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Steve King Isn't Racist, Just Ignorant

Steve King is getting some heat for referring to then-Senator Obama as a "very, very urban senator" on the floor of the House today, in reference to a farm bill Obama introduced that would correct discrimination against black farmers. Bloggers saw racism in the "very, very urban" comment, but King defends himself in National Review:
For his part, King is flabbergasted. “I had hard time figuring out what they meant,” he tells National Review Online. “If you’re determined to be offended, I can guess you are determined to find offense in anything.”

What did he really mean? “If Barack Obama had been a rural senator, within a state that had a significant amount of black farmers, he would have introduced this bill,” King explains. “But it’s pretty obvious to me that he didn’t have a legislative interest in this that could have been rooted in his Illinois constituency."
Ever been to Illinois? Get outside of Chicago and its suburbs, and it is thousands of square miles…

The Legal Case Against Wikileaks

Kevin Drum: "In any case, I doubt the United States has any legal recourse against Assange or WikiLeaks. Assange is an Australian national not living in the U.S. and WikiLeaks is a distributed site not dependent on any single country's goodwill. What's more, despite some huffing and puffing to the contrary, I find it extremely unlikely that Assange has actually broken any existing laws. Perhaps new laws could be written, but it's hard for me to conceive of a law prohibiting actions like this that was both (a) effective and (b) not so broad that even Bill Kristol would oppose it. The United States has considerable control over actions by its own citizens on its own territory, but not over noncitizens who reside overseas and work primarily in cyberspace."

Wikileaks and the Toughness Meme

I keep seeing comments like this: "Assange is a rank coward.  If he really wanted to show his bravery, he should expose the secrets of Russia, or China.  There’s plenty of dirt there from the trafficking of the organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners to the murder of Russian investigative journalists.  But no, he targets the US, because he knows that if he went after Russia or China, her would be dead in two days.  Instead he attacks the US, a country that respects the rule of law and will not come after him until we can make a reasonable legal case against him. "

Even granting the premise, the correct answer to this is: so what? The United States is the biggest power in the world, with troops in more than 100 countries and the power to influence (if not steer) the destinies of many more. What our government does, then, is of interest -- not just to taxpaying citizens, but to the entire world. The United States might not be quite as willing to assassinate Julian Assan…

Elmer Smith and Wikileaks

I don't get this point from Elmer Smith about Julian Assange:
"But if this is an act of civil disobedience, he should be willing to face the consequences, the way Freedom Riders did when they willingly went to jail for defying unjust Jim Crow laws. Assange, on the other hand, seems willing to let Pfc. Bradley Manning rot in jail. Manning is being held in military detention for allegedly passing the cache of documents off to him while Assange seeks asylum in a place without an extradition treaty with the U.S."
I don't know. Civil disobedience is an act of defying the authorities. Getting arrested by them proves that they have the authority, but if you see your actions in terms of power and resistance, I'm not sure why it would be noble to defy the authorities and then submit yourself to them for punishment. Why be a martyr if you can keep on fighting?

UPDATE: A friend comments: "Yeah, that Rosa Parks totally had the wrong idea."

Er... let me clarify. Wha…

Philly Police Crime Watch

Tyrone Wiggins goes on trial today:
"Wiggins, a former Marine and volunteer youth-karate instructor, retired from the police force Nov. 18, 2009, one day before he was arrested after a two-year investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Bureau.

The investigation was launched when the woman told authorities how Wiggins had befriended her family when she was 10 and she began taking karate lessons from him at the Olney Recreation Center.

She told of how - when she was 12 - Wiggins allegedly began raping her regularly at the recreation center, at her home, at his house on Chew Avenue near Front Street, in hotels and in his van in Fairmount Park.

She told of how - when she was 18 - he allegedly began to beat her, even causing an eye to swell shut."
There's an amazing, maybe uplifting element to this story: The woman Wiggins is accused of raping all those years? She's a cop now.

Philly's War on German Christmas

I think I know what the letters to the editor are going to be about for the next few days...:
"It's that season again, which means that for the third year in a row, the German Christmas Village has set up a cozy collection of wooden booths and tree vendors in Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

But a few shoppers noticed something amiss yesterday on the tall metal archways signaling the entrances to the shops. The archways had just one word on top - 'Village.'

Sounds festive, eh?

It turns out that the letters spelling 'Christmas' were removed yesterday afternoon from the archways on the north and west sides of the plaza, at the request of Managing Director Richard Negrin. They will be replaced with the word 'Holiday.'

City spokesman Mark McDonald said Negrin asked for the change after the city received complaints from workers and residents."
Meh. I can't bring myself to get as worked up as the talk radio hosts are surely going to get toda…

Would You Buy Your Kid A Michael Vick Jersey?

Vick is having a great season for the Eagles, but not so good that Dom Giordano has forgotten why Vick went to federal prison: "The Vick jersey has a way to go before it reaches the status of an acceptable jersey for kids to wear. I think his rehabilitation should go through three stages, and he's only just coming out of stage two."

This isn't a problem for me. We don't really watch football. And we really don't watch the Eagles. If my son ends up an Eagles fan, much less a Vick fan, it will be an act of rebellion.

Netflix Queue: Casino

Three thoughts about "Casino"...



* This seems like a Martin Scorcese movie that he decided to direct in the style of Martin Scorcese. Gangster voiceovers? Check? Montages? Check. "Gimme Shelter?" Check. Joe Pesci throwing a tantrum and dying horribly? Check. It verges on self-parody.

* This movie is so montage- and voiceover-driven, in fact, that it seems that music and exposition really substitute for character development and storytelling. As a result, "Casino" doesn't feel like a movie so much as it feels like pieces of a movie that were pasted together.

* That said, the movie looks great. It's fun to watch De Niro and Pesci play off each other. It's fun to remember that Sharon Stone was once a bona fide movie star. It's fun to see Don Rickles play it straight. And minor Scorcese is generally better-crafted than 95 percent of the crap that's out there. What else was I gonna watch? "Human Centipede?"

