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The Plot Thins
September 29, 2009

Among those who know me well, few can remember when I covered any subjects other than Al Qaeda and the global jihad. I wrote about Osama Bin Laden when he was "Usama bin Ladin." And so since September 14, all anybody's been asking me are questions about a young Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi and his alleged involvement in the first Al Qaeda cell uncovered in America since the 9/11 attacks. Here are my answers to the four most common questions I've been getting.  1. Is this just another of the government's over-hyped terror plots?  U.S.

Riedel: Counterterrorism Won't Work
September 28, 2009

Former CIA man Bruce Riedel, who chaired Obama's (first) Afghanistan strategy review earlier this year, writing with co-author Michael O'Hanlon, warns against what you might call the Biden strategy: The fundamental reason that a counterterrorism-focused strategy fails is that it cannot generate good intelligence. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban know not to use their cellphones and satellite phones today, so our spy satellites are of little use in finding extremists.

Tim Geithner as Leading Economic Indicator
September 28, 2009

Or would that be a lagging indicator? Whatever the case, John Harwood reports in his NYT "Caucus" column that: [S]igns that economic growth is resuming have eased the sense of crisis surrounding Mr. Geithner’s work. The economic 'message' meetings in Mr.

The Death (and Life) of Conservatism
September 24, 2009

One of the best lines in Sam Tanenhaus’s wonderful little book on The Death of Conservatism comes in its opening chapter. Surveying intellectual life on the right in the opening months of the Obama administration, Tanenhaus concludes that too many conservative intellectuals “recognize no distinction between analysis and advocacy, or between the competition of ideas and the naked struggle for power.” Quite so, as one can see from the response (or non-response) of the right to Tanenhaus’s own book. Tanenhaus is a tough critic of the conservative movement, but he is also a deeply informed one.

Why The 'Post' Is Dead Wrong About Carbon Regulation
September 22, 2009

Michael A. Livermore is the executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. He is the author, along with Richard L. Revesz, of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health. The Washington Post ran an interesting editorial yesterday on regulating carbon—interesting, but ultimately wrong. The Post is correct that putting a price on carbon is the surest way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and that it would be preferable for Congress to do this through legislation.

CORRESPONDENCE: Another Way to Honor Feminism
September 21, 2009

I am heartened that Martha Nussbaum judges my Vindication of Love "provocative and useful," its author a "very sensible person," and its effect upon readers probably "emboldening."  I am less happy that she excludes men from these readers--as though love and failure, love and art, love and wisdom were issues that could interest only women.

Joe the Stand-up Comic?
September 15, 2009

Pinch yourself, Washingtonians. Looks like Joe "the plumber" Wurzelbacher, in addition to his post-campaign career as a foreign correspondent, pundit, author, motivational speaker, aspiring singer, and all-around philosopher, also harbors dreams of comedic greatness. At the very least, he is the very first name listed in the press release I just received touting this year's "star-studded line-up" for the 16th Annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest. (Sept. 30, 7 p.m. at the DC Improv) I ask you: Is there nothing that this Renaissance Man cannot do?

Obama and the Ghost of Louis Brandeis
September 15, 2009

President Obama’s speech yesterday was disappointing. As a diagnosis of the problems that let us into financial crisis, it was his clearest and best effort so far. He didn’t say it was a rare accident for which no one is to blame; rather he placed the blame squarely on the structure, incentives, and actions of Wall Street. But then he said: Our regulatory reforms will fix that. This is hard to believe. And even the president seems to have his doubts, because he added a plea that--in the meantime--the financial sector should behave better. The audience was composed of our financial elite, but

Are China's Per-Person Emissions Really So Low?
September 11, 2009

Here's a novel way of looking at China's greenhouse-gas emissions: Nicholas Stern, the British author of an acclaimed review on climate change, told students in Beijing’s People’s University that 13 Chinese provinces, regions and cities had higher per capita emissions than France. Six also overtook Britain. "There are many parts of China where emissions intensity and emissions per capita are looking much like some of the richer countries in Europe," he said in a speech that laid out his predictions on global warming. Good point.

Jane Fonda, Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu: They're All Back and They are All Malicious... and Dangerously Malicious at That
September 08, 2009

OK, the Bertrand Russell psychodrama is also malicious but maybe not dangerously so.  About six months ago, I came across a web posting announcing the formation of a Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Yes, it was one of those false kangaroo courts in which, from the Stalin era on, convenes not to evaluate evidence but to condemn. In loads of cases the verdicts brought quick impositions of the death sentence. One such process is now unfolding in Tehran, and its backers are Muslim millenarians and western leftists who are prone to support every revolution even if it is decidedly and objecti

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