funds, both groups avow, right shall be accomplished. Yes, and what? All propositions are such that each could be introduced with the phrase "If only" — for many, "if only" that particular man in elected office would act before anyone succeeds in pushing him out.

Here it gets tenebrous. A Genocide We Can Stop rests on the notion that just three men — Sudan's prevailing strongman and two allies — are responsible for the bloodletting. Its solution is less direct, requiring that Washington and Europe "fully support" the International Criminal Court before the court can go to work at indicting the Sudanese masterminds. At that point someone or something will extradite the three for trial, and in their absence peace overwhelms. A Genocide We Can Stop has studiously ascertained that "It is time for justice, because only justice can bring peace."

Save Darfur is a little more substantive, if its first step towards ending the massacres is to take steps. The president of the United States, and the secretary-general of the United Nations, even the president of the European Union by way of the German chancellor, are to be petitioned. That is meant to impel countries like Russia and China, who do good business in the Sudan, to promulgate in the United Nations Security Council the mandate for an armed melange called "peacekeepers," which will garrison Darfur.

How an army without a military objective ends Khartoum's delegated butchery is left to inference, perhaps that deriving peace from justice from time. These groups have declarations of unity but none of efficacy.

So we ratiocinate. Is there a deliberate effort to murder and drive off an indigenous people within the confines of a very closed dictatorship? There is. Is the list of crimes familiar, including "systematic bombardment of villages, widespread arbitrary arrests, torture, 'disappearances,' summary executions, and forced displacement"? Yes. Should we stop this? We should. How, right from where we are, this moment? We'll switch on the diplomatic channels and enjoin the despot's actions.

And what if he says Go to hell, schedules a martial parade for later that week, and then keeps on killing at the frontier?

We're all serious, here; now we hold this man accountable to natural law. Some special judiciary? Yes, or a jury of reasonable men, whatever can align the world's best intentions. Suppose he flouts that, and any other condemnation, and continues the slaughter for years? All right, then some of us concede that violence must be made against some people, so we make a little of it. Aerial, even ground protection forces? Definitely. And if that won't work, will some of us concede that sovereignty, especially of those ruling by mere coercion, has limits? Yes, those of us know who they are and No, they couldn't prevent deposition, but would grieve at the deaths that might have been avoided, and fear for the consequences.

So identified are the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, whose homes were razed by Saddam Hussein; they who survived, and have returned to live in swamps restored by the American armed forces. Their story isn't known widely in the public, and the latest chapter comes when a commanding General David Petraeus is addressing his soldiers with the same granite solemnity of General Douglas MacArthur to the contested Philippines.

"The war here will soon enter its fifth year," says Petraeus. Five years? "The way ahead will not be easy." Impossible? "But hard is not hopeless." No quick gratification in that. War leads to rigorous evaluations of oneself. The lonely hearts can't wait five years for justice and peace. Especially not if they are hard. Darfur, please.

Michael Ubaldi, February 23, 2007.

Editors of Newsweek oversaw the making a clever cover layout for their magazine's February 19th issue. A single head — ugly? rearing? — is implied by the respective right and left sides of the faces of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George Bush. It dehisces to reveal a title ("The Hidden War with Iran") and subtitles ("Skirmishes," "Threats," "Missed Signals," "Why the Standoff Could Turn Deadly"). The compound morally equates an American president and a foreign, fascist posturer, and on very sharp terms: these two men will blunder their way towards world's end, and the gentlemen at Newsweek seem to want the newsstand customer to remember that they warned everybody beforehand.

This isn't all fabricated. Armageddon has in both protocol and modest imagination followed a possible train of executive decisions. The original premise, however, was Soviet armor advancing on free Berlin and then Western Europe and then everywhere else, leaving Washington recourse in nuclear retaliation and redoubt in underground shelters. But presidents of the United States were photographed with their Russian counterparts for magazine covers because the Cold War superpowers were a) of comparable strength, and b) talking to one another, even if Moscow's man almost always lied.

Washington corresponds with Tehran via the Swiss, because Iran's nascent Khomeinists showed right away a lack of respect for diplomatic indemnity. It is not about two leaders who are simply rivals, submitting their quarrel to a duel and then summoning obliterative powers beyond comprehension. That version has been insinuated over the last forty years, and Newsweek's portrayal of two madmen is its clearest narration.

Today, halfway through President Bush's second term and in the opening months of a Democratic congressional majority, there are two lefts seen differentiated. The first body of the left includes the heads of Newsweek, entertaining useful and politic extracts of the nihilism of the second, fringe left. Lost on group one, especially in the fusion of George and Mahmoud, is the meaning of the eschatology of the twentieth century's latter radicals.

Capitol Hill reports that Jack Murtha's legislative move against Bush's foreign policy has been marginalized, in part by Democrats. Before any of this happened, though, Murtha was quoted while discussing his plan of subversion before an audience whose organizers are pretty up-front about their interest in etiolating American power while investing other place, like the carnival of the United Nations General Assembly, with transnational authority. The Pennsylvania congressman's excuse is that he is, at least professionally, non compos mentis, but the fundaments of those with whom Murtha was speaking are very real.

The calendar for the postmodern relativist begins around 1945 and solidifies around 1968. The time before that is by necessity prehistory, extraneous, irrelevant; how else can one abrogate tradition if the record through which one traces it isn't effaced? Next: what is said of the Sixties generation by those who live within its displaced chronology. There is a lot of vague attribution of "trying" things and attempting "change," most perceptibly the many acts of open disgust for a culture that tolerates open disgust of it. But the "movement" is one that is described as incomplete. So if the initiation, in the minds of the radicals, half-destroyed The Establishment, then the realization will — ?

A political assessment of the Democratic attempt on presidential control is, in a literal sense, correct: the far left wing of the party's moves to compel American retreat from a military front may deprive the Democrats of the White House and even the retention of Congress. But that falls short of explication, since its corollary invites a question: Why wouldn't they see this? And the answer is perilously close to They can see it, but they aren't concerned about elections. If the Sixties miscreant thinks history and his life to be coterminous, achievement is going to embrace immolation, and it is his face that belongs next to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's, inviting the apocalypse.

Michael Ubaldi, February 17, 2007.

Publicly spoken words of a senator — my senator, George Voinovich — are a portrait of the equivocation reigning on Capitol Hill. Senator Voinovich, you see, heard all about the animadversion against President Bush's efforts to win a war, and decided that he might have some of his own, depending.

Three weeks ago, before the president's seventh address on the state of the union, the Repository — a newspaper out of Canton, Ohio — ran a story on Voinovich's misgivings about several things in regards to Iraq. The author of the article introduced the senator as "maverick," which was the wrong word because "maverick" denotes autonomy, imputes solitude. Voinovich is in a legislative majority, seeking to oppose George Bush on whatever. This is OK, because journalism is not a place where the English language prospers, but the distinction must be understood. Voinovich probably wished to set himself apart. He instead spoke, as quoted, in a run of contradictions.

The senator would not condone an arrest of congressional monies intended for the front. He would follow this principle until the elected Iraqi government failed to meet certain standards of Washington. What, precisely? Well, the senator needed some, any, or else no more funding for Baghdad. On principle.

He wanted "sincerity" from the Iraqis before he thought about disavowing a foreign ally. Specifically, he desired Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to assert, in front of television cameras, independence. Helpfully, Voinovich even suggested a line for the speech: "This is not the United States telling me what to do." Also, Senator Voinovich showed concern over al-Maliki not doing what the United States was telling him to do, and demanded evidence that he was "willing to crack down on powerful Shia militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr." In that reluctance could be, well, a dangerous independence. Reasonable requests. Now, why couldn't the president simply listen to Voinovich?

Careful decisions were important to Voinovich. "It's really important" — this was one of them — "that the word goes out in the Muslim community that this is not just more of the infidels occupying the place." Which community? The one of Arab dictatorships? Or perhaps communities in Iraq, where a majority of the population has voted and the largest armed group is the stable and capable national army? The Shiites, who, in millions, reject Moqtada al-Sadr? The Sunnis, who do not act as one, most of whom have turned on al Qaeda? The Kurds, modernity's invisible ethnic group? Accepting the premise, wouldn't repudiating that kind of calumny be the correct response, rather than acting in deference to it?

Twenty-five days later, today, the Senate is keeping Saturday hours. General David Petraeus is effecting a strategy that, based on the witness of tactics thereof, is a judicious departure from the last four years. Mr. al-Maliki is coming along. Nobody knows where al-Sadr ran off to. Senator Voinovich, news says, decided to resolve on the matter to only himself, and it is eminently likely that he has amended his remarks in the weeks since.

But that's the problem: revision, revision. Good war, bad war; bad war; good war. Legislators behave as if they think of armed conflict not so much to be sedately joined and won, as to be what makes for dynamic politics; to your advantage if you are behind it and then against it, and then generally of the martial spirit though maybe not to this end, all at the opportune times. None in Congress is the man who leads the military ex officio. With timely press, however, one can try out commander-in-chief pro tempore.

Michael Ubaldi, February 15, 2007.

Defeatists in Congress, says Mark Steyn, are openly drafting a strategy against the president that "denies him victory and absolves them of any responsibility for defeat." As if to help, the Washington Post article Steyn excerpts states that "The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat."

Under judgment intended to derogate it, the United States military is either unprepared for a kind of combat, in this case counterterrorism; or, in the words of the article, "badly degraded" once it has engaged in earnest. Whatever metric is applied to degradation, or at which degree it is concluded bad, is not explained. And when the factions of the enemy are alternately rumored and ascertained to have joined, incorporated, disbanded and reorganized many times since the fall of Saddam Hussein, does the absence of affiliative integrity — let alone the absence of the majority of a cell or gang, due to the incarceration or death of its members — designate them as "terribly degraded" or "irretrievably degraded"? Or is no one on Capitol Hill, or the press, scrutinizing the other side for weaknesses?

Americans once suffered losses in war totaling nearly half a million but five years before they committed soldiers for three more years, and lost fifty thousand more. About one-seventh of a percentage point of 1.5 million deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, three thousand plus, have been killed in four years. Morale is evidently robust and soldiers are returning to each theater so their country and its allies can achieve victory. Whose sensitivity has intervened? The congressman's.

Michael Ubaldi, February 8, 2007.

Sung to the melody of Elton John's "Benny and the Jets."

Hey kids, shake a leg already
The Fifty-Seven's waiting
Flights like this are lush and heady
We'll hoist the golden calf tonight
So climb aboard
And meet and greet the entourage when
Your cocktail is poured

Say, Denny and Billy, have you seen them yet
But they're so decked out, Nancy and her jet
Ah, but the fed. gov. has paid for it
Oh, Nancy, she's pretty set
She's got cross-country flyin', non-union wine
You know I may as well have voted for 'em
Nancy and her jet

(Nancy! Nancy! Nancy and her jet!)

Hey gang, get a load of the Greens
Maybe they'll bust us
But Nancy keeps them quiet
We'll mouth the words — "CO2!" — just play along
It's like when we fought our parents in the streets
Who cares who's right and who's wrong?

Michael Ubaldi, February 8, 2007.

David Bernstein couldn't recall the Bush administration having "appointed any conservative judges with significant libertarian sympathies" and wonders "If not, why not?"

George Bush nominates appointees; the Senate confirms them. When a certain power of the executive is qualified by the need for majoritarian support from a coequal branch of government, political reality prescribes all selections and judgments during the nomination process. The current environment is possessed with partisan and ideological intransigence on the part of the left, plain in Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Schumer, or statements from other members of the Judiciary Committee, to be found in session transcripts.

Libertarians? Verboten. More so with Congress in Democratic hands. This should be obvious, but then on the question of implementation there is that grand disjuncture between libertarianism and sobriety.

Michael Ubaldi, February 6, 2007.

Reporter John Burns of the New York Times has left his station in Iraq to lead the American newspaper's London bureau. On cable television three days ago, he was asked by Tim Russert if Washington could ever have been able to "truly understand the way Iraqis would have reacted" to the deposition of Saddam Hussein; by Russert's implication, the impossible.

Burns responded, fair to the historical record of Iraqis greeting allied troops "as liberators," though he regretted leaders having "completely miscalculated the impact of 30 years of violent, brutal repression on the Iraqi people." I myself noted in July 2004 that "the one mistake America truly did make was to overestimate the humanity of its authoritarian enemies...the virtuous flaw of peaceful people."

Burns, however, went on, predicting that "history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done...would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring."

There is determinism in that, an ugly kind, the same with which an entire population is held blameworthy for the actions of its criminal and violent minority. John Podhoretz excerpted Burns' interview with Russert, calling the pronouncement "frank, complex, powerful and ultimately tragic."

Off went a short letter. John Burns' opinion may be "frank," I wrote, but it's prepossessed, irresolute and ultimately supercilious. Societies are so damaged that they should simply be left alone? Totalism hasn't been extracted from Iraqi culture after four years, so the liberation was — in principle! — a notional failure? This is typical Boomer sophism, in which one tries to pass off dereliction as forbearance. Remarkable, maybe — for its misanthropy.

Podhoretz replied succinctly: "Oh, come on — the guy has been there before during and after, is brave and honest. This is his perspective, and you can't dismiss it so lightly."

I have nothing against Burns personally. The opinion is a common one, however, and even if it weren't offensive it's been refuted several times in the last sixty years. How many would have believed, shortly after V-J Day, that the sons of the men who raped and butchered in Nanking would be invading the world with cuddly, animated characters?

As for empiricism — there are a lot of Iraqis who have been in-country throughout, necessarily longer than Burns, are capable of objective analysis and have concluded that the belief Burns shares is misguided, and that what has harmed the Iraqi cause most is Western fastidiousness.

One argument made by Burns that I can accept is of a half-million troops, flattening in 2003 the forces now harassing the government and slowly, like General Douglas MacArthur did, instructing the country on how to organize civilly. That is politically impossible at this time, and nobody should take what-ifs seriously. But this stuff, Burns' take, is gloomy excess.

Michael Ubaldi, February 5, 2007.

China's National People's Congress, the hardheaded know, passes laws with an independence comparable to the front wheels of a car negotiating a right-hand turn when the steering wheel goes clockwise. Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun has the scoop: "Chinese lawmakers" — read, the Politburo — "are expected to pass and enact in March a property rights law that clearly protects privately owned land." In what language, exactly? Somebody got their hands on a draft and passed along a few sentences. "Ownership rights of the state, groups and individuals are protected by law, and no individual or organization may violate these rights."

The word "expropriate" is in another clause. This is significant because in order to expropriate the state needs to take that which didn't belong to it. Chinese citizens are not privy to ownership as they are to tenancy, within a power structure that has variously resembled medieval allotment for half a century, thank you, Chairman Mao.

The People's Republic, still totalitarian, appears to be gradually acceding to those Chinese republican people, and we would celebrate this reparation of rights, and Oh, wonder what Beijing might do next — if not for inveteracies.

Not long ago I made the transitory acquaintance of a young woman who did not really smoke anymore, except for when there was a lit cigarette passing from her hand to her mouth. By all means, it was first said by correspondence, my reproaches for the sake of health were welcome, fit as they were. When finally in the girl's sullen presence, I chided — and was dismissed, "Not this time" the curt response given to clarify the earlier admission as a gratuity of flirtation, not a mea culpa.

Well, totality of the Politburo is China's little weakness, and curtailments of it, even by the Politburo itself, ought to be regarded by the free world as probationary, not exculpatory. How a Wang Wei fares against Party eminent domain, assuming a serious dispute makes it to court, should tell us a lot.

Michael Ubaldi, January 29, 2007.

At certain intervals the far left produces claims about the war or this country or life in general that offend reason, and those on the right have a choice between ignoring what is said because it has already been confuted; or addressing a statement rationally, but strictly to apprise onlookers of its invalidity. This is burdensome, as it might be if you and I were about to design a car, when you went and drafted squarish blocks on the axles instead of wheels. On Friday, a friend was one of several asking a question: "What sort of citizen — what sort of human being would prefer that their country lose a war in which so much is at stake?"

Take someone who believes that 1) all nations are at moral parity; 2) all governments, even illiberal ones, have either as much or more legitimacy than the first fruits of common law, the United States or the United Kingdom; 3) all wars are the result of petty disagreements between obstinate people; 4) terrorists and other violent actors are normal citizens who are pushed, by injustice, beyond desperation. They will view events of today not as an intensifying struggle between a democratic First World and a brutal Third World that is paradoxically strengthened by accomplishments of the First World, but as a chamber full of countries anthropomorphized into legates who have "the same wants and needs." Not the people, mind you; the countries themselves.

Operation Enduring Freedom, therefore, is viewed strictly in terms of crime and punishment; sentence carried out with the removal of the Taliban. Iraq, before Operation Iraqi Freedom, is thought to have been harassed for twelve years after it capitulated in 1991. No religion-studded, transnational fascist movement is remotely conceivable from within this mindset; let alone quiescent threats from China or Russia or other despot states. No, the only problem is the obstreperous United States.

Michael Ubaldi, January 25, 2007.

Dateline: New Delhi. Vladimir Putin makes funny. Russia, under slightly different management, was one of two early entries into orbital militarization many years ago. It maintains what is called "space forces," promulgated in 2001, and yet Moscow's current autocrat stood with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today to reprobate the turning of space into another of man's battlefields.

Journalists, some of whom covered the executive meeting, have something worth laughs — which they themselves might not be in on — about an "arms race." The gag is that the race is immemorial, and it has never stopped; and at this point, unless the leading democracies have reason to limit national competition to benign field events without imperiling themselves, it won't end.

Combat high, high above the earth might progress as did combat a little ways below, with the insinuation of aircraft into war. First it was novel to fly an airplane over the front, then to shoot at the airplane flying contrary, then to interrupt a machine gun so as to fire through a propeller arc and along a line-of-sight, then to fly faster and farther and more agilely. Said ace Oswald Boelcke, who fatally collided in midair in 1916, "Well, it is quite simple. I fly close to my man, aim well, and then of course he falls down."

A week ago, totalitarian China completed a simple exercise in obliterating a satellite. This week, the Indian government passed an important test in maintaining a modern space program. The rational equation for a country's intentions is derived from the relationship of the corresponding government and people. India is a maturing democracy, Beijing has placed in excess of one billion of the living under merciless indenture. The People's Republic has a number of sites in several manners of crosshairs and — well! — a few Indian assets are among them. "Our fundamental position," announced Putin, Manmohan Singh beside him, "is that our space should be absolutely weapons-free." Who's "we"? Singh, for his sake, should have been snickering, too.

Michael Ubaldi, January 24, 2007.

Ramesh Ponnuru, sorting through a CBS News poll that measured respondents' personal opinions on abortion, sees good news and bad news. "The good news for pro-lifers," he writes on the Corner, "is that in the latest poll, taken from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21, 47 percent of the public says that abortion should be generally banned." Bad news: "there seems to be a bit of a leftward trend." Free license for killing fetuses has widened in its appeal, rigid opposition contracted.

The polls, however, were national. A state-by-state breakdown, I wrote in a letter to Ponnuru, would be interesting, especially if respective populations reflected stronger majorities on one side or the other — suggesting, perhaps, less contention over post-Roe laws — than national surveys.

He responded: "It would also be interesting if states were closer to each other on the policy question than on the general question 'do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice'?"

Sentiment and political tolerance may be closer than we realize. The trouble with today's politics, inherited from the state of the argument last century, is the absolute implication of any policy. Of course, that is because abortion has been made a national issue. But should the legal question cease to be academic by an act of judicial review it will necessarily be returned to the states.

If regulation is no longer centripetal it will likely diffuse controversy, as seen in the discrete reinstatement of capital punishment and securement of the definition of marriage. New Yorkers may not care for the decisions of Ohioans, but with no interposing constitutional right, laws are passed and that's that. And though on abortion Ohioans may not be as stringent as Kansans they will probably restrict certain invasions of the womb. Legislatures could set proscription or permission of abortion in laws according to what a state electorate would, in degrees, accept.

Michael Ubaldi, January 15, 2007.

"A bit stunned" is the phrase Mark Steyn reserves for his analysis of a column, by William F. Buckley, Jr., on President Bush's policy in Iraq.

Yes, I saw it, too. Buckley's resistance to the Bush Doctrine is by far the easiest and worthwhile to read, mainly because of Buckley's natural equanimity and reflective writing style but also by virtue of the man's respect for the president.

That said, evidence abounds that physical exhaustion, a preferred contemporary subject of the founder of the modern American right, has left Buckley morally and intellectually resigned to the state of world affairs right now. The Buckley of today is not the Buckley of twenty years ago, which is a truism except for the sense of complaisance in Buckley's arguments; even his convictions. I own collections of "On the Right" from the late Seventies and early-to-mid-Eighties, and one would sooner have read a celebratory sonnet to Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker than a recommendation of the mediative services of any sitting Secretary-General of the United Nations — as Mr. Buckley did, goodness knows why, for Ban Ki-moon.

Michael Ubaldi, January 13, 2007.

American journalism has reduced the country's strategic tack on the Iraqi front to what sounds like the name of a soft drink, giving opinions to match, as with a shelf brand the metric of success is not potency but public reception.

President Bush's national address on Wednesday was bulleted: troop reinforcement, simplification of rules of engagement that soldiers both active and retired say are punctilious and ineffective, direct application of new rules to targets including the sordid rabble under Khomeinist agent Muqtada al-Sadr, better prevention of gangs from returning to infest cities and villages, recognition of and response to states in open warfare with the United States and Iraq.

At another point of recapitulation and review, one is reminded of the investment and dividend in Iraq. Today, the democracies are another country stronger. In so many years' time, Washington will have an able ally and trading partner that lies in the heart of what has been a malignant region of the world. Fascist states Syria and Iran contend with an old national adversary empowered not by familiar methods of coercion but popular will, and one that could soon gain enough strength to confidently construe paramilitary incursions as acts of war; and declare war, doing so, this time, in the name of the strange but irresistible causes of the Westerners. The ongoing struggle against totalism would shift, and remarkably.

Back in Washington, pessimism. Defeatists in Congress may not quite have momentum or a unanimous majority but are within reach of both. Missing, as always, from the justification for retreat is substance. Iraq, listening to the opposition, is supposed to disappear when the last soldier leaves — what happens to the country or the people is irrelevant to extrication. The act of gifting the enemy with a mostly industrialized country is accepted as incidental. Would defeatists trade a fledgling democratic government for an earnestly authoritarian or totalitarian one? Evidently, since they want to try to compromise with the uncompromising regimes in Damascus and Tehran.

Denied the comfort of certitude, skeptics must at least accept George Bush's gamble as the one means to produce new and advantageous circumstances. Here is a choice between the unprecedented, hard to attain; and the intolerable, which shall be gotten easily enough because it is already nascent. Persistence or resignation, and in this case failure of the first would be the same as the natural outcome of the second.

Michael Ubaldi, January 10, 2007.

My friend's father was pulling hard at my friend's leg when he suggested that his son, in town for Christmas, dine with me at a new poultry restaurant because "they don't have 'trans-fat.'" My friend lives in Albany, in the land of the north to where New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has exiled the offending unsaturated fat — along with nearly two dozen other properties or behaviors. Writing in National Review, Jonah Goldberg aptly condemned the practice as immediately fastidious and potentially destructive to liberty.

Today, a reader submitted to The Corner an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity. "One of the marks of a certain type of bad man," it goes, "is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons — marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning."

Goldberg calls this "great." Is it great? There is a difference between expostulation and legal proscription, but removed from context Lewis doesn't seem to fuss over it. In fact, he is mid-stride through an explanation of sanctimony, the spiritual counterfeit. Taxes, for one, are accepted in word by Christ himself but the act of confiscation is not inherently righteous; filling state coffers in the name of the financial homogeneity of citizens is not apostles' work. Scorn is wrong but can be accomplished outside of the subject of abstention.

Taken too far, the three sentences from Lewis give themselves over to doubts of what makes one idle. Stating that isn't apprehension, not with the contemporary sway of libertine selfishness. We can't tell anybody, Don't? How does one evangelize? Mere Christianity itself impels men to give up willful disbelief and sin and, while they are at it, tell other men to do the same. Though Bloomberg provides us with "all sorts of things" doing no harm, and perhaps not the business of City Hall, among all sorts of things are those which rather should be avoided.

Michael Ubaldi, January 8, 2007.

On Capitol Hill last week, Rahm Emmanuel, congressman and credited manager of last year's Democratic win of the legislature, was evicted from his party's house by a loud mob. The mob's leader demanded, at the podium microphone that was supposed to be Emmanuel's, unconditional surrender of a politically select battlefield.

Somewhere else in Washington, federal officials imparted, to New York Sun reporter Eli Lake, who-and-what information on a small number of Iranians seized in Baghdad this past December. Lake reported that which a third of Americans won't be disabused of: Iran does not "encourage" terrorists and criminal gangs in Iraq, it sponsors and guides them according to a deliberate strategy of influence and annexation.

And in the Oval Office, President Bush rehearses a speech to be delivered Wednesday night. It is one that will, if Lake's unidentified sources are worth the trouble, implicate the Iranian dictatorship in some measure as the president enunciates strategic changes on the Iraqi front that would satisfy domestic caprice. How far Bush's command can be taken no one knows, inasmuch as what's most obvious is the congressional majority of an opposition party that is just short of a politic way to concede one of two primary fronts advanced in the first five years of the war.

While that is in play, the rest of the world gets on, and whether or not Eli Lake's correspondents are right, Iran — we know from the ventriloquism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's handlers — is going to arm itself with an atomic bomb first and eradicate Jews within missile range second, and should that sequence engage, anything is possible third. George Bush has suffered from criticism that is unfair, at times dishonest. To see confidence in those who partly took power thereby and are willing, if not quite ready, to cut Near East democratists loose and appease one or several enemies, gnaws at the heart.

The trick to keeping Neville Chamberlain's invocation from becoming cant is in how vividly one recounts the times and ways Britain's prime minister was taken by Adolf Hitler, again and again, for a chump. The 1938 treaty flaunted as "Peace in Our Time" was signed by Germany's dictator in malign faith, but "as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again," in the language Chamberlain had seen to, the escape from a necessity to confront evil could not be more distant than in writer William Shirer's relation of this subject to captured German and Italian documents: "Hitler and Mussolini had already agreed at this very meeting in Munich that in time they would have to fight 'side by side' against Great Britain."

Chamberlain came late, but not too late, to reason. Just a little time is left for opponents of a war stance, if they want to take it, to call what George Bush has done, at the very least, haste. Then denial will be near impossibility. We can be thankful for this enemy's temerity and insistence; for all to see, they who will see.

Michael Ubaldi, January 4, 2007.

Headlines were won today by one of those billionaires turned dreamers turned financiers of spacemen. Jeff Bezos, founder of internet retailer Amazon, revealed through his astronautic company Blue Origin a prototype vehicle, one intended to propel upward men who purchase tickets therefor. In these heady days when one can privately shoot a homemade, manned rocket into the air, Bezos joins fellow entrepreneurs Paul Allen and Sir Richard Branson. Allen supplied monies for SpaceShipOne, the craft that won the suitably neologist X Prize Foundation's low-orbit competition. Branson has invested in successor SpaceShipTwo and started his own space transport and tourism service, Virgin Galactic, pending the necessary astro-yachts.

A good free marketeer accedes to the practice of profit, insofar as some people contrive material success that happens to depend on pleasing other people, and rests that case against one for public science and learning. Granted, the state can certainly achieve what elected and appointed servants intended: leaps in aerotechnology in both World Wars, the atomic bomb, electronic data intercommunication. But it is the private sector that has run with these ideas: transcontinental flights to about anyplace, nuclear commodities, the local area network and the internet, alternative media wherein all this can be discussed, there you go.

To NASA went billions, to the moon went men — and for the treasure of knowledge, the inventions that were incidental but are today essential, the national space program deals mostly in robots and crews of seven that could one day be younger than their vehicles. Presidents say "moon" or "Mars," and then, quietly, identify a year some decades away. Jeff Bezos, then, can spend money on as many gumdrop-shaped starships as it takes for man to fly on gumdrop-shaped starships, probably far more than, say, a young Senator Walter Mondale would have allowed for The Final Frontier.

Still, the same day, there are two little rovers creeping around on Mars. The taxpayer funded a mission ninety Mars-days long, yet Spirit and Opportunity are still working after one thousand. Decadal longevity is typical for government programs, yes, but very few projects yield dividends like the Mars rovers. Let Branson and Bezos take us to the stars; send a little more money to Spirit and Opportunity, care of Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Michael Ubaldi, January 3, 2007.

Reading about the latest crimes by soldiers in United Nations livery, Glenn Reynolds references isolated and prosecuted exploitation or murders committed by American troops to mark a double-standard. "Since we're talking about the U.N.," instead of the United States, "it's just one of those regrettable incidents that can't be helped, really." Except that, in the usual opinions, George Bush probably could have done something to prevent Blue Hat abuses; so the president can still be found at fault.

American intervention, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrasts with the kind of limerence behind transnationalist calls for action in a harrowed Third World country elsewhere, like the Sudan. An overthrow and deliberate, costly replacement of Sudan's despotic order (and those of its intrusive neighbors) using the force of arms would be required to end strife in the country. It can be done, but are Darfur's biggest fans supportive?

The worst lie to have been told about miracles is that Providence delivers them not to complement mortality but take up slack. So we see great effort put into creating organizations to exhibit concern; solutions to problems, not so much.

Michael Ubaldi, January 1, 2007.

Saddam Hussein enters death, deported thereto by a court elected governance sustained, and the man who disturbed so much for a country and the world, we might have been told these last couple of days, makes in absence no difference to the living.

What's one man? A lot, if he will be a master to slaves.

One variation on Hussein's penalty bearing no significance or relevance is to compare the execution to the poor profits of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Analogies to the Weimar Republic and Versailles are inapt, but illustrative of the weakness in justification for clemency.

If the fall of the Weimar were simply a matter of the severity of collective punishment, then Italy should not have fallen to fascism a decade before the rise of the Nazis. And if Germany's national socialists were to have relied solely on depression and public discontent, the Third Reich would never have come to be.

What was necessary was a methodical undermining of successive elected parliaments, chiefly by one man, General Kurt von Schleicher, who after three years could finally persuade a senile President Paul von Hindenberg to appoint "that little Austrian corporal" to chancellorship of a coalition government. The last German autocrat ascended not because the Great War ended with an exaction of vengeance, but because the victors' treaty did not, as in 1945, deracinate institutions of Germanic authoritarianism.

The trial, conviction and execution of Hussein and any other culpable adjutants is, whatever the emotions or difficulties of the moment, one step in the eradication of authoritarian culture. Now, the dictator's executioners indeed included Shiites who, as has been confirmed, were chanting, with one reference to a late Shiite cleric. On one hand we shouldn't let modern Western timidity of religious zeal color our judgment of men who, in spite of themselves, mocked a man who literally controlled most aspects of their lives in all memory. On the other, the Iraqi state is in contention, and compulsion is the way of those who also speak like the gallows' witnesses.

The following has already been stated by some commentators, but thankfully so: the deposition of Saddam Hussein is nearly without precedent. One hundred years ago the balance of democratic governments were interested in the larger world mostly to find their own ways. Fifty years ago the free world defended itself along boundaries and prosecuted crimes against human dignity out of obligation to closure.

Then there is Manuel Noriega, removed from power in a single American stroke, whose former estate of Panama is now liberal and free. Even with other factors engaging the campaign in Iraq, that Hussein was indicted, captured and consigned to a sentence begs whether dictatorship is a crime that the democracies should finally see codified. Men kill other men for power because they believe they can do it with impunity, but now despotism could be a fugitive's affair.

As to the trifecta that is a declared enemy of Iraqi democracy — gangs mostly under Muqtada al Sadr, Ba'athists and Saddamites, and al Qaeda — their provenance is denied when one conflates forgiveness with a recognition of wrong, and places Hussein's end in terms of "Iraqi reconciliation." All sources of finance and guidance of the three are themselves fascistic: Syria, Iran, and other quasi-governmental totalitarian parties in the region.

These actors are not driven by grievance or cause. They simply want — like Saddam Hussein — total, arbitrary control over as many people as possible, and will use violence and fear to attain it. And they, like Saddam, must not be excused but confronted, defeated, and destroyed.

Michael Ubaldi, December 29, 2006.

It was the despot's last harangue,
  With a hey, and a ho, and a court ruling so,
That from a rope Hussein would hang,
  In a brief time, but only in three days' time,
Felled tyrants swing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Free men are heard to sing.

Michael Ubaldi, December 21, 2006.

Should there be mandatory military service? wonders Mark Krikorian. Krikorian may wish to confront the problem by answering a pair of questions.

First, what went wrong with the Baby Boomers? Three twentieth century wars, each proportionately bloodier than the Vietnam War, were sufficiently manned by draftees. Second, why is impressment necessary in order to imbue patriotism and civility? The executive or legislative wing in the capital, or both in concert, could appeal to the public and issue a call to arms — the phrase "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" might be put to greater use than a typographical exercise. If armed forces are meeting or surpassing their recruitment quotas now, a love of country must still abide. Washington has compelled; today it modestly hopes. Can't it try asking?

Michael Ubaldi, December 19, 2006.

Jim Kuypers, assistant professor of communication at Virginia Tech, wrote a book titled Bush's War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age. According to an accompanying press release, Kuypers, who has studied for some time journalism's various prejudices to fact, concentrated on what President Bush says one day and what, of that which he said, American press agencies tell their audiences by day's end. He found discrepancies between the two approaching totality, so that "if someone were relying only on the mainstream media for information, they would have no idea what the president actually said. It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech."

In Iraq there is, or isn't, a native named Jamil Hussein who, quoted as a district police captain by the Associated Press in several articles on murder in Baghdad, remains a witness that has yet to take the stand, possibly because he doesn't exist. The impression of terrorist and gang violence in Iraq's capital was enough, for most of this year, to protract a suspension of disbelief when wire reports announced death and mayhem on this or that street corner. On the day after Thanksgiving, however, consumers of news were asked to believe the sensational: arsonists set alight four mosques and six members of one congregation. Bloggers oppugned, American and Iraqi forces investigated: only one mosque with slight burn damage, no immolation in evidence. And, to date, no Captain Jamil Hussein.

The cynical rejoinder: What difference does the subtraction of six murders make? That is similar to extenuation, which comes from National Review's chief editor Rich Lowry, arguing that "realism is essential in any war, and it is impossible without an ability to assimilate bad news, even bad news that comes from distasteful sources." But what if "bad news" isn't representative of reality? What if it is false? When a) patently faulty goods that involve b) the guarantees of a possibly fictitious consultant are sold, and then c) repeatedly and acrimoniously defended by an executive as suitable for consumption, the whole of the company's product is called into question, on the intuition that dishonesty at the apex reaches all the way back down to the foundations.

For an end-of-year international edition Newsweek did its job and helped the Iraqi and American governments with what they have been desperate to make known: the Iraqi economy, particularly at the entrepreneurial level, has grown markedly. Standards of living, through the purchase of electronics and other retail amenities, have improved. How is all of this possible in a place that is, in print and on television, ever in pandemonium? That, with a glance at history, it really isn't, rebuts the cynic. A savage enemy isn't necessarily omnipotent, or favored by veritable conditions. Kuypers denounces the press as having become an "anti-democratic institution," something to which journalists should give more than a moment's thought, maybe a few column inches.

Michael Ubaldi, December 13, 2006.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his visit to Japan today. The meeting between his representative party and three others — from Japan, Australia and America — was, last week, one subject in an interview conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun. Of interest is Singh's opening statement, in that he wished "to use [his] forthcoming visit to Japan to gain a better understanding of Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe's idea of closer cooperation among major democracies in the region." If the free world were to be judged on its toleration of interposing dictatorships it might successfully plead that for much of the last half-century it didn't have much of a choice; although the divergence between liberality and totalism is, today, neglected as a driver might ignore turns in the road.

Singh, for example, objected to the use of his country as an antecedent for the dictatorship just to the west, as in: If India has nuclear weapons, then why not Pakistan? The world, said Singh, "must make a distinction between an open, democratic and responsible state like India, from others who have pursued clandestine programs and indulged in proliferation." Paging A.Q. Khan; Mister Khan, please. India pesters democratic nations with customer service hirelings while Pakistan indirectly threatens them with an Islamofascist export — one that the unsteady autocrat, Pervez Musharraf, should, under the theory of diplomatic fantasticism, stably contain. Singh and, too, Abe, have been asking what it takes for a free state to defend itself. Being a charter member was constituent to world affairs when the democracies were nothing but.

Michael Ubaldi, December 12, 2006.

Independent reporter Bill Roggio, currently embedded in Iraq, has caught the attention of someone at the Project for Excellence in Journalism. In an article for the Christian Science Monitor, author Dante Chinni finds Roggio worthy of some left-handed compliments — not bad for a dilettante whose work "can sound a lot like government talking points filtered through war stories."

Chinni describes Roggio's work as "one-sided." Full stop. How is it? Before leaving for Iraq, Roggio was concentrating on analysis of failures of the Pakistani government to militarily engage the Taliban, and that is not at all a cheery undertaking. In theater, Roggio has described events, often instigated by the enemy, as they happened. Unlike mainstream accounts, Roggio — like freelancer Michael Yon and others — actually reports spontaneous and responsive actions of American and allied forces.

It is rare, very rare, to turn on the television or radio, or open the newspaper, and be informed of more than what the enemy has done. Unless military publications are accessed, we will read or hear "car bombing kills x," not "American and Iraqi troops capture and kill y." News, heartening news, is made daily by the defenders of Baghdad's elected government, but it seldom reaches the homefront. Here Roggio is one of less than a dozen embedded reporters in the whole of the country, and Chinni devalues a recent, direct conversation with Marines into "only a few voices and anecdotes."

On that, what is the "other side" Chinni speaks of, and how would a journalist substantiate it? Chinni doesn't explain what he means. So either the phrase is meaningless, a disparagement of an interloper; or that journalism's "balance" requires soliciting the opinions of those who violently act against freedom of the press itself, to whom truth and civility are valueless, in which case Bill Roggio knows better.

Michael Ubaldi, December 11, 2006.

Bristol-Myers Squibb has been developing and marketing ameloriative drugs for HIV and AIDS ten years now, and the pharmaceutical company sponsors a campaign to caretake disease sufferers in Africa, as part of its international foundation. A modest internet event, "Light to Unite," allowed visitors to a website to put a match to a wick and engage one of a total hundred thousand dollars that would go to, this time, the National AIDS Fund.

Charitable extracurriculars disturb the spirit of Milton Friedman, who would say that a company's moral imperative is the legal profit its investors deserve, and anything else is a distraction, best done by eleemosynary parties themselves, but here we are. And here is where measure on measure of corporate altruism is never good enough because — why? Because drug companies, confound them, operate in the free market and those hired to lead them do not object to profit. Ostensibly, detractors would be satisfied if medicine were without patent rights, or came for free, or bubbled up from a public institution.

Or any number of rectifications I heard from a small number of people who thought "Light to Unite" cynical and deceptive. As with most anti-capitalist argumentation, there was contradiction. While one said that not enough money is spent on R&D, another thought new medicines are cheap and easy to make. Dismissing medicinal research as desultory work is, of course, wrong. Even if the creation of a new compound to meet a specific preventative or corrective need weren't enough of a challenge, there is testing and application, and then distribution.

But many have still got the arrangement backwards, and actually believe that companies are obligated to produce medicine for the public; they're not, but rather choose to sell medicine in the market. If business practices offend, these companies can always vacate the market, or will do so out of self-interest like most makers of flu vaccines have over the last couple of decades.

What is so strange about the daydreams about private enterprise is the mistaken impression of secluded executives swimming in cash — when in fact those executives are employees of regular citizens, shareholders, consumers of the company's products.

Michael Ubaldi, December 8, 2006.

Approaching foreign affairs as an avocation offers much the same experience as any subject will a dabbler. If one writes about it, elementary learning is done at the same time as critical analysis, the review of work by scholars and professionals bringing some moments of feeling vindicated (for having intuited a truth, necessarily without academic direction) or sheepish (for reinvention of the wheel, necessarily without academic direction).

My introduction to former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who died yesterday at age 80, was in Berkeley Breathed's newspaper comic strip Bloom County. Kirkpatrick, an unseen character, had an unlikely and tortuous romance with a reckless Bill the Cat. Breathed, left-of-center but in the latter 1980s able to keep good company with the right, once attributed to his Kirkpatrick a message the real one would have been happy to say: "U.N. sucks eggs!"

Mark the passage of several years and my later investigation into this woman, a Cold Warrior, an ally of Ronald Reagan and the late twentieth century right, whose non-fictional message was that the modern left preferred to "Blame America first." Kirkpatrick condemned the United Nations for what it was and ever will be, a kleptocratic parody of global mediation; and on one hand is credited for an eponymous doctrine that tolerated anti-communist despots for the propulsion of strategy against the Soviet Union, on the other writing a dozen books on world politics and humanity and the morals and obligations therein. Few of Kirkpatrick's written works are to be found in general circulation, though her words can be read. Asked, by the Acton Institute, in the immediately postbellum year of 1992, about "remaining authoritarian regimes," Kirkpatrick answered to confirm the rightness of the Cold War's victor.

"I always assume," she said, "that democracy is the only good form of government, quite frankly, and democracy is always to be preferred. I think that it's always appropriate for Americans and for American foreign policy to make clear why we feel that self-government is most compatible with peace, the well-being of people, and human dignity. We should make that clear and help to achieve it where we can."

Her reservation was one of logistics and prerogative, can't and shouldn't go everywhere at once; meaningfully conservative. Commitment to liberty, however, was for her that by which American greatness was subtended. Thirteen years later, after she joined with other rightists to meet the next assault from authoritarianism, Kirkpatrick spoke again on the subject, testifying to the House of Representatives that "Those of us who enjoy the benefits of freedom should never forget the millions who do not." One may be an optimist, a meliorist, without tripping over a naked Jean-Jacques Rousseau. From what I know of her, which is a little but not much, Jeane Kirkpatrick was canny, her ideals meant to be practiced. There is reading to do.

Michael Ubaldi, December 7, 2006.

The good news for those who continue to support the "forward strategy of freedom," which includes the democratization of Iraq, is that each alternative to maintaining a steady counter-terrorist operation relies on some acceptance of the ludicrous. Maybe totalitarian forces in the region will keep to themselves after Iraq and its citizens have been devoured, maybe the United States will be able to dissimulate abandonment. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute has added that "Some of the most important training Iraqi Army units get today comes from operating side-by-side with American combat units" — so, following an arbitrary retreat as recommended by the Iraq Study Group, how will an adequate defensive force be instructed? Correspondence course?

As early as March 28, 2003, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarded Iranian and Syrian paramilitary incursions into Iraq as "unhelpful." As recently as two months ago, that same word was still the only evident response from Washington to either country. Now, the signal proposal from the Iraq Study Group is to plead with Damascus and Tehran — to play the part of the old television Western dupe who gives away the grazing land to the men who have furtively arsenicated his cattle. This most offends those who are not inclined to trust tyrannical governments, and should; it troubles George Bush and Tony Blair, who spoke dubiously of it earlier today, and should. Yet here are two states that have, boldly, tried to hamstring a representative government, killing allied soldiers in the process, and neither Washington nor London take to punitive recourse. What else are James Baker and his panel going to think? Thrown an interpolative question from a BBC reporter — Are you still in denial? — Bush offered the man an appropriately remedial ground assessment. "Historians will look back and say, how come Bush and Blair couldn't see the threat?" A good defense, but the president needs to examine how aligned he is with that premonition.

Michael Ubaldi, December 6, 2006.

His arguments on foreign policy trapped by provincial apperception, John Derbyshire has made his most telling contribution to international subjects through a plan for security: leaving dangerous nations in a supposedly inoffensive "chaos." That, inadvertently, describes the countries to which Islamist fascists, like al Qaeda, are most attracted, given the diminished need of state power to carry out transcontinental terrorism.

Well, the panel called the Iraqi Study Group has publicly issued a report, and Derbyshire has seen fit to write smug poetry, a clerihew and a higgledy-piggledy.

This demands some response in kind (last name given its colloquial pronunciation, "DAH-bi-shuh").

Dear, old John Derbyshire,
Thinks it'd be best
If the troops cut and ran.

"Nations in chaos act
Nations like Sudan
And Afghanistan?

Michael Ubaldi, December 5, 2006.

One persistent notion of those who either believe a) Near East fascism can be mollified, or that b) terrorism is simply an understandably passionate expression, is that what is regarded as the enemy acts markedly, or primarily, in response to having been provoked. Anger, humiliation, etcetera. And it is usually imputed to Westerners, or whomever is unlucky enough to be within reach. I disagree, countering that violent men are willed to crimes irrespective of others; and I have reasoned and written on the matter.

A fortuitous recommendation sent me to the library after work last night to borrow — along with some Bach, some chanson de geste and a copy of National Review — Richard Reeves' President Kennedy: Profile of Power. Immediately after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Kennedy met with his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The retired general, Reeves tells us, "gave the former lieutenant the tongue-lashing of his life." Tongue-lashings forty-five years ago were maybe a little milder in language than today, as per quaint convention. Eisenhower spoke axiomatically — but having just sixteen years before brought, through strategic direction, victory to the free world, he could.

"Well," Kennedy responded, we felt it necessary that we keep our hand concealed in this affair; we thought that if it was learned that we were really doing this and not these rebels themselves, the Soviets would be very apt to cause trouble in Berlin."

"Mr. President, that is exactly the opposite of what would really happen," Eisenhower said. "The Soviets follow their own plans, and if they see us show any weakness that is when they press us the hardest. The second they see us show strength and do something on our own, that is when they are very cagey."

Now we can debate how far apart Nikolai Khrushchev is from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, and so forth.

Michael Ubaldi, December 1, 2006.

A little over one month ago I was contacted by David Perlmutter, professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies & Research in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. Dr. Perlmutter is quite interested in blogging; he maintains a weblog of his own and is writing a book on the popular media, particularly that devoted to American politics. Part of his work necessitated a study of active political bloggers, and to that end Perlmutter is soliciting the opinions of those who make up what is known, less colloquially by the year, as the "blogosphere."

The survey was largely comprised of queries on personal, political and methodological preferences. There was, however, one request for an expositive response. As there was no request for non-disclosure, and I wrote nothing incriminating, my answer to the question "Why did you start blogging?" is reproduced here.

It was only after graduating from college in 2000 that I began following the news in earnest. Having never written with any dedication outside of class assignments, my public opinions were limited to the occasionally printed letter to the editor of Cleveland's primary newspaper, the Plain Dealer. I was familiar with websites and online journals but perceived the work of amateurs as remote, a link here and there to a friend or peer — or to what was ostensibly the proper source for information, press agencies and commentary magazines.

In the summer of 2002, it was — oddly enough — from Rush Limbaugh that I first learned of a writer named Andrew Sullivan who maintained something Limbaugh referred to as a "blog." Investigating the recommended site, I found that Sullivan wrote short entries of a hundred words or so, making novel use of mid-sentence hyperlinks by providing readers with relevant material and pertinent opinions of others; all published on a daily, even hourly basis. Some of the "weblogs" to which Sullivan linked invited readers to post concomitantly to the authors' entries, resulting in discrete threads, as on an online forum. Authors, "bloggers," communicated with their readers directly and had such exchanges with colleagues to limn a kind of discursive network. At the time the clerisy wasn't paying much apparent attention to bloggers, but since some bloggers were journalists or academics — well, maybe some notice was being taken.

Anyone who wanted to contribute to the national conversation would find that thrilling. My interest in all this was progressive, driven by volition, and led to one question: Can I do this, too? The answer was provided by one of several programs facilitating easy online presentation, Movable Type, and the answer was Yes. That was all I needed.

Perlmutter provided a separate survey for readers of weblogs. Good work, such as Perlmutter's, is best rewarded by volunteer participation. So have at it, all five but possibly seven to ten of you!

Michael Ubaldi, November 29, 2006.

Prudently withholding endorsement, National Review's Rich Lowry published a reader's citation of death rates estimated in Iraq today, and those in the American Civil War. Deduction being: three times as many Iraqis die every month than Americans one hundred forty years ago. The correspondent sent quite a paralogism — even if the death rate comparison weren't off by a factor of ten. Motivation and circumstances of death mean everything, otherwise natural disasters or foreign invasions could be bent into conformation with the "civil war" argument. Anything could, even Iraq as is.

First, modern means of asymmetric warfare allow a small group to slaughter many, many people. Al Qaeda agents — non-native to begin with — killed scores of Shiites on Thanksgiving Day inasmuch as they simply targeted them, not because of attrition in a mutually open engagement.

Second, one must consider the dead and their murderers — most dead Iraqis were just that, Iraqis. Most often, they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Confederacy was clearly defined, with boundaries and precepts and institutions athwart the Union. Who are the "Sunnis"? Who are the "Shiites"? Who are their leaders? Where are their bases of operation? What about territory? Livery?

Just from observation, there are a lot of criminally violent men who enjoy concealing themselves and killing for sport. As long as we are actually identifying a real sectarian struggle over polity: none of these criteria can, in Iraq, be flatly satisfied. If, according to estimates, about 13 percent of the American southern population fought in the Confederacy's armies, comparable figures in Iraq would be half a million Sunnis and two million Shiites. Assuming ethnic unanimity, which is untenable, apply this to the country's Shiites. Does Iranian proxy Muqtada al-Sadr command two million, accoutred for war? One million? Five hundred thousand? Ten thousand? Or, as reported, but a few thousand?

The Iraqi Army boasts well over one hundred thousand, uniforms included. Worried Westerners are playing with numbers and semantics, and they are wasting their time.