Bill Keller on Wikileaks

The New York Times editor explains himself:
We get to decide (to cover the documents) because America is cursed with a free press. I’m the first to admit that news organizations, including this one, sometimes get things wrong. We can be overly credulous (as in some of the reporting about Iraq’s purported Weapons of Mass Destruction) or overly cynical about official claims and motives. We may err on the side of keeping secrets (President Kennedy wished, after the fact, that The Times had published what it knew about the planned Bay of Pigs invasion) or on the side of exposing them. We make the best judgments we can. When we get things wrong, we try to correct the record. A free press in a democracy can be messy.

But the alternative is to give the government a veto over what its citizens are allowed to know. Anyone who has worked in countries where the news diet is controlled by the government can sympathize with Thomas Jefferson’s oft-quoted remark that he would rather have newspapers …

Regarding Wikileaks, Max Boot Gets Silly

He's usually more serious and less silly than this: "Reading the New York Times’s “Note to Readers” explaining why it has decided once again to act as a journalistic enabler of WikiLeaks, I wondered why, if the Times believes that openness is so important to the operations of the U.S. government, that same logic doesn’t apply to the newspaper itself. The Times, after all, is still, despite its loss of influence in the Internet age, the leading newspaper in the U.S. and indeed the world. It still shakes governments, shapes opinions, and moves markets, even if it doesn’t do so as often or as much as it used to."

I don't debate that the Times is an important institution in our public life. Nonetheless, the Times is also not the government. Differing standards are ok, because the Times and the government have different roles to play. That said, if Max Boot wants to publish internal Times correspondence about matters of public concern, I invite him to do so.

Bad Idea: Apple Pulls 'Anti-Gay' App

I can't say I'm thrilled with this:
"After some controversy and complaints, Apple has reportedly pulled an application from the iTunes App Store after claims it was anti-gay. Highlighted by The Huffington Post and others last week due to its reportedly objectionable content, the Manhattan Declaration iPhone application has been quietly removed sometime in the last few days."
Now, I don't really agree with anything that's in the Manhattan Declaration. But it strikes me as a relatively thoughtful statement of mainstream evangelical Christianity's beliefs regarding abortion and marriage. It doesn't call for violence or cast slurs against people who disagree, but it doesn't pussyfoot around its own point of view, either.

I'm fine if such beliefs, regarding gay marriage particularly, are pushed to the fringe. I'm not comfortable trying to silence them entirely. It's Apple's sandbox, so they get to decide who plays in it. But I'd rath…

Wikileaks: Victor Davis Hanson Makes Stuff Up

VDH writes at The Corner: "Under Bush, press discussion of leaks focused on their embarrassing contents (after all, it was supposedly a higher calling that made brave whistle-blowers release confidential communications emanating from the Bush-Cheney right-wing nexus). In contrast, the press now seems more interested in responses of “How dare they” to the WikiLeaks methodology — as in, how could one be allowed to break laws and leak things from the Obamian State Department, if doing so might harm liberal diplomats, human-rights activists, etc., and embarrass a progressive government?"

Except this is demonstrably not true. Here's the Times' "complete coverage" of the latest round of Wikileaks revelations. Where's the "how dare they?" story? There is none. It's entirely focused on the (ahem) contents of the cables. Here's a roundup of the Washington Post's coverage. Same story. Here's the Guardian's coverage. Same story.

In fact…

Simon Jenkins on Wikileaks

At The Guardian: "Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment."

'Empire' Director Irvin Kershner: RIP

Cinema Blend: "Irvin Kershner, director of the almost universally best-loved Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, has died at age 87, according to The Associated Press. Taking over for George Lucas to make the sequel to the mega-hit Star Wars, Kershner crafted a film that felt far more grown-up and fully realized than its predecessor, setting a standard for sci-fi and adventure films that carries on to this day."

Wikileaks and Max Boot

Max Boot at Commentary: "One can understand if the editors of the New York Times, Guardian, and Der Spiegel have no respect for the secrecy needed to wage war successfully — especially unpopular wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are, after all, the sorts of people who, over a few drinks, would no doubt tell you that diplomacy is far preferable to war-making. But it seems that they have no respect for the secrecy that must accompany successful diplomacy either. That, at least, is the only conclusion I can draw from their decision to once again collaborate with an accused rapist to publicize a giant batch of stolen State Department cables gathered by his disreputable organization, WikiLeaks."

Boot goes on to commit what Glenn Greenwald has pretty accurately described as mode of operation of Wikileaks critics: He says there's nothing important to be seen here while at the same time warning of terrible consequences for the release of this supposedly inconsequent…

Wikileaks, Valerie Plame and Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg: "Honest question: Is there any prominent person or editorial board (outside of the administration) on the left who made a huge stink about Valerie Plame’s outing who is remotely as horrified by the ongoing Wikileaks travesty?"

I'm not remotely as horrified. Plame's outing, you'll recall, was committed by government officials as vengeance for her husband's truth-telling about the Bush Administration's (er...) missteps getting us into war with Iraq. It was done, in other words, to discourage people from telling the American public what there government was up to. The Wikileaks disclosures are telling the American people what their government is up to. I think one can be horrified by the Plame outing, not horrified by the Wikileaks disclosures, and still be perfectly consistent.

TSA Backlash Watch: Roger Cohen

The Real Threat to America:
"I don’t doubt the patriotism of the Americans involved in keeping the country safe, nor do I discount the threat, but I am sure of this: The unfettered growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the T.S.A. represent a greater long-term threat to the prosperity, character and wellbeing of the United States than a few madmen in the valleys of Waziristan or the voids of Yemen.

America is a nation of openness, boldness and risk-taking. Close this nation, cow it, constrict it and you unravel its magic."

Turn Market Street East Into Philly's Times Square?

