20 July, 2007

Barack, You're No Jack Kennedy

It would be refreshing if Obama simply came out and explicitly repudiated the Kennedy inaugural as completely opposite to his own views. Something like this, perhaps:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill (and none of them really wish us ill, now do they?), that we shall pay a little for awhile, as long as it suits us, bear any burden (as long as nobody in the military has to be involved or anyone gets hurt), meet any hardship (as long as it has to do with global warming), support any friend (as long as it's France) oppose any foe (if we had any, which we don't, because everyone deserves a chance to be heard and to do their own thing and have their own space, y'know?) to assure the survival and the success of, well... progressive ideas... or whatever the polls happen to be indicating lately.

This much we pledge--and, well... let's leave it at that. I may think of more later.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we used to share, we pledge the loyalty of mindless, unilateral support, even if you've totally gone over to the dark side and now seek to circumvent our aims at every juncture. United there is little we cannot talk about in a host of cooperative bodies like the UN and the New York Times editorial page. Divided there is little we can do--and that's probably a good thing after the last 'cowboy' president who was into actually changing things.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free: you don't count. We're happy that you understand iron tyranny firsthand. We're just sick of hearing about it. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting progressive causes like recycling--and to remember that, in the past, those who sought power by riding the back of the tiger at least had a hope of being eaten last--which is something, isn't it?

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to send money to their corrupt leaders, for whatever period is required--not because the communists may be leading the way, not because we seek their votes, but because it is the way it has always been done. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it can at least help subsidize dictators in expensive suits on the UN human rights commission.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge--to let you come into this country whenever and however you please and take over our culture without any resistance. But this peaceful revolution of homogenizing the global village in a soup of low expectations cannot become the prey of those who believe in borders or principles. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose the overthrow of Castro or Chavez or anyone anywhere in the Americas because that Contra thing was, like, so 1980s! And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to look mildly on as Iran sets up alliances with Venezuela.
In the meantime, this comes close enough.

Climate Change Mania--Driven by the Politicians

The journal Science carries an editorial today that invites close-in dissection. Under the telling headline "Playing Climate Change Poker", Colin Challen, a member of Parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group begins:

Targets can be troublesome things. If they're set for some distant future date, the target setter may not live long enough to see if they've been met.
Same goes for predictions. Today's Chicken Littles don't have to be responsible for the wild claims they make that masquerade as science and that cannot be verified in their lifetime. We used to call those theories and allow several generations of scientific inquiry, wide-open debate and challenge to happen before making policy. Now we skip those steps. We foolishly accept that politicians (like Mr. Challen) are routinely called upon to write the lead editorials in major scientific journals.
Both the European Union (EU) and, at a national level, the United Kingdom have focused on a CO2 emissions cut of at least 60%, which is intended to reduce average global warming by 2°C.
It may be intended to reduce warming by 2°C but intentions do not make it so (science is funny that way). Even the IPCC, which tends to give far more credence to global warming than the topic deserves, has publicly admitted that very little temperature change is possible even if such aggressive targets are met. Steve Milloy calculates the ratio of spending on CO2 reduction versus predicted temperature mediation on his website JunkScience:
Since February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol has cost $363,523,118,887 while potentially saving an undetectable 0.003769869 °C by the year 2050. Malaria cost $318,498,235,951 in lost GDP and 6,543,416 lives over the same period.
That would be just under four one-thousandths of a degree Celsius, based on IPCC reports. Mr. Challen claims a number five hundred times larger... without citing his source, then wades in deeper:
(The June G8 summit also spoke of an emissions cut of 50% globally, but only in the context of exploring such a goal and with no greenhouse gas stabilization target in mind.)
In other words: lots of CO2 in the form of meaningless talk, dancing around the fact that China and India are massive and growing emitters of CO2 and that they would be out of their minds to play this silly game. And never mind the fact that the only climate change proposal that does seek to include them in any realistic kind of way came directly from George Bush.

Challen then takes a short run in the direction of intellectual honesty, admitting that even massive, politically impossible, economically suicidal cuts in CO2 would do very little. He writes:
What are the chances of meeting the 2° objective? Not likely, according to Malte Meinshausen of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, who presented the scientific evidence in a report of the 2005 Exeter climate change conference and who's been quoted since, both by UK government economic advisor Sir Nicholas Stern and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His analysis of 11 climate sensitivity studies of the effect of global CO2 atmospheric concentrations on temperature shows that settling for a 60% cut in atmospheric CO2 (which corresponds to 550 parts per million by volume) leaves a probability between 63 and 99% of missing the 2°C target.
From that, the ordinary person would conclude that our money would be better spent on say, malaria reduction or the several dozen things the Copenhagen Consensus said were a higher priority--and far more economically rational and likely to be effective. Like Al Gore however, Challen is not ordinary. He perversely concludes that we should push beyond an already psychotic-fantasy level of ambition on CO2 reduction even if the results are miniscule. Hunh?

Skipping over any discussion of adaptation to global warming's effects, serious controversy about the contribution of anthropogenic sources (versus, say, the sun) and about the net beneficial outcomes of a warmer planet, Challen pulls his blinders in even closer:
Not only must we reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, we need a timetable that reduces the risk of positive feedbacks and sink failures that could lead to runaway catastrophic climate change.
Never mind the runaway catastrophic effects of letting Islamofascists have their way in Iraq and pretty much everything else east and south of Greece. Never mind empowering them--in part by our distraction on climate change--to push for restoration of the remainder of the former caliphate: a much more likely outcome for 2050 given the inevitability of secular Euro-socialist demographics. That would not be catastrophic. A few more days at the beach, apparently, would. Challen then sounds a familiar if increasingly chilling refrain (pun intentional):
In a democracy, it is difficult to convince voters that they should take actions, especially expensive ones, to avoid an as yet largely unseen and unquantifiable danger. How do you base a policy that is likely to have significant economic impacts on model data and forecasts that some might regard as guesswork?
Good question. Short answer: you don't. Models and forecasts are guesswork. Sophisticated and well-informed guesswork, but guesswork just the same. Slightly longer answer: chaos theory, the uncertainty principle, the law of unintended consequences and the butterfly effect.