Michael Ubaldi, November 28, 2006.

Certain enemies abroad — Ba'athists, terrorists both discrete and fostered by Iran and Syria — have been most effective in their detriment of liberal Iraqi sovereignty in the opinions of American intellectuals, even those on the right. Premise: Citizens of Iraq vote trebly but their a) lives are continually disrupted or ended, b) government is infiltrated, c) asseveration for representative government is violently denied; by the actions of said certain enemies. Conclusion from an informal consensus at National Review: Pronounce democratization null and consider indirectly meeting most of the demands of — said certain enemies.

Rightists aren't supposed to blame victims, but then Republicans are nation-building now, so things are already antipodean. Equilibrium, however, is insistent, and traditionalism is, for this topic, an anodyne form of circumlocution.

Contributor Stanley Kurtz made a good argument for a heavier hand in eliminating a despotism's civil and societal framework, and a weak argument against liberal reform. Elections do not make democracy, but since democratization is never undertaken outside of hostile environments, destructive interference is endemic. Editor-in-chief Rich Lowry, proposing a "war for stability," invoked a converse relationship between democracy (free, unstable) and authoritarianism (not so free, stable).

The latter formulation is nonsense, and has manifestly been so for five years. Lowry and his colleagues have fallen so deeply into abstraction that they have disconnected the practical reality of "trad[ing] some of the democratic legitimacy," in the words of the editor. What would that be? A strongman who would, especially in Iraq, hold onto power by silencing the population with gangs and contracted thugs, corrupting all law and jurisdiction, taking all steps to obstruct liberalization — in other words, exactly what Lowry, Kurtz et al. deplore right now.

Why would the United States want another Hosni Mubarak or Pervez Musharraf: Egypt, where nearly thirty years of annual stipends discourage Near East democratists; Pakistan, where half of the government answers to Musharraf and carries out some of Washington's requests, and the other half abets the Taliban, whose 1996 Afghan cabal they oversaw? What about the House of Saud, the "stable ally" with a culture redolent of al Qaeda doctrine? Isn't this a conundrum that National Review already lays on the White House doorstep?

Lowry calls the chosen battlefield a "mess," without considering that this "mess" is how wars must be fought — often blindly, never without error. Were that the case, National Review would have to modify its stance or else, to remain consistent, come out for unconditional surrender to anyone and everything. The magazine would balk at this but if it doesn't want a reductio argument thrown at it, it should take care not to sound absurd.

Michael Ubaldi, November 27, 2006.

President Bush's graceful longanimity towards the strongman Vladimir Putin can be attributed to the Texan's discreet public style but also to the limits of Western influence on the Kremlin's methodical constriction of Russia. Present methods continuing, Moscow becomes familiarly occluded and terse and monophonic; the democracies watch. If supremacy is Putin's end, Bush was right, in 2001, about the Russian's nationalistic determination. So, again, what about the eyes and soul? Permitted our own metaphysical fancy: Bush may have seen his own reflection in the glassy stare returned him, and decided that a redemption of the KGB's mechanical man, however resisted and therefore unlikely, could never be impossible. And he reminds Putin of that from time to time.

Still, Russia is doubling back to where Cold Warriors swore it would never return, and in the few days after Alexander Litvinenko's death somebody offered a sobering definition of Moscow's complicity. If Putin had Litvinenko murdered, then the gentlemanly dictatorship — the one which, by tradition, should be amenable to noblesse oblige — might be the first world actor to use a kind of a dirty bomb. The diplomatic idealists, still known as "realists," who are very interested in appeasement and may this January impel Washington to start making concessions, would need to explain how one form of authoritarianism was ultimately different from another, especially since each proceeds in roughly the same way — at least if someone put the hard question to them. A man who can sleep soundly after a day of bloodily insuring that his voice speaks loudest is incapable of beneficence but through intercessory conversion, and ambassadors can't arrange that. Threats are superficially different, fundamentally similar: Islamist fascism, Arabist fascism, Chinese fascism, Russian fascism, whatever.

Michael Ubaldi, November 26, 2006.

Strictly from one's memory, George Bush said at a press conference in June 2001 that Vladimir Putin's soul was limpid when the Russian was looked in the eye. Recently someone irradiated the man whose name was Alexander Litvinenko and whose occupation, in the service of Moscow, was once espionage. It is one of several attempted and accomplished assassinations of which the Putin regime is inescapably suspect, so the 2001 remark is brought up every time a dissident falls down, if only because of the spiritual perspicacity that struck observers as bold and odd.

Litvinenko's death gives a cue to chortle at Bush. Looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul! Ho-ho! As with most ridicule of the president, context must be ignored. At the time, Bush was one year from annulling the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a treaty which, denuded ten years after Soviet collapse, was yet likened in its gravity to the Seventh Seal. He was also expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over Russian demarcations. These were not the introductory diplomatic gestures of a naif.

What Bush said was in response to Putin's rhetorical question moments before: Can we trust Russia? "I will answer the question," Bush said. "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue." The president's elocutionary skills are not great, but they are so depreciated that one might dismiss, wrongly, the possibility that Bush was speaking as diplomats do. This White House hasn't made many concessions to the Kremlin. Over five years, Bush's expressions of trust in Putin have always been subtly conditional, as if the president were admonishing the Russian autocrat: Come on, Vlad, you are better than that.

Michael Ubaldi, November 24, 2006.

Shortcomings and misfortunes, routine to politics, have visited the settling Democratic majority with such frequency and conveyed such irony that staying dispassionate requires a little restraint. Sure enough, shortly after the midterm elections Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was characterized in print as an "Iron Lady," and with a devilish semantic play one might ask how well the last two weeks will be borne by her according tensile strength. The speaker-elect had her choice of lieutenant rejected two-to-one, straightaway. She faces the possibility of contravention, by party members themselves, of her very premise for the Democratic mandate; as well as the near-certainty of public spectacles staged by a Jacobin wing with seniority.

Representative Jack Murtha, as majority leader, would have caused enough trouble for the party, not least because the man's justification for quitting the Iraqi campaign changes by the sentence, or that his conviction did not extend to a House resolution, or that he in word condemned a number of indicted Marines before trial — but that a lot more could have heard a tape of Murtha evidently deferring a bribe offered in an FBI sting than already had. To be reconciled with Pelosi's "most ethical congress in history," a new chronology would have to supplant Anno Domini. Two-thirds of the Democratic caucus regarded their embarrassment more painful than Pelosi's, and another man, Steny Hoyer, was elected.

Murtha averted, Alcee Hastings incoming. Hastings was a judge; Hastings was impeached for corruption and perjury by persons including Nancy Pelosi; citizens of southeast Florida absolved Hastings and sent him to Congress, presumably so they could check up on him every other year. Hastings is a favorite of a faction to whom Pelosi is reportedly indebted, his appointment as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence commensurate payment. Oops. Now, the Democratic Party can rely on most networks and newspapers to not coronate the nominee as Impeached Federal Judge Alcee Hastings. And, too, there may be an advantage if every politician is thought to be compromised — one or two caught in the act will be understood as an affirmation of normalcy. What can be done about explaining national security privileges given as a favor is anybody's guess, other than appointing, instead, the otherwise qualified and not-impeached Jane Harman.

From the old guard come Henry Waxman, from whom we can expect a Committee on Government Reform seemingly paid by the subpoena; and Charlie Rangel, from whom we have already heard a peroration on the superiority of armed forces composed of unwilling conscripts; and others.

If this is the legislative session the electorate asked for, God help us. If Democrats benefited from protective coloring earlier this month, God help the Democrats.

Michael Ubaldi, November 22, 2006.

The youthful rightist is heterodox, to which my experiences testify. Helen Smith, forensic psychologist and wife of Glenn Reynolds, has, inspired by the weblog of a high-schooler, urged her readers to "support young people who lean right — the new generation of nonconformists."

They could use the help. Much of the sociological and epistemological deconstruction from the Sixties devolution is regnant today, from the encouragement of solipsism to the academy's adoption of collectivist bases for knowledge. Of course, the relativist would have it both ways, so while a rightist is subject to the ostracism warranted by deviation — my friend was threatened with romantic breakup and peer rejection when he declared for George W. Bush — he still operates under the staid title "conservative," and at a disadvantage in a culture valuing that which is "progressive."

What is it like? The simplest demonstration is to introduce, in conversation with a group of people under forty years of age, subjects like the Second Amendment, economics or "global warming." The majority, politically unaffiliated, will probably affirm leftist positions on each — though some will do so with uncertainty, even reservation, the caricature of a lapsed Catholic. That is at once frustrating and encouraging: thanks to inculcation modern American youth is left of center, but remains only tenuously so.

Michael Ubaldi, November 16, 2006.

The national consortium of rightists who are quite angry with the Republican Party was made quite angrier yesterday when Trent Lott emerged as minority whip in the United States Senate. Parochial extravagance and concessions to Democrats are believed to have figured in Republican losses nine days ago, and the return to Senatorial prominence of a man who is obeisant (in the words of others) and prodigal (pretty much in his own) was enough to incite threats of another punitive general election two years from now.

Those who criticized the decision demanded answers — why hadn't Republican senators listened to them and done what they wanted, or if senators didn't know, at least asked politely to determine what it was? Possibly because other voices, while not louder, were clearer. Senator Lott's reelection occurred last week, though it wasn't news because the state of Mississippi elected Lott over his opponent two-to-one. And Lott, invulnerable after a lifetime on Capitol Hill, was still one of the lucky Republicans not beaten by Democrats, whose caucus was approved, however slightly, by voters.

Disaffected rightists wanted the implication of the second expression to be an order to rehabilitate. OK, House Republicans are talking about Newt Gingrich again; Senate Republicans have apparently looked at the other party's reward, inferring a political mandate that isn't theirs. Unintended consequence? Yes. Unforeseen? No, disregarded, because there was chastening to be done.

Elsewhere in the upper chamber, Joe Lieberman has yet to sit down on one side of the aisle or the other, and there is a loose end that piques. GOP Joe? The man whom Connecticut sent to Washington is sincere, and before Election Day he said in so many words that his votes would be the same, just with a new designative capital letter. But Lieberman is a politician. As a Democrat at variance he will command value. As a corresponding Republican he would be ordinary, worth very little and, too, at risk from the vindictive right.

Michael Ubaldi, November 15, 2006.

A place halfway between travesty and nightmare is appropriately fantastic, so it serves irony well that, according to the British Daily Mail, the Labor government proposes a "national parenting academy," depicted by Children's Minister Beverley Hughes as wielding the authority to "ensure parents who fail to do their duty with nursery rhymes are found and 'supported.'" For Heaven's sake, why? All to realize, in the Mail's words, "efforts to reduce anti-social behavior and improve educational standards by imposing rigorous controls on the lives of the youngest children."

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry," says Briton Andrew Stuttaford at National Review. Andrew, why not fight totalism with apothegms, as has always been done? To "Cobbler, Cobbler, Mend My Shoe":

Parents, parents, train your young!
To help, we'll show you how it's done.
If Mother Goose is taught too late
You're marched off to the magistrate.

Michael Ubaldi, November 8, 2006.

When, in late October, Democrat Nancy Pelosi contended on television that "the war on terror is the war in Afghanistan," she may or may not have implied Islamist fascist invasions and abetments in some sixty countries, including Iraq; but either way Republican Dennis Hastert thought that "foolish, naive, and dangerous." Hastert's party lost last night to Pelosi's, even so.

Just tonight Fox News anchor Brit Hume, interviewing Pelosi, drew this out of her: Iraq is "not a war to be won but a situation to be solved." It's a what? asks Mona Charen.

Two things can come of this. Either the American electorate, daily broadcast House Speaker Pelosi's phoned-in casuistry, will recognize the Republican Party as imperfect but rational, and reject the left; or this is really what the country wants, and foreign policy will become a series of morbid velleities, as per Darfur. The second is an insidious consolation, especially after an electoral defeat — but the first, especially with the unchecked rise of alternative and rightist media, is more likely.

Michael Ubaldi, November 8, 2006.

Of the four possibilities I considered nineteen days ago, the second — maybe the third — has occurred. Commentary is coming, if not today. For now, three observations. First, in the several states popularly codifying marriage so as to be inviolable by judges, as well as incumbent Joe Lieberman's suppression of a Connecticut revolt, can be seen a country yet anxious of the relativist left. Second, congressional change after twelve years could be a return to normalcy — from the end of the Civil War to the Democratic Party's forty-year majority in the House of Representatives beginning in 1954, the parties traded the lower chamber repeatedly, neither holding it for more than sixteen consecutive years, the twentieth-century deviation likely allowed by sovereign power in media that the left no longer has. Third, the last Republican to make out well with a Congress opposed was Ronald Reagan, fraternity for which George Bush should consider himself lucky.

Michael Ubaldi, November 7, 2006.

If the rain falling earlier this morning wasn't invigorating it was at least slightly cool and relaxing, offering reprieve from heating, in cars and polling locations, more appropriate for last week's frigid weather. My location, an elementary school classroom, was fully staffed to accommodate relatively high turnout for two precincts. At each of a pair of tables, two workers with registries; a third with a record sitting beside them; one presenting cards for use with the room's eight or so Diebold voting machines; one accepting them after the electoral verdict and directing voters to yet another station, a commandeered teacher's desk with a girl behind and round stickers reading "I Voted Today" in a neat pile on top.

This was the second time I voted electronically. I activated the beige contraption, asseverated by touch-screen this or that candidate and measure, confirmed my selections from a ticker tape reproduction, and with a final tap of my index finger cast the ballot. Now I wait, until the first totals are made public tonight, content with my exercise of a right and privilege.

Michael Ubaldi, November 5, 2006.

Saddam Hussein is to be put to death for his crimes. His legacy stalks the alleys while the democracies have begun to grow idle, so in the Iraqis' humbling, before the rule of law, the man who once held them subdued, there is vindication; and hope.

"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

— excerpt from Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Michael Ubaldi, November 3, 2006.

We are advised to stay calm after reading today's news in the New York Times. A lot of what American and allied forces raided from Saddam Hussein's bureaus, files pertaining to atomic weaponry, are reportedly so conducive to their purpose that a recently opened public exhibition of documents was closed after the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of some documents' heuristic value to countries seeking a forbidden nuclear bomb.

All material in question is identified as dating prior to the 1991 expulsion of Hussein's army from Kuwait. That was when Iraq's nuclear advancements were found to have been understated — please note revelation's subsequence to Hussein's military defeat — and international scrutiny imposed upon Baghdad's further attempts at research. The New York Times is very forward on this point, implying that the question of Ba'athist Iraq's weapons has an inarguable answer. Where the article repeats a charge that "the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized," we will assume it is supposed to read "failed to adequately analyze" — though it was only eleven months ago that journalist Stephen Hayes reported 97 percent of those 48,000 boxes neither translated nor analyzed, i.e., an adequate failure.

The Times continues, explaining that Republican legislators wanted to "reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion." As for resumption? "American search teams never found such evidence." But what American search teams found were signs of recidivism. Speakeasies disposed of contraband out of common sense, and only temporarily. Few declared Iraqi stockpiles could be confirmed as destroyed. Even Hussein might have learned to do better than effrontery.

Several commentators have asked the question, Was Saddam Hussein going to just leave all this knowledge locked away? There is a complex answer. Summarized, it is No. From Charles Duelfer's Iraqi Survey Group report, with which one can remind or elucidate himself about Hussein's "Oil for Food" graft, his scientific staff's retention and his long-term plans: "In particular, Saddam was focused on the eventual acquisition of a nuclear weapon, which [adjutant] Tariq Aziz said Saddam was fully committed to acquiring despite the absence of an effective program after 1991."

Michael Ubaldi, November 2, 2006.

Ireland these days is a better place for business than ever — after Dublin raised corporate taxes, however, the country's native rock phenomenon, U2, circumnavigated the law via Holland. All sound business, except lead singer Paul "Bono" Hewson is perhaps the entertainment celebrity best known for declaiming certain problems of some nations be solved with public treasuries of other nations. Said guitarist Dave "Edge" Evans, "Of course we're trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn't want to be tax-efficient?" Edge's answer is not only frank and financially sober, it may afford a look at the truth of the matter.

Bono is a front man, but even if a loud one is only a quarter of his band. Judging from, in articles written and videos filmed over the years, intimations of the other three members' strained forbearance, Bono's opinions are not all shared. About Bono, his political work and occasional ostentation, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. once insisted "I wouldn't trade my place with him for a billion dollars, not in a million years. I make music, that's why I joined a band." Being taciturn has its disadvantages, here, as Mullen, Edge and bassist Adam Clayton are presumed to concur with Bono's chiding the First World over its reluctance to subsidize misdeeds of, for example, African kleptocrats. In fact the three and their accountants might have located office space in Amsterdam, signed the necessary papers and encouraged Bono to moderate or go solo.

Michael Ubaldi, November 1, 2006.

"You know," we now all know Senator John Kerry deadpanned in Pasadena, "education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't" — punchline! — "you get stuck in Iraq." The political armwrestling is over whether Kerry was talking about a) the one-and-a-half million Americans who attend college through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and tour, or who decide to enlist when out of school, with or without diplomas; or b) just one American, President Bush. A literal reading lends itself to the first interpretation. According to Kerry's prepared remarks delivered publicly yesterday, the senator was guilty only of a "botched joke." Word was passed that the script was supposed to be read "you end up" instead of "you"; "getting us" instead of "get"; and "stuck in a war in Iraq" instead of just "stuck in Iraq."

Kerry is a careful man because he is maladroit, and the senator's animus for the president alone is enough to accept his explanation. Nearly all tucked in — but for a couple of corners sticking out. Kerry's conference came after a press release that was perfervid and rambling; there was nothing about a joke in it, though there was a little line about writer, commentator and current White House Press Secretary Tony Snow being a "stuffed shirt." Also, the senator and some of his colleagues stand by Kerry's prerogative to declare the president uneducated and owing strategic failure to ignorance. Take that assumption — soldiers have no investment in their mission, just shipped off to wherever — with John Kerry's disheveled friends from three decades ago parodying the sempiternal Joe Rosenthal photograph, immortalized on the cover of Kerry's own book, and one can spot disdain. But Kerry was talking about Bush!

Well, now, go and tell the man standing over you that he should not have bruised your jaw, since you said his sister, not he, is ugly. Where soldiers themselves seem justified to take personal offense is their deliberate and maintained association with the Iraqi campaign, and a prevailing military reverence for George Bush; all of which was, by Kerry, affronted.

Michael Ubaldi, November 1, 2006.

Regarding John Derbyshire's placid abjuration of the Episcopal tradition and Christian faith, Andrew Stuttaford was encouraged in his conviction that "it is possible to be both irreligious and conservative." Stuttaford himself is an agnostic but a libertarian, and makes a grave distinction between religion's establishment and its free exercise, most vividly by exhorting city halls bedecked with Christmas trees. Yet Stuttaford's comfortably settled juxtaposition is not shared by all, and for all optimism there does remain a question of whether the ablative derision of public faith, recently published by some secular rightists, is an exception to or a retraction of that promise of rapprochement. I will write more about this.

Michael Ubaldi, October 27, 2006.

Ross Baker, Rutgers University political science professor, wants to know what happened to the legislative fashion of gun control. In today's Los Angeles Times, Baker laments "There was a time that high-profile killings such as the 1968 assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. brought passionate cries for limitations on handguns."

Passionate, if delusive. To clarify, Sirhan Sirhan was an exception to millions who purchased a pistol in late 1960s America and did not happen to use it in political assassination or another crime. And to reprove, James Earl Ray's murder weapon was a rifle, not a handgun — and obtained quite illegally, as Ray was a fugitive convict at the time.

Michael Ubaldi, October 25, 2006.

Andrew Stuttaford isn't entirely clear about his printing of an excerpt but the message of the Daily Telegraph's Con Coughlin is. "Iraq was still a functioning state by the time coalition commanders assumed responsibility for governing the country," writes Coughlin, "and had things stayed that way" — ah, should have, could have. Coughlin's alternate course might have worked had Iraq's state echelons been made up of patent clerks and traffic cops — instead of familial second-string mass murderers, secret police, uniformed thugs, payroll gangs, streetcorner sycophants and leveraged tribes.

Yes, if only a government designed to restrain every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity had been spared, the elements of a former government designed to restrain every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity would not be party to the murder of thousands of people in an effort to regain power and return to restraining every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity.

Coughlin closes on Prime Minister Tony Blair's failure "in his duty to the peoples of both Britain and Iraq." Those peoples wished to see Saddam Hussein swapped for a potentate who a) might have waited a few years before following the same turgescent ambitions of consolidation, armament and belligerence; or b) might have ruled so weakly that the institutional disintegration cited by autopsists David Kaye and Charles Duelfer would serve mass-destructive weapons to terrorists sooner than feared in 2003?

Maybe, but in any case there is a reason why, immediately after the end of the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters snubbed Allied liaisons and shut London and Moscow out of occupied Japan. Britain's finest minds once essayed in Iraq what Coughlin regrets Blair himself had not, executive rearrangement in an unrepresentative and violent authoritarian culture: the result was a Hashemite monarchy, torn down in 1958 by societal gangsterism that a policy of supercilious indifference left intact.

Michael Ubaldi, October 24, 2006.

Yesterday's snowflakes mingling with aurulent-russet foliage were a fitting commemoration of the call for a premature end to this year's Atlantic hurricane season. Three weeks ago today, Dr. William Gray and his team at Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science applied a final revision to their annual hurricane forecast — insignificant tropical activity in October, likely none in November.

Gray's errata were several. In December of 2005, Gray and his colleagues expected "another very active" season in 2006 that would result in less landfalls than 2004 and 2005 but, as recently as April of this year, "well above their long-period averages." By August, the team lowered its estimate of proximate and prolonged hurricanes, while still anticipating more than usual. An August that would later be assessed "inactive" led to projecting September's and October's respective activity levels as slightly higher and lower than normal, with yearly volume and intensity below averages. This adjusted forecast was confirmed on October 3rd, when Gray's team predicted a quiet October and a dormant November.

Such was the contravention of National Geographic's own prophecy, announced in an August cover story. On the front of the magazine, atop the photograph of a cyclonic leviathan devouring the seaboard, was the title "Killer Hurricanes," for which, advised a subtitle, mankind could expect "No End in Sight." Inside, the article's first page advertised 16-point-font possibilities of "monster storms" approaching coastlines with regularity. The article's third page captioned an opposing page full of white spirals, twenty-seven hurricanes and tropical storms as seen from satellites. Three sentences beginning with the anaphoric omen "never before" asserted new precedents. Only one was precise: Hurricane Katrina was by far the most costly on the North American record. Claims of prodigious numbers of named storms (twenty-seven) and hurricanes (fifteen) were only supported by an extension of the calendar weeks beyond useful comparison — otherwise the tallies were twenty-three and thirteen.

What brought the meteorological profusion? National Geographic was prepared for readers who might ask, and on the article's last two pages laid conjecture upon conjecture — citing the imputation of "global warming." From whose laboratory did it come from? Author Tom Hayden identified Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2005 Emmanuel and Webster independently published hypotheses on causes for a perceived increase in the dimensions of tropical cyclones. Each observed rising ocean temperatures and greater hurricane intensity over the last forty years. Of Emmanuel's presupposed "anthropogenic effects," Hayden wrote "it would be easier to find a building undamaged by Katrina in New Orleans' Ninth Ward than to locate a reputable climate scientist who doubts that human activity is warming the earth."

The next man whom Hayden quoted was one such reputable climate scientist, none other than Dr. William Gray. Gray, in an interview with Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi, said of "global warming" and its industrial provenance, "a crowd of baby boomers and yuppies have hijacked this thing," and that "in 15-20 years, we'll look back and see what a hoax this was." In National Geographic, Hayden allowed Gray two words — "plain wrong" — but Gray's formal demurral was in his December 2005 hurricane report. Warm waters or not, Gray flatly stated "the global numbers of hurricanes and their intensity have not shown increases in recent years." And a trend? "There have been similar past periods (1940s-1950s) when the Atlantic was just as active as in recent years," and when in fact "there was a general global cooling."

A decade ago, Gray measured a tropical latency over twenty-five years — fewer big ones, fewer hits. In 2001 he warned that "climatology will eventually right itself," and produce more landfalls "in the coming decades." Gray's worry, however, was the potential loss of life in coastal settlements, an entire generation ignorant of storm seasons half a century before — philanthropic, not apocalyptic. A bad pair of years was an outlier, Gray concluded last December, what he wrote missed by National Geographic: "We should not try to read more into these years than this."

Michael Ubaldi, October 21, 2006.

Why vote against them all? National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru suggests that the right's discontents "figure out which Republicans are part of the solution and which part of the problem." Those who most highly value "immigration, for example...might vote for Sens. [Rick] Santorum or [Jim] Talent but not for [Mike] DeWine."

Keeping a vote from Mike DeWine will only benefit Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, who is no wiser an investment for voters; in this case voters particularly concerned about illegal aliens. The time to disavow DeWine was in May, when the senator faced a primary challenge from two Republicans. DeWine won with nearly three-quarters of the vote, so any protest from Republicans in November would be tergiversation — one might ask where the intransigents had been six months prior.

Any punitive objective is, in Ohio, inapt. Correlation between the electorate's assigned importance to economic rejuvenation, and its distinct preference for the equivocal statism of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland (over Republican Kenneth Blackwell's luculent free-market prescription) is strong. With what Ohio gives the Grand Old Party, Reaganites are not included.

Who, among those looking to make Mike DeWine and the party sorry, will, in 2012, furnish a Republican candidate to precisely their — and somehow the state's — liking?

Michael Ubaldi, October 20, 2006.

In a recent brief on Republican Mark Foley, I made an inference from polls conducted soon after the congressman's departure. It was presumed that Foley's salacity and rumors of misconduct among House leaders would detract from Republican fortunes generally, but the surveys' numbers amplified very specific expectations to extremes, some of them at great logical disjuncture.

Speculation would have stopped there if the matter of unreflective polling weren't principal in serious discussions on the right. Mindful of denial in the face of adversity, several rightist commentators have found reason to be skeptical of acute swings that are based on affiliative demographics markedly favoring Democrats. This could be corroborated or contradicted by polls run internally by Republicans — Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove, who are on record as sanguine about Election Day, have no particular reason not to equivocate — but only if the samples for those polls are more veritable than the ones under suspicion. Continuity in polling this year either means unlikely accuracy or systematic failure. The Democratic Party's afflatus for electoral grievance, meanwhile, was strengthened two years ago when the interviews of voters outside precincts were believed to be more authentic than ballots themselves. What if the industry as currently practiced is nearing obsolescence?

This election has four possible outcomes. From available information, we might suppose the most probable outcome to be Republican retention of both House and Senate majorities, albeit less of one in each than before. Of lower probability would be Republican loss of one chamber, and then even lower of two. Intuitively speaking, however, the strange correspondence between what the left wants and what the polls provide is dubious. There is a contrived quality to it, so much that it shouldn't surprise if the right, not the left, landslides.

Michael Ubaldi, October 17, 2006.

The very evening I wrote about William F. Buckley, Jr.'s incidental review of Mary Habeck's Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, I stopped by the local library to borrow a copy of Habeck's book. After an hour of reading it was apparent to me that meaningful commentary would require review of additional material. So, having just finished Knowing the Enemy — yes, I am a desultory book reader — I shall move to the other corresponding texts. An article should be composed and published by the beginning of next week.

Michael Ubaldi, October 14, 2006.

The conclusion reached in a study administered by Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam — that "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down," or in other words when ethnic blocs converge they don't mix but instead displace — appears to be something that a skeptic of multiculturalism, the postmodern cordon sanitaire girdling Western culture, will welcome.

Putnam's contrast most noted in the press, however, is between a given community in Los Angeles and one in South Dakota. The first Putnam judges to be heterogeneous and distrustful, the second homogeneous and comfortably interdependent; yet another four disparities are population, local culture, politics, and the influence of government. Los Angeles: sprawling, modern and coarse and indifferent, left-statist, high taxes and many means to "promote health, personal responsibility, and economic independence." South Dakota: one of the fifth-least populated states, traditionalist and mild, right-libertarian, taxing sparingly and following federal mandates with minimalist intent.

One theologian to another, Francis Schaeffer told R.C. Sproul, says Sproul, that "the providence of God has been replaced by the providence of the federal government." He meant that charity, enterprise and association had been — after Lyndon Johnson assessed "the rich society and the powerful society" as inadequate — assigned to bureaucratic automation, when once it was the province of moral volition. Human temperament has in it an aversion to redundancy; so while the running joke about duplicative government exertion continues, communities, especially urban ones, atrophy where the state has invested itself. If city hall or the capital or Uncle Sam has vouched for an obligation, be it parentage or professional education or even neighborly fellowship, what is the incentive to do the same; particularly, in decreasing numbers and against the possibilities that lie in self-interest? What happens when communities separated by language and custom are also encouraged to remain at a cultural disjunction?

Putnam limned this five years ago in a book titled Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Community. But where does the great American ethnic pastiche come into this? Surely it and urbanity arrived before cosmopolitanism and statism. The city in which I grew up and currently live, North Olmsted, a middle-class suburb on the far western edge of Greater Cleveland, has been and still is statistically homogenous. The corner of the subdivision of my childhood wasn't. At the end of the street, a family of Brahman East Indians, whose eldest son was a playmate of mine and another boy who lived three doors to the right; there, the father a Hungarian and the mother an Argentinean. Next door on one side, Christian Lebanese with a single child; and on the other, an Irish-Italian family of four. Sharing values and traditions, ours was a neighborly street.

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2006.

Republican Mark Foley's resignation in disgrace, following disclosures of the congressman's obscene overtures to male House pages, occurred within the space of days; and the question of whether Foley's superiors condoned the inveigling was, in the same amount of time, answered with a valid No. Just as the public's attention neared eclipse, polls were held up like olympic judges' placards — almost half a dozen of them published, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Ipsos, Gallup.

Now, polls are practical barometers of opinion in the days after a political or cultural event, and it is only natural of a surveyer to probe topics that are on the mind. People have been asked about Foley and are a) not very happy about his indiscretions, and b) not particularly discriminate in who thought responsible for it. They are also, as relayed through statistics, suddenly and novelly of the belief that terrorism is best combated by Democrats. This is too astonishing to be fortuitous, though one is left suspecting a causal relationship not between event and poll respondent but rather vested interest and poll result. How does a homosexual man and his concupiscence lead the electorate to induce his party's comparative weakness in foreign policy? Collectively blamed, Republicans might certainly lose faith on matters of rectitude and propriety. But national defense? Is this Freudian?

Michael Ubaldi, October 9, 2006.

A seismic thump presented by North Korea to the world as man-made fission — and the likelihood of a fortified Stalinist artifact becoming even more impregnable as it becomes more militarily promiscuous — was too much for National Review's John Derbyshire to take sitting down this morning. Construing the end of the Bush Doctrine "in the alleys and groves of Iraq," he delivered a brief epitaph for it, advised us all to accept a nuclear club as big as the global soccer league; and, when pushed by other news, Derbyshire threatened to vote, well, not Republican.

Offered a mail comment of mine on his proclivity for assuming the worst, Derbyshire answered "And you really think W will do anything about NK or Iran? Wake up." Well, he started at a possible North Korean atomic detonation and wound up amid metastatic nuclear armament, about three years away from post-apocalyptic Mad Max.

North Korea's present danger to mankind (outside of North Korea) remains its materiel black market and artillery batteries pointed at South Korea. Even if the purported test was an authentic and successful one, nuclear weapons need delivery systems and Pyongyang apparently hasn't got one. Kim Jong Il may be uncontested but he rules a country whose pinnacle resembles 1950s Utica, if erected by director Tim Burton and populated by forcibly malnourished zombies. The travestying Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not Iran, and certainly not Stalinist Russia. American ennui tends to be a thing of the intermediate, rather than the terminus, so a nascent atomic threat may be enough to render domestic skepticism and suspicion of assertive military action — or an effort to materially throttle the regime, in spite of the consequent civilian deaths — inconsequential.

In fact what most debilitates American efforts against belligerent countries is the nature of the opposition thereto. Committed leftists dismiss reports about North Korea or Iran as propaganda, if they don't outright blame democratic nations for untoward events. I have tried many times and failed to have any constructive conversations with those that I come across, observations corroborated by what can be daily read on paper or a screen. This kind of virulent nihilism has spread to where common sense is now defined as believing a mutually affirmed front line — Iraq — is a losing proposition if it can't be secured in a handful of years. It is on this point where two of Derbyshire's statements are contradictory.

First, the iniquity of AQ Khan — the scientist who helped weapons advancements of Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Libya — confirms that an absence of the rule of law is all that is needed for proliferation where least entitled, so removing a threat from Pyongyang would require eliminating all of House Kim's totalitarian scaffolding. To that end, American forces would encounter similar frustrations and dangers as those Derbyshire believes, in Iraq, deflated the Bush Doctrine.

Second, if President Bush and the Republican Party have disappointed for having failed to "put an end to the nuclear ambitions of despots, criminals, religious fanatics, and lunatics," why would anyone vote for a minority party whose distaste, for the very policies demanded, is declarative and long-standing — except to hasten some kind of indulgent, literary tragedy?

Michael Ubaldi, October 6, 2006.

An apocryphal letter, from someone claiming to be independent, embedded photographer-journalist Michael Yon, was sent to and received by several bloggers, including Australian Richard Fernandez. Last Sunday, Fernandez, mindful of no affirmation to be found on Yon's website (none has appeared in almost a week), reproduced the letter's contents on condition, that being the removal of the name of a military officer accused of — censorship. Censorship? Between scrutiny and discussion with his readers, Fernandez concluded that the letter indicts a single man for obstructing Yon's return passage to either major theater, Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the author declaiming "certainty that the United States military is censoring." That was the substance of the charge. As to the nature of it, Wretchard argued for a sensible medium between military security and public transparency, writing "At some sufficiently general level everyone needs to know the truth."

From this distance, with the information available, there is no need to verify the authenticity of the letter; but the military's forthrightness can be briefly examined. Suppose the letter were from Yon and LTC So-and-So really was misplacing the necessary paperwork for Yon's embedment with a regularity that defied coincidence. How does that compare with our cumulative understanding of the war, soldiers and the media? I have written at length at least twice about the inversion of expectations planted in American culture over thirty years ago. Then, reporters told you what had been hidden; today, Central Command tells what reporters won't to anyone who is listening. "They Saw Potemkin" showed how the broader left's ide fixe of military duplicity has led to a selective and spurious narrative to support belief, not fact; "Demolishing Potemkin" explored the circumvention of a monolithic press made possible by independent journalism, one such party being Michael Yon.

His hand isn't one the brass wants to bite. So: the accusation. Is So-and-So one of many? Are we talking blackout? Deployment cycles provide a large number of veterans who, upon returning home, would be able to contrast the television screen with their indelible memories of service. Newspapers and network agencies would leap at and tug at a thread of conspiracy. But what comes from soldiers most, anecdotally and statistically, is a reprimand of journalists for broadcasting to Americans a front that is unrecognizable from the one the soldiers left.

On principle, the military has reasons for limiting private reporting and controlling information — to preclude warped coverage or, worse, compromising disclosures. Since the "Potemkin" series professional journalism has not been exonerated, instead facing the particular embarrassment of proofing falsehoods of Hezbollah terrorists earlier this year. Baghdadi Omar Fadhil recently wrote "The magnitude of pressure and misinformation the people here are subject to from the media is a factor that cannot be ignored. Since April 2003 and till now virtually all the media kept describing the US presence as a force of occupation even when the legal status of the forces ceased to be so long time ago. For over three years, the media kept focusing on the mistakes and shortcomings of the US military and US administration in what I can only describe as force-feeding hatred to the Iraqi people." Only two years ago a survey revealed the power of aspersion: Iraqi respondents showed no love for American forces, yet only one in four could speak from personal experience.

The gold standard for power over postwar reconstruction media was comfortably set by Douglas MacArthur in his capacity as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in occupied Japan. The temporary ban on Kabuki plays and the deportation of uncooperative Western journalists tell much of MacArthur's practices. Takemae Eiji, however, in his historical account Inside GHQ, questioned writer Eto Jun's deprecation of occupation years as "a closed linguistic space." "For all its obvious internal inconsistencies, flaws and abuses," answered Eiji, "American censorship was designed to eliminate the infinitely more repressive [militarist] Old Order, allowing a new ethos to take root in its place. ...After all, it was the unstinting cooperation of Japan's reactionary wartime media with militarism that had made some kind of post-defeat censorship inevitable to begin with."

Japan is Japan and Iraq is Iraq but we know that nothing administered to occupied Japan prevented the country's revivification; to the contrary. And the extent of foreign, fascist influence in Iraqi matters, specifically that which leaves people dead, must owe something to coalition lenience. You can't think authorities in the Pentagon and the military, discoursing in hindsight, don't wonder about this.

Michael Ubaldi, October 5, 2006.

Early this morning John Podhoretz questioned not only the practicality of forbearing hate of a murderer but, too, the propriety thereof. He quoted Rod Dreher: "Could you stand over the body of a dead child and tell the young not to hate her killer? I could not. Please God," wrote Dreher, one known for effusion, "make me into the sort of man who could."

Podhoretz went on to consider, speaking as a Jew, that "anger can be as righteous as forgiveness." The second isn't counteractive of the first, but vital to it. Without forgiveness anger is not righteous; instead, it is hate. Anger is indignation at an action, the rightful demand for just and commensurate punishment, and a deference of anything else to divine judgment. Hate is the desire to consume and destroy, not just corporally but totally, far in excess of due recompense and mortal authority — and in the same dominative spirit as a usurper or murderer. Reading Iraqi expatriate Zeyad's accounting of the enemy's murder of doctors and scientists, an attempted cautery of Iraq's lettered alongside daily strikes at diligent laborers and proprietors, is enough to stir an incendiary rage. Yet — to what end? If the crime is condemned and the convict's liberty abrogated, what more can be pronounced?

When Christ rebuked Israelites for casting ultimate verdicts, while it was their place to but acknowledge wrong and try according to laws of men, He was restating Jehovah's exclusive claim to vengeance. Hate contributes nothing to what is right. It is followed purely in the service of self.

Michael Ubaldi, October 3, 2006.

Blogger Patterico has published two of five segments from an interview with an American formerly stationed at the naval installation at Guantanamo Bay. Tomorrow we are to learn what the correspondent knows about terrorist detainees' mental comportment; today we can read his opinion based on observation. "Stashiu" — the name assumed by the soldier for the sake of his public revelations — spoke to the incarcerated men daily. What are they like? asked Patterico. "Stashiu" advised him to "Think Ted Bundy." This would exclude West Coast debutants who become the fellow travelers of totalitarian militiamen: the convicted and executed mass-murderer Bundy was an epitomic psychopath, mathematically lethal but neither rational nor redeemable. Next, the correspondent characterized the motivations of the detained as individually varied but collectively unshakeable. "There are truly some evil people out there," we are told he said.

Military historian Mary Habeck was quoted by William F. Buckley in his last article for September. Mr. Buckley invited those who would begrudge George Bush interrogatory means to read Habeck's book Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror. Habeck has concluded, it seems, that exegetical inspiration — Islamic, though not necessarily strictly Koranic — cardinally guides the many works of terrorist and authoritarian violence by men who call themselves Muslims. Mr. Buckley's article questions the justification of opposing the review and refinement of standards governing what is done with those over whom "Stashiu" watched, but by extension he is telling us all about Habeck.

I will read the book before commenting on the subject at length but think it reasonable to examine a pair of the several excerpts Mr. Buckley provides. In one, Habeck refers to Sheik Abdullah Azzam as "the principal modern theorist of militant Islam," yet as Azzam was an engineer of modern terrorism, one is compelled to approach Azzam like one would a custodian of the National Reich Church. Habeck also writes that "the most widely respected Islamic authorities" support Islamic domination through the rule of force. Respected — empowered — by who? If Habeck believes that Islamist fascism is a perversion of proper Islam, isn't the religion itself made incidental? And, to Mr. Buckley's point, "it is...wrong to assume that every jihadist is heretical to his faith," wouldn't the distorted nature of that ethos bring with it a circular argument, e.g., Stalin was but an adherent of Stalinism? Until it can be suspended outside of totalism or madness, both of which are, historically, appropriative, the circumstantial place of Islam can't be dismissed.

Michael Ubaldi, October 2, 2006.

Ad hominem may as well be Latin for "I choose to forfeit the debate on account of disrespect," for in practice it is the choice, conscious or careless, to sidestep an opposing argument and instead attack the character of its advocate. The worst offense of this kind is establishing intelligence as a condition for agreement.

John Derbyshire of National Review quotes a friend of his on interlocution: "I don't find myself in long conversations with people whose IQs are [between 100 and 119], let alone any lower. In software development projects us smarter team members end up having rapid fire complex conversations and at the end explain the conclusions to the lesser minds." This supports the observation of another friend, which is that communication between high intelligence and low intelligence "quickly becomes," as it is more pronounced, "impossible." Isn't that a tidy theory? And it is a theory. Tests conducted during my childhood suggest that I am within the 99th IQ percentile. A bachelor's degree was sufficient for my work and I do not intend to return to university study — yet after half a decade living among the medial, I can't recall a communication failure caused solely or even primarily by a difference in intelligence.

Now, I concede the fact that we can't befriend everybody. Education and avocation attract and repel people, there are things which can be shared only between those who have like minds, and obviously someone with a robust intellect will be capable of learning concepts more quickly and in greater number than someone with less than that. But imputing an interpersonal divide to the perceived inferiority of another presumes a surpassing importance of one's own work and interests — a conceit which is, fitting nicely with Derbyshire's subsequent brief on "zones of commitment," the prepossession of academics.

Michael Ubaldi, September 26, 2006.

Should we be comforted or surprised by the realization that the election of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister of Japan — and the fulfilment of Junichiro Koizumi's pledge to retire from the executive post after the passage of promised reforms — happened so quietly that neither event secured a major headline? Well — we might think about the high relative value that the corporate press assigns to drama or contention. The Liberal Democratic Party, factious as it can be on some things, forms Tokyo's perpetual Diet majority; and the prime ambition of Koizumi's former chief cabinet secretary wasn't a secret, nor was Abe's accession seriously contested or doubted. Using that scale, "Prime Minister Abe" is ho-hum.

For Abe and the Japanese, however, matters need settling that are, LDP solidarity aside, portentous. The Diet — and the balance of the Japanese public — believes Japan deserves a standing army without having to resort to constitutional acrobatism. There are alliances to consider, domestic priorities to order, market policies to rectify, all for a country whose demure governments have for sixty years belied its colossal potential. Maybe it's best Abe knows for a fact that all eyes are not on him.

Michael Ubaldi, September 25, 2006.

On the right there is a branch of demography especial to the calculation of the futility of everything. Western civilization's wane is much easier to assert when data shows a half-century of cultural, economic and procreative stagnation, and such has inspired predictions that are often judged according to their dreariness.

Some forecasters are more serious than others, like Theodore Dalrymple and Mark Steyn. The two have raised to erudition the task of rousing the free world from complacency — but even they are pretty well inclined to chart a vector from Point A, a few decades of the modern era in which historical trends saw sharp reverses; to Point B, doom. A central factor is the shrinking average birthrate of the democratic world as observed until, it seems, just recently: Michael Barone of US News & World Report announced that the United States is fecund again. Barone, a sanguine skeptic, took care to qualify apperception: "The lesson of the past is that America keeps changing and growing, often in ways we fail to anticipate."

It doesn't convince to assume population growth to be the only variable not accounted for or, too, that this country, despite capitalistic and libertarian advantages, is the only one capable of restitution. Not that Dalrymple and Steyn don't recognize that the world changes: Steyn himself rebukes European statists for "think[ing] of the present as a kind of a permanent state." But Barone's observation illustrates an open society's corrective strengths that the demography branch overlooks. We are left with the irony of members of a generation that seized iconoclasm as a birthright coming close to saying that just what can be seen is all there is.

Michael Ubaldi, September 21, 2006.

Celts, the first peoples in Britain? That is what is stated in a Scotsman report on a recently completed study. John Derbyshire disagrees and so do I. It sounds like the journalist got it wrong. The first humans on the British Isles were Iberians, the Britons, who were displaced and absorbed by Celts about 2,500 years ago.

Derbyshire notes the "waves of invaders" infused into the country's population and indeed, England's history is rich. Buttressed by the anthropological work of men like Carleton Coon, we know the ethnic heritage of the Isles to be sedimented. That fact makes for a wonderful reductio ad absurdum counter to the occasional appeal for American Indian land reparations.

Here's how it goes: First, the Germans shall return the throne to the Normans; the Normans shall give England back to the Anglo-Saxons, who shall give it back to the Danes, who shall give it back to the Anglo-Saxons, who shall split and share it for a while with the Danes before giving it to the Danes, who shall give it back to the Anglo-Saxons so the Saxons can enjoy it a bit for themselves, at which point they shall give it back to the Romans, who shall give it back to the Celts, who shall give it back to the Iberians, who shall leave the place for God and the beasts.

Michael Ubaldi, September 19, 2006.

Listening to a foreign policy speech of George Bush's, when in general agreement with him, leaves one encouraged but not without a sense of anticlimax. If what the man talks about is patent, when is it more of a tautology than a reminder?

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly today, the president avowed that a) electoral democracy is the only acceptable form of government, and that the claim has both moral and evidentiary standing; that b) many countries have denied inalienable rights to citizens, but not so uniformly as the Near East; and c) what come of said privations are often violent political or cultural movements, today manifested as, for one, Islamist fascism. Bush identified three national actors: Iran, for its terrorist machinations; Syria, for the same; and the Sudan, for a domestic brand of religious counterfeit instructing genocide. Enemies of freedom, Bush warned, would be combated. The president might even have confronted a popular saying and explained how the only "opportunity" five years ago that he "squandered" was the United States' indefinite residence in national victimhood.

OK, we knew all of that. Keep in mind, it was a United Nations audience to which the president spoke, the common language at Turtle Bay a euphemistic dialect of English. George Bush actually used it just twice, once about Israel and its neighbors and again to praise the military pledges of Paris and Rome — otherwise he referenced it to refute it. Several paragraphs into such a castigation comes the thought, How can they keep quiet while he tells them what they really are? Those who heard the radio broadcast wouldn't have been able to see the delegates knit their brows, shuffle their feet, and fold their arms.

Michael Ubaldi, September 18, 2006.

Andrew McCarthy, whose rhetorical trend against Islam I have written about several times, most recently three weeks ago, this morning confirmed my observation — that he reached a point where it was "impossible" for him to be doing much else than imputing Near East fascism to Koranic observance — with two contributions to National Review's Corner. The instance of Pope Benedict XVI's use, for a public address, of a 14th-Century Constantinopolitan denigration of Mohammed's teachings, has brought about what press and comment portray as an international Islamic riot. The depth of wounded religious dignity we don't know, and that countries heavily populated by the faithful are also dictatorships doesn't help us — free expression itself is a breach of etiquette over there, piety and opportunity a corporate policy. Radical implantations, London to Baghdad, transmit the same.

Events of the past few days were sufficient for McCarthy to offer three verses from the Koran as a whole statement, its implication that from the Koran comes violence; a statement which McCarthy affirmed when colleague Andrew Stuttaford asked for a clarification and moderation. "There's plenty of rough stuff in the Bible," wrote Stuttaford, and he was correct. One Koranic excerpt is an instruction to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each an ambush." It is a favorite, but it has Biblical parallels.

In Deuteronomy Jehovah exhorted the Israelites to build a kingdom through military conquest. "When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you," said the Lord, adding "in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes." When Joshua inherited leadership from Moses, God led him and brought about the obliteration of Jericho. God's messages were to Moses and Joshua for a specific and ancient divine purpose, as an example of God's will for His people. They were not license to expropriate but Pope Urban II used them as such anyway. Alexius Comnenus petitioned Urban for help with southerly Seljuk Turks; Urban, in his demented exegesis as transcribed by Robert the Monk, decided that the land of milk and honey was his, too, and commenced the First Crusade.

Turn back to Benedict who, drawing from the same holy book, responded to the question of "spreading the faith through violence" with animadversion. What moved him — heresy or reason? What is interposed between papacies nine hundred years apart, or more to the point, what is it Christianity has contended with that Islam really hasn't, yet? Review contributor Clifford May repeated McCarthy's error, conflating sacred text with its misappropriation by authoritarians. He quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini celebrating rule by force. He doubts there is any "wiggle room" in Khomeini's remarks — wait a moment, when was Khomeini infallible but in the opinion of people whose opinions we reject?

Islam, a practical target, is the wrong one. By the end of the Cold War a paralogism was on the West's escutcheon: because all communism was evil, all evil was communism. If we run from a religion, judging nations by their Islamic denomination — ignoring the greater relevancy of dictatorship, of cultures of fear and domination — we will deliver ourselves out of the presence of one tyranny yet into another's, again.

Michael Ubaldi, September 12, 2006.

Popular Mechanics began expostulating on distorted revisions of the September 11th attacks with an article printed in early 2005. This past summer the magazine formalized its rejection of conspiracist accounts by publishing a book on the subject. Blogger Glenn Reynolds heralded the release of Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand up to the Facts with an August interview of the book's editors, and today directs attention to an opinion piece written by Popular Mechanics' editor-in-chief.