That seems like a bad idea, for a number of reasons -- not least of which is that Philly is Philly and any attempt to "New Yorkize" the part of Market between Seventh and 13th streets seems doomed to fail by dint of drawing side-by-side comparisons, highlighting Philly's inferiority complex with regard to the Big Apple. It even sounds bad when promoters try to make it sound good:
"It's a way to enliven Market Street East and give it a more exciting sense of vitality," said Carl Primavera, an attorney who represents billboard companies.

"Now [conventioneers], get on a bus and go to King of Prussia," Primavera said. "But what if they could go one block to Market Street to do some shopping and then walk over to see the Liberty Bell?"Now, I think lining up the crassest versions of commercialism alongside America's most treasured historical relics is, well, a perfectly American thing to do. But it also ought to be resisted. The area under …

Why Don't We Just Invade North Korea?

Jamie Fly talks North Korea at The Corner: "As long as the current despotic regime remains in place, these incidents will continue to occur and the threat of nuclear-weapons proliferation (either to other rogue regimes or to terrorists) will loom large in the fears of Western policymakers. Forcing the current regime from power is the only way to resolve the security and proliferation challenges posed by Pyongyang."

Oh, is that all it takes? Knocking a government out that's been in power for 60 years? That has a huge army and tons of artillery aimed at the capital of a U.S. ally? And replacing it with the government of our choice? No problem! Why didn't anyone think of that sooner? Let's get right on it.

I'm no fan of the North Korean regime -- in fact, I'll go ahead and join George W. Bush in professing my loathing of the government there. It's awful. But the lesson of the last decade should be this: We can't magically make the world the way we want…

Thanksgiving

I'm thankful to have learned this year that my small family is more resilient in the face of adversity than I'd imagined.

I'm grateful to have discovered how much our community and friends in Philadelphia have come to mean to me.

I'm thankful for a wife who wouldn't let me give up when I wanted to stick my tail between my legs. I'm thankful for a son who regularly gives me kisses on my forehead.

I'm thankful that even in a rough professional year, I've had the pleasure to continue doing the thing I want to do: journalism.

I'm thankful, frankly, for the wisdom and forgiveness of people who have no good reason to offer either to me.

This has been a humbling year, in all senses of the word. But there's more good than bad in it. And I thank all of you, readers and friends. Thank you.

Let This Be China's Problem

Reacting to news of North Korea shelling South Korea, Conor Friedersdorf yesterday tweeted: "Can this be the start of when we start thinking of some things as China's problem?"

Good question, and that -- along with today's story about China's difficulties managing North Korea -- raises a good issue for those concerned about the rise of China in the Pacific. That rise is usually portrayed as a challenge to the United States, both in terms of prestige and in access to markets and materials needed to drive the economy. But why can't it also be a process that burdens China with wearying and expensive issues?

Look what being the "world's policeman" has done for the United States. We're stuck in two wars through a combination of folly and, when you get down to it, being the biggest kid on the block. As China becomes one of the other biggest kids on the block, it's going to attract the attention and demands of the same problematic individuals …

Afghanistan Quagmire Watch

Robert Wright offers up two nuggets of information about the Afghanistan War that make me wince:
• At just over nine years of age, this war is already the longest in American history. And this Saturday we’ll eclipse the Soviet Union’s misadventure in Afghanistan; the Soviets brought their own personal Vietnam to an end after nine years and seven weeks.

• And the cost of the Afghanistan war already exceeds the cost of the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined, even in inflation-adjusted dollars. At $100 billion a year (seven times the gross domestic product of Afghanistan) this war is feeding a deficit that will eventually take its toll in real, human terms. Wright makes a pretty good case that America's presence in Afghanistan does more to hurt our security than to help it. Read the whole thing.

Philly Schools Don't Have Libraries? Maybe It's Time To Buy iPads For The Students.

I'm still getting to know the city, obviously, because this is shocking to me:
"Nearly half of all city public schools have no libraries, a fact that has long galled Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.

Tuesday, at a news conference at University City High School, Jordan called for the district to ensure that each of the district's 258 schools was equipped with a library.

'There's nothing more important in educating your children than developing them into great readers,' Jordan said in an interview. 'Librarians work with teachers and help support curriculum across disciplines.'

Students whose schools have libraries score better on crucial standardized tests. And because city libraries have had cutbacks in hours and staff, having such resources in schools is especially crucial now, Jordan said."
As it happens, I recently wrote about a similar situation involving a charter school in Colorado. Pikes Peak Prep addressed its problem …

Philly Convicts Can't Read Or Write

Not sure why this is surprising: "A test of reading skills among inmates in Philadelphia's prison system yielded some worse news than expected: About 25 percent to 30 percent of prisoners read at a second- or third-grade level. The average reading level was at a fourth-grade mark, but city Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla said he had previously assumed that the average was between a sixth- and eighth-grade level."

TSA Backlash Watch: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Oh, come on:
"The next step in tightened security could be on U.S. public transportation, trains and boats.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for U.S. vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary.

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on 'Charlie Rose.'

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”"
This isn't going to end well. The ability to move freely about the country -- about one's own city, even -- appears likely to be restricted. Somebody needs to take a deep breath.

How Obama Created The Tea Party

Interesting critique on the London Review of Books. I found this passage gave me the most to think about:
Obama’s largest rhetorical miscalculation – and it bears part of the responsibility for 2 November – was to suppose he could move people to admire and sympathise with government even as he encouraged them to disdain and deprecate politics. By holding himself above politics he cleared a path for an insurgent movement that put itself below politics. Obama echoes Reagan in speaking often of ‘Washington’ in a tone of assumed displeasure. The difference is that Reagan had so little grasp of the details of his administration that the disavowal in a sense showed consistency. For Obama, the same posture is transparently inauthentic. And in a democracy like the United States, as in any representative government, a contempt for politics whets the people’s appetite for sudden remedies.

A Reagan-loving friend of mine isn't so hot on the disparagement there, but otherwise I wonder if this i…

Murphy Brown and Bristol Palin

I'm not interested in politicizing Bristol Palin's single motherhood. I wish Bristol's mother was the same. Via The Corner, we get news that Sarah Palin has decided to revive the Dan Quayle-Murphy Brown debate: "“I’m biased, of course, but given a choice of role models between Bristol and Murphy Brown, I choose Bristol.”"

