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Showing posts from April, 2010

Our victory in Iraq

Here are Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan -- Iraq war boosters if there ever were -- reporting on current goings-on there. I'll skip to the important part, about the unresolved Iraqi election:
If upheld, these decisions would give Maliki's bloc more seats than Allawi's. If Maliki's list gained four seats, it could potentially form a government with the other major Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, excluding both the Kurds and Sunnis. That result -- surely disastrous for U.S. interests -- would position Maliki as a potential authoritarian ruler, empower the anti-American Sadrists and their Iranian-backed militias and alienate Sunnis while marginalizing the Kurds. If Sunni seats are transferred to Maliki's Shiite list this way, Sunni Arabs would justifiably feel that Shiites had stolen the election.
No WMDs in Iraq, remember. But at least we planted the seeds of democracy in the Middle East!


What I got in my first issue of the Philadelphia Daily News

As expected, my first issue of the Philadelphia Daily News landed with a startle-me-out-of-my-sleep SMACK on the front steps this morning. After checking my e-mail on my iPhone, I decided to forgo electronic stimulation for a little while and spend some time with my new newspaper.

And time I spent. It takes me five-to-10 minutes most mornings to blaze through Philly headlines on my Google Reader. But that's only the "local news" headlines. There's a lot more stuff in the paper, obviously, but there's something about the physical medium of paper that slows. you. down.

Or maybe that's just me.

In any case, I spent about an hour with the Daily News this morning -- probably aided by the fact that the Friday edition is a little fatter with weekend "things to do around town" news than its sister issues the rest of the week. Here's what I found:

* CRIME: Actually, I was always getting the crime news on my RSS feed from, but I usually raced pa…

The Arizona immigration law

Ben Boychuk and I debate the issue in our Scripps Howard column this week. My take:

When immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will be immigrants.

That's the real problem in Arizona. There's obviously a great demand for the services of immigrant workers, or the supply wouldn't keep pouring over U.S. borders. If America would allow more legal immigration -- and more guest worker visas -- more of those workers could come in through the country's front door instead of over the back fence. There would be less need for the coyotes and traffickers who bring them into the country, and less opportunity for American employers to exploit their legal, documented employees.

Many of the ills we associate with illegal immigration would be reduced if only we had a sane immigration policy.

But that's Washington's job to solve. It's not doing that job. So you can't blame Arizonans for wanting to do everything in their power to fix their own problems. You can, however, bl…

Why I subscribed to the Philadelphia Daily News today

We moved to Philadelphia nearly two years ago, and for the first time in my adult life I've gone without a subscription to a local daily newspaper. Why? Easy: It's the 21st century! Why spend money on getting a printed product when you can just go to and select the RSS feeds you want to follow?

Today, however, that changed. Money's still tight in the Mathis household -- full-time employment sure would be nice! -- but it seemed like a declaration of values is needed. I subscribed to the Philadelphia Daily News. Our first issue should arrive on Friday or Saturday.

Again, why? Again: Easy. The Daily News has new owners. And I want them to know how important Philadelphia journalism is to me.

To be clear, this isn't passive-aggressive gotcha with Brian Tierney, the would-be media mogul who lost control of the Daily News -- and the Inquirer, and -- today. I've been critical of Tierney's seeming cynicism and hucksterism -- but if Tierney possessed…

Will the eco-foodie movement starve poor people?

That's Robert Paarlberg's case at Foreign Policy:
In Europe and the United States, a new line of thinking has emerged in elite circles that opposes bringing improved seeds and fertilizers to traditional farmers and opposes linking those farmers more closely to international markets. Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that "sustainable food" in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn't work. Few smallholder farmers in Africa use any synthetic chemicals, so their food is de facto organic. High transportation costs force them to purchase and sell almost all of their food locally. And food preparation is painfully slow. The result is nothing to celebrate: average income levels of only $1 a day and a one-in-three chance of being malnourished.

If we are going to get serious about solving global hunger, we need to de-romanticize our view of…

Arlen Specter: 'I might have helped the country more if I'd stayed a Republican'

Dave Weigel flags these comments from Pennsylvania's senior senator:

''Well, I probably shouldn't say this,'' he said over lunch last month. ''But I have thought from time to time that I might have helped the country more if I'd stayed a Republican.''

Specter mused that perhaps if he'd remained in the caucus he could have persuaded one or two of his GOP colleagues to support health care reform.
But joining the Democratic Party was never about "helping the country." It was about preserving Specter's political career. Even if staying with the GOP would've helped the country more, there's little guarantee that Specter would've stayed.

Oklahoma Republicans: It's OK if doctors lie to women so they don't have abortions

I don't write about abortion very often because, well, it's not a subject I'm very partisan about. I'm instinctively uncomfortable with the procedure; I also suspect that women's liberties really are bound up (to some extent) in the freedom to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term. There's lots I find sympathetic -- and reprehensible -- about both sides of the political debate, so I try to stay out of it as much as possible.

Still, a new law passed in Oklahoma to reduce abortions is really, really awful:

The second measure passed into law Tuesday protects doctors from malpractice suits if they decide not to inform the parents of a unborn baby that the fetus has birth defects. The intent of the bill is to prevent parents from later suing doctors who withhold information to try to influence them against having an abortion.
In other words, if your doctor doesn't want you to have an abortion, he can keep critical information about your fetus-baby's he…

More errors at NRO

I think Seth Leibsohn has this absolutely wrong:

If the press had unified, as they do on so many other political and policy issues, and stood up to the ever-growing radical Islamist speech veto in the West, we could be well on our way toward a cultural victory in the war. Instead, we continue to cave. The last place I thought I'd see such caving was at Comedy Central — a channel dedicated to the iconoclasm of almost everything religious and everyone political. Now, even chief iconoclast Jon Stewart is defending the veto, or censorship, on his network.
Interestingly, Leibsohn links to this New York Times blog post titled: "Jon Stewart Takes On Comedy Central’s Censorship of ‘South Park’." That doesn't sound like a defense.

And here's the video the NYT post is about:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cSouth Park Death Threatswww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
To me, it's clear that Stewart's not too happy …

'To ask the question is to answer it'

At National Review, Rich Lowry is grumpy:
Over at PowerLine, John Hinderaker makes a great catch: CNN describes the Arizona immigration law as "polarizing." John asks why the health-care bill was never described that way, even though it too brought protestors into the streets and was actually, in contrast to the Arizona bill, opposed by most people? To ask the question is to answer it.I sent Mr. Lowry a note:

A Google search for "health care bill polarizing" gets 476,000 results.

A GoogleNews search for the same term gets more than 600 results.

You say that "to ask the question is to answer it," but trying to answer it might've provided you a different result.

The essential Deborah Solomon interview

I've long hated Deborah Solomon's Q&A interviews in The New York Times Magazine. They've always come across -- to me, anyway -- as a weird combination of needlessly combative and unilluminating: confrontational for the sake of confrontation in a lot of cases, without any real payoff that helps the reader understand a subject or interviewee any better.

In today's magazine, she gets down to the essence of her style in an interview with Craig Robinson, a basketball coach and the brother of Michelle Obama. He has a new book out, which leads to the following exchange:

Are you aware that in your new book you erroneously describe Princeton, N.J., as “the first capital of the United States”?

Oh. I was thinking that it was the first capital because that’s what I thought when I got to Princeton on the first day. I was awed by it.

It was the second capital under the Articles of Confederation. I wonder why your editors failed to catch that.

I wrote it, so I don’t want to blame …

When government abuses its partnerships with churches

The Weekly Standard has a new piece out, shocked! that the Obama White House is using the office of "faith-based initiatives" to mount a campaign against climate change. It quotes Jim Towey, a former director of the office, decrying the efforts.

The use of churches and congregations to advance the administration’s climate-change agenda, Towey says, “looks a lot like this is simply a political outreach initiative.” He adds: “The faith-based office was supposed to be a common-ground effort with Republicans and Democrats working to assist the poor—and that’s just long gone.”
Oh yes, it's awful to use a government-church partnership to advance a political agenda!

I'm not going to defend this. I'm just amused that Republicans, who were warned and criticized during the Bush Administration about the problems inherent in establishing church-state partnerships, are suddenly on the side of critics now that Democrats are in charge.

It's not as if politicization of the of…

Fun with math: Obama's health care 'tax increase' on the middle class

Daniel Foster points to this Hill story, showing that Obama's health reform bill will actually sock the middle class with tax increases. The bolded parts are Foster's emphases:

Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — because of healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress' official scorekeeper for legislation.

The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.

Taxpayers can currently deduct medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. Starting in 2013, most taxpayers will only be allowed to deducted expenses greater than 10 percent of AGI. Older taxpayers are hit by this threshold increase in 2017.

Once the law is fully implemented in 2019, the JCT estimates the deduction limitation will affect 14.8 million taxpayers — 14.7 milli…

Honoring the Confederacy means you hate America

There's been a lot of talk about the apparent racism and historical ignorance of Virgina Gov. Bob McDonnell's proclamation of "Confederate History Month." But racism aside, I think Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a good point that we don't think about very often. Speaking of Republicans who approve of McDonnell's actions, he says:

If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you.
Well, yeah.

Defenders of the Confederate flag and other efforts to honor the Old South always say they're not interested in slavery or racism but heritage. Let's leave aside how the racism and slavery are inextricably bound up in that heritage; we'll ignore them entirely. (Although Republicans who chafe under the burden of racism accusations might stop and consider, for a moment, how actions like McDonnell's look to African Americans.)

Even putting its best foot forward, the reason the Confederacy existed was to tear asunder the Un…

Economic liberty and actual liberty

Some of my more thoughtful conservative friends have criticized President Obama's bigger initiatives -- like the health reform law -- from a "first principles" argument that economic liberty is the foundation of, well, liberty liberty. Any governmental act that interferes with the rights of individuals to their property or profit is a reduction of liberty and thus potentially a step down the slippery slope to tyranny. I think it's an insightful argument, but I also think it's got limits.

And I think those limits might be demonstrated by the Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. What's notable is that the two "countries" ranked highest on the index -- Hong Kong and Singapore -- might be great places to make cash, but they're not what most Americans would think of as substantially "free." (The United States ranks ninth.) Hong Kong might be listed as a separate "country" for the purposes of the index, but it&…