My personal encounters with conspiracists have been mercifully few, especially since the peddlers were otherwise well-intentioned and intelligent — if distant — acquaintances. That thematic consistency trumps coherence suggests pathology, as does a similarity in behavior. The conspiracists start with adumbration and in response to or anticipation of a challenge, swiftly distance themselves from claims. Just, you know, repeating what they heard. Arguments with some basis in fact I will confront as politely as I can. Depreciating the lives and deaths of thousands of people — one delusive favorite, the denial of the existence of Flight 77 — is intolerable. Unfortunately, the prerequisite for becoming a conspiracy theorist is either a willful evasion of logic or an incapacity for its use. It was Popular Mechanics' first piece that I forwarded to a conspiracist — the magazine has done good work, but for those who revel in anti-American fancy one may as well explain to a dog why it can't understand English.

Michael Ubaldi, September 8, 2006.

Can we agree that former President Bill Clinton, during his eight-year tenure, did not realize how a military retreat from Somalia and a statutory response to bombing attacks would invite Near East terrorists to broaden their catastrophic enterprise? No, Mr. Clinton protests, and was last heard condemning the decision of Disney chief Robert Iger to air The Path to 9/11, a miniseries deprecative of his efforts as federal steward, after a phone exchange could not foreclose. What about the failure of those under Clinton to follow the commander-in-chief's implicit orders — secretaries, professionals, careerists? Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been joined by Clinton's advisors on national security and counterterrorism, Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke, to insist that they have been defamed.

At the very least, is it OK for ABC to broadcast historical fiction, even if the historical figures are contemporary and they don't care for the fiction? In fact, signatures from a Democratic senatorial quintet were at the bottom of a letter to the network expressing the opinion that the public interest as defined by the Communications Act of 1934 involves limiting editorial content to that which no one can factually dispute; which means, one guesses, that Peter Jennings ought to check his mail, too.

With free expression there is the expectation and the allowance for one public personality to tell another to stop, or shut up. This becomes unseemly and unconstitutional when the first party ignores the second's right to do what the first doesn't like. That is where some on the left appear to be going, and the general public may well find the miniseries not nearly as fissiparous. For the right, advice: first, sit back and marvel; second, do not fault the former president for not having done the impossible, to prevent an attack like that on September 11th or halt the growth of terrorism simply by curtailing the leadership of al Qaeda with a button-push. Bill Clinton's goose is George W. Bush's gander.

Michael Ubaldi, September 7, 2006.

Mario Loyola got some trouble for his comparison of statements from Michael Moore and Nazi propagandists but his defense — "[America's detractors] don't realize that half their talking points are straight out of the propaganda of the people they most hate" — is solid.

In his derisive "Antwort" rebuttal to a diplomatic telegram from President Franklin Roosevelt, very nearly a stage performance to the Reichstag in late April 1939, Adolf Hitler disparaged the founding of America with lines that — if placed before a reader unaware of its origins — could readily be mistaken as tu quoque objections employed by those whom former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1984 named the Blame America First Crowd. Hitler's prevaricating appeal for equal judgment, noted by William Shirer in his classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, is as follows:

The freedom of North America was not achieved at the conference table any more than the conflict between the North and the South was decided there. I will not mention the innumerable struggles which finally led to the subjugation of the North American Continent as a whole. ...[Germans] had held out with infinite heroism against a whole world for four years in the struggle for its liberty and independence. They were subjected to even greater degradation than can ever have been inflicted on the chieftains of Sioux tribes.

Isn't this familiar? Emphasizing a liberal society's failures and diminishing its self-corrections is a counter to moral arguments so typical of Kirkpatrick's accused as to be reflexive. Lost in recrimination is the independent value of human dignity, as if a violation of one kind at one time excuses that of another in the present; out of a benefit of the doubt, therefore, do we assume Moore et al. believe they are working at cross-purposes to fascism.

A Time magazine account of Hitler's burlesque, written ten days after, exhibits two antiquities of mainstream American reportage: direct references to a dictator as a dictator; and evident disapproval and distrust not only of Hitler but also Benito Mussolini. Poignant is, then, to the right of the article for the time being, an advertisement for the latest edition of Time wherein the fifth anniversary of September 11th is to be marked by a cover story on America's posited "overreaction" to 3,000 dead.

Michael Ubaldi, September 6, 2006.

Iain Murray has printed a letter from a British Conservative friend of his that is, to put it mildly, critical of American maintenance of the "special relationship" between London and Washington. The White House, writes the friend in one magmatic passage, is "willing to see us sold down the river to a bunch of cod-socialist Euro fanatics." Murray turns to readers: what do Americans take from this?

Well. Murray's friend's lamentation comes off like that of a typical postmodernist, to wit, "What's in it for us?" Her charge of diminution is curious, considering the documented volume of Tory contempt for policies of the American right, notably martial assertion in the war and democratization. Most tendentious is the depiction of the prime minister as a "toady." Which wing of the alliance was it, Anglo or American, that insisted on hanging in for a final, vain round of Security Council negotiations in early 2003, paring the indictment of Saddam Hussein for the sake of votes from Ba'athist Baghdad's most loyal Franco-Russo trade partners? Which wing had the power to refuse to go along, but instead deferred to the other out of respect?

The friend means well, I am sure, but we have here a backbencher screed and little else.

Related thought: America is an earnest belle, broad-faced and winsome. England is her cleverly waspish savant friend who plays foil when the suitors come.

Michael Ubaldi, September 5, 2006.

Dysgenics makes the clerisy giggle, and so it is with talk of a movie on the subject that jokes about intelligence and affluence are swapped. One family, broken, two boys, comes to mind: the mother with an IQ below average and the biological father, now long gone, a thoroughgoing man of the underclass. The mother, nearing sixty now, is warm-hearted but still mostly careless; one son means well but is lowbrow and aimless. The other son, however, is motivated and articulate, determined to enter a career that will, in all likelihood, mean his transcendence of unpromising beginnings. He's the one who moved away with good reason, who decided that he could do better than drudgery. From a few hundred miles away, he looks after his mother.

Odds are against success to be had by those of lesser faculties and fortunes but they can be beaten, and done so through character — inspired by something other than blood or books — absent from the smart and disdainful.

Michael Ubaldi, September 4, 2006.

National Review editor Rich Lowry cites an article by Jackson Diehl, who reports that Iraqi leaders are building their country assiduously but deliberately, and not — as is the political mandate in Washington — expeditiously. A corresponding reader of Lowry's, whose letter Lowry reproduced on the Corner three weeks ago, emphasized the axiom that neither success nor failure are complete, ever. From early 2003 there has been a notion in the West that the liberation and strenuous rebirth of Iraq are plot devices in a story; every month, every day taken with the constant expectation of peripety. This is faulty and dangerous thinking.

Michael Ubaldi, September 1, 2006.

A couple of days after a friend of mine waved off the fourteen-day weather forecast in front of me, explaining that he took meteorology to be a "soft science," he attributed the canicular heat wave to "global warming" as one might rust to oxidation. Now, my friend is no fool but he does hold some positions for reasons more preferential than rational. This would be one. Identifying a trend is a matter of observation and correlation; projecting the same without a full account of variables and their mutability is conjecture. Scientific prognoses of this kind are often the most exponential, with all the predictive authority of proposing that a Toyota Tercel moving forward from standstill on green just after midnight, New Year's Day, shall, sixty-three years later, reach the speed of light in time for the Thanksgiving travel rush.

Certainly when, in some quarters, Hurricane Katrina is spoken of George W. Bush is, too — more precisely, the president's name is taken in vain. Since September of last year, however, a second subject of apostrophe has been "global warming" itself, as if it were Mother Nature corporeal. Rain, wind, snow — all expositive of a thing, a force, effecting them by causation that surpasses reason, except for academic consensus and computer models. Orson Scott Card, I learned yesterday, has also been watching as surety supplants method.

Michael Ubaldi, September 1, 2006.

Jonah Goldberg proposes "Bin Ladenism" as a substitute for "Islamist fascism." "We used Marxism and Leninism pretty efficiently for a long time and Bin Laden's ideology is pretty well spelled out," he writes, so "why not do the same with him?"

It would be a mistake because Osama bin Laden rose as an exponent of the latest strain of authoritarianism to come from the Near East, and neither a founder of conquest styled after Islam nor a practically central figure in it. Were bin Laden confirmed dead and the West to take no other military or political action beyond that, the state of things would remain the same; the point indisputable if bin Laden were to be confirmed having been dead for years.

Some insist otherwise. The most memorable expression of the belief that terrorism is wholly centripetal came from Senator John Kerry when he in 2004 characterized the putative escape of bin Laden from Tora Bora as a missed opportunity to end the war, as if the Saudi lunatic were a sorcerer holding Islamists in thrall to an enchantment. President Bush finally challenged the senator on this in the third presidential debate and, by virtue of his present office, won that particular argument.

Islamist fascists are unique in their use of technology as an international deployment and delivery system (requiring state support but not national identity or dominion), and of religion as a conductive element (establishing cultural footholds in liberal countries). They are indistinguishable from any other organized group of thugs in their shared desire for supremacy and totalism and carnage. If "Marxism" and "Leninism" were efficient they were also exclusive, and with the last decade of the Twentieth Century as historical record, words that by constriction led to the pronouncement of Soviet communism's defeat as the end of history — presaging the senescence and expiration of evil. Evil did not retire. While clarity is to be sought, the authoritarian fundament of an ideology should not be lost in denotation.

Michael Ubaldi, August 31, 2006.

On the left, no change: Senators Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer are two of several national Democrats who have chosen to publicize, on the cusp of an election season, agnosticism towards the nature of the enemy known as Islamist fascism, a term recently used by President Bush. The term isn't without flaws but it is practical, and anyway Schumer and Reed were less interested in discerning religious motives of non-state authoritarians from cultural ones than they were to deny terrorists' affirmed capital intentions and pronounce the movement dangerous but categorically diffuse.

On meeting the enemy, Senator Schumer either contradicted himself, cautioning that "you got to have a real policy" to "fight them," as if deployments in dozens of countries weren't, or was instead referring to a revolution in military strategy of his own intellectual labor to be announced. Senator Reed was disdainful of "a catchy slogan...more for political consumption" and faulted President Bush and his advocates for failing "to do the hard work of digging into the facts" and ending up with a paralogism. The fascists of the Pact of Steel, said Reed, came to power through democratic elections. He corrected himself — he was certain that the Nazis, at least, did.

What Reed didn't say, perhaps because his own hard work was elsewhere, is that had General Kurt von Schleicher not etiolated Germany's Weimar polity for his own manipulative ends, affording the Nazis whatever legitimacy that could not be got from electoral gains and terrorist acts, Adolf Hitler's appointment to Chancellor would have been by no means inevitable. Von Schleicher contrived and helped sunder two Reichstag governments, those of Heinrich Bruening and Franz von Papen, before trying to build a cabinet of his own. Mendacity, however, preceded him and von Schleicher's weak prospects led the doddering President Paul von Hindenburg to accept, from the embittered von Papen, a premise that ten years before would have been unthinkable: the National Socialists' seditionist leader as political intermediary. "Hitler was elected" is erroneous and, too, inimical to the understanding of self-determination in tenuously liberal societies, since it was undemocratic doings that exalted the Third Reich.

Michael Ubaldi, August 28, 2006.

National Review contributor Andrew McCarthy's criticism yesterday of press agency Reuters, in conjunction with an apparently independent gang in the Gaza Strip having released kidnapped journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, was probably well-deserved. Yet McCarthy went a step further and asked if "'mainstream' Muslim experts" will disavow the kidnappers' Saracenical conversion of Centanni and Wiig to Islam. The act, by itself, was coercive, accomplished through such liturgical devices as sleep deprivation and firearms leveled at point-blank range, and perhaps not amputative surgery only because both men were likely rid of the prepuce at birth.

Is there "no compulsion" in Muslim proselytizing, and is jihad "the inner struggle against sin"? — McCarthy's rhetorical question is his own answer in the negative. If this sentiment were to reflect the conservative right's focus on Islam — rather than authoritarian culture — as the catalyst for terrorism and non-state mayhem, it brings the traditionalists to an uncomfortable set of propositions. I wrote about the absurd logical ends of this argumentation a year ago and again just recently.

The first problem is one of definition. If a religious identity (in this case, Muslim) is legitimate by declaration alone, remaining unimpeachable regardless of behavior, then by consequence membership is of nominal value and by corollary the tenets of the faith are meaningless. McCarthy is suggesting that Muslims, even those at the Council for American-Islamic Relations who are reliably antipathetic to the West, must answer for every madman who can recite a verse from the Koran. This is casuistry, best dispatched by William F. Buckley, Jr. sixteen years ago when he challenged a European dignitary's imputation of crimes of South American missionaries to Christianity by asking "which of the Ten Commandments was responsible."

Accordingly, the second problem is in application. We can prove that not all Muslims, not even a sizable minority, are terrorists or religious enforcers. But McCarthy implies that the Gaza kidnappers are representative enough of Islam to render Muslims accountable. There are two permutations: a) most Muslims are bad Muslims, because they do not kidnap or murder or forcibly convert; or b) as figured above, heresy is not inherently or practically excommunicative. Apologists for thuggery are without an excuse, and all other parties should condemn them; but it is hard to understand how an average Muslim is culpable, and it is nearly impossible for McCarthy to have implied anything else. And still unresolved is how one is victorious in a religious war. Iniquity does not require the misappropriation of a covenant with God, and we do well to remember that the denial of God, cardinal to the Soviet state, was contemporarily embraced — just prior to the rise of virulent modern interpretations of Islam — by most of the Arab world.

Michael Ubaldi, August 25, 2006.

Although Michael Totten's report from Iraq's Kurdish north is mostly about the region's progressivity and its peoples' impatience with a slowly reforming south, the article offers anecdotal evidence for the enthusiasm for democracy where autocracy has been long thought endemic. Nevertheless, National Review's Andrew Stuttaford saw an opportunity to denigrate the country's Arab state and society, and did so. While Kurds have among them neither the foreign invaders nor the native instigators found in southern and especially central and western Iraq, they currently are not, as a culture, what Westerners identify as cosmopolitan, nor have they been immemorially prepared for the establishment of government by consent. It was one decade of the Anglo-American aegis, sparing Kurds the most oppressive and corrosive elements of Saddam Hussein's gangsterdom, in which Kurds — not yet with a generation having lived under free, electoral representation — still found cause to quarrel with and combat one another. Inurement to authoritarian culture is, per the Kurdish experience, feasible but requires time; which Arab Iraq has not been given. Are the Kurds an example of aberration or, with the whole of Iraq tens of millions of freely cast votes richer, auspication?

Michael Ubaldi, August 22, 2006.

Earlier this summer I caught up with cultist fans of Joss Whedon's television series Firefly and, in a marathon DVD viewing of the three-fifths of a season Whedon managed to produce before a 2002 cancellation, found a favorite show that never really was. If Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were still alive and didn't immediately take offense to Whedon's mockery of his jumpsuit, egalitarian determinism, he might have been impressed by a literal interpretation of his famous concept pitch for "Wagon Train to the stars," complete with horses, corrals and Wild West paraphernalia amid the starship docks. Within a month I watched Serenity, a 2005 feature film that elaborated on Firefly's fifteen episodes.

Firefly was patently libertarian. The cast played the crew of a transport vessel led by an independent man who fought for independent governance and — in an interstellar war reminiscent of Star Wars — lost before absconding to the Milky Way's rural fringes. Government, said the captain, does one thing best, and that is to get in the way. The Alliance, authoritarian galactic victor, was an oligarchy whose vision was more ponderously and dangerously insipid than evil. In Serenity the consequences of the Alliance's bureaucratic insouciance were made sordidly clear, but throughout Firefly's television run viewers were presented with a rarely sincere critique of statism.

Jonah Goldberg, traveling and privy to cable, celebrates Whedon's narration of "a capitalistic freebooter" defying "the egalitarian — democratic — 'Parliament.'" He does so with reservations, being "a big skeptic of trying to overread pop culture through partisan ideological lenses." Still, his observation is sharp, so one wonders: what is Goldberg's interpretation of Fruity Oaty Bar?

Michael Ubaldi, August 17, 2006.

Rightist Heather Mac Donald has been debating National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru on the centrality of God, the father of Jesus Christ, in moral law. Mac Donald, by her own admission "amused" that there is mooring to be gotten from the divine, protests that "The claim that we are overseen by an omniscient, omnipotent God who also loves every human being and treats every human being with justice, does not square with the slaughter of the innocents that I see every day."

Mac Donald assumes that omnipotence and omniscience invite totalism, asking questions for which the Bible has a clear answer. Because free will eventuates sin God will not restrict the autonomy of man, manifest in Scripture and vividly illustrated in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, wherein an angel defers to a pathetic lecher on the latter's redemption for some time because the angel "cannot kill [sin] against [his] will. It is impossible."

And what is "justice," in the universal sense, exactly? The rule of law serves us in our earthly concerns but metaphysics will overwhelm a book of statutes. In his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers delivered exegesis with a vehemence for self-abnegation, and in one of his many passages on suffering wrote "God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn't ask, 'Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?' No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way."

It is vexing enough for the Christian to accept that his life and supernatural being are invaluable to God but for purposes larger than and often unrelated to him personally; supplication is the painful remedy. The patience of the irreligious, meanwhile, runs out, as the only medium through which the least understanding can be reached is through faith — which is, by design, just like the marriage of infinite power to infinite grace, beyond mortal comprehension.

Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2006.

Reviewing Norman Podhoretz's most recent defense of George W. Bush's "forward strategy of freedom," National Review editor Rich Lowry cites a "pet peeve" of his, asking "Why do conservatives have such a problem with the term 'insurgency'? It's not necessarily a positive term. There are good insurgencies and evil insurgencies."

He needs to look the word up — its denotation and connotation are neutral, almost benign. Merriam-Webster notes that the word carries the implication of "a rebel not recognized as a belligerent," whereas identification in this instance is trenchant. What Iraq faces is a) a violent farrago that is b) almost totally composed of criminals and psychopaths, unlike traditional armies and militias, and which c) often behaves as if it is as interested in slaughter as it is in political gain. To be precise, Iraq faces terrorists.

A pet peeve of rightists who are averse to the use of "insurgency"? Those not having examined a word eagerly deployed by the left — often used interchangeably with "rebels" — for three years. That aside, if "terrorist" doesn't suit, whatever is wrong with "the enemy"?

Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2006.

The rightist debate over democratism proceeds — if not altogether discreetly, ardently. At National Review, Andrew McCarthy, contra John Podhoretz, errs with most foreign policy conservatives. In imputing failures of polity on the very institution of democratic practices, he appears to blame coercive, terroristic acts of authoritarian intransigents on the very populations struggling, and dying, in an effort to liberalize. Sycophancy found in Beirut is obstructive, yes. But does Hezbollah ask the Lebanese for support, or does it exact obeisance through belligerence and murder? Following McCarthy's logic, a country must be unanimous in its move from dictatorship or else reformation is subject to failure.

Another oversight is McCarthy's claim that the Near East has been colored by cultural messianism for generations — when, just half a century ago, the region was off on a honeymoon with secular fascism. Victor Davis Hanson makes this last point repeatedly. Finally, as with conservatives, McCarthy has not presented a substantial alternative method to democraticism for wiping out non-state authoritarians.

Michael Ubaldi, August 14, 2006.

Solo, the upbeat narrative of Saul Singer plays against a prevailing minor. "Let's call it," Singer writes of Israel's halted northward offensive through Lebanon, "a squandered opportunity." But, he argues, fortune will favor diligence. "We destroyed most of [Hezbollah's] most dangerous missiles. We demonstrated we weren't afraid to subject our population to bombardment and that barrages of over a hundred missiles a day only caused our public to say 'fight harder!'" It's true that the Israeli operation did not prove Hezbollah's invulnerability.

Intractability — OK. Syria and Iran's joint venture performed above expectations reserved for a terrorist group — efficacy is not to be found where trained, uniformed soldiers oppose, and it was reported that Hezbollah gangs were more organized and more lethally fit than anticipated. And deaths of Lebanese civilians, real and presumed, in spite of the Israeli Defense Forces' pre-bombardment cold calls, were made a lurid show through the manipulative dexterity of terrorists entwined with the long-ruined Arab state. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, however, appeared in a broadcast to derive victory from a) Hezbollah's not having ceased to exist, and b) the group's refusal to disband. "This isn't a time to disarm," Nasrallah said, which is the obverse of the statement "This is a time to re-arm" — a precarious stance assumed while in close proximity to a national will and army like Israel's.

If the invitation these days is to draw parallels to the latter 1930s, think of a Rhineland investment that was — departing from history — met, matched and clove into ribbons and streaks. During their advance the Israelis faced only political strictures, and reached points on Lebanese soil that their civilian command intended; if short of where some demanded. Hezbollah, meanwhile, lost more than agents and materiel. In the course of the fighting two signal terrorist assets — collusive press agencies and foreign impresarios — were exposed. Editors for the Associated Press and Reuters, caught with fascist propaganda in and among their reports, could only temporize. Damascus and Tehran were drawn out and, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's eschatological gibberish aside, the respective regimes briefly given to contemplate a war that cannot, against major democratic powers, be fought openly. Democracies shrink from sinuous campaigns but none is quite like Israel. From Jerusalem, all major parties speak of "the next war."

Michael Ubaldi, August 11, 2006.

What's that — chatter about politely asking dictatorial regimes who mean to do us harm more time, a little more time before they go through with it? The success of jury-rigged detente is said to embody Washington's relations with countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

But both of those countries manufacture non-state authoritarians — terrorists following counterfeit Islam — as readily as adversaries like Iran and Syria. Remember, the most poignant collective fact of the nineteen September 11th hijackers was that nearly all of them were citizens of putative allies. Our lesson learned from Cold War clientage is that, absent revolution that transposes an authority and reestablishes political and cultural mastery, radicalism will spurt from failing dictatorships as if from a safety valve — this can be studied under the historical index of "upheaval."

And this says nothing of despots who are actively deploying irregulars against us. All bargains made with tyranny are Faustian; they can't be seen as ends in themselves.

Michael Ubaldi, August 10, 2006.

The editors of National Review, mindful of what penumbral discussion they are choosing to enter, define sectarian gang killings centered in Baghdad with a diagnostic compromise. Supporters of the Iraqi campaign are unwilling to concede anything to oppositionists for whom the phrase "civil war" is mnemonic for "Tet Offensive," and National Review splits the difference: No civil war, but one that menaces, and internecine strife "violent enough to qualify."

National Review's editors are fair to the Bush administration and Iraq's elected leaders, and offer reasonable suggestions. But that advice could be delivered apart from the antecedent; entertaining the idea of civil war, the editors commit two errors in their sociopolitical calculus. First, for the violence to cause a civil war, religious and ethnic groups must be taken to be unanimous; second, collective blame must be laid for the actions, however disproportionately destructive, of a very few. Civil wars, even nominal ones, require some kind of popular participation, and if that were the case it would be obvious. Lacking this the editors appear to rely on conjecture, and that leads to overbroad conclusions. The Badr militias claim to be Shiite? Well then, Shiites must be Badr. Al Qaeda, Ba'athists and violent tribes are Sunni? These groups must be cadres around which Sunnis rally.

A weak association is made between Iraq and misjoinder federations. Bedlam in Iraq, the editors write, could be managed like "the wars of the Balkans." Yugoslavia's aftermath? It was eventuated by secessions and populated by standing armies and militias. Those leading Slovenians, Croatians and others away from Belgrade sought political independence, not — as is the case in Iraq — wanton murder in the streets. Who, precisely, leads each faction? From where? To what end? Why is most of the slaughter occurring in Baghdad, for no other reason than an abundance of civilian targets? Why are Kurds, who would be best equipped for secession, not involved in the carnage? What is the significance of Iran's direction of one criminal menagerie, and Syria the other? Has anybody stopped to ask why — after thousands of deaths from car bombs and alleyway murders, dozens of incursions on religious sites — all that was needed was a brief series of well-publicized mosque bombings before "death squads" materialized as if on cue?

Declared enemies of freedom are attempting to frighten Western patrons of Iraq with the factious dysfunction of a former police state. It's a clever little travesty, and National Review, which at certain times during Iraqi reconstruction has gone docile, is willing to suspend disbelief. Civil war? The finest answer to this question came in one sentence from the steps of a bus: "By my definition of a civil war, which is a collapse of government and warring factions taking control of the country, there is not a civil war." The source of it is also one of irony, Joe Lieberman.

Michael Ubaldi, August 7, 2006.

Michael Ledeen, checking in from sub-Saharan Africa, documents violence and oppression having very little to do with Islam. Africans "are dying," he says, "at the hands of marauders, of tyrants who starve them to death and then beg the West to provide money and food to the regimes who caused the artificial famines in the first place." Democracies are best familiar with the threat known as "Islamic-fascism" and "Islamo-fascism," yet while those labels are OK for the purposes of making concept manifest, there is, as I wrote last year, some risk that the prefix will be accepted as the semantic root.

Westerners have a tendency to not view dictators and terrorists simply as adherents to compulsory rule, but to order them by brand, that is, whatever particular doctrine is claimed to inspire assaults on humanity; and then assign brands degrees, first of danger and soon enough of tolerability. Operational priority is a good excuse, democracies obliged to face adversaries as practicable. Construing parties with "bad" and "bad-bad," though, leads to strange and harmful equivocation. Trying to secure a meaningful difference in sociological consequences of, say, the Third Reich and the Soviet Union — maybe respectively hyphenated as "Teutonic-fascism" and "collectivist-fascism"? — is like choosing between defenestration and arsenicism.

Three misinterpretations are residual, being a) an "Islamic" enemy perceived as the only threat to liberal society, or b) a range of enemies that defies category, or c) a host of countries and parties not even recognized as deadly and fascistic. Most Americans are not as insensible as Congressman John Dingell, who recently withheld absolute support of Israel so he wouldn't short Hezbollah, but some polls do show a certain public temptation to regard Hezbollah — whose token irredentist license is six years revoked — as one would a league of concerned citizens.

And there is trouble with the labels themselves. How Islamic, strictly speaking, is the conduct of terrorists when referenced Koranic excerpts are removed from context — if the holy book that guides most Muslims through irenic lives is referenced at all? Disambiguating assorted enemies as authoritarians, period, is prerequisite to defending against and destroying them.

Michael Ubaldi, August 3, 2006.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy's characterization of the regime of Iran as playing "a stabilizing role in the region" has been contravened by the regime of Iran. Executive designate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of Israel, as he has several times before, and even though Ahmadinejad's malediction was qualified — adding "at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented" — Monsieur Douste-Blazy was driven to censure. In a series of statements broadly addressed to Tehran, the minister expressed what might translate as "Keep your mouth shut for more than a couple of days when we compliment you."

Now, diplomats are known to euphemize, not so much to hallucinate. The problem of how Iran's regional and global machinations carried out by a passel of contracted terrorist organizations represents stability, then, can be solved by supposing Douste-Blazy considered how long the Khomeinists have been at work — almost thirty years — and thought "reliable, damned reliable."

Michael Ubaldi, August 2, 2006.

Brat-pop rockers for want of endearing, onstage commercial flair can stop looking: the Mitsui Group's chain emporium, Mitsukoshi Ltd., has set a rare Hello Kitty-stamped Fender Stratocaster out on the counter. The guitar's pickups, bridge, and volume and tone controls intrude a bit on the cartoon feline's minimalist outlines; players may also find it disconcerting, in using Hello Kitty's jaw as a pickguard, to have gradually engraved a smirk. Against this are the possibilities for fret marking raised by a nacre-white, cursive signature running down the neck.

A price tag of $21,000 will keep the instrument out of reach of all but wealthy and larcenist dilettantes. And while stars have the cash, style may be a restraint. However appropriate Kitty's bubbly insouciance might be for, say, the diminutive Angus Young and his scrubbed schoolboy uniform, it would never happen — AC/DC's lead guitarist, don't you know, only plays a Gibson SG.

Michael Ubaldi, August 1, 2006.

So the immortality of Fidel Castro is refuted: the communist tyrant is reported gravely ill, his brother now in control of Cuba.

In the short term we must put up with intellectuals and the press as they anthropomorphize and even apotheosize a thug who first subjugated and then deadened the Latinate island while forcing the United States, humiliated at the Bay of Pigs, to watch from across an absconder-strewn gulf.

In the long term America's electorate and representatives must again consider, respectively, whether there is a will to confront outright suffering within the nation's compass and, if so, what plans and forces are available to remove those who are culpable. Washington has generally offered two competing policies for Cuba: neglecting the Cuban people by ostracizing the totalitarian regime, the default, or engaging Castro himself — an alternative with about as many dividends as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's 2000 toast in Pyongyang to the ubiquity of Cult Kim. Nearly fifty years on, neither approach to Cuba is reasoned.

How about rhetorical and material encouragement given directly to public airwaves and Cuban liberals? East Europe could not have overturned Soviet dominion as it did had it not been for Reaganite succor. Or intervention? The United States armed forces recently deposed — in record time with little loss — a third-string, narcissistic strongman commanding a dictatorial rattletrap whose name, forever consigned to mug shot farce, was Manuel Noriega.

Michael Ubaldi, July 27, 2006.

Jonah Goldberg is exactly right in warning that "Pursuing elections before you've cultivated liberal values is a recipe for Hitlerism or Hamas-ism" while suggesting "If there's a strong-man who wants to be Ataturk [who modernized, secularized and liberalized post-Ottoman Turkey], we should give him some leeway."

That is why Kuwaitis and Jordanians should be left to continue their measurably steady movement towards electoral democracy, with or without constitutional monarchism, with quiet encouragement from Washington; the regimes in countries like Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar given varying degrees of prods and admonishments to receive liberal parties and advocates; and the virulent governments of Syria and Iran undercut in every way possible. In debate on American foreign policy, too much attention is paid to the means of cultivating freedom — when it is ends that matter.

Michael Ubaldi, July 26, 2006.

With all the material and intellectual challenges facing democratists, choosing one's opponents is still beneficial. From the parochialist backbench can be heard This is What You Get When You Pretend They Can Be Us, but that rebuke was learned by rote in a school of anthropology discredited sixty years ago. Peoples living today under the republican rule of law include those whose countries never flew a British flag, those who are dark-skinned and, indeed, those who are Muslim. There is ever a dislocation between what was — what "ought to be" — and what is, the principal service of Carol O'Connor's dramatized misanthropy to get him laughed at. It's best to leave the parochialists to their dangerous flirtation, then, and answer the conservatives.

Michael Ubaldi, July 24, 2006.

John Derbyshire asks for Hillary Clinton as Vesta Tilley. Very well:

There is something a little vulgar about political defacement, even in good fun — but inspiration is difficult to resist, especially when the request "Depict Mrs. Clinton dressed as a man" instantly and repeatedly brings General Douglas MacArthur to mind. Say what you want about the apparently shared usefulness of pantsuits, the two have more than a little in common. Both general and senator would be rightly considered imperious, resolute, personally unlikable but highly successful in their chosen fields; and perhaps unforgettable to history for having made, with adamantine confidence, a curious attempt at the American presidency.

"I shall return," each said.

Michael Ubaldi, July 24, 2006.

As someone whose career involves debating a number of personalities on the left, Jonah Goldberg has my sympathies as he criticizes a Lebanese journalist's paralogism on the respective alliances of Iran and Syria and Hezbollah, and the United States and Israel. Iran and Syria, two countrywide gangsterdoms of demonstrable brutality, and Hezbollah, a terrorist cadre working towards a philosophically muddled but operationally precise goal of genocide; indistinguishable from two free, generous, prosperous — longanimous — nations?

The place for rational discussions of foreign policy seems to be increasingly confined to the broad right. A conservative may be skeptical or even dismissive of the practice of nation-building but will probably agree with a democratist that when achievable, liberalization and its object, electoral democracy, are incomparably better — for natives and neighbors alike — than autocratic control, oppression and the resulting belligerence. I recently tried to discuss foreign affairs with a number of leftists and found that a rejection of moral values and the empirical evidence behind them (for instance, that a Syrian or Iranian citizen cannot stage a public protest of his government without risking his status or health, whereas an American or Israeli can't do the same without a good chance of his picture in the newspaper) is essential to this perception of the left's. An attempt, I presume, at a simpler equation — but as the equation is stripped of moral judgment it is also one removed from logic.

Michael Ubaldi, July 22, 2006.

Although I have some more work to do in persuading a well-intentioned nitpicker that the word "recrudescence" is an acceptable figuration of my blogging bug, my efforts elsewhere have brought the website's substructure near completion. All that is left are old political categories like "Iraq's Emancipation" and "Domestic" to be reassigned to "Observations" and a few navigation odds and ends — and then I am free to pretty the place up.

Note that "Observations" keeps political entries and two old categories known to be favorites of uBlog readers — "Our Man Ubaldi" and "Only in Japan" — separate from one another. What's a rule without a sentimental exception?

The site is designed for Mozilla Firefox, and I have confirmed that Internet Explorer haphazardly inserts gaps when it renders HTML tables, so let's solve that problem together.

Michael Ubaldi, July 21, 2006.

To you happy few who still give me a reason to spend money on bandwidth: the site is about halfway through a structural format change. Navigability shall return, followed with a recrudescence in content. You remember that word — "content," yes?

Michael Ubaldi, July 20, 2006.

If the blogosphere were a personality in need of a biographer, Simon Owens would be just the man. I recently answered five questions on blogging, media and the national conversation for Owens' continuing series, Blog Interviews.

Michael Ubaldi, July 14, 2006.

John Podhoretz and Cliff May have decided to argue over the merits of democratization as an American policy with Andrew McCarthy who, for all his rhetorical determination to fight Near East fascism, defends the strategic institutions responsible for the spread and resilience of that very enemy.

I suggest a three-step plan.

1. Calmly illustrate the difference between encouraging, in fascist-worshiping Near East dictatorships, civil society that will eventually support free elections of liberals; and simply shipping ballot boxes to jihadist-run slums.

2. Ask Andrew if he would rather have, in headlines, apologies for Damascus from Emile Lahoud; or imputations thereto from Walid Jumblatt.

3. Before he can reply, smile, say, "No, you're right, Andy: let's end terrorism by following Washington's Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia foreign policy models, where several dozen cents out of every aid dollar are slipped to terrorists who know people on the government payroll. That makes so much sense," and just let it go.

Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2006.

Robert Mayer declares that, in Ukraine, the Orange Revolution "is officially over." On whose authority? Last December, Robert made strident claims — in error — of throughgoing Shiite theft of Iraq's parliamentary elections. Now Moscow-backed reactionaries win a round and the struggle over Kiev is finished?

Setting those evanescent, if resplendent, days in Independence Square against the drudgery of redeeming a post-Soviet bureaucracy is an illustration of the maxim "Democracy is a process, not an event." Ukraine will vacillate, good fortunes and bad fortunes, for years. Democratists — especially bloggers — aren't doing their cause or foreign hopefuls a favor by divesting themselves when an elysian monument is not immediately erected on the site of the victory won by an otherwise granitic popular movement. Constantly publishing photographs of "protest babes" is fun, yes. But there is levity in that, the stuff of fair-weather allies.

Michael Ubaldi, June 15, 2006.

Can there be democracy without liberalism? Not for more than a moment. Jonah Goldberg laments that "we don't even have the language to talk about the nobility or merits of classical liberalism independent of democracy because ever since the Progressive era it's been taken as a given that enlightened rule is anything but classically liberal."

By all means, invest liberalism and then hold a popular election. What is (sadly always) missing from this debate is a distinction between principle- and practice-driven democratization; the former favored by transnationalists and the latter exercised singularly, if brilliantly, in postwar Germany and especially Japan.

Principle-driven democratization is reform in theory. It is based on the contention — really, the pretension — that simply gifting a fair ballot to a population will accurately and beneficially reflect national will. Of course, this is nonsense: if a liberal society with a rule of law is not in place, authoritarian parties will do what is necessary to conduct a nominally legitimate election, then assume power and promptly dismantle the pluralist system that brought them to power. Even if fraud is undetectable, intimidation will be culturally expressed — take Hamas' victory. What Palestinian in his right mind would have run on a platform of conciliation with Israel? Surely many Palestinians want nothing to do with bloodshot, anti-Semitic irredentism. Where was their representation? Dead, in prison or in hiding, hoping to win office by way of a write-in. And yet, to transnationalists and reactionaries, Palestinian elections were an exercise in democracy.

Practice-driven democratization is the answer to groups like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, bogeymen of liberalization's opponents. Simply put, practice-driven is smart pluralism: parties transparently dedicated to sundering civil society should not be allowed to participate. When charged with desecrating the sacrosanctity that is free speech, the practice-driven democratist might counter with questioning the wisdom of inviting baby-snatchers into maternity wards. General Douglas MacArthur exemplified practice-driven work in his jurisdiction of Occupied Japan. He tolerated the Moscow-directed socialists led by Kyuichi Tokuda only until February 2, 1947, when an inimical general strike was attempted by the socialists but — in abrogation of recently promulgated civil rights — prevented by Allied authorities. In the following years, particularly after Washington's Cold War-minded "reverse course" in occupation policy, the Japanese government conducted "red purges" and effectively ended Communist interference in the affairs of that country.

Most desirable to democratists are countries that are moving towards electoral democracy — Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, former Soviet acquisitions, and so forth. For those nations contending with authoritarians capable of manipulating the very operation intended to establish popular rule — one vote, once, The End — the state or foreign guardian cannot judge political forces equally.

There is more on this subject; in fact I have had an article about the election of Hamas half-finished for four months. I will publish as I can.

Michael Ubaldi, June 12, 2006.

There are advantages to an apostrophic language. Although references to Star Trek are, at The Corner, verboten, warden Kathryn Jean Lopez may not object to something derived from Gene Roddenberry's legacy if the Corner can make entertaining — and elucidating — use of it. National Review could introduce an idiosyncratic shorthand for the political internet.

For example:

"Ted Kennedy — his hands black and his nose red," denoting excess.

"Jim Jeffords, in the bargain bin," denoting ephemera.

"Andrew Sullivan, yesterday?" denoting gainsaying.

"Senator Stevens with the pursestrings," denoting extravagance.

"Nancy Pelosi, her speech notes scattered," denoting sudden and inextricable confusion.

"Orrin Hatch, yelling," denoting the physically impossible.

"Derb and humanity," denoting sullen, if thoughtful, resignation.

"Kofi Annan in jail," denoting the frustration of unmet justice.

"Bill Buckley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan," denoting common cause.

Michael Ubaldi, May 18, 2006.

We are told three things. First, with certainty, that Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe introduced an amendment to an immigration bill asseverating the language of the American government as that written and spoken, historically, by the people: English.

Second, on good if qualified authority, that Nevada Senator Harry Reid called the amendment "racist," wielded to punish those of Latinate tongues, and went on to say "I have three sons that speak Spanish, fluent Spanish. One of them lived in Argentina a couple years. One lived in Ecuador, one lived in Spain. They speak fluent Spanish."

Can't Senator Reid, one wonders, follow through to the corollary of his sons' linguistic training? His sons learned Spanish — why? Because that is what is spoken and indited in Argentina and Ecuador and Spain, that which is the official language of the state; which one would be a sorry boor to contravene.

Third thing, with as much certainty as the first: the amendment passed 63 to 34.

Michael Ubaldi, May 15, 2006.

Diplomatic relations with the military dictatorship of Libya, long in the deep freeze, have been thawed as per a speech given today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Michael Rubin, the democratist who tells you always how he would have done it, has written to National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez, who herself describes her mood following the news as "depressed," that "from the Middle East perspective" — which is surely to say, from his — President Bush is a big fibber on democracy.

Please. Calm down.

The last two lines of a recent post of Richard Fernandez's paraphrased Sun Tzu in reference to "a way in which one's adversary can accede to [one's] demands without losing face or suffering undue public humiliation." Fernandez was writing about Egypt, but I immediately thought of Libya. Moammar Gadhafi may be geopolitically benign but he is still a crackpot megalomaniac; it was good work and good fortune that his WMD expos occurred shortly after the end of Ba'athist Iraq. The mad colonel will likely never return to his Reagan-era opprobrium yet short of his death or military deposition and the prevented accession of his son, democratist reform will not come to Libya at the expense of his autarchy.

Gadhafi is the only dictator who blinked in 2003. That has got to mean something in those circles. He probably can't be pushed any further, and without reciprocity like diplomatic reconciliation there is a risk of recidivism that will increase with time. Topple Gadhafi? Not before Bashar Assad, or Kim Jong Il, or the Khomeinist mullahs. So force is out. The president rightly knows that while driven by principle he is judged by practice, and that engaging Libyans themselves will be remembered; standing still for the sake of Michael Rubin's immaculate ideal never heard of again.

Michael Ubaldi, May 8, 2006.

Like a rosebud to thorns, the Wall Street Journal's rightist editorial page lies ensconced in one of the furthest leftward American newspapers. Today, on those gauche pages, an article on Apache renegade Geronimo just short of historical fiction:

The grave of the famed warrior has long been rumored to have been robbed during World War I by a small group of young military officers that included Prescott Bush, the president's late grandfather, and other members of Yale University's secretive Skull and Bones society.

Presumably, the New York Times will bookend the week with the front page publication of a story under the headline "Holy Grail on Bush Estate: Family Heirloom Retrieved from Ottoman Expedition, Used as Ashtray."

Michael Ubaldi, March 29, 2006.

The staff of uBlog apologizes for the continued lack of new material. Operations has zeroed in on the problem inside this fine expressions and opinions factory (Est. 2002) and — good news — the trouble is with assembly and not design. Conveyor One is running slow and our engineers have been preoccupied with both administrative crises and the methodical review of new source material; but, rest assured, we shall and will continue to produce. Never complacent, we keep images of declining trends in the backs of our at-capacity minds.

However, since the inference can be made that uRead, we must still be doing something right.

Yes, Virginia, Sharansky-devout democratists can laugh at themselves.
Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2006.

Sung to the melody of Isaac Hayes' "Shaft."

Who's the last and best hope
That's wise to the democratist dopes?
Damned far right!
Which hegemon
Won't call or write but if pushed, just might bomb?
Do ya get it?
Who's not gonna bail you out
When Election Day goes south
You see this capital's got bad mothers
(Shut your mouth!)
I'm talking about silos
(Then you might get it)
An uncomplicated plan
But those who understand it don't have power

(As per Jonah Goldberg's request for a foreign policy conservative's anthem.)

Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2006.

You mean to say that the housing market fluctuates, instead of flagging before an ignominious, hubristic collapse? Now that the "growing consensus" predicting an economic slowdown has been shown to be in error, Martin Crutsinger, market journalism's own Joe Bfstplk, tacks:

Sales of existing homes unexpectedly rose last month as a warmer than usual winter boosted demand in many parts of the country, but a slack demand in some areas produced what one analyst called a "tale of two cities."

Bless that man for perspicuity not seen beyond Corinth! Remarkably, the Associated Press can still feign surprise at votes of low confidence among consumers who read its reports.

Michael Ubaldi, March 21, 2006.

The Golden Rule, brought to you by Dig 'Em of Kellogg's Honey Smacks. I have written more elegantly contra Rod Dreher and his haute cuisine pietism but for this: "Crunchy Conservatism" is crap, crap, crap.

Michael Ubaldi, March 14, 2006.

If satisfaction in personal computing is asymptotic, this is the closest to silicon Elysium yet: Jinx built herself a sleek, fast, six-sided chrome homage to the heroine of Metroid.

Michael Ubaldi, March 1, 2006.

Frag Doll Brookelyn discusses Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter's team gaming, materiel and the potential for the fairer sex in simulated soldiery in her interview with Red Storm Entertainment's lead multiplayer designer Christian Allen; part of this week's Frag Doll podcast.

Michael Ubaldi, February 15, 2006.

Gliding past Saturnine moon Titan, NASA's Cassini spacecraft furthered its cartography work by spattering the methane-girdled orb with infrared. Titan, Saturn's largest and most compelling moon by virtue of its appearance as primordial Earth on ice, is just one circling the ringed planet. Between Sol's nine planets is the ownership of thirteen dozen moons. The asteroid and Kuiper belts each boast thousands of objects with size enough to be called, if but they were adopted, satellites. Astronomers have detected over one hundred extrasolar planets, a list growing monthly, the discovery of the smaller, nickel-iron variety only a matter of instrument refinement. There are billions of stars in this galaxy and, should providence have smiled on corporeality when the cosmos sprang from nothing, collections of little worlds to match our own. The knowledge, the knowledge, the knowledge.

Michael Ubaldi, February 8, 2006.

It goes well to music: Jinx's latest podcast is up.

Michael Ubaldi, January 17, 2006.

The stalwart, the circannual and the nascent: Martian rover Spirit and Saturn probe Cassini will be joined by the New Horizons craft in space later this afternoon when an Atlas V rocket brings it to low-Earth orbit, and joined in vocation nine years later when New Horizons travels thence to Pluto. It has been observed that with the first images of Pluto and its known moon Charon, the last uncharted heliocentric principal may be contemplated by man in terms more expository than two salient jots of light on a starfield. And there we have a paradox. The more familiar our little family rounding Sol, the more commonplace is each discovery, the splendor NASA shows us already less astounding than animated and fanciful sequences filmmakers build from composites of nature. Until, that is, we see Mars or Saturn or Pluto right there, there in front of us, through the larboard viewport.

Michael Ubaldi, January 11, 2006.

1. Gazing intently at a driver who has pulled her car well over the crosswalk's threshold will, if the woman is unaccustomed to city etiquette, compel her to throw the transmission into reverse and resile from the province of pedestrians.

2. Cleveland parking meters are exo-dimensional, partially residing where time runs at about one minute to every four of ours (which may explain one cause of the city's money troubles). Four to one? Were that the case here, France would have two times as many cathedrals, Leonardo da Vinci would have left us the Battle of Anghiari instead of three-fifths thereof, and no one would either chuckle or shake his head at the mention of the "Big Dig."

3. Dear Gary So-and-So: A man standing outside the Federal Building mistook me for you, it seems. He called over a greeting but I did not turn to respond; the general sentiment, if misdirected, was appreciated but I feared that had I returned in kind the error would have been compounded, even constituting a breach of an obscure law against Conspiracy to Defraud the Office Colleagues of Gary So-and-So. If your friend is tart later this morning, now you know why. He does, however, wish you a Happy New Year.

Michael Ubaldi, December 8, 2005.

John Derbyshire scolds busybodies who have made a spectacle out of Jennifer Aniston's choice of whether to keep a top or not. I agree. Have people become so parochial that they no longer read tradition in a name? Jennifer spins a dreidel.

Michael Ubaldi, November 9, 2005.

Via the Associated Press: "Amtrak President David Gunn Is Fired."

Michael Ubaldi, November 2, 2005.

1. A panhandler will place himself in perfect equidistance to all nearby hot dog vendors.

2. One man stepping out onto a crosswalk athwart traffic is as propelling of his fellow pedestrians as a "Walk" signal from the streetcorner opposite.

A real Thriller for the left.
Michael Ubaldi, October 31, 2005.

Sung to the melody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

There's trouble on the highest court in the land
Four judges run amok — they need a reprimand
O'Connor's seat is open and George Bush has found the man:
Scalito, Scalito

A public servant whose career is first-rate
He knows that judges judge; he doesn't legislate
He's just the nominee that the left loves to hate
Scalito, 'cause the country can't wait

Scalito! (Scalito!)
Scalito! (Scalito!)
Win one for plain meaning's credo
If it's not Miers, this one will do
Plenty of choices; it don't matter who

Ad hoc opinions have become standard fare
They say "penumbra" when they really mean "thin air"
The left draws everything from law except for what's there
Scalito, he's Ralph Neas' worst nightmare

Scalito! (Scalito!)
Scalito! (Scalito!)
Damn the Democrats' torpedoes
Sixty for cloture, if there's a fight
Time to move SCOTUS back to the right

Scalito! ('Lito, 'lito, 'lito!)

(Guitar solo; cut to the Justices' Conference Room; members of the court wear bandanas and sleeveless black robes, cheering on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas as they circle, left wrists tied together, in a gavel duel)

The Democratic Party's fit to be tied
Their living, breathing document's about to die
They'll try their best to Bork — Bush says, "Go ahead and try"
Scalito! They can kiss Roe goodbye

(First and Second Chorus, repeat; outro fade)

Michael Ubaldi, October 19, 2005.

In the course of a letter conversation with a friend and fellow rightist about ideology and politics — how some policies are founded upon world views that are ultimately irreconcilable — I threw together a representation of the epistemological matrix described in detail six weeks ago. I claim no authority on the academic subject (another colorfully deprecative phrase could be "My theory, based on words I learned the night before") but do have confidence in moving towards understanding the phenomenon of idea and practice — which does exist beyond the present compilations of men. There is far more about this figuration of mine to be written and spoken but the graphic was interesting enough, I thought, to show to readers.

Michael Ubaldi, October 18, 2005.

Sailing past the Saturnine moon Dione, NASA's Cassini spacecraft assumed a course that framed the frozen demiworld clinically, before rings so foreshortened as to be nearly collapsed into an imperceptible plane. But we still gape — awe and understatement are not mutually exclusive.

Michael Ubaldi, October 17, 2005.

Agence France-Presse identifies the woman in the photograph above as a Marsh Arab, one from the tribes inhabiting river wetlands between the Tigris and Euphrates — a home scoured by the damming and draining order of Saddam Hussein, reclaimed today through slow restoration with the encouragement and resources of Americans and their allies.

She is an emblem of a country reborn. Observers report that, following a second nationwide democratic procession, Iraqis have directly ratified their first constitution drafted by an elected body. Parliamentary balloting will follow in December, incontestably delivering the Republic of Iraq into the hands of free men. This is a time to celebrate, to congratulate; to give thanks for the providential beneficence responsible for the astonishing courage of men and women who daily resist fear and doubt.