Well, sure, if it's a choice between accidental motherhood after you've established a career and and income that can take care of the baby, and accidental motherhood before you've even finished your own childhood, it's not even a contest is it?

Good for Bristol for keeping her child and raising it. And good for the Palin family for supporting Bristol and her child! Seriously. But Sarah Palin's smugness on this issue is a bit much to take.

Glenn Reynolds Advocates Genocide

Instapundit: "JUST WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . ."

TSA Backlash Watch: What Fallows Said

James Fallows:
"Every society accepts some risks as part of its overall social contract. People die when they drive cars, they die when they drink, they die from crime, they die when planes go down, they die on bikes. The only way to eliminate the risks would be to eliminate the activities -- no driving, no drinking, no weapons of any kind, no planes or bikes. While risk/reward tradeoffs vary between, say, Sweden and China, no nation accepts the total social controls that would be necessary to eliminate risk altogether.

Yet when it comes to dealing with terrorism, politicians know that they will not be judged on the basis of an 'acceptable level of risk.' They know that they can't even use that term when discussing the issue. ('Senator Flaccid thinks it's 'acceptable' for terrorists to blow up planes. On Election Day, show him that politicians who give in to terror are 'unacceptable' to us.') And they know for certain that if -- when -- a p…

TSA Backlash Watch: Americans Are Smarter Than Marc Thiessen

Torture apologist Marc Thiessen is enraged by American complacency: "Can any of us imagine the debate we’ve had in recent weeks unfolding in the days immediately following Sept. 11, 2001? Would any of us have objected to the deployment of millimeter-wave scanners had the technology been available then? The current uproar could happen only in a country that has begun to forget the horror of 9/11. Indeed, it appears many in the country have forgotten. A new Washington Post–ABC News poll found that 66 percent of Americans say that “the risk of terrorism on airplanes is not that great.” Sixty-six percent."

Emphasis is Thiessen's. Here's the poll, and the full wording of the question that was asked:
2. Are you personally worried about traveling by commercial airplane because of the risk of terrorism, or do you think the risk is not that great? (IF WORRIED) Would you say you are very worried or only somewhat?

If two-thirds of Americans aren't worried about their flight …

TSA Backlash Watch: One Last Thought About Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum worries about the GOP:
"For seven years, Republicans insisted that every security procedure ever conceived was absolutely essential to keeping the American public safe, and anyone who disagreed was practically rooting for an al-Qaeda victory. Now a Democrat is in office and suddenly they're outraged over some new scanners. Helluva coincidence, no? But this is no surprise: this issue works for them on every possible level. In the short term, it gives them something to pound Obama about. In the medium term, it gets the chattering classes chattering about something other than the fact that Republicans have no remotely plausible plan for improving the economy. And in the long term, if a plane does come down, they will absolutely crucify the Obama administration for its abysmal and cavalier approach to national security."
I think there's some truth to what Drum says toward the end of this paragraph. One reason the Obama Administration isn't backing down on …

TSA Backlash Watch: What About The Other Civil Rights?

I've mostly avoided using the TSA backlash as a cudgel against conservatives because A) they're on the same side of this issue and B) it seems to be a teachable moment about the broader issues of civil liberties versus security. Adam Serwer, though, detects tribal privilege at work in the current controversy: "Of course, if you're Sami el-Hajj, it's perfectly cool for the government to violate your dignity by shoving you into an island prison for seven years without charge.  There's no mystery here. The application of constitutional rights, for some conservatives, is a completely tribal affair. What's really frustrating of course, is the lack of recognition of the connection between justifying the imprisonment el-Hajj faced and the TSA procedures Burlingame finds humiliating. It's a long slippery slope, but for first time people like Burlingame see themselves at the end of it."

A Thing Obama Has Done For Gay Rights

I've given the president a hard time over unkept promises with regards to gay rights, so let me praise him for this unambiguous advance: "The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare issued new rules yesterday that require all hospitals that participate in Medicaid and Medicare to allow patients to designate who shall be allowed to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. The order will allow for same-sex partners to have the same rights as other immediate family members. The new rules will be published in the Federal Register on November 19."

There's still more to be done, of course. But that's something that should've happened a long time ago -- and didn't until Obama was president. So good on him.

Mr. Mom Chronicles: An Update

When I first started the "Mr. Mom Chronicles," documenting my new life as a stay-at-home freelance writing dad, I expected it to be cute. Oh, I also expected there to be challenges, but I expected them to be cute challenges, making for entertaining stories that people would smile at and pass along to their friends.

You might notice it's been more than a month since I updated this series.

A little math: Parenting is hard. Work is hard. Combine the two? Days full of exhaustion and never catching up. And I'm afraid it's my son who is paying the price.

Here's what the typical day has been like the last couple of months: I wake up and go straight into office mode. The boy wakes up, generally an hour later. I get him up, diapered and fed, then return to writing mode. This is how we spend the day: I work. He lets me know when he needs something. I yell at him when he does stuff I don't want him to. And we both pray for the moment that momma gets home.

This is wh…

Richard Cohen On Sarah Palin's Empathy Problem

I think Richard Cohen is on to something here:
It's appalling that Palin and too many others fail to understand that fact - indeed so many facts of American history. They don't offer the slightest hint that they can appreciate the history of the Obama family and that in Michelle's case, her ancestors were slaves - Jim Robinson of South Carolina, her paternal great-great grandfather, being one. Even after they were freed they were consigned to peonage, second-class citizens, forbidden to vote in much of the South, dissuaded from doing so in some of the North, relegated to separate schools, restaurants, churches, hotels, waiting rooms of train stations, the back of the bus, the other side of the tracks, the mortuary, the cemetery and, if whites could manage it, heaven itself.

