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Quagmire?



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There’s an interesting piece in the Observer today written by a journalist who has just spent a month in that country:

“There is something disturbing, too, about the way that post-war Iraq has been portrayed. Visceral distrust of Bush/Blair has created a disregard both for fact and for the victims of Saddam. Arab commentators have had no shame in urging Iraqis, exhausted by three wars and more than a decade of sanctions, to launch a new war ‘of liberation’ against their liberators. Western commentators have luxuriated in the setbacks of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), as if wishing failure upon it – and by extension, the Iraqi people.”

Read the whole thing.

On The Other Hand



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From an angry Vermonter:

Since I have never read anything else that you’ve written, nor have I seen anything in your article about my “latte” town that would lead me to believe you are anything other than a smug, over-confident, self-centered “head in the sand” conservative. I will just say this. There is no crime here to speak of (we laugh uproariously when you city folk turn on your car alarms here). We have the most beautiful sunset anywhere in North America, we enjoy nice caring neighbors, and quick access to NYC and Montreal, great hunting and fishing, and other than the few months when the students are here (and it’s not 25 degrees below zero), we enjoy lots of peace and quiet.

To paint our city with and wide green paint brush, proves only one thing, that you understand less about Burlington and Vermont than any other topic I’ve seen in the conservative press yet. But best of all, your little anti-travelogue will only keep more of you from coming here with your backwards, hypocritical, conservative “values” and trying to take over our state. You just keep painting Howard Dean as a liberal, we know the truth (he’s far from it) and you will to eventually, and you’ll be very, very sorry.

I’m forty, a small business owner, member of the chamber of commerce, home owner, outdoorsman and I’ve just gotta say, if you come away from this city and this beautiful state with only negative things to say, I pity you, I really do. Your pathetic little “made in America” life must be hell on earth. And I don’t mean on a “I have more things than you” level, I’m talking actual beauty and peace and respect in your life.

I’ve never locked my doors, car or home, and I won’t. I don’t have a car alarm, or home defense alarm or even a neighborhood watch. I live in a city of 40,000 people and the thought of fearing someone never enters my mind. So you keep on portraying us as latte sipping intellectuals, that’ll be just fine with me. That way I don’t have to even consider questioning whether a customer or neighbor is a decent honest person. We get along fine here without you. Just ask Chief Justice Reinquist, he loves it here.

[Name withheld]
Burlington, Vermont

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Forget The Profs & The Library



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What college is really about.

Web Briefing: July 10, 2014

Fair Trade?



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The Bush administration has already tarnished (to put it mildly) its free trade credentials. Comments from the President in Milwaukee Friday (via Reuters, but I cannot find the link) suggest that he’s prepared to do so again:


“We’ve got to have free trade policy that includes fair trade…Fair trade means currency policy is fair.”


’Fair trade’ is, all too often, a euphemism for unfair tariffs, worse still, the talk about ‘fair currency’ is clearly designed to reinforce the pressure on China and Japan to let the dollar fall against their currencies, a policy that makes little sense so long as this country wants and, yes, needs (that pesky current account deficit, again) Japan and China to keep buying dollars/dollar-denominated securities.


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Homicide/Suicide Celebration



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From the brother of the latest suicide bomber, in Haifa:


“But we are receiving congratulations from people,” Thahir said.

“Why should we cry? It’s like her wedding today, the happiest day for her,” he said.


The Perfect Sandwich, Ctd.



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Judging by the e-mails I’ve received, there’s some confusion about the pickle that is involved. It’s this, not, yeuch, that.

A Sign of Things to Come?



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News from California:


In another possible sign of Election Day trouble for Gov. Gray Davis, almost 40,000 more Californians registered as Republicans than Democrats during the heart of the recall campaign, according to figures released Friday by the Secretary of State’s Office.


Although the GOP edge in new registrations probably is too small to swing an election in which more than 15 million people can vote, political analysts say it could be an indication that Republicans are more energized than Democrats about the recall — and more likely to go to the polls Tuesday.


“The numbers themselves aren’t terribly significant,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. “But the Republican gains may be a strong wind of a Republican trend in the electorate. . . . That is likely to hurt Davis and help Arnold Schwarzenegger.”


Ooops - Probably



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Thanks to the reader who sent me these two links. The first from Neuen Zürcher Zeitung (in German, sorry) says that the Poles have apologized to Chirac for suggesting that the missiles were manufactured in 2003. The second, from Le Monde (in French) is slightly more ambiguous. The Poles are apologizing for having released this information, but the apology seems to be focused on how they did so (it was through unauthorized channels), not on what they said. Le Monde however goes on to report one explanation for what the Poles discovered: the ‘2003′ on the missiles was the last date they were checked (by the Iraqis) not the date of manufacture. Le Monde also repeats comments from the French foreign ministry that Roland-2 and Roland-3 missiles ceased to be produced in 1988 and 1993 respectively. They could not, therefore, have been manufactured in 2003.


I hate to say it, but it looks to me as if the French are off the hook on this one.


On a different point, I’m intrigued by the name of these missiles. Could they possibly be named after this guy? If so, that may not be altogether tactful.


Different Standards?



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Meanwhile, check out these comments from one ‘CodePink’ activist:


She admitted that Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes were as inexcusable as Arnold’s.


“The difference is that Clinton was so brilliant,” she said.


“If Arnold was a brilliant pol and had this thing about inappropriate behavior, we’d figure a way of getting around it. I think it’s to our detriment to go on too much about the groping. But it’s our way in. This is really about the GOP trying to take California in 2004 and our trying to stop it.”


Outrageous Smear



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I half-heard someone on MSNBC’s “Abrams Report” last night saying that there are 6 million reasons to vote against Arnold, those 6 million reasons, of course, being the victims of the Holocaust. This has to rank as one of the stupidest and most unfair comments of the recall. Here is a New York Times report today, giving fuller context to Arnold’s comment.

As far as I can tell, Arnold’s view is a very crude version of that of John Luckas in The Hitler of History.

In any case, he’s not a Nazi. Here’s the Times bit. The Butler referred to is George Butler who wrote the book proposal in question. He read a fuller transcript to a Times reporter:


In the portion of the interview read over the phone and later distributed by the campaign, Mr. Schwarzenegger said: “In many ways I admired people — It depends for what. I admired Hitler for instance because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn’t admire him for what he did with it. It is very hard to say who I admired and who are my heroes. And I admired basically people who are powerful people, like Kennedy. Who people listen to and just wait until he comes out with telling them what to do. People like that I admire a lot.”

Mr. Butler said the book proposal had erroneously dropped a few words from a quotation attributed to Mr. Schwarzenegger. According to Mr. Butler’s reading of the transcript, Mr. Schwarzenegger followed his comments about Hitler’s public speaking by adding, “But I didn’t admire him for what he did with it.” He did not say, “I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it,” as he was quoted in the book proposal and in early editions of The Times.

Mr. Butler said he could not explain the inaccuracy. “I am amazed that something like that escaped me.”

Mr. Butler also read other sentences of the transcript, spoken in Mr. Schwarzenegger’s then-imperfect English, that related to the subject. “Yes, in Germany they used power and authority but it was used in the wrong way,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, according to Mr. Butler. “But it was misused on the power. First, it started having, I mean, getting Germany out of the great recession and having everybody jobs and so on and then it was just misused. And they said, let’s take this country, and so on.” Mr. Schwarzenegger concluded: “That’s bad.”

Motes and Beams



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Here’s yet another reason why members of the EU’s ‘parliament’ are not the most convincing fighters against corruption:

“With business-class air fares paid and an all-day limousine service on tap, Euro MPs had only to pay for the taxi home after dining out in Brussels’ vaunted restaurants. Now they have eliminated even that small cost. Blithely ignoring charges of “moral corruption”, MEPs have voted to give themselves an allowance of up to €50 (£34) a week to cover the cost of getting back to their Brussels pads after the free limousine service ends at 10pm.


From the London Times , and via Samizdata.


Kyoto Watch



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The Russians are, apparently, not impressed by the Treaty. The comments by the head of the Russian Academy of Scientists are worth repeating. In his view the only people who would be affected by the abandonment of Kyoto “would be several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming…”

Via Iain Murray.


Janeane Garofalo



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Remember her? Well, JR Taylor has a charming story in this week’s New York Press


“As Janeane Garofalo tells the story, she’s leaving home for the Howard Dean fundraiser when another woman is standing at the elevator. This woman looks at Garofalo’s Dean button–and another with a peace symbol–and says, “I guess I’m just a proud George Bush Republican.” And Garofalo wonders, “Why didn’t she just say, ‘I’m an a—–e?’ [offending letters deleted in the interests of respectability]


The crowd cheers, and–oh, wait. I forgot the most important part. Janeane specifically notes that the woman is just “some dogwalker who doesn’t live in the building.” Because, you know, it would be awful for Janeane Garofalo to live in the kind of building that allows Republicans.


There’s nothing elitist about the good leftists gathered for tonight’s Dean fundraiser at Avalon–and what is it about Dean’s NYC machine that keeps embracing blight? Earlier, there was Dean speaking before a backdrop of the graffiti that used to be a plague on this city. Now it’s a fundraiser at the former Limelight, which remains a disaster to both nightlifers and those who live nearby.


Then again, Dean doesn’t live in our building. “


Howard Waldrop



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Also in New York Press, a reference to a writer called Howard Waldrop, the author of Der Untergang des Abendlandesmenschen,” a Sherlock Holmes western with vampires”. A quick google reveals that this is a German-expressionist Sherlock Holmes vampire Western. How is it possible not to be intrigued?

Kirk Vs. Picard



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Drug Punishment



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From a reader:

Andrew and Jonah–

I worked as a prosecutor during my last year at law school in Oklahoma. I routinely handled misdemeanor drug cases. It was definitely not the case that personal-use marijuana arrests resulted in jail time. If someone was arrested, of course, they were booked into jail, where they would usually make bail immediately or at least spend the night. Occasionally an indigent defendant would spend a few days in jail if he could not post bond. But as a matter of punishments actually imposed–almost inevitably through plea bargaining–jail time was never even discussed for misdemeanor drug possession. It was usually community service, a drug rehab program, a conditional probation for 90 days or so, and a hefty fine.

Third time (and subsequent) misdemeanor possession automatically accelerated to a felony charge. This was usually pled down to a misdemeanor, perhaps with ten days in jail, perhaps none.

Felony drug crimes, on the other hand, were routinely bargained down to misdemeanor status. So we would see marijuana dealers caught for the first time or even the second time pleading guilty to possession, sometimes serving thirty days in the county jail. Hardcore repeat meth cooks, of which my county busted maybe one a week, could get sentenced to ten years and serve, oh, five or six in the state pen.

All of which to say that A: sentences are unique products of bargaining and context, and aggregated sentencing data is nearly useless for making policy predictions, and B: I am extremely skeptical of the legalization lobby’s propagandistic pipe dream of millions of ordinary Americans rotting in prison because the jackbooted thugs kicked in their door and found a dime bag in their medicine cabinet. Most of the people I saw who actually went to jail for drug offenses had messed up seriously enough, and/or often enough that it seemed perfectly reasonable to incarcerate them.

Kind regards,

[Name withheld]

Anti-Fascist Street Fighter?



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From Reuters:

” Schwarzenegger, under fire for allegations that he once expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, helped break up a neo-Nazi rally in 1964 when he was a young body-builder, an Austrian magazine reported. In the latest issue of NU magazine, prominent Austrian politician Alfred Gerstl said the then 17-year old Schwarzenegger and fellow body-builders “chased away the Nazis” during a neo-Nazi protest against the anti-fascist director of a teaching academy in Graz, Austria.”


Interesting – and, particularly if the magazine piece was written before the current allegations surfaced, very persuasive.

And then there’s this from the Fresh Potatoes blog:

“Documentary Filmmaker George Butler got it wrong, and now admits that he incorrectly quoted Schwarzenegger’s comments about Hitler.”

Read the whole thing.


U.S. Troops Making Things Work



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Smoking in Spain



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From this week, Spanish cigarette packs have been required to carry grim warnings (courtesy, needless to say, of the perennially bossy EU). Here’s how Spanish smokers have dealt with this new menace.

French Missiles in Iraq



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A number of readers have asked for a link to that Reuters story on French missiles in Iraq. Here it is (updated to include a French denial).

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