As faith insured this referendum, faith will sustain democratic polity in Iraq and its appeal to the greater Near East. The day has been won, a foundation for a liberal revolution laid. But the enemy — weakened, exposed — remains. Close in, that enemy is the messianic brand of fascism still surrounding Iraq. Beyond, tyranny itself. Free peoples have much work, much duty, entrusted them. Let the Fifteenth of October be a dividend, a vindication and a reminder that liberty can only prevail, for all time, in totality.

Michael Ubaldi, October 12, 2005.

Following what he volunteered as one of the worst days of his life, Jerry Holkins, with collaborator Mike Krahulik, produced for today the finest of Penny Arcade comic strips: funny in its scrupulous absurdity and, sharply written, in want of not a single curse.

Michael Ubaldi, October 7, 2005.

"Take that!" cried Adversity:

The market came back from three straight days of losses after the Labor Department said September payrolls, while down for the first time in two years, fell by only 35,000 jobs. Fearing an economic slump in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, economists had forecast a drop of 150,000.

"Bit of a sting," said the Giant. Then he thumped Adversity.

Michael Ubaldi, October 3, 2005.

It seems unlikely that the president has miscalculated or thoughtlessly erred in his choice of Harriet Miers for the United States Supreme Court. Bush is not irrational, certainly not deliberately impolitic. Nor is he one to neglect his party and his sectional base. Impetus for the White House to nominate — at a second-term popularity nadir — what the left might deride as an incompetent vassal and some aggressive rightists have rejected forthwith as a white elephant would be the anticipation of a third court vacancy, perhaps imminent, that of one of the oldest and furthest left man or woman in robes. This is induction, yes, but somewhat more constructive than plain derision.

Michael Ubaldi, September 30, 2005.

The Cassini space probe, still rounding Saturn like an adopted satellite, has set the feats of predecessors Galileo and Voyager firmly in a history of steady and subsequent progression; its telemetry and fidelity introducing the world to pictures once unthinkable. Hardly more than a buxom asteroid, moon Hyperion fell within Cassini's camera sights and the images beamed to Earth depict something of incontestable accuracy and impenetrable, forbidding strangeness — which would rightly leave one unsettled if the mystery of Hyperion did not also mean that there is, yet, in commensurate vastness, wonder in Creation.

Michael Ubaldi, September 15, 2005.

Today's American Minute:

He was the only US President to also serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was appointed by President McKinley as the first governor of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and by President Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of War. The largest President, weighing over 300 lbs, a bathtub was installed for him in the White House, big enough to hold four men. His name was William Howard Taft, and he was born this day September 15, 1857. President Taft stated: "A God-fearing nation, like ours, owes it to its inborn...sense of moral duty to testify...devout gratitude to the All-Giver for...countless benefits."

No man's rights to life and liberty can be held inviolable without their recognized accordance from an absolute; an absolute best understood when it is, even if in locution, personified as God.

Michael Ubaldi, September 12, 2005.

Exploration of Mars by remote control continues as NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity defy adversity and entropy in their trolling about the oxide planet. Each rover having completed nearly two years of service — sixfold the official requirement for mission success — usage and wear has compromised the operation of neither, Opportunity's recent reboot-breather the only geriatric stumble so far. Discoveries are made, wonders are recorded. Spirit witnessed — and then digitally recounted to us — the alien sight of not one moon but two moons, Phobos and Deimos, cutting across a black night sky. Six-wheeled geologist Opportunity has set upon site after site, just now completing the survey of an extrusion nicknamed "Lemon Rind."

Attractive for workhorse, lowest-bid machines, the Martian rovers are remarkably invested with character. Spirit napped during the day to store enough energy for its midnight stargazing; Opportunity, its conscience of a Jet Propulsion Laboratory control team wary of overexertion in the red desert, will be taking its next several days of rock-hunting a little more easily. There are no men in interplanetary space today, and yet it cannot be said that man is not in space.

Michael Ubaldi, September 12, 2005.

The national conversation over Hurricane Katrina suffers not only from faithlessness and self-interest but also malapropism, as an exasperated Jonah Goldberg protests typographically borne anti-Semitism: "Please, please stop blaming all of this on the Levys! It's not their fault they failed."

The best-laid word stocks of spell-check oft go astray. Jeans sales reportedly plummeted when some commentators held buckled Levis responsible for the disaster.

Michael Ubaldi, September 1, 2005.

Two British-born intellectuals of the phlegmatic school, John Derbyshire and Andrew Stuttaford, have been unhappily documenting scientific illiteracy with some vigor over the past few days and weeks. Today Derbyshire cites a poll revealing Galilean apostasy; yesterday, Stuttaford reported Creationist intransigence. Is that regression? Or failure? Or a very normal division of interest and knowledge? Most of the people who understand neither astronomy nor biology are the people who understand engine blocks, underbodies, plumbing, construction, agriculture and commodities. And an evangelical's good works are hardly impeded because he believes two orders of terrible lizards appeared some two hundred million years later than, say, my acquired estimation.

Study of nature is made possible, for those who are endlessly curious, by a world kept running by those who are not.

Michael Ubaldi, August 31, 2005.

Some National Review readers do not find the visibly shaken particularly inspiring.

Rightly so. Judgment of Governor Kathleen Blanco and Senator Mary Landrieu, the two most visible statesmen in the days following Hurricane Katrina's landfall, cannot be qualified by our innate sympathy for the unfortunate. Blanco and Landrieu's message via national media has been classically leftist-populist: disconsolate and condescending, addressing Louisianans as hapless victims and lining up sidecar entitlements and eulogies for southern residents when those two might instead have encouraged good people to meet and surmount a serious and deadly challenge. In despair there is the essence of conceit. No public officials, man or woman, should appear surprised or incomposed in crisis, let alone when a natural disaster endemic to their state or region strikes. No leader betrays doubt before his constituency. None worth following, anyway.

Paging Maggie Thatcher. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher?

Michael Ubaldi, August 31, 2005.

The first of two revisions for expansion of the Gross Domestic Product in Second Quarter 2005, initially reported to be 3.4 percent, is neither astounding nor worrying:

The economy grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter, slightly less than initially estimated but still a solid performance, especially given galloping energy prices.

And an economy strong enough to continue producing through both long-term challenges and short-term crises is strong enough to boom when those rare months of economic quiet arrive.

Michael Ubaldi, August 30, 2005.

At Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez presents, through narrative, the same question asked by many a self-proclaimed leftist who supports at least in concept the assertive democratization known now as the war on terror.

I have noticed an increasing frequency with which academics puzzle over the diminishing accuracy of traditional epistemology, specifically when applied to the responses of certain groups on the "left" and "right" to the rise and aggrandizement of tyranny.

If I may, an idea: figure ideology as a circle with eight marks, forty-five degrees apart each, beginning at zero degrees so that the circle may be bisected vertically and horizontally. Clockwise from zero, respectively notate pragmatism, objectivism, moralism (ninety), traditionalism, parochialism (one hundred eighty), collectivism, nihilism (two hundred seventy), and solipsism. Notate the left semicircle as relativism, the right semicircle as absolutism; and (optionally) the upper half of the circle as coherentism and the lower half foundationalism. Assign the following people respectively to the foregoing eight ideologies, give or take: Mickey Kaus, Christopher Hitchens, Natan Sharansky, Bill Bennett, Pat Buchanan, Michael Moore, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Woody Allen.

The reason why the "anti-war Socialists" in France in the Belmont Club brief sided with the Nazis is because they were as elementally morally relativistic as the leaders of the Third Reich. Analogously, the reason why a man like Hitchens works for the right is because he is at root a moral absolutist — only he (for better or worse) believes reason, not God, is steward of truth. Like all moral challenges, this war divides men into two broad groups; those who believe in truth, and those who either claim to and don't or those who believe truth is theirs alone to control. That would be the operative "right" and "left."

My formal education in this is nil, and I realize that this may very well be, to paraphrase Bill Buckley, "a kind of epistemology, as written by the sorcerer's apprentice." But to hear and read the confusion among the learned and know that I — if through a glass darkly — understand as consistent what has appeared to others as a tectonic shift, begged this little assertion.

Michael Ubaldi, August 29, 2005.

When the morning began, New Orleans was slated for demolition by God's own low-pressure, cyclonic wrecking ball. When Hurricane Katrina weakened and tacked east, oil was selling at a record price and Wall Street was to hold its nose and dive. Oil fell and stocks rose. One more year, presumably, of Cajun cooking and sub-sea level revelry. Fate failed to deliver what headlines had grimly promised — but then a bad day for news is a good day for the rest of us.

Michael Ubaldi, August 29, 2005.

Last week I characterized the legislative ambition of the United Iraqi Alliance as unrepresentative of its base, especially the Shiite religious community that rejects theocratic doctrines of Wilayat al-Faqih. One clergyman is particularly disappointed — none other than Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who, while unduly critical of federalism, has no patience for the sectarianism of which Iraqis are regularly (and unfairly) accused:

The Sunnis are your family. Stay by their side this time so that they stay by your side in the coming times. Consider them as your brothers and sons and do not bear any grudges within you because of the injustice of the past, as both of you were victims.

Three brothers, three victims; three pioneers. Where Sunnis are politically recalcitrant, Shiites and Kurds are eagerly modernist. While Shiites work to rid themselves of Iranian-backed, Islamist street gangs, Sunnis and Kurds have impressed secularism into the constitution. Kurds and Sunnis differ on a patriot's colors — the north's gilt sun on red, white and green to the midland's red, white and black — but Sunnis and Shiites are one, responsible for making mercifully brief the old Governing Council's promotion of an Iraqi flag bearing the Islamic crescent. If Iraqi culture is cantilevered, as derogators and sympathists alike suggest, we should keep some faith in the strength of the single vertical support that has kept Iraqis aloft this long, for we share it as all men: a desire to be free and at peace.

Michael Ubaldi, August 26, 2005.

Glenn Reynolds considers Hugh Hewitt's praise of Mosul-based freelance journalist Michael Yon, writing, "I agree with Hugh that old media ought to be buying Yon's dispatches, and I'm quite surprised that they haven't done so yet."

The Wicked Witch of the West would sooner go on a beach holiday. Bill Roggio's latest commentary (knocking the legs out from under a dismal Guardian story) shows why gentry media would never publish the uncensored work of pro-war journalists like Michael Yon, who report what soldiers actually experience and accomplish: doing so would suggest to far too many people that the Allies are capable of, indeed in the process of, winning this war.

Michael Ubaldi, August 24, 2005.

Omar Fadhil is reporting what appears to be armed, local resistance in Najaf to the gangs of Muqtada al-Sadr. This would not be the first time that Iraqis have stood up to intimidation, nor is it unthinkable that Basrans will similarly assert themselves.

Michael Ubaldi, August 22, 2005.

With long lists of briefs about security, construction and cultural progress in Iraq, reminiscent of monthly dispatches by Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff, Central Command has started a regular feature, "Successes this Week in Iraq." Here is last week's; and what appears to be the first, from the week before.

Elite media agencies often defend their misrepresentative and politicized war coverage by claiming a lack of access due to safety concerns. Now the military has brought news right to the newsmen. Will journalists use it?

MORE: National Review's Jim Robbins added sources yesterday and this morning.

Michael Ubaldi, August 22, 2005.

Last week I traded e-mails with National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru; Ponnuru challenged in print the West's traditional justification for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wary of the acts' implications for this war.

Ponnuru's replies were brief, indicative of the author's distinguished clarity; and limited time and obligation to make generous conversation with me, one of many, many readers. But I reprint the conversation for what the article and our exchange of letters suggests about rightists: that while we are hardly uniphonous we are absolutist and concurrent enough to recognize the presence of truths to which men attempt to adhere in policy and conduct. On the right is discourse for the application, not the invention, of natural law; that discourse is a refuge for constructive disagreements.

My first letter criticized a single sentence in Ponnuru's article: "The war crimes of Japanese soldiers are not a good reason to kill a child in Nagasaki." Such a selection was narrow but not unfair, the sentence a perfectly succinct thesis statement. So I wrote:

Not directly, no, but no serious supporter of the atomic bombings argues that. What the Rising Sun's conquest, massacres and destruction warranted was a good reason not to refrain from measures intended to stop Japan — simply on account of potential civilian deaths. Imperial brutality towards Japanese citizens and those living in occupied territories was shockingly exponential to Japanese losses from Allied attacks. Prolonging the war a day by sparing that child in Nagasaki meant dead children elsewhere in the Empire. Where is the moral authority in choosing to spectate before mass murder?

He replied:

That's to embrace a purely utilitarian view — that it's okay to deliberately target civilians whenever you can assume that you're saving more lives. The traditional distinction between acts and omissions is abandoned. As I noted, that's not the way we usually reason about justice in war.

I wrote:

Consider, though, that it is just as utilitarian (and ultimately relativist) to leave intact other systems, circumstances and governments daily engaged in the killing of innocents because one does not want to be directly responsible for civilian death — even if it means those other killings continue indefinitely.

In the decades following the end of the Second World War, particularly the last years of the Cold War, active concern for foreign indigents became a central variable in the West's moral calculus; the incredible and ever-increasing amount of Third World aid dispensed by a handful of wealthy nations today is sound testimony. Now, while that does not overrule traditional reasoning about justice in war, it does influence it; to the point where the culpability of omission is increasingly equated with the culpability of act, whether ethics departments are teaching it that way or not. Constructive conversations about Iraq between "left" and "right," like, say, Christopher Hitchens and Victor Davis Hanson, are often dominated by reflection on what was gained and lost by omission between 1991 and 2003. We still smart, I think, over what omission brought to places like 1944 Warsaw and 1956 Budapest.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki (even LeMay's firebombing) are, of course, potentially more troubling because of the certitude and magnitude of killing involved but the costs of inaction — given the capabilities, intentions and history of militarist Japan — still add up to something far greater.

He replied:

Omissions can be morally culpable, but not in the same way that acts are. We are not responsible for the crimes of Saddam's regime from 1990-2003 the way we would be had we committed them ourselves. Nor are we responsible in that way for the crimes of all the regimes we have not toppled.

I wrote:

True, we cannot be held responsible for the actions of others, and especially so since anti-nationalists and other relativists wrongly blame Western democratic powers for a given dictator's atrocities before turning round to blame Western democratic powers for the inevitably difficult situation following a military or political deposition of that dictator. But though the culpability may be different, the moral defeat of dereliction can easily approach that of transgression.

Rwanda would be a fine example. As would — on a much smaller scale, and even though I supported the decision of American command — leaving Fallujah in the hands of terrorists for about six months last year. The omission, significantly motivated by apprehension over potentially high numbers of civilian deaths in the Jolan neighborhood, left residents to be kidnapped, violated and murdered in conspicuous numbers.

When one is thought damned if he does or doesn't, in the democratic waging of war it is most often that by doing he ends what he could not have by not doing — and by not doing he would indeed be damned, and probably forced to eventually do whatever he had not. Cue Churchill.

On National Review's Corner, Ponnuru informed colleagues of his desire to continue developing his argument. My position stands — but so does my respect and interest.

Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2005.

At the Corner, National Review's John Derbyshire writes disapprovingly of the relativist bent of contemporary artists and critics. Enlightenment scrutiny, practiced for betterment, was inherited by modernists and postmodernists whose lazy imitation is moral equivalence. Decrying Western flaws is avant garde; decrying the incomparable horror of tyranny without assigning blame to the democratic world, perhaps instead celebrating and advocating liberty, is strictly for squares.

With the urban elites' spheres of influence shrinking, can it last? Some day in the near future, rock bands will sing anthems for no-holds-barred Zionism, free markets and responsible self-determination. The artistic establishment will denounce these rebels but watch in horror as an entire generation of impressionable young is taken in by seductive hooks and catchy lyrics. Children will utter phrases like "Christ the Savior," "earn it yourself" and "I'm a Republican" to complete strangers and authority figures alike. Film and literature will follow in a consummate rout, the revolution captured in one band member's quip: "We're bigger than the Beatles, man."

Michael Ubaldi, August 10, 2005.

Wretchard comments on today's dispatch from Mosul-based freelance war correspondent Michael Yon. Belmont Club is as prescient and eloquent as one would expect, and a worthy read, but the most valuable treasure is Yon himself:

Deuce Four is an overwhelmingly aggressive and effective unit, and they believe the best defense is a dead enemy. They are constantly thinking up innovative, unique, and effective ways to kill or capture the enemy; proactive not reactive. They planned an operation with snipers, making it appear that an ISF vehicle had been attacked, complete with explosives and flash-bang grenades to simulate the IED. The simulated casualty evacuation of sand dummies completed the ruse.

The Deuce Four soldiers left quickly with the "casualties," "abandoning" the burning truck in the traffic circle. The enemy took the bait. Terrorists came out and started with the AK-rifle-monkey-pump, shooting into the truck, their own video crews capturing the moment of glory. That's when the American snipers opened fire and killed everybody with a weapon. Until now, only insiders knew about the AK-monkey-pumpers smack-down.

A soldier once gave voice to the complaint shared by tens of thousands of his brothers in arms, criticizing media agencies for taping four low-lifes toting guns on an Iraqi streetcorner and calling it "in the hands of the 'insurgents.'" In his piece, Yon added that stories like the one above, defining the increasing deadliness of American forces, never make the papers. Well, of course they don't.

Michael Ubaldi, August 5, 2005.

Good policy brings good news:

U.S. employers added 207,000 workers in July, more than forecast, suggesting companies are gaining confidence as the economy picks up steam in the second half. The jobless rate held at 5 percent, matching an almost four-year low. The increase in payrolls exceeded the median estimate of a 180,000 rise and reflected more jobs at retailers, auto dealers and financial services firms. Employment rose by 166,000 jobs in June, more than previously reported, the Labor Department said today in Washington.

Count 4 million newly employed since passage of the Jobs & Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

Michael Ubaldi, August 3, 2005.

Iranian democratist Ahmad Batebi, whose 1999 imprisonment propelled his countenance to the iconic vanguard of his country's liberal revolution, refused to become one of the Disappeared, and recently traded captivity for fugitive status:

In a recent phone interview with National Review Online, Batebi explained (through a translator) why he opted to risk his life in hiding rather than return to prison. Since his escape he has been working to organize the opposition, in part with direction from dissidents still in prison who communicate to him through smuggled letters. He also wants to communicate to the West, and particularly leaders and citizens of the United States, about conditions inside Iran.

His message? Iranians long for freedom and will do what they can to attain it. Because enemies of the Iranian people, fascist mullahs and terrorists, are ours, Western governments — most of them idling while a nascent atomic Tehran negotiates in bad faith — would serve both national interest and moral obligation by turning to Iranian liberals.

Michael Ubaldi, July 29, 2005.

I will admit that this photograph of the Ringed Planet is meant to distract you from today's single, brief entry.

Don't fret: over the last two weeks I have concentrated on producing two or three column-length pieces per week. Hopefully the results have satisfied readers — the more focused, controlled and scheduled output has certainly pleased me. I intend to continue.

New commentary will be published by noon tomorrow.

Michael Ubaldi, July 29, 2005.

American marketeers, take a bow:

The U.S. economy grew solidly at a 3.4 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the government reported on Friday, just slightly below the first quarter's pace and with room to grow as stocks of unsold goods fell for the first time in two years. ...The first snapshot of second-quarter GDP matched Wall Street economists' expectations. The figure will be revised twice in coming months as more data on the economy's performance arrive.

"Room to grow" is very pertinent, each of the two preceding quarters — fourth and first — having grown in subsequent analysis by a fifth. Should that be determined of Second Quarter 2005, we will have ourselves 4 percent expansion — above average and above expectations.

Michael Ubaldi, July 26, 2005.

Ramesh Ponnuru makes largely strong points against John Derbyshire's foreign policy beliefs ("Good through 1975," reads the label) but errs in assuming that a desirable government in Iraq, one that "wasn't a threat to its neighbors," could "theoretically have been achieved with a strongman."

There is no such thing as a strongman who is not interested in subjugating his neighbor. Only considerations of military inferiority or domestic stability have ever prevented an authoritarian state from expanding. Over the last twenty-five years the array of Near East client states — with the exception of Ba'athist Iraq and to an arguably lesser extent, Syria — has served as Exhibit A for the illusory concept of "benevolent dictatorship." Before that, of course, Arab and Persian designs on Israel were far more than pat state propaganda. The Near East's artificial, geopolitical stasis — engendered by the Cold War, aided by those dictatorial societies' slow entropy and managed by the West for ten years after Soviet collapse — remains one of the most compelling motivations for interstate warfare by non-state actors that is modern terrorism.

Cultures based on strength, fear and distrust celebrate conquest and inequity. Thuggish aspirant citizens or ruling class members deprived of conquest once needed to gain control of a state; technology has made that requirement conditional. For decades, stateless authoritarians — Yasser Arafat, Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, Osama bin Laden, select your own terrorist — have been streaming from what were once considered "stable" countries. For any dictatorship that is not heavily influenced by liberalism, malignance of the government or the empowered criminal minority is simply a matter of time and circumstances.

Consider what a given ruler might do if he commanded power equal to or greater than ours. Would Pervez Musharraf still be the roly-poly, deferential war ally? King Abdullah, Amman's dapper Arab front man? How long would Taiwan last from the moment Beijing determined that its People's Liberation Army could fend off the rest of the world? Dictators are to be tolerated only so long as free nations cannot replace them and the culture they perpetuate, militarily or diplomatically, through democratization. They certainly should not be created with our approval.

Michael Ubaldi, July 25, 2005.

Stanley Kurtz, rounding up British opinion on Great Britain's predicament and bearing thereto, recommended to Saturday readers a Telegraph editorial prescribing "Ten Urgent Steps to Make Britain Safer." Patriotism, nationalism, assimilation, moral assertion and law enforcement are what the United Kingdom has not got enough of, write the Telegraph's editors, and a complacent democracy — so libertine as to entertain self-destruction — is an open conduit for nihilism and the carnage that follows.

Parliament should listen to the Telegraph and do as it says: reconvene and address measures that require the government. Reclaiming culture, however, beyond legislative repeal, is the responsibility of Britons themselves, beginning with the Telegraph. This editorial should the first of dozens, published regularly and adaptively over the coming years. Tautology as this is: Only while there are still English will there always be an England.

Michael Ubaldi, July 20, 2005.

Sitting before Congress this morning, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan reported the strongest free market to be near top form:

[O]ur baseline outlook for the U.S. economy is one of sustained economic growth and contained inflation pressures....despite the challenges that I have highlighted and the many I have not, the U.S. economy has remained on a firm footing, and inflation continues to be well contained. Moreover, the prospects are favorable for a continuation of those trends.

He also delivered a level analysis of inevitable swings in American homemaking, reasoning with which some purported newsmakers should acquaint themselves.

Michael Ubaldi, July 19, 2005.

Sung to the tune of American traditional "Row Your Boat."

Roe, Roe, Roe v. Wade
Makes me want to scream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Let's overturn that monstrosity and give the matter, respectively, to the states and the people

My liberties with scansion were both civil and necessary. Unenumerated rights as per the Ninth Amendment, best explained by Justice Antonin Scalia, are the domain of political persuasion, popular initiatives and state legislatures protected by the Tenth Amendment — not a jurist's speculative fancy.

Michael Ubaldi, July 18, 2005.

A non sequitur from well-meaning Sheri Annis:

I almost spit out my rather unsatisfying new-mom coffee recipe of decaf and soy milk. Author Annie Lamott wrote on TPM Caf, a blog edited — or not in this case — by liberal Joshua Micah Marshall:
I am able to believe, about half the time, that Bush and Rove would be capable of orchestrating a second terrorist attack on America, if and when they deem it necessary to instill martial law, which they will.

At first I figured Lamott must be joking, but then I realized: 1) It isn't funny; 2) The blogosphere had hit a new low, if that's possible.

Well, leftists are retreating from political and intellectual defeat into fantasy, trying to recapture those non-falsifiable propositions about Western civilization they had enjoyed until September 11th — but how much of that is a reflection of weblogs? Read Derrick Z. Jackson, who has made possible for years the commercial syndication of opinions to be found in both the Boston Globe and anachronous looseleaf diaries of the institutionalized. Or tune into a public statement by Senator Edward Kennedy, Washington fixture for God-knows-how-long, God-knows-why. The merciful thud with which Dan Rather's career in broadcasting crashed was thanks to the tenure granted Western elites which, though weaker in this century than the last, tends to insure a personality against what they say or do nowadays on account of what they were back then. Weblogs are young, and may hold the meritocratic promise in citizen journalism. Finally, consider that Anne Lamott is a novelist who established her literature and politics on paper, happened to transmit her particular suspicions to the internet via TPM, and has done no more damage to the blogosphere than she would to telephony by dialing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at three in the morning and breathing heavily.

Michael Ubaldi, July 15, 2005.

On Tuesday I sent, in response to Wretchard's foreboding suggestion that assertive democratization "cannot reduce the hatred, fanaticism and irrationality that possessed [the London terrorist bombers] in the first place," the following:

Just a tiny point to haggle over, since I understand what you're trying to say: the dictatorial Near East is the heart pumping blood to Islamist appendages across the world. Just as with the Fascists and the Communists, strongmen and thugs who want to try on Islamofascism need a cynosure. When it goes, Islamism will clear up in a fraction of the time it took to fester. Gentleman's bet.

Wretchard graciously replied:

I hope so and would be glad to lose that bet. I think half the heart is the Middle East, but the other half, perhaps a slightly different half is the fantasy part of radical Islam, the kind that lives in the Western academe, where ideas have a way of outstaying their time.

Yes, I answered, relativists will always incubate collectivist, nihilist and nescient ideologies. But I wonder if our understanding of leftist academia is static when it should be dynamic; leftist elites earnestly adopted illiberalism in the first years after the Second World War, and through culture and news media established a Western intellectual monopoly. Universalism and rightism survived in spite of that, and over the past fifteen years new media has shown leftism to be a feckless contender.

Even if the London bombers were Britons whose seduction into evil was facilitated by a permissive and indifferent society, a line can probably be drawn from the young men — through those who inculcated, trained and armed them — leading right back to the Near East. Two questions. First, if lawless societies are reformed, will the left's self-destructive predilections create physical threats to democracy or poseur bootlickers? Second, if the left cannot withstand debate or independently distributed information, what kind of cultural force will it play in coming years?

Yesterday John Derbyshire, who has been rather parochial about the war, echoed a disbelief in the infectious cultural power of authoritarian societies, especially influential to free societies suffering from stagnation or ambivalence — like, arguably, Britain. (Whereas Iraq and Afghanistan, imbued with considerable democratist momentum, are actually influencing the autocracies surrounding them.) Unconvincing to some. "Given," Derbyshire wrote, "that the entire premise of current U.S. policy is that we can end suicide bombing and other terrorism by bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East; shouldn't we be re-thinking our policy?"

No, I wrote to him, only accelerating it.

From where might those capable of the terrorist bombers' indoctrination — if not training and outfitting — have originated? The fascist Near East. What John suggested runs counter to history, as if Seyss-Inquart, Henlein, Ortega or Castro operated independently. That free societies (like the United Kingdom) are susceptible to illiberalism does not belie an authoritarian source — it underscores the incompatibility of democracy and dictatorship.

This morning it was reported that the "home-grown" British terrorists were tutored for their diabolical task by agents in the region that President Bush and his allies are working to militarily and diplomatically reform. Free societies cannot forfend sociopathy but they punish and thereby mitigate it. Tyranny is a celebration of inhumanity. The four killers did not invent al Qaeda; they reached out to Mohammed Atta's homeland for materiel consultation. Take a long, good look.

Michael Ubaldi, July 15, 2005.

The right sees what the left cannot. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is agnostic on Iran's affront to his own charter:

When asked by a New York Sun reporter if he would speak out on behalf of Mr. Ganji in light of the president's statement Tuesday, Mr. Annan said, "I don't know enough about the case, so I'd prefer not to comment."

Iranian authorities initially arrested Mr. Ganji in 2000 for publishing a book and writing news stories charging his country's political leaders with playing a role in the murder of dissident intellectuals in the late 1990s.

That is sovereignty to the secretary.

As predicted, violent esurience is losing its regional appeal. The opportunity for freedom, come as a steel-and-tracked American guarantee, has been seized. Time, support and diligence will see democracy's culmination.

Michael Ubaldi, July 14, 2005.

Hounded and castigated by the ruling theocracy's plainclothes roughnecks, Iranian demonstrators called out — in English — to the free world for succor. They pled for Akbar Ganji, an imprisoned democrat journalist who is deathly ill from hunger strike.

One Western man responded:

As Tehran University students clashed with police in Iran yesterday during demonstrations demanding the release of political prisoners, President Bush, from Washington, joined the growing movement calling for the release of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji.

"The President calls on all supporters of human rights and freedom, and the United Nations, to take up Ganji's case and the overall human rights situation in Iran," a statement released by the White House yesterday read. Calls for comment to U.N. spokesmen were unreturned at press time last night. "The President also calls on the Government of Iran to release Mr. Ganji immediately and unconditionally and to allow him access to medical assistance."

Akbar Ganji won't get any help from the United Nations or Iran's fascist regime; the latter put him in jail for exhorting peaceful liberalization and the former grudgingly accepts Tehran's claims to sovereign brutality. Even with typed words President Bush has done more than his European colleagues, who in their preoccupation with the impossible — convincing strongmen, through nuclear freeze by committee, to yield the tools of subjugation — will be nonplussed.

Yet there are thousands of Ganjis, millions of followers. All despots may reign over people who know by divination that they inherit liberty but Iran is strong irony, the capital of terrorism and the epicenter of a miraculously potent democratic uprising. Saddam Hussein's deposition inspired Near Eastern liberals and placed civilization's military warrant at tyranny's borders. Only when Tehran's Khomeinist skeleton collapses can the war in the Near East be won, our having traded an enemy for close, long-captive allies. President Bush must do as he has promised, and call the Islamic fascists out.

ADVERSARIES WITHIN: A dictatorship's hostility to liberalism should be expected; from an American foreign affairs office, that opposition is reprehensible.

Michael Ubaldi, July 13, 2005.

It was a painful moment when I realized the original Star Wars trilogy might no longer be a refuge from the unbearably vapid prequels — that thanks to George Lucas' compulsive tampering the ponderous, unrhythmic and patchwork Special Edition films would introduce the series, and very well leave little Johnny wondering how such mediocrity could dazzle a box office. Children will endure Lucas' puerile obsession with the ethics of Han Solo's defense instead of marveling wide-eyed at Rodian bounty hunter Greedo, torched by a point-blank blaster shot, as he pitches face-first into a Mos Eisley tabletop. Thankfully, the unspoilt theatrical cut can still be found on VHS tapes — and someone in the Skywalker Ranch inner circle must realize that if asked, older audiences would prefer the Star Wars they grew up with, imperfect yet better.

Michael Ubaldi, July 12, 2005.

As if an angled glimpse of the ringed planet weren't enthralling enough, the Cassini probe will be zipping past Saturnine moon Enceladus this Bastille Day.

Busy day; commentary regarding Earthbound events tonight.

Michael Ubaldi, July 11, 2005.

Wall Street is up, the market is brisk, jobs are for the taking and unemployment is falling with the federal budget deficit in perfect rhythm. High times are apparently no better time for MSNBC to volunteer that quite possibly, maybe, more likely than not ever, perhaps, if conditions are right, there is just that trifling chance of a housing crash.

For commentary that trades a little less in politics and a little more in learned economics, turn to Larry Kudlow.

(Note that MSNBC is currently promoting the housing opinion piece with the splash "Bubble Trouble" which does not, unfortunately, more appropriately refer to the mainstream media's insularity.)

Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2005.

National Review's Warren Bell disagrees with Reverend Paul Hawkins of London's Saint Pancras. Hawkins spoke plainly to his flock today, telling them that "There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists."

Metaphysically, Hawkins has a point. Someone who trains and conspires for months or years to kill as many targeted innocents as possible has a claim to neither grievance nor sanity, let alone one to following the instructions of the prophet Mohammed. Islam has trouble with interpretative passages but if the problem were Islam itself, rather than the tyrannical culture wrapped around Islam's home neighborhood, that which has rewritten many other doctrines to service its squarely bestial aims, every Muslim would be armed and on the warpath.

The objective here — perhaps unintentionally furthered by Reverend Hawkins — is to confiscate from our enemy any reputation for devotion or piety, which is what he is and has been regularly granted by an international leftist elite working to define him for us (and, really, for themselves) as something other than, something more than, a murderer with a head empty save for delusion. Drivers can be dangerous even when they are dumb. William Shirer did well to examine in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich the Teutonic-Hegelian-Nietzschean mish-mash behind Mein Kampf and Nazi Germany, and show for every reader what fourth-rate nonsense it was.

What cannot be lost on outward appearances is the uncomplicated and elementally indistinguishable evil that feeds authoritarians.

FROM THE TERROR CAPITAL: Via Glenn Reynolds, a podcasting democratist in Tehran explains to a reactionary Westerner why strongmen and state dictators, not the convenient channel of Islam, are the common enemy of good men — free or in tyrants' bonds.

ANOTHER FROM REYNOLDS: A Bahraini, part of a candlelight vigil outside the British embassy, made a point.

Michael Ubaldi, July 8, 2005.

Since late 2003 good news from the marketplace has been a regular attraction for houses billing. This morning's collection of numbers settles any questions left from a heartening Gross Domestic Product revision ten days ago. While non-farm payroll employment missed estimates by about twenty-five percent, April's and May's figures have upon correction increased by about twenty-two and seven percent respectively — lifting the steadily accumulating payroll gross for the last two years to 3.7 million. Unemployment has fallen another tenth of a percentage point to 5%, and other indicators match the high note from yesterday's factory order report.

Wall Street has responded to the economic advisory with the investor's equivalent of a three-minute, whammy-bar, Bach-rock, jump-from-the-top-of-the-Marshall-stack-through-dry-ice guitar solo.

Michael Ubaldi, July 8, 2005.

On his radio program this morning, Bill Bennett spoke to a gentleman from the Hudson Institute. Drawing from Cold War terminology, the guest identified three broad classes in the current war: terrorists, anti-terrorists and anti-anti-terrorists. Like their twice-against-communist counterparts, those in the third group are, in a paraphrase of the man's words but no less apparent to many of us, "More worried about John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush than they are Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."

Just over a week ago the Wall Street Journal featured a want ad in the form of an editorial, soliciting a "constructive opposition." That service is not to be found in the leftward Democratic Party, whose membership has invested over some forty months more rhetorical, monetary and electoral capital into domestic political victories — of unsuccessful consummation for token worth — than, in defense of this country and the free world it has helped rear, the defeat of an authoritarian threat that is so manifest in essence and intent as to preclude conversation that strays from plans for victory.

Victory? Nothing like that from the left. The Democratic Party's current national chairman Howard Dean once wavered on the culpability of leaders of the Baghdad Ba'ath and al Qaeda before he spoke of fellow Americans as "evil," "the enemy"; men who were certainly not his neighbor. In last year's presidential race the American electorate was proferred a new executive on the grounds that the one standing was a malevolent force of nature, those he liberated a score-of-a-million nuisance. To the left, triumphs are equally unimportant and distasteful; odd twists can be read, mocking fair elections in free Iraq and Afghanistan as stagecraft while clapping for the pastiche horror of fascist Iran. Losses are never accepted the property of war and serendipity but blamed on this country or its allies or, most crookedly, some sort of prerogative of stone-cold murderers.

If this war is difficult, it is in part because one-third of the country sidles back and forth between accedence and figment.

TEN THOUSAND: Contrary to the words of a ghoulish strongman's patsy like Briton George Galloway, Saddam Hussein's fall sowed the Near East with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.

Michael Ubaldi, July 7, 2005.

Our enemy comes again, today, on Seven-Seven. He will return as long as he is able and he will look to stay, and consume us. We can claim no "over there," no luxury of space, wealth or sophistication. The enemy's world of force, hatred and brutality is the old world: impervious to reason, poison to compassion, a circumnavigation of conquest by thoughtless want. It has been shrunk and must be shrunk again, shriveled in the sight of law, liberty and defense thereof, diminished by the peace through strength of free men.

SHOUT IT LOUD: There'll always be an England.

FEARLESS: Wall Street closed up in defiance of this morning's dismal predictions, with Europe and Asia hoping to follow.

Michael Ubaldi, July 5, 2005.

I borrowed Happy Days Were Here Again, a decade's collection of William F. Buckley's work as columnist, from the library this evening and am astounded by twenty-year-old threads; in one respect connecting this year to Cold War twilight through similarity and in another illustrating how far the American left has decayed into a burbling mass. Buckley stuck Jesse Jackson in 1985 for artfully comparing murder in Buchenwald to South African apartheid — two crimes that nonetheless could not possibly share degrees of horror and shame. Attempting the metaphor was a silly thing for Jackson to do in 1985, and two months ago the revolting crank Charles Rangel compared Hitler's death camps to the liberation — the liberation — of twenty-five million trapped inside a different abattoir.

The appearance of being normal is quite a commodity when a look back shows that the cracks were already well-defined a generation ago. If it weren't for the leftist media's controlling interest in public opinion and information, the Democratic Party would be spending even-years splitting county seats with the Greens.

Michael Ubaldi, June 30, 2005.

Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, whose attainment of free speech through American sacrifice turns Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's stomach, are blogging with abandon — a constitutional committee seeking opinions from Fertile Crescent citizens for the first time in five millenia, a fellow Baghdadi who chastises an administration that prefered bluster over action, and a twenty-month electrical infrastructure project that terrorists failed to disrupt. These are stories from the Iraq that will see the end of Near East fascism.

Michael Ubaldi, June 30, 2005.

From here back, National Review's faculty discusses the increasing reach of public and private smoking bans.

I confess to a nanny-state succor when it comes to cigarette smoking. I've never attempted the act; have never cared for it. Despite all the libertarian advocacy for individual rights and freedom of choice I read and intellectually respect, I look back on my short collection of years and remember trays dumped onto the road from cars at stop signs, see at least one smashed butt on every square decameter of paved ground; hear a hacking cough from someone madly flicking a butane lighter, know no smoker who does not refer to his habit derogatorily and at least lightheartedly regret having started before he knew better; or smell the legacy of whomever rented my apartment before me to impress the place with L'eau du Pall Mall. I stand back and simply count the years left before a good smoke is legislated into antiquity.

Michael Ubaldi, June 30, 2005.

From the Department of All Things Self-Evident:

In person Mr. Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one's faith in the reliability of the modern media.

In fairness, the president is neither silver-tongued nor skilled in the craft of euphemism, so he does not welcome exchanges when they are in substance combative. His most visible characteristic, facing the disingenuous leftward nine-tenths of the White House press corps, is stilted agitation. Humor helped him recover political esteem lost after his first debate with presidential challenger John Kerry.

On the stump, speaking from both memory and heart to voters with whom he shares a mutual admiration, President Bush is brilliant. (Hat tip, the Corner.)

Michael Ubaldi, June 29, 2005.

On cue, it dazzles and shines:

The economy logged a solid 3.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2005, a performance that was better than previously thought and a fresh sign the expansion is on firm footing.

Nearly two months ago, the Commerce Department's initial reading of a 3.1% advance in the Gross Domestic Product gave some leftward quarters cause for gloomy headlines but not much else — perhaps because it was signally reminiscent of last year's fourth quarter analysis, beginning with a slower-than-average 3.1% and concluding with a twenty-percent positive adjustment to 3.8%. Two weeks later the government revised the first quarter figure to 3.5%, normal growth. Today's report preserves the boom following President Bush's Jobs & Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 — a bullish market producing seven quarters averaging 15% over normal growth, over three million non-farm payroll jobs, an unemployment rate below the thirty-year average, a stock market rivaling record highs and the fastest tax receipt increase since 1981.

With assets saved and earned, why not repay the left's opposition to the president's productive economic policy by ordering the Cato Institute's booklet on Social Security reform, It's Your Money?

Michael Ubaldi, June 27, 2005.

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, unimpressed by several rightist arguments opposing the most recent congressional bid to spare Old Glory from pyrotechnics or other destructive theater staged by Americans in public protest, has declared himself "anti-anti-amendment." One particularly weak defense of denying the flag exclusive status was adopted this weekend by Mark Steyn who, dually wise and acerbic, nevertheless seems not to have considered the historical preoccupation with a third-paragraph throwaway line. He writes, "maybe some would think that criminalizing disrespect for national symbols is unworthy of a free society." Perhaps others would believe that material and transcendental worth, however intrinsic, is dependent on appraisal. If modern relativism was intended to make all things equally prized through the arbitrary exchange of sacred and profane, it only succeeded in multiplying what is inconsequential. Without scale, virtue recedes:

The value of the flag as a symbol cannot be measured. Even so, I have no doubt that the interest in preserving that value for the future is both significant and legitimate. Conceivably that value will be enhanced by the Court's conclusion that our national commitment to free expression is so strong that even the United States as ultimate guarantor of that freedom is without power to prohibit the desecration of its unique symbol. But I am unpersuaded. The creation of a federal right to post bulletin boards and graffiti on the Washington Monument might enlarge the market for free expression, but at a cost I would not pay. Similarly, in my considered judgment, sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value — both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it. That tarnish is not justified by the trivial burden on free expression occasioned by requiring that an available, alternative mode of expression — including uttering words critical of the flag — be employed.

Those are words from Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens' moving dissent against the court's decision in 1989 Texas v. Johnson. Steyn and Stevens agree, across one-and-a-half decades, that damaging an American flag to impress or outrage is an unproductive and contradictory provocation — from under that flag is a malcontent granted the opportunity for petition, debate and reform as both a private citizen and a public official. Or is the flag just a cloth rectangle to fix on a dowel, incidental to the guarantee of rights? Association can bind an object to meaning just as easily as it can render it quaint; without transmission meaning is lost. When a martial uniform, the pride and obligation of every kingdom or nation long before elected governments, becomes just another set of clothes, we will meet those who suggest that distinctions between the civilized and the barbaric — their respective privileges and prerogatives — are meaningless, too. Subtler but more pertinently, one could examine how youth citizenship has borne forty years of the flag as Duchampian readymade, legal incineration or not. Might Steyn concede that ineffectual speech can still be determined a deleterious — and unacceptable — act?

Michael Ubaldi, June 26, 2005.

Here is news rejected as unfit for gentry media publication or telecast:

With more than $270M worth of projects open for local contractor bids, 130 Iraqi women attended a Women's Business Day at the Convention Center here to learn more.

"This day was designed and organized to benefit the Iraqi business woman and the Reconstruction Program," said Senior Executive Service, Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of programs at PCO. "Our goal is to create diplomatic and long-lasting relationships based on our mutual desire for peace." With every one-in-five in the Iraqi workforce being a woman, Durham-Aguilera told the group she is encouraged by their progress and pleased to be part of the workshop designed to further promote the involvement of women in the reconstruction process.

As a woman with Middle-Eastern roots, she noted that it's rare in the Arab world for women to enjoy as much power as they do in Iraq.

Equality in democracy as provisioned and protected by an American alliance? Would that the left see fit to put it in print.

Elsewhere, Bill Roggio examines after-action details of another cascading terrorist failure to best Iraqi troops in man-to-man combat; while Greyhawk continues his series on the Iraq that liberty's detractors prefer you not see.

'THE FUTURE IS OURS': Mohammed Fadhil, who reminds us that it is the Iraqi people who suffer from dishonest and incompetent reporting, publishes an impressive tally of strikes against the enemy.

BAGHDAD VIA TEXAS: The bravery, enterprise, expression and exercise of Iraqi women, stories collected by Fayrouz Hancock. (Correction: the women cycling off pounds are Afghan, which is notable as an indication of culture rather than public safety.)

Michael Ubaldi, June 24, 2005.

Pan, a ball of rock twelve miles thick, can with its gravitational wake push aside Saturn's rings; traveling through a lane known as Encke's Gap. The Cassini spacecraft sends us photographs of that and other places in the Saturnine system.

Millions of miles away, NASA's Martian rovers have earned their place in this month's issue of National Geographic, whose online, condensed story includes a link to Jet Propulsion Laboratory's rover traverse maps.

Michael Ubaldi, June 24, 2005.

All play and no good works makes Jackie a delinquent girl — so says Rhoulette, Community Manager for French video game developer Ubisoft and captain of the company's Frag Dolls corporate gaming team, who wishes to repay her good fortunes:

I am now happily employed in the game industry. On the surface this situation is ideal for me. I work with cool people, get to do fun things, and don't have to arrive at the office until 10am. I love it and I'm contributing to the world of entertainment which arguably has some inherent value for people (relaxation, less stress, activating the imagination, etc). But I encountered some internal turbulence when I started to listen to that nagging question: how are you helping those in need? In terms of really serving humanity, it would seem to some that I have been led astray. Gamers (and the industry that spawns them) are never classified as being particularly charitable. In fact, most modern media portray gamers and games as a detriment to the greater good. How could I, as a gamer, possibly make the world a better place?

She decided to apply for "Team in Training," a seventeen-year-old program run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that matches athletes with a coach and a program for participating in their amateur competition of choice while delivering sponsorship monies to medical scientists who work to cure cancers of the blood. Rhoulette rightly disputes the caricature of video gamers as pallid, stunted, apathetic eremites devoted to strange button-pushing rituals for picture-tube idols: nerd emissaries Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of comic-strip-turned-institution Penny Arcade should be holding their third consecutive Christmas toy drive this December. As I wrote elsewhere, no man will prosper more than by charity; for those with a penchant for sharp gals who game and stand up for volunteerism, your only deliberation might be how over much to give.

Michael Ubaldi, June 23, 2005.

Occasionally I consider changes to this weblog's format and for some time one of them has been the font size for entries. I would prefer to keep it sans serif but notice that none of the weblogs to which I link use print as small as mine.

So I'd like to ask readers their opinion — same size, or a little larger? Let me know.

Michael Ubaldi, June 22, 2005.

A foreign landscape beneath a familiar sight: commanded to remain operational during sunset, Martian rover Spirit photographed the sun as it sank beneath the "jibsheet," a sheet of rock that was the rover's object of attention for the better part of a month.

Spirit and its twin Opportunity have surpassed whatever height of scientific optimism might have predicted, eighteen months ago, that each Martian explorer would arrive at the Red Planet safely and not only endure the rugged environment but succeed in a penetrating exploration that has yet to be threatened by entropy or curtailment.

NASA, whose Jet Propulsion Laboratories is responsible for the rovers' achievements and discoveries, is just as beholden to tradition as any bureaucracy; and in the decade of entrepreneurs riding the free market to space, stubbornness is not only foolhardy — it is dangerous. Still, Congressmen trust that Washington still has an investment in satellites, probes and astronauts because their constituents tell them not to do otherwise; the stars will be of the public good for at least a little longer. If the space administration can be encouraged to jettison pride it will reach fruitions like the plucky Opportunity and Spirit.

Michael Ubaldi, June 22, 2005.

"Unleash Japan," says National Review. William F. Buckley's rightist standard-bearers may be the best to say it but they would not be the first.

Michael Ubaldi, June 22, 2005.

Five months ago, one fortnight before Iraq's triumphant National Assembly elections, I used the phrase "extreme divergence" to describe the inconsistencies between Iraq news and commentary from gentry press agencies and the nature of events in the country. Mainstream fabrications became egregious by vote's eve, and when Iraqis defied philistines and terrorists alike, Americans were invited to recognize the leftist media's narratives as gossamer propaganda and select information from more authentic sources. Elite journalists reorganized and began proclaiming new crises, first the negotiation of Baghdad's government and then the nation's constitutional committee — each political transaction concluded successfully and distinctively. At the American Enterprise Institute, Karl Zinsmeister, a frequent visitor of liberated Iraq, believes the opposition's storytelling has reached its terminus:

What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue — in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.

Last night Ramesh Ponnuru published his brief exchange with a Republican strategist who, confronted with a war succeeding unbeknownst to a great number of Americans, rightly fears Washington more than the citizenry. Congressmen who favored appeasement of Saddam Hussein and Near East fascism in the first and have spent the war without resolve now call to abandon an impending victory of which they have not been informed.

If leftists will not relent in speaking better of the enemy unfounded, President Bush must throw the weight of his dossier against theirs. Fittingly, my last word on Mr. Zinsmeister ended with a cautionary: while Iraqis are responsible for their democratic ascendence, Americans must safeguard that skyward passage.

Michael Ubaldi, June 21, 2005.

Is it helpful criticism or is it bad-faith caterwauling? Norman Geras draws from an Atlantic Monthly interview with Paul Wolfowitz and poses that question to the anti-democratist left. Wolfowitz notes that many detractors simply promote their own strategic, tactical or political druthers; dozens of these adding up to such contradiction that an observer is left with the absurd and dangerous idea that the good wars of democracies have been and can be run free of human error. Geras in part refutes the redundant "accountability" charge — one which Bill Bennett unfortunately conceded to a Democrat caller on his radio show this morning. I have attempted to expose specious arguments when they arise, arguing that the unprecedented nature of this war and enemy and the Bush administration's ability to learn from certain mistakes undercut impatience and impertinence that is discordant with history, always grittier than remembered.

Michael Ubaldi, June 20, 2005.

The events leading to my discovery of a CNN report on French and Indian War reenactments are less readily explained than the importance of proofreading and the implicative consequences of error:

Fort Ontario: A French force led by the Marquis de Montcalm captured the fort in 1756. Montcalm's Indian allies slaughtered scores of prisoners, a precursor to a more infamous massacre at Lake George's Fort William Henry in 1957.

"Jailhouse Rock," Have Gun — Will Travel, the space race, raccoon caps, Chevrolet's golden year, and an Indian massacre. May we never forget.

Michael Ubaldi, June 20, 2005.