Yes, democracy is a terrible system... except for all of the alternatives. Czech president Vaclav Klaus has compared climate change hysteria and the cult-of-personality, damn-the-voters impulses it is inspiring to communism in this must-read interview from June 13th in the Financial Times. And he should know. Excerpt:
The author Michael Crichton stated it clearly: “the greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda”. I feel the same way, because global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem. It requires courage to oppose the “established” truth, although a lot of people – including top-class scientists – see the issue of climate change entirely differently. They protest against the arrogance of those who advocate the global warming hypothesis and relate it to human activities.

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.
Flippin' brilliant. One bad way of going about developing a policy is to imply--as Challen, Gore and others keep doing--that democratic voters are stupid, shortsighted and/or misinformed rather than rational, hard-headed truth-seekers and honest fellow residents of the planet. (Why is it that liberal, in criticizing conservatives often paint us as evil or stupid rather than as being of honest character and holding different opinions?). Charen offers a false analogy he disguises as a 'false economy':
We only need to recall the false economy of not spending taxpayers' dollars on building up the New Orleans levees to realize how actions taken today could avert a long-range problem. Delay, combined with the risk that skeptics may accuse the Al Gores of this world of "crying wolf," could make tougher policies harder to adopt later.
Or, delay could prove Al Gore wrong, as it is rapidly doing. We used to call that "cooler heads prevailing" and laud it in our public officials. Challen then makes a statement he probably doesn't recognize as having loud communist echoes:
...we have to determine what the global need is and figure out how to distribute it--a calculation that must combine science with justice. A successful global climate change framework will have to pay as much attention to the latter as to the former...
Wow. That one's a doozy worthy of being tacked on the computer monitor and re-read for a week. And here I was thinking that science helped us to impartially discover immutable rules about how the world works and that justice had to do with human beings and the institutions through which they relate--like the democratic processes Challen views with great skepticism.

How he plans to mix science with justice is anybody's guess but it's bound to be a fantastical witches brew. (Yeah, I know gravity is immutable but it's unjust to fat people. Yeah, I know killer bees are migrating north from Mexico but it's unjust to people with allergies. One could make a very long and very silly list.) Then again, on the day the new Harry Potter book is released, that kind of magical thinking seems far less surprising than it once used to. Sigh.

19 July, 2007

Back-Pedaling on the Obvious: Child Porn and Its Effect on Real Children

From today's New York Times, some common sense about the seeds of depravity:

Experts have often wondered what proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children also molest them. A new government study of convicted Internet offenders suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent...
I had to read it twice to be sure it said what I thought it was saying. This is not 85% of molesters look at (child) porn but 85% of (child) porn-viewers molest. Believe it or not, some find moral nuance in the findings:
...the results, while significant, risk tarring some men unfairly. The findings, based on offenders serving prison time who volunteered for the study, do not necessarily apply to the large and diverse group of adults who have at some point downloaded child pornography, and whose behavior is far too variable to be captured by a single survey.
Unfair... large and diverse group... at some point... 'variable' behavior. I think I'm going to be sick. Yes, some who download this stuff don't carry out a physically horrifying act that destroys the life of another human being more thoroughly than if they'd simply killed them. Some. That's why we have courts--to sort that out. This study however, says most do. And that demands a policy debate. The Federal Bureau of Prisons however, doesn't want the results released:
...in April [the FBP] ordered the paper withdrawn from a peer-reviewed academic journal where it had been accepted for publication, apparently concerned that the results might be misinterpreted.
Your tax dollars at work. I'll risk enraging my libertarian readers by asking: how confident are we that this phenomenon doesn't apply to some degree when it comes to 'regular' porn?

What Was I Saying About Treason?

Sometimes you just can't make this stuff up. Wednesday I wrote:

...these Democrats are effectively in league with the terrorists--and I don't say that lightly... Yet what is "giving aide and comfort to the enemy" (the definition of treason) if not assuring Al Qaeda operatives that they can just wait a few months and we won't bother them any more?
Expanding on the point, today we learn today that:
In a stinging rebuke to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded to questions [Hillary] Clinton raised in May in which she urged the Pentagon to start planning now for the withdrawal of American forces...

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," Edelman wrote... "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."
Edelman wrote the memo Monday. The AP got hold of it today (Thursday). The conclusion is independently obvious: how many ways can you say "you're helping the bad guys" without using the T-word? Real lives will be lost as a result of the she-snake's words. How 'progressive' is that?

The Reichstag and the World Trade Center

In a sane world, such a point-by-point contrast would not be necessary. Unfortunately, Congressman Keith Ellison (D, MN)--the first U.S. Congressman to be sworn in on the Koran--does not appear to live in such a world.

Mr. Ellison, who could have been a voice for sanity and rationalism and plurality with his muslim constituents, is running like a lemming for the wacko-fantasy left-wing fringe. Speaking to an atheist group, here's what Mr. Ellison said about the 9-11 terrorist attacks:

"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you."
It's a classic technique: say something outrageous (that you really do mean), then say you didn't really say it lest you get cut off at the knees. Funny thing though... the media's and the culture's forbearance for such offensive comments seems to be rather selective.

So 9-11 is like the Reichstag fire? Except we know who did the former and nobody has ever figured out for sure who did the latter (though Hitler is widely implicated). The former was a direct attack on innocents on our soil by foreign nationals that had nothing whatsoever to do with who was in office (it was planned well before George Bush was elected in 2000). The latter is widely accepted as an internal political putsch. The former led to a widespread effort to track down the perpetrators and ensure they didn't do it again. I know of no serious or imprudent (much less widespread or extra-Constitutional) degradation of civil liberties that has resulted. (Feel free to offer examples if you disagree. At 4,200 calories per day with Red Cross visits, I haven't heard of any.)