It was the government that oppressed blacks, enforcing the laws that imprisoned them and hanged them for crimes grave and trivial, whipped them if they bolted for freedom and, in the Civil War, massacred…

Palin Is The GOP Front-Runner

Jim Geraghty, Liberal Pundit:
"The two Republicans whose names came up most often on the NR cruise? Sarah Palin and Chris Christie.

In my interactions with only a fraction of the 700+ NR cruisegoers — mostly older, mostly well-off, passionate about politics, and many heavily involved with the tea parties — I found about two-thirds wildly enthusiastic about Sarah Palin; you could hear the gasps when Scott Rasmussen predicted she would not be the 2012 Republican nominee.

...it’s easy to picture a half-dozen GOP candidates quitting the race the day after Palin jumps in. She’ll suck most of the oxygen out of the room, almost all of the media attention, the donations, etc. The 2012 Republican presidential primary could quickly shift from a wide-open free-for-all to a one-on-one match between Palin and the anti-Palin."
Like I said yesterday, the Palin phenomenon is not liberals trying to set the GOP up for 2012 loss. There are lots and lots of Republicans who love her already.

Why Is North Korea Shelling South Korea?

This can't be good:
"South Korea's military is on its highest non-wartime alert level after North Korean troops fired dozens of rounds of artillery on to a populated island near disputed waters, reportedly injuring civilians and soldiers.

It has scrambled F-16 fighter jets to the western sea and returned fire after the North shot off artillery towards South Korean waters and Yeonpyeong at around 2.30pm today, officials said."

Afghanistan Quagmire Watch

New York Times:
"For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little."

Chris Christie's Theater of 'Plain Talk'

Part of the intrigue surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is his apparent willingness to dispense with niceties and tell the truth, as he sees it, in unvarnished -- even bullying -- fashion. Jason Zengerle's profile of Christie for New York magazine reveals that these moments, usually distributed widely on YouTube, are actually pretty varnished:
But Christie was holding the town hall to do more than just promote his agenda; he was also trying to gin up some Internet content. While his fellow governors tend to use their official YouTube channels to show ribbon-cuttings and speeches, Christie, a former federal prosecutor who relishes the thrust and parry of political debate, has turned his into a video library of gubernatorial smackdowns—which, after just ten months in office, are already so numerous that his admirers are able to rank their favorites. Like the one he delivered at a town hall in Rutherford, where he told a public-school teacher complaining about her salary that …

'Buffy' Gets A Movie Remake. Without Joss Whedon.

EW.com: "Today, Warner Bros. announced plans to remake 1992′s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which gave birth to the much-loved Sarah Michelle Gellar-headed TV series (which we all still worship unashamedly)."

As it happens, 2010 was my year of "Buffy" immersion. I watched the entire series on Netflix Instant, then went back -- for the first time in 16 years -- and watched the original movie staring Kristy Swanson. What's remarkable about that movie is that you can see a lot of great elements in it (and certainly, Paul Reubens' performance makes the movie worth watching on its own) but it never quite comes together. The people who made that movie are making the remake, not the people who made the TV series. I don't expect the new flick to be much good, either.

TSA Backlash Watch: Talking With My Dad

TSA administrator John Pistole is making vague noises about backing down from the invasive security measures his agency is undertaking at the nation's airports. While we wait to see if those noises turn into action on this Thanksgiving holiday travel week, I decided to talk to the person I know who travels more than any other: My dad.

David Mathis is the senior vice president for sales and marketing at Golden Heritage Foods, located in my hometown of Hillsboro, Kan. He gets on a plane a couple of dozen times a year -- something he's been doing for, well, a couple of dozen decades now. And he's not all that bothered by the TSA's procedures. Weirdly, he agreed to let me interview him about this. Take a listen.

TSA Backlash Watch: The Shirt Off His Back

The TSA Blog:: "A video is being widely circulated showing a shirtless boy receiving secondary screening from a Transportation Security Officer (TSO). A passenger filmed the screening with their cell phone and posted the video on the web. ... It should be mentioned that you will not be asked to and you should not remove clothing (other than shoes, coats and jackets) at a TSA checkpoint. If you're asked to remove your clothing, you should ask for a supervisor or manager."

Will Saletan Is Wrong About Kinect and the Future of Innovation

While I'm in the business of talking about Slate's Will Saletan, let's examine this tweet: "Microsoft yields to the unpredictable creativity of the collective human mind. http://j.mp/d0KTB5 This, not R&D, is the future of innovation"

Follow the link, and you'll find this morning's Times story about how hackers are taking Microsoft's new Kinect technology and taking it places that Microsoft didn't expect. Some of those places are really cool. But Saletan's wrong to cast the future of innovation in either-or terms. It was a big huge company, Microsoft, that created the foundational technology and the people at home who are taking it new places. That would suggest that the future of innovation isn't just in big research labs or in somebody's home office, but in both places, building off the possibilities revealed by the other.

TSA Backlash Watch: William Saletan's Backlash

Slate's William Saletan grumbles about the "imbecils" protesting scanners and pat-downs: "Wednesday is the busiest air travel day of the year, and a horde of paranoid zealots—techno-libertarians, Tea Partiers, rabble-rousers, Internet activists, and congressional demagogues—has decided to make it even worse."

Saletan can get away with this string of insults because he's arguing against straw men. He disdains the health argument against the scanners, which is fine: I don't really buy that line of reasoning myself. But he invokes the menace of the underwear bomber -- all while failing to mention that it's questionable whether the scanners would've detected the underwear bomber in the first place.

And he grumbles about the idea that "National Opt-Out Day" will make air lines slower and air travel less secure. We'll see about that. Certainly, I'd agree that there needs to be a balance between keeping the system running smoothly and …

The Coming GOP Overreach

Republicans like to say that Barack Obama overinterpreted the mandate of the 2008 election. It's easy to see that Republicans are about to start doing stuff the voters didn't really intend:
"Liberal groups in Wisconsin are bracing for a fight over contraception coverage under Medicaid. Battle lines are being drawn over sex education in North Carolina. And conservatives in several states intend to try to limit the ability of private insurers to cover abortions.

Social issues barely rated in this year's economy-centric midterm elections. More than six in 10 voters who cast ballots on Election Day cited the economic downturn as their top concern, according to exit polls. And this year was the first in more than a decade in which same-sex marriage did not appear on a statewide ballot.

But major GOP gains in state legislatures across the country - where policy on social issues is often set - left cultural conservatives newly empowered"
The voters were thinking economy. Th…

The Party of 'Real America'

Slatest: "November's elections showed that the country is getting increasingly politically divided. Unlike the big GOP win in 1994, Republicans this time around won back the House without any real help from metropolitan areas, which remained largely Democratic. The GOP gains came mostly in districts 'that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole,' notes the Washington Post. The good news for Democrats is that they continue to win among minorities and whites with more education, but they are increasingly losing working-class voters. While that's good news for Republicans it's also a shrinking percentage of the electorate."

Facebook Makes You Have Threesomes Before Facebook Was Invented

The Guardian:
"A pastor who said Facebook was a 'portal to infidelity' – and told married church leaders to delete their accounts or resign – once testified that he took part in group sex with his wife and a male church assistant.

Rev Cedric Miller confirmed the information reported yesterday by the Asbury Park Press of Neptune, New Jersey, which cited testimony he gave in court in 2003. The activities had ended by that time."
Difficult not to be mildly amused by a man who creates rules for other's behavior when he's played by rather more expansive rules. But seeing this in the best light: Rev. Miller might be very sincere in wanting to put up barriers to future infidelity for himself and the people around him. He's like the reformed alcoholic who becomes an anti-drinking zealot. (I've known a couple.) Hey buddy: Just because you can't handle the stuff doesn't mean the rest of us can't.

Is Sarah Palin A Liberal Plot?

That seems to be David Boaz's belief:
"Talk about Sarah Palin running for president continues to mount — in the liberal media. Conservatives smile and look away when the topic is raised. They want to watch her on TV, they want to turn out for her lively speeches, but they don’t see her as a president.

Liberals, on the other hand, are jumping up and down at the prospect of a Palin candidacy. She could win! they urgently insist to skeptical Republicans; you should get behind her. Don’t throw us Democrats in that Palin briar patch! The latest example is the star columnist of the New York Times, Frank Rich. His Sunday column is titled “Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha.” Palin’s got a huge television presence, Rich says — 5 million viewers for her new TLC series. Which is slightly less than the 65 million it would take to win a presidential election. She’s running, he says; her upcoming book tour “disproportionately dotes on the primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.…

Afghanistan Quagmire Watch

The Washington Post reports from a refugee camp outside Kabul:
"Helmand refugees living in this squalid camp, known as Charahi Qambar, offer a bleaker assessment. They blame insecurity on the presence of U.S. and British troops, and despite official claims of emerging stability, these Afghans believe their villages are still too dangerous to risk returning.

'Where is security? The Americans are just making life worse and worse, and they're destroying our country,' said Barigul, a 22-year-old opium farmer from the Musa Qala district of Helmand who, like many Afghans, has only one name. 'If they were building our country, why would I leave my home town and come here?'"

Republicans Won't Repeal Health Care

New York Times:
"More than a few Republicans know that while the politics of trying to nitpick provisions and curb funding are appealing, any wholesale repeal of major provisions of the health care overhaul is likely to generate a backlash.

Even the Republican-leaning electorate on Nov. 2 was evenly split on repealing Obamacare, the exit polls showed. And many of the major provisions of the bill command broad support or could expose critics and repeal advocates to embarrassing contradictions."

Federalist 40: A Strict Reading of the Rules

The men who created the Constitution didn't gather at Philadelphia with the purpose of creating a constitution, actually. They were there to try to fix the old constitution, the Articles of Confederation, that bound the United States together loosely but imperfectly. This was their commission:
"Resolved -- That in the opinion of Congress it is expedient, that on the second Monday of May next a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the States, render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."But the men who gathered at Philadelphia didn't actually do the specific job they were given. Rather than fiddle around trying to fix t…

TSA Backlash Week: Mennonite Backlash!

Young Anabaptist Radicals:

"When you find yourself in a situation of being scanned, you should voluntarily, in public, strip down naked.

This act would not be disobeying the command of the TSA but rather it would be going the ‘second mile’, if you will.  While on one hand it is submitting to the invasiveness of the screenings it is also doing it in such a way that takes control and power back in the situation.  And I would also venture to say that if such an act were done in front of all of the other passengers waiting in line, it would expose the true invasiveness of the procedure and thus place the ultimate shame on the TSA, not on the individual.

Creative.  Non-violent.  Resisting."

Thanks to the friend who shared this with me. Don't know if she wants her name associated with this, but she knows who she is!

TSA Backlash Week: Emmett Tyrrell, Modern Patton

Good stuff: "John Tyner, missed his flight completely owing to his protest. He greeted the Transportation Security Administration staff, camera in hand, in San Diego. He had opted for the pat-down in place of the scanner, but he warned, 'If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested.' Yes, he referred to his genitalia as 'junk.' Well, speak for yourself, Mr. Tyner. Now he is threatened by the TSA with an $11,000 fine. That is a bit stiff. He missed his plane. That is enough, but Tyner might keep things in perspective. America is at war."

Emphasis added. The opening speech of George C. Scott's "Patton," as rewritten by Emmett Tyrrell:

MAN: Ten-hut!

(SILENCE)

(BUGLE PLAYS)

Be seated.

PATTON: Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard feel him up in line for the 6:25 am flight to Wilmington.

Men all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to…

Obama: Crony Capitalist or Socialist Hack?

I have a few friends who need to listen to Dave Weigel:
"Since inauguration day the Dow is up 41 percent, and the S&P is up 49 percent.