Marking a man's passage into intellectual oblivion set off a friendly debate on the nature of American postwar occupations. In simple terms, how do Occupied Germany and Occupied Japan — the two most ambitious and successful democratic redemptions in history — compare to that of Iraq?

Germany and Japan fell militarily silent relatively quickly. As was posted on a weblog eighteen months ago, a few Nazi gangs caused a bit of local chaos but most forces surrendered when ordered; Japan stopped on a dime. Early postwar years were difficult, Japan's especially bleak and crime-ridden — both were targeted by Moscow's political subterfuge, Japan particularly. Neither experienced the gangster-terrorist enemy like the kind that chose to commit itself to liberated Iraq. Saddam Hussein's conscripted armies dispersed, many soldiers refusing to fight; surviving loyalists collapsed or fled to regroup as mostly faceless criminals and saboteurs. If a mistake was committed by Iraq's American-led liberators, it was to expect what Allied armies two generations before received from the totalitarian regimes responsible for dozens of conquests and millions dead: unconditional and objective surrender. Overestimating the humanity of our enemies, the Near East authoritarians, was a natural and even laudable failure, the hallmark of free societies. The Nazis and the militarists, terrible as they were, possessed an ultimate humility — a mark of man — that the terrorists lack.

And yet for their animalism and destruction, this enemy has been met by Western technology and moral clarity; and the Iraqi character, resilient and centered after decades of undressed modern tyranny, viscerally inked in a recently published Iraqi political cartoon. A West German constitution was promulgated in May, 1949; Supreme Commander of Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur presented his to Tokyo in 1946, the document promulgated that November. Iraqis should ratify their constitution by 2006, three years after liberation. The San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed between Japan and the United States in September, 1951 and Allied occupation of Japan officially ended in April, 1952. West Germany was granted sovereignty in October, 1954. Sovereignty was given to Iraqis in late June of 2004, legally ending a one-year occupation; two years after the deposition of Saddam Hussein, an elected government took office.

Two threads run between democratization sixty years ago and today: given the opportunity under the aegis of free nations, good men will choose liberty; and that strongmen will conspire to undermine that construction, whenever and wherever and however possible.

Michael Ubaldi, June 17, 2005.

Sometimes truth is not what you expected.

AND YET: Given the circumstances, maybe it is.

Michael Ubaldi, June 17, 2005.

Democrats appear to have altogether forgotten their place, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin's bilious and incoherent attack on America's citizen soldiers — apparently for the undeserving sake of those who wish to subjugate us all — only the latest step in a trail of disgrace miles long, from the liberation of Iraq to the liberation of Afghanistan and the incarceration of the terrorists who once kept her people living in fear.

This is a principal fault line along which the Democratic Party threatens to fracture, and it is the weirdly adolescent self-destruction that leftism's relativists promise for the country. As the Wall Street Journal rightly stated in yesterday's lead editorial, the Democratic Party's demise may not be so helpful if it is cancerous. Senator Durbin is far from the only irresponsible Democratic lawmaker but his incontinence is that which even a jaded, postmodern capital cannot let pass. Durbin should resign: if he is not superlatively ignorant of history then he is surely aware that his rhetoric matches that of our enemies. The Republican Party has reportedly taken action commensurate to the offense, demanding that the Democratic Party — in a letter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — abjure prevailing standards and finally hold its members accountable.

There is nothing ignoble in the permanent censure of those who prefer treachery to statesmanship. Durbin's outrage stands in a crowd of them. Republicans will have done a favor — even if in vain — by trying to shake Democrats out of their delirium and reminding them what, in their treble politicking, they have become.

Michael Ubaldi, June 16, 2005.

Iraqi lawmakers have finalized their constitutional committee. National Review editor Rich Lowry has a response to the news from the administration, offering cultural perspective that will likely elude gentry media.

Michael Ubaldi, June 16, 2005.

Jonathan V. Last of the Weekly Standard examines a leftist's comparison of the blogosphere's right and left. Is the right stagnating as a medium, even a political force? Is it a game for the big guys? Says one rightist commenter:

I did a little blogging last year. And I did get mentions on the big guys blogs, one from Jim Geraghty at NRO, and a Hugh Hewitt special and one from [Jonathan V. Last]. But nothing could sustain that traffic. I blogged daily for awhile on a number of topics to see my traffic down to two diehards. I thanked them for their loyalty and closed shop.

Welcome to the Bell Curve and the free market. Sites on the lower half of the monitored blogosphere receive one hundred or less visits a day, and it's reasonable to assume that a good number of those — as is the case for this weblog — are Google stumblings. That's hardly a reason to be cynical about blogging or the value of methods employed by each of the two political wings. It's the reflection of one of the most meritocratic, competitive marketplaces that exists today. For the right, links from Glenn Reynolds do not make stars: they help, but success is dependent upon knowledge, writing skill, relevance and — most painfully fortuitous — fashionability. Many good writers, from the count of their audience size, work without receiving wide recognition. Fortunately, writers who may be adequate writers and excellent bloggers have refined, promoted and expanded the medium to where it can connect to mainstream, elite channels of news and opinion. Remarks, commentary, essays and links travel quickly and far. As has been described many times before, weblogs form a collective whose individual members — bloggers or readers — provide information, expertise or opinion beyond the ability of a single top-tier blogger or institution. One man can contact and impress upon another to post a document that will be read by hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of readers on the night of the Democratic presidential nominee's speech; accomplished by just one e-mail. Do professionals lead the blogosphere today? Yes, but behind them comes an age of citizen media.

If success is material gain, the rightist bloggers are succeeding. I would suspect it is because the right wing is entrepreneurial and willing to let independent profit be its own measure of worth, while endowed with progressive and inspiring ideas; the left wing clings to 20th-Century statism and explores late-millenium nihilism, mostly translated into a ubiquitous and angry language. There is a danger to concentration when it is for the wrong purpose. We are told the left conscripts and assigns; the right will take a look at you if you're judged as good enough. Conversations and exchanges occur on both sides; the right, however, is less concerned than the left about the simulation of a community. The right's fortune returns us to the question: are rightists well-served by their own design? A good capitalist would rather see seven out of ten rise to great heights than all of them by just an inch — and through no power of their own.

Michael Ubaldi, June 15, 2005.

Do you have an irrational fear of weapons? Do you maintain a moral equivalency between those who employ the force of arms, be it for liberty or subjugation? Are you a communist or kleptocrat dictatorship, formerly or prospectively in the space race? Step forward and lay your specious arguments against scientific advancement towards orbital militarization, so that they may be met and defeated.

Space weapons are a variation on an old theme — free nations hold an advantage that is only lost through forfeit. Who would contrarians have rather seen fly jets over the Atlantic first: Pan American Airlines or the Luftwaffe? Yet who began the technology first?

Michael Ubaldi, June 14, 2005.

Some note was made of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham announcing on a Sunday morning television program that the terrorist combine in Iraq was "alive and well," though the value of his statement seems derived mostly from the man's party and southern origins — a Republican ally of President Bush included in his generally optimistic assessment a provocative line or two, and that is worth quite a lot to those fixed opposite the White House. Less consideration is given to the veracity of Graham's phrase, "alive and well." By whose accounting? The day's victims of terrorism were described in part by the Associated Press as "child vendors" and "pensioners." Thugs in the extreme west of the country harrassed a border town conspicuously enough to catch American attention and the following match of skill and strength took place:

[T]errorists [in Karabilah] set up a barricade on a main road to the city and were threatening Iraqi civilians. The seven precision-guided air strikes began at 11:40 a.m., and are estimated to have killed approximately 40 terrorists. There have been no Marine casualties. The Coalition aircraft, fighter jets and attack helicopters from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) attacked the terrorist compound and surrounding area targeting the armed men.

There are no reports of civilian casualties or collateral damage.

Forced to operate in the respective concealments of rural and heavily urban environments, terrorists failed to prevent another reinstitution of normalcy: Baghdad's Al-Sha'ab Stadium has reopened, with commensurate security measures and decades-overdue renovations, to host regular matches for Iraq's new soccer league.

More Republican congressmen have, with Graham, been taken partially out of context, primarily by the selection of and order in which their statements are reported. Add the transcripts up for a sum of what we knew: Iraqis and Allies are fighting against a terror force led by Iran and Syria, and facilitated by Ba'athists. Strip away the elite media's exclusion of news unrelated to violence and gainsaying about "the real Iraq" becomes very ironic, a buckling enemy apparent.

ALSO: In London, Ahmad's survey of news includes two more contradictions of terrorist well-being. Would tribes break tradition unless Baghdad gave them convincing reasons? Would an arm of the United Nations enter a country from where some are demanding an exit?

PERSPECTIVE, RECONSIDERATION: An Indian news agency published a brief on Al-Sha'ab. From Baghdad, Ali Fadhil — who was initially skeptical of the major Iraqi security operation in Baghdad, alternatively known as Lightning and Thunder — writes of success that is both empirical and witnessed firsthand. Setting a poignant comparison between Saddam's corrupt, uniformed roughnecks and the new republic's G-Men, Ali judges police performance as imperfect but effective — and another step forward in Iraq's democratic self-determination.

Michael Ubaldi, June 12, 2005.

From Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, the Iranian Student News Agency is reporting a women's protest — for democracy and equality — at Tehran University led by poet Simin Behbahani.

MORE: ISNA has a second set of photographs.

MAINSTREAM: The New York Times reports. (Link changed to the Taipei Times, which does not force readers to register. Apologies.)

Michael Ubaldi, June 9, 2005.

The Iranian people are "demonstrating their hatred for the [theocratic fascist] regime and their desire to be free," says Michael Ledeen. Earlier today, the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran reported pro-democracy riots across the country, held after soccer games:

The celebration gatherings turned, right after the end of the game, into massive shows of popular defiance and rejection of all symbols of the Islamic regime. The National exasperation is to the point that male demonstrators had in most occasions to create security belts around maverick females who persisted to stay and "fight for freedom."

...In the Greater Tehran's areas of Madar, Hafthose, Rey, Saadat Abad, Guisha, Sadeghie, Vali-e Asr, Eslamshahr, Tajrish and Azadi heavy damages were inflicted to public materials and buildings. Windows of tens of buses and offices or commercial entities affiliated to the Islamic regime were smashed by demonstrators. Some of the Capital's avenues, such as, Azadi or Enghelab were covered with pieces of broken glace.

Most of regime's propaganda devices, such as, its sham electoral propaganda were brought down or set on fire. Several militiamen were also injured in those clashes and several patrol vehicles or Militia's motorbikes were damaged or torched, such as, in Eslamshahr which is a poor suburb of Tehran.

The Iranian people are our friends, our allies. They need America's help.

Michael Ubaldi, June 8, 2005.

A different scale for globe and ring: Saturn and Rhea.

Two weeks ago the Cassini space probe detected what appeared to be a "red spot" on Saturnine moon Titan, an area on the surface with a unique infrared spectrometer response. Four possibilities were considered: "surface coloration, a mountain range, a cloud, or a hot spot."

Today, NASA is announcing the discovery of a methane-pumping, Titanian ice volcano, observed geologically and thermatically.

Michael Ubaldi, June 8, 2005.

Howard Dean's inimitably repulsive advocation of the Democratic Party has been a topic of conversation over at National Review's Corner, and a reader has chided all the talk of the former Vermont governor's very short suit.

Kathryn Lopez takes this criticism as overanxious — "Hush, hush," she writes — but the correspondent has a point. Conventional wisdom seems to hold the MoveOn fringe totally responsible for Howard Dean's nomination, when it should be obvious that the Clintons could have blocked Dean or at least extracted public concessions from him. Instead, Hillary and Bill stepped aside — making possible Dean's spectacular demonstration of the Peter Principle. While it's hardly beneficial for major party figures to dismiss their party spokesman as someone who does not speak for the party, Dean's opponents in the Democratic Party, from Joseph Biden to Bill Richardson to John Edwards, are separating themselves from Dean and effectively walling him into his own, little brick-lined cell. If they succeed, Dean will politically immolate without significantly damaging the party; Democrats like Hillary Clinton simply need to step back and let Howard Dean be Howard Dean. At his current clip, Dean could be at his weakest shortly after 2006, the perfect scapegoat for a few painful but sustainable losses.

DIFFERENT ANGLES AND POSTSCRIPT: David Freddoso sees Dean yanked offstage sooner than 2006; while that might spare Democrats a few seats in state and national elections, and will certainly leave Republicans one less thoughtless opponent, Dean's career would not be as fully scuttled as his competitors wish. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, believes that Howard Dean is the legitimate pick from the Democratic Party's growing nihilist faction, an avatar for leftism's secular, relativist, anti-nationalist and anti-capitalist self-estrangement from America.

Let me clarify: the Democrats are in a little more trouble now than nearly one year ago, whether an incendiary man like Dean is the party's most popular or if his direct challenge to another faction is worth the rather severe plan I've suggested above. Removing Dean will not solve the party's fundamental, ideological dilemma.

Michael Ubaldi, June 6, 2005.

The left's painting over recent history and current events has begun. Debating Christopher Hitchens, Germaine Greer waved off the liberation of Iraq as redundant, characterizing the Ba'athists as "in a process of self-destruction anyway."

Unfortunately for Greer, who offered a passel of excuses for perpetuating tyranny in her time with Hitchens, Iraqi democracy faced a millenia-old authoritarian society in which the strongest native or foreign thug — following a laughably improbable Ba'athist collapse — would prevail. So, a prediction: when Iraq is a mostly secure nation, expect unrepentant leftists to mourn the end of the terrorist invasion as if it were a patriotic last stand, while they admonish Iraqis and Allies for a campaign variously and disgracefully tied to adjectives like "heavy-handed," "brutal" or "draconian."

Michael Ubaldi, June 6, 2005.

Editor-in-Chief of American Enterprise magazine Karl Zinsmeister, who has regularly visited Iraq since the deposition of Saddam Hussein to gauge Iraqi temperament, trajectory and progress was this morning's guest on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio program. "It's still messed up," said Zinsmeister of Iraq, "but less so every time I go there." He noted remarkable changes having taken place over the past year. Baghdad's Sadr City, where the gangs of Iran-backed Muqtada al-Sadr harrassed Allied and Iraqi soldiers in April and August of 2004, the authorities' chief concerns today are traffic jams and water treatment. Haifa Street, the capital city's lethal Hogan's Alley, has been largely assumed by Iraqi security forces and in Zinsmeister's opinion "reclaimed," no small thanks to knowledge and insight impossible to foreigners. "Iraqis can pick out a man's Syrian accent instantly, and will ask him about his business, whereas Americans would just give him a 'Salam' and let him on his way."

Zinsmeister corroborates the observations of Iraqi fortitude found here and elsewhere: "the Iraqis are looking for a fight," he says, and while the enemy is increasingly confined to soft-target and indirect bombing operations Iraqis are angry, growing in confidence with every victory and more likely to be aggressive than politically compromised Americans and multinational soldiers. As Captain Duane Limpert, Jr. wrote in a recent letter home, "The main concern now among most Iraqis is not security, but jobs followed by basic services. Obviously, people are scared and concerned about safety, but they are less intimidated now." That in turn follows recent signs of democratic normalcy in the country.

What is critical to ensuring a very visibly approaching success? Here, all agree: American commitment.

Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2005.

I enjoy U2 musically and often spiritually — never politically, as every time I risk listening to the song "Love and Peace or Else" I think of nothing but desperate scenes from Beijing 1989, likely the last association Bono and the boys would possibly make.

Sixteen years silence. Sixteen years waiting.

IN MOTION: The lone man's battle with armor is the third video link from the top.

Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2005.

For William F. Buckley, it's personal:

On January 5, 1973, Howard Hunt, an old friend and my sometime boss in the CIA, came to see me, accompanied by one of his daughters (my goddaughter, as it happened). He told me the appalling, inside story of Watergate, including the riveting news that one of the plumbers was ready and disposed to kill Jack Anderson, the journalist-commentator, if word came down to proceed to that lurid extreme.

I took what I thought appropriate measures. I do not believe Jack Anderson's life was actually imperiled, but meanwhile, in an adjacent theater, Mark Felt, posing as an incorruptible agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was advancing his own drama. And now he wants some money for it.

I have no love for Richard Nixon but this seems to be the smartest take on it: heroes pierce a villain's heart from the front. Face the man who promotes his convictions, for profit or for loss, against the other man, who slides them under a door; and you find that it couldn't possibly be a match. A shame that Firing Line is long off the air, Mr. Buckley is long since retired from public life and recently divested from executive commentary in National Review, and Deep Throat past one enfeebling stroke. If he could be on the televised receiving end, Mr. Felt's secondhand canonization would not last much longer than his abruptly and artificially shortened interview.

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.

Michael Ubaldi, May 26, 2005.

Glenn Reynolds puts forward his expectations of a reformed mainstream media:

What kind of politics should it have? Non-monolithic, and transparent. If, as First Amendment theory suggests, the marketplace of ideas is a check on the political power of an unelected press, then we need diversity of perspective and a willingness of press organs to criticize each others' reporting.

The physically easiest solution would be for media outlets — newspapers, networks — to promote themselves on the basis of the subjective viewpoint they've been denying for decades, rather than as heralds of immaculate truth. As National Review's Jim Geraghty suggested a few days ago, opinion magazines are quickly becoming a staple of casual political observers and bloggers not only because they've embraced the technologically conceived principles of instant comment and immediate correction but because their value to an audience is intellectual honesty alone, not a pretense of impartiality and infallibility. Americans will be for the richer if they can point to reports in the "leftist" New York Times or Reuters and compare them to what's in the "rightist" Washington Times or Cybercast News Service.

Unfortunately, elites may not want to defend an opinion, too, when once upon a time they only needed to defend a story. As American media becomes more democratic, there may be a good deal of dragging, kicking and screaming.

Michael Ubaldi, May 26, 2005.

Expect a flurry of mainstream press reports underscoring today's Commerce Department Gross Domestic Product revision as having been three percent below what polled economists predicted, 3.5% versus 3.6% — and ignore them, since 3.5% is perfectly normal economic growth for America and the sort of expansion for which the rest of the world would gladly trade. Once again, an initial reading of underperformance, 3.1% from three weeks ago, has been corrected by fifteen percent to reflect a healthy market.

Play games with articles, if you like. When journalists advance the notion of slowdown, consider that experts anticipated a six-percent rate drop, from 3.8% to 3.6%, in the first place; and if normal growth is criticized, remember what Wall Street, market mavens and the press think about inflation from growth and ratcheted interest rates. If there's cause, it's for satisfaction.

NOT BAD: A quick survey at the end of the day shows most headlines to be much more accommodating than I assumed this morning. Whether Wall Street's jubilance motivated this or not, the accuracy is most appreciated.

Michael Ubaldi, May 25, 2005.

Mainstream news coverage of the war on terror has become, for better or worse, a frequent element of my commentary; particularly on reporting from Iraq, where the left has enormous political and ideological investment towards the failure of American-inspired democracy. I have begun work on a comprehensive of sorts, following the series of contrived, manipulated pictures of Iraq from elite newsrooms over two years. Elsewhere, the clarion work of collaborative weblog Winds of Change has begot Media Slander, intended by its creators "to hold journalists and bloggers to high ethical standards regarding coverage of the War on Terror and other military-related issues." For all the work awaiting, there could hardly be a greater purpose.

Michael Ubaldi, May 25, 2005.

Oil prices skating at fifty dollars a barrel are convincing Wall Street's buyers to make themselves scarce for the moment but as finer minds have counseled, the American businessman, worker and consumer can shake off a dull couple of months:

U.S. new home sales unexpectedly increased in April to a record pace, a sign historically low mortgage rates and job gains keep powering housing. Prices rose, reflecting an increase in purchases of more expensive homes. ..."We really have the best of both worlds right now for the housing sector in the sense that rates have stayed low and the job market is gaining momentum," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, before the report.

April durable goods orders outperformed expectations by thirty percent, answering the "questions raised" about economic health from media know-it-alls. At least until next week.

Michael Ubaldi, May 24, 2005.

Two days after Iraqis and Poles began Operation Peninsula to apprehend fifteen dozen suspected terrorists and take control of a few truckloads of ordnance south of Baghdad, Iraqi and multinational military leaders convened in the Iraqi capital on Saturday, May 21st — in part to assess the enemy's shape and direction but also to prepare the public for a drive to fleece the city of its recent terrorist infestation. Most interesting was an Iraqi commander's reduction of the enemy. Terrorists have often been described as highly adaptive; tactics and habitation have indeed modulated over the past two years but this seems to be less ingenuity than continual attrition that has robbed loose and naturally adversarial bands of Ba'athists, criminals and foreigners of uniformity. Despite a fluid alternation of targets and hideouts, the enemy's strategy has remained the same, simple and remarkably unfruitful: to sabotage civil structures and murder Allied soldiers or Iraqi democrats for a cause only occasionally rising to a pretense above rank bloodlust. Even al Qaeda tough Abu Musab al-Zarqawi forfeited Islamist terrorism's political and pseudo-religious creed, that which had spared it regional and global revulsion for decades, declaring last week that the infidel was whomever his bombers chose on a given day; Muslim or not. Terrorists are not fighting on behalf of the Iraqi people; what leverage a fire-and-murder headline held in Western elections has dissipated, the near-exclusive killing of innocents no fodder for a Western leftist's trademark self-loathing. The enemy is single-minded and he is loathsome, and according to the Iraqi military man the enemy is a slave to compulsion:

One Iraqi general provided some observations he has made about vehicle bombs. He said citizens need to be on the look out for vehicles with tinted windows; vehicles riding low or tilted to one side due to carrying a heavy load of explosives; religious writing on the side of a vehicle, so a terrorist photographer will be able to recognize the vehicle; vehicles with usually only one occupant; and vehicles driving very fast.

The Iraqi general said actions by security forces alone are not enough to defeat the terrorist threat. "It is important for the citizens to report suspicious persons or vehicles to the police and army. This is not something the Iraqi security force can do on its own," he said.

The Good Citizen is as much a hero in free Iraq as the policeman and soldier. Iraq's nascent civil society has made possible hundreds of raids, the gangster surviving only by sliding into places and — sometimes with the help of the local toughs — smothering neighborhoods into silence. Trust makes a town vulnerable but if a constable and his ward keep to their roles of enforcer and informant, fear is worthless:

Coalition Forces, in conjunction with the Iraqi Army and Ministry of Interior Forces, have detained 285 suspected terrorists in the western Baghdad district of Abu Ghraib in less than 24 hours. The massive joint-combat operation involves two battalions from the 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, two battalions from the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Intervention Force, three battalions from the 2nd Brigade Special Police Commandos, and Soldiers from Task Force 2-14, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

Task Force Baghdad officials said the purpose of the operation is to hunt down, kill or capture terrorists who have been staging attacks in the Iraqi capital.

Operation Squeeze Play is the first of the counterterrorist series promised on Saturday; even before vetting, the number of detainees is staggering. What must have been intended as a pointed terrorist response only exposed the enemy's diminishing and debased prospects: bombs outside of cafes, mosques; double-bombs at the door of residences to kill helpful passerby. One year ago, the American military took pains to stamp out a pair of insurrections. Yesterday, terrorists could only answer the loss of nearly three hundred accessories to murder and sabotage with a running slaughter that, given Iraqis' resistance to intimidation, will have no direct impact on the operational strength of native and Allied forces.

2004's Bloody April marked the failure of the authoritarian Near East to stifle Iraqi democracy with violence and doubt. In twelve months since terrorists have descended into a terrible but rattled aimlessness. Hate and killing is all that they understand. In time the enemy will not surprise on any scale and, if some commentators are correct, that last stumble will push terrorism and its attendant culture into total collapse. To whatever end, that moment is approaching quickly.

EYE ON BAGHDAD: Jeff Medcalf provides links and comment.

Michael Ubaldi, May 23, 2005.

Ten-to-one Rupert Murdoch has eternally befriended the Iraqi people. (Hat tip, IP.)

Michael Ubaldi, May 23, 2005.

Jim Hake's democratist charity Spirit of America has sent a message to donors that combines past and current works and humanitarian projects into a single statement of achievement. Following a series of accusations from Iraqi blogger Ali Fadhil, the organization has also published a recapitulation of its purpose, objectives and conduct.

Michael Ubaldi, May 23, 2005.

Crude oil and gasoline prices perceived as high are the respective banes of Wall Street and the unconfident consumer. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, on the other hand, is worried about neither:

The economy, which had hit a temporary soft patch from surging energy prices, probably will weather the situation well, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested Friday. "The effect of the current surge in oil prices, though noticeable, is likely to prove less consequential to economic growth and inflation than in the 1970s," the Fed chief said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. ...Greenspan, in a largely upbeat assessment, noted that oil and gas prices have calmed down a bit recently. Private inventories of crude oil in the United States have climbed to their highest level in three years, helping to damp the recent "price frenzy," he said.

Greenspan publicly dismissed oil fears one month ago and, using almost precisely the same phrase quoted here, last year — before the American economy sustained above-average fourth quarter growth. It's a "testament," as Greenspan commended last October, "to the power of markets and the technologies they foster."

Michael Ubaldi, May 20, 2005.

If leftist media agencies wish to survive the modern information age, let alone prosper, all without altering the product of their reporters and editors, they must present themselves as they are: subjective. Jim Geraghty (Hat tip, IP):

Does it still really count as a "news" magazine? I mean, for an opinion mag, doesn't National Review or the Weekly Standard do a better job of offering a full picture of Iraq and other issues? Heck, if you don't want a conservative example, how about the New Republic or the Atlantic?

Newsweek isn't just skewed or biased. It pages are mostly brief and fluffy skewed and biased news nuggets. I mean, if you're going to skew, at least give me detailed and well-written skewed news like the other magazines mentioned above.

The mainstream media agencies — broadcast networks, traditional newspapers and magazines — have three choices. The first two have been adopted by the Fox News network and the hosts of its prime time television programs, one each, respectively: report all major news, including all prevailing, reasoned points of view, adjusting or correcting stories as information is received; and embrace one's personal beliefs, appealing to an audience through intellectual sincerity rather than a pretense of objectivity.

And the third choice? Accept a market share that will decline to, never rise above, and gradually dwindle from, no more than twenty-five or thirty percent; a share matching what is and what will come of the far left.

Michael Ubaldi, May 19, 2005.

Omar and Mohammed Fadhil have answered questions about their brother's accusations against the Spirit of America, their observations confirming my supposition that Jim Hake's charity has accomplished what is possible in an often difficult environment. Additional criticism of the Spirit of America echoed Ali's complaints that the organization did not acknowledge offers or requests for other works projects from individual Iraqis; but such "shortcomings" in the field of charity are best explained by limited time and money, and the wisdom of confining a scope of operations to what is practical rather than expanding out of sentiment. As Omar says, "you can imagine how hard and dangerous it is for an NGO to get good things done while the enemies of democracy are ready to kill anyone trying to serve his people."

Omar and Mohammed are more compelling and reasoned; I will defer to the two of them. Ali and others are entitled to their conclusions, though this disagreement would be a tragic and senseless flashpoint; especially when some of Ali's commenters disparaged the Spirit of America before Jim Hake and Ali's brothers could explain themselves. But Ali's intentions, whatever his opinion, have proven to be good. That Spirit of America's have been defended as no different should be reason enough for reconciliation.

MORE: Glenn links and comments. If there's more to this, Instapundit's the place to find it.

FOR YOUR PERUSAL: Ali restated his case on Friday, and Jim Hake responded in kind Saturday.

EVEN MORE: Spirit of America speaks.

Michael Ubaldi, May 19, 2005.

I've added a long-overdue sidebar link to the splendid work of London-based Iraqi expatriate Ahmad.

Michael Ubaldi, May 19, 2005.

Ramesh Ponnuru is quizzical, though perhaps not enough, about a defense of Newsweek from rightist New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks derides military writer Austin Bay's condemnation as "craziness."

Unfortunately, the weakest judgments of the "what" and "why" of Newsweek's infraction have come from otherwise intelligent political and media insiders who are inured or oblivious to leftist prejudice. It isn't so cynical to consider the personal and professional relationships pundits and journalists would damage by calling their colleagues and past or future employers intellectually unfair or dishonest, in spite of overwhelming evidence. Outsiders like Austin Bay have a completely different perspective and nothing to lose with stern condemnations. Yet Bay is no polemicist; the ugly travesty of May 17th's White House press briefing, where reporters demanded the Bush administration apologize for having dared ask a news magazine to deal in fact instead of innuendo, wasn't a parody skit. Brooks should take the opinion of men like Bay more seriously and stop pretending that mainstream newsrooms couldn't possibly be oppugnant to their American benefactors. They may not be "Noam Chomskys with laptops," but just how close have they come?

CANDID CALUMNY: Glenn Reynolds helpfully lists journalists, most of them at least nominally on the left, who can see or are willing to admit what Brooks and others can't.

Michael Ubaldi, May 19, 2005.

One month ago Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan offered constructive, even merciful criticism of the Enron-style accounting practices found in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal government's artificial lifts for the housing market. Via teleconference from Philadelphia, Greenspan advised Congress on what to do with a pair of state institutions that hid $16 billion of losses. Namely, keep them well away from home-buyers:

"The assets required for Fannie and Freddie to achieve their mission are but a small fraction of the current level of their assets," Greenspan said. Thus if Congress were to limit the two companies' holdings so that they can achieve their mission, a substantial liquidation would be required over time, the Fed chief said. ...Greenspan said the Fed also sees little evidence to support the notion that the availability of fixed-rate mortgages is tied to the size of Fannie's and Freddie's portfolios. He also said it is "difficult to see" how the two companies' portfolios can influence home ownership.

He was likely holding his tongue. What are the home mortgage legacies of Fannie and Freddie worth? Less than their future.

Michael Ubaldi, May 18, 2005.

Last night Iraqi blogger Ali Fadhil leveled allegations ranging from incompetence to misrepresentation and fraud against Spirit of America, the American-based charity in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. I read Ali's weblog and contacted Glenn Reynolds, who responded, saying that he'd investigate. Today, Ali has clarified those charges. While Ali's claims, if accurate, illustrate a failure on the part of Jim Hake and his staff to effectively deploy charitable donations netted by thousands of sympathetic parties, mendacity on the part of Hake et al is not immediately apparent. Philanthropy in operation may be so different from the concept, so foreign to Iraqis that their initial collective response has been awkward and their work inefficient, and Ali may be unfamiliar with the often frustrating experiences and occasionally disappointing results of volunteer work with otherwise good intentions; or Spirit of America could be an organization far better at marketing than it is with managing works projects in a country that is both recovering from decades of modern totalitarianism and sitting at the center of the war on terror. Either way, explanations from Ali's brothers and Jim Hake should be forthcoming.

ONE REPLY: It appears that Jim Hake has responded in Ali's comment thread.

CONCLUDED: Omar and Mohammed answer.

Michael Ubaldi, May 18, 2005.

Transforming personalities into Star Wars characters as a roundabout gesture of respect?

It's been done before.

Michael Ubaldi, May 18, 2005.

The American economy is neither stagnant nor inflationary; consumer prices are fairly level, pleasant news to hear after this month's uplifting employment report.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq index regained the level of 2000 from yesterday's steep incline — an event that seems not to have attracted the same media fanfare as when that point was passed in the opposite direction.

Michael Ubaldi, May 18, 2005.

Uzbeks are quite literally fighting for their own dignity as men against their tyrannical government, which was sadly granted a place in Freedom House's most recent catalog of the world's most heinous dictatorships. Democrats in Uzbekistan face halting challenges but violent unrest is, after all, a reflection of the regime's unpopularity; and it is generally understood that the Bush administration has been surreptitiously aiding the cause of freedom for some time. Instapundit and Winds of Change have much more.

Michael Ubaldi, May 17, 2005.

National Review's Andrew McCarthy makes an end-run around the right's general position on Newsweek:

Here's an actual newsflash — and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.

Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do.

His is good counterpoint about the nature of authoritarians, though with two potential problems.

First, a comparison between the First World and the Third World isn't so apt; even if it were, one could look at questionably motivated localized hysteria in America like the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Second, and much more importantly, General Richard Myers clearly stated that Jalalabad riots were "not necessarily" caused by a near-instantaneous dissemination of and public reaction to the Newsweek falsehood. This is a remark from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; neither anonymous nor unfounded, given the general's plenary access to information. We see from press pool photographs that protesters, probably rioters, too, were causing disruption or mayhem because of a tale from Newsweek; accepting that, we base all conclusions on the assumption that market squares went ablaze over a dunked religious book terrorists don't even follow. But what if that weren't exactly the case? What if the same beliefs that put Newsweek on the side of captured Taliban poisoned reports from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia? Why would that be so difficult when reporters routinely place their own assertions, like the "raising questions" catchphrase, into news articles from politics to economics to foreign affairs? In fact, a media mischaracterization of the riots would bring culpability right back to where McCarthy is pulling it from: relativist Westerners' irrational hostility to their own liberal society. We shouldn't hold up one falsehood while standing before the backdrop of another.

Michael Ubaldi, May 17, 2005.

Better to be obscure in victory than conspicuous in failure.

Michael Ubaldi, May 17, 2005.

John Hopkins professor and geopolitical progressive Fouad Ajami wrote masterfully in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Tony at Across the Bay helpfully reprinted the opinion piece in its entirity. If there is moral confusion in the West about the war on terror, Ajami writes, there is startled hope and excitement in the Near East and broader Third World — quite simply because over there liberty is an aspiration, not a convention to flippantly deconstruct:

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here — the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle — came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception."

The article is a sharp abstract of the revolution today: silent, gentle majorities work under the illumination of reason, merit and trust while tiny authoritarian minorities wield fear and violence, the only instruments both understood and preferred.

On our side of the world, disagreement on policy and strategy, contrary to accusations from the left, occurs daily on the right; though all seriously competing propositions are founded in a mutual understanding of good and evil intentions, free and oppressed, and directed towards a shared definition of victory that entails the end of dictatorship. From afar, it all may look the same. But opposing the diplomatic and military confrontation of tyranny outright or condemning it as the arbitrary domination of another — the very abomination this war has demonstrably weakened in several countries — is a telling mischaracterization of the free world's twin desires to protect and empower common men. It is an abdication of discernment, responsibility and, at a point, sanity. What has made debate so frustrating in the last half-century — tragically, the modern embrace of liberty brought with it the temptation of relativist abandon — is that the parties most opposed to one another can no longer agree on basic facts or principles, and that the relativists enjoy cultural standing and a certain credibility. You can't prove green is really green, can you? they jeer. Discouragingly, a lot of time is wasted reestablishing for them what should be obvious. But they concede something when they bristle at aphorisms from the reverent. So for Ajami's work, we recognize what is good; and for those who would out and scoff at the man's recounting, what is nonsense.

Michael Ubaldi, May 16, 2005.

Cleveland's AM news radio ABC affiliate has dissembled about Newsweek's fakery all afternoon, at one point announcing that "the White House has demanded Newsweek retract a story it says damaged US efforts in the war on terror." No confirmation of Newsweek's public, if unacceptable, admission of manifest error; though ABC has ensured listeners will know what the false claim was.

Meanwhile, the magazine's representatives and defenders have invited the public to revisit the mainstream media's sorry performance over the last forty-two months for curious reasons. Because journalists have taken groundless claims from captured terrorists seriously before, we're told, Newsweek has really done nothing new nor wrong. But this story was different. Take a close look at how the riots in Southwest Asia were most prominently reported as a direct response to the Newsweek report, when, as Joe Gandelman reminds us, observers like General Richard Myers have disputed this, noting that local factors were the primary causes. That's not to say the magazine is absolved for printing rumor or that foreign understanding of America won't have temporarily suffered. The Newsweek canard is not like others because it was published by veteran reporters from a major American magazine and immediately became a political focal point as establishment media ascribed motives to Third World civil strife that helpfully broke out soon after.

Though lethal rioting took place on the other side of the world, newspapers and other agencies may soon sheepishly step up behind Newsweek and clarify earlier statements on just why protesters turned violent. This was no conspiracy, it was the work of a blindly collective enterprise. But no less dangerous or reprehensible.

Michael Ubaldi, May 16, 2005.

By now the ignominious collapse of a claim made by leftist magazine Newsweek should be well known; Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is the best place for commentary and observation this morning, while new media sources will carry it this afternoon for mainstream agencies to risk tonight.

Yet for all the justified condemnation, very few participants, left or right, are answering the question of Newsweek's motives for impeding American efforts to expand democracy and liberalism: the motive is political and ideological, and it is to defeat the Western war on terror; perhaps more frighteningly, whether or not it were being led by President Bush as Commander-in-Chief. The failed presidential bid of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry should have convinced all parties in American and Western discourse that the advantage leftist entities and their politics received from the Vietnam era was annulled shortly after elite media dominance came to end. Yet after November 2004, just as in the days following September 2001, the greater left, particularly journalists, continued to agitate. And that disregard has finally caught up with them. We can speculate on the root of a pathology that sets free men against liberalism — whatever it may be, it is hardly intellect. But the practice is obvious: I've referred to it twice in the last week, and promised to write in greater detail. All before, ironically, Newsweek reminded us how dangerous arrogance and contempt can be; leading one to make common cause with the enemy, betraying his keep to spite one of his own. This false story was about detained terrorists moved from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay but the most egregiously fictional media narrative comes from Iraq, so the focus will be there. Such an essay requires scouring through two years of archives and will be a rediscovery of sorts, the left's assault on democratic assertion and liberation as persistent as the terrorist onslaught itself. I believe I've been off my stride lately but promise to make the work worth your wait.

PAGING: Where's maverick journalist Craig Brett when you need him?

Michael Ubaldi, May 16, 2005.

Two weeks ago, reactionary members of Kuwait's national parliament abstained to sufficiently deny the body of a quorum as it considered, finally, behind a fair number of its far less liberal neighbors, women's entrance into politics. The snub was criticized by parties rightfully invested in Kuwait's next step towards full democracy, including Freedom House, which urged the executive branch to bring its legislators back to the question. Women's suffrage is supported by the populace, and it appears that Kuwait's representatives will consider the wishes of their constituents:

Kuwait's parliament agreed on Monday to discuss a bill that would grant women the right to vote and stand in elections, after pressure from the pro-Western Gulf Arab state's government. Analysts said the government, which hopes for success on the controversial issue before a likely trip by the prime minister to Washington next month, tempted lawmakers with a concession on a bill on salary hikes for most public and private employees. ...It was not clear when they might pass the bill, but parliamentary sources said it could be soon.

Pay grades are terms subject to contract, often tools of negotiation themselves; they are inconstant and evanescent and not remotely on the same scale as transformative, permanent voting rights for two-fifths of the country's population. If it's a civil service compromise that can draw the holdouts in, Kuwaiti women have already won.

A VICTORY: What was in sight is now at hand — parliament approved a bill allowing women to participate in the country's 2007 elections. A limp and indistinct religious restriction has been placed on women's voting and campaigning under the guise of "Islamic law," but progressives believe it can easily be culled from law for violating Kuwait's constitution. We're best to believe them, one relic having already been discarded today.

Michael Ubaldi, May 14, 2005.

Today's American Minute:

Midnight, May 14, 1948, the State of Israel came into being and was immediately recognized by the United States and the Soviet Union. A homeland for the thousands of Jews who were persecuted and displaced during World War II, it was attacked the next day by the Transjordanian Army, the Arab Legion, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Against all odds, Israel survived. In November of 1948, President Harry S. Truman wrote to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel: "I want to tell you how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel."

In 1968, President Johnson stated:

America and Israel have a common love of human freedom and a democratic way of life...Through the centuries, through dispersion and through very grievous trials, your forefathers clung to their Jewish identity and their ties with the land of Israel. The prophet Isaiah foretold — "And He shall set up an ensign for the nations and He shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from all the four corners of the earth." History knows no more moving example of persistence against the cruelest odds.

To Abraham's descendents He gave that land.

Michael Ubaldi, May 13, 2005.

In Baghdad, Ali tricked a curmudgeonly taxi driver into admitting that, for all the challenges, fears and doubts, life in newfound freedom is very good, indeed.

Michael Ubaldi, May 12, 2005.

With everyone's least favorite parochialist plumbing the depths of alt-history, I sent a brief request to National Review's Jonah Goldberg: "Now would be a great time for NRO to revive Ramesh's 1999 Pat Buchanan drop-kick. I haven't taken the old fascistic fool seriously since."

He granted, with requisite Goldbergian humor.

AS FOR THE INTERNET GOSSIP: There's suspicion at National Review that Matt Drudge is heavily advertising Buchanan for a good rooster fight. Were that Drudge to call attention to something more outrageous and pertinent, like a major news outlet lying through its teeth about a respected prosecutor's opinion.

...SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO: Between Stephen Green and Instapunk, Pat Buchanan as a tennis ball — only less useful to Western civilization.

Michael Ubaldi, May 12, 2005.

American Marines continue their high-profile campaign to dislodge the Syrian keystone; Wretchard, Chester, Bill Roggio and Strategy Page are excellent sources for knowledgeable commentary. Since Operation Matador began several mainstream press reports, one specifically identified by Roggio, have couched the Allied assault in terms favorable to terrorists when in fact the enemy is patently outmatched but perhaps notably less so than the average gaggle of thugs. True to form, unfortunately — far too many journalists have cast their lot in blind opposition to America and the democratic world since 2001 for the industry to be considered sound or reliable without select verification. Thankfully, the politicized media backdrop is sagging under the weight of contrary fact, tilting forward; and journalists honest enough to pull it down and away have begun to do so. Encouraging the objective and disproving the fraudulent must continue. More on that later.

Michael Ubaldi, May 11, 2005.

With deals and ransoms over Senate confirmation of President Bush's judicial appointments now commanding attention on the subject, expert literal work of journalists has obscured the broader view — why the Democratic Party refuses to trust a Constitutionally assured floor vote for nominees and why the Republican Party would not insist that a filibuster be a filibuster in the first place.

Senate Democrats seized and held the initiative at the start of President Bush's first term when their opponents made clear that Tom Brokaw or, say, Dan Rather would not be forced to reserve three to five minutes of every nightly newscast explaining to viewers why Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin were reading encyclopedias and cookbooks to a chamber empty save for sleepy camera crews; all to keep a Honduran immigrant, a brilliant black woman and other prizes of American heritage off the federal bench. As long as the filibuster's political value remained within Washington's calculus, the only strategies on which Senate Republicans could embark — or about which they could publicly and tactlessly ruminate, as has actually happened since the Democratic obstructions first went up — would consist of dignified retreats. It was "unprecedented" for the Senate to supplant a Constitutional obligation with a rule of order four years ago; let go through two elections and two Republican majorities, the Grand Old Party's reasonably organized Senatorial cry for justice and restitution, while right-headed, comes off as laughable.

Floating around news and commentary is the whisper that Republicans have always valued — and might always value — their own future minority use of a filibuster more than the judicial appointments of a sitting president. Double-term or not, figures the senator who has sat in Russell, Dirksen or Hart for more than a decade or two, that's only eight years and fortunes will change over the course of my career. Well, now, there is prudence and then there is contrivance. Provincialism is representation's second edge but a party, a cause and a president are especially poorly served by the legislator who settles in Washington. For both the cunning and the cautious, it's more practical to follow the Senate calendar. Why risk for one man's four years when eighteen or twenty-four of your own can be had by acceding to convention?

You'd be one of a selfless few to risk. So good legalists are kept from arbitration while an anchored political class piles semantics on semantics, Senate Republicans admitting to Democrats they wouldn't mind trying the same thing when, plus c'est la meme, their turn comes. The political effect, absent any sensibly aggressive push by the White House, will remain local; nationally, Senate dithering and now these deals make Republicans look as though they'll pay interest to get their loan back. Though the Bush administration can be criticized for not giving its Senate majority reason enough to discard an ace when most Republicans want to stay for a long, long game, so can the Constitution. Ensuring that Congressional tenure be measured in accomplishment and not longevity is an onerous matter, not only because simple procedural rules are apparently more than can be expected of Senate Republicans but that, too, the bipartisan noblesse would have to sweep itself out.

Michael Ubaldi, May 10, 2005.

Iraq's national conversation is open and sincere like never before, says Mohammed Fadhil, after answering an invitation to a gathering of intellectuals, doctors and artists hosted by a Baghdad cardiologist. He notes that Iraqis are wary of the farce their political and mortal enemies are playing across their backs. A New York Times columnist is, too, which will soon be the subject of comment.

Michael Ubaldi, May 9, 2005.

Iraq's rugged western landscape is known to have long served as a gateway for the country's enemies and, as such, is an indelible reminder that the Allies face a regional challenge from neighboring dictatorships whose power ebbs in the face of Baghdad's liberal rise. Attacks on civilians, policemen and soldiers do not comprise a homegrown "rebellion" or a "civil war," as some on both the left and right have suggested. Sunni areas of Iraq are troubled but recalcitrance isn't war; and fear does not make loyalty. While the enemy is certainly factious and disparate, al Qaeda tough Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is by all accounts the most visible enemy leader in the country; and the classification of Iraqi hitmen and gangsters, especially if they be former Ba'athists, deserves scrutiny given their consortion with supposed adversaries. For purposes of division the assassins and saboteurs must be thought as politically incompatible but in operation they are often a single target:

Marines, Sailors and Soldiers from Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division are conducting combat operations in northwestern Al Anbar province. The offensive is aimed at eliminating terrorists and foreign fighters from the area. The operation is currently on the area north of the Euphrates River, in the Al Jazirah Desert. The region is a known smuggling route and sanctuary for foreign fighters.

"Insurgent," "militant," "rebel" and "guerilla" are popular press euphemisms for the enemy. Terrorists are also routinely identified as natives — the more rightfully disgruntled, the better. Last Wednesday, the bomb-laden wretch who murdered dozens was arbitrarily granted Iraqi citizenship by the Associated Press. My skepticism came easily but the journalist attendant to the blast and responsible for the claim is flatly contradicted by two years of reports compiled by those for whom accurate descriptions are essential:

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say suicide drivers are invariably foreign fighters. Officers here said they knew of no documented case in which a suicide attacker turned out to have been an Iraqi.

According to the military, the presence of foreign terrorists has increased, returning us to the motivation for continued attacks against Iraqis, their benefactors and their protectors: nothing so unmistakable and uncomplicated as strongmen's contempt for the living, the hopeful and the free.

THE WAR AGAINST TERROR, INDEED: Rich Lowry provides us, in one excerpt, with a description of the primary role of Islamist authoritarianism in the war against democratic Iraq and the conventionally inconceivable aid and direction from "secular" Ba'athists ruling Syria. Congratulations to the mainstream media for finally publishing what has been obvious all along.

Michael Ubaldi, May 7, 2005.

"Bloody Baghdad" is one press agency's moniker for the string of car bombings in Iraq's capital but Strategy Page rightly calls the terrorists' highly localized concentration of urban murder "beyond ineffective." In the southern quarter of the city, the enemy's naked brutality has won him nothing, Iraqi and Allied perseverance and courage far stronger than a muddled frenzy of killing:

Everyone knows that all living things need water to survive and during the upcoming summer months in Iraq, the demand for clean drinking water will drastically rise. The near-term completion of a project in [Baghdad's] Al-Rasheed district will fulfill this need and provide more than 100,000 villagers fresh water. The $500,000 project began six months ago and employed 36 people, of which 30 were from the local area.

Another story narrates dozens more reclamation and construction projects, while USAID publishes staggeringly full weekly reports on work across a vast countryside unrestrained by shiftless thugs.

IN SPADES: Several hundred paragraphs of Iraqi determination and terrorist failure is what one can find in Arthur Chrenkoff's latest volume of reconstruction news.

Michael Ubaldi, May 6, 2005.

While the economy's important numbers hold steady, the politically favored set just improved:

U.S. employers added 274,000 workers in April, more than economists expected, suggesting that higher costs and first-quarter slowdown haven't shaken companies' confidence in economic growth. The increase follows a revised gain of 146,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. All told, the economy added 93,000 more jobs in February and March than the government previously reported. The jobless rate held at 5.2 percent.

Including April and March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded in its monthly non-farm payroll reports over 3.4 million jobs created since President Bush signed the Jobs & Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003; tax cuts that exceeded predictions from the President's Council of Economic Advisers to have added at least 1.4 million jobs by the end of 2004 by over thirty percent. And as Larry Kudlow explains today, the market windfall from lower taxes has produced tax receipts aplenty — just as it did after the first year of tax reform.

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

"[T]he suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers." Murder, pain, hope and friendship in Mosul, Iraq — the kind of reporting the world deserves but mostly does not receive, from Michael Yon, to whose weblog I will now return daily. (Hat tip, CDR Salamander.)

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

Frank words from a forthright lady in support of President Bush's vilified nominee for United Nations Ambassador: Argentina and the broader left won't be impressed but John Bolton, the president and many more of us will. (Hat tip, the Corner.)

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

Those so long mystified by an American economic restoration that did not appear to match longer payrolls with market success may have their answer:

Productivity, a key factor needed to boost living standards, rose at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the first three months of the year, the best showing in nine months. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the increase in productivity, a measure of worker efficiency, compared to a 2.1 percent rate of increase in the October-December quarter of last year. It was a slightly better gain than economists had been expecting and represented the fastest increase since a 3.9 percent jump in the April-June quarter of last year.

Productivity surpassed historical records earlier this year. From greater output by existing staff comes a disincentive for additional hiring — but greater wealth, of course, ensures the creation of new employment opportunities. So is it wise to assume that productivity will level off in the age of blinding technological innovation? Ingenuity and resilience aren't bad prerequisites.