But more to the point, six years after the Reichstag fire, Hitler wasn't exactly letting staunch opponents like Keith Ellison get elected now was he?

18 July, 2007

Failure, Their Only Hope

It has simply stopped making sense that Congressional Democrats would harness the future of their party and the country to wanting less of this.

The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle...
Thank you for apprehending the suspects. Yeah we know they're the guys that killed 3,000 of our people on a brilliant September morning completely out of the blue. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now please release them and come home and lets forget this ever happened. Iraq has nothing to do with fighting terrorists. Repeat after me...

It just doesn't make sense. The only explanations that do are closely related:

1) Cowardice. Most politicians are followers. They watch the polls. They like their jobs and the perks that go with them and more than anything they would actually do in those jobs, they want to keep them. They saw how successful Bill Clinton appeared to be (in real time if not in the history books) as the Master of Triangulation and they want a piece of that. They want to emulate him. (To be fair, Mr. Bill did not invent the practice of following a parade while appearing to lead it; he merely demonstrated mastery of the technique.)

Those answering the polls being triangulated-upon by some politicians tend to listen to (or watch, or read) the MSM. They almost have to. It's the 'mainstream' media, after all, and yet it is slanted to an almost obscene degree towards the left as every serious study of it has ever indicated. Politicians slant left also (or whichever way the MSM is blowing this week) in order to be popular and in being popular, getting re-elected.

This explains how it's not just John Kerry who can be for the war before being against it and do that same flip-flop several times without feeling the least bit unprincipled or confused. It also helps explain some of the defecting Republicans (e.g., Pete Domenici). It does not explain the entire Democratic party moving into a position of follwership on all things foreign policy.

Much as I like to slam them, the Democratic party used to have a foreign policy based in realism. I find it hard to believe that Joe Lieberman is the only one still carrying the liberal-hawk banner that JFK, Harry Truman and Scoop Jackson (among others) carried barely fifty years ago.

Judging by the way George McGovern is being lionized on his 85th birthday and on the release of a new book, it may be true. I just don't like to think about what it means for the country that someone who advocated a policy (withdrawal from Vietnam) that led to the slaughter of millions is being elevated in the same way as someone (Jimmy Carter) whose policies led to the confident birthing of the current nuclear mullahs in Iran.

2) Key Congressional Democrats are beholden to a dark force to which they have sold their souls. Call it the Michael Moore, Daily Kos, George Soros, Cindy Sheehan, Moveon.org faction. It is not a majority. It's not even a plurality. (And this part is not an original thought.)

It is a faction that's essentially communist--and at the same time elitist. It is overwhelmingly defeatist--and yet also triumphantly arrogant. It fills the air with words--and yet it makes little sense (where are Shakespeare and Faulkner when we need them?). It seems unwilling to debate issues on their merits or accept facts as such (e.g., show me the presidential lie about WMD; I'll wait), and yet it insists that the president is living in a fantasy world. It acknowledges that our leaving Iraq would cause genocide--yet insists that things there are worse than that now. Hunh?

Like any selling of souls, the contract is both permanent and fundamentally deceptive. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were promised power. They forgot that it came with a choke chain.

Maybe this second explanation is giving them all too much credit... but I don't think so. They're not stupid or venal. OK, maybe venal. But they are not essentially nihilistic fools at the level of wanting fewer high level Al Qaeda operatives to be caught.

Are they?

It makes for satisfying talk radio but I'm starting to question it. Not only would that kind of position be physically dangerous (i.e., if fewer Al Qaeda leaders are caught, more 9-11s happen) but if true, it would make clear that these Democrats are effectively in league with the terrorists--and I don't say that lightly (Joe Lieberman did not take lightly his decision to leave the party either). Yet what is "giving aide and comfort to the enemy" (the definition of treason) if not assuring Al Qaeda operatives that they can just wait a few months and we won't bother them any more?

And being in league... or being seen to be... well, that would be a bad thing. Very bad. And Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid know it. It's hard enough putting lipstick on a pig. Try putting it on a four-headed dragon and selling that to the American people. Won't work, even with Photoshop.

Congressional Democrats are not treasonous. They've just shackled themselves to people who are--or would be in a second if they took power. And therein lies the rub. They're flirting with it (treason). They may eventually have to marry it.

And so, Congressional Democrats are now faced with having to put on a virtually endless charade for a fringe-left base not unlike those in professional wrestling. They must appear to go as hard as they can at their opponents (Congressional Republicans; president Bush, etc.) only to be thrown to the mat with a loud and spectacular-looking, but ultimately innocuous thud. To the extent that their base buys it, we're all better off. Trouble is, they aren't. Nothing will satisfy them but the removal from power--or preferably the grisly death--of George W. Bush. Nothing else matters.

They know that giving the car keys to Al Qaeda and Iran for a joyride with Iraq will only lead to trouble down the road, but they're having to trade off that obvious trouble for a more proximate kind: a 14% approval rating for Congress that you definitely won't have read about in the New York Times. Congressional Democrats have a lion and a tiger each ready to consume them. One is here. One is in Iraq. They know which they have to feed first. Thing is, both will delight in the kill once they learn how weak Congressional Democrats really are.

UPDATE (Thursday): Re. what we'd get less of if forced to leave Iraq, Hewitt did an interesting interview Wednesday morning with General Petraeus. Check it out.
When I think back to the operations we did, for example, going after war criminals in Bosnia, or something like that, you know, and one of those would be a big deal, and you'd dine off that for the next several months. On a nightly basis here, you know, ten or twelve serious operations are going down by these forces. And any one of those is far more significant than we conducted for decades. They are very sophisticated, very complex, very lethal sometimes, and very effective.
For those who'd like to say "yes, but" and jump in with criticism of U.S. troops, others have beat them to it. Dean Barnett has the goods (also on Hewitt's blog).

Thomas Sowell and I are also tuned in to the same wavelength:
"And then what?" That is the question which should be asked of those who are demanding that we pull out of Iraq now. No candid answer should be expected from cynical politicians like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who have their bets riding big time on an American defeat in Iraq, as their ticket to winning the 2008 elections. But that question should be answered by those who honestly and sincerely think that a troop pullout is the answer to the Iraq problem. What do they think will happen if we do? That question is studiously avoided by those in politics and the media who urge pulling out... Those who say that the Iraq war has nothing to do with the war on terror seem not to notice that the terrorists themselves obviously think otherwise.
His part II is here, in which Mr. Sowell, with some justification, takes the paleo-conservative view that, "Trying to create democracy in places where it has never existed -- and where the prerequisites for democracy may not exist -- has been a needless gamble."
Meanwhile, Dr. Sanity uses cartoons and Monty Python references to make the point that the worst thing that could happen to Democrats would be success in Iraq. That's not so much an indictment as a fact. If this, then that. Simple. They have gotten engaged to the snake.

13 July, 2007

Tagged, I'm It, aka "Eight Things You Might Not Have Known About Mr. Maru"

I usually don't play these games, but the grass is green, the air is sweet and it's Friday, so what the heck? Joshuapundit (aka 'Freedom Fighter') tagged me last night. The rules as he cites them are:

...list 8 facts or habits about [your]self that [others] might not otherwise know and then tag another 8 people and leave comments on their sites letting them know that they've been tagged, so they can likewise make the requisite revelations.
Before we get to that however: a detour. The men's bible study group I belong to began something called the 'One Year Bible' back on... January 1st. Which makes sense... January 1st. The first of the... year. Yeah. Moving on...

I've been listening to it on podcast, sometimes falling behind but never so far as to seriously consider scrapping the project. More than halfway through the year, it's taken on a momentum of its own. Now that I think about it, I'm going to use this as one of my eight 'habits' in fulfillment of the tag: I try to read or listen to the bible every day. Try. Just six or seven years ago, if you'd told me I'd be doing this, I would have told you you were nuts. There's a lot more in there than I ever imagined. And a lot of what people think is in there has been grossly twisted in the popular imagination. But I digress.

Every day one gets a dose of New Testament and another dose of Old Testament. We just finished plowing through the first part of the 1st book of Chronicles--one of several places in the bible in which long lineages of ancient Jewish kings and princes and cousins and brothers and assorted other important folks are listed. It can get tedious; on another level it's fascinating.

Which is why I had a little fun tracing the 'lineage' of Joshuapundit's tagging of me... and even more fun upon discovering that I'm (apparently) the first gentile 'descendant' of a long line of esteemed Jewish bloggers. Go figure. I'm honored, guys and gals. Shalom. (That's about as far as my Hebrew goes.) Here's the lineage:

Kobayashi Maru was tagged by Joshuapundit

Joshuapundit was tagged by Aaron's Rod

Aaron's Rod was tagged by the whimsically named Mr. Bagel whose brilliantly intricate page takes as long to load as the typical bagel takes to cook

Mr. Bagel was tagged by Jewish Blogmeister

Jewish Blogmeister was tagged by Daled Amos

Daled Amos was tagged by Soccer Dad whom I kinda knew already from the Watchers Council so there's one less blogger I can tag back.

Soccer Dad was tagged by me-ander

me-ander was tagged by A Bisele Babka

A Bisele Babka seems to have changed the rules slightly after having been tagged by MizEllie

MizEllie was tagged by Mr. Crox, aka The Vagos at which point we veer into what looks like Spanish and I'm embarrassed to say that that's where my lack of language ability leaves the trail cold.

So seven other things readers might not necessarily know about me:

1) I once ran 100 miles. The 'best' part, after more than 24 hours on my feet, was hallucinating a giant porcupine standing in the middle of the trail.

2) At the age of 22 I had 400 people reporting to me--painting houses. Two years later, I had zero.

3) I used to play the saxophone. I gave it up long before the world's first black president made it fashionable.

4) I used to swim laps across Walden Pond. Now I run laps around it. When I die, I hope to have my ashes scattered there. I don't care if its legal or not.

5) For most of the 1990s, my bicycle was worth more than my car.

6) My favorite uncle used to drive multi-day rally races in Europe in the 1950s. He coached the Army football team. While on special forces duty in the early 60's in Vietnam and Korea (including 'work' behind enemy lines), he was the first American to achieve martial arts mastery in the same discipline as Chuck Norris (the famous actor was second). At the age of seventy-something, he can still ski high altitude black diamond runs without even breathing hard. He just found out he has cancer. Please pray for him.

7) When I was a kid, I was a fanatic vegetable gardener.

I am tagging:

Jim Gilbert
Dan Blatt at GayPatriot
Hootsbuddy
Maxed Out Mama
Fausta
The Merry Widow
ShrinkWrapped and
Miss Kelly

People Disposable for Who They Are

If the president is expendable in the eyes of some on the left, then military personnel seem to be also--despite 'bring-em-home' rhetoric to the contrary. This time real bullets were used. Writes Michelle Malkin in National Review:

An Air Force airman is fighting for his life in Camden, N.J. He was shot on Independence Day by a crazed gunman who reportedly had a beef with the military and the U.S. government and “wanted to make a statement” on the Fourth of July. Have you heard about the plight of 22-year-old McGuire Air Force Base loadmaster Jonathan Schrieken? Probably not. The shooting got no mention in the New York Times — not even a squib in a back section...
Sick and sad. No matter what your views on their mission, our military men and women deserve our utmost gratitude and respect. The New York Times apparently disagrees.

Doubleplusungood - Dallas Morning News Article on Nobel Laureate Altered

If I weren't such a lazy blogger, I would have missed this one. 'Orwellian' is the first word that comes to mind. Thank goodness for screen shots.

Yesterday, Drudge noted a piece in the Dallas Morning News entitled "Nobel laureate calls for removal of Bush", in which 'removal' is meant the way Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, Leon Czolgosz and Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme meant it. Here's the un-cut money quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams (most news wires truncated it and removed the laughter):

"Violence is a choice. Of course it is. We have a choice to be... I mean... Right now, I could kill George Bush no problem. No, I don't mean that. I mean, how could you nonviolently kill somebody? [she chuckles, audience laughter] I would love to be able to do that."
Her liltingly feminine Irish accent and offhand tone are strangely disarming. Listening to the audio, I found myself despite myself wanting to give her a break on some obscure, emotional level despite her obnoxious words--to find something in the context of her remarks to soften, excuse or dismiss what should have been absolutely outrageous--something that would have landed a different person in a different setting on the ground in handcuffs in a New York second.

Most of y'all have probably seen or heard all that already. Here's where it gets more interesting:

I left my browser window open overnight. This morning, trying to reduce the clutter on my Firefox toolbar, I pasted the exact same URL into another window: (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/nation/
stories/DN-peace_12nat.ART.State.Edition1.43b8067.html)

And lo and behold: an entirely different story, complete with different 'spin' on the same event plus a bright, smiling file photo of the woman who murdered the president in her heart and received a standing ovation for it. I checked the URL three times. It's exactly the same. The old lede was simply... gone.

After all, the woman who won the same prize as an unrepentant and cynical Palestinian terrorist was sorry in the morning after taking full advantage of the media spotlight and so it's all OK right? 'cause we can be sure that nobody out there took her seriously, of course, 'cause it's all in good fun and the world isn't really watching, is it?--not even the next Islamist Squeaky Fromme with ten sticks of dynamite strapped to her chest in a presidential receiving line, no sir. It's all just words, right?

I've included the first several paragraphs of both Dallas Morning News stories below. If it had been changed in the other direction, you can be sure that someone on the left would be saying that the administration had 'gotten' to someone at the Dallas Morning News. I don't know what happened. I just know it's a little creepy to have stories disappear and re-emerge as something else that lets someone like this off the hook so easily.

But don't take my word for it. Decide for yourself:


12 July, 2007

Fire the Police to Promote Public Safety: The Logic of 21st Century Liberal Reactionaries

I spent most of yesterday painting ceilings. It was hot, muggy and unpleasant. The house still smells of paint. I've got a crick in my neck. One of the upsides to such a mind-neutral activity however, is catching up on podcasts, and one of Dennis Prager's segments from Monday is worth noting in reference to this Sunday New York Times editorial ('The Road Home'). Not surprisingly, it advocates unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Money quote:

Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs... [creating] a stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.
So let me get this straight. The acknowledged likely outcomes of a withdrawal (and I agree with them) are more bloodshed, more chaos, reprisals (i.e., the torture and killing of families), ethnic cleansing, genocide, destabilization of the region, a power grab by Iran and increased terrorist activity? That's a tough if honest list. And yet based on it we're supposed to support a withdrawal? Come again? Why is that, exactly?

Here's what the New York Times offers as justification for what amounts to reactionary isolationism--unleashing an absolute hell-on-earth for those people over there (never mind the blow-back in increased terrorism here):
...keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.
It's a statement that just doesn't make sense. The only way I can even imagine it is to crawl down into a very dark and cynical world view in which U.S. troops are a force for unmitigated evil--napalming babies and carpet-bombing neighborhoods willy-nilly just cause we enjoy it. More evil than lawless mobs of sectarian nihilists plus determined terrorists egged on and supplied by anti-Semitic millennial apocalyst Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I can't stay down there for long. It's dark and small and nasty. I'm still shaking my head at the editorial:

Genocide, an Iranian power grab and Iraq as a base for terrorist activity will be worse if we... stay? And how is that, exactly?

I'm not joking: I need this one explained to me. I really do. Genocide is not a trivial thing. It ain't gonna happen on America's watch. No way. Not again. We've seen that one before and I thought we'd all agreed that it was bad. Very bad. Genocide. Say it again like Rainman: Holocaust burn baby. Mass killings. Deliberate extinction. And that will be worse if we... stay?

Paint me a scenario. Really. I'll listen. This isn't even a partisan thing. It just makes no sense whatsoever--unless one truly believes that America is causing the vast majority of the violence, which by any accounting is simply contrary to the facts. It's like advocating getting rid of the police because police occasionally have to shoot people. Well yes, they do. They don't like it any more than we should. They try to keep it to a minimum. There are strict rules of engagement.

Yet the idea of police without force only makes way for the bad guys who listen to nothing but force. Every time police have gone on strike around the world--every time--utter anarchy and violence haven't waited fifteen minutes to rear their ugly heads.

Same with Vietnam. There. I said it. Our withdrawal saved American lives. It cost the lives of millions of Asians. That's a legitimate thing to debate--the trade-off of Americans for others. But to say that non-American lives are worth orders of magnitude more than American ones is hardly liberal, much less Christian--which is a whole 'nother post right there. So take an isolationist, retreatist position if you like... but don't call yourself liberal if you do.

So in Iraq we remove the only force even attempting to keep the NYT's own long list of terrible things from happening and... what? The UN will come to the rescue? Tell that to the Rwandans, or countless others whose last flickering vision on earth--as their blood seeped out into the ground from a machete wound, or as they pitched forward into a mass grave from a shot to the back of the head--was of a light blue helmet keeping a careful, peaceful, un-biased watch, with nothing but words to back up their indignation and concern.

If this is what passes for logic at the NYT then it's a strange one indeed. Strange, that is, if those subscribing to said logic want to call themselves 'progressive' or regard themselves as 'enlightened'--as the paper and its readers tend to like to do. It's a logic in which humanistic, and yes liberal principles are completely turned on their heads in favor of something small and frightened and selfish and more than a little ashamed of itself.

It's the kind of stuff that used to be the province of the worst kind of reactionary politics that most mid-20th century liberals used to reject. It's one reason that many current 'conservatives' and particularly 'neocons' claim--as Reagan famously did--that they did not leave the Democratic party; it left them.

We forget too quickly how many in this country would have been perfectly happy to let Europeans be tortured, starved and killed by the millions if only their boys didn't have to fight and they didn't have to pay for it. (To say nothing of those crushed under the boot-heels of Imperial Japan or Communist Korea.) Let's be plain and extremely personal here for a moment: I owe the life and presence and freedom of a wife, her parents and assorted relatives on this continent--all of whom I dearly love--to the fact that such thinking did not prevail.

Every death is a heart-rending tragedy no less awful than the 21 months of weeping and gnashing of teeth our family has endured since losing my brother to cancer at age thirty-nine. And yet we have lost less than 1% of the number lost in WWII, when the country's population was half what it is now. One percent.

I think of my wife's family living under Hitler into the 1970s because (in an alternate version of events) D-Day was deemed too costly and risky before it ever got going. History didn't have to happen the way it did. Editorials like the one the NYT wrote on Sunday could have prevailed back then--as they still might today.

Can you even imagine someone like Woodrow Wilson, FDR or Harry Truman making a statement like the following in 1915 or 1940 or 1950?
Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.
Can you imagine JFK saying it at the 1960 inaugural? Instead, he said: "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." ...and countless millions around the globe felt inspired and reassured that there was someone out there looking out for them when all seemed bleak and hopeless and when bloodshed and chaos and tyranny seemed far more likely scenarios for their future.

Once upon a time it was people who called themselves liberal and thought of themselves as 'progressive' (even if they didn't use that term) who thought first of making sacrifices before they counted the cost... who thought about making the planet a better place for others and didn't see that as a zero sum trade-off with making it better and safer and more economically prosperous for ourselves along the way.

They advocated the vigorous use of American power and wealth and yes, blood to promote good around the world by backing up their (read: our) ideals with the threat of force. They knew that some evil men understand nothing less. Once upon a time, we didn't shy away from helping people in faraway places who were subject to tyranny and oppression and couldn't or didn't or wouldn't oppose it themselves--or didn't perceive the threat in time to do anything about it until it was too late.

Once upon a time... is now. Think, people. Withdrawal has real consequences. The New York Times has spelled them out: real consequences for real people who will be very thoroughly dead and cold and forgotten a year or two or ten from now at the hands of evil men and as a direct result of such small-minded, short-sighted reactionary impulses. Real people who will be sitting where I am now, perhaps never having met the woman they were supposed to meet and marry and have kids with... because her parents were hauled off to a death camp in a torturous, genocidal reprisal... after the Americans left.

10 July, 2007

The Sexual Motivations of Suicide Bombing

An interesting if insufficiently coherent or comprehensive thesis...

Muslim suicide bombing has nothing to do with Islam or the Quran (except for two lines). It has a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.

What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny... creat[ing] shortages of available women... increas[ing] competitive pressure on men, especially young men of low status. It therefore increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates. By doing so, they have little to lose and much to gain compared with men who already have wives... However, polygyny itself is not a sufficient cause of suicide bombing...

It is the combination of polygyny and the promise of a large harem of virgins in heaven that motivates many young Muslim men to commit suicide bombings. Consistent with this explanation, all studies of suicide bombers indicate that they are significantly younger than not only the Muslim population in general but other (nonsuicidal) members of their own extreme political organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. And nearly all suicide bombers are single.
What this doesn't delve into (because it is dealing entirely in the realm of psychology and not of morality) is the propriety of a religion in which random and ongoing acts of violence are, by this reasoning, the virtually inevitable results. I.e., I did it because genetics and the Koran told me to.

I question the claims about low status and youth. They may be true for conventional (i.e., low-tech car bombs or overcoats full of explosives) but they don't explain some of the more spectacular events in the West, e.g., 9-11, 7-7, or the more recent 'doctor plot', in which the perpetrators were of the highest status imaginable (PhDs, doctors, etc.) If the argument regarding low status is not about economic absolutes (money in the bank, job prospects, citizenship in a prosperous Western country, etc.) but about how empowered individual (male) terrorists feel, then we have truly left the reservation. The biggest terrorist masterminds of them all have had plenty of access to women. They've chosen to pursue suicide terrorism in addition to or instead of making babies.

This thesis also doesn't explain the abject competitive failure of Islamic culture more broadly--unless the scope of the authors is sweeping. One might be able to explain PhDs and doctors as terrorists if one agrees that in the modern world--in which the accomplishments of Judeo-Christian capitalism and 'Western' civilization are manifest--the entire Islamic world feels itself to be of 'low status'. We used to call that envy. It used to be a sin. The economic argument for terrorism has never explained the choice of other objectively low-status peoples to pull themselves up through their own peaceful industry.

What Do Global Warming Zealots and King George III Have in Common?

An overly broad definition of treason. Here's RFK, Jr. at one of the Live Earth concerts:

"This [global warming skepticism] is treason. And we need to start treating them [skeptics] as traitors."
Hmm... and here I was all this time thinking it was about science. Oh well. Me bad. If the definition of traitor has come to mean expressing contrary opinions about a matter of conjecture at the far boundary of scientific exploration, I'll spare them the need for a second witness: I confess. Happily. Shoot me.

Here's what the Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution actually says:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
There are only two alternatives I can think of to explain this kind of complete lunacy from elected representatives on the left on this issue:

1) they actually believe their own rhetoric, in which case they have become virtually indistinguishable from fascists--and I don't use that term lightly: "a governmental system... forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism... marked by... stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship... [and/or] a political philosophy or movement... advocating such a system...") or

2) they're cynically whipping up a popular frenzy they know to be wrong or at least misguided in terms of national priorities, in order to further their own political fortunes. That leads, by the only slightly more circuitous route of demagoguery to the same dark, mindless and liberty-repressing end point. (I have the right answer. You don't. And the stakes are too high to keep discussing it. Therefore I must have unilateral power... and you must be silenced.)

But let's take the treason comment at face value for a moment. It requires at least two things: defining the enemies of the United States and defining what would constitute giving aide and comfort to them.

In the first category ('enemies') let's start with those entities whose leaders have explicitly stated that their goal is the destruction of the United States. For the moment I'll leave aside even our very close allies (e.g., Britain, Israel, etc.). I'd ordinarily be inclined to include them, but let's keep this 'tight' for now, OK? I'll also leave out mushier things like vowing to destroy our 'values' or our 'way of life'. Those too are important, but subject to a lot more mud-slinging.

To further restrain this from getting too controversial, lets also limit it to those entities that have acted on their threats to the United States in a concerted fashion over time, e.g., Iran, North Korea and Syria as well as Al Q'aeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. By this super-strict definition, we could still probably make a longer list, but let's leave it at that for now.

What constitutes giving aide and comfort? 'Aide' is relatively straightforward; 'comfort' is harder. I should hope we could agree to define 'comfort' at least as providing our enemies with clear and credible assurances that their aims will not be forcibly opposed. I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader lest I be accused of the same kind of over-the-top rhetoric as RFK.

Ultimately, treason is--as it should be--a rare and extremely narrow category of crime upon which judgments are and should be rendered only in the utmost climate of seriousness by the U.S. Congress. Even with a lot of lunacy around the fringes, it will tend to be a stabilizing force. Thank goodness our founders had that much sense--and I would argue, divine guidance.

On a bit of a tangent, I hope readers will be amused by this eager, spelling-impaired post over at Democrats.org concerning RFK, Jr. It should give some sense of the reasoning of the radical left fringe... the same left that is always going on about the value of having a role for the federal government in education. Word to the wise: swallow your coffee first. :)
The 39th aniversery [sic] of one the worst assasinations [sic] in this nations [sic] history just passed, the murder of Robert Kennedy. this left me to wonder who follows the RFK vision the best. it was a vision of peace, equallity [sic], strength, wisdom, courtesy, freedom, justice, and care. [Well, OK so far... I liked RFK.]

I feel although no current canidate [sic] is perfect Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Kucinich, and Dodd fit it well enough to be president. Gore or Fiengold [sic] (whose anounced [sic] he wont [sic] run) would also fit it well. But there are 2 people in polotics [sic] that fit this vision perfectly. [I should think, rather, that RFK would be turning over in his grave at the very idea.]

Over the Past 4 months for extra credit in history I've conpiled [sic] a voting record project where I look at the voting record of every senator, retired senator, supreme court justice and presidental [sic] canidate [sic] as well as some reps, political comentators [sic], and governor and found just 2 perfect records: Robert Kennedy Jr (D-NY) and Barney Frank (D-MA). I sugest [sic] we run RFK jr [sic] as president and Barney Frank as vice president. [Be still, my beating heart! Do it!!]

Some may say it is a ticket doomed to fail (Barney Frank is openly gay and RFK jr [sic] has a voice disorder) [He must mean Tourette's Syndrome] but I say if you stick to your principals [sic] you have a better chance of sucseeding [sic] than if you sell out to pick an electable canidate [sic].

lets [sic] take a look at RFK jr's [sic] atributes [sic]. He has tryed [sic] to bring big buisness [sic] to justice for years. [Hey, maybe we could socialize Starbucks...] He spoke up about the stolen election in 2004 [sic... I think; he probably means 2000]. He is a heavy enviornmentalist [sic--oh, the irony... I think he means 'heavy-handed'].

He is against the war. He dose [sic] not shugar [sic] code [sic] the truth to fit his agenda [why bother when he's got his own special version of truth?]. he beleives [sic] in equal rights. he is against limiting our civil libertys [sic--like freedom from repressive spelling rules, perhaps?].

In addition to that he was raised by Robert Kennedy [with all due respect to the late Senator, isn't this the same left that accuses the Bush family of being a 'dynasty'?]. In my view he is the perfect cantidate [sic] in 2008.

PS some one please e-mail this to Barney Frank and/or Robert Kennedy jr and coment when you have done it.
Don't worry, my friend. We'll get right on it. The whole Republican field will be delighted.

UPDATE: Looks like the 'leadership' in Congress may have a problem with it's left flank.
[Cindy] Sheehan, a Californian, officially announced [Tuesday] that she intends to run as an independent against Pelosi in 2008 if the San Francisco congresswoman doesn't move to impeach Bush by July 23... "I know what Californians care about," Sheehan said. "They don't care about the ruling power elite."
Or national security, or common sense, or what the other 48 states outside of Massachusetts think. I can only imagine what this woman's late son would think. After all, he did volunteer to serve in this war under this Commander in Chief. If this keeps up, even Howard Zinn may have to watch his left flank. We might have to coin some entirely new terms... ultra-radical kookoo super-duper California lefty-left anyone?

09 July, 2007

"Far More Impressive Close Up"

That's the assessment of George Bush by Tony Blair's former communications director, Alastair Campbell in the Daily Mail ("Tony Blair 'talked to God over Iraq'"). Which shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone who hasn't drunk the Bushitler-is-an-Evil-Dunce Kool-Aid.

In some circles, I suppose the revelation that Tony Blair sought God's help would sound like an indictment rather than the extremely wise and humble move that it was. Does anyone pause to consider the alternative (going by his own compass) or the positive connections between former Prime Minister Blair's now out-in-the-open prayer life and his steadfastness against Islamofascism? Chuck Colson expanded on the point in his July 2nd podcast:

Blair leaves 10 Downing Street with the dubious distinction of having been the “most unpopular Labour Prime Minister of modern times.” Last November, his approval rating sank to 26 percent.

In other words, Blair is less popular than the Labour leaders who presided over Britain’s economic collapse of the 1970s: when inflation ran as high as 24 percent a year and the British economy was paralyzed by frequent strikes.

In contrast, Blair’s tenure saw the “longest uninterrupted period of [economic] growth in 200 years,” not to mention the end of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Live Earth Roundup

Tim Blair has the pic from the exceedingly lonely Brisbane venue where...

Nearby, dozens of people milled around a traveling Corvette Club roadshow [instead]
Can't blame 'em. How else are we going to get around when aggressive bipedalism is also out of favor on the left? I love Hewitt's take on Gore's narcissistic megalomyopia:
Gore's... misfortune has carried him... further and further into a strange world of tunnel vision activists firmly refusing to see the danger in the world, asking instead how many lightbulbs have to be changed before jihadism is out of energy?
But don't take Hewitt's word for it. Here's Al in his own words:
"I'm just so filled with enthusiasm and energy, I'm not letting you ask questions."
Well, whenever Prince Al comes down from whatever he's on, I have a few. And speaking of coming down, Mark Steyn has this nice catch:
So [Gore's] frequent-flyer miles are an unchanging reality, and it's the airline industry that has to figure out a way to deal with it.
Didn't personal responsibility used to start with... the person?

All of which adds up to an arrogant world view in which (to quote Orwell): "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

Point being: virtually anything--in the left's view--is OK as long as it's done in the name of a noble-sounding cause. Does that sound unfair or over-the-top? Read this and get back to me.
What no one is saying is the one overarching reason he's the worst: the Bush administration is the first that doesn't even mean well... You could argue that even the world's worst fascist dictators at least meant well. They honestly thought were doing good things for their countries by suppressing blacks/eliminating Jews/eradicating free enterprise/repressing individual thought/killing off rivals/invading neighbors, etc.
Like the Communism Orwell critiqued (and the fascists Peter Mehlman lets off), the cause is only noble if a) it's true and b) the means of getting there are also true and noble. One needs both. With global warming, we have neither.

UPDATE: On only a slight tangent, check out this insightful op ed from Joseph Epstein in today's W$J on the JFK legacy became a negative watershed for the Democratic party.
After the Kennedy administration, the Democrats were no longer the party of the little man (Harry Truman's party), or the party of the underdog (Franklin Delano Roosevelt's party), but that of the intellectual and cultural sahibs pretending to speak for the little man and the underdogs because it makes them feel virtuous to do so; they turn politics into an affair of snobbery, where politicians are judged on elegance not substance... Democrats keep turning up rather anemic Kennedy imitators -- Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, John Kerry... But the criteria for president of the United States aren't the same as those set by the deans of admission at Harvard or Yale...

07 July, 2007

Running and Politics

Turns out Jimmy Carter's public melt-down at a 10K race in Catoctin, Maryland in 1979 may, in the opinion of some, have been the exception that proves the 'rule' that those on the left should not sweat. (Alas, an extensive search has failed to turn up any copies of memorable photos of an "ashen-faced", "rubbery kneed" Carter that made it into several national magazines and became emblematic of his collapsing presidency.) Writing in the UK Telegraph, Boris Johnson notes with regards to Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France:

French philosophers... make a deeper point. Jogging, they say, waving their Gitanes angrily at the camera, is a Right-wing activity. It is all about the management of the body; it is about performance, and individualism, and the triumph of the will.
To which I plead: guilty as charged. More at the Times of London:
“Is jogging right wing?” wondered LibĂ©ration, the left-wing newspaper. Alain Finkelkraut, a celebrated philosopher, begged Mr Sarkozy on France 2, the main state television channel, to abandon his “undignified” pursuit. He should take up walking, like Socrates, Arthur Rimbaud, the poet, and other great men, said Mr Finkelkraut.

“Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.”
They can keep their Gitanes. Anyone who imagines running can't be deeply meditative, even spiritual or prayerful at times hasn't done enough of it. H/T: Gay Patriot.

06 July, 2007

Nothing New Under the Sun - The U.S. vs. the Barbars

I usually wait to finish a book before I review it; this one is way too good to withhold. Michael B. Oren's January, 2007 non-fiction work, "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" is a massive historical tour de force.

Only two chapters in, Oren's anecdotes are proving the adage that history repeats itself--so regularly and closely as to demonstrate that human nature is immutable and cause one to wonder why God doesn't get bored with it all and go golfing. (Apologies to Presbyterians who may be convinced that golf is the pinnacle of His creation and a much better use of His time than sitting around for the warm-up to apocalypse.) For example (from pages 23-25):

The United States had just achieved independence and already encountered its first foreign threat--from the Middle East [with three American ships captured and their crews taken hostage]... Proud and parsimonious Americans, [Jefferson] believed, would rather "raise ships and men to fight the [Islamic, aka 'Barbary'] pirates into reason than money to bribe them." [as Europe had been doing for some time]
...
In the fall of 1784, Jefferson... first recommended that the United States act in concert against Barbary, joining with Spain, Portugal, Naples, Denmark, Sweden and France... Lafayette duly circulated the plan, but the responses were overwhelmingly negative. While several kingdoms expressed and interest in the concept, they refused to contribute ships to any alliance and continued paying tribute to Barbary. The French rejected the very idea of coalition.

For Jefferson, the response of the United States to his proposal was even more disappointing... Further predations were apparently needed to persuade his countrymen to act as a nation and defend themselves.
Robert Kