31 July, 2005

Another (Morally) Bankrupt 'Air' Line

The Air America mishandling taxpayer funds meant for a child center blog swarm is so intense that I fear having my right-wing blogging credentials revoked if I don't mention it. Brian Maloney gets credit for the break, but pretty much any other blog on my roll has links and an opinion.

30 July, 2005

The Future of Tradition

I hope to blog more fully next week on this intellectual monolith by Lee Harris in the Hoover Institution's June/July issue of its Policy Review journal: "The Future of Tradition", but with the week I have shaping up, I'll be lucky to post at all.

For those with the inclination for such things, (plus a spare hour in which to focus completely), the piece is absolutely worth the time. Harris reviews the ways in which tradition has been philosophically defended throughout history, then breaks ground with a new one that, to this non-academic reader at least, seems pretty robust. Sound byte: the value of a tradition should be measured by how well it preserves a civilization going forward. Though his is another attempt to understand the current - and increasingly strident conflict - over relativism, fundamentalism and the fabric of society in general, those weary of such back-forth debates are likely to be pleasantly surprised. Harris offers some interesting and unexpected new insights. Marriage and family are a major area of focus, but hardly the only one. They are part of the story he weaves, not the main objective of his criticism. One of many gems of wisdom:

A society that moves from seeing the human ideal in terms of shining examples to thinking of the human ideal in abstract terms is a society that has undergone the most traumatic and wrenching change imaginable — a change so drastic that those who come out on the other side of it cannot comprehend the position of those who have been left behind by it. These are your shining examples, but they have no meaning for me. They are not my heroes, but yours.
I'll hold off on spoiling a surprise that crops up on the last few pages. Overall, his outlook is sobering but not bleak:
One of the preconditions of a civilization is that there is a fundamental ethical baseline below which it cannot be allowed to fall. Unless there is a deep and massive and unthinking commitment on the part of most people to the well-being not merely of their children, but of their children’s children, then the essential transgenerational duty of preserving the ethical baseline of our civilization will become a matter of hit-and-miss. It may be performed, but there is no longer any guarantee that it will be. The guarantee comes from shining examples.

29 July, 2005

France Gets Tough(er)

Whatever foolishness France committed vis Iraq, their stance on domestic terrorism is looking increasingly sane. If any imam made an open dare to the French government as happened in Britain, his bluff has just been called:

The gulf between British and French treatment of preachers of hatred and violence was thrown sharply into focus yesterday when France announced the summary expulsion of a dozen Islamists between now and the end of August.
Maybe watching Lance dominate their country's biggest sporting event the last three weeks, (and seven years), has given more French politicians a sense of the value of action. Maybe.

28 July, 2005

Helen Thomas Goes Off on Dick Cheney

Drudge and others are picking up a story from today's Hill newspaper to the effect that the doyenne of White House correspondents, Helen Thomas, has vowed to "kill herself" if Dick Cheney runs for president.

(Idle question: what options would that leave her if he were to win?)

Apparently, this new level of rhetoric is only a slight change from previous sarcasm, hyperbole, partisanship and gross and deliberate exaggerations (aka, lies), e.g.:

"I think the chipping away of our civil liberties is unprecedented. Even in World War II, I never saw anything like that in Washington or any of the wars." [emphasis added]
- Helen Thomas on MSNBC’s Donahue, July 22, 2002
And 'real' journalists wonder why charges of immaturity, unprofessionalism and bias don't stick all that well when they're slung against bloggers.

UPDATE I: Ironic that as a reporter seeking dirt on politicians, she would get peeved at being the subject of another reporter's tactics...
Thomas said yesterday at the White House that her comments to Eisele were for his ears only. "I'll never talk to a reporter again!" Thomas was overheard saying. "We were just talking -- I was ranting -- and he wrote about it. That isn't right. We all say stuff we don't want printed," Thomas said. But Eisele said that when he called Thomas, "I assume she knew that we were on the record."... he noted that reporters aren't that happy when the tables are turned. "Nobody has thinner skin than reporters," Eisele said with a laugh.

UPDATE II: Albert Eiselle follows up: "My affair with Helen".

Conspiracy Theories, London and Princess Di

File this under the heading of "tabloid-level crazy hunches", but does anyone else find it more than a little bit coincidental that as Scotland Yard's investigation into the Islamofascist London subway bombings comes to a full boil, (as it should), the car in which Princess Diana and her nominally Muslim lover Dodi Fayed were killed (some say murdered) almost eight years ago, is suddenly being sent back to Britain from France for forensic investigation? Conspiracy theorists do your worst.

Side note:1997 seems like a very very long time ago, doesn't it?

Newsweek at Both Ends of Life

My wife handed me this article from the July 25th issue of Newsweek ("A Dream Before Dying") and I found it fascinating.

...many people have extraordinary dreams in their final days and weeks. These dreams can help the dying grapple with their fears, find the larger meaning in their lives, even mend fences with relatives. Yet all too often, caregivers dismiss them as delusional or unworthy of attention. Not [Rev. Patricia] Bulkley, who often discussed dreams with patients at the Hospice of Marin in California. Her experiences were the inspiration for the book [Dreaming Beyond Death], which she coauthored with her son... There are certain overarching themes that emerge—going on journeys, reuniting with deceased loved ones, seeing stopped clocks.
It's somewhat disappointing that the Rev. Bulkley denies these dreams as proof of God's existence and presence, (though I could see how an interviewer from a secular newsmagazine, interviewing a clergyperson could get hung up on what 'proof' means.) But they come close enough for those teetering on the brink of faith to be drawn in:
The authors resist the notion that pre-death dreams prove the existence of God. Yet the dying often interpret them as affirmations of faith. On her deathbed, a female cancer patient of Bulkley's was stricken with doubts about the nature of God. For three nights in a row, she dreamed of huge boulders that pulsated with an eerie blue light. To her, they represented a divine being that was unidentifiable, but very real. "I don't need to know anything more than that," she told Bulkley. "God is God." But she had one final dream. In it, the boulders morphed into steppingstones. In the distance a golden light glowed. "It's calling me now, and I want to go," she told Bulkley that morning. She died the next day—at peace.
Unfortunately if predictably, in another Newsweek piece (web exclusive, posted 7-26), the editors get all worked up about toxic chemicals making their way to fetuses in utero without even a hint about another bigger, more immediate and ongoing threat to those same fetuses: abortion.
Doctors once thought that the placenta would shield a fetus from harmful chemicals and pollutants. But new research shows that may not be the case. A study published this month by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy group based in Washington DC, found traces of 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 infants. They included mercury, pesticides and the chemicals used in stain-resistant coating and fire-retardant foam. The findings prompted concerns since children’s smaller brains, developing organs and more porous brains put them more at risk from such toxins than adults. "A child's brain is very vulnerable and developing very rapidly in utero and during the first two years of life," says Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.
After all, if they're just masses of cells, who cares either way?

27 July, 2005

Some Troubling Questions on Islamofascism

As usual, Victor Davis Hanson brings logic and historical perspective to bear like no other - a veritable power drill press on a pane of glass - shattering comfortable illusions about Islamic terrorism and its origins:

So it is becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali, Darfur, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was not so tied to particular and "understandable" Islamic grievances. Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S. hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political concessions...So far global jihad avoids two billion Indians and Chinese, despite the fact that their countries are far tougher on Muslims than is the United States or Europe. In other words, the Islamicists target those whom they think they can intimidate and blackmail.
Hanson brings it up, but I'll take it a step further: 9-11 happens in Shanghai... and Riyadh is vaporized that evening by a flurry of long-range Chinese nukes or an immediate invasion, (hey, they're going to need the additional oil even more than we will). Who's unilateralist now?