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

One month ago James Robbins assessed terrorism's downward arc, inspired by the enemy's spectacularly futile efforts in Iraq and elsewhere to defeat organized, national military forces following the established conduct of war. At a time when al Qaeda's operational leadership has been disrupted and its gangs in southern Afghanistan faltering, Robbins remains confident:

The daily life of an al Qaeda leader is an endurance test for survival. They spend their time moving from safe house to safe house, in constant fear of discovery, attempting vainly to organize large-scale attacks on their enemies and speculating when they will be betrayed by their friends. It is not a rewarding existence, not even by terrorist standards. This cannot be the jihad they signed up for. Even the most committed among them may be wondering when Osama's master plan is going to kick in and they will start winning a few rounds.

They can kill but if challenged, they can't win. We knew this from the beginning.

Michael Ubaldi, May 4, 2005.

For those seeking expert opinion on the economy's speed and trajectory, the Federal Reserve rendered testimony yesterday:

The Committee believes that, even after this action, the stance of monetary policy remains accommodative and, coupled with robust underlying growth in productivity, is providing ongoing support to economic activity. Recent data suggest that the solid pace of spending growth has slowed somewhat, partly in response to the earlier increases in energy prices. Labor market conditions, however, apparently continue to improve gradually. Pressures on inflation have picked up in recent months and pricing power is more evident. Longer-term inflation expectations remain well contained.

No decline, no danger — which means, to the disappointment of those placing personal gain above public welfare, no political exploitation.

Michael Ubaldi, May 2, 2005.

Wall Street ended Friday on an incline while the press was overwrought — or happy to be overwrought — over news that American Gross Domestic Product expansion for the first quarter of 2005 was 3.1%. "Slowest growth in two years," charged headlines. True; or so said the initial report. GDP was believed to have grown by 3.1% during the three-month period previous to last, the fourth quarter of 2004, before its twenty-percent revision upwards four weeks later. Larry Kudlow doesn't take downturn talk seriously:

Three months ago the first government estimate of gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2004 came in at 3.1 percent at an annual rate. At the time, the market consensus expected 3.5 percent growth. Immediately, the mainstream media started talking about an economic slowdown. Turns out, that 3.1 percent was finally revised up to 3.8 percent. ...Well, history is repeating itself even though, if you look under the GDP hood, youll find that the countrys economic engine is humming along.

Bears, Kudlow notes, have had a penchant for seizing on one or two clunker reports not to draw attention to a lagging market sector, which is reasonable and sensible, but for predicting economic entropy — too often politically motivated. Or they've dismissed positive general indicators while decrying flat numbers on employment, wages and the consumers' well-being. Were they watching the news on Friday? As oil prices fell the Commerce Department released two figures defying expectations: income rose by a third more than forecast, consumer spending up twenty percent above predictions.

Is today's economic disappointment objective or subjective?

ON 'SLUGGISH': I've made this comparison before but as a good one, it's worth repeating — the United States' economy outsizes anything in the world it hasn't outperformed. At 3.1% growth, America expanded at 500% the United Kingdom's pace; 3000% of Australia's; over 700% of Japan's; and unspeakably greater than Germany's pace, since the federal republic's Gross Domestic Product most recently shrank.

Where can this perspective be found in the news? Scarcely anywhere since it's hidden out of sight, says Bizzy Blog. Why must America consistently perform above average to stave off sudden, gripping media panic? Or has the bad press anything at all to do with economic expectations?

Michael Ubaldi, May 1, 2005.

Nearly one year ago a congregation of terrorists in the extreme west of Iraq, close to the Syrian border, was targeted and destroyed by Allied aircraft. Widely conflicting accounts from locals were amplified by the elite press and controversy ensued. At the time, Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt volunteered that "bad people have celebrations, too." Iraqi expatriate Ahmad offers one explanation.

Michael Ubaldi, May 1, 2005.

First reported one month ago, the visual sighting of a planet around Brown Dwarf 2M1207 now comes with photographic evidence. Two, in fact; the second a gas giant orbiting AB Pictoris, a young star spinning in a disc of dust and gas like the one from which our own solar system is believed to have formed. It's heady stuff:

New images taken of an object five times the mass of Jupiter confirm that it is a giant planet closely orbiting a distant star, an international team of astronomers reported. The team of European and American astronomers said this is the first time a planet outside of our solar system has been directly observed a claim other scientists have also made.

Strikingly, 2M1207's planet orbits at a distance twice that of Neptune; AB Pictoris' is more than nine Neptune-lengths away. Given that many confirmed exosolar planets — all of them enormous gas giants — sit in absurdly close proximity to stars, some described as being "blowtorched," these finds suggest planetary configurations more similar to our own, the detection of tiny nickel-iron planets then conceivably dependent only on Earth scientists' instrument precision.

Michael Ubaldi, April 29, 2005.

Where can you find a sweeping editorial drawn from the least appropriate examples of a brand, genre or institution? Two spots in PC Magazine, apparently. The latest print issue's "Backspace" humor column is a cheap shot at bloggers: "Is blogging really the new journalism?" goes the set-up line, followed by a cymbal-crash non sequitur of thirteen mundane entries plucked from personal — not political — weblogs. Disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather and former Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott know exactly how potent the blogosphere can be. But no one on the PC staff looked into their respective dramas. Wouldn't one of the world's premier personal technology magazines be less cynical about the world's premier personal technology? Not when it means a collective competitor working in every time zone.

John Dvorak, who's enjoyable to read when he's not taking lousy aim at the White House or weblogs, betrays the limits of his legendary snap-judgment with this terminal diagnosis for the video gaming market. The Doom series doesn't define the height or breadth of the video gaming industry so much as it does the tastes of players who would happily spend their off-hours boring through sixteen thousand cubic meters of liver sausage with a dull twist drill. The latest installment, Doom 3, is as morbid, repetitive and simplistic as its predecessors: evil incarnate has crawled into this dimension and must be put down with an indiscriminate use of firearms. In pitch darkness. Unfortunately, one game is enough for Dvorak's generalization.

A better bellwether is the Xbox sci-fi action game Halo 2 by Microsoft subcontractor Bungie Software. Released last November, the sequel to Xbox's 2001 flagship product included a fairly satisfying traditional single-player campaign but exceeded nearly all expectations — including my own — with its creative twist on multiplayer gaming. As a frequent participant in "capture the flag" and other team games, I'm accompanied by friends and mutually interested players on Bungie's "party system," what's known as the "virtual couch"; set against randomly selected, equally skilled players and parties. Teams move through games just as they would an evening of intramural basketball. The appeal is akin to a sport's — the grand, worn game with nuance to last for eternity. Halo 2 hardly feels six months old, and now a new set of playing fields are being released over the next few months. The gaming business has taken thoughtful notice of Bungie's success in reinventing the online multiplayer experience. Surely Dvorak could, too. And Halo 2 is just one concept done right.

I don't expect to put PC down, but is this the sort of work one should henceforth expect from a hi-tech magazine still printed on paper?

Michael Ubaldi, April 28, 2005.

Another moment in history:

Appointed as Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari and his cabinet received [a] vote of confidence earlier today [from] the Iraqi National Assembly. He said, "This is the first step towards the reconstruction of Iraq."

Mohammed watched the event on live television, and offers his thoughts.

HELPFUL: CNN's provided a cabinet roster.

Michael Ubaldi, April 28, 2005.

Freedom House has released results of its latest survey on global press freedom, "Freedom of the Press 2004," and in line with my speculation on the institution's judgment of broader Iraqi liberties, Freedom House concluded that terrorist disruption and political transition kept the state of Iraqi journalism in the category of "Not Free." Placed in perspective, however, Iraqi press freedom immediately followed liberalizing neighbors Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Algeria and Jordan; the first, third and fifth of which were considered "Partly Free" in Freedom House's 2004 study of human liberty. Iraq tied with Lebanon, known for its public forum's resilience to Syrian repression. Numerically, the liberated country scored slightly higher than the Ukraine, eclipsing in two years what the embattled, former Soviet satellite has just consolidated after fifteen years with the Orange Revolution. Finally, a reasonably balanced report by researcher Brian Katulis stressed Iraq's considerable forward momentum, following a candid account on Saddam Hussein's constriction of speech and press freedoms. In establishing a historical perspective, Katulis made two mistakes — first, too great a reliance on the presence of the Coalition Provisional Authority and second, excluding events following the failed twin insurrections of April 2004. Katulis' chronology is positioned rather early in Iraq's two years of reconstruction, and it seems that the country's appraisal might have suffered. And there's this puzzling statement:

Many of the new media outlets were set up by new political groups and parties, and their reporting was biased in favor in favor of promoting their parties' and achievements rather than objectively reporting on events.

If Katulis values press freedom strictly on a standard of purported "objectivity," he should reconsider. American journalism sprang from the movable type of political organizations for whom exaggeration and caviling were principal. Britain's newspapers are still classified by party loyalty — and arguably present themselves more sincerely than most American media agencies, print and television, which claim independence while grossly distorting news for political purposes. A better evaluation would qualify the work of news outlets with their reputation among Iraqis themselves. One step further, an Iraqi assessment of their ability to speak, debate and publish would be a welcome addition to an essay whose concerns tilt slightly to the academy.

Michael Ubaldi, April 27, 2005.

Vultures of the media and intellectual feather have been circling for weeks over the Iraqi National Assembly's deliberate inauguration of the country's first democratically elected and obligated government. The Bush administration and some military officials recently confirmed reports that Washington had made overtures to Baghdad to speed the process, and members of the leftist press added to that equation whatever was necessary for implying political negotiation made terrorists more bloodthirsty — instead of the more sensible explanation that a central authority without clear leadership might be less capable of coordinating law enforcement and military operations. And now, despite the heavy doubt in learned circles, Iraqis are approaching completion of their first representative body. The Daily Star in Lebanon has stepped out in front of most press agencies by generally drawing on the unsubstantiated word of insiders to describe Ibrahim al-Jaafari's cabinet in detail:

Under Jaafari's proposal, Iraq's majority Shiites would get 17 ministries, according to Ali al-Adib and Hadi al-Ameri, two lawmakers from the UIA, which controls 148 seats in Parliament. Eight ministries would go to the alliance's Kurdish allies, six to Sunnis and one to a Christian, the lawmakers said. ...According an earlier report by Al-Iraqiyya television, Roj Nouri Shaways, a Kurd, former Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi, and Sunni MP Saad al-Lehebi were all named as deputy premiers. It also said Saadoun Dulaimi, a Sunni, was named as defense minister. ...Jaafari's list includes several outgoing ministers remaining in their posts, including Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, as foreign minister and Nasreen Mustafa Barwari as public works minister. In addition, Sami al-Majoun was named justice minister and Ali Abdel-Amir Allawi finance minister, according to a partial list provided by the television.

Let's assume that this roster is only partly accurate; we can do so, and still remain certain that Jaafari will provide the Iraqi electorate with a mosaic government, whatever the particulars. We could also consider the investment made by Jaafari and his party counterparts to deliver pluralist democracy with startling fidelity. Some few thousand miles away, the oldest democratic republic has had just four consecutive presidential cabinets, out of several score, constructed in deference to a deafening political expectation that leadership posts should be manned with men — and women — whose appearance and heritage are representative of the country's population. An administration that would "look like America," as President Clinton put it, who appointed four women and several minorities over two terms in office. President Bush has appointed the first black Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice; the first hispanic Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Alberto Gonzalez and Carlos Gutierrez.

Should we quibble over who assigned who based on aesthetics rather than a happy medium of life story and professional commensuration? It's well known that the Democratic Party issues quotas of every attribute for its national conventions; Republicans don't, and yet minorities readily scale that party's echelon. Methodology aside, people notice their face, faintly, looking back at them from high places. Inclusion has a value, even if it is more emotional than arithmetic. And it seems likely that merit will eventually win over style, so no one need believe his accolades are a crass or empathetic product.

Maybe the better point is that allotment based on a sharply abstract concept of fairness is never easy; and yet the nation whose founders invented the modern democratic constitution has after two centuries just embraced what a country which spent all of five thousand years under one dominion after another will have carefully entered into before four months' time.

Michael Ubaldi, April 26, 2005.

Perception versus application:

Consumer confidence declined in April for the third consecutive month, signaling Americans' concerns that economic growth is leveling off. But one area of the economy is still white hot: the government said sales of new homes shot up 12.2 percent last month to the highest level in history.

...[T]he Commerce Department said new single-family homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.43 million units in March, confounding the consensus forecast of a small decline in sales in March, a month when mortgage rates had been inching higher. Instead, sales climbed past the old all-time high of 1.3 million units at an annual rate set last October.

In fact, more than one sector of the market is strong. However widely an impression may be prevailing, what is it worth when it reflects behavior so poorly?

Michael Ubaldi, April 25, 2005.

A confidence that's inspiring:

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.89 million units last month, up from a February sales pace of 6.82 million units. The increase was far above the tiny 0.1 percent gain that economists had been expecting, indicating that the modest increase in mortgage rates so far this year has not put a damper on home sales.

We may carp, but we don't submit.

Michael Ubaldi, April 22, 2005.

The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

Between a speech he delivered without notes and a question-answer session, [Howard] Dean regaled an appreciative audience for nearly 90 minutes without once raising his voice, as he did after last year's Iowa primary election. But he did draw howls of laughter by mimicking a drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh.

"I'm not very dignified," he said. "But I'm not running for president anymore."

From bottom to top: if you haven't got an argument, you've lost the debate. Had Ed Gillespie worked a crowd with a suggestive pantomime about the foibles of leftist commentator Jerry Springer, waving a personal check, he'd be assigned a custodial cart and asked to enter his old chairman's office at the Republican National Committee only to vacuum and empty the wastebaskets. Senator Hillary Clinton may or may not be pleased that Dean would work towards earning his ouster from party leadership so soon before 2006, for while Clinton intends Dean to remove himself from politics, it can only be accomplished fully if the chairman demonstrates an incapacity not for dignity but gaining what matters to the Democratic Party — Washington and the federal government. On television last night, political analyst Dick Morris spoke briefly about the chairmanship that is worth most to one man's rivals. More on that subject in time.

Michael Ubaldi, April 21, 2005.

"Burnout" seems to be the adjective observers want for a description of China's numerically impressive first-quarter expansion of gross domestic product, clocking in at nearly ten percent. But according to the Wall Street Journal, via IP, Beijing's troubles are not limited to market forces:

As the market plumbs six-year lows, China's 60 million retail investors are an embittered lot — sounding a jarring note amid the capitalist changes transforming China's economy. The government once touted the nation's two stock exchanges, started in 1990 and 1991, as founts of opportunity. But they have turned out to be full of rotten companies that relied on political connections to get listed. Regulators have had little success fighting rampant insider trading and poor disclosure. For the ruling Communist Party, the rage of investors who have lost their nest eggs could be toxic. The party has long struggled to keep a lid on social unrest, especially among unemployed workers and overtaxed farmers. Now a big chunk of the middle class is angry, too.

Kleptocracy is profitable only to a small number of people for a short amount of time. And if signs are to be believed, the regime's time is running out.

FROM ALL SIDES: Could the Million Man Army be just as dangerous to Beijing? (Hat tip, IP.)

Michael Ubaldi, April 21, 2005.

That Wall Street may end on gains for the second day in far too long, thanks to a spate of healthy earnings reports and the fruits of McDonald's latest master stroke, is good for the market as well as my conscience. Watching the Dow fall about ten percent over two months finally settled like a thorn in my mind: last night I dreamt that I turned to a television screen when Fox News' Shepard Smith announced "a little bit of profit taking" and saw that the Dow Jones had dropped in an afternoon to 900 points. Tomorrow, those few traders who remain alive are sure to take advantage of some of the best deals since 1884!

Wall Street is fickle and too often superficial; but one is led to suspect that a certain party's possession of the White House leads to a general consensus that the economy is never as good as it should be. News audiences hear this; they complain to pollsters who return dismal confidence numbers to reporters and the wheel spins faster. And when corporate earnings are released, how many are willing to blame a bad quarter on mismanagement rather than Washington? Fundamentals seem stable. Industrial production's up, jobless claims are down even further than the record lows through which they've recently dropped. As reports are presented, there's more give than take. Certainly, spending could be lower — but the opposition party has less hay to make of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's warning than they may think. If Democrats can obstruct a gamut of Capitol business, they can prevent bloated federal budgets.

Where's the market? Where it should be and, as Larry Kudlow argues smartly, with the correct policy foundation, with quite a lot of vigor to spare.

TWO-OH-OH-MY: Two hundred six points upward in the Dow. May today set a turnaround — and a trend.

BY THE WAY: One should know enough to read entirely through a mainstream article to find what's been buried. Alan Greenspan announced that "activity appears to be expanding at a reasonably good pace," and that, contrary to the misfiring klaxon known as Paul Krugman, "it certainly doesn't seem that" the specter of the late 1970s, "stagflation," can or will return.

Michael Ubaldi, April 20, 2005.

Freedom's Argus, Robert Mayer, discovered that Kuwaiti women's suffrage is close to becoming law:

In a first step toward granting women full political rights, Kuwaiti lawmakers agreed yesterday to allow women to vote and run in local council elections, but the measure requires more legislative action before it would become law. The measure was taken on a 26-20 vote for womens participation with three abstentions. The session was attended by more than three quarters of the 64 lawmakers and Cabinet ministers entitled to vote.

..."Thank God, the first step toward women's rights has been complete...We are waiting for the major step and I am sure it will be approved like this one," Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said. "I congratulate my sisters for obtaining their rights in municipal elections and they will get their other rights in voting and standing in parliamentary elections," he told reporters after the vote.

In the war against tyranny, the final victory will be at the hands of the common man — and woman.

Michael Ubaldi, April 20, 2005.

I tried the Onion for a short time but Mad magazine will be my first, and only, love.

Michael Ubaldi, April 20, 2005.

When the mysterious cleaning of Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity was first observed last December, a leading theory among Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists suggested dust devils might be carrying sediment up and away from solar panels. Three weeks ago, wind activity was determined to be the cause. And the dust devils? Spirit has been photographing a flock of them.

Michael Ubaldi, April 20, 2005.

Today's early-morning preview of ticker headlines was again buttonholed by a reference to a "wave of violence" in Iraq, which in turn led to a story headlining the "surge of violence" in the democratizing country. As Wretchard would insist, the "violence" is not a remote phenomenon but in fact attempts on the lives of the innocent and those who protect them. Austin Bay has fit research to the observation that terrorist mayhem in Iraq increasingly devolves into feckless, if compulsive and deadly, gangsterdom. A look at today's hit-jobs trace the same pattern: a trio of car bombs directed at policemen, succeeding in the crumpling of a building and the death and injury of several people who happened on the scene at the wrong moment. Tragic for those affected, yes; but the events fail to describe conditions in the country, and hardly rise to the one-sided hyperbole that is now standard to elite media narratives. Accuracy would be served if news agencies collected additional, reasonably available information and published stories on how a series of attacks by thugs on weak targets, say, failed to disrupt the lives and businesses of millions of Iraqis, thousands of Allied troops and hundreds of public works projects.

It used to be that anecdote defined what was found outside of the newspaper, judged to be a worthy arbiter of representative fact. Baghdad, the stories tell us, strains under the wailing terrorist strikes. Omar and his brothers would sternly disagree, and the online photo album to which they linked begs retraction of the dire claims. We don't see strange, alien rituals in a savage landscape. Are even the bums prey for a politicized obsession with catastrophe?

Iraq's challenges must be recognized, lest the Allies' necessity and the serious danger in remaining terrorist regimes — particularly those couched in Tehran and Damascus — be cheapened. But what of the nation's progress? While terrorists succeed in beaming feeds of compressed disaster directly to Washington they fail to sell the conjured impression to Iraqis or their colleagues. Police, often physically undermatched, are culturally central and when attacked add, rather than subtract, to self-confidence. One building is sabotaged, a dozen more are raised. It is evident and abundant:

Last month, 31 schools were completed, with 10 of those in the Samarra District. April projections are for another 44 schools to be completed. The renovation projects in Salah ad Din will positively affect over 13,000 Iraqi students and boost the local economy in the form of labor, materials, and subcontracts. The use of local contractors and local labor has been instrumental in inspiring pride in the local communities and injecting money into the local economies.

...As March ended, 89 projects completed within the Gulf Region Northern District, which includes the seven northern provinces of Dahok, Diyala, Erbil, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah ad Din and Sulaymaniyah. Currently there are more than 475 projects in progress, with over 180 projects forecast completed, and 99 projects forecast to begin this month.

Iraq can survive poor press. Will the press survive Iraq?

Michael Ubaldi, April 19, 2005.

What's to improve? NASA's showing off this raw image obtained by the Cassini spacecraft on its closest pass by Saturnine moon Titan.

Michael Ubaldi, April 19, 2005.

I'm confident now that my reflection on Pope John Paul II, written a fortnight ago, was neither a fleeting sensation nor an unintentional reply to the commotion. Karol's death reminded me to consider the inalterable difference between opinion and belief, preference and object. That Joseph Ratzinger and I are of different Christian churches makes for inevitable disagreement. But considering what I've put forth in my work over three years, there is more like than unlike:

On Monday, Ratzinger, who was the powerful dean of the College of Cardinals, used his homily at the Mass dedicated to electing the next pope to warn the faithful about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects, ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism — the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism," he said, speaking in Italian. "Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."

Two apart can share a destination. To Benedict XVI.

Michael Ubaldi, April 19, 2005.

One aspect of news of late, especially that of major foreign events, is its remarkable constancy. Japan's ascension has been met with predictable calumny; Iraq and Afghanistan are moving well along, despite gangster attacks that receive far more press significance than they deserve; the modernity in Lebanon rises while Syria's ossified Arab fascism cracks and sinks; the Democratic Party and the left score well for effort but ultimately fail. I, like anyone else, respond to events as much as inspiration; and I'm willing to lose a little in quantity to gain in relevance and characteristic perspective. Besides; we can all agree that spring is just a bit distracting.

NOTE TO A NOTE: Sadly, my senator George Voinovich proved to be the fulcrum Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrats needed to swing United Nations Ambassador nominee John Bolton into another series of frivolous and spurious accusations. Last November I punched the ballot card for Voinovich reluctantly, the senator's grandstanding against President Bush's second tax relief legislation foremost on my mind. I've pledged not to undervote when a Republican is on the ballot — so I would very much like to see another party candidate take Voinovich's place in 2010.

Michael Ubaldi, April 18, 2005.

The meddling of foreign diplomats and intellectuals in Iraq's affairs goes on, reports Michael Rubin, despite politics having been cemented in autonomy by the will of the governed:

Most Iraqis remain grateful for the liberation which made elections possible, but they resent the manner in which U.S.-Iraqi partnership degenerated into occupation. The issue is not the presence of American troops. Iraqis across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum recognize that members of the Coalition are putting their lives on the line for Iraq's future. Rather, the issue is arrogance.

...The issues facing Iraq are vast. Iraqis debate the role of religion in their society. Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs debate the future of Kirkuk. Discussions relating to a Basra-centered southern Iraqi federal unit are picking up. An increasingly mature and independent Iraqi press is at the forefront of investigating corruption. The arguments Iraqis have are long and sometimes heated. But, as the January 30 turnout showed, Iraqis take great pride in their sovereignty. The White House does too. Unfortunately, no one has yet told the American embassy.

More stories like this one are bound to be heard as the Allies struggle to maintain a balance between continuing aid, guidance and security to Baghdad's fledgling leaders — and a particular silence on matters that are decided within the country's growing circlet of independence. The interest in good, liberal and stable government is valid. Coalition nations are entitled to see that their monetary and military investments reach the Iraqi population as intended; Iraqis themselves deserve a state that embraces honesty and integrity, discarding the poisoned artifacts of dictatorship. The process of decoupling will not be without its misunderstandings and embarrassments. Still, Iraq has earned a degree of administrative sanction and leeway — certainly enough to tell self-serving bureaucrats to jump in a lake.

Michael Ubaldi, April 18, 2005.

It's likely to be a handshake felt 'round the web:

Adobe Systems Inc., one of the world's largest providers of document-design software, will acquire Macromedia Inc. in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.4 billion, the companies announced Monday. Adobe's software includes the popular Acrobat and Photoshop program. San Francisco-based Macromedia makes the Dreamweaver and Flash web-design software.

Combining the two businesses, the companies said, will allow them to create more powerful software programs that can be used across multiple operating systems, which should pave the way for expansion into new markets. ...The companies said they are in the midst of developing "integration plans" that will build on their similarities. They made no mention of layoffs.

Although Adobe Photoshop is my workhorse program at the office Macromedia's Dreamweaver and Fireworks are critical applications for properly exporting material to the internet (much better than, ironically, Adobe's piecemeal ImageReady). This is the second time in two years Adobe has not only sought to buy the assets of a company whose products I use but has selected a developer at the top of its game. In May of 2003, Adobe acquired Syntrillium Software, whose flagship audio production application Cool Edit Pro had been my staple for mixing since 1999; Adobe's method of absorption was both respectful of the smaller firm and mindful of continued market success, integrating new staff as a whole. Syntrillium employees could look forward to essentially the same job with greater resources at their disposal while Adobe would gain a well-received, sales-tested product alongside a seasoned audio software division. It appears Macromedia will receive the same warm welcome. If federally approved and privately concluded, this marriage should not disappoint.

Michael Ubaldi, April 18, 2005.

I've received an e-mail forward from activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi that carries some bothersome news. Daneshjoo.org, website for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, has been taken down due to lack of funds. If you are at all able to donate, SMCCDT asks that it be done through PayPal. Simply log in and denote to "SMCCDI - Daneshjoo" as recipient via their e-mail address.

Michael Ubaldi, April 17, 2005.

Catch a leftist in an affront to the public record and he'll throw everything from Jim Crow to Mahatma Gandhi to trip you up. Glenn Reynolds overturned syndicated columnist Sylvester Brown's try at the most repulsive illiberal canard against President Bush's success in establishing a democratic vision for the Near East. In retaliation, Brown stooped lower, chiding American license to judgment with the scold's adage: a drunk who goes sober is forever that drunk.

Glenn does well knocking aside Brown's misappropriation of a Gandhi quotation: indeed, the only ones who are forced to accept democracy are a nation's strongman minority. As for Gandhi's moral implications, satyagraha is an appeal to conscience; it is useless if an oppressor has none. In Kiev and Beirut, buttressed by international succor and arms, it can succeed. In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as one of Glenn's correpondents has pointed out, it could not. Gandhi showed us just how much pride and arrogance can be held by a man in rags, to have thought that his singular experience in British India defined Adolf Hitler better than the simple metric of good and evil — demonstrating, from the error, that peace is made only with peaceable men.

Dwelling too much on the failures of men ends in relativism and misanthropy. Liberating Iraq was a judgment of Saddam Hussein and dictatorship, and Brown argues that flawed men and states can do no good. Yet every American shortfall Brown recites is one that has been overcome by those who have seen wrong and moved to correct it. There could be no stronger repudiation of the balance-of-power doctrine than the president's 2005 State of the Union address.

This past week despotisms and free-world intellectuals with axes to grind were looking to mar Japan's stride towards complete, democratic sovereignty. It doesn't matter that Japan paid dearly for its crimes in war, or that it has become a model in sixty years of liberalism; redemption and transcendence, and the good Tokyo has and will accomplish matter far less to Japan's detractors than does revenge and a troubling design to thwart ideals guiding the new country. So which does Sylvester Brown want more, Third World liberty or Western guilt?

Michael Ubaldi, April 15, 2005.

The bad news — Iran's oppressive theocracy survives, continues to abuse its own citizens and foreigners alike, is ever-closer to an atomic weapon, and both stands and functions as a terrorist monument — remains the same. But good news is found in greater measure these days. While Michael Ledeen and Peter Ackerman are sharply skeptical visionaries, not easily pulled from an objective by wishful idling, they may find that their recent proposal on how the free world can help Iranians liberate themselves coincides with work on Capitol Hill:

A U.S. congressional committee has approved legislation seeking to strengthen existing U.S. sanctions on Iran and put more pressure on Iran's government on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, while providing greater support for Iranian democracy groups. The Iran Freedom Support Act declares it should be U.S. policy to support human rights and pro-democracy forces in the United States and abroad opposing what it calls the non-democratic government of Iran.

...The legislation would authorize funding for groups pressing for democratic reform, human rights, and civil liberties in Iran. ...The legislation would also fund independent democracy and radio and television broadcasters for Iran. ...Congresswoman [Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen says Bush administration support will be crucial to chances for approval by both houses of Congress.

That support may be soon in coming:

The United States will decide this summer whether to pursue a tougher stance on Iran's nuclear program at the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Thursday.

An irrevocable press to conviction would be welcome since, despite the frustration of advocates, a long-term strategy that ensures the fall of Tehran's mullahs is conceivable. What might be helpful to both the imprisoned and the concerned is reassurance that the slow pace is borne from careful purpose, not resignation.

Michael Ubaldi, April 15, 2005.

The Psalmist signed off for good reason. Rich Lowry:

[C]ounselors have the best of intentions, but whenever such a tragedy strikes, it brings to mind an old New Yorker cartoon. Two cowboys look at something in the distance. "Hard to tell from here," one of them comments. "Could be buzzards, could be grief counselors."

...Dwelling on your feelings can be a problem, especially if you're feeling down. A researcher who compared depressed individuals told to ruminate on their feelings with those not so instructed found that over-thinking tends to "impose a lens that shows a distorted, narrow view of our world." Indeed, it can "take you down paths to hopelessness, self-hate and immobility."

As we've been told for centuries, "leave all resultings; do the next thing."

Michael Ubaldi, April 14, 2005.

The fascistic and grimly humorously titled People's Republic of China has a long and terribly consistent policy of suppressing the trade and passage of information in and out of its monumental police state. And Beijing would rather you not pay attention to its efforts to seal off every libertarian recess that the free world's technology punches through.

So what do we call this: a Daguerreian Slip?

Michael Ubaldi, April 14, 2005.

Exclaims Mohammed, from Baghdad: "We can fairly say that we're witnessing the birth of an Iraqi blogosphere." Judging by the number of links he's found for us, it's quite a brood. His commentary is not only vital to the incredible rise of free speech in Iraq but to the recent acquaintance with medius popularis the West is enjoying as well.

Michael Ubaldi, April 13, 2005.

Wretchard shows us excerpts from humanitarian Theodore Darymple's harrowing journey through iniquity and its injury, and I stopped short at this sentence:

In the worst dictatorships, some of the evil ordinary men and women do they do out of fear of not committing it.

Pulling the topic momentarily off course, if I may: That's an ethical node where some of the greater Christian church, as they move leftward into relativism — taking Paul far too literally, as if he were misanthropist — fail in their teaching to the point of heresy. The temptation of obsessive martyrdom — of finding God in whatever circumstances, the more difficult the better — leads to excuses for despots' kingdoms of suffering and a withering contempt for the failures of those living in freedom. They risk looking fondly to persecution. A man with the help of a Providential hand, we'd say, can rise above any trouble but fifty years of a post-industrial democratic West show clearly that man does the greatest work for himself and others when separated from God by nothing more than his own free will. There are plenty of trials in peace — and too many horrors under compulsion.

What's curious about Darymple's narrative is that while the dictatorial society thrives in its nihilism on a regulation of evil acts, the welfare state government doesn't — but accomplishes much of the same thing by leaning collectivist in accordance with a private plan, stripping weaker individuals of protections while inviting the more fit population to careen into a numbness of self-absorbed irresponsibility mislabeled as "rights." Fortuitously, Roger Kimball wrote on this subject in yesterday's New Criterion, quoting James Fitzjames Stephen on John Stuart Mill, "men are so closely connected together that it is quite impossible to say how far the influence of acts apparently of the most personal character may extend." The United States Constitution and its amendment process were meant to limit the power of government, so we are told by the individualists. As an absolute, not true. The 13th Amendment stands as one of the most sweeping abrogations of legally recognized "rights," insofar as the right of men to own other men; and it was an overdue redaction. Even where common law substitutes a constitution, as in Theodore Darymple's Britain, natural law insists that no man will have his rights to life, voice and property taken away without reasoned judgment — certainly not by the arbitrary wishes of a peer.

The funnily ubiquitous "right to privacy" exists only in the imagination, and the belief in it thrives best in urbanity, where personal association is highly transient and community is unstable. Anonymity does relieve us of some burdens — but not everything. After all, something is killed when a woman terminates a healthy pregnancy; someone is affected by the degeneration from another's substance addiction; one or more dependents must contend with an ad-hoc family, especially if it is condoned by the state; someone must pay the price for a threshold below which those living blithely can be summarily euthanized; and something is lost when the life of one fairly convicted of voluntary murder is considered as inviolable as one acquitted, or when those who forfeit their rights to certain protections have them returned anyway.

These things are the rights of the potent, got at the expense of the humble, and nothing more than rule of the strong — authoritarianism — on a small scale. Again, Stephen says it best, "Could anyone desire gross licentiousness, monstrous extravagance, ridiculous vanity, or the like, to be unnoticed, or, being known, to inflict no inconveniences which can possibly be avoided?" Not at all. Which is why we should be wary of those who see liberty, itself a cooperative brace among men, inconsequential to good works or, once achieved, suited for other pursuits.

Michael Ubaldi, April 12, 2005.

I've had my differences with his work of late but the grand old man wrote the best words on the nomination of the president's United Nations ambassador:

Mr. [John] Bolton is in the tradition of singular people who, while serving their presidents faithfully, nevertheless leave their personal stamp on their ambassadorships. Jeane Kirkpatrick was a mountainous moral presence in the U.N., while Daniel Patrick Moynihan reminded us that Socrates still lives, even if he couldn't predictably win a Senate seat in Rhode Island. It would be a sign of great democratic health if one or two Democrats on the committee were to vote to confirm Bolton, but meanwhile, all rests on Lincoln Chafee, who was named after Abraham Lincoln.

We should never forget the luxurious, titanium-wrought will of Jeane Kirkpatrick — a woman whose spirit not even toy-lefty cartoonist Berke Breathed could ignore. That's the Bill Buckley we know.

Michael Ubaldi, April 12, 2005.

Ramesh Ponnuru questions Joe Engel's approach to "take back" the term "liberal":

Joel Engel has a piece on the shifting meanings of the word liberal. He wants to retrieve the word for an older, better liberalism. Fair enough. And several of his specific points are reasonable. But a few of them go overboard in a way that weakens his force. ...It may be that liberals should be criticized for not doing enough to distance themselves from people who hold [extremist] sentiments; but it is neither true nor fair, I think, to suggest that most liberals hold those sentiments themselves. And it advances no worthwhile cause to depict our society as more divided than it actually is.

True enough; I believe that friends and acquaintances who consider themselves Democrats or leftward would drop those banners if they more deeply investigated Republicans and the right.

"Liberal" needs to be reapplied as a circumstantial political definition; not an intrinsic, ideological one. And at the same time, terms "liberal" and "conservative" must be separated from "left" and "right." With a quick glance at world history we find that infant exposure, elder or infirmed mercy-killing, arbitrary coupling or sanctioned chemical intoxication is not at all "progressive" or unprecedented to societal evolution; while no precursor exists for morally outlawing dictatorship, globalized trade that respects sovereignty, a market-invested middle class, or equal respect for the sexes within long-held social arrangements. Literally, today the "right" is liberal and the "left" is conservative.

Most of the trouble in modern American politics seems to have come from an open invitation during the Sixties and Seventies to ideologies hitherto popularly ostracized and confined to the intellectual outskirts of lunacy — collectivism, solipsism, nihilism. These "beliefs" are pathological to the liberal state; not at all constructive in any national discussion. As a consequence of these systems' acceptance in the Western or American conversation — however slight — much time and energy is wasted establishing what should be self-evident. Imagine if a scientific research laboratory had to start every day with a four-hour epistemological ritual and begin work on experiments only after the faculty could agree on a justified definition of all accumulated data and knowledge. American debate suffers a similar debilitation as the left, increasingly morally ambivalent and illiterate, forces parties to regularly prove the beneficence of the West, liberalism, capitalism, religion, free will — and for each go-round, the possibility one of these pillars might be kicked out from under by a good performance.

What can be done? The spectrum of rational discourse must be narrowed. New media has done an exemplary job of forcing nonsensical claims into open, fair debate; a place where extremism can't survive. Engel suggests that the associative sequence between classically liberal politics and counteractive, destructive and authoritarian philosophies is far too compressed — put into starkly concrete terms by Byron York's investigative work (here, here, here and here) — and needs to be lengthened considerably. Illiberal arguments need to be set upon, logically and morally rejected as absurd. It must be done, and the citizenry can do it.

Michael Ubaldi, April 11, 2005.

General Douglas MacArthur — strategic genius, democratist, New Dealer, and science fiction visionary. Andrew Stuttaford:

Before Mulder there was MacArthur, General Douglas MacArthur. The penultimate London Spectator quotes from a speech that MacArthur made to West Point cadets in 1955: "The next war will be an interplanetary war. The nations of the earth must someday make a common front against attack by people from other planets."

I refuse to comment very seriously on an essentially logical statement on grounds that I may incriminate myself. However, if Douglas Adams is to be believed, the Vogon Constructor Fleet will be here any Thursday now. Still — you know — don't panic.

Michael Ubaldi, April 8, 2005.

Fancy that: work takes precedence over blogging. Iraq, Japan and daffodils this evening.

THAT EVENING: Work took everything but the will to publish comely portraits of flowers. Commentary tomorrow, and sharper because of it.

Michael Ubaldi, April 8, 2005.

We the able and strong are obligated by natural law and conscience to protect and preserve the lives of the weak; through generous caregiving when the humble are in gentle hands, by the intervention of arms when they are not.

Michael Ubaldi, April 7, 2005.

For three months, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has been driving leftists into a fit while he drives them out of the cheap rhetoric business. For nearly two years he has been optimistic about the American economy and its stimulation through tax relief. In February of this year, Greenspan stepped into the Beltway gridiron while donning a jersey that looked less like black-and-white splint than a red, white and blue scheme — lettered "RNC." Private accounts as part of a Social Security overhaul? Why, of course, said the good chairman, adding two weeks later that time was of the essence. Having now decked and pinned the Democratic Party's contention — no individual control, no changes for decades — Greenspan felt obliged to go one more and push for tax code simplification. Where the edges of ataraxia and catatonia meet — when partisans will exhaust themselves — is hard to say. But Greenspan doesn't mind pushing the left towards that intellectual event horizon, having offered President Bush another pair of gifts this week. On oil:

Soothing words from Alan Greenspan lifted stocks Tuesday as the Federal Reserve chairman reassured investors that the recent rise in oil prices is unlikely to damage the economy.

A gaggle of journalists have chopped up Greenspan's announcement like one would say Abraham Lincoln intoned "Four fathers brought a portion of unfinished work" at Gettysburg, more or less — but when Wall Street catches on, which it did, chances are the public will, too.

Then Greenspan furrowed his brow at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Uncle Sam's two-headed mortgage colossus, which big-state types consider as dear as FDR's legacy in welfare:

Greenspan said any crisis with the two mortgage companies — known as Government-Sponsored Enterprises — could have a disastrous spillover effect on the banking system.

"If we fail to strengthen GSE regulation, we increase the possibility of insolvency and crisis," he said in testimony to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Fannie and Freddie have vastly increased their control of the residential mortgages, jumping from about $750 billion worth to almost $4 trillion in just a few years. That's about 45 percent of the total market, a percentage that is too high in Greenspan's view and too great a risk for the whole banking system.

"We put at risk our ability to preserve safe and sound financial markets in the Unites States — a key ingredient of support for homeownership," Greenspan said.

Oh, to have heard the concurrent cries of respective joy and dirty oaths. If life were a film, think of this split-screen sequence: in the offices of the Wall Street Journal, Alan Greenspan's bronze bust placed on a mantle; and in the offices of the Democratic National Committee, the Federal Reserve Chairman's picture — complete with horns, swirly eyes and goatee — taped to the lounge dartboard, right below a perforated mug of George W. Bush.

Michael Ubaldi, April 6, 2005.

James Robbins, looking to Iraq, examines authoritarianism's drop in popularity that accompanies the targeting and gradual defeat of its practitioners. Robbins is deferential to strongmen, offering a strategic and tactical assessment of their flaws, but needlessly so: domination is a match of strength, and every thug who overpowers those weaker than he remains very mindful of his own competition and betters. The distinction between admirable hit-and-run and level cowardice comes from the treatment of the helpless — in this case civilians and other noncombatants, the terrorist's preferred opponent. An authoritarian most values possession and perpetuity, and when at a disadvantage will sacrifice anything but self to prevent his own consumption while positioning himself for escape and resurgence — if possible. The collapse of Islamist and Near East fascism is at least two years in the making, and accelerating.

ENTROPY: Wretchard took a look at the Abu Ghraib kamikaze and sees "terror's greatest defeat in modern times." He's right. It's times as these when the depth, strength and validity of an ideology is tested: to date, no organized authoritarian calling put under this strain has survived.

Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.

The people's representatives have chosen an executive:

Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish former rebel leader, will be named as Iraq's president tomorrow, government sources have said. Jalal Talabani will be appointed tomorrow. He will form a presidential council alongside vice-presidents Adel Abdel Mahdi, a Shiite Islamist, and Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab. The naming of a president and two vice presidents is a key step towards forming a government. The presidential council must then appoint a prime minister, who will choose a cabinet before a majority vote by the 275-member parliament.

Lacking precedent, deliberate decisions are often the wisest. Skeptics will still find fault behind and doubt ahead but remember, they'd be just as contrary and smug if the National Assembly had instead been rash, and failed to build a government.

Watching from inside Iraq's capital, Omar and Mohammed will surely have a lot to say.

Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.

Privately owned and managed charities have done much for the world's needy over the past few decades and are expected to accomplish even more in the new century. As seen in yesterday's news, non-governmental organizations can eclipse a local work force — or at least be perceived as having done so. Empowerment is as important as assistance; and for serving an arm of the federal government typically ponderous in its administration, American soldiers have gained a reputation for flexibility and creativity, knocking on the door of the guild hall first:

Due to efforts by several military and civilian groups, improvements are underway to lower the crime rate in Maysan Province, to provide increased security to the police forces in the region, and to stimulate local economies. Once the Basrah firm, Mott McDonald, completed its assessments of 13 police stations throughout Maysan Province, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region South, or GRS, awarded contracts to local Iraqi construction firms to implement the planned renovation reconstruction. These 13 stations represent only the beginning of the program as additional stations undergo assessments in the future.

...Renovations to the initial 13 stations will directly improve the security and working conditions for approximately 1500 police in Maysan Province. However, the construction upgrades will serve to have a ripple effect, thereby delivering benefits that extend far beyond the police station walls. "Approximately 800-1200 Iraqis will be put to work in conjunction with the renovation program," said Derickson, "thereby stimulating the local economies throughout Maysan Province."

Beneficiaries, if they pay attention, will remember American generosity and Iraqi proficiency.

Elsewhere in the country: A charity extended to all includes those to blame for their trouble, humanity of the American uniform we can find in abundance.

Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.

Free Muslims Against Terrorism is a non-profit association of American Muslims and Arabs, "created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts." Often drowned out by the cacophony broadcast from the Near East's remaining authoritarian regimes and their Western sympathizers, FMAT can stand the silence from the majority it represents no longer:

The Free Muslims Against Terrorism are proud to announce that on May 14, 2005, Muslims and Middle Easterners of all backgrounds will converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism and to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This will be the first rally of its kind in Washington, D.C. that is led by Muslims and Middle Easterners. Join us in sending a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will do all we can to defeat them.

We also want to send a message of hope to the people of the Muslim world and the Middle East who seek freedom, democracy and who reject radical Islam that we are with them and that we will do all we can to support them. This rally is not limited to Muslims and Middle Easterners. We request anyone and everyone who supports our message to join us at the rally. We want to send a message to the extremists and terrorists that American Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths are united against terrorism and extremism.

They ask for supporters to help them make history. It's an honor to step up.

Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.

Straight press reports of the Iraqi National Assembly's selection of a speaker, as anticipated after holding session on March 28, are practically impossible to find. Most articles have been injected with ancillary information from inside and beyond the country, or subjective inferences drawn from the assembly's two-month inaugural negotiations. It's striking that while journalists are choosing a variety of qualifiers, newspapers reflect a mob effort to skirt the repudiation of their claim that Iraqis were unable to compromise. Deals have been struck and good men are met in confidence:

Over two months after national assembly elections, Iraq's 275-seat parliament on Sunday chose Sunni Arab Hajen al-Hassani as the parliamentary president by a majority vote. The vote represented compromises on all sides, with Shiite and Sunni groups withdrawing their rival candidates to end the impasse.

...After the vote, al-Hassani told the assembly that the compromise would pave the way for a "free, democratic, federated, and pluralistic future" for Iraq. "The Iraqi people have been able to survive many attempts by their enemies to divide the people," news agencies quoted him as saying. Al-Hassani's deputies will include former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, and Kurdish official Aref Taifour.

The International Relations and Security network is one of a few agencies to either print Mr. Hassani's uplifting statement or describe his office.

An attack on the Abu Ghraib prison has invigorated some quarters on the left, and editorialized reports have been stuffed into several articles on Al-Hassani. In spite of loaded media characterizations of the attack — a "brazen" thing to "overshadow" the assembly vote — the attack was a demonstration of desperation and incapability. Iraq's enemies tried a jailbreak at one of the country's most fortified detention centers; Central Command reported assaults from a heavily armed force of roughly sixty terrorists. After Marines neutralized a car bomb and organized superior fire, less than a fifth of the terrorists escaped. Rushes have been made before against smaller, Iraqi targets, with some success until late last year. It's assumed at least some of the killers subscribe to the logic of self-preservation. Why would the enemy risk and lose nearly an entire gang against an impossible target — unless he had no other choice?

More stark by the day, Iraq's reversal of fortune is welcome, earned and deserved.

DUST IN THE THROAT: As expected, Austin Bay found in this news the same condition of weakness, the word "desperate" figuring prominently in his remarks.

Michael Ubaldi, April 1, 2005.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us no magic numbers this morning. While non-farm payroll numbers are only half of estimates at 110,000, national unemployment is down two tenths of a percentage point over the month to 5.2%, and the household survey's total employment in the civilian labor force grew by 357,000 while unemployment fell 332,000. Jobless claims are down; hourly earnings are over estimates. We can guess which numbers most media agencies and opposition figures will promote. Wall Street may take it in stride.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU: Bloomberg's reporting that the market, still afraid of Alan Greenspan, is bullish on the chance that a slight change of economic rhythm will keep the Federal Reserve easy on interest rates.

AND THEN: There's oil as villain, too.

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

Dave Frum on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz:

Say this for President Bush: The man has a sense of style. Critic after critic howls for the heads of the architects of the Iraq war, and above all for the head of the man the European media call "Paul Vulfovitz," as though he were a villain in a John Buchan novel. So what does the president do? He names this Vulfovitz to run the World Bank a job that the world's do-gooders and bleeding hearts have long regarded as their exclusive domain. Take that!

And just to add extra torque to the nomination, there is this irony: Even the president's detractors have been constrained to admit that Wolfowitz is likely to prove an excellent choice maybe more excellent than is entirely comfortable either for the bank, for its clients in the underdeveloped world, or for its constituencies in the advanced industrial democracies.

Style? The man was unanimously confirmed. From pragmatist Joe Biden to partisan Patrick Leahy, to France to Germany, this nomination and its enactment through two weeks of graceful diplomacy was political brilliance; at once placing the transnational organization in the hands of democratists and settling the question of Wolfowitz's supposed radioactivity, to where it can now be said that with his worst critics in judgment he carries none. Leftists of the Democratic Party's base, who seem to be the only ones entering strident opposition into the public record, are stripped of a credibly dubbed nemesis. Or at least they'll be outside of the elite media and focus fundraisers.

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

News like this is encouraging:

Americans' incomes, bolstered by strong gains in hiring, rose by 0.3 percent in February while consumer spending climbed at an even faster pace of 0.5 percent, the government reported Thursday. ...The 0.3 percent rise in incomes was attributed to a surge of 262,000 new jobs in February, the biggest increase in four months. Further solid gains in both incomes and consumer spending are expected in the months ahead as the consumer continues to be a driving force in the economy.

But commentary such as this, from the Associated Press, is downright gratifying:

The economic rebound was fueled by four rounds of tax cuts promoted by President Bush and easy credit from the Federal Reserve.

The induction of supply-side policy's private-sector benefits into common knowledge may have come two-and-a-half decades late but with a little luck and a little more pedagogy, this will be a lifetime membership.

LEFT HAND, WHAT IS THE RIGHT HAND DOING?: Let me volunteer that "consumer confidence" is a measure of how deeply media portrayals of economic health influence responses to surveys for determining consumer confidence. Consumer spending in past weeks was fivefold expectations. Yet on Monday, confidence had dropped for two months straight.

What headline does that deserve, "Dejected Consumers Go out on the Lash, Blow Money"?

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

Which ideology is intellectually unfit for media parity, throwing its political representatives into a spin? Respectively, relativism of the left and the Democratic Party.

Those are long answers. Here's the short answer:

Even a pie in the face couldn't silence conservative pundit William Kristol. Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, was splattered by a student during a speech about U.S. foreign policy at Earlham College Tuesday. Members of the audience jeered the student, then applauded as Kristol wiped the pie from his face and said, "Just let me finish this point," the Palladium-Item reported.

Kristol then finished his speech and took questions from the audience.

Heckling in the fine tradition of circus clowns and the Three Stooges. If you haven't an argument, you've lost the debate.

Michael Ubaldi, March 30, 2005.

