Thursday, March 30, 2006

 

A couple of new PS3 trailers

Ok, not exclusive to Playstation 3 but a good example of what we will see in next generation of video game consules.

Cellfactor Trailer


Crysis Trailer

Lots of things blowing up. Yeah!

 

The Markets: New Highs and Lows

I thought you might be interested to know that there are some strange goings on, relative to recent history, in the stock, bond, and metals markets.

I have been watching the Russell 2000 (R2000) index other than the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq because it has been trending very well. A lesson I learned in the nineties is that sometimes lesser watched, but ironically broader, stock indices give a clearer image of the market's direction. An index called Valueline was very clear in 1990 that a new bull market was beginning because the low made by the Valueline was very near the low that index made in October 1987. A double bottom which should lead to a new high and that is exactly what happened. On that note, the R2000 has been trending higher between very clear channel trend (parallel) lines since October of last year. Right now we are at the peak of the channel. One thing I have noticed is a great deal of volatility in the Dow, etc. which is usually indicative of a trend change. Too early to call a top but things are getting interesting. I will wait to see if the R2000 breaks just above the channel line and then falls below, a very good sell signal.

The bond market is at muti-year lows in price (high in yield). While that might make all of you t-bill and note holders happy it is bad news for the housing market and, potentially, for the economy. Bonds are in a mood to go down and it makes for very dangerous trading and prognostication. I would expect that prices will find a floor soon or it could turn into a route. Scary stuff. This is what happened in 1987. Bonds kept falling and it eventually weighed on the stock market.

Which leaves the metals markets. Gold and silver are hitting new highs. Gold is within 10% of $600/ounce and silver is approaching $12. This makes sense if you consider that the Fed has been very easy with credit feeding inflation. It also should indicate that the Fed is not likely to stop raising the discount rate.

What is strange is the fact that the stock market is staying strong in this enviroment. The only thing that makes sense is that the Feds easy credit has been fueling inflation (lower bond prices, higher metals) and fueling the housing market which leaves enough cash to prop up the stock market. There is nothing written in stone that says all markets must turn at the same time so the stock market could hold up for awhile but that should not be much longer. With interest rates rising rapidly the stock market is in a precarious position. The big question is will happen first, bonds stop falling or will the stock market crash?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

A Country in Distress?


Photo from Michelle Malkin.

From Bill O'Reilly:

The intriguing question is will the USA become like France? The far left here loves the entitlement culture, loves what France has become. When you hear far-left Americans use the terms "economic justice" or "income inequality," you should know these are code words for socialism, a giant government that would guarantee each American a house, health care, nice wage, retirement benefits, the usual entitlement list. Europe has embraced that system. The USA has not. And that angers radical-left Americans.

The French demonstrations have sent a signal to the world that a once free marketplace country has gone over to the entitlement side they want no uncertainty. They want security. Of course, somebody has to pay for that security, and France can't. The government will soon run out of money as the population ages. The French system will collapse, just wait and see. That should be a lesson for us all.


I cannot recall the link to give proper credit but I read an opinion that I agreed with about the desire to promote mass immigration/legalization in order to outpace the assimilation that comes with immigrants making their way in the U.S. The benefit of such a situation would be to increase the vote for politicians who favor socialism. A scary thought.

 

Horowitz at St. Xavier University Tonight

In case any of you are interested, Saint Xavier University will host a debate on the Iraq War featuring Professor Peter N. Kirstein and nationally known conservative David Horowitz from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, at McGuire Hall.

http://www.sxu.edu/today/events.asp?prevArc=archive&date=3/29/2006&id=1124

Bill O

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

Francis Fukuyama's conversion

I got a good chuckle from BotW today. Frank Fukuyama has converted from Neo-Conism and used as a Charles Krauthammer speech as his a-ha moment. You can read Taranto's take on this but what I really enjoyed was this description of Fukuyama.

And of course garnered great media attention and praise for doing so, which seems undeserved even if he turns out to be right. The good news, though, is that he has a history of being so spectacularly wrong--"the Paul Ehrlich of geopolitics," as an InstaPundit reader calls him--that his turn against Iraq strikes may itself be reason for optimism about the outcome there.

Ouch. Here's to hoping that Fukuyama has Al Gore's timing.