The whole thing is a must read.

26 July, 2005

Natural Belief

The Anchoress really likes these folks. I can see why. This piece is absolutely sublime.

The days of closeness to God are natural, and require no more than serenity... we don't have to be talked into belief in God. The arguments are about wresting belief away. That is what takes the effort.
That said, I'm somewhat confused by the following in a post about God (singular):
The truth is that there is no one truth, anymore than there is one kind of love. That should not preclude anyone from seeking God. It is also true that God manifests himself in ways and in the language that we understand- each of us.
If they mean it to imply that - like snowflakes - no two spiritual journeys are alike, then I'm absolutely on board. But like snowflakes, all such journeys come from the sky, return to the ground, and meld back into a single ocean eventually. In that, there is one truth and He is God. That we don't see His truth as unified is our problem, not His. The Tao that can be known is not the eternal Tao. Christ spoke in parables for a reason.

From the Guy Who Married 'Hanoi' Jane...

...and thought the UN worthy of a $1Billion donation, we now have this - apparently not a joke.

Ted Turner is visiting North Korea next month to discuss turning the DMZ into a Park... The North Koreans have agreed to meet with the former CNN founder to discuss his ideas on a revamp of the most heavily fortified and land mined area in the world... When will the Jane Fondas and Ted Turners of the world realize that they are constantly being used as propaganda tools for the despots and tyrants of the world?
Why do men and women with a public face (e.g., Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Jesse Jackson, Sean Penn, etc.), who obviously feel passionately about these issues, and are clearly somewhat intelligent and reasonably accomplished within the realm of their original profession think (over and over and over again), that all of that somehow translates into competency in international politics, diplomacy, military strategy, cultural detente and arms negotiation? (Oh, we never thought of that! Why thank you, Mr. Turner! We'll call Mr. Eisner and Mr. Rumsfeld right away to get going on the park!)

What is it about fame and human nature that leads some people to believe that the heartfelt inner purity of their commitment, combined with personal charisma will change the minds and melt the hearts of hardened dictators and faceless institutions when history proves decisively that they are simply the dupes ("useless idiots") of these regimes - prolonging the pain and suffering of great masses of downtrodden people whose lives and safety they purport to care about?

I have great respect for true pacifists who truly live their views, though I've met very few in my travels. I don't know if Ted Turner is one. I suspect not, but it doesn't matter. Having been a radical leftie myself in the 1980's when Reagan was upping the ante with the Soviet Union, I can understand the fearful high-minded impulses that may be driving him. (I won't even speculate as to whether a profit motivation may be in play, though it could be.) But unlike Ted, I was a clueless teenager when I had those impulses. I got over it. Carter's unilateral and highly destabilizing disarmament notions almost got us all charbroiled. Reagan's apparent warmongering changed the world forever - for the better.

If Mr. Turner is a pacifist, I'm almost willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on motives simply because this move is so utterly naive to the situation on the ground and the history of the conflict that one can only conclude that he really believes that what he's doing is right. Which of course does not make a whit of difference in terms of its effects, which can't help but be counterproductive.

I like to think of this as the polar opposite of what Natan Sharansky experienced in the gulag when he heard Reagan call the Soviet Union the 'Evil Empire', i.e., hope. Millions of North Koreans who get wind of this stunt can only have their hopes crushed by this. At the very least they will have their collective ignorance prolonged as their tormentor is legitimized by a major symbol of Western entrepreneurial capitalistic success.

But there's another level at which this is just plain nuts that's even more common and worth punching holes in. A vast left wing consensus seems to assume that compassion and unilateral pacifism operate best at the level of institutions (the UN, the U.S. government, the DPRK.) They do not. Those desirable traits start in the human heart. The Holy Spirit works one by one. I won't claim to be the world's best authority on this, but as I understand scriptural admonitions to peace and loving thy neighbor, (aka the Golden Rule) they operate at the level of individuals.

States do not change their minds because of a flamboyant gesture. Institutions do not change their hearts because of the unilateral purity of their neighbors. They change only when forced to do so - sometimes through diplomacy, sometimes through threat, sometimes at the point of a gun. Sometimes only after those guns are fired - repeatedly. States may change their policies, but states and institutions simply do not have overnight conversions the way some people do when presented with a radical gesture of peace and friendship.

Ted is desperately misguided on this one. I don't care what his motivations are. All I can say is please please sit down and shut up. Preferably now.

25 July, 2005

She's No Dummy - Hillary Supports Roberts

Her heart may be with the Moveon.org gang and nothing-to-lose-but-this-gut Democrats like Teddy Kennedy, but she's no fool.

24 July, 2005

Lance for President?

At least one former candidate thinks so. Of course, Mr. Armstrong would run as a Republican. Interesting in light of this. Can you say 'paranoia'? (For the record, Mr. Maru is an avid endurance athlete.)

23 July, 2005

Who's Got Imperialistic Ambitions Now?

While the left wrings it's hands over perceived U.S. "imperialism", influential Syrian born Muslim cleric, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, (now based happily in Britian), had this to say yesterday:

In an interview with Reuters, Bakri described Osama bin Laden, leader of the radical Islamist network al Qaeda, as "a sincere man who fights against evil forces... I would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over number 10 Downing Street, but over the whole world."

Can we agree now that the enemy has raised his hand, clearly declared his ambitions, (over and over and over again), and is in the process of pursuing them by any means at his disposal and with no reference whatsoever to the niceties of the Geneva Convention or any other moral code? Can we stop looking for moral equivalence where it simply is not present? Can we stop believing the genuflections in the direction of 'condemning' the taking of innocent lives while supporting those who do so? Can we stop ignoring this incitement to war and calling it 'religious' by self-flagelistic reference to the accrued sins of Western civilization during the Crusades for goodness sakes? Can someone start farming these liberal ostriches for meat rather than listening intently to their foreign and domestic policy prescriptions and writing about them reverently and at length in the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly?

(OK, that last one was a joke. I didn't mean to insult such a fine and magnificent animal.)

The Sheikh went on to taunt his sworn enemies:
"I think that would be political suicide for the British government if they started to deport and imprison all extremists and radicals."
I wouldn't be so sure. Despite the support his statements may get from the naive, absolutist left-wing media, the West may be a lot closer than he thinks to doing just that. As Dirty Harry would say: "Go ahead. Make my day." Or as Justice Robert H. Jackson said in his dissenting opinion in the 1949 free speech case Terminiello vs. Chicago, taking a somewhat different slant on societal self-immolation: "the Consitution is not a suicide pact."

The UN Debates Terrorism; Do NOT Hold Breath

While the definition of terrorism has been patently obvious to everyone else for decades, (can we start by agreeing on the wanton and purposeful mass murder of innocents?), the UN debates what it means. If there's a coherent, level-headed argument as to why the UN - by definition, the average of rogues, villians and fools, plus a few enlightened Western democracies - is likely to do more good for the world more quickly than benevolent unilateral action by the United States, I'd love to hear it. Two ground rules: no swearing or personal insults, and no reference to how wonderfully idealistic the UN seemed in theory just after WWII. Most other ideas of that vintage are beginning to smell pretty foul - in case liberals hadn't noticed.