Let's classify this as a slight setback for terrorism:

The 8th Division of the Iraqi Army in Karbala carried out a large scale raid at 9 p.m., Friday, March 25th in the area of Jurf al-Sakher resulting in the following: 121 suspects detained. The raid also led to the confiscation of the following weapons: 3 tons of TNT; 624 rifles; 250,000 light ammunition rounds; 22,000 medium ammunition rounds; 193 RPG launchers; 300 RPG rockets; 27 82mm mortar tubes; 155 82mm mortar rounds.

Which is more impressive: that the raid netted materiel reserved to carry out dozens of hits and attacks or that it was carried out by Iraqis?

Michael Ubaldi, March 30, 2005.

This isn't the Rising Sun of yore:

Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono said Tuesday the government would consider dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to provide emergency aid in areas hit by a large earthquake earlier in the day off Sumatra, Indonesia.

"If there are requests, we'll examine what we can do immediately and act swiftly. We'll consider the SDF's role in an overall government response and what the SDF can do at the site," Ono said in a morning press conference.

Leadership is the conference of ideal and utility, and, certainly, every democratic nation must choose needs according to means and sovereign interest. But there is something of virtue and reward in freely choosing action that will win nothing material for the state. It's a devotion offset to history; young but burgeoning, and strange and better.

Michael Ubaldi, March 30, 2005.

While the elite media crafted epitaphs for the Iraqi National Assembly yesterday — "deadlock," "stumble," "collapse," "uproar" — elected representatives in Baghdad had tacked and were planning accordingly:

Iraqi lawmakers regrouped on Wednesday after failing to name parliamentary leaders during their contentious second session, seeking to forge an agreement by the end of the week so that they can begin to focus on their primary task of writing a new constitution.

The less scrupulous left is obviously looking for, and has just begun to publicly hint at, an increase in violence it can accredit — factually or not — to disgruntled citizens. Even the most optimistic Iraqis would rather see the men they sent to parliament settle sooner than later the balance of power that will, as foundry, shape much of the democratic country. Perhaps Iraq's political opponents have the model of the United Nations, a bureau-oligarchy where even the most undisguised crimes defy any clear legal pursuit, too much on their minds: governing by consent brings accountability, and for an MP it's a vote or the boot. Holding an unscheduled meeting, these twelve-score have wisely — and swiftly — acquainted themselves with the concept.

DON'T FORGET: Before yesterday's assembly meeting, a decision on assignments was not expected — information reported by nearly all press outlets, including those who went ahead to reserve headlines for the implication of failure.

Michael Ubaldi, March 30, 2005.

Wall Street, tripping over its shoelaces for the past two weeks, hasn't been paying attention to what's important:

The economy — supported by solid business and consumer spending — grew in the closing three months of 2004 at an annual rate of 3.8 percent. It's expected to perform even better in the opening quarter of this year. The reading on the gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, turned out to be the same as a previous estimate made a month ago. ...For the current January-to March quarter, the economy is expected to grow at a rate of around 4 percent or slightly faster, according to some analysts' projections. Economic growth probably will slow a bit in the April-to-June period but still be healthy, they said.

Gasoline prices, the Beltway's host of wrathful demigods, are nowhere near the peak reached in 1981. Fifteen minutes before the opening bell, futures are up — as well they should be. "Lose faith in the economy? No, no; I was profit-taking!"

Michael Ubaldi, March 29, 2005.

In Tokyo, a decision, a compromise, and an introduction to debate:

A House of Representatives constitutional study panel Tuesday unveiled a draft of its final report in which the majority of panel members support revising Article 9 of the Constitution to have the existence of the Self-Defense Forces stipulated in the supreme law. ...After coordinating opinions over the report, secretaries from each party will submit a final report to lower house Speaker Yohei Kono in mid-April.

The majority support upholding the war-renouncing Paragraph 1 of Article 9, but approve the use of force in exercise of the right of self-defense. The majority also support Japan's participation in international cooperation and U.N. collective security activities. They also agreed on the need for creating a framework for regional security in Asia.

...As for the SDF and the right to exercise self-defense, the draft says "the majority do not oppose constitutional measures." A draft drawn up earlier by the Liberal Democratic Party said a majority considered it necessary for some kind of constitutional measure to be taken. The change in the wording was apparently made in consideration of the opinions of other parties, including Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), which are cautious about expanding such rights.

The committee has delivered on schedule with a decision that meets most recent expectations — a recommendation that Japan acknowledge its progress as a democracy. At first glance it's difficult to imagine how a country could reconcile obviating "war as a sovereign right of the nation" when it has the means to, in fact, settle "international disputes," but potential revision would remove the more literal contradition of Article 9's second sentence, assuring the people of Japan that armed forces "will never be maintained." Occupation authorities began raising a military before the end of the 1940s, and today the country's legendarily effervescent culture belies a military of capability not seen since the 1930s.

Only this time its leaders are elected civilians with no designs but for security and benevolence. Japan does reserve the right — indeed, Tokyo has an obligation — to protect its people and its allies from the threat of lingering dictatorships and other authoritarian threats. China and North Korea personify that abstraction for the public pretty well. The Liberal Democratic Party's gift to an adversarial Democratic Party of Japan is not exactly deference: a majority of Japanese lawmakers do not oppose departing from postwar canon, and this has never happened before.

Michael Ubaldi, March 29, 2005.

This morning I found a double treat: a Google News search registered, in one entry, a weblog and some of the best commentary from Iraq.

Mohammed and Omar, take a bow — you've arrived.

Michael Ubaldi, March 29, 2005.

"Exit strategy" was the perfect watchword for voluntary American retreat in the Near East and southwest Asia. To break and run before inferior numbers of poorly equipped, tactically ineffective maniacs; abandoning the millions who eagerly stepped forward, braving threats and assaults to defend a concept of self-determination to which they'd barely been acquainted; and to thwart the purpose of deposing such manufacturers of horror as the Ba'athists and Taliban; all so easy with this geopolitical glancing at one's watch, the consummate failure of honor and responsibility never made to sound more reasonable. The phrase, a favorite of the relativist opposition to peace through assertive democratization, found its way into the campaign platform of President Bush's opponent and even after John Kerry's defeat, pops up here and there in the work of leftists, pragmatists and parochialists who prefer a more analgesic way to tell us that those oppressed aren't worth it.

Until the 30th of January Iraq's terrorist enemies could take heart, knowing that the political adversaries of the man promising a committed American military presence had more faith in the roadside bomb and drive-by shooting than citizen soldiers who would ask for no more than, in the words of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, "enough land to bury our dead." But on the 30th Iraqis took the day. The impression of nothing but base gangsterism to the thugs in their midst was confirmed in flesh as the very cowards were interviewed. Each day afterward saw reconstruction and recruitment continue in the face of scattered, flagging attacks; and independent Iraqi spirit, long-since emergent, was nearing commensuration to its charge.

And then the head of the American Central Command finally said it: the terrorists are losing.

The terrorists lolled, as we now know, in agreement. "Exit strategy" is now a consideration of our enemy. The Financial Times of London reported first on the Ba'athist "dead-enders" having found their namesake. A Guardian report now details what had been evident for some time — that these carnivores hunted in concert out of greed, a pack only until lean times:

The Iraqi resistance has peaked and is "turning in on itself," according to recent intelligence reports from Baghdad received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies. ...The talks are aimed at driving a wedge between so-called Iraqi nationalist elements of the resistance and radical Islamic militants.

"We know there is a considerable degree of animosity between the various groups that comprise the resistance and that is an opportunity for us," said one security source.

Some on the left, oblivious to past and present fact, are still foraging for doubt and moral abdication; some parochialists still cling to the misnomer of "realist" they've heretofore had reserved, trying to revive an argument won in practical success by the "idealists." They claim that democracy is not an end unto itself, that failure and fortune is a perfect reason to discount the discrepancy between those in Iraq who wish to leave the history of authoritarianism and those who revel in it — a discrepancy that is numerically staggering and utterly lopsided in measure of ambition.

I've said that "strongmen will conspire with strongmen for selfish acquisition whenever opportune." In Iraq, it is no longer opportune; and because "methodologies are window-dressing," and the greatest power an operator accepts is himself, self-preservation and singular gain will prevail, tearing the successively beset seditionists to pieces.

Iraqis have proved their self-abnegation. The arrival of liberal politics in Iraq, so long disbelieved, its prediction mocked, has received the listless disdain of a gentry press. What of house and blood? Maybe the Iraqi assembly will go off in calumnious fireworks, we can read between the lines; but probably not and anyway, nobody at the bureau would really hope for that, would they? As before, a disconnection from history. That Iraqis would be so lucky to form an elected body in two months, and not the three years once ago endured while a lame writ allowed a certain headless, war-torn confederation to plot and squabble and fight. What's sixty days to sixty years — or six millenia, since no one until now asked a Mesopotamian how he wished to be governed? Lost amid Western impatience is how fittingly Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have been forced to work with one another; even though they, like the caricatured "pork-barrel spenders" of the United States Congress, must consider the narrower agendas of their precincts. Let the cynics, aristocrats and Savagists have at it. Iraqis are free, and what free men have is a bond thicker than kin.

Michael Ubaldi, March 28, 2005.

The heavens still twirl when we're not looking, so those of us Earthbound might do well with a brief NASA roundup. The mystery of Spirit's Martian scrub-down has been solved, and though the removal of dust from the rover has been accomplished by neither little green hobos nor a self-propelled vacuum droid, Jet Propulsion Laboratory's theory holds fascinating implications for Martian weather. Spirit's brother Opportunity, meanwhile, has been blithely trolling about, capturing panorama photographs of subtle landmarks like the "Naturaliste" crater, the Meridiani plain, and a point just outside of the "Alvin" crater.

Our darling Cassini, flung about the Saturnine planetary system, has a new portrait catalog of the gas giant's moons.

Finally, for the dreamers: an extrasolar planet, one of 150 discovered through indirect telescopic means since 1990, has been spotted in infrared light by astronomers.

Michael Ubaldi, March 28, 2005.

The prevalence of non-aligned voters in American electoral demography follows the high value many place on their remaining unobligated to party physics. A sound political organization is parliamentary in its business, broadly soliciting constituencies whose many parishional ends can make common cause with the whole. Ecumenism, of course, only goes so far as to satisfy rules of order, and a policy question is called to establish a center of gravity — derived from the party's charter and set concurrent to the majority's wishes, done most visibly on the eve of a national convention. Coalitions can be coincidental, or cynical; they work best when principled. But they must make declarations of one thing and by that rejections of other things, so — physics, again — most constituents will enjoy a cozy relation to party platform while the minority caucuses orbit in degrees approaching apogee. Those who weren't followed can take it like gentlemen, looking to better persuade at the next convening; they can give up for lost and leave; or they can move to dissension and warn that the party's operating resolution is a betrayal of code, or founded on an illegitimate tally, or otherwise faulty. Unappealing choices: no one but a heckler likes to sit backbench in his own party for long.

For many, it seems, a win can come from any horse — hence a nation with two major parties whose membership count settles for plurality. But if one of those parties is especially dominant and the other is unfriendly to the aims of a given bloc, cries foul get loud. And if heated debate appears to be coming from within the party to which the media and intellectual elite does not belong, those cries will be amplified.

Newspapers, television and websites would like to direct our attention to the lament of Republicans and rightists who believe the GOP-led United States Congress should not have intervened in the Florida jurisdiction of Terri Schiavo's fate, neither by principle of the supremacy clause as per Article VI of the Constitution nor by practice of federally instructed jurisdiction of Article III. A bevy of polls has sprung up to show, on command, overwhelming opposition to Washington's actions, with some accompanying numbers suggesting President Bush's party has suffered popularity on unrelated matters. A lot of maledictory souls are craning to watch President Bush's party choke on its electoral reward, and a few commentators are genuinely interested in the results of a majority political party's grapple with controversy; from both groups we get "Republican" and "crack-up" in the same sentence.

One hypothesis comes from rightist Glenn Reynolds. "National security is the glue that has held Bush's coalition together," he says, and "one may argue that libertarians and small-government conservatives aren't a big part of Bush's coalition, but his victory wasn't so huge that the Republicans can surrender very many votes and still expect to win." Dread words from somebody who voted Bush-Cheney in 2004. Still, Glenn, neither Republican nor Democrat, would probably bet on any good horse than invest in a single one. Dissolving the GOP's coalition might suit him just fine. So then we ask: is the argument over Terri Schiavo between strong and vital Republican caucuses, is it widespread, is it about more than one bench having not heard what it wanted to hear? Is anything awry?

The last time Glenn suggested the Republican Party might be significantly weakening at a seam — one between the respective moralism/traditionalism and objectivism/individualism of the party's base and libertarian corner — he was mistaken, evident at the time and borne out in the 2004 presidential election. Statements of discontent today sound familiar to those of one year ago: what the party has done is not only aslant our wishes, says the backbench, but in contempt of the party's own by-laws.

The malcontents never arrived in the voting booth; in November, the Republican Party won seats nearly everywhere. I have argued that political parties can and do go deaf before they go mad and fall apart — and that is certainly the diagnosis for the Republicans we hear right now. Yet even if the GOP is cut away from circumstances and put under the microscope alone, it's party solidarity that is extant. Nowhere but in politics can you be so timid and reckless at the same time: Which party, in spite of an enormous, growing tent, with wildly popular figures standing in stark contrast to base "fundamentalists," celebrates both the variety among its participants and the merits of ideas that become party policy? Which party, in spite of rigid constraints from ideology to racial composition, could not muster more than fifty percent positive support for its 2004 presidential candidate? A party that gladly steps to one side or the other of a bitter divide is confident in the results of its intramural contest and its priorities to constituents.

Is that confidence warranted? Place the Republican Party back in context. One party might be heading over a cliff — but both? When one is increasingly reflexive in its opposition, and more than capable of mustering party-line votes in both chambers? It may be apostasy to suggest that we see ourselves through politicians but Congressional action to keep Terri Schiavo alive told us a great deal about what both parties think of it. The United States Senate passed S. 686 on a voice vote, and prominent Democrats were most noted not for their resistance but their silence or absence. The House of Representatives took up the Senate bill; Democrats asked for a roll call. Before debate ended television viewers were treated to some fiery language from the left but when all stood to be counted, nearly half of Democrats present voted in favor. One thirtieth of Republicans present voted against. Legislation "For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo" passed with over three-quarters of the chamber.

Either Republicans have passed into their own stubborn incoherence, devoting but three percent of their number to a burgeoning mutiny or they — like unreconstructed leftist Ralph Nader, who last week publicly denounced the "profound injustice" suffered by Terri Schiavo and bid Florida Governor Jeb Bush preserve the woman's life under any legal auspice — have a mind as to what most people want. There's an uncontrived breadth to those trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive, one that resembles the alliance for President Bush's reelection. In the first moments after the voice vote, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist thanked Democrats Harry Reid, Tom Harkin and Kent Conrad "for their dedication in shepherding this legislation. This is bipartisan, bicameral legislation."

Michael Ubaldi, March 27, 2005.

Why fumth in fight the Gentiles spite
In fury raging stout?
Why takth in hand the people fond,
Vain things to bring about?
The kings arise, the lords devise,
In counsels met thereto,
Against the Lord, with false accord,
Against His Christ they go

— Thomas Tallis, Third Tune for Archbishop Parker's Psalter

Michael Ubaldi, March 26, 2005.

Taipei, Taiwan. No universal democratist's Saturday could be better start when this is the first image to appear on the computer screen.

Like any rapacious dictatorship, China detests the plucky self-determination of 23 million descendents of the people who in 1949 escaped Mao Tse Tung's fractured dreamchild. With a farcically named "anti-secession law," Beijing renewed its call to drown the tiny neighboring islands in a sea of red, hoping in the short term to stifle any Taipei talk of independence.

The Taiwanese know better.

They've their own opinions as to who treads on who.

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

The European Union will have to face more than American disapproval for its dangerous yuan-fishing:

Japan's concern about the European Union lifting its arms embargo on China will be high on the agenda when the leaders of Japan and France meet Sunday in Tokyo. "Considering stability in Asia, the United States and Japan share the awareness that resuming arms exports would be a big problem," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a Tokyo press conference Friday. "That issue is significant, and the chances are high that it will be taken up in some form" during the leaders' meeting, said Hosoda, the Japanese government's top spokesman.

Sino-sympathizers, enablers, relativists and other contrarians might be quick to dismiss Japan as Washington's errand boy; if Tokyo stands firm, they'd settle with a cynic's take on Japan's immediate regional interests, since the island nation has done business with some unsavory parties. Eventually, however, they must consider that America will no longer be the only able democracy whose patience for regimes dedicated to the violent repossession of human dignity has run out, determined to replace the policy of admission with one of prosecution.

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

This is the third cartoon from nearly five years ago I've chosen to publish after a bit of quiet success with the first and second.

I'm not one to conjure a "pox on both your houses," but the timeless game of courting the electorate lent itself to an amusing vignette. Besides, there's no ambivalence here: what faux Gibson Girl could turn down a fellow who's always on his toes?

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

It's been a busy week:

Coalition Forces from the 2nd Marine Division have detained a total of 147 suspected insurgents since taking the reins from 1st Marine Division on March 17. Since the transfer of authority, Marines from the Camp Lejeune-based division have been working to help bring about peace in the restive Al Anbar Province by detaining individuals actively terrorizing innocent civilians.

"Over the past few months, 1st and 2d Division... have pursued and captured many terrorists attempting to prevent a free Iraq," said Col. Bob Chase, chief operations officer for the 2d Marine Division. "These are criminals and murderers who display wanton disregard for their fellow Iraqis."

As usual, a locally significant amount of materiel was stripped from the enemy — and for their perceptive advantage Marines have no one else to thank but Iraqi security forces and citizens.

Elsewhere in-country: the website for the Iraqi Development Program, a broad-based corporate venture for reconstruction and capital improvements, boasts a frequently updated news center that includes a brief on the correct use for World Bank resources and petrol pedagogy.

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

Iran Free Press is reporting that Iranian "Grand Ayatollah Seyyed" Ali Khamenei has joined North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il in defending the global consequences of online journals from the Great Unwashed.

NOT ENOUGH, MULLAHS: Scattered reports tell of Iranians having chosen the occasion of a Japan-Iran World Cup match for widespread, pro-democratic protests.

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

Western rightists aren't the only ones rejecting the advice of transnational organizations:

Thousands of citizens and businessmen have been protesting on the streets of several Yemeni cities against a sales tax to be enforced in July 2005. It is part of economic reforms recommended by the World Bank, which locals say will severely affect the purchasing power of the poor. The demonstrations, which took place in various governorates simultaneously, were a public outcry at the 10 percent tax on basic commodities, leaving more than 50 percent of the population economically vulnerable, according to experts.

...An official at the Interior Ministry accused opposition parties of exploiting the situation. ...Opposition parties deny these accusations and said the tax would increase pressure on the poor, blaming corruption for Yemen's economic woes.

"Taxation is carried out to achieve social justice, but here it is not for this purpose," Jamal al-Mutarib, a member of the [Trade and Commerce Chambers union], told IRIN.

Spoken like true free-marketeers. Yemen, a country slowly advancing in parliamentary representation towards pluralist government by consent, is plagued by yet-congealed central powers and widespread legal-economic corruption. Its workers and entrepreneurs certainly don't need their earnings and capital slipping down another chute — least not by a hyper-governmental institution known for wiring cash to those few who least deserve it.

Should Paul Wolfowitz be confirmed as President of the World Bank, as an advocate of prosperity through self-efficacy and liberalism — learning to fish to eat for a lifetime — the Deputy Secretary of Defense will have himself a corporate mission statement to revise.

Michael Ubaldi, March 25, 2005.

Many Iraqis who know the English language and express themselves in popular weblogs are classicists, craftsmen of the metaphor, brazing thought with object. When angry, they choose to be not vulgar but graceful and poised. When meditating on thanks and remembrance, as Mohammed was yesterday, the same sight to mind:

The bad side effects of the liberation stand small when compared with what we have suffered from under Saddam's regime or when compared with what the progress that has been achieved since the liberation.

Saying that the post-liberation years have brought the worst to Iraq is a mere joke and carries all the signs of mental disorders or total ignorance. I believe that those who are looking for a legal justification for the war on Saddam should take a look at the crimes that are being committed by oppressive regimes all over the world; dictators ruling with fire and steel taking legitimacy from the 'Pathetic Nations' and the international laws that bless the bloody hands of tyrants that are rejected by their desperate people. One look at Darfur can make me feel sick of all what's being said about "law and legitimacy."

...Silence and stagnation are the qualities of the helpless who would prefer pain and humiliation over the change for the better. Humanity will not evolve without daring bravery in judging and rejecting the dark past and looking forward to changing the old ways.

All new ideas and ways were fiercely fought and called the worst names but the greatness of mankind lies in its love for progress.

On this Good Friday, I remember to keep my faith first in God. Two years ago, I saw churches stand to keep Mohammed and his people in chains — out of a desire for a "peace" that would leave us in self-congratulation, insouciant to the sentence recommenced, through Saddam Hussein, on all of Iraq. What I have forgiven I will not forget.

The house of free men adopted in the nation of Iraq some of liberty's most devoted apostles, whose talents will never again be bent to the labor of the enemy of man.

LESSONS LEARNED: Syrian Ba'athists, Iranian mullahs and other totalitarians who have tried to smother Iraq's democracy will regret having only dedicated her people to the defense of their rights — if they don't already.

Michael Ubaldi, March 24, 2005.

From the enterprising Robert Mayer, a gallery of democrats — "protest babes" — standing for their human dignity by fitting soldiers of their oppressors with flowers. One fellow quipped that leftists lost their touch when they went easy on flora and fauna.

What's more poignant in his analogy is that the jackboots in Robert's photographs are real.

In the 1960s the American left had to pretend.

Michael Ubaldi, March 24, 2005.

Democracy's progress spares a few less despots this morning. Though a bit unwieldy, a popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan has taken the iron-fisted government by the collar. Vladimir Putin may wish to take note.

Abdullah of Jordan, who has engaged domestic reform and wooed Israel for the better part of the month, wrenched open even further the rift between liberalizing and regressing Near Eastern countries, and it appears a report noted here Tuesday evening was accurate:

Jordan's King Abdullah II launched a stinging attack against Iran, Syria and Lebanese-based militia Hezbollah as the main threats to Middle East stability. At talks with American Jewish leaders in Washington, the king said Syria and Hezbollah were encouraging Palestinian militants to wage attacks against Israel, the Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth newspapers reported Wednesday. Abdullah II accused Syria, Iran and Hezbollah of being "the greatest threats to stability in the Middle East," both dailies quoted him as saying.

Abdullah, a dictator, is far wiser than his counterparts in Damascus and Tehran. He appears to understand — if not reluctantly concede — inexorability and culpability, and Amman's interest in swiftly divesting itself from the autocracy business.

Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2005.

As Amir Taheri writes, Bashar Assad isn't the only Near East Johnny One-Note:

Where do we go from here? Islamist groups are posing now that question in the murky space they inhabit on the margins of reality. It is asked in radical mosques, touched upon in articles published by fellow-travelers and debated in the chat-rooms of militant Web sites. Beyond the usual suggestions to hijack a few more jets or poison some Western city's drinking water, the movement appears to have run out of ideas.

...The biggest setback for the Islamists, however, is a shift of mood in the Islamic heartland. The elections in West Bank and Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq; Lebanon's freedom movement; the beginnings of change in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — all have helped generate new interest in democratic reform.

Democracy: come on, everybody's doing it!

A CELL DOOR SWINGS OPEN: Via Robert Mayer, an unlawfully imprisoned Yemeni progressive — to whom attention was drawn and for whom a petition was signed — has been pardoned and freed.

Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2005.

Hobbled twice but never destroyed by Allied and Iraqi authorities, Iranian-instructed Islamist thug Muqtada al-Sadr has been stirring up to whatever lengths and in whatever place he can, which now appears to be Basra — and the university campus. From Sunday, in USAToday:

Shiite Muslim fundamentalists loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr waded into a picnic of about 700 Basra University students last week. They beat several students with sticks and fired their guns in the air.

Iraqi blogger Zeyad, practicing medicine in and around Basra, has commentary on al-Sadr's gang's mild resurgence after a stillborn putsch in April of 2004 and a complete collapse that August. He notes that Times of London has reported two bludgeon deaths. The reporter, however, is one who set as lede to an irresponsibly titled, jaundiced article the false testimony of Italian communist agitator Giuliana Sgrena; the account should be taken with skepticism. Zeyad, to his credit, has made accusations initially thought to be outrageous before facts proved him correct; but he is, I learned from a personal exchange, very suspicious of Ayatollah Ali Sistani and now seems from his concluding remarks in the referenced entry in a state of contempt. And the rather bitter alarmism is reminiscent of his unhelpfully erroneous account of last year's Bloody April.

The USAToday article is more broadly contemplative and places the Sadr row as one element in Iraq's enormous and comparatively liberal youth population:

The non-partisan Iraqi Prospect Organization says 60% of Iraqi university students believe democracy is superior to any other form of government, according to a nationwide poll published today.

..."Iraqi youth are the ones who will make or break the democratization of the country," said Ahmed Shames, chairman of the Baghdad-based Iraqi Prospect Organization, which interviewed 834 Iraqi university students about democracy in December and January.

The article suggests Iraqis' incomplete understanding of democracy is problematic but most results of the poll indicate a healthy trajectory, considering where the society began two years ago, which at the present more than meets historical expectations of a democratizing country. And actions speak to a pluralist spirit more loudly:

Students and their families demonstrated for three days in Basra after the assault. Some university students in other parts of the country reacted with outrage or apprehension over the fundamentalists' attack.

"The religious leaders have their social positions and respect, but that doesn't mean that they have the right to make others obey their orders by force," said Furssan Salah Al-Deen Ahmed, 22, a third-year political science student at the University of Baghdad.

What is Muqtada al-Sadr up to? What is he capable of? The half-wit gangster is one to prey on the weak but it looks as though his chosen quarry, unarmed college students, illustrates his own impotence. Whether the conflation of Shiite parties' electoral success with al-Sadr's is work of the elite media or in-country dissemblers, it's still off. "Mookie" and his party were roundly rejected by Iraqi voters, and Basrans, however worried, have no sympathy for the rabble. When only a clever and discreet agent provocateur can exploit a liberal society's desperation of want, al-Sadr is nothing of the sort; and even in the ripest of circumstances, is hardly guaranteed success.

Michael Ubaldi, March 22, 2005.

Autonomy begets independence, understood well by Ally and Iraqi alike:

The first class of the new Iraqi Army Support and Services Institute kicked off March 21 with 153 students from the 1st Division of the Iraqi Intervention Force. The students are divided into six classes — transport supervisors, wheeled maintenance, armored maintenance, supply supervisor, basic logistic officers for supply and basic logistic officer for maintenance and transport.

The school was established from a need to create a logistics system that would enable Iraqi Army units to be self sustaining, according to Australian Captain Ilona Harmstorf, of the Multi-National Security Transition Command — Iraqs Coalition Military Assistance Training Team.

"A working logistic system will enable the Iraqi Security Forces to be self-sustaining, thereby decreasing reliance on the coalition," Harmstorf said. "While there is a great deal of training and effort required across all levels to ensure the successful implementation of a logistics system, the benefits to the Iraqi Security Forces will be substantial."

Technical regeneration is another strength Iraqis will be able to press against terrorists as human resources continue to grow: over 3,000 soldiers, more than three-quarters with prior military experience, have graduated from respective training camps and will soon report for active duty. About 800 recruits appear to be from a highly successful recruiting drive a fortnight after January's elections. On the civil side, three hundred policemen — one half of them trained for basic work and the other for an impressive array of Western crime prevention and solving techniques — will begin enforcing Iraq's rule of law. According to Central Command, the number of Iraqi policemen, despite persistent terrorist attacks against applicants, recruits and constables themselves since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is well into the tens of thousands.

Not so much can be said, thankfully, for Iraq's enemies. A "complex" medium-arms attack from terrorists fell face forward. As trouble at the specific location has risen in frequency lately without corresponding terrorist gains, the disruption of already flagging enemy numbers and organization must be incredible. At the same time, the enemy is continually losing materiel for murder before his strikes fail. And with an increasingly bold and indignant population, watching his back is not enough to elude authorities.

From the beginning we knew the Near East's strongmen and their terrorist hordes would fight horn and claw. But in the same moment, two years ago, the Iraqis showed us that free men would prevail.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING: Austin Bay shares my belief that Iraqi democrats won the day before summer of last year.

DON'T MESS WITH IRAQIS: Via Glenn Reynolds, another citizen protecting his family and home through his right to bear arms.

Michael Ubaldi, March 21, 2005.

If my writing and consideration favors foreign policy it is because matters abroad are set in the barest terms, literal terms, of liberty and slavery. One comfort of residence in freedom is that every liberal moral argument, no matter how bitter, takes place in civility; that comfort, since September 11, 2001, has also become a cautionary. As I am not too interested in, say, the finer concrete points and nuance of Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese polity so I find the various American domestic stalemates to be a lesser use of my resources than that which did, and could again, subordinate all things vernacular.

Having said that, I nod to National Review for their stand in the case of Terri Schiavo, supportive of Congress exercising its prerogative to, right or wrong, review federal supremacy by Article VI of the Constitution against a state's claim to the Tenth Amendment. National Review fellow John Derbyshire plays black sheep on this one, neutral to the question. He's been fielding letters from readers and I paid it little mind — save for one correspondent's antagonism, a smarmy remark about "good, conservative Christians":

But is it necessary for everyone to go through these experiences before they can grow out of the denial that seems to be the standard attitude about death in our society? Or can we bring about a healthier realization of its naturalness and inevitability at the same time we work to extend length and quality of life? (And by the way, aren't good conservative Christians taught, especially this week, to see death as a beginning, not an end?)

Good Christians. This is exactly the kind of shallow caricature of Christianity that underwrites all sorts of horrors. Derbyshire's correspondent might wish to actually read the Bible to learn that Christ was not unafraid of His impending pain and death; nor was His execution, however a part of a Divine plan, just; nor is death itself, regardless of any noble accomplishments made therein, at all celebrated by God. If we're to talk Christianity, death is a consequence of temptation in the Garden. Christ's sacrifice appealed to grace for the damned upon death, damned by sin in life, which is certainly not some sort of trivial interlude before the correspondent's ghoulish idea of surcease. Pain, I'm sorry to say, has chilled the correspondent's blood to ice.

The "enlightened" should remember that when incapacitation is judged life inferior, the infirmed, elderly, infant and retarded are condemned. Whatever our duty to the helpless, it's not to write them off. On that, James Lileks, no scold, reminds us through fiction how deafening subtle implication can be.

'UNTOUCHABLES': More from Robert P. George.

Michael Ubaldi, March 20, 2005.

Freedom House is reporting a stir from within dead halls:

As the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights convenes this week in Geneva, a group of leaders of human rights and pro-democracy organizations has issued a call for action to the newly created UN Democracy Caucus. The caucus is mandated by the Community of Democracies (COD) process, a global coalition of over 100 democratic and democratizing nations committed to the promotion and strengthening of democracy and human rights.

The group appealed in a letter to the foreign ministers of the Convening Group countries of the COD to ensure that the Democracy Caucus takes a lead role in Geneva in fully airing, examining, and forthrightly censuring some of the world's worst human rights violations. In particular, the caucus should address ongoing abuses in places such as Burma, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, and in Sudan's Darfur region, among others.

The Convening Group is composed of Chile, Czech Republic, India, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the United States.

The United Nations is, today, only useful as an expedient political channel. Built on the concentrated foolishness of naifs and aristocrats who placed liberty and tyranny in parity, its charter was morally and philosophically flawed at the time of inception in 1946 and the transnational organization has since rotted to the core, standing as little more than a bastion of authoritarianism. At the same time democratic nations have no need for a pseudo-sovereign bureaucracy to conduct bilateral or collective business, dictatorships subvert all forums of good faith to their own ends. A democracy caucus cannot reform the United Nations but it can serve as a proper vessel of exodus from Secretariat.

Michael Ubaldi, March 18, 2005.

Heavyweight meets heavyweight: American-born sumo star Konishiki, who uBlog has spotted before, warmly greeted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice upon her arrival at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Her second visit to Japan in as many months, Rice is to talk policy and progress, emphasizing the justifications for elevating the world's second-largest economy and third-largest navy to the United Nations Security Council.

Before landing on Honshu, Rice was in Islamabad and described for dictator and US ally Pervez Musharraf Pakistan's bright future in democratization:

"We did talk about the importance of democratic reforms in Pakistan, about getting on the road to democratic reforms that will in fact lead to free and fair elections in 2007," she told a joint press conference with Kasuri on Thursday.

With an eye to Beijing and Pyongyang, Rice will work to solidify the emerging American-Japanese alliance.

If such great attention is being paid to Tokyo, it is largely because the Japanese, steadfast in uncertain times, have done much to earn Washington's trust:

Italy's possible scale-down of its troops in Iraq will have no effect on Japan's deployment of 550 troops in the country, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said today.

"Italy is Italy, Japan is Japan," Koizumi told reporters when asked if the prospect of a pullout by Rome could lead to a similar move by Tokyo. Japan has been a vocal supporter of the US-led military mission in Iraq and has dispatched 550 troop to the southern city of Samawah on a humanitarian operation in support of reconstruction.

Japan's realization of sovereignty is gradual but diligent, and showing promise:

The Self-Defense Forces should be formally recognized as military forces under strict civilian control and Japan's right to self-defense should be declared in a new constitution, according to the Liberal Democratic Party's latest recommendation released Monday.

...The LDP committee said the second paragraph of the article needs to be amended to recognize the SDF as military forces, while the first paragraph, which renounces war, should basically remain as it is now. ...The LDP committee, chaired by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, is scheduled to draft its proposal for a new constitution in April, aiming to settle the debate by the end of the month.

Just a few years after Japanese Prime Minister Kinjuro Shidehara and Supreme Commander of Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur agreed upon Occupied Japan's pacifist constitution, Washington's "Reverse Course" policies armed the beaten Axis country anyway as the Cold War began. Though its armed forces have grown considerably, Japan's constitution must not so much reflect the country as it is but drive more deeply, and acknowledge the necessities of a liberal democracy in a world still habited by tyranny.

To that end, Tokyo is pursuing a closer economic and strategic relationship with New Delhi at a time when India may be working on its own community. It's a work in progress, this assembly of freedom, but in a good stride.

Michael Ubaldi, March 17, 2005.

Robert Mayer calls it "Rage against the Regime," and it fits well. Iranians still struggle for freedom:

According to received reports from various cities in Iran, today which marks the first celebration of the Iranian New Year's Festival of Fire was met with celebrations as well as huge protests and demonstrations against the Islamic regime of Iran. The protestors chanted: "We need no Sheikh or Mullah, we curse youRuhollah!"

A report from Tehran: Young celebrants today set scarecrows in the likeness of various Mullahs, such as Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Khatami, Sharoudi, Jannati, etc. on fire in the streets. They cried out slogans such as: "Referendum, referendum, this is the people's dictum."

In various parts of the capitol, celebrations and parties rage on. ...In another area of the city people took to setting the French flag on fire while chanting: "Europe is finished and so are their Mullahs," or "Bush, Bush, where is Bush?" (In Persian this rhymes: Bush, Bush, kush, kush!)

Michael Ledeen wonders, too, if the president's promise will be kept. With all due respect to Ledeen, President Bush occupies the conjunction between vision and practice, desire and means; he understands the limitations of his office well. The president's work for freedom and peaceable government has been as diligent in its labor as consistent with its standard for strategic efficiency. Bush and his administration have chosen priorities and will not exert full power on secondaries. We've seen it over the last months: only after the fall of Saddam did the White House gracefully redesignate Syria as an enemy, and only after the Iraqi election day's cultural nova did the president refine his inaugural address into manifest policy — calling out despot regimes by name. Following this manner, we might expect Lebanon to be reclaiming liberalism, leaving Syria crippled, just as Tehran's mullahs spurn the last European parley, forcing Bush's allies to hold up their end of the bargain — and confront Islamist Iran.

Michael Ubaldi, March 16, 2005.

Dawdlers fell to the decisive today when United States senators voted to approve oil exploration in a speck of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats were unhappy and unguarded:

"We won't see this oil for 10 years. It will have minimal impact," argued Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a co-sponsor of the amendment that would have stripped the arctic refuge provision from the budget document.

Poor choice of argument. If not for Cantwell and her party, we'd be three years along.

As for the effects of drilling on wildlife — ask the caribou.

Michael Ubaldi, March 16, 2005.

Gentry media is bent on marring the day but President Bush's statement on Iraq's first freely elected parliament with constitutional prerogative — a "bright moment" — will coronate the memory.

CASE IN POINT: While the mainstream press was fine-tuning its "crumbling coalition" meme, Germany completed an agreement with Iraq and the United Arab Emirates on the training and furnishing of Iraqi military engineers.

LOOKING UP: A poll of Iraqis from fifteen of eighteen provinces shows two-thirds pleased with their livelihood (Hat tip, IP and Geopolitical Review). Good news in its own right, this suggests that Iraqis — despite far greater trials — may avoid the postwar societal depression that enveloped the Japanese.

Finally, another nail in Savagism's coffin: only one out of twenty-five respondents believed Islamic Sharia law should carry any weight in the country's constitution.

Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.

Saturn and daughters. If this were an artist's conception, we might call it contrived. As nature, a quintessence of order.

On the other side of the solar system, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, having persevered their intended lifespan nearly five times over, continue to astound NASA scientists with their resilience and longevity.

Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.

Sometimes academic quotation is necessary. Often, it's misused intelligence; replacing principle, which is accessible to all, with the rigid exclusivity of rote.

Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.

Though its expressed interest in Egyptian democracy is flattering, the Washington Post — far from coming away impressed by events in Cairo that, fortitude of domestic opposition notwithstanding, would not have occurred without pressure from Washington — has forgotten the terms to which it previously held the president, and is today showing a sorry measure of ingratitude:

While aggressively campaigning for freedom in Lebanon, the Bush administration continues to gently prod Mr. Mubarak. In a speech last week devoted mostly to Lebanon, President Bush included one sentence saying that credible elections must include "freedom of assembly, multiple candidates, free access by those candidates to the media and the right to form political parties."

The Post should know by now that clarity and purpose alone can carry for this president a single sentence from word to policy to action: witness "the Taliban must act, and act immediately"; and "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself — or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him." But critique seems the better part of the Post's valor. Just six weeks ago Ayman Nour was worth supporting because he "is no radical: He recently said he would support Mr. Mubarak for another term as president if he first agreed to constitutional reform." And now?

Though the platform calls for Mr. Mubarak to forgo another term, most of the opposition is prepared to accept a new mandate provided the president commits himself to genuine change. So far, however, Mr. Mubarak's concessions are limited to his election plan, which resembles the sham balloting familiar from other dictatorships.

The Post's new position — that an unyielding progressive, a "radical," is what Cairo needs — is my own, as Hosni Mubarak's perpetuation means nothing more than better bread and water during the Egyptian people's collective, open-ended prison sentence. But three weeks ago Ayman Nour was sitting in jail and Mubarak was conceding nothing to popular will. That Nour is free and Egyptian democrats have been offered one of their prime demands within two months of the twenty-fourth year of Mubarak's dictatorial rule — two months that brought triumphant Iraqi elections, President Bush's moral condemnation of tyranny three days later and two weeks after that, Lebanon finally stirring after a political murder to shake off Syria's yoke — is enough to conclude that the Cairo strongman wanted none of this. That in turn indicates Mubarak feels appropriately threatened, and will be, voluntarily or not, the most receptive to surrendering power for the first time in his life.

Which means "gentle prods" have indeed moved Cairo, will more likely continue to than not, and that the Post's editors should recognize good works when the one they asked for is before them now and in progress.

Michael Ubaldi, March 14, 2005.

"An Opinionated Network" is what Howard Kurtz makes of a recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism that, in declaring Fox News' claim to balanced reporting faulty, appears to have conflated on-air personality with news content. Omission and methodical control over the perception of news is gentry media's most destructive contribution of bias to American journalism, and Kurtz makes his own here straightaway by failing to inform readers that the Project for Excellence in Journalism — led by media critic Tom Rosenstiel — is the left's answer to rightist Brent Bozell's Media Research Center. Rosenstiel maintained in 2002 that among other mainstream anchors CBS's Bob Schieffer — who continues to deny any meaningful leftward tilt to major news outlets, even in Rathergate's wake — is "trying to cut it down the middle," whereas "Fox is not."

Driving ideology aside, the report as explained by Kurtz draws the left's favorite conclusion — that Fox News has achieved cable and broader television success by daily tossing red meat to Republicans — from information that doesn't support it. The first charge is a play in semantics:

In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says. By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists' own views.

Is the PEJ talking about slanted coverage? Not from Kurtz's explanation — the activity is merely an anchor or journalist adding a personal comment to a report. He offers two examples:

Last March, Fox reporter Todd Connor said that "Iraq has a new interim constitution and is well on its way to democracy."

"Let's pray it works out," said anchor David Asman.

Another time, after hearing that Iraqis helped capture a Saddam Hussein henchman, Asman said: "Boy, that's good news if true, the Iraqis in the lead."

The choice of quotes is illustrative for two reasons: first, as indicators of bias they're spectacularly weak and second; as a corollary, the PEJ's selection exposes the elite media's fascination with an inviolable neutrality to all things political, national, ethical and moral but that is more like an opposition to Western liberalism. If Asman is to be considered subjective on the basis of his first remark then one must put forward the value of "the other side," the suggestion that it might have been reasonable to pray for a collapse of Iraq's democratic efforts. Certainly there are those who do make that argument but as failed presidential candidate John Kerry revealed by checking his personal indifference to Iraqi pluralism with a generic nod to its success before his broadest audiences, these people are not taken seriously. Nor has the American interest in Iraqi self-reliance ever been a point of disagreement between anyone; Democrats, Republicans or the fringe. Senator Ted Kennedy, if he were better able to comprehend events in theater, would find news of Iraqis' increasing efficacy as welcome as would Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

David Asman, then, was in these two instances speaking for most Americans. Were the reports themselves unfair? Apparently not.

The problem seems to be that Asman voiced support for an American endeavor at all. In 2001 National Public Radio senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins insisted that as a public employee he in fact didn't "represent the government" but "history, information, what happened." In 2003, ABC President David Westin forbade talent from wearing flag lapel pins on grounds that "our patriotic duty as journalists in the United States is to try to be independent and objective and present the facts to the American people and let them decide all the important things." The leftist media rejects nationality and moral authority in favor of a transnational, relativist baseline: American, but not; unconvinced that the free world is incomparably superior to its authoritarian enemies, working to robe in cause and worth those who by nature defy it. "Objectivity" is not so much a practice than a condition, including objectivity to value itself.

The PEJ report throws a few numbers at Fox news shows like Special Report with Brit Hume and The O'Reilly Factor that are summarily invalidated by the study's metric. Brit Hume's program usually includes two or three guests for topical commentary, and holds a panel debate through the last two segments. Bill O'Reilly is successful precisely because of his opinions, scoring high ratings on the guarantee that his subjective arguments are honest.

A focus on journalists' comments on the night's filing is a red herring — what about the report itself? Here, the American news audience speaks clearly: consistently polls show an overwhelming perception, sometimes by a ratio of 2-to-1, of leftist slant to coverage, despite elite agencies' continued — if disintegrating — controlling interest in the national conversation. For all the media establishment's protestations of innocence and accusations against Fox News like this PEJ report, there is something to the idea that Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather kept their opinions not so much under wraps as under the byline — and that, loudmouth or not, you can trust somebody if he gives you all the serious angles.

One collection of figures Kurtz provided was amusing, if painfully illustrative of the gentry's disconnection between headlines and reality. According to PEJ's study, Fox was about twice as likely to broadcast "positive" stories from Iraq than cable competitors CNN and MSNBC. Well, yes: on January 29th of this year, Fox News was warily hopeful of Iraq's Assembly elections while MSNBC prepared for disaster. What happened the next day?

Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2005.

After a friend's encouraging response to one of my political cartoons from four-and-a-half years ago, I thought we could all stand to see more. This little vignette was my reaction to the Democratic Party's rug-pull at the start of the 107th Congress, accomplished through Jim Jeffords' inelegant departure from the Republican plurality.

I swapped "107" for "109" but Capitol Hill being what it is, our two hand puppet friends are acting out any modern Congress. Or perhaps Congress just takes naturally to burlesque. Which is the parody?

Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2005.

Shortly after President Bush's State of the Union address, the Washington Post placed a reasonable condition on the White House's vision of peace through liberty: challenge and help overturn the baseless incarceration of Egyptian democratic opposition leader Ayman Nour. Less than a week after sizeable liberal demonstrations in Cairo, and immediately following a diplomatic rebuke by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak relented to demands and unveiled a process leading to the first legitimate executive referendum since he assumed power in 1981.

Via Robert Mayer, news that Ayman Nour has been freed:

An Egyptian opposition leader and presidential hopeful whose imprisonment angered Washington and called into question Egypt's pledges of democratic reform led a parade Saturday through downtown Cairo, trailed by thousands after being freed on bail. ...Speaking to his supporters later, Nour reiterated his innocence — and his jailhouse announcement that he would run for president this year against 24-year incumbent Hosni Mubarak.

"I announce that I will run in the presidential elections for you," Nour said, standing on a podium in a charitable organization he'd founded down the street from where he was freed. "We are paying the price of our search for freedom," he said to cheers. "They tried for days to destroy a national project, the Tomorrow Party. But they failed."

Suspicion of Mubarak's motives are warranted, though the likely methods of subterfuge — releasing Nour temporarily or as expressly for the purpose of drawing the Tomorrow Party out to be crushed and scattered in rigged elections — would for success require an ambivalence to despot chicanery no longer a part of American politics, or at least not for the next four years, at a time when twelve months is too long for Egyptian democrats to hold their tongues. Hosni must know that what he's given singly will be demanded by the gross. One has to at least consider wooing an old operator from his throne: Just think, Mr. Mubarak, that if you cleave to power your likeness will be wiped from the lineal scroll, and if you should relinquish it, a statue will be dedicated to — if nothing more — your final penance.

Whatever the case, the Washington Post's standard has been met — and the editors ought to express their pleasant surprise.

Michael Ubaldi, March 11, 2005.

Women in the Iraqi reconstruction contingent of Japan's Self-Defense Force posed for a photograph with local girls at a recreation center in the southern town of Samawah.

President Bush has on many occasions told audiences how the awe of standing close, as a friend and ally, with the leader of an old foreign enemy never escapes him. Last September Richard Benedetto wrote about what I've maintained for quite some time: once in the fold of liberal democracy, a nation returns the aid and guidance it received through its own difficult rebirth.

I began essay Antiphony with reflection on the news that Japan's military was deploying in its largest semblance since 1945 to Indonesia for a humanitarian mission. The Self-Defense Force is packing up, now, and at least in anecdote its work has been a success:

On Monday, the Japanese closed their field hospital in the Lamara area of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, which had been operating for more than a month.

The makeshift tent hospital treated thousands of patients.

"I'm here to say thank you, because they have been really good ... We will miss them," said Tjoet Anna, 36, a mother of two children and regular visitor.

Amends are made, if they had not been already. Japan is steadily accepting more obligations of liberty and prosperity. Afghanistan has taken its first step. With generous foreign aid and a promising native beginning, Iraq will be no different.

Michael Ubaldi, March 11, 2005.

An interesting confluence: yesterday, two readers of Glenn Reynolds' sent him their apparently heartfelt desire to destroy Islam, and today Jonah Goldberg and Andrew Stuttaford are volleying back and forth on what drives murderous cultures and movements.

Glenn's unwelcome correspondents are falling for the best-selling lie of dictatorship: that a totalitarian state or a malignant culture is a popular choice rather than a perversion forced or foisted upon the whole by a violent minority. If one knows a sliver about the Crusades, it's that they had as much to do with Christ's teachings as Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 had to do with Mohammed's. The Near East is neither despotic because it is Muslim nor Muslim because it is despotic: if the region were doomed to barbarity, "1/30/05" would have no meaning and Hamed Karzai would be long dead.

How many cultures started out free? None. Goldberg and Stuttaford won't have much luck settling their argument as they are proceeding currently, searching for a denominator among multiples. The greatest threat to maintaining liberty and enacting liberalization is not culture, nor religion, nor tradition but the tiny cut of sociopaths and worldly enablers who forever try and make all that defines man as man into a fulcrum to wrench civilization back into animalism, where might alone is king. Religion is only one wedge, the means of distribution just one other. That dominative cut is in America, too, but our common good has kept most authoritarians down at the level of crooks and cranks. Where despotism reigns, the crooks rule. It's a matter of who's in charge.

Michael Ubaldi, March 10, 2005.

A cry in the dark:

A group of unarmed Iranians staged a protest aboard a Lufthansa jet at the Brussels airport Thursday, refusing to leave the plane and calling for the return of the monarchy in Iran, officials said. Christina Zia, who said her father called her on his cell phone from the plane, said they were supporters of the late shah and wanted to draw attention to Irans problems.

"There are no weapons. This is nothing dangerous. They only want the world to see the problems, to see that Iran is not what the world sees today," said Zia, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Germany. The group had a letter for NATO and refused to leave the plane until they are allowed to hand it over to the alliance, Zia said, adding that she did not know its contents.

According to activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, the group is chanting, "We are the messengers of peace. We are against global terrorism. We will remove the malignant terrorist regime of the Mullahs..."

WORD TRAVELS FAST: Another report:

U.S. Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, who is in phone contact with [London activist Frood] Fouladvand, told World Net Daily the protesters want an internationally monitored referendum that would enable the Iranian people to choose their next form of government.