From Instapundit:

Byron Matthews emails: "His peculiar talent is to sense the intellectual tide and quickly ride it, which makes him the David Gergen of geopolitics."

Double Ouch.

Monday, March 27, 2006

 

Rest Now, Trek Later

Some advice for Star Trek fans

I've never been a fan of Star Trek and don't know that I've ever watched a complete episode but I had no problems with the show and I am certainly not posting to criticize it. Having had roommates who did watch it, I have seen several partial episodes and found it much better than the usual TV show. According to this report there is currently no future planned for Star Trek in either movies or television and that has left some fans wondering what to do.

Rather than demand something and get crap now the fans should give the show a rest and see what comes of it in time. As a fan of Doctor Who in the 80's I watched the show rerun on PBS (the BBC produces the show and would sell the rights after it aired in the UK) and saw the quality deteriorate over a few seasons to the point that I was glad to hear the BBC cancel the show in 1989. Fox negotiated with the BBC to produce a made for TV movie in 1996 and the result was not good. I did not enjoy watching it and was happy to see that Fox had no interest in carrying on the story.

But in 2005 the BBC brought back Doctor Who and the Sci-Fi Channel began airing the episodes in the U.S. on Friday, March 17th. The show is much better than it's late 80's version and in quality approcahes it's peak era of the 1970's. Though not perfect the current Dr. Who combines the best (and only a small part of the worst) that the show had to offer as it ran from 1963-1989 and has shown some respect for the continuity that fans (especially sci-fi) appreciate . I've only seen 3 of the 13 episodes produced in 2005 but it was worth the wait and I think Star Trek fans would be better off waiting for a quality product rather than offering support (as consumers) for just anything.

Bill C: No rest for the geeky.


Q. What is our goal overall?
A.
Our ultimate goal is to produce a full year's worth (22 or more) web episodes per year maintaining Gene Roddenberry's philosophy and vision for the original 1960’s television show. We believe in challenging people’s thoughts and enticing them to action. We feel that Star Trek is a great vehicle for exploring the human condition. We plan to devote the series to commenting on the current condition of life on Earth in the 21st century.


May I add, 'and to get chicks'? No? Ok.

Diego: According to their web site they are not making money off of their project. Are they affiliataed with the Star Trek series in any legal way or have they just taken upon themselves to produce their shows? I have thought about this sort of adventure since I was in high school. If you can avoid the demands of those with motives other than making a good product, you are free to pursue something good on your own.

With technological advances the ability to produce quality video and music is being bestowed upon the average person. This is a good thing. Glenn Reynolds has a TCS post on the subject here:

I've been writing about this for a while, but it just keeps happening: Ordinary people doing things that used to be beyond the reach of ordinary people, thanks to technology.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

 

Abdul Raman

We must secure his freedom and protect him, regardless of cost

An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed the case against Abdul Raman, who was charged with apostasy for converting to Christianity some 14 years ago. He is to be released soon although a prosecutor is apparently still reviewing the case.

A number of commentators have suggested that Raman be granted asylum in a Western country. If that's what he wants, that's fine with me. But what if he wants to continue living in Afghanistan?

Prior to Rahman's release, Mark Steyn observed:
Unfortunately, what's 'precious and sacred' to Islam is its institutional contempt for others. In his book Islam And The West, Bernard Lewis writes, 'The primary duty of the Muslim as set forth not once but many times in the Koran is 'to command good and forbid evil.' It is not enough to do good and refrain from evil as a personal choice. It is incumbent upon Muslims also to command and forbid.'

Or as the shrewd Canadian columnist David Warren put it: 'We take it for granted that it is wrong to kill someone for his religious beliefs. Whereas Islam holds it is wrong not to kill him.' In that sense, those blood-curdling imams are right, and Karzai's attempts to finesse the issue are, sharia-wise, wrong.

I can understand why the president and the secretary of state would rather deal with this through back-channels, private assurances from their Afghan counterparts, etc. But the public rhetoric is critical, too. At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies.

Raman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet. What can we do? Should governments with troops in Afghanistan pass joint emergency legislation conferring their citizenship on this poor man and declaring him, as much as Karzai, under their protection?