Blurring the Lines on 'Fundamentalism'

For some reason recently, I've been the recipient of more than the usual background dose of liberal 'secret handshakes', shared on the assumption that I'm one of them. One of the more galling is the notion that "all fundamentalism is bad" - Christians, Muslims... all fundamentalists are really the same. Often, what's bound up in this seemingly simple invitation to head-nodding (i.e., we're not fundamentalists are we?), is a vast array of unstated assumptions, including:

Any fixed universal doctrine must be wrong. The problem with this is twofold. First, it implies that the only correct 'doctrine' is that of one's own perspective, of one's own mind and thoughts and shifting perceptions. I.e., that 'truth' is to be found in an endless journey without commitment to anything in particular... looking at the spiritual salad bar and tentatively nibbling from each bin, without ever settling on the final composition of the meal itself - much less the act of eating it. What this boils down to is approach-avoidance atheism - a choice I respect and acknowledge, (having been there myself). It puts individuals in the driver's seat of universal truth - a scary proposition in that the world is then filled with eight billion micro-fundamentalists, whose only doctrine is 'me'. Ayn Rand would be pleased, but so would Satan. Second, it equates books with ultimate truth. If one believes in God, then there is a fixed, universal doctrine - just one. The problem lies not with that ultimate truth, but with man's perception and interpretation of it, including the ambiguous translation, misinterpretation and outright misuse of narrow bits of scripture - a small point on which there may be common ground with the folks I'm complaining about.

All conservative Christians are essentially fundamentalists. This one hardly warrants refutation. To a great degree, 'fundamentalist' is really a code word and slur for referring to 'non-liberal Christians' - the implication being that Jesus would campaign for Howard Dean if he came back tomorrow. This view simply demonstrates ignorance of the wide range of thought and belief within a vast bloc of Christians who voted for the winning presidential candidate last November.

Chsitianity is essentially equivalent to Islam. Having not read the Koran, I'll be the first to acknowledge that I'm ill equipped to perform an academic take-down of Islam. That's not my intent in any case. What irks me though, is that the folks who hold this view seem either to buy into the first notion (i.e., it's all just religion, and all religion is bunk, so who cares if the red team or the blue team is right?), or they fail to look at the evidence. (More on that in a moment.) Where this argument starts is with the grain of truth that horrible things have been done in the name of God by pretty much every religious group out there. (And yes, this includes Buddhists, at least to the extent that one believes that deliberately burning oneself up in public is a horrific, un-Godly act.) No one is clean. We are all fallen and prone to evil deeds.

Yet it's hard to look at what is being done in the world today that's driven by religious doctrine and specific incitement to violence and conclude that the two are equivalent... that the fruits they bear are equally sweet. Where my liberal debating partners try to regain a foothold is by calling the war in Iraq religiously motivated because the president is a prayerful man who's accepted Christ into his life. Stop. There is a vast and yawning chasm between a government going through a thoroughly secular eighteen month deliberative process of debate and planning with the intent of liberating millions from oppression and torture while using tactics designed to minimize casualties at the expense of American lives, and an individual being told by an imam in a mosque that it is his or her duty to strap explosives to himself and kill innocents at random.

If making that distinction makes me a fundamentalist, then bring it on baby. Bring it on.

Finally, there's the specious argument that folks like Timothy McVeigh and David Koresh and Eric Rudolph, are tainted as white Southern men who probably hang out with fundamentalist Christians, so lets throw them in the hopper with mad Islamic suicide bombers and call it even. NY Girl has a nice little take-down of that line of 'reasoning' with regards to Rudolph. For this and other great posts, I've added her to my blogroll and my regular reading list.

22 July, 2005

Pictures Tell the Story

Long week. Not much time for blogging or recreational reading. Business is booming again. This is good, but I'm reminded of how much I hate air travel in summer in a middle seat on late afternoon flights that are inevitably delayed by weather.

In such times, I reduce my focus to a few, like The Anchoress and this great picture-ful post yesterday that gives the lie to the liberal argument that it's all our fault and it's all about our antagonizing terrorists by going into Iraq.

19 July, 2005

Note to Mr. Bill: Sit Down, Shut Up and Chill Out

I have several theories on the only president in over 100 years to suffer an actual impeachment vote:

1) He think's he's still president and the media is under the same wish/illusion.
2) He's kicking himself that he didn't propose an amendment to the Constitution making that possible while he still had the power to do so.
3) He's planning to run as Veep, then off his wife after she gets the job.
4) He's running for Kofi Annan's job.

Regardless of which are true, (and all of them could be), I find it odd that statements like this, that would be savaged by the MSM if the current president said them, are adoringly reported as gospel when they come out of Mr. Bill's mouth at a gathering with Nelson Mandela recently in South Africa:

"Not very far from you in the South Pole in the last 10 years, 12 chunks of ice the size of Rhode Island have broken off," Clinton told the volunteers with City Year South Africa, a youth service organization he helped inspire. "If this continues for another couple of decades, part of South Africa will be under water, and we will lose 50 feet of Manhattan Island in New York."
Three quick thoughts:

1) "not very far from here"? Has he looked at a map? President Bush would be torn to pieces for that kind of ignorance masquerading as sleight of hand.

2) "50 feet of Manhattan"? That has a price. It is high, but not in the $trillions. Having just spent $10 billion to 'fix' our local infrastructure here in Boston (far far less than Kyoto would cost), it seems that even if global warming were true, it could be dealt with through engineering and construction rather than avoidance. After all, that creates union jobs and aren't Democrats for that? Besides, what the $%^& do some kids in South Africa care about a slice of Manhattan? They probably care a lot more about whether they have the opportunity to industrialize their society on fair terms and get jobs, and that takes energy, which creates Co2. Answer: Bill cares because that's the center of his universe and his universe is the only universe that matters.

3) Ever notice how these announcements come in a great flurry whenever the East Coast of the US, (i.e., MSM influence central) is having a heatwave? Ever notice how they don't happen very often in February?

'Nuf said.

17 July, 2005

Tony Blair - The Way U.S. Democrats Used to Be

In response to this post the other day, a friend reminded me that Tony Blair is on the liberal left - of the Labour Party - and therefore, the implication being, was I really sure I liked him?

Answer: unequivocally yes, (at least as regards terrorism and what we're doing to fight it.) This latest speech to his own party, where one would think he might be inclined to pull a few punches, only adds to my already great respect for him:

The prime minister told Labour party members it would be a "misunderstanding of a catastrophic order" to think extremists would act differently if the developed world changed its behaviour. "If it is the plight of the Palestinians that drives them, why, every time it looks as if Israel and Palestine are making progress, does the same ideology perpetrate an outrage that turns hope back into despair? If it is Afghanistan that motivates them, why blow up innocent Afghans on their way to their first-ever election? If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi government? What was 11 September 2001 the reprisal for?"
This is the way U.S. Democrats such as Harry Truman and John Kennedy used to talk. Even a few current Democrats talked this way for a few months after 9-11. Some, such as Hillary Clinton continue to talk this way, but with three important differences: 1) they say different things to their own party members than they do to the general public, 2) the tough talk is largely calibrated to the polls, and 3) it is not backed up by support for tough U.S. policies. The world is complex and ever changing, they argue, so our principles and policies should be also. Policies? Yes. Principles? No.

Tony Blair has principle and it shows. Principle is easy to recognize because those who possess it behave in a way that is precisely opposite to the three points listed above: the line is the same no matter who is listening or what the polls say... and it is backed up by action. That's called leadership. It makes some people crazy. They mistake representative democracy - wherein leaders are chosen to lead and given reasonable latitude to do so, with a poll-driven hyper-democracy that puts the masses in the driver's seat directly.

I believe that history will treat both Tony Blair and George Bush quite kindly. They are speaking a truth that many don't want to hear, and following through on their words. My only wish is that Mr. Bush could be as eloquent and forthright as Mr. Blair. As with the terrorists themselves, rhetorical appeasement of the domestic wacko fringe only emboldens their hate.