..."This is the first of a series of confrontations with the European Union," Zand-Bonazzi said. "They will always be peaceful and respectful, but the leaders of Europe have to back down now. [The mullahs] may say they are after the U.S. and Israel, but they are after a secular and democratic lifestyle, which includes Europe," Zand-Bonazzi said.

The protesters have been verbally abused by Belgian authorities and accused of hijacking, according to Zand-Bonazzi. She maintains, however, the activists are doing nothing but singing Iranian freedom anthems and asking to speak to the U.K., French and German representatives of the European Union.

I marvel at the speed at which news travels — and its breadth. Banafsheh has me on an e-mailing list; from her I received the original bulletin two hours ago, a forward of the Daily article at about ten after three. From there, I started up Internet Explorer, went straight to Google News and using search string "Fouladvand," immediately connected to the article's webpage. Ten years ago, an evening news broadcast might have mentioned the incident if open program time allowed for it. Today's revolutions go live.

IT GOES ON: Over thirteen hours:

"We want the European countries, also the United States and Russia to stop helping the Iranian regime," the group's spokesman, who identified himself only as Ira, told The Associated Press in a call from the aircraft. ..."We want these leaders to stop supporting terrorist regimes any longer ... to get rid of this Islamic regime or any kind of radical brutal religious movement from Iran," said Ira, who said he was an American national and a psychiatrist from New York.

...As night fell, the airport shut down as no other incoming flights were scheduled. Belgian Iranians came to the terminal, holding banners and flags.

A discussion board for Daneshjoo, the Iranian student democracy movement, shows near unanimous support. One fellow is peturbed that an Iranian in the airport terminal was demanding Islam be excised from Iran, though after twenty-six years of theocracy one can hardly be surprised by an allergy to the religion. Whatever the shortcomings of these protesters — their event has gone off rather pell-mell — they've pierced the wall silencing Iran. For so long many of us have only heard of Iranians' disgust with Tehran's mullahs, affection for the West and desire for freedom secondhand; it's likely most in the free world know little about the struggle. The few score holed up in that jetliner remind us that 70 million people are prisoners in their own country.

FINI: The protesters have been removed from the plane. Authorities are not certain whether Iranian nationals in the group will be "repatriated," although we undoubtedly know the wisdom — and mercy — in not doing so.

Michael Ubaldi, March 9, 2005.

With the Chinese would-be hegemon grasping at headlines over the last few days, we've been reminded that many of the threats beyond the Near East recognized before 2001 still exist. This drawing is from a clutch of political cartoons I scribbled out in the Fall of 2000. I sent the lot out to a few newspapers and received, from Washington Times editorial page editor Halle Dale, a rejection letter I was happy to accept and keep. There was currently no place in the Times for my, as she put it, "creative, well-executed drawings."

The undertaking was a bit of a whim, and I soon moved on. But anybody who's ever solicited knows that no reply need be gracious, let alone complimentary.

As for the subject matter itself, this one remains my favorite. Though the implications are unsettling the statement is quite relevant nearly five years later — and besides, that dragon is so grotesquely adorable.

Michael Ubaldi, March 9, 2005.

Jim Hake's Spirit of America has a message from GIs who would like to give their Iraqi compatriots a little something extra:

Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) member Jeff Walsh who is OIC of Fort Tal Afar contacted us to help provide for the quality of life for the approximately 300 Iraqis stationed there. The fort, which Jeff writes is a "no-kidding fort built by the Brits in the 1940s...used as a prison during the Iran/Iraq War", leaves much to be desired in the way of amenities and recreational activities. Currently, the Iraqi troops have no outlet to relieve stress and wind-down, other than Arab tv. Walsh and the 16 other Americans stationed at Fort Tal Afar would like your help in changing that.

Walsh has asked for Spirit of America by way of our donors to contribute to creating a recreational facility for the men to use during their leisure time. The American soldiers have cleared a way for a rec room and need basic building supplies such as tools and window curtains to put the finishing touches along with entertainment items such as a ping-pong table, fitness equipment and games.

While you're considering a donation, reacquaint yourself with Hake's mission and the accomplishments of his organization.

Michael Ubaldi, March 8, 2005.

Behold the 1947 Buick Special.

Michael Ubaldi, March 8, 2005.

National Review editor Rich Lowry wonders which direction the greater left will fall: acceptance and abnegation or denial, superstition and mania. Comedian Jon Stewart has been reluctantly considering a mea culpa, though still in his own language. And his choice of colleagues probably won't help him to redemption:

The Democratic foreign-policy expert who was Stewart's guest that night, Nancy Soderberg, tried to comfort him, pointing out that the budding democratic revolution in the Middle East still might fail: "There's always hope that this might not work."

There is historical precedent for that, of course. Liberal revolutions failed in Europe in 1848 and Eastern Europe in 1968.

In those last two sentences Rich is being fair to opponents and fortune. But consider that the historical precedent he strikes up is obsolete. Where was the medium serving as an internet in 1968, or 1956; let alone 1848? Where were the round-the-clock, worldwide news broadcasters? Even Tiananmen Square is from a spent epoch. The greatest threat from modern authoritarianism is rooted in a strongman's ability to subvert free nations' latest technology to his own destructive practices — from instant communication to airplanes to atomic bombs. But after two demonstrations of checking the authoritarian use of force with democratic military power, our greatest weapon, free expression, can finally be brought to bear: today's revolutions go live, the entire world a witness to every single one. Rule by strength relies on deprivation, and a dictator will never defeat what he can't hide.

EVERY PROTEST HAS ITS AUDIENCE: Robert Mayer, covering reports of protests across the globe, includes two pictures of a women's suffrage demonstration in Kuwait. Picket signs were in English as well as Arabic, and though English is widely used in the country's print, it's worth considering Kuwaitis know exactly whom among those watching will help.

Michael Ubaldi, March 7, 2005.

Power is in expression without exertion. All the high talk of lineage and nationality couldn't cloak China's desire to swallow up Taiwan, especially with the growing thicket of ballistic missiles threatening to skewer the strait-excused island country. For all its physical might, China is sufficiently weaker than the United States and American allies to be prevented from enveloping its neighbor — and in frustration Beijing prefers all parties simply accept the proposed sequestration and not talk about the decline in possibility running inversely to, oddly enough, the number of silos on the eastern Chinese coast.

A third party has joined Taiwan and America, and if their Beijing-perceived meddling weren't enough, the interlopers have the gall to play it cool:

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that Japan was not stepping up pressure on China.

"Japan's basic policy has not changed," Koizumi said, stressing that Tokyo wanted a peaceful solution in the Taiwan Strait.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the top Japanese government spokesman, said last month's joint US-Japan statement came because it is "important to have a deeper recognition" over the key strategic area.

"We believe there is no particular problem as our country's policy toward Taiwan has not changed at all," Hosoda told reporters.

Nothing special, see? Tokyo just wouldn't want anything happen to Taipei, that's all, and will make especially certain with its broadening navy.

Michael Ubaldi, March 7, 2005.

While scanning the Wall Street Journal editorial page just a few days ago I noticed a smallish article advocating the postal service's privatization. I didn't read it: a noble cause, it seemed too far-fetched, what with the day's otherwise reasonable progressive ideas facing spears and poison arrows.

Yet on the other side of the world, in a country more closely wedded to a central state than ours, reform is just what the executive is calling for:

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged his fellow Liberal Democratic Party executives Monday to work hard to get the opponent-dominated ruling party to support privatizing Japan Post with the aim of legislating the policy by June 19.

"I asked them to have vigorous discussions so it can be enacted during the current Diet session as I have no plans to extend the session," Koizumi told reporters after an executive meeting of the party, which he heads.

Koizumi faces as uncertain a public as President Bush, skewed New York Times polls aside. Yet as surveys regularly show, whether Americans or Japanese can decide on a preferable solution, they want change — and here's to the leaders willing to risk for that need.

Michael Ubaldi, March 7, 2005.

One of the elite media's strengths in post-Saddam Iraq has been its ability to mask the nature of seditionists, terrorists and murderers, and present Iraq's enemies to the world as popular resisters and devout warrior-pilgrims, or another fitting caricature from the left's brimming library of grassroots-fascist mythology.

The rightist New York Post is among a few publications to hail American-funded television station al-Iraqiya's nightly broadcast of aggressive interviews with "insurgents." Baghdad Iraqi Omar has, at the request of his brother, begun watching the program. He gives us his reaction, as well as a few screenshots. Without exception, those revealing their gang-style killings for pennies are monosyllabic, violent low-lifes — often working under their old drivers:

This question which has been repeated over and over again in this program is now ringing in the ears and minds of the people. Why are these terrorists killing the people? Is it Jihad? No, because they're charging money for it. Is it to "liberate Iraq from the occupiers"? Again the answer is "no" because the victims were Iraqis in almost all of the attacks. Is it to "defend Islam"? The answer is still "no" because what has an alcoholic got to do with religion.

...It's also worth mentioning that most of the performers are people with simple careers while the heads of the cells are in most of the cases ex-officers in the republican guard and middle ranking former Ba'athists and there are always some joint officers from Syria and in this case the Syrian agent's code name was Abu Ivan (no further details were provided).

...Here in Iraq, it did make a difference as it helped more people who had uncertain thoughts about the "insurgency" get the right picture of the nature of the "insurgents" motivations, goals and ideology. And I think it will also have a positive effect on the performance of the security forces.

If these broadcasts receive more stateside attention, support for liberation should also benefit, as Americans — confronted with the brutal simplicity of the danger they share with Iraqis — become less susceptible to propaganda from the left.

'NOT REVENGE': Al-Mendhar briefly comments on the matter.

Michael Ubaldi, March 4, 2005.

This morning I overheard a radio news break reporting a second policy front on which Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan supports President Bush. The tax code:

Calling the existing U.S. tax code overly complex with an "overlapping web of deductions and exemptions," Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested a consumption tax could spur more personal savings and economic growth.

I laughed out loud, knowing how desperate the Democratic Party has grown for support beyond a mainstream media bunch increasingly and correctly identified as leftist rather than objective. Democrats wanted Greenspan to stand with them or keep his mouth shut; he did neither.

Greenspan objectified is a political totem — he won't win a Washington battle alone but his presence certainly helps the side who's got him. The perennial nonpartisan guru, Greenspan was publicly measured on taxes, even suggesting the addition of levies to supplant less economically and fiscally beneficial forms of collection.

Yet as with social security, halfway insulted the Democrats, who apparently expect party line from the chairman. I knew they would be furious, some leading representatives compulsive in their egalitarian gripes. What I did not realize was how uncontrollably angry the collectivist-nihilist lot of the party might become — and what some of them are now conniving.

Michael Ubaldi, March 4, 2005.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' non-farm payroll report has come in 15% above expectations; unemployment, while slightly up, is acceptable; and growth indicators assuage inflation worries. The market's red hot.

And somebody's convinced you'd rather hear about Martha.

Michael Ubaldi, March 4, 2005.

While General John Abizaid told Congress that he believes Iraq's enemies are buckling, he made clear that native civil and military frames cannot yet support the beset country's weight. Yet. Another complement of specialized law enforcers have been deployed:

The Iraqi Police Service graduated 292 police officers from advanced and specialty courses at the Adnan Training Facility, March 3, as part of the Iraqi government's ongoing effort to train its security forces.

The courses consist of Kidnapping Investigations with 27 graduates, Basic Criminal Investigations with 63 graduates, Interview & Interrogations with 41 graduates, Organized Crime Investigations with 58 graduates, Incident Command System with 32 graduates, Internal Controls with 44 graduates, and Executive Leadership with 27 graduates.

Iraqi police have been unfairly criticized for yielding stations or the streets to terrorists packing medium infantry weapons from Saddam's countless hoards. As the Iraqi military's service is intended, like any free nation, to be one of peripheral and external operation, combating well-armed thugs must fall to civil authority:

The Iraqi Police graduated 27 officers from the Special Weapons and Tactics [SWAT] training course March 3. The officers completed a specialized four-week training curriculum that places a heavy emphasis on weapons training and includes training in dynamic entries, mechanical breaching, diversionary devices, sniper training, intelligence and surveillance, offensive driving skills, and human relations and police conduct.

Numbers are small but growing, and likely encouraged by successes in cities like Mosul. Finally, with the graduation of six dozen Iraqi emergency response officers, we're likely to hear of more heroism as seen two months ago in Tikrit.

All law enforcement agencies will benefit from countrywide, internet-accessible satellite surveillance, noted by a well-known citizen who understandably looks forward to the network's activation.

(Note Al Mendhar's geographic organization of news, denoted by a colorful map in the site's lefthand sidebar, perfectly tailored for news observers.)

Michael Ubaldi, March 4, 2005.

Democratic revolution across the earth has been made nearly irresistible with the power of image and word as broadcast by satellite and ethernet. That said, many countries need our help — and even the most modest gestures are worth trying.

Michael Ubaldi, March 3, 2005.

Busy bees buzz:

The productivity of American workers rose at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the final three months of last year, sharply higher than originally believed. ...The better-than-expected 2.1 percent revised estimate for productivity left this indicator for all of 2004 rising by 4 percent, the department said Thursday, capping the strongest three-year period for productivity growth in more than a half-century of record keeping.

Productivity is the key component for rising living standards.

Watching jobless rates fall as labor exponentially produces work is not unlike Olympic spectating: a misstep here or there, it's still world-class. And concessions are hot, too.

Michael Ubaldi, March 3, 2005.

Natural law is meaningless without a supreme arbiter:

How did the phrase "In God We Trust" get on our coins? It was on this day, March 3, 1865, that Congress approved inscribing the motto on all our national coins.

Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law. Less than two months later Lincoln was assassinated.

At a Memorial Address for Lincoln, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax noted:

Nor should I forget to mention here that the last act of Congress ever signed by President Lincoln was one requiring that the motto, in which he sincerely believed, "In God We Trust," should hereafter be inscribed upon all our national coin.

Consider that on days when the thin-skinned see tort in what makes them uncomfortable. American federal, state and local governments are bedecked with the religious instance, officially acknowledged out of respect for tradition and history rather than the purpose of establishment. After all — be it Sunnandaeg, Monandaeg, Tiwesdaeg, Wodnesdaeg, Thursdaeg or Frigedaeg, where's your altar slab as mandated by law?

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2005.

Alaa's angry. But he's a man who weaves eloquence from fury:

Holy anger is swelling up, not only against the perpetrators, but also against all who seek to find excuses, glorify the foul murderers by such appellations as "insurgents" or worst still "resistors" and such like; against the theorists and the "commentators"; against anybody who even shows indifference to such heinous butchery.

Yet the decent majority of Mesopotamia will not bend to anything. The Genie has been released from the bottle and no force on earth can stop him.

All we can say is: Inna Lillah Wa Inna Ileihi Rajioun: "We are all to God, and to him we shall return."

Americans used their machines to rip down the statue of a gangster in Fardus Square. But it was Iraqis whom they were helping, who first took to the bronze themselves.

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2005.

Last night I spied the accompanying photograph, taken from a Hong Kong demonstration of over 100,000 citizens protesting the Beijing-conspired erosion of their historically liberal British rule. Eight months later, Hong Kong's executive from Beijing, Tung Chee-hwa, has led observers to believe that he will resign.

Robert Mayer has now picked it up, linking to a blogger who believes China is simply pulling Tung for a ringer who might keep the former British colony quiet.

But for how long? The democratic watershed continues: though the requirements for numbers and patience are much higher in Hong Kong than Beirut or Kiev, we see that comparable results can be had.

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2005.

He may come up short aligning foreign policy and national obligation when the present has departed from venerable past, but William F. Buckley can still cut a gem:

There isn't any way to send a banana through cyberspace, but that doesn't really affect the basic reason for free trade, which is the doctrine of comparative advantage. Even though there is a universalization of skills, in an age when anybody can type on a keyboard, the acquisition of such skills by a Third World country does not diminish the value of goods being produced, rather it adds to it. The worker in Central America can hope to buy the radio made in Japan, or the computer made in California.

The proposition hasn't changed, that the difference between greed and husbandry has to do with the perspective of the critic. When a century ago we were shown the horseless carriage, we didn't think to focus on the greed of Henry Ford; we chose, rather, to applaud his ingenuity.

Buckley is speaking of free trade. But we see the keystone moral: Put the banana away. Close the disk drive.

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2005.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave Democrats nothing of what they wanted a fortnight ago. Greenspan was demure last month. Today, he was crisp:

In his testimony Wednesday, Greenspan repeated a warning he first made a year ago, saying he believed the government had promised more than it could deliver to the 78 million baby boomers now approaching retirement and saying that cuts in benefits would have to be considered.

"If existing promises need to be changed, those changes should be made sooner rather than later," he told the House Budget Committee.

Greenspan reiterated that he supports President Bush's push for setting up personal retirement accounts by diverting up to 4 percentage points of payroll taxes into the new accounts.

..."In the end, the consequences for the U.S. economy of doing nothing could be severe," he said.

It's a bad day for the reactionary left, one of an estimated three hundred sixty-five this year.

BONUS: On a day when Greenspan judged the economy to be expanding at a "reasonably good pace," the Dow Jones touched 10,869 — its highest level since 2001.

Michael Ubaldi, March 1, 2005.

It was just the other day when I found myself struck by the faintest sense that Steven Den Beste was due for a brief return to the national conversation. Here he is, as compelling as ever.

Michael Ubaldi, March 1, 2005.

For nearly a year I've received through daily e-mails the most engaging and elucidating news on Iranians' plight under tyranny — and youth efforts to end an indenture with heresy into which their parents thoughtlessly entered twenty-six years ago last month — from activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi. Today, in FrontPage magazine, Banafsheh and her husband Elio Bonazzi tell us their story, their purpose and their dream for Banafsheh's broken home.

Michael Ubaldi, March 1, 2005.

This morning's guest on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio show, Fox News anchor Brit Hume talked about his role in Fox's mid-1990s program lineup, weblogs, journalism, Lebanon and the Clinton press conference for whose abrupt end he was held responsible. Hume is a man most confident in his ability and the spirit of free speech; not at all intimidated by new media nor bloggers and the paradigm-shattering medius popularis they are becoming.

Most memorable? When Fox's fortunes went skyward, Brit recalled that he assumed his established, monolithically leftist broadcast and cable network competitors would follow suit and capitalize on the appeal of balanced coverage and increased exposure of rightist viewpoints. But — "you know what, Bill? They haven't."

And they've missed out.

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2005.

Syria's answer has been delivered in Beirut:

Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami announced the resignation of his government Monday. "Since I was never attached to any position and I belong to a family that offered sacrifices for Lebanon, and since I am keen not to have the government posing as an obstacle for the good of the country, I hereby announce the resignation of the government," Karami told Parliament.

How utterly selfless of Karami, no? So Damascus gave parliament to Beirut. The Cedar Revolution has won its first victory, and now inherits its second challenge of forming an independent governmental authority and constitutionally reestablishing Lebanese polity, while the world waits for Bashar Assad's response to the repeated question, "why haven't your soldiers left Lebanon?" A statement from President Bush, both congratulating the Lebanese and sternly warning Assad against subversion or any further invasion of Lebanon's sovereignty, would be most welcome now.

Two possibilities seem fairly clear in the first moments after the collaborators' resignation: the first, that Syria resists its situation, confronting Lebanese patriots; or the second, that Bashar Assad withdraws politically and militarily, hoping that he can placate Washington, Baghdad and Jerusalem if he tucks his tail firmly enough. President Bush's strong words would add likelihood to the second of the two, an enormous favor for Lebanon; and the White House's decision on diplomatic status will tell us whether Syria's hostility to the civilized world might finally be judged.

RELATED COMMENTARY: Introducing category Lebanon's Cedar Tree.

WE HAVE A STATEMENT: From White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the anticipated message of congratulations and warning:

The resignation of the Karami government represents an opportunity for the Lebanese people to have a new government that is truly representative of their country's diversity. ...The new government will have the responsibility of implementing free and fair elections that the Lebanese people have clearly demonstrated they desire. ...We believe the process of a new government should proceed in accordance with the Lebanese constitution and should be free of all foreign interference. That means Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country. That will help ensure the elections are free and fair.

A personal delivery from the president should follow soon.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME: Once again, Robert Mayer has tied all the latest news and opinion together with one knot.

'NO ONE CAN INTIMIDATE US ANYMORE': When fear went bust in Iraq, it was only a matter of time before other Near Easterners applied purple ink to their own circumstances. And embraced unity:

In Martyrs' Square a week before, during the first protest held after Hariri's assassination, a sea of flags for different political parties marked the demonstration.

Monday's protest was dramatically different; it raised only one flag: that of Lebanon.

In freedom, we laud the distinct origin and common horizon.

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2005.

Saddam Hussein in a steel cage? No, it's not what you think; in a show of mercy undeserved by Iraq's twenty-five-year oppressor, Baghdad authorities will take protective measures to ensure that Hussein is the hangman's, and the hangman's only.

No muted trumpet necessary. But then the old Ba'athist does have a bit of a "history."

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2005.

Lebanon's groundswell for independence has been dubbed the "Cedar Revolution." Robert Mayer is ably compiling news reports with others; I will apply a few points to the question of Syria's plans for Beirut's parliamentary struggle. Damascus patsies have retreated from an earlier promise to stage a counter-demonstration, while Syrian muscle has yet done nothing to protesters defying a congregational ban in numbers reported to be many tens of thousands. President Bush's deployment of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield confirms the White House's interest in events. A subordinate envoy demonstrates the administration's suitably low opinion of Damascus strongman Bashar Assad — to be watched, not flattered. And Satterfield's prepared comments bear evidence that Bush has placed Lebanon squarely in his inaugural vision:

Lebanon should not be excluded from the trend of freedom and democracy that is sweeping the region, from Pakistan to the Palestinian territories ... especially as Lebanon has a long history in democracy.

Finally, opposition leaders are certain they can bring down the collaborator parliament with or without Robert's Rules of Order. Scattered reports of Syria making preparations to play long ball only strengthen the observation that Bashar Assad will give the Lebanese their polity by vote and try to take it back with subterfuge and force. But with nationalists like Walid Jumblatt calling Damascus out for its stall, and increasingly impatient and sausive Israelis on one side and Iraqis on the other, we may be watching Damascus bluffing with a bad hand, Assad's words for Rafiq Hariri's assassination — "political suicide" — his own epitaph.

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2005.

We cannot forget the sacrifices of Iraqis like those five-score brave men murdered today as they stood to join the tens of thousands defending a young free nation. And their deaths must keep close in our minds the ends their killers wish for us. But a month and a half ago I wrote in anticipation of atrocities that will be seen in months and years ahead:

[V]ulnerabilities will occasionally be pronounced as the liberalization and greater openness of Iraq coincides with the work of thugs who seek to exploit the mutual faith of free, public association.

Today's murders are striking example. How would any American city or suburb prevent the detonation of a car laden with explosives? Only the vigilance and conscience of citizens, the common good, could alert law enforcement if the police themselves weren't lucky enough to catch the perpetrators in conspicuous activity. After the crime, a community would quickly and naturally cooperate with authorities to find and apprehend suspects. According to reports, that is exactly what has happened. Terrorists can no longer kill Iraqis without revealing themselves, and each Allied-Iraqi yank on the exposed tentacle brings more valuable enemy assets.

And beyond the death and carnage, what will the attack bring Iraq's enemies? Little. Killing police recruits has long been a failed tactic; it may be simply that the gore sates terrorists' perversions, a red cheer for fiends. And existing police forces are growing in number and capability, totally unaffected by this bombing.

The country at large will mourn but it moves ever-forward. Omar's casual photography reflects a monumental construction effort; his brother Mohammed relates Iraqis' enthusiasm for a national conversation led by weblogs, the 21st-Century combination printing press and broadcast tower. Former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi publicly speaks of Iraq's first popularly composed constitution; its "Founding Fathers." And Arthur Chrenkoff announces triumphs across Mesopotamia.

Michael Ubaldi, February 27, 2005.

More posturing, contrivance, observation and speculation follows the murder of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. On Thursday Syrian Ba'athists said they would quit Lebanon. A weekend report suggests Damascus coughed up thirty of Saddam Hussein's old henchmen who were until recently working freelance from Syria to unsettle the foundations of Iraqi democracy: twenty-nine plebes and one big fish, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan. Given Damascus' sixteen years of procrastination, far deeper investment in Iraqi sedition than the thirty, and notable success in escaping all punishment from Washington but largely gestural sanctions, this is chaff to throw off the seeking bolt whose head is a coincidental Franco-American diplomatic alliance and whose shaft is an implacable Lebanese nationalism. Lebanese are suspicious, too:

Eyewitnesses along Lebanon's strategic Beirut-to-Damascus highway say they have seen no sign of any Syrian troop movements yet and many are openly questioning Syria's intentions. ...Beirut's influential An Nahar newspaper is also complaining that Syria's intention to redeploy does not include its feared secret police. Lebanese opposition politicians, including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, have accused Syria's secret police of being responsible for the car bomb which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri.

The Syrian claw doesn't always squeeze, but it's never very far away, from the word of border town residents:

At a time where the Syrian Army's withdrawal remains a heated debate between Syrian and Lebanese officials, Chtaura residents are being cautious about what they say. Local taxi driver Assam Qurbie said: "The place is crawling with mukhabarat and the Syrian Army, if we anger Syria, we are the first to get into trouble."

The same concern was echoed by several Chtaura residents, where the Syrian Army maintains a large presence. "I just hope they leave soon and we never have to see a Syrian soldiers coming into any of our stores," said Qurbie, one of the few residents willing to express his views.

The greatest danger entails Bashar Assad's regime offering the same fate to Lebanon's patriots as their martyr Hariri. If all parties accepted the departure of Syrian troops as make-believe, certainly they wouldn't raise an objection to the mukhabarat "retiring" Lebanon's democratic resistance and returning the population to silent captivity. Damascus has already called for a ban on protests with vague crackdown orders to its hired thugs. Such a turn, however, would depend on deference from Washington and Paris. And while Jacques Chirac's true stance might make for good money in the futures trade, President Bush spoke on Wednesday expecting shadow puppetry from Damascus:

Asked whether he had convinced European leaders to seek sanctions against Syria, Bush said Damascus must withdraw its troops and "secret services" from Lebanon and not try to influence upcoming parliamentary elections there.

"We will see how they respond before there's any further discussions about going back to the United Nations," the US president said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who backed Bush's statement.

Assuming the president will not stand for Syrian violation, the White House will watch for two Ba'athist responses — either of which, if antagonistic, would exact Washington's physical intervention. The first response will be to a likely no-confidence vote in the Beirut parliament tomorrow. Hariri's death has made a coalition out of Lebanon's politicos, who are undeterred in their bid to vote Syria out; and post-Saddamite Iraqis out of the country's people, who toppled a bust of the man responsible for their thralldom, Bashar Assad's father. Damascus may let the Lebanese have their day, betting 15,000 troops against a single humiliation, leading to the second response.

That will be to the increasing skepticism towards Syrian withdrawal. In the three days since declaring troop movements Damascus has peddled a few excuses for obfuscation and non-performance, including a security threat from Israel. One, of a sort, has emerged: just yesterday, Jerusalem blamed Syria's terrorist bazaar, with Iran's, for the latest bombing murder of Jews. Given that both Israel and Palestinians officially suspect Hezbollah, Syria's most favored client, whose training camps Islamic Jihad — the terrorist group claiming responsibility — has been attending since the 1990s, the possibility of another event manufactured by Damascus is strong. If so, the "threat" from Israel would be altogether justified, and the murderous distraction will quickly falter. Then we may hear more of Bashar Assad's intention, as reported by the Turkish press, to filibuster. Knowing President Bush, it will be met with cloture.

Michael Ubaldi, February 26, 2005.

Turn back to one of the "tests" facing the Bush administration's democratization strategy: holding Egypt's regime to account for its repression. Liberty activist Ayman Nour is not yet free from unjust imprisonment but thanks to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's delivery of a diplomatic slap to the cheek of Cairo strongman Hosni Mubarak, Nour's fellow democrats may have won the chance to popularly defeat millenia of resident-tyrant rule. Tigerhawk has more. (Hat tip, IP.)

Michael Ubaldi, February 25, 2005.

I was astonished when I recently watched a brief 8-millimeter film of my paternal grandparents' wedding, an event I'd only ever known from a handful of posed pictures. Via Stephen Green, something almost too fantastic to believe: color photographs from the Great War.

MORE: One of Stephen's commenters pointed to a collection of color photographs by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii — from as early as 1907. We're well beyond words.

STILL MORE: The Second World War. Elite technology was far more accessible. But it's no less dazzling.

Michael Ubaldi, February 25, 2005.

Terrorists in Al Anbar province are being hammered by Allied and Iraqi forces engaged in Operation River Blitz. Fear among citizens continues to depreciate, and the courage shown in a developing Iraqi common good, the kind we knew we would see, is a weapon seditionists and invaders will be increasingly unable to counter:

North of Ar Ramadi, a local civilian directed a U.S. Marine combat patrol to an improvised-explosive device, which consisted of four 105 mm artillery rounds that were daisy-chained together in a brown bag hidden underneath a pile of leaves at approximately 10:00 a.m.

...In southern Fallujah, an Iraqi civilian guided a U.S. Marine patrol to a weapons cache, which consisted of one 82 mm mortar round, seven 57 mm rounds, three 23 mm rounds and one 30 mm round at approximately 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, another Iraqi civilian guided another U.S. Marine patrol to a weapons cache in the southeastern portion of the city that consisted of one missile warhead, 100 pounds of TNT and one 120 mm mortar round.

A spontaneous, inherent public inclination to just law, altruism, honesty and peacefulness makes the bedrock of right, free society. Laid thick with institutions that protect and reward the good, it will not yield.

Michael Ubaldi, February 25, 2005.

Another day, another twenty-percent upward revision in the measure of quarterly gross domestic product expansion:

The economy grew at a solid 3.8% annual rate in the final quarter of 2004 — stronger than previously estimated — and an encouraging sign that the business expansion was firmly entrenched at the start of the new year. The reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Friday, was better than the government's initial calculation a month ago. That estimate showed the economy growing at a 3.1% pace.

...The improvement reflected more robust spending by businesses to add capital equipment and build up inventories of goods. The trade deficit also was less of a drag on fourth-quarter growth than initially thought. ...The fourth-quarter GDP figure also was better than the 3.5% growth rate that economists had forecast.

An inconsequential trade-deficit bogeyman, vaulted expectations and an economic engine so supercharged we'll have to cut through the hood: all possible when the American entrepreneur is encouraged to enrich, invent and innovate. What was that about Herbert Hoover?

DRAG RACE DOWN WALL STREET: Couldn't resist stretching the metaphor. The stock market liked what it saw today, no doubt.

Michael Ubaldi, February 24, 2005.

The "uprising" marches on:

Opposition deputies said on Wednesday they would seek to topple Lebanon's Syrian-backed government in parliament and called for a one-day national strike next week. The deputies, riding high on mass protests over the past week, called for an international investigation into last week's assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and wanted security chiefs sacked and put on trial.

"Opposition MPs confirm that they will seek a no-confidence vote in the government during (the Feb. 28) general assembly meeting" called to discuss the assassination, they said in a statement after a meeting of 38 MPs in the mountain house of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. The statement called for a strike on Monday, the day the parliament meets.

Walid Jumblatt is a recent and rather startling convert to President Bush's policy of peace through asserted liberty, telling interviewer David Ignatius that "this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," and likening the eight-million-strong Iraqi electoral procession to the Berlin Wall's tumble.

The president's democratic allies have themselves been emboldened. President of the umbrella group Reform Party of Syria, Fadrid Ghadry, has advocated in the Washington Times sandwiching Damascus between dissent inside Syria as well as its Lebanese conquest:

The next U.S. step, following the withdrawal of the U.S. ambassador in Damascus, must be to open a front against the Syria Ba'athists in their own backyard. Not a military front, far from it, but a popular civilian offensive. The United States should aim to create the same disequilibrium in Syria that the Syrian Ba'athists so readily encourage elsewhere.

Mr. Ghadry is slightly concerned about Bashar Assad's inclination to violently resist the popular tide to his southwest. But if the last ten days have taught us one lesson, it's that a thug shrinks from daylight. Though President Bush will be behind closed doors in Bratislava, an observation point has been added to the collection already tracking Syria, its scope trained on Beirut. Bush is no Eisenhower, Beirut no Budapest. There is surely hell to pay if Lebanese patriots come to harm by Syrian hands. And we should have some faith in the Martyrs' Square tent city; if they follow the Orange Revolution with their own Red and White, their representative counterparts, ready to fit in legal terms the shouts from outside, are not far behind Kiev — and seeking to win for themselves much more. (Hat tip, Robert Mayer.)

FEINT: Bashar Assad's regime has released a statement promoting "commitment" to withdrawing its 15,000 troops from Lebanon. No explanation or time window was offered, and we should remember that on Monday it was "soon" — as it was in 1989. The dominative mind is not an awfully creative one; Damascus' gesture is probably a probe of Washington. If not rebuked and rejected by a distrustful White House the Ba'athists would do best to wait as long as possible before ordering any significant force movements. The longer the delay, the more tempting Damascus will find a roll-up to be.

But via Jim Geraghty, some are convinced that the Bush administration does not intend to let the Lebanese be silenced. And, helpfully enough, strange bedfellow Walid Jumblatt called the statement "a new farce."


Michael Ubaldi, February 23, 2005.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has been an excellent source of news on Japan's practical attainment of noble standing in the free world. Debate on the revision of war-renouncing Article 9 of the postwar constitution proceeds while less newsworthy — yet significant — operational changes, made in close coordination with the United States, are under consideration or due for implementation.

In the conference room, suggestions, differences, arguments and compromises shape constitutional draft amendments to be revealed in April:

The Liberal Democratic Party's committee on constitutional reform is involved in heated debates over whether the party should maintain its conservative stance or work with other parties to devise constitutional amendments that are feasible. The hottest topic at the meeting was whether the amended Constitution should clearly state the right to exercise collective self-defense.

...An advocate of the change said, "It would be bad if the government's interpretation of the stipulation could be easily altered after a change in administration. An ambiguous constitution is problematic."

But an opponent said, "It's a matter of course that the nation can exercise the right to collective self-defense. There's no need to put it in the Constitution."

The Liberal Democratic Party appears to be as solidly eager to establish Japan's right to military action as the party leading Diet opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, is abhorrent. A two-thirds majority requirement for amendment passage will force the LDP to balance its venerable political power with parliamentary realities.

For Japanophobes reading a jingoist resurgence between the lines, relax: some committee members were reportedly dithering on the potential offensiveness of the newly directed armed forces' title.

The fact that Japanese (or any foreign) military self-reliance would modify (and eventually obviate) America's based military presence is lost on neither Washington nor Tokyo. During the recent meeting that produced Japan's first unambiguous statement respecting Taiwan's freedom from Chinese seizure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed with their Tokyo counterparts how best to renovate a San Franciscan house built in 1951:

At a bilateral meeting of foreign and defense chiefs, the two sides confirmed that within the next few months they would map out measures to realign U.S. troops in Japan by reviewing role-sharing between the SDF and U.S. troops and speeding up discussions on the realignment of U.S. military bases.

...Government plans for sharing U.S. military bases involve introducing a variety of sharing formats, including one in which the management rights to U.S. military bases would be returned to Japan, and another that would follow an existing format used at Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture, where SDF troops already use the base under U.S. administration.

...[Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori] Ono's remarks highlighted government plans to enhance base sharing, improve bilateral interoperability and increase joint exercises.

Diplomatically, bilateralism is in bold display:

The two sides also discussed measures relating to China, with Machimura saying it was important to ask the Chinese government to increase the transparency of its military spending.

With a touch of helpful initiative:

The LDP and Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) have been busy drafting bills to be presented to the current Diet session for a law aimed at improving the human rights situation in North Korea. The bills being prepared by the LDP and Minshuto are designed to increase pressure on North Korea over such issues as the abduction of Japanese by Pyongyang and assistance to North Koreans fleeing the country, sources said.

From enemy, to companion, to compatriot: quite a lot to be said for democratic creative destruction.

THE CATCH: Yomiuri's links are fly-by-night. All have been switched to caches or mirrors.

Michael Ubaldi, February 22, 2005.

When next publicly expressing yourself, count your blessings. Where you might live today still determines what you can say. (Via IP.)

Michael Ubaldi, February 22, 2005.

When rightist commentators fit "Ukraine" and "Lebanon" in the same sentence, I nodded at the parallel but was unsure of causality. According to this CBC report, the power of the Orange Revolution and Lebanon's miraculously porous media net have catalyzed the seized country's spirit:

A small tent city has popped up on Martyrs' Square in Beirut as anti-Syrian protesters call for political changes in the wake of former prime minister Rafik Hariri's assassination. Thousands of demonstrators have spent four nights in the square and more are joining them each day.

Inspired by recent protests in Ukraine's Independence Square, they say they're willing to stay as long as it takes to bring down Lebanon's pro-Syrian government and force 15,000 Syrian troops out of the country.

Satyagraha is just one method to wring justice out of the inequitable, and which should not be abused. But if the captor has a conscience — or is forced to feign one, as Syria is now by the strength of the free world — the peaceful army in Martyrs' may see Independence's fortune in battle.

Michael Ubaldi, February 22, 2005.

Japan's progress towards true democratic sovereignty, abiding twists, turns and impediments, holds steady. Lawmakers are unapologetic to tradition and reactionism alike:

A lower house research panel has compiled a report that suggests any change in the preamble to the Constitution must come with a revision to its war-renouncing Article 9, sources close to the panel said Thursday. The members of the House of Representatives Research Commission on the Constitution have compiled the proceedings of their discussions on the preamble, referring to the relations between the preamble and pacifist article as "inseparable," the sources said.

To reach eminence in the free world, Japan must match its economic sphere of influence with ideological and military components — establishing liberty's regional lodestar and constabulary. The country's leadership has continually shown how willing and serious it is, most recently by refusing to appease China at the expense of fellow democrats:

Japan and the United States have formed a security alliance after ministers from both countries met over the weekend. Both countries will pursue common strategic objectives, which include encouraging China and Taiwan to resolve their differences through dialogue.

Japan had previously been ambiguous on its stance on the Taiwan issue.

The policy announcement brought desired results. Appeasers and pragmatists were unhappy, progressives and the embattled Taiwanese couldn't be more pleased:

The policy shift was enthusiastically greeted by hardline hawks, including Koizumi's potential successor Shinzo Abe, the deputy secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). ...In stark contrast to Beijing's reaction, Taipei warmly greeted the announcement. The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying, "We welcome this declaration."

The democratic confederation grows.

MORE: The State Department has text of the statement.

For a giggle, one party incensed by the one-sentence statement on Taiwan is China's charlatan "human rights scholar."

Michael Ubaldi, February 22, 2005.

On Saturday, I noted in parentheses that one of the primary causes for Lebanon's civil erosion was the migration of terrorists and gangs following Yasser Arafat's 1970 expulsion from Jordan. Today on National Review, Mordechai Nisan explains:

Lebanese nationalism is tested by loyalty to the special national ethos, and pride in the Lebanese heritage is not limited to the Christians alone. Rafiq Hariri, the Sunni Muslim, demonstrated far more dedication to his country in the face of Syrian occupation than the Damascus-appointed Maronite president Emile Lahoud. No one group has a monopoly on patriotism because personal choice rather than religious affiliation is the benchmark for the love of homeland in Lebanon.

The war in Lebanon that erupted in 1975 was not at its core a civil war at all. It was triggered by a sweeping Palestinian armed assault on Lebanese sovereignty, beginning in the late 1960s. PLO factions, spreading through southern Lebanon and coastal cities and into the mountain, were becoming masters of the land. The beginning of the war in Beirut in April 1975 was primarily a Lebanese-Palestinian conflagration, which in 1976 further deteriorated and exacerbated into a Syrian-Lebanese war. Assad's Baathist regime in Damascus moved to fulfill its vision of "Greater Syria" and swallowed up Lebanon in stages, until a full occupation regime solidified under the Taif Accord of 1989 and the military conquest of Baabda, the presidential palace, and all of Beirut in 1990.

"Individual-state patriotism," says Nisan, "deals a blow to the myth of pan-Arab nationalism," something to which yesterday's Beirut protesters, holding crosses and the Koran, could attest. Freeman nationalism makes one from many.

Michael Ubaldi, February 21, 2005.

After a busy day of encouraging democratic protesters in Lebanon and beyond; condemning despot regimes in Syria and Iran; sifting through increasingly obsequious messages from North Korea; and gladhanding a pouty Europe, practically getting a purr out of Paris' French cat Jacques Chirac; President Bush finished with an after-dinner censure of the fascistic Vladimir Putin, not three days before his meeting with the Russian strongman.

All that, and observers are left nodding, "yes, that he did."

When did an American president wield so much political capital? 1944? 1797?

Michael Ubaldi, February 21, 2005.

More protests. Omar at Iraq the Model brings to our attention Egyptians who grow impatient with strongman Hosni Mubarak's half-hearted promises for reform:

Several hundred Egyptians protested in central Cairo on Monday in the largest street demonstration since the launch last year of a campaign against continued rule by the Mubarak family. Liberals, leftists and Islamists chanted: "Enough, shame, have mercy" and "Down, down with Hosni Mubarak" in a public square outside the gates of Cairo University, as tens of thousands of mostly bemused commuters drove past.

Many of them carried yellow flags or stickers saying "Enough" — the slogan of an informal movement dedicated to stopping Mubarak from obtaining a fifth six-year term in office or arranging for his son Gamal to take over the presidency. Thousands of riot police armed with batons and shields surrounded the protesters and prevented some people from joining the crowd, but they did not attempt to disperse them.

There is fear behind the iron fist; fear of the people it restrains and the allegiance sworn to their ascendance, finally, by confederate free nations. No useful idiots with puppets have prevented it. We may be able to leave the left to its callow fantasies and turn full attention to the work at hand.

GRASSROOTS: One protest chant demanded Mubarak's regime release democratic advocate Ayman Nour. Both critics and supporters of President Bush's strategy of freedom maintain that challenging the repression of foreign reformers is a "test" of the president's resolve. The Washington Post, in naming Nour as their test of choice, noted that as of the second of this month, the White House had responded to Nour's arrest with admirable condemnation.

Yet perhaps we expect too little from the oppressed, too little from the easy translation of our values. If the president has made his intolerance for quashing dissent known, whose task — and victory — is it to free Ayman Nour but the Egyptian people's themselves?

BUT OF COURSE: Our man Ghaly reports.

Michael Ubaldi, February 21, 2005.

Leftist demonstrators in Brussels, Belgium couldn't agree on why they despise President Bush so, bereft of common cause, they settled for shared sentiment:

An alliance of 88 environmental, human rights, peace and other groups have planned protests near the U.S. Embassy for Monday and near the EU headquarters on Tuesday. The Web site of the 'Stop Bush' alliance accused Bush of "crimes against humanity," saying he undermines international law and is an obstacle to the fight against global warming.

President Bush's crimes, according to one protester, include those not yet committed, namely driving a wedge between European leaders and their constituents. A single, sign-wielding man can hardly speak for millions; nor is it clear whether his elected representatives will join him in principled opposition to anything and everything for which the American president stands:

Bush called on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. As Bush spoke, thousands of opposition supporters in Beirut shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of Lebanon's pro-Syrian government, marking a week since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's most prominent politician.

Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon, Bush said to applause.

"The Lebanese people have the right to be free, and the United States and Europe share an interest in an independent, democratic Lebanon," he said, adding that if Syrians stay out of Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the spring, the vote "can be another milestone of liberty."

What say the protesters? Is Bush's demand for the Lebanese to enjoy the same rights as most Westerners a trick? A lie? Listening to a chant or two, or reading the sort of literature that follows these crowds should give us our answer. Hell no, the Brussels Seven Hundred won't go until an elected leader is sacked and his replacement relents to their science fiction credenda: what Lebanon really needs are lower carbon dioxide levels.

2,500 miles away it is democratic sovereignty, not Salem's greenhouse demons, that rests foremost on the minds of twenty- or thirtyfold as they rally in the streets of Beirut:

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of their pro-Syrian government in a Beirut demonstration Monday, marking a week since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Beating drums and waving Lebanese flags, those of their own parties and portraits of past leaders killed during the 1975-90 civil war, the protesters gathered at the site where Hariri was killed Feb. 14 in a bombing that the opposition blames on Damascus.

Some in the crowd yelled "Syria out!" and "We don't want a parliament that acts as a doorkeeper for the Syrians," competing with loud insults shouted against Syrian President Bashar Assad. In Damascus, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said Syria will "soon" take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement.

"Soon." No doubt Damascus seeks to mollify a nationalist righteous indignation that has coalesced and sharpened into focused, tireless throngs. It can only try to diffuse the protests; it's too late, if it were ever possible, to stifle public outrage. And Damascus wouldn't dare use violence. These are not the Syrian Kurds, whose catalyst for revolt nearly one year ago was successfully obscured before a series of riots were crushed beneath Bashar Assad's heel. Lebanon has been invaded, its once-liberal polity violated; the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was brazen and its consequences have not been ignored by international news agencies.

At the same time, only one government has both openly and repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops, and it is this administration's implied threat of punitive force that stays Bashar Assad's hand. No direct recognition of this fact is apparent from coverage of Beirut protests but gratitude is unnecessary. Solidarity in principle is enough:

Many held pictures of Hariri and sang patriotic songs. Some protesters held a copy of the Quran in one hand and the cross in another hand to signify Muslim-Christian national unity.

Earnest pluralism only exists in an open society. Those seven hundred might take a trip to Beirut and discover men who are truly "dangerous to civil rights." But the leftists may not understand the point of Lebanese protests. Kyoto's American rejection, remember, was through a unanimous 1997 Senate vote. The elected officials responsible must be considered, with George W. Bush, "obstacles" to the transnational edict; a troubling inconvenience. So the deconstructionists among the seven hundred, arriving in Beirut, might argue that a dictator has a right to do with others whatever he pleases, and the dogmatists might argue that that dictator has a Hegelian duty thereof. Both groups can believe this sort of nonsense because they have, for most or all of their lives, painlessly enjoyed the freedoms for which Lebanese now risk much. In abundance, waste; in scarcity, treasure.

Michael Ubaldi, February 20, 2005.

Those who consider themselves "human rights advocates" may wish to circulate this news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

In every case, enemy combatants held here receive medical care that is "as good as or better than anything we would offer our own soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines," the general in charge of the U.S. detention facility here said. ...The facility is equipped with 19 inpatient beds (and can expand to 28), a physical-therapy area, pharmacy, radiology department, central sterilization area, and a single-bed operating room. More complex surgeries can be performed at the base naval hospital, which also is equipped with an intensive-care wing.

...[Captain Barry] Barendse said humane treatment is "second-nature" for medical personnel. "It's not that we like hanging around the bad guys," he said. "The thing about it is that the job we do for a living is a very humane one, and we just keep that mindset."

...Some detainees have been provided life-changing care, Barendse said. He cited prosthetic limbs and removal of cancerous tumors as examples of the level of care provided to detainees. "Some of them have even told us that they're very happy we're taking care of them," he said. "We've given them new life, some of them we really have."

"Trials" suffered by detainees likely include the tongue depressor, throat swabs, reflex mallet strikes, and the receipt of Dum Dum suckers only on strict condition of good behavior.

Michael Ubaldi, February 19, 2005.

By now we know that former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was murdered on February 14th, that President Bush recalled the American ambassador to Syria while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led condemnation of Bashar Assad's Syria, implying that Damascus was responsible for the assassination. Rice also renewed charges of Syrian sedition in Iraq, something well-known and oft expressed over the months in Baghdad. President Bush followed the secretary's comments by announcing suspicion of Syrian fingerprints on Hariri's death, intolerance for Syria's wide and long-standing participation in terrorism, and a warning to Assad's totalitarian regime as blunt as that which the president delivered in his State of the Union address. Called "out of step" with the region's move towards democracy, Damascus' Ba'athists were left to reflect on the fate of Iraq's Ba'athists.

In Lebanon, the people wield their own outrage. A massive, anti-Syrian protest gobbled up Hariri's funeral procession. While Reuters was reminded of the Lebanese Civil War (instigated by, among other factors, Yasser Arafat's terrorist cabal), one might be inspired to look back to Lebanon's brief post-Franco liberalism.

Following unprecedented public protest against Syrian captivity, an arm of Beirut's marionette parliament has turned to cut itself from Damascus:

Pressure on Syria to pull out of Lebanon intensified Friday when nearly a third of MPs called on the pro-Damascus regime in Beirut to step down and make way for an interim government to oversee a withdrawal.

More than 40 of parliament's 128 deputies and dozens of opposition activists called on their fellow citizens to join a "democratic and peaceful uprising for independence in response to the criminal and terrorist policy of the Lebanese and Syrian authorities."

Will the memory of Rafiq Hariri guide Lebanese independence towards democracy? If the people fight for his legacy, Fouad Ajami believes so, marking it as a departure:

There is talk nowadays of spreading liberty to Arab lands, changing the ways of the Arabs, putting an end to regimes that harbor terror. The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty ought to be one way for the Arabs to break with the culture of dictators and police states, and with the time of the car bombs. Hariri sought for his country a businessman's peace. His way was a break with the politics of charisma and ideology that has wrecked the Arab world; he believed in philanthropy and practical work. His vision may not have been stirring. But there was dignity in it, and a reprieve from the time of darkness.

Common sense bests profundity.

Michael Ubaldi, February 18, 2005.

Deroy Murdock asks a pointed question to which he is especially entitled.