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee' -- the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

''You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

(My emphasis)
If Abdul Raman wishes to live in Afghanistan, as is his right, the US must do whatever is necessary to secure his safety.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

 

What Goes Around, Comes Around

John O pointed me in the direction of a post by Dr. Helen Reynolds (Wife of Glenn Reynolds) where she discusses an article in the NYT about affirmative action working against females in college adminisions. The author of the NYT's article, Jennifer Delahunty Britz, is the dean of admissions and financial aid at Kenyon college, my alma mater.

Reading the article brought me back to the 3 years I spent at Kenyon, I spent my junior year in Scotland. My major was economics and I could have gone to a school that had a better economics program but my idea was that Kenyon had a good reputation, they accepted me early, and I was 18 and lazy about filling out applications. What was most painful was the essay. I had to write about myself and one of the suggestions was to write about some struggle I had dealt with. Even back then I knew better than to write about my biggest struggle, being a conservative teenager surrounded by leftists or the politically indifferent. Instead, I wrote about the difficulty being an overweight teenager who overcame my condition through exercise and watching my diet. I remember writing about how my diet had made me hunger and weak and that it made me feel sorry for those poor African children who I saw on TV. Complete bullshit but it worked.

Back to the subject at hand, Dr. Reynolds sees diversity policies hurting young women as a great example of chickens coming home to roost. Young women had the edifice of affirmative action built for them and they must live with the consequences.

Okay, so the "you go girl!" program is now backfiring--instead of Prince Charming coming to rescue their little Princesses, some mothers such as the author, have just rewritten the script. It now goes like this: "if you are a girl, the world owes you, nothing can stop you and you will be given everything you want--while pushing all others (e.g. boys) out of the way." All colleges become Daddy, who is to hand over the fat envelopes of admissions, just because you happen to be "an accomplished young woman." Perhaps these same mothers would have been better off teaching their daughters something different about the world--like how to deal with adversity and how to tolerate being rejected. It is something boys learned a long time ago. If shit happens, you suck it up like a guy and do not complain. (Look how feminists tend to dismiss male complaints as unmanly "whining.") If you fall down, you get back up. The world does not owe you and life isn't always fair, especially if feminists are in power.

But now the tides are turning and the very affirmative action rules and regulations that were to be used to promote their little girls (as well as other select groups) are backfiring. Maybe if we selected students based on their actual qualifications, rather than gender or skin color, their daughters would be back in the running. But if you are going to play the affirmative action card, you have to live with the results and play by the rules, and that may mean the very "minority" you are trying to promote may become the very ones who lose out. Watch out what you wish for, it may come back to bite you in the ass. [Emp. added.]

I added the emphasis because Dr. Reynolds points out the double standard when it comes to boys/men and girls/men. Men are expected to suffer in silence. To complain about how men are treated in relation to women brings up female shaming language. (Note: shaming men is something men do also and comes from the chivalric milieu. Chivalry is a concept thoroughly rejected by feminists unless it serves the purpose of shutting men up.) All men reflexively defend women when put into the position where a woman is distressed. Feminists have the dynamic completely wrong. Men do not dominate women, men seek female approval. A man's heart melts when a woman cries or feigns distress. All women know this and use it to their advantage. Face it guys, we are marionettes when it comes to a woman's emotions.

You might think that I am happy to join in the schadenfreude but that is not true. I am opposed to affirmative action no matter who may benefit. Deny qualified woman a chance to matriculate is not the way to help young men. Boy's problems will not be solved by coddling them, protecting their fragile egos from rejection and competition. I do find it amusing that Ms. Britz is so angst ridden by this situation.

What are the consequences of young men discovering that even if they do less, they have more options? And what messages are we sending young women that they must, nearly 25 years after the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, be even more accomplished than men to gain admission to the nation's top colleges? These are questions that admissions officers like me grapple with.

The nation's admissions officers are only grappling with a problem because they place the primacy of diversity above other concerns like accomplishment. Since women are a designated victim group, Ms. Britz cannot get over the fact that she must discriminate against them in order to serve the greater good of diversity. Ok, I admit that it is fun watching them squirm over this false dilemma. You can see how convoluted your thinking must be when merit is replaced by diversity.

