Wednesday, August 24, 2005

From Norway:

Much of what I've been involved in the last few months has been inaccessible to my old readers, foreigners who came here when I was a kind of Norwegian correspondent for the American blogosphere. Like in an expanding universe my network distance to the Americans has increased and a local galaxy has begun to form. That's what all those feeds in the right bar on the front page are, for those who can't read the language: Norwegian political/cultural/media blogs. With numbers came discovery, and media hype, and newspaper blogs, (one if which I write in), in many ways an echo of what happened in the US three years ago.


I posted a Norwegian version of Fighting European Islamism in the political group blog of Dagbladet, a national newspaper. They had a front page link to the post up for a week, generating about 450 comments. Dagbladet is a left-leaning tabloid, and I've made fun of them often enough. So what kind of response would you expect from its readers to a post about Islamic terrorism?

I've done a quick survey, looking at what people posted in the first two days of the debate. The view most commonly expressed was not far from mine: Islamist terrorists are evil fanatics and a real threat, but a friendly Islam is possible and should be encouraged. No "but we have to look at why they hate us", just plain revulsion and recognition that we have a problem. On second place, the idea that Islam itself is evil, and Europe's Muslim population a danger to us. Some of these views were racist, most were not. Third, that Bush and Blair were behind the attacks, not al-Qaeda, (referring to conspiracy websites), and fourth that the West is the real problem, and Bush and Blair the real criminals.

The opposite, then, of what you'd guess based on the stereotype of the leftist European. Dagbladet is more tabloid than leftist, and no online debate is representative, but still. I had no idea. What surprised me most was how popular the idea that Islam Is Evil has become. Not a watered down version of it, but the lazily generalizing, scripture-misquoting kind best described as Islamophobia.

I don't know how this happened. Or where all those anti-American terror apologists went, the ones I targetted so often in this blog's early days. Did they ever exist outside closed circles in media and academia? Were all those bestselling Michael Moore books as quickly forgotten as they were read? Have people been secretly passing around Oriana Fallaci instead?

I have another answer. All that self hating liberalism that conservatives seem to worry about is a very thin skin. Europeans live geographically closer to the Arabians, and some have preceeded the United States by a tiny bit in the same direction we are in danger of heading. Humanity hasn't much changed in the last few thousand years - and we are in danger of coming to understand the ancient logic of ethnic cleansing. I know, nobody in Europe is suggesting it - but if you don't believe the battle can be won by being more civilised than they than how? I'm on the side of civilization, but it does pay to understand that it is an achievment and not a state of nature. To eliminate it, do we need to understand how close in some ways we are to the historic peoples who practiced it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Religious Policeman is a Saudi blog which has discovered common ground between the Iranian government and President Bush's administration.

The new Iranian President has now declared war on that scourge of modern times, liberalism.

Ahmadinejad pledges war on Liberalism

The neocons in the US have problems with "liberals". So do the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. Maybe they should get together.

Signaling his election would bring a clear break from the previous reformist administration of Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad pledged to fight off liberalism that he argued threatened Islamic values....

.....We should expand a culture that promotes virtue and prohibits vice

Iran is actually ahead of the United States on conservative issues such as abortion, although there was a tiny bit of recent backsliding.

Iran's Parliament Approves Abortion Bill


.c The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's conservative-dominated parliament approved a draft bill Tuesday that would allow abortion in the first four months of pregnancy if the woman's life is in danger or the fetus is malformed.

Before the vote, top lawmakers secured the support of Islamic religious leaders in Qom, an important step aimed at deflating some of the controversy the measure could stir in this highly religious society.

"Under the bill, abortion is allowed for two purposes: one to protect the life of mother and the other if the fetus is malformed," lawmaker Ali Baghbanian said in parliament. The session was broadcast live on Tehran radio.

The bill does not allow abortions for unwanted pregnancies.

"Islamic Sharia (law) has not allowed other cases of abortion, such as for social and economic reasons," Baghbanian said.

He said illegal abortions are performed in Iran, endangering the lives of women, but there were no official statistics available.

A further vote is required on the draft bill, but that is usually a formality and cannot reverse the general approval. The bill also requires approval by the Guardian Council, which vets all legislation.

Under the legislation, a committee including forensic doctors and an obstetrician must sign off on an abortion after medical tests.

The bill is one of few laws the parliament has approved after hard-liners won disputed February legislative elections.

A few clerics among the lawmakers oppose the bill.

"The bill tells the world that Iran's parliament has permitted abortion. That's why I oppose it," Mohammad Taqi Mohassel said.