UPDATE: Great little piece on Chirac's pique vs. Britain. Choice excerpt: Behind all Mr Chirac's macho chest-beating hides a man struggling to salvage his reputation. More and more, the French are wondering how he can carry on as president for two more years when the polls show that fewer than one person in three trusts him.

15 July, 2005

Now This is Funny...

Couldn't resist. Apologies if it's old news. Yes, it's satire. Yes, it's a little sick.

For Any Budding Bloggers Out There

Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost has this succinct wrap-up of what a blogging 'addiction' has done for him:

Last month I spent approximately 97 hours working on my blog and received $252.40 in ad revenue. I earned $2.60 per hour for blogging (minimum wage is $5.15 per hour). Needless to say, I don’t do it for the money... What I’ve gained from blogging - friendship, community, education - can’t be quantified. The best things in the blogosphere are the connections you make, the relationships you form, and the posts that amuse, inform, and surprise - and those are things that can’t be measured by Sitemeter or Technorati.
IMHO he nailed it.

14 July, 2005

Joe Wilson: Impartial Centrist Public Servant

Lest there be any doubt that the latest Rove hunt is anything other than a partisan smear:

"It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for a Republican, even for dog catcher."
- Joe Wilson, $8,000 donor to Democrats, and husband of statesite 'secret agent' Valerie Plame (whose employer was well known in the DC area), in the New York Times two weeks ago.

UPDATE: Powerline has the rest of the story, in which Joe Wilson himself says: "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." Which is to say, they're upset that their privacy was violated (by Bob Novak), and perhaps that Ms. Plame can no longer work covertly overseas. All of that brings this to the level of personal paparazzi annoyance, not scandal in the White House.

Lest We Forget Their True Motives and Goals

One of the things I find remarkable about the current clash of civilizations, (and yes, I believe it is one), is that the enemy clearly and regularly states their true intentions and the liberal mainstream media systematically tries to filter and soften those messages. So it is with this latest from Hamas earlier this week:

Speaking to the Corriere Della Sera [Italian] newspaper, [Mahmoud] al-Zahar said Hamas would "definitely not" be prepared for coexistence with Israel should the IDF retreat to its 1967 borders. "It can be a temporary solution, for a maximum of 5 to 10 years. But in the end Palestine must return to become Muslim, and in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the earth." [emphasis added]
Oops. So much for the peace process and maybe they'll like us better if we're nice and try to understand them. Not gonna happen. This is determination. This is evil.

The London Story Evolves - Towards Profiling

Some are shaken at how the London story is evolving. I am not. I.e., suicide bombers rather than remote triggers, citizens rather than recent arrivals, and small, low-tech explosives (relatively speaking) rather than super-sophisticated 'WMD'. Nor am I surprised (or concerned) - in fact I'm highly encouraged - by a renewed call for profiling. Even NPR this morning - to its great credit - featured an expert making this argument.

While unfortunate and unfair, profiling is really the only sane, logical course to ferret out what are essentially deep sleeper cells and individual moles camouflaged within Western society. Yes it may have the effect of further polarizing the population, but as Europe is already very far down this path, it seems that it doesn't have that much to lose. We might, but I have confidence in the ability of a true liberal democracy to act as a control rod on such violence at the margin. There will always be some. It will make headlines. It will be tragic. But widespread violence in the streets, (like after the Rodney King verdict)? No.

As I noted last week, while profiling in theory will push terrorists to adopt new tactics and profiles, it should buy us some time. Until they do change tactics, (e.g., enticing blonde elderly nuns to blow themselves up for Islam), it will be a better use of resources than checking everyone's shoes at airports. As Dinesh D'Souza has eloquently pointed out in the past, there is such a thing as rational prejudice. It is anything but personal and not necessarily related to an increase in racial tension - often the exact opposite. The opposite is by definition irrational and untruthful, even as it may be more 'fair' to a few. Few MSM commentators talk about how fair it was for those injured or killed last week.

Divine Screw-ups

Two weeks ago it rained heavily here, highlighting the fact that my gutters are clogged. I had not had time to deal with it and was loathe to pay someone to do so - a source of annoyance to my wonderfully pragmatic get-it-done wife. With work increasing in intensity and my brother back in the hospital, the problem was not going to get attention any time soon.

So yesterday, not thinking about gutters at all on a fine sunny summer afternoon, I got a call in the car from my teenage daughter: "There's a truck in our driveway. Men are putting ladders up on the house and working on the gutters. What should I do?" My daughter is a cool customer - sensible in the extreme and not easily shaken by such developments. "Stay inside and lock the doors," I said, trying not to sound as helpless as I felt. There was brief confusion as to whether my wife or I had ordered up this service and not told the other. A quick exchange of calls established that we had not.

I called the number that my daughter read to me off the side of the truck, got an answering machine and left a sharp message: "I'm told that there are men from your company working on my house without my authorization. Please remove them immediately and call me to confirm that you have done so or I will be calling the police." I didn't really want to call the police. I like to assume the benign unless given reason to think otherwise. Two edgy minutes passed.

My phone rang. The caller was very polite and professional - if misinformed. "My men tell me that they are at the correct house." Me: "Well, they may think they are at the right house, but let me assure you: they are not." After some more back-and-forth it became apparent that they had misread a sign and gone to the correct number... on the incorrect street.

I arrived in my driveway a few minutes later to find the men gone and my gutters almost completely clean. No mess. No bill. No problem. God it seems, is one clever, funny dude... solving a pesky problem for free on an otherwise difficult day while entertaining me in the process. Cool.

13 July, 2005

God and My Car Radio

This seems to be happening to me a lot recently. I get in my car after thinking meditatively and/or praying about something important, (are they really all that different?) and a song comes on that's absolutely perfect to the situation. Not imaginatively close. Not cleverly interpretable as bearing on the situation. Perfect.

Such was the case a few minutes ago after writing a difficult e-mail to a relative about my brother's situation. Back in the hospital after his third onset/relapse of leukemia in as many months, I heard the old Chumbawumba tune:

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down.
Thanks God. Keep working on those DJs. I like it.

Reasonably good news today: my brother is eligible for a new drug that promises to target his cancer cells directly, allowing him to leave the hospital in a week and hopefully stay in remission long enough for a bone marrow transplant. He is extraordinarily calm and hopeful, as are we all. Four months of this has matured us all emotionally, mentally and spiritually in ways I could never have imagined. My brother is embracing a new spirituality with a centeredness I would not have expected of him. People change. God pushes them to change. He smiles when they do.

Hate, Rancor and Liberal Myth

I live in a particularly liberal corner of New England - by fate of birth, (happy) luck of marriage, and roots set down long before my political conversion and religious awakening. John Kerry took my town by more than a 4:1 margin. Barney Frank lives a few blocks away. Mike Dukakis once crossed a street on foot in front of me as I was stopped at a red light. (No, I did not gun the engine. I waved.)

One woman takes great pleasure in driving around town in a vehicle she painted herself, complete with a giant dead president effigy on the roof and "IMPEACH BUSH NOW!" in big block letters on the side. People smile and wave and give her the thumbs up sign. Bumper stickers are overwhelmingly sarcastic - the ratio of Kerry to Bush rhetoric much much greater than the 4:1 voting margin - for fear of vehicles getting keyed, I suspect. Dinner parties are, how to say... tolerable but nervous-making affairs, always on the knife edge of becoming unpleasant, one-shot wonders if I dare open my mouth on anything but the weather. And with "global climate change" mania all the rage, even that is now off limits. Such is the landscape, and I accept it. For now, I choose to live here for reasons having nothing to do with politics.