I would tell Ms. Britz to ignore gender and race and look at her applicant's accomplishments. Then let it the most accomplished. Boys do have problems with school. ( A subject I will take up latter. Given my experience I seriously wonder whether a liberal arts degree is worth the cost.) However, 'positive discrimination' will do them no good. They will just find themselves in a situation that is over their head.

Friday, March 24, 2006

 

'Fred Hampton Way' Reaches Dead End?

It seems 'Fred Hampton Way' won't become a reality in Chicago:
An influential alderman has found a way to defuse the furor over 'Chairman Fred Hampton Way' that threatens to create a racial divide in Chicago not seen since Council Wars: Don't call it for a vote.

On Thursday, Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen (38th) said he had decided not to call the honorary street designation for the slain Black Panther leader for a vote at next week's Council meeting -- or any other time.

Although the committee already has approved the Hampton designation sponsored by Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd), Allen can flex the muscle -- which every committee chairman has -- to leave it out.
Haithcock could force the full council to vote on the matter, but she's apparently well short of the required 26 votes. I hope she does so anyway. I'd love to put the entire City Council on record on this matter.

 

New Home Sales for February

Via Bloomberg:

Sales fell 10.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.08 million, the lowest since May 2003, from a revised 1.207 million in January. The number of homes for sale rose to a record 548,000 from January's 525,000.

The expected number was a decline of 2.7% so the market was caught off guard. Normally the interest rate markets do not react very strongly to this number but it was so far off expectations that bond prices rallied a 1/3 of a point. Not a huge amount but more than the usual two or three tick reaction.


Another nail in the coffin of the housing bubble.

There was a strong regional character to these numbers:

Sales fell in two of four regions. They declined 29 percent in the West to 252,000 and fell 6.4 percent in the South to 575,000. Sales rose 12.7 percent in the Northeast to 71,000 and gained 5.2 percent in the Midwest to 182,000

As Bill O told me recently, renting a U-Haul going to California from Colorado costs $200. From California to Colorado is $2000.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

HDTV Salesmen

I am sure this applies to car, stereo, etc. salesmen. Too many working the floors of our consumer electronic palaces have no idea what they are talking about. From a feature called Tuning Fork at my favorite gadget blog, Gizmodo.

I began thinking about this because earlier this week, I had some time to kill and wandered into a major consumer electronics retailer. BTW, if you want to set the vultures to hovering, go into one of these places in the middle of the afternoon. There must’ve been 10 salesmen and me—not exactly a comfortable ratio. Fortunately, I have the old, “No thanks, I’m just looking” routine down pat.

Well this particular day, I walked up to a wall of CRTs to check out the prices for widescreen sets and was approached by an older gentleman. We discussed the relative merits of CRTs over other forms of HDTV and he actually seemed to know what he was talking about. But once our conversation ended, I couldn’t shake him. The guy followed me wherever I went. Every time I turned around—in the flat panel section on the other side of the showroom or in the room filled with projection sets—he was there, creepy and, it seemed, desperate for a sale.

But at least this guy knew what he was talking about. Once, when HDTV was in its infancy, I overheard a salesman at a rather large retailer telling customers they would have to buy a set-top box that would cost them several hundred dollars to actually see HDTV on their new set. He never bothered to ask who their cable provider was or whether they had the option of HD via satellite. I waited till he left and told them to make a few calls before they bought the box—or his BS.


One of the nice things about Gizmodo is that commenters must be invited so that you will get more some intelligent responses. From the comments section:

Here is my case in point. I recently had a TV shoot sparks and it was time to buy a new small one. I am a big fan of the latest and greatest but for TV I really have to go with a flat CRT. I will not get into how there are pretty much no small CRT HD or HD ready TVs out there (I mean smaller than 27-30 inches). I did a lot of online research and found the TV that fit all my criteria: price, size, picture, quality (but unfortunately no HD). I found a local big box retailer that had it in stock, shockingly, at a great price...so I sucked it up and went to get the TV. Upon arriving I went straight to the section where the TV should have been but it was no where to be found. Then came the dreaded salesmen, he was so lame he tried to start the "sale" with a magic trick followed by the awkward introductions. I let him know that I had come for a particular TV and just needed to be pointed in the right direction. Next thing I knew another of the vultures had swooped in to split my wife and I, so they could try and sell her on some 50" plasma that was on "special" that week. The trouble is that the TV we needed was for a corner of our bedroom and our HD investment was already in our living room, no matter the up-sell began. My ham of a salesmen agreed to take me directly to the TV I wanted, but decided to take the long way through everything but what I wanted…all the while pointing out how I could do so much better for myself. After a few minutes I made it clear that I was hear for one reason and if he wasn't going to help then I would just find it myself. At that he directed me to a rather hidden corner of the store with a nice selection of quality TVs at great prices, never meant to be seen by customers. Once he saw what I was there to buy he decided to try and sell me on a smaller LCD that was sort of 720P for 5 times the price, I laughed at him and asked for a cart or dolly to get my TV of choice to the checkout…he refused and said that this POS store brand LCD was the only thing he could sell me in good conscience. I found my own dolly and loaded it up myself to track down my wife and buy this TV before I went postal. My wife is a smart cookie and knows a ton about TVs, home theater, and tech in general so she let the other sales guy think he was going to sell her a TV and theater system in the ballpark of a KIA minivan. This guy was already mentally spending the commission money that he didn't work on, to try and help the guy that had lead me all over the store was there to make it a tag team effort. When I let her know that I was ready and that I was headed to checkout she decided to drop the ruse and just walk away. I must admit this was the first time I had a salesmen follow me to the checkout begging for a sale, even telling my wife that she shouldn't let me buy a little TV when she deserved a full THX theater for the bedroom.

And they wonder why people shop online. When they advertise a knowledgeable sales staff I wonder what knowledge they have, that I want.

I know that Bill O likes tormenting car salesmen by wasting their time. Old friend Dave D first told me about this. The salesmen want to keep you at the dealership for a long time hoping that you will think you have invested too much time to leave empty handed. However, at some point the salesman has wasted so much time with you that they want to make the sale. You have taken them away from other targets. Salesmen will be unfailingly polite, you will never hear them say, "Get lost, you have wasted enough of my time."

Of course, this doesn't work with consumer electronics. Too bad. I guess I will have to wait on the Westy 42" LCD. But my birthday is coming up, hmmmm. (Available at Best Buy for $2,500.00.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 

Casualties

Last year I looked at statistics of military casualties (available data was from 1980 through 2004) and was surprised to see the impact that Iraq and Afghanistan had on the overall figure. Here is a current post on the subject from Instapundit with the excerpt below from Redstate.


Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you will find quite a few surpises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

I wonder how many people are aware that there were 4,300 casualties during Bill Clinton's first term as president (7,500 for both terms). These statistics could be used to help put the current conflict in Iraq in perspective but I don't see that being reported in the more popular news outlets.

Update: More from Powerline:

I would make this comparison: more active duty service members (2,392) died in 1980, Jimmy Carter's last year in office, than in either 2003 or 2004, when the Iraq war was being fought (1,410 and 1,887, respectively). No military actions were conducted during 1980 other than the failed effort to rescue the hostages in Iran, in which eight servicemen lost their lives. Keep that in mind next time you hear Carter pontificating about the "carnage" in Iraq.

Every death of a serviceman or woman is a tragedy. Funny how different it seems, though, when every death is also a front-page news story.


Bill C adds: To bookend theses numbers Gateway Pundit had an analysis of Iraqi civilian deaths at the end of last year comparing pre and post-war body counts. American blood is being spilt to save Iraqis. That is the cost but the gain should be worth it.


 

Harold's is Movin' on Up

Harold's Fried Chicken is coming to Wicker Park, though without its trademark ambiance:
There will be something missing from the counter at the Harold's Chicken Shack coming to Wicker Park -- bulletproof glass.

'It's a new millennium for Harold's,' said J.R. Williams, Harold's operations manager. 'We want to have a store that fits with the neighborhood.'

And in this hip corner of the city, that means those two slices of white bread for mopping up the sauce of a steaming chicken dinner will be going trendy -- we're talking whole wheat bread -- when the store opens April 2 at 1361 N. Milwaukee.

It's the first venture on the North Side for the South Side's self-described 'Fried Chicken King' since a Rogers Park 'Shack' was gobbled up by a Giordano's expansion and never replaced.
I predict this move will be a big success. Harold's is simply the perfect food to cap a night out at the bars. I wish they'd have done this 12 years ago when I was living in Wicker Park. Bill C and I used to joke about going through Harold's withdrawal living on the north side.

Without the bullet proof glass and 2 slices of Wonder Bread for sopping, the Wicker Park Harold's will not really offer the authentic Harold's experience. (Implicit in Williams' statement about 'a store that fits with the neighborhood' is an acknowledgement that bullet proof glass is needed at the other 40+ Harold's locations.) I look forward to ordering my usual 1/2 white with hot and barbecue from the new Wicker Park Harold's even if it comes with whole wheat bread and doing so lacks the 'excitement' I've come to associate with the Harold's experience.

Diego adds: Movin' on up? How about all the way up, as in Uptown. Harold's would fit nicely somewhere on Wilson Ave and provide another source for those delicious discarded chicken bones on the sidewalk that I find fair and square but have to wrestle with the bi-ped to get to enjoy. Still, I'll be paying a visit to the new Wicker Park location shortly.

 

Georges Sada on the Daily Show

Georges Sada is the former Iraqi General under Saddam Hussein who has written a book claiming that Saddam's WMDs were moved to Syria.

I have to give Jon Stewart credit for putting Sada on the air and asking him about WMDs because Sada's revelations will destroy the WMD issue for the Left. Look for denounciation of Stewart as a right wing tool in a Daily Kos/DemocraticUnderground thread soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

 

Tuesday's Elections, Gidwitz for GOP

Chicago Tribune endorses Ron Gidwitz for the GOP candidate for Governor of Illinois.

Above all, come that general election, Republicans will need a candidate whom voters of all persuasions will trust to drain the moat of cronyism and self-dealing that isolates the domed Statehouse from 12 million Illinois citizens.Ron Gidwitz is the Republican best equipped to earn that trust, and to empty that dark, fetid moat.

The Tribune endorses Gidwitz in the Republican primary for governor and his running mate, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, for lieutenant governor.This primary is about plans and positions, but it's also about nominating a candidate who will break eggs and make omelets.

That's Gidwitz. As CEO of Helene Curtis, he built a cosmetics business into an empire. As chairman of the State Board of Education, he ordered bureaucrats to visit Illinois classrooms to see how state policies affected schoolchildren. As chairman of the City Colleges of Chicago, he demanded that students' curriculum meet the needs of the modern workplace. His mantra to board members (after he scuttled their pricey limo service): Look, folks, this is the last degree many of our students will ever earn. We need to make sure they're employable.

Gidwitz's detractors say he's abrasive. Yes, he's all-business. He doesn't suffer fools.

Given the need to free Illinois from the culture of political sleaze, the Republicans need a can-do candidate with the fearlessness to be a will-do governor. That's Gidwitz.


(Emphasis mine) I worked for Ron in the past. He is both feared and respected by those who work for him and those qualities are needed in Illinois right now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

Iraq

While the media has been focusing their energies rooting for civil war in Iraq, a couple of positive developments have gone largely unnoticed:
The violence has shifted away from American troops, who are suffering 60 percent fewer casualties this month than in the past year. and more towards Iraqi security forces and civilians. Part of this is because there are simply more Iraqi police and soldiers patrolling the streets and policing the neighborhoods. Where there are about two American advisors for every hundred Iraqi security troops, these Americans are there to advise, not fight. And the Iraqis are doing the fighting, and taking the casualties. American troops are still making raids and patrols, but there has also been a sharp decline in terrorist attacks. Some six months of sweeps and battles in western Iraq has shut down many of the Sunni terrorist sanctuaries.
W. Thomas Smith Jr. quotes US Army Brig. Gen. Dan Bolger, the commanding general of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq:
"I can assure you that the Iraqi Army continues to go out day and night across the country. They fight and they stay at it. Tonight [nearly 6:00 pm Baghdad time] as I write this almost 50 Iraqi battalions run their own areas, and cooperation with the people has been terrific.