Medical student Hengameh Namdari said the bill was nothing but a political gesture.

"The big issue over abortion is to legalize abortion in cases where couples come up with unwanted pregnancies ... the bill is merely a nice gesture of nothing," Namdari said.

But political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand said the bill was a positive step.

"Conservatives try to say through this bill that they won't oppose some liberal practices provided they are in power and make the decision, not their opponents. It's also a nice gesture toward the outside world," he said.

07/20/04 13:08 EDT

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Richard Posner wrote an interesting essay "Bad News" in the New York Times recently. This quote gives you a rather good idea of some of the themes.

But suppose cost conditions change, enabling a newspaper to break even with many fewer readers than before. Now the liberal newspaper has to worry that any temporizing of its message in an effort to attract moderates may cause it to lose its most liberal readers to a new, more liberal newspaper; for with small-scale entry into the market now economical, the incumbents no longer have a secure base. So the liberal newspaper will tend to become even more liberal and, by the same process, the conservative newspaper more conservative. (If economies of scale increase, and as a result the number of newspapers grows, the opposite ideological change will be observed, as happened in the 19th century. The introduction of the ''penny press'' in the 1830's enabled newspapers to obtain large circulations and thus finance themselves by selling advertising; no longer did they have to depend on political patronage.)

The current tendency to political polarization in news reporting is thus a consequence of changes not in underlying political opinions but in costs, specifically the falling costs of new entrants. The rise of the conservative Fox News Channel caused CNN to shift to the left. CNN was going to lose many of its conservative viewers to Fox anyway, so it made sense to increase its appeal to its remaining viewers by catering more assiduously to their political preferences.

There is something to be said for this analysis. If you examine the debate on Daniel Drezner's blog and elsewhere, it seems to focus on objections by liberal journalists and the slapping down thereof. I thought it might be interesting to look at The Cato Institute - and look from both sides. They are not precisely Republican hacks - yet they have many Republican supporters. The Cato Institute is just plain more interesting to read than a Bush cheerleading section - a flaw in Posner's thesis, or a fount of valued credibility which draws funding?

If you search for keywords such as Bush and Republican, you will not find unmitigated praise. Of course some of the disagreement demands merely that they more further to the right. By definition this can cost them little - since critics will hardly defect to the Democrats, or even to third parties when there is a serious risk of helping the Democrats.

There are some oddities to be found though. Among many interesting things People for the American way have on their page about the Cato Institute, this interests me most now. Cato's pharmaceutical donors include Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Company and Pfizer, Inc. Reading the entire page you will see this doesn't indicate they have mostly pharmaceutical donors, but comes at the end of a list of donors from various industries.

When I saw them, I immediately suspected the Cato Institute would be silent on certain issues. Oddly enough, I was partly wrong. After searching for the word drug in the search box on the site, in the middle of a huge block of stories discussing problems with the war on drugs, I found good articles on surprising subjects. Two on drug reimportation and one on the Medicare drug benefit passed by the Republicans. The latter doesn't actually mention the industry which lobbied for the subsidies, let alone name those who fund Cato, but under the circumstances I was moderately impressed.

Have these drug companies withdrawn their support? If so I haven't been able to discover it. Perhaps the Cato Institute is boldly acting against it's own interests, but I think it interesting to examine the possibility that they are doing themselves good rather than harm.

First the obvious - opposition from these and other Libertarians and believers in small government didn't derail the bill. Nor has it cost the Republicans lasting support - where would it go? It seems they can have their cake and eat it too - using money from the drug companies to send their message to votors who hate big government. Not that the libertarian and small government blocks never have an impact on policy, but they require support of other groups and emotional commitments. Tax cuts are supported by these groups, and by people who have more money today and not worry what it will cost in the future, and those who hate the federal government for reasons dating back to Jim Crow and before. Cuts in programs for the poor also seem to garner support from those who have a gut feeling that poor people are "them" - either because they don't work full time or because they associate these programs with minorities. Even people who are unhappy about subsidizing big drug companies don't usually seem to feel the same deep down anger that social programs sometimes trigger - somehow people who go to work every day or even own stock in the companies seem to become "us" rather than them. Even if Bush is not headed in the direction Grover Norquist claims he wants to go, Rove was no fool in choosing to support him and accept his support.

Arguably at least, the Republicans, the Cato Institute, and perhaps even the drug companies are working in their own financial interests. Would the drug companies do better to find another outlet to win Republican support? Perhaps they will, or perhaps they know what they are doing. Perhaps the votors who subsidize them are in some sense working in their own self interest - if a dollar value could be placed on emotional gratification received. A similar analysis for the Democrats would be easier if there were more equivilant Democratic think tanks - and worthwhile even for Democrats who wonder if the party is supporting the causes it ought to in such a way as to create victory - or in such a way as too attract money from it's base while losing elections.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The warnings about a real estate bubble are no longer at the fringe of the debate. Here's yet another good article from the New York Times.

Today, nine years after his lunch with Mr. Greenspan and five years after the markets finally did crash, Mr. Shiller is sounding the same warning for real estate that he did for stocks. In speeches, in television and radio interviews and in a second edition of his prophetic 2000 book, "Irrational Exuberance," he is arguing that the housing craze is another bubble destined to end badly, just as every other real-estate boom on record has.

These, in short, are his second 15 minutes of gloom. He predicts that prices could fall 40 percent in inflation-adjusted terms over the next generation and that the end of the bubble will probably cause a recession at some point.

I wonder exactly when it will happen - and I wonder if it will be big enough to affect our freedom of action in Iraq. Last and possibly least, I wonder if we can find any clues in the blogosphere that some of the experts might not have noticed yet.

This is the closest I've come yet, from Colorado Luis:

The states with more homes in foreclosure were Texas, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia, all of which, I would point out, are larger than Colorado.

I'm old enough to remember the last time we had a rash of foreclosures around here -- back in the '80s when a cascade of foreclosures dragged down housing values for years and a glut of HUD homes sat decaying on some of the same blocks that are now nicely spruced up and gentrified. The problem, of course, is that the foreclosure sale homes drag market prices down, and people who are counting on prices going up get stuck, then go into foreclosure, which repeats the vicious cycle. In that regard, it is scary that 54% of home loans in the Boulder-Longmont market and 50% of home loans in Denver are interest only loans that will require the buyers to refinance in the next few years. If the appraisals don't match up with the amounts outstanding on those loans, look out.

Yeah, a general drop might help a few people who can't afford to buy homes now get in the market, but the collateral damage could be severe.

I've searched for Chinese blogs here and elsewhere, if the Chinese government has a plan for after the USA real estate market collapses and damages their dollar holdings and puts a dent in their USA exports either it's not rumored in the streets or bloggers don't talk about it. And yes, I paid special attention to the blogs banned in China.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I live in New York state, and receive Newsday at home. Religion is usually relegated to a couple of pages in the feature section, including a column called God Squad, a joint effort by Rabbi Gellman and Msgr. Hartman. Here's the good news. When asked about creationism they said,

Darwin's theory cannot be false just because it doesn't agree with the Book of Genesis. Genesis is a religious book, which includes the science of 4,000 years ago.

The Bible is definitely true in what it tells us about how God wants us to live, but some scientific statements in the Bible (like the idea that the Earth sits on poles in a pool of water and that there's a hard shell above the Earth with gates that open for the rain to come down) are not good science.

Unfortunately the devil is in the details.

We agree that Darwin had a good theory, but it is a theory, which means it might or might not be true.

Anyone who follows creationism has heard that one before. I think we had better skip the philosophical definitions of theory - even if someone understands it, they may not be clear on it a few months later, and merely carry away the impression that evolutionists get upset when someone says this, maybe because creationists are hitting a sore point.

I remember telling someone merely that theory didn't mean what he thought it did. There was no group of scientists waiting to rename the theory of relativity when more evidence accumulated. The laws of probability hadn't started by being called the theory of probability until they were confirmed. Number theory would never be renamed number fact no matter how many mathematicians published papers. Newton's Laws were never referred to as Newton's theories even when they were still being debated.

I don't think he shifted his view from considering creationism a subject of legitimate discussion to a pseudoscience, but I seem to recall he said 'oh' and didn't use the phrase 'only a theory' anymore. A small victory, but most are. Surely the result would not have been as good if I quoted philosophical definitions of theory and hypothesis - fortunately I didn't remember them.

Maybe Darwin's theory is good science, but some scientists don't think so. They point to the cell, for example, saying that all the parts of a cell had to work correctly from the beginning for cells to exist, and that if each part of a cell had to evolve, there never would be cells at all. These scientists say Darwin did not know about DNA or about the parts of a cell, so he didn't understand how everything had to be in place all at once and not over time. They say some intelligent power had to design life on Earth.

Think of a watch. If you look at one, you know there had to be a watchmaker because only a smart designer could have made something with so many parts that works so well. Scientists who differ with Darwin point to the world, noting that it has even more parts and works even better than a watch. Their logic says that just as we know watches are designed by watchmakers, it's clear that a world maker created the Earth. Some of these scientists call the world maker God, while others refer to Intelligent Design.

We do not think the biblical story of Creation should be taught in school, but we do agree with President George W. Bush that the concept of Intelligent Design should be taught in science class as another scientific theory on how life came to be.

Maybe Darwin's theory will win out over the theory of Intelligent Design, or maybe ID will win. In any case, we don't think science teachers should keep you from hearing both sides of the argument.

Ah - good news - he considers Frist unworthy of mention. Apart from everything else, how much can you teach about ID - apart from errors? I suppose you could say something like this:

"There are many things whose evolution we don't know much about. There are even some which people claim could not have evolved because they see no way that the whole system could have evolved by gradual mutation from something simpler or with a different function. There have been times when it seemed unimaginable something had evolved this way - until a plausible route was found. We're going to teach you about a few interesting examples of these - along with some examples which still seem quite hard to begin to model. The fact that many seemingly inexplicable things have been explained by these methods doesn't prove all have or can be, but we can teach you about some of the ways evolutionists create and test ideas - and some of the older ideas which all living scientists agree are disproved. If evolution is 'only' a theory, Intelligent Design isn't even a theory - it doesn't generate any meaningful testable predictions. Short of explaining the evolution of everything that seems hard to imagine evolving, there is no meaningful sense in which Darwinism could 'win' over Intelligent Design that it hasn't already. There isn't anything else we can teach you about ID, it mostly consists of descriptions why we can't imagine how some things could have evolved and other attacks on Darwinism. It doesn't try and deduce characteristics of the Designer, or suggest that observations had changed anyones ideas about said designer."

That may seem a short lesson, but something about how hemoglobin worked and how proton motors worked and why saying they 'could not' have evolved was different from merely saying we didn't know how they had evolved might flesh it out.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The same Lebanese blogger who once suggested that it would make more sense for Al Qaeda to attack China than America has pointed out the importance of something Newt Gingrich said recently. I have to say, he is the only other Republican than John McCain who is ready to say that any politician serious about Iraq must ask Americans to sacrifice.

That's why I say, "Thank God, for Newt Gingrich." In the same Times article has this to say:
""Any effort to explain Iraq as 'We are on track and making progress' is nonsense," Newt Gingrich, a Republican who is a former House speaker, said. "The left has a constant drumbeat that this is Vietnam and a bottomless pit. The daily and weekly casualties leave people feeling that things aren't going well."
Republicans, Mr. Gingrich said, should make the case for "blood, sweat and toil" as part of a much larger war against "the irreconcilable wing of Islam.""

First, Gingrich manifests true understanding of the conflict by denoting "the irreconcilable wing," something few other politicians have shown the capability of doing. Bob Pape and his former undergraduate assistant Steven Cicala at the University of Chicago have done an excellent job of showing what motivates suicide terrorism around the globe. Sadly, they are some of the few people who have shown the connection between Sri Lanka, Palestine, and 9/11. However, that connection really isn't relevant to the War on Terror.
Gingrich aptly scopes in on the actual target.

Secondly, Gingrich does the right thing. This is a dirty conflict. There are a lot of heinous individuals, groups, and governments working against the Iraqi people. None of these odious entities have the power to take over Iraq, nor would their rule be just if they could. But these malevalent forces have the power to disenchant the one country on the planet that can make things right in the Middle East.

Iraq is not Vietnam, and radical Islamic terrorism is not Communism. Those are major distinctions uber-Left need to make.
Losing Iraq doesn't mean losing one country. That failure will reverberate globally.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I've been browsing the articles on the website of the Cato Institute, often quoted on Fox news. Sometimes they attack Bush for not being libertarian enough, but this article is way above most of what I have seen there. Even if Bush was right to invade Iraq, he 'misunderestimated' the costs. Yes we have his explanations - but would they satisfy the standards he sets for others?

President Bush would have to hope for a similarly high burden of proof if his own decisions were tested under the Sarbanes-Oxley standards. Did the president deceive Company USA's investors (a.k.a. the American public) when he led the country to war in early 2003? Even if the deception was unintentional, CEO Bush would be required to account for the disparities between the predicted and actual costs of the Iraqi "investment."

Personally I'm more concerned about the cost in blood, but surely little stretching is required to say a Commander in Chief CEO must be as forthcoming about expenditures of blood as of money.

Keep in mind this isn't necessarily an anti-war sentiment. If he had told the country to expect to make sacrifices, he might have had more trouble getting us to go to war, and getting reelected, but he would be having less trouble following through now.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The RSS blog makes a good point here.

More and more, bloggers are talking about the A-List circular linking. Winer links to Scoble, then Pirillo links to Winer's post on Scoble, then Rubel links to Pirillo's link to Scoble's link to Winer and finally Winer link's to Rubel's link to Pirillo's link to Scoble's link to Winer. In the end, they all get a bunch of Google juice from linking to each other and everybody is happy or at least four of us are happy. There's no sense complaining, this is simply common sense and good marketing. The problem is that the many of us link to the a-listers like mad in hope that they'll just link to us once in a blue moon and boost our Google karma.

A great point, and I'd like to add one thing. The circle isn't completely closed except maybe for some of the biggest bloggers. There are some blogs with a fair amount of traffic which will link to other blogs which have much less on a regular basis. We should start sharing information on them.

I'll start. Avedon Carol of The Sideshow links to many blogs ranging from slightly left of center to far left. There are regular roundups of various subjects being talked about in the blogosphere. If you are interested in politics and left of center, and you link to The Sideshow, and you read it to see what interests the author, there is a very good chance you will get a link - even if your own links don't always get followed by more than a couple of people. Of course reading about linking policy (on the sidebar) helps too.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I've been wondering not who the Democrats will nominate for President in 2008 but who they should nominate. A disporpotionate number of presidents are ex-governors, so I visited this list of Democratic governors.

Two stand out to me as having potential heavy red state appeal. Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas has attracted many supporters in Kansas of "What's The Matter With Kansas". Janet Napolitano is from Arizona, which has many top entries on the list of the most conservative cities in America. She already has one blogger supporting her for President:

But in Arizona we have a heavily populated Western state, one that has traditionally been very Republican, with a governor who is so popular after one term that the Republicans can't field a credible challenger. So why isn't there a boomlet for the presidential prospects of Governor Janet Napolitano? She's a proven winner in a large, diverse, inland Western state -- and she's about to cruise to reelection. She's described by the conservative Arizona Republic as "centrist," "pragmatic" and "popular." Do you have to be married to an ex-president to be taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate?

Seriously, I can't imagine that if Napolitano were a man, we wouldn't be hearing her name as one of the top possible candidates in 2008, and with good reason given her electoral record.

In fact, Napolitano is so popular in Arizona that the Republicans are thinking about going all Alan Keyes on her, running former second lady Marilyn Quayle of Indiana to prove that Republicans have white female candidates too. OK, the Quayles live in Arizona now. But Marilyn Quayle is not an established Arizona figure and her possible candidacy seems to be motivated mostly by the fear that without her the Arizona GOP might run disgraced former Governor Fife Symington by default.

Jason of Countercolumn continues his war on all non conservative media.

Apparently, strict disciplinarians don't care about people.
So the San Diego Union Tribune seems to believe.

Despite some accounts that Frey is a strict disciplinarian with a fierce image, colleagues said the 50-year-old veteran of three wars genuinely cares about people.

Why on earth would a reporter use the "despite" construction? What kind of veteran commander of three wars would NOT be a strict disciplinarian? How can you care about people in a combat zone and not be a strict disciplinarian?

The gulf between our military and media cultures yawns ever wider.

Splash, out


Seems pretty clear to me. While I've never served under a miltary commander, I'm fairly sure that fifty percent are stricter than the average. I'm sure some of there are genuinely disliked and considered martinets - but not all. So we've learned something about how this commander is talked about. You can learn more if you click through and read the rest of the article. I still don't know for sure if the article matches the facts without flying out and interviewing people myself, but I don't feel I'm going out on a limb by saying Jason is nitpicking.

Countercolumn is one of the blogs I read most frequently. I've learned a lot about what the media doesn't know about Iraq, although he always focuses on media like the New York Times. If Fox and the Washington Times have been doing brilliant original reporting on Iraq he should mention it, if not he should discuss that as well. When I searched google for Countercolumn and Fox, google gave me the opportunity to see only hits from his site. The resulting search page is,GGLC:1969-53,GGLC:en& or put countercolumn fox in the little google box. I found much crowing about how Fox news was gaining viewers at the expense of other networks and print media, but only one mention of actual Fox reporting from Iraq. Oddly enough I also found After all, even the pseudojournalists at Fox knew about it. And so did the San Francisco Chronicle. And so did thousands of blog readers., but it may have been an Ironic reference to the LA Times accusing Fox news of pseudojournalism.

Jason tells us I'm not a FOX fan. Actually, I consider the channel to be almost unwatchable. I hate its graphics and look and bleeding colors and white washouts and color distortion and obnoxious sound carts.

But they break stories every day.
, but somehow he rarely comments on those they break from Iraq.