What gets frustrating, and occasionally amusing are business meetings in which liberals somehow mistake me for one of their own and go off. A recent meeting was a case in point. I will leave the details blurry to avoid fingering the guilty.

The mealtime conversation veered suddenly to how terrible it was that "Bush" (always "Bush", never "the President" or "President Bush") was getting away with lying about Iraq: "there was never any link with Al Queda and they know it!" Uh, except that there was. They talked of how scary it was that "facts don't seem to matter anymore", (ironic, no?), and how the press was "just going along for the ride". (Hello! Have any of them ever even glanced at the long, large and ever growing body of evidence and anecdote for gross, pervasive and cynical liberal media bias?)

My sudden silence and poker face didn't slow things down a bit as they delved into grievances harbored since the Reagan administration. "James Watt said that Christ wouldn't come until all of the trees were cut down - can you believe it!" Uh, no, I thought. I can't. Because it's not true. It's been well established as a media lie, perpetuated for years because it felt good to those doing the publishing.

I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, but knew that to speak up, even on a point of fact like this, would be to commit professional suicide in the most permanent manner imaginable. I was caught. Like my choice to live where I do, there were still good reasons to work with these people. Attempts at changing the subject or deflecting didn't work. Getting up to leave wouldn't work either. I'd just sat down to eat.

"And can you believe that Christians are trying to portray themselves as victims?" Uh, yes. "Can you believe the arrogance? Victims!" The implication being: Victims are who WE say they are - the liberal establishment.

With great but unnoticed irony, the conversation turned to diversity and how we needed more in the group: "people of color, and other sexual orientations, and from other countries." All well and good. There was already quite a bit in the room. But what never got brought up were differences of perspective. Nope. We want a rainbow of races and other attributes, but nobody who disagrees with us.

The myths were obvious, the rancor palpable. Diversity means a very particular thing to liberals that's all about appearances and not about being challenged. To this isolated conservative Christian, the hate was clear: the threat of social and professional ostracism in the air should I say what I thought. Yes, it was a passive hate, but to borrow a liberal koan, I felt "threatened" and "uncomfortable". After all, isn't that the yardstick for victimhood that liberals themselves have established? My feelings and not the speakers' intentions?

Ironically, at least two of the speakers were Buddhists... calm and centered and warm and content... until it came to Christianity and "Bush!" (said with a spitting sound): "Their God is trashing the earth and making war and spreading hate!" (As if God and the USA were one and the same.) What was not mentioned was that this evil USA/deity thing they had invented in their minds is also protecting their sorry arses from terrorists and spreading jobs to third world countries and liberating millions of women and children tortured under the Taliban and Saddam and sacrificing their lives to do it. The long knives had come out... waiting. I have nothing against Buddhists or liberals as people, but this was clearly the dark side of a few. As the Anchoress likes to say, why can't weee be friends?

12 July, 2005

Back to Reality

Busy couple of days professionally. Blogging has taken a back seat.

Call me callous or divorced from reality or just suffering from shock at the moment, but as much as I desperately want things to go my brother's way in this life, they are not. We got news today that his leukemia has relapsed... for the third time in as many months. It does not take a medical degree to know that this is bad. Very bad.

Yet through this, I have come to trust completely - in fact, I am absolutely convinced - that God has a larger plan to which we must surrender. (And those who know me well, know that I don't surrender easily!)

Consider this (just one in a substantial and growing list of such things)...

The last two days, I was drawn - by a ridiculously long string of unlikely coincidences - to attend a gathering of professionals specializing in resilience. This would not ordinarily be my kind of thing, but the coincidences had piled up deep. Several clear signs had told me, in effect: "Be there. Suspend your judgment and disbelief. Listen. Allow it to soak in. Don't flee. Trust me. It will be worth it. You need this. It will come to good."

I never actually heard those words, but the feeling was strong. And in case I didn't get it, the workshop - otherwise non-religious - was being held at a Catholic retreat center. I am not Catholic, but I find the imagery comforting, and thanks to the Anchoress, am finding that the differences with my own Protestant quasi-evangelical Christian beliefs are fewer than I might have imagined. We're reminded by scripture that it's all one church. I suspect it's even bigger than that.

A giant Jesus statue with open arms stood in the driveway. The grounds were strewn with crosses and painted cement madonna-with-child type thingies, (help me out here, Catholic readers!) The meeting room and eating room were peppered with religious iconography as well. And as if to hammer the point home, a scene from the Passion framed the host as the workshop kicked off. I had prayed for career guidance... for a sign as to whether this conference was worth it. Now I was getting it. Hello! It was hard to escape the feeling that for reasons unknown to me, this is where I should be. OK, turn off the cell phone. Sit nicely. Listen. Be in the moment and listen. Just listen.

The group turned out to be filled with world-class experts and authors and others who have appeared on CNN and in major newspapers, talking about things like "Survivor Personality" and "personal resilience". These folks have studied in depth the habits of death camp survivors and war vets and accident victims and such, as well as those around them. I.e., how do people go on when things look terrifying, bleak or even pointless? To my surprise for a business conference, the discussions kept coming back to a simple point: people who survive have faith in a larger purpose. They don't invent it on the spot. They have it. They have tuned it in and know it.

Still, at times, I was wondering: This is interesting, but what's the relevance to business? Why am I here? And then...

AS I LEFT THE DRIVEWAY, I picked up the message about my brother's relapse. AS I LEFT THE DRIVEWAY!!!!! (Can you say "just-in-time training"?)

Part of me wanted to react in the conventional way: "Oh no. Not him. Not now. Not again. Please spare his life, oh God!" The adrenaline surge. The welling up. The deep, deep sadness and fear. And yet at the same time I found myself filled - absolutely filled - with the utter presence of God. Today's coincidences, (of which the one I described above is just one) have become too many to ignore. He was there. He is here. He is with my brother. He is everywhere. He is with you as you read this. He will be glorified. This will turn out for His good in the fullness of His kingdom, even if we cannot see it and rail and wail and cry that it must not be so.

I can only surrender. May His will be done.

10 July, 2005

Islamofascists in the West: Ants, Rats or Wolves?

Related to my Thursday off-the-cuff speculations about the London bombings:

...there is a limited supply of suicide bombers so, their Islamofascist handlers might reason, why waste them if its not necessary? ...If Saddam had to offer $25K to families to keep the supply up and that market support is no longer there, one would think the supply - however large it may be - would have diminished somewhat with his removal from the role of market subsidizer.
Belmont Club's 'Wretchard', (now revealed as Richard Fernandez, formerly of Harvard, and Belmont, Massachusetts, by way of the Phillipines and Australia), has this interesting take on what the Islamic terrorists may be capable of, concluding that:
...there is no obvious way one can get from Iraq to the London operation. Occam's Razor urges a simpler conclusion: that Al Qaeda's British minions either didn't have enough explosive to do worse or they didn't have the know-how to assemble a bigger bomb... They would have blown up 30 trains if they had the means. Certainly it was not the milk of human kindness that stayed their hand... The inevitable question then is 'why could Bin Laden not find the means to attack 30 trains?' The answer it seems to me, must be Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and hundred other places where he is engaged without quarter by US forces. Resources, whether Jihadi or no are not infinite. They do not have some magical machine that allows them to be everywhere at once, to sustain losses yet grow. [emphasis added]
The whole thing is worth reading. Wretchard/Richard's conclusion: Western passiveness enabled 9-11; pro-actively engaging the enemy on his turf has led to a weakening of what he is capable of in the West. This is not reason to back off, but to continue the fight.

