Why not filibuster Kagan?


Why is the GOP leadership so skittish about filibustering Kagan? Why not — with all honesty — denounce Kagan as “outside the mainstream” — which will nicely reinforce Americans’ growing suspicion that Obama is way, way outside the mainstream. Kagan can hardly complain since she’s on the record as calling for a searching examination of the ideology of court nominees. She may still prevail, but I don’t see the downside.

Remember, Mr. President, Israel Is Our Friend


This past week, Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, circulated a letter imploring President Obama to support Israel’s right to self-defense, and urging him to consider adding the IHH to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.  The letter, of which you can read excerpts below, was signed by 87 Senators.

We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations.  The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy.  Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region.  That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran.  Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.

In praise of a pundit who isn’t just talking out of his keister


After all my complaining, I thought I’d point to an example of a pundit who seems really to understand Turkey well. Harold Rhode’s assessment of the mood of the Turkish public tracks closely with what I’m sensing from talking to people here. He’s noticing just the right things to notice.

So, who is this guy? I’d honestly never heard of him before. Someone sent me the link; I opened it. I was impressed that he seemed to know what he was talking about, so I Googled him. Turns out I really should have known his name, because apparently, he’s

A Reset Button in a War Zone


To what extent, if any, should we use the change of command in Afghanistan to make a clear-eyed assessment of tactics and strategy?   The situation in Afghanistan is about as tenuous as things were in Iraq when General Petraeus turned things around.  If anyone can pull this off, it is General David Petraeus. 

That being said, is it time to revisit the Rules Of Engagement?  In today’s New York Times, Bob Herbert quotes one Army Sergeant’s frustration with the current ROE: 

From Our Officer in the AOR


Our Officer in the Area of Operations sends along observations and impressions from his first day in Kabul:

Very first impression walking from the C-130 to the bus for transport to the passenger terminal … looks just like Las Vegas.  By that I mean it’s HOT and all the mountains that surround Las Vegas are dark brown, rocky and without vegetation.  Additionally, in some cases you can see urban sprawl climbing up the mountain sides.  Now in Afghanistan, urban sprawl is more mud huts and walls predominantly although in one certain spot, very modern looking homes with swimming pools were visible.

Is Happiness Beside the Point?


A while back on Ricochet we were talking parenthood and happiness — a subject I care about as a political theorist, a father, and a human being. Back during our conversation I wanted to talk about whether happiness is really the right word to describe what we want out of life, or whether it now means or implies too many things that don’t get at the deep purpose of life, and our deepest human longings.

Fortunately, Tony Woodlief decided this weekend is the perfect time to raise just this issue!

From Sexy Humans to Mechanical Animals


Continuing to ride the bourgeois beat today (see below), I give you Camille Paglia, resurfacing at the New York Times while she writes a book. My favorite leftie tees up American sexual culture and knocks it out of the park:

Pharmaceutical companies will never find the holy grail of a female Viagra — not in this culture driven and drained by middle-class values. Inhibitions are stubbornly internal. And lust is too fiery to be left to the pharmacist.

French Entrepreneurs


Today NR’s Helen Rittelmeyer points me suitably enough to the LA Times. Paris’s fare dodgers, Column One explains, face an existential problem: get caught, and you must pay — to the tune of $60. The answer?

scofflaw insurance funds, seasoned with a dollop of revolutionary fervor. For about $8.50 a month, those who join one of these raffish-sounding mutuelles des fraudeurs can rest easy knowing that, if they get busted for refusing to be so bourgeois as to pay to use public transit, the fund will cough up the money for the fine. It provides a little peace of mind, however ethically dubious, in a time of economic uncertainty.

Here’s how to tell what’s really happening in countries where the press is controlled


There was a lot of talk, last year, about Twitter as a tool of democratization, particularly during the Iranian elections. The hope was obviously exaggerated. I haven’t seen much discussion of the way social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used to promote Islamism, terrorism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in this region.

Facebook has no handle on this situation. I doubt anyone at their corporate headquarters reads the languages in which this propaganda is spread. I suspect, although obviously I can’t prove it, that Iranian intelligence, Hamas and Hezbollah are behind a lot of this. They’re not stupid. They can listen to TED talks and read Seth Godin like the rest of us. They’ve figured out how to use social media; they’re using it.

A Lot of Money for a Piece of Paper


Ricochet member Trace Urdan shares this story:

Last Friday I picked up my son from baseball camp and we went to the Dept. of Health to get a copy of his birth certificate to prove his age for the All-Star team. After I filled out the form and gave the woman my debit card, my son said, “Why do we have to pay money to get a copy of my birth certificate?” I said, “Well, it costs money I guess to pay for the people that work here and to store the documents.”He responded, “Isn’t that what taxes are for?”Me: “I guess so, but it’s not a lot of money. It’s only $14.”My Son: “It seems like a lot of money for a piece of paper Daddy.”

Great Moments in Government Efficiency


Little Alyssa Thomas, age 6, has a problem. The Westlake, Ohio youngster is on the federal government’s no fly list. The Thomas family was notified of their daughter’s presence on the list when the family attempted to board a flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis. They were allowed to fly, but were advised to contact Homeland Security to rectify the situation.

The government’s response? Alyssa has received a letter from the feds telling her that her name remains on the list for reasons they will not disclose. Of course, if you’re a terrorist who intends to ignite your boxers, no problem? Would you like some nuts with your bomb?

Driving Me Violent (DMV)


I never mind too much when I see police officers in their patrol cars, drinking cups of coffee and laughing with their partners. I figure they’ve earned a break. If you might get shot at later in the day, simply as a part of doing your job, go ahead and help yourself to a jelly donut, too, I say.

If, on the other hand, you push papers, remove staples, and administer vision tests all day long in an air-conditioned office, then, I say, get off your a** and call my number already so that I can get back to my life.

Don’t Know Much About Geography


Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Peggy West, a Democrat, says she might understand if a state like Texas, which shares a border with Mexico, wanted to pass an immigration reform law. Arizona, on the other hand?


Journalists, lies and videotape: You be the judge


Andrew Sullivan, about whom we can all have a debate some other time, said something on Friday with which I completely agree:

Like David, I am privileged in many ways to be able to meet and talk to a lot of powerful figures. David and I have been at many functions of this sort together, but I have to say I disagree. These interactions are the least interesting part of my job, and often the most misleading. Every now and then, you discover a nugget that adds something. But in general, you get the schtick and spin, larded with a few anecdotes to make you feel flattered to be included in the salons of power. And what still amazes me is how deferent most of even the A-list journos are (with a few glorious exceptions). In fact, the definition of an A-list journalist in Washington is the person who is chummiest and closest to the people they cover. They have risen to the top in part because they know what questions the powerful really don’t want to answer – and decide not to ask them.