Can you use this to argue that Barack Obama's presidency has been an economic success? Oh, I don't think so. Unemployment, foreclosures, bank closures, and other much more important metrics are much worse than they were when he was inaugurated. But the recovery of the stock market, outpacing the recovery of the economy, is unusual. Ronald Reagan was inaugurated at the start of a growing recession with the Dow at 950.68; it closed at 1,021.25 on November 19, 1982. That was a rise of 7.4 percent from inauguration to the post-midterm weeks.

I see two things here. One: The lefty critique of Obama as an incompetent crony capitalist continues to make more sense than the conservative critique of the president as a radical anti-capitalist. Two, politicians are hacks who'll use any economic data they can find to make their points, and ignore…

TSA Backlash Week: OK, Smart Guy, What Do We Do Then?

Mother Jones' Nick Baumann talks to security experts about how to make flying safe without making security procedures so damned invasive: "All three experts favor scrapping most of the security measures that people hate—and not necessarily replacing them with anything. Ideally, the money that was saved wouldn't be spent on airport security at all: it would be spent on trying to stop terrorists before they got to the airport. That means better-funding law enforcement and intelligence."

A couple of suggestions in Baumann's piece -- which, really, read the whole thing -- caught my attention. One is that airport lines actually need to move much more quickly, because those stagnant queues are themselves a pretty good target for an airport attack. The other is to introduce truly randomized screening of passengers:
That means that while the majority of passengers wouldn't face the invasive security checks they face now, every passenger would face the risk of a thoroug…

The Best Health Care In The World

Not here:
"Britain's health service makes it the only one of 11 leading industrialised nations where wealth does not determine access to care – providing the most widely accessible treatments at low cost among rich nations, a study has found.

The survey, by US health thinktank the Commonwealth Fund, showed that while a third of American adults 'went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs', this figure was only 6% in the UK and 5% in Holland."

David Brooks Knows The Internet Happened, Right?

David Brooks laments the loss of the American middle-brow, and the resulting demise of Newsweek and other magazines that could show the rubes in flyover country how to aspire to New Yorkiness.. But he completely and utterly misdiagnoses what went wrong:
These magazines also inflamed a million imaginations. Smart boys and girls got a glimpse of a wider world. The implication was that their current lives were insufficient, but they could read about John Foster Dulles or Georgia O’Keeffe and gain access to a higher realm that they might someday join.

About a generation ago, this earnest self-improvement ethic came under attack. People no longer believed that there was such a thing as a common culture that all educated Americans should study and know. The new ethos valued hipness, not class.

Moreover, the self-esteem hurricanes blew across the landscape. You don’t have to read or listen to boring stuff to possess character. You are wonderful just the way you are.
I won't deny the influenc…

U.S. Deploying Tanks in Afghanistan

It's true that, as part of counterinsurgency, you still have to kill the enemy. And it's furthermore true that Pete Mansoor, the first director of the counterinsurgency center at Fort Leavenworth -- back when it was run by Gen. Petraeus -- came from the armored brigades. I got to interview him during that period and asked him how tanks could make a good counterinsurgency tool: it struck me as counterintuitive. I don't recall his answer, but it must not've struck me as terribly convincing. (It was otherwise a great and enlightening conversation. Mansoor, as history has already recorded, is pretty smart.)

You fight a war with the tools you have, I suppose. But U.S. forces have eased up on long-range bombing from the air in Afghanistan because it too easily can kill innocents instead of the targeted insurgents. I guess I'm skeptical that a tool that allows you too hit targets a mile away will be a significant improvement on that.

TSA Backlash Week: An Excuse For Racial Profiling?

If Charles Krauthammer has his way:
"We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches."
TSA screening is a bad, ineffective policy. Racial profiling would be, too. Instead of alienating everybody with invasive measures, let's just alienate the brown people! And without actually improving our security! Forbes' Abigail Esman:
According to a recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group, statistically speaking, the one most likely to …

Leaving The Middle Class For Poverty

A very depressing article:

"The Census Bureau recently reported that the poverty rate in the United States rose to 14.3 percent last year, the highest level in more than 50 years.

Texas and Florida saw the most people fall below the line. In Florida alone, 323,000 people became newly poor last year, bringing the state's poverty total to 2.7 million.

The numbers tell another tale as well: Nationwide, in black households such as Walker's, income plunged an average of 4.4 percent in 2009, almost three times the drop among whites. The number of blacks living below the official poverty line - $21,756 for a family of four - increased by 7 percent in just one year."

Public Won't Be Silenced At Philly City Council Meetings

I've not covered City Council in Philadelphia, but I have elsewhere, and I can tell you that public comment sessions can be a mix of the provocative and tedious. Still, I've got to think thatthis is good news for Philly governance: "The state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling made public yesterday, says Council has been violating the state's Sunshine Act by refusing to allow people to comment on legislation during Thursday's weekly sessions. Council argued that allowing people to comment in committee hearings before legislation is considered by the full Council was adequate."

I don't know that this will lead to any improvements around town. And some of the council members do a pretty good job of listening to their constituents, from what I can tell. But I don't have a problem reminding everybody that it's our government, not theirs.

Philly Police Corruption Watch

That's expensive: "Over the past three fiscal years, city taxpayers have shelled out $31.6 million to settle lawsuits brought against the department. The majority of the payments - $20.8 million - went to settle complaints of civil-rights violations by police officers, according to figures provided by the city's Department of Finance."

TSA Backlash Week: John Pistole Gets The Business

The leader of the TSA went before the Senate today to defend his agency's invasive airport screening techniques. Apparently he demanded to be given pat-down before giving the green light to the technique:
"“Yes, it was more invasive than what I was used to,” said Pistole. “Of course, what’s in my mind … is what are the plots out there, how are we informed by the latest intelligence and latest technology and what do we need to do to ensure the American people that as they travel that we are being thorough.”

“So yes, it is clearly more invasive. The purpose of that is obviously to detect the type of devices that we had not seen before last Christmas. I am very sensitive to and concerned about people’s privacy concerns and I want to work through that as best we can.” 