First Amendment Outflanked and Under Fire

While the left has been preoccupied with worry about potential for civil liberties violations under this administration and with the Patriot Act, (hollow cries at best), the First Amendment has taken a direct hit with serious implications. Michelle Malkin has the story:

Last week, a Thurston County, Washington, judge ruled that on-air editorial comments by two of my old friends, Seattle talk hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson of KVI-AM, are considered in-kind campaign contributions, subject to reporting under state disclosure laws.
She also links to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial that's a remarkable admission from an otherwise hyper-liberal newspaper:
Two years ago, when the federal campaign-finance law reached the U.S. Supreme Court, dissenting justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas warned that something like this would happen. We doubted it; it seemed clear to us that the law applied to ads, not editorial content. We thought Thomas was over the top when he said campaign-finance law was leading toward "outright regulation of the press." Judge Wickham has made a step toward just that. It is a dangerous, unconstitutional ruling. The losers need to appeal it and the appellate courts need to reverse it.
Indeed. While the left was watching the front door, the non-partisan and seemingly innocuous campaign finance "reform" meme snuck round the back and set the First Amendment house on fire. And no, this is not just a Washington State thing. It could easily move beyond there. Justices Thomas and Scalia were right to see that there is only a slippery slope where others see firm distinctions among different types, (and financers of) speech.

Speech is speech. Free speech will always be messy. But so long as people have choices of what to watch, hear, see, or not - increasingly true in our exploding array of media choices: e.g., tens of millions of blogs, cable TV, etc. - more speech and more open speech will be the solution. This development is truly frightening. I hope my friends on the left, (if I still have any), can see this for what it is: a common problem we must fight together. McCain-Feingold needs to be put in the dustbin of history along with other grand ideas for controlling how people choose to spend their money, time and energy.

Malkin's whole piece is worth reading, and she's always good with updates.

09 July, 2005

Hard Lines Work - NoKo Caves to Pressure

Not that it means much, but today's announcement by North Korea that they will re-join so-called six-party talks throws cold water on the argument that rogue regimes must be coddled and enticed and bribed with 'incentives' in order to behave. Kim Jong-il is just as evil and dangerous as ever, but he's not stupid. He knows that the president and the prospect of John Bolton didn't give him a lot of options to play for goodies. Thank goodness Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton are now merely private citizens.

French Unilateralism History Tidbit

I had almost forgotten this incident - a reminder that French outrage over U.S. 'unilateralism' and high-minded rhetoric about U.S. 'brutality' are disingenuous in the extreme.

If French agents who blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor 20 years ago were trying to sink the Greenpeace movement along with its protest ship, they couldn't have done a worse job.

08 July, 2005

Syncophantic Press: Global Warming! Eek!

Gee, I wonder why data on North Atlantic ocean temperatures just happens to get released this week while G8 leaders are meeting in... the North Atlantic? Also, explain for me why this headline and lead paragraph,

North Atlantic Ocean Temps Hit Record High
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) - Ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic hit an all-time high last year, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on one of the most sensitive and productive ecosystems in the world.
isn't utterly biased in light of the last four paragraphs of the story, (the stuff nobody reads.):
Eugene Colbourne, an oceanographer with the [Canadian] Fisheries Department [that released the data]... said the results are not conclusive. Water temperatures in the cold Labrador current were actually below normal levels. And while the other temperatures were record highs, a similar warming trend occurred in the 1960s, Colbourne said. "We really can't say for sure if what we're seeing in Newfoundland waters is a consequence of global warming, when we've only got 50 years of data or so," Colbourne said. "It may be related to global warming but, then again, it may be just the natural cycle that we see in this area of the world." [emphasis added]
Also, since I'm on a bit of a rampage this week after the London bombings, explain to me why any of this is a big priority in light of the fact that we're in the midst of a global war that could bring a great deal more grief in a much much shorter timeframe?

Awaiting Complaints re. Hurricane at Gitmo

Mark my words, someone, perhaps Amnesty International or Dick Durbin, is going to complain that Gitmo detainees aren't getting enough light in their cells and/or that they're being put in harm's way by being so close to the beach. Just wait. You heard it here first. :)

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba (AP) - Packing devastating 150 mph winds, Hurricane Dennis tore down a guard tower at the U.S. detention camp for terror suspects as it stalked Cuba's south coast and prepared Friday to strike into the heart of the largest Caribbean island... troops watched from a cliff as the churning Atlantic Ocean threw up massive waves of salt spray that towered over the razor wire fence surrounding the camp at Guantanamo Bay. The troops fixed metal shutters over the steel mesh windows of some prison cells overlooking the sea at Camp Delta, which is just 150 yards from the ocean.

Live8 or Liber8?

Gotta love this post by Glenn Reynolds, quoting from Max Boot's column in yesterday's LA Times.

Who's 'Extremist'?

This post by the reasonably intellectually-honest-sounding Democratic blogger 'Democracy Guy' bodes poorly for the future of that party, and gives the lie to the MSM koan that only the right has a wing full of intolerant extremist nuts.

"As a Democrat, I'm very happy that the lefty blogosphere wasn't around much on September 11. Because if they were, and they uncorked the response they are uncorking to the London bombings, Democrats might never be electable again in my lifetime."

Random Thoughts on the 7/7 London Massacre

News seems to indicate that the blasts in London yesterday used timers as their triggers, not suicide dupes - though reports still differ, and the possibility hasn't been entirely ruled out. All of which got me thinking: Why is that?

One possibility is that, until yesterday, it was just too darned easy to plant a timed bomb in trusting London versus say, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It worked in Madrid. The only innovation made here was to avoid cell phone triggers, (which in a series of blasts, are vulnerable to authorities shutting down the grid or ironically, to citizens inadvertently doing so themselves with panicked calls.) With the vigilance of several million Londoners turned on 'high' now, parcel bombs may no longer be as easy for terrorists to plant and leave undetected.

Another possibility (not at all mutually exclusive with the first), is that there is a limited supply of suicide bombers so, their Islamofascist handlers might reason, why waste them if its not necessary? That's contrary to what some reports would have us believe, but it makes sense, and especially so in Western capitals where the isolation and monomania required to take such a step is - the 9-11 crews notwithstanding - harder to achieve than in say, the West Bank. If Saddam had to offer $25K to families to keep the supply up and that market support is no longer there, one would think the supply - however large it may be - would have diminished somewhat with his removal from the role of market subsidizer.

Unfortunately, lack of supply (even at a price of zero) is still not a problem in Iraq, as this clever animation shows. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds) Taking that thought a little further, it implies that the relatively tighter immigration controls of Western countries, (still not very good, but better at least than say, the Syria/Iraq border which hardly exists at all), may be effective at the margin at reducing the flow of suicide bombers. If true, that forces terrorists towards more conventional tactics that, all other things being equal, are easier to intercept - yesterday's events notwithstanding.

It also carries implications for profiling. There, I said it: profiling. Suicide bombers in the main, and yes with some exceptions, have a profile. We should not be shy about recognizing it. My more theoretical colleagues like to muse how if we totally excluded certain people from scrutiny, the terrorists would figure that out and begin to use those unlikely, unscrutinized people. They also like to taunt me with "Timothy McVeigh". Well yes, of course. But there are the tails, and then there is the middle of the bell curve. Once I see Al Qaeda effectively recruiting 80-year old Japanese grandmothers in large numbers to blow themselves up on subway trains, then we can change the model.

Until then, let's apply some common sense to this. Before the civil libertarians with a collective societal death wish get their knickers in a knot however, it's worth pointing out that that profile is not only about ethnicity, but about age, demeanor, to a lesser degree, gender, plus a bunch of other obvious things like wearing overcoats in the summer. When we're looking for a needle in a haystack, it helps if we are at least given the lattitude to exclude the hay from deep scrutiny.

Finally, on a completely tangential note, I'm puzzled as to why Scotland Yard saw fit to warn the Israeli embassy in London before yesterday's blasts but apparently no one else. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, (most of the time anyway), but what if this Al Qaeda organization in Europe has been penetrated by Mossad - or Scotland Yard? I.e., what if Western countries have agents already inside who had to make horrible trade-offs yesterday - jeopardizing their cover just enough to avoid the a highly destabilizing assassination of yet another Israeli Prime Minister and perhaps precluding something much more devastating down the road? I remain curious...

UPDATE I: 'Balance Sheet' goes even further on profiling here, illustrating how this is truly a balancing act between common sense security measures (utterly lacking these days, it seems), and giving license to widespread vigilante reprisals. There is sensitivity and then there is self-preservation. I remain optimistic that the two can co-exist even if the dial between them is often set too far one way or the other. The appropriate middle ground is extremely narrow.

UPDATE II: Speaking of balance sheets, Belmont Club's 'Wretchard', (now revealed as Richard Fernandez - once and possibly still a co-Bostonian with KM), has this speculative analysis of how, where and why the Islamofascists are deploying their forces around the world, e.g., London vs. Iraq.

07 July, 2005

Blair Leads


"We shall prevail and they shall not." - Tony Blair

The short speech, flanked by the President and Mr. Chirac was positively Churchillian. I don't know if it was the web audio playing tricks, but I even thought I detected an emotional waver in the Prime Minister's voice - anger barely contained by a determination to lead and win. Far from detracting, that made it all the more immediate. If there was any doubt that we're in this together for the long haul, today dispelled it.

UPDATE: For some reason, Google Images has latched onto this post. Welcome new readers! While you're here, check out the archives. There's plenty to chew on.

Nasty Reminder in London: We're Still at War

The news from London this morning is shocking, as all such news is: shocking that this should happen there, at this moment, in this particular way, with pictures of bloody victims, shredded buses and police in chemical suits making it all too concrete and immediate and undeniable.

And yet in another sense, this morning's events are not shocking in the least. We are at war. Many would like to deny that. They'd like to go back to a cozy civilized world in which everybody plays by our rules and it's desperately important that we treat fanatic killers captured in battle, bent on the destruction of our civilization as if they had just been caught stealing a car in the Bronx. Book 'em, bail 'em, plead 'em and release 'em. And while we're at it, don't get the menu wrong for dinner or allow our books to touch the ground or play music we don't like - that would offend our sensibilities and we wouldn't want that.

Sorry. Wrong answer.

Repeat until it sinks in: They hate us because of who we are, not what we do. They will hate us if a Democrat is in office. They hate us under the current administration. They will hate us if we pull out of Iraq. They will hate us if we stay. There is nothing we can do to satisfy them short of unplugging their part of the world altogether, rolling up the phone lines, turning off the televisions, radios and cell phones, putting the burkas on our women and listening to the Imam. Ceasing to exist is also a nice ending for radical fantasies. They'd love to make that happen.

Hundreds injured. Several killed. Mayhem. Chaos. This morning. It's not going to stop if we cower and cringe and try to understand them. We have to make it stop. That will only happen once enough ordinary people in the Middle East look their fanatical brothers (and sisters) in the face and laugh out loud... then call their friends to go out shopping.

Yes, I know this could be the IRA or some other non-Islamic group. There was a warning to police and that's not Al Qaeda's pattern. There were suicide participants and that is. I trust that it will all be sorted out. But whatever the motivations and national origin of the perpetrators, the fact remains: there are terrorist elements out there deeply resentful and suspicious of Western Civilization and the values it has built over thousands of years. They have more in common with each other than with us. This will not stand.

UPDATE: The other side knows we're at war. We'd do well to remember that.

A group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe" posted a claim of responsibility for Thursday's blasts in London, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The statement, which also threatened attacks in Italy and Denmark, was published on a Web site popular with Islamists. "Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan," said the statement. In its statement, the group said "the heroic mujahedeen carried out a blessed attack in London, and now Britain is burning with fear and terror, from north to south, east to west." "We warned the British government and the British people repeatedly. We have carried out our promise and carried out a military attack in Britain after great efforts by the heroic mujahedeen over a long period to ensure its success."

05 July, 2005

Other Models for Iraq

Readers looking for new material might want to glance back at some of the comments that have come in over the last few days from one particular source. I disagree completely, but the comments are (mostly) civil. Since they're an attempt at adding to the debate, and IMHO reveal more about the left's flawed thinking, I'm inclined to let them stand - for now - with the caveat that it's my sandbox and I get to change the rules. I've replied with a few comments of my own, including on this post concerning Iraq and how long we should stay.

Further on that subject, I note this thoroughly sane and measured post from Dan Morgan over at nospeedbumps, who notes that while the 'debate' rages over when and how to pull out of Iraq, the better course for our own interests is to maintain a presence there for as long as they'll have us. I.e., the model is not Vietnam (as the aforementioned gadfly commenter would have it), but Germany, Japan and (perhaps with a tinge of irony), South Korea. I'd add the Philippines as well. Dan writes:

The U.S. needs to quietly begin establishing permanent bases in Iraq. In fact, this has already started. The strategy of having permanent bases worked incredibly well in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. All were undemocratic when we established the bases – and all are important, peaceful, and prosperous democratic countries today. The experiences in these countries also show that long term U.S. bases can be accepted by the local governments and populations.
Read the whole thing.

03 July, 2005

On Changing Politics - Dems Quietly Slip Away

I always enjoy finding others who've taken the intellectual/emotional journey I have - from unthinking inheritance of Democratic party affiliation, to apathy and distraction, to questioning, to (gasp) 'Neocon' or some similar label - unable to go back no matter what the cost in angry and confused friends. It's even more refreshing when that person is thoughtful, articulate and a fellow New Englander - a region where (at least around Boston), declaring that one is a leper or pedophile is likely to garner more sympathy. And no, that is not much of an exaggeration.

This long essay, just one in a continuing series, by blogger "Neo-Neocon" (a New England woman in her fifties) is personal, insightful and exactly the kind of thing the Democratic party ought to be paying attention to if it wants to be viable in future elections.

I don't think I had ever personally known anyone whose political opinions had changed after the age of thirty or so. My parents, and the parents of most of those around me, had reached adulthood during the Depression and the Presidency of FDR. They were liberal Democrats and proud of it, and nothing in the intervening years had caused even a glimmer of a change in their points of view. Nor did I see changes in my friends... Surely, I asked friends and family, the Soviet experts at the NY Times or even in the State Department or at Harvard, surely they had seen [the fall of Communism] coming, right? If not, then why not? If the experts--academic, governmental, and media--had been unable to foresee this, then how could I trust them to guide me in the future? In retrospect, it was probably the first time I began to distrust my usual sources of information, although I certainly didn't see them as lying--I saw them as incompetent, really no better than bad fortunetellers. What they seemed to lack was an overview, a sense of history and pattern. Newspapers could report on events, but those events seemed disconnected from each other: first this happened, then that happened, then the other thing happened, and then the next, and so on and so forth... I remember reading about changes in the Palestinian educational system after the implementation of the Oslo Accords... It seemed that now even the Palestinians and Israelis were starting down a path that would end up with, if not reconciliation, then a certain tolerance, a relatively benign and peaceful coexistence. But this article chilled my blood when I read it. It detailed, for the first time as far as I knew, the intense and vicious hatred that was being inculcated in young Palestinians towards Israelis and even towards Jews in general. I did the calculations--the generation being carefully nurtured in this destructive propaganda were [sic] in the early primary grades now. They were due to come to maturity around the time of the millennium, and I felt a tremendous sense of foreboding.
I think more has been going on external to this woman that's as or more important than the internal journey she describes, (e.g., Zell Miller's point - that the Democratic Party left him while he stayed in place. ) Like two trains on opposite tracks however, the internal sense of motion and dislocation feels the same whether one or both are moving relative to one another.

Hat tip: Austin Bay.

VDH on the New "American Zen"

If deeply insightful brilliance and world-class writing were the main criteria, Victor Davis Hanson would be by all rights an esteemed, tenured member, (perhaps even the chair) of the history department at Harvard, Yale, Princeton or, (because he loves his native California), maybe Stanford, like Thomas Sowell. He is not - possibly by choice, but more likely because of his politics. Ivy League students, whose institutions claim to love 'diversity' (so long as it is not of opinion) are poorer for it.

All of Dr. Hanson's writings are worth reading, but this latest ('American Zen') is one of his best, looking for the elusive balance between an impossible role for the U.S. as father figure, superpower and global cop and an understandable growing desire by many to pull up the drawbridge and stay home. The rockin', provocative beginning is, well... just the beginning.

While the world debated whether an American guard at Guantanamo really flushed a Koran down a toilet, Robert Mugabe may have bulldozed the homes of 1.5 million Zimbabweans. Few seem to have cared. To do so would be a messy, complicated thing — lecturing a black third-world leader to stop tormenting his own poor; pleading with other African states not to allow the genesis of another Rwanda; and, probably, being embarrassed by someone who doesn’t give a hoot what a Western elite liberal says. Mao, whose minions killed somewhere between 40 and 50 million, is still popular in China. That Communist country is deemed by many Western allies as less of a threat than the United States and its elected president, who routinely appears with a Hitler-moustache in European demonstrations.
Read the whole thing.

02 July, 2005

Sowell Cuts to the Heart of Judicial Nominees

I wasn't going to post today, but Thomas Sowell is too good not to recommend.

The very desperation in political fights over judicial nominees is a clue to what is wrong with our legal system. It should not matter very much which particular man or woman becomes a judge, if that person has the competence and the integrity to apply the laws and uphold the Constitution. The reason it matters enormously is that, over the past half century or so, many judges have gone beyond their judicial roles to impose their own policy preferences. Since these kinds of judges have almost invariably imposed policies favored by liberals, they have been cheered on -- not only by liberal politicians, but also by most of the media, the law schools and the intelligentsia. Any judge who might restore the Constitution by overturning some liberal precedents is now called an "extremist" or an "activist" -- even by liberals who had cheered on liberal judges when they overturned previous precedents. Judges who take an oath to uphold the Constitution do not take an oath to uphold liberal precedents.

01 July, 2005

With Apologies to Schoolhouse Rock

I'm not a lawyer, but if Schoolhouse Rock were educating them, this is how they might approach hearsay exceptions, (3-minute amateur video with Lego characters.) Suggestion: put down coffee and finish chewing... very funny if you're in a sufficiently punchy mood. Hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy.

If This is Science, We're All in Trouble

Earlier this week, a sometimes professional colleague and I were discussing working together on a project he's pursuing around what he termed "Global Climate Catastrophe" - (same acronym at Global Climate Change... a clever but pointlessly didactic little twist on an already assumptive acronym dear to the sky-is-falling politics-as-science left.) He knows our views are utterly at odds on this and nearly all other subjects political, however I thought it possible to persuade him that the project would be better off if we looked into the full range of climate change issues, non-issues, solutions, non-solutions and red herrings. I.e., stare the sacred cows straight in the eye and shoot them if we need to. (mm... steak... real food...)

But he was trying to score some easy debating points that made him feel better somehow. I let it go. From this bad start though, things got worse.

"I'd like to frame the project by simply taking the science as a given", he said.

"Which science?"
I asked.

"The science that predicts catastrophe in 100 years"
, he replied.

"But if it's a prediction", I said, "it's not science at all - at least not by any accepted definition of that word. It's just an theory, based on grossly incomplete data, run through some computer models, the validity of which can't be substantiated for decades, all in support of a grand political agenda that has the oh-so-well-respected UN/Brussels crowd rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of re-arranging the global economy to their own broken vision." (Or words to that effect. I'm always more eloquent a few hours later in writing than I am on the spot in the midst of a noisy, bustling Starbucks.)

Suffice it to say, we did not come to a melding on visions on this topic. That conversation however, sensitized me to this piece in today's WSJ (subscription required), describing a report (pdf) issued earlier this week on the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. House Committee on Resources, as chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo(R, CA). [Funny side note: click on the editorials button on Pombo's web page while looking at his picture and 'Presto!' out of the suit and into the cowboy hat. I love it. Very Reaganesque but for the moustache.]

At this point in the story, the MSM (as well as most of my former academic friends in the Environmental Studies and Geology departments at my alma mater), will dismiss such a study as partisan merely by looking at the letter next to the committee chairman's name. (I.e., R = bad. Bush = bad.) They are entitled to that opinion. Unfortunately for them, the data on which the study is based, (data being a really good thing to look at in such matters) is drawn directly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service - the folks we've paid to track and know such things.

What the study shows, after 30+ years and hundreds of millions in expenditures - to say nothing of the economic distortions, private costs and property rights infringements perpetrated in the name of saving snail darters and such - is that the Act has done very very little to protect endangered species, and that more than a few of those deemed endangered were designated as such simply because of a lack of good information on their numbers.

That may not be a reason to throw out the Act entirely. It certainly isn't a reason to start bulldozing willy nilly, (a strawman that I guarantee we'll see in the MSM in coming days.) But at minimum it does challenge the axiomatic notion that the particular approach to environmental protection established 30+ years ago, and the absolutist goals it sets out to achieve, should be perpetuated indefinitely into the future when they have demonstrably failed to date.

Of the nearly 1,300 domestic species on the endangered list, the law has managed to "recover" a grand total of 10. That's a success rate of less than 1%. Supporters of the law would say that species recovery is slow work that has to be measured over a long period -- say, 100 years. But even the trends don't look good. A mere 36% of listed species are considered stable or improving. And even this 36% is nothing to celebrate, given that in many cases the only reason a species is deemed on the mend is because officials overstated the problem in the first place. When the plant, Johnston's frankenia, was first listed, it was thought to have dwindled to about 1,500 specimens. Oops, someone miscounted. There are close to nine million, which explains why Fish & Wildlife is now proposing to remove the plant from the endangered list. Of the 10 officially "recovered" species, six were subject to erroneous original data.
Now there's a new concept: science at any given point in time doesn't know everything in the universe... Humility - a lost art. But why have humility when there's nothing to be humble to? When man and reason are the ultimate in knowledge and control? I wonder if that has any relevance to the "Climate Change Catastrophe" set that wants us to apply the precautionary principle writ large based on data they don't have about the entire temperature profile of the planet from ocean floor to the top of the stratosphere for the last 100 years? Nah. Let's barge on ahead. We know everything we need to know and how to manage it. Pay no attention to the Endangered Species Act man behind the curtain. This is a catastrophe! The sky is falling! Send money to the UN now!

Hubris is an ugly thing.

UPDATE: I must have been in a hurry, because I missed pasting in this critical tidbit from the aforementioned WSJ piece:
Another problem is that the law doesn't allow for real priority setting. Call it the Lake Wobegone effect for species. In a statistic that defies logic, more than 92% of listed species have been accorded priorities that put them in the upper half of Fish & Wildlife's priority ranking system -- i.e., they are all a top priority. This makes it impossible to focus on species truly in need. [emphasis added]