"The average Iraqis have had it with the foreign terrorists and the home-grown criminals. They have fought back by providing information, by guiding Iraqi Soldiers and Police, and in some cases with their own weapons. Moreover, they will not be intimidated from going to work, school, and worship. Iraqis choose to gather freely, to debate openly, and to go about their daily routines, the greatest rebuke of all to these terrorists.

"I say this based on my own experiences out and about with Iraqi forces. The enemy used to attack us--that has gotten too dangerous. They used to hit Iraqi military and Police--now that is too hard. So they are now killing innocent civilians, including old folks, women, and children. This recent surge is a mark of desperation, I think.

"The summer Soldiers and sunshine patriots may shrink from the fight, but the many, many good people--ours and Iraqis, the vast majority--are hanging in there to see this through. And we will."
Greyhawk links to a few more reports concerning recent developments in Iraq and concludes:
The common thread? You've just read reports from Iraqis who are more than tired of those who would bring violence to their country - and they know who those people are.
Ralph Peters deconstructs media created myths about the current situation in Iraq. He is 'soberly hopeful' about our chances for success:
During a recent visit to Baghdad, I saw an enormous failure. On the part of our media. The reality in the streets, day after day, bore little resemblance to the sensational claims of civil war and disaster in the headlines.

No one with first-hand experience of Iraq would claim the country's in rosy condition, but the situation on the ground is considerably more promising than the American public has been led to believe. Lurid exaggerations and instant myths obscure real, if difficult, progress.

I left Baghdad more optimistic than I was before this visit. While cynicism, political bias and the pressure of a 24/7 news cycle accelerate a race to the bottom in reporting, there are good reasons to be soberly hopeful about Iraq's future.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

 

Elections In Cook County on March 21st

If you are voting in Cook County on March 21st please be aware of Thomas Byrne (Punch 81) who is running as a Democrat for Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Tom is the older brother of a friend of mine and is a good man. His professional qualifications are impressive and are detailed on the web site linked above.

 

Deprogramming Jihadis

Noting its success in other countries, Australia is considering employing a technique of 'deprogramming' jihadis:
Commissioner Keelty [of the Australian Federal Police] says the process of "deprogramming" extremists has been successful in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and the UK. He says the technique involves using respected clerics or people previously connected with terrorist organisations to convert extremists and provide information to police.

"In some places they will use a cleric who has a good reputation with the community and who will be respected and listened to by the people in custody and in this case they've used somebody who was actually part of the Mantiki arrangement, so, it's somebody they would have otherwise looked up to as a natural leader, in terms of a terrorist, and they've turned him around and used him to convert the others," he said.

"And not only convert the others, but also to provide a significant amount of information to the Indonesian national police."

Indonesia's anti-terrorist squad Detachment 88 now has former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) commander Nasir bin Abbas working for them, re-educating arrested JI recruits.
If the US isn't already doing this, its something we should seriously consider.

Via Wretchard, who provides a facinating history lesson on the matter.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

A Victory For Al Qaeda

Lawfare

Last Friday, The Associated Press won a battle on behalf of al Qaeda:
After four years of secrecy, the Pentagon released documents on Friday that have the names of detainees at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The Bush administration had hidden the identities, home countries and other information about the men, who were accused of having links to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. But a federal judge rejected administration arguments that releasing the names would violate the detainees' privacy and could endanger them and their families. The release resulted from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
Judges should not be affecting our conduct of the war in this way; war and its conduct are matters for the elected branches.

Harold C. Hutchison comments:
The magnitude of this counter-intelligence coup is staggering considering some of the high-level al Qaeda personnel the United States is known to have in custody. The revelations forced by the Associated Press's FOIA request could be compared with the Japanese knowing about American code breaking efforts in 1942, or if Germany knew of the similar code-breaking efforts during the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. This is knowledge that is crucial to the war on terrorism, and now al Qaeda knows the United States has that information. This will lead to counter-measures on the part of the terrorist group – and the United States will face increased vulnerability to attacks as a result.

The released names will also result in a flurry of lawfare – as media outlets and human rights groups begin to demand more information, while the human rights groups will also solicit plaintiffs – and have the threat of friendly judges that they can turn to.

 

Movies

Though this could be motivated by industry politics or movie promotion, I agree with this opinion on Hollywood by actor Anthony Hopkins. I have not seen many movies recently and these are some of the reasons why.

"Audiences aren't so mindless as movie-makers think", he told the Radio Times magazine. The Hollywood star's latest film, The World's Fastest Indian, is a true story about a New Zealander motorcyclist who broke the land speed record.

Sir Anthony said of the movie: "No sex or violence, and that's refreshing. "I'm also tired of the camera moving all over the place, with car chases so cut and edited you don't know what's happening.
Over the last several years I've found that some of the movies I at first think I enjoyed really were not necessarily that good but rather did not turn me off with the usual gimmicks (examples: Napoleon Dynamite and Lost in Translation).

 

Going Up

I've been seeing more written on the space elevator subject recently and wonder how many people have ever heard of the idea. It has been mentioned on Instapundit and related links several times but not much elsewhere that I know of.

Earth is constantly spinning. So if you attach a counterweight to it with a cable, and put it far enough away—62,000 miles—the cable will be held taut by the force of the planet’s rotation, just as if you spun around while holding a ball on a string. And if you’ve got a taut cable, you’ve got the makings of an elevator.


As strange as that sounds—push the “Up” button, climb in, and soar off into weightless bliss—don’t be surprised if it happens. The space elevator is where the PC was in the 1960s: The theory is solid, the materials exist, and people in garages are starting to tinker with the next step. Two Seattle startups are competing to build the elevator. Both believe they can do it within 15 years at a cost of $10 billion. NASA and China’s space agency are eager to help make it happen.


And no wonder: A working elevator would reduce the cost of launching anything into space by roughly 98 percent.


Read more here.

Bill C adds: I have read about this also. There are a lot of issues but producing enough carbon nano tubes for the cable and connecting it to the earth is the biggest cost and engineering problem.

Monday, March 06, 2006

 

Live Action Simpsons' Opening/Natalie Portman Raps

Pretty Cool.

Pretty Funny.

 

A Victory For Our Military

But attacks shouldn't come from home.

From Yahoo:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.

.................................................

The ruling upheld a law that requires colleges that take federal money to accommodate recruiters. In addition, justices said that Congress could directly demand military access on campus, even without the threat of losing federal money.


It is nice to see that this was a unanimous decision.

Friday, March 03, 2006

 

Pessimistic Media

Satire from Armed and Dangerous:
WASHINGTON — Media analysts sounded an increasingly gloomy note today following news that a full-scale outbreak of civil war in Iraq had been averted. “The prospects for regime change in Washington seem increasingly remote,” said one senior White House reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We gave the insurgent Democrats millions of dollars worth of air time, fake-but-accurate reporting, and the deadliest editorials we could write,” he continued, “but their popular support in-country just wasn’t what we expected.”
Funny stuff. Read it all.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

Inverted Yield Curve

I have told you of my plans to buy a house in Chicago and how those plans would be helped by lower housing prices.

My plan is to buy a home in Chicago in the next three years and I will be able to afford a lot more home if the market cools down; falling off a cliff would be nice, too. If this is the end of the housing bubble it will drag the economy into recession in the next eighteen months. All we need is an inverted yield curve. Hey Mr. Bernanke!

An inverted yield curve is an excellent predictor of recession and I cannot imagine any scenario in which housing prices held firm let alone rose before, or immediately after a recession. Real Estate tends to lag the rest of the economy, people will fight tooth and nail not to sell in a recession, so the housing market might cool but we should not see large drops in price until after the recession is over. Well the yield curve is now inverted so we should see that recession by the end of the year, first quarter 2007 at the latest. Recessions are, by definition, at least two quarters of negative growth. So the recession should be over in the summer of 2007 at the earliest. Housing prices should be soft for a year or more after that.

Of course, the new chief cheerleader doesn't see it that way.

Bernanke argues there's been a structural shift in the bond market.

Cash-rich foreign investors as well as U.S. pensions and insurance companies are willing to accept low long-term yields in exchange for the safety of U.S. assets, he said.

He also notes that inversions ahead of past recessions came at a time when overall rates were much higher than they are today.

Those low long-term yields make it harder for the Fed to keep the economy from overheating, thus forcing policymakers to raise short-term rates higher. [Emphasis added]


That's right, a "structural shift." So it is "different this time."

Raa-raa-raa, GO ECONOMY!

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