Pistole told a separate panel of senators yesterday that the pat-down technique is so thorough that, had it been used, it would have thwarted the suspected Christmas Day bomber, who allegedly hid an explosive device …

TSA Backlash Week: Col. Nathan Jessup Gives Us An Earful

Emaw channels Nathan Jessup, now working for TSA:
"You want the truth? You want the TRUTH!? You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has airports, and those airports have to be guarded by men with latex gloves. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Mr. Jillette?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom! You weep for your groped genitals and you curse the TSA. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the groping of your private parts, while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!

You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about on your blogs and on Twitter, you want me in that airport! You need me in your underwear! We use words like 'bend over', 'spread 'em', 'cop a feel'. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something."

Will Congress Pass An Internet Censorship Bill?

Funny what Congress can pass when it gets the gumption. Not unemployment benefits. Not tax cuts for the middle class. Not a nuclear arms treaty with the Russians.But this?:
A bill giving the government the power to shut down Web sites that host materials that infringe copyright is making its way quietly through the lame-duck session of Congress, raising the ire of free-speech groups and prompting a group of academics to lobby against the effort.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced in Congress this fall by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). It would grant the federal government the power to block access to any Web domain that is found to host copyrighted material without permission.

Opponents note that the powers given the government under the bill are very broad. Because the bill targets domain names and not specific materials, an entire Web site can be shut down. So for example, if the US determines that there are copyright-infringing materials on YouT…

NJ Pastor: Quit Facebook or Leave The Church

Inky: "The world's biggest social network can lead married people astray, says the head of the Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune, N.J. So, in his Sunday sermon, the Rev. Cedric A. Miller will announce that married church leaders have to log out for good, or get kicked out."

I'm not the position of offering church leaders advice, but in this socially networked age it seems to me that telling people that Facebook is sinful is like telling them that, oh, walking downtown is sinful. It's a semi-public square that can be used for good or ill.

If I were a church-goer, my recommendation would be to encourage couples to use Facebook in a way that's mutually accountable -- like, say, everything else in their marriage. But temptation can find you anywhere. If you're not going to use Facebook because of that, you'd best not even walk outside. There's really attractive women out there.

Rush Limbaugh and Race

Adam Serwer:
"I think it's wrong to suggest that opposition to Obama's agenda is 'race-based,' because that suggests conservatives would feel differently if Obama weren't president. I think the GOP's general positions on the issues would be the same if Hillary Clinton were president.

What's clear, though, is that conservatives deploy racially tinged rhetoric against liberal policy priorities and Democratic politicians, and that Obama being president has a lot to do with these arguments being used. Rush Limbaugh wouldn't be comparing him to gang members if he weren't black. With Clinton, Limbaugh's sexism, rather than his racism, would be amplified. So while it might be unfair to suggest people are conservatives because they're racists, it's entirely fair to ask why conservatives are comfortable with their most prominent ideological figure's casual use of racism as a political bludgeon"

TSA Backlash Week: Kevin Drum's Meh

Kevin Drum can figure out what the big deal is: "In fact, I think it's a pretty good sign of a country gone insane that this — TSA screeners occasionally viewing a vague outline of your body — is what's finally driven everyone over the edge. Shoes, laptops, liquids, wands, special screenings, warrantless wiretaps, you name it. They annoyed us, but we accepted them. But this! Finally left and right can unite in outrage over government run wild."

I take his point: We've been headed to this moment for awhile. But there's an element of political snobbery when you roll your eyes at people protesting the invasion of their privacy because they didn't protest soon enough for your tastes. Rather than see this as an opportunity, perhaps, to re-open the discussion about what government is doing to us in the name of security, Drum becomes the political version of a hipster who liked Arcade Fire's older stuff. I respect and rely on his work, but this rant is a litt…

TSA Backlash Week: The LA Times Thinks Anal Probing Would Be Going Too Far

In a provocatively titled editorial, "Shut up and be scanned," the LA Times asserts that body scans and pat downs aren't too intrusive at the nation's airports. Luckily, the paper does offer an answer to the question, "How far is too far." Unfortunately, the answer is: "Pretty far":
"In reaction to the new high-tech scans, suicide bombers may well switch to buses and trains rather than airplanes, or airborne killers might resort to inserting explosives into their body cavities, where the machines can't detect them. So, it's reasonable to ask, what's next? Anal probes at the airport? It's safe to say that if the TSA gets to that point, it will have crossed the line, and it might be time to explore less invasive methods."
I think that's a joke. Is that a joke? I ... can't really tell.

Dunno. Seems to me that reasonable people can agree that a reasonable level of privacy starts somewhere farther from your person than y…

A Small Word In Defense of George W. Bush

Ruth Marcus, I think, largely has this right: "In short, Bush inherited a budget in healthy shape. He left it in tatters. The faltering economy played a supporting role, but the chief factors were of Bush's making: his tax cuts, his wars, his prescription drug bill. Without these, the country would have been running surpluses during his tenure. The wars will wind down, but the price of the tax cuts and prescription drug bill will climb even higher over the next decade."

The only thing I'd say in even mild defense of Bush is to suggest that the formulation "his wars" is only half right. Iraq was a terrible blunder, but the decision to go to war in Afghanistan was a rational reaction to the 9/11 attack; there's something off-note about calling it his war when Americans were all on board, and in fact probably would have chased from office any president who didn't respond to the attack in similar fashion. Marcus is right, though, that Bush is the first p…

We Had To Destroy The Village In Order To Save It

NATO is demolishing entire Afghan villages because some houses have been booby-trapped by the Taliban:

"While it has widespread support among Afghan officials and even some residents, and has been accompanied by an equally determined effort to hand out cash compensation to homeowners, other local people have complained that the demolitions have gone far beyond what is necessary.

It would also seem to run counter to Gen. David H. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy, which calls for respecting property as well as lives, and to run up against recent calls by President Hamid Karzai for foreign forces to lower their profile and avoid tactics that alienate Afghan civilians. There have been no reports of civilians casualties from the demolitions."

Counterinsurgency is about protecting and winning the support of the population. Wonder how well home demolitions will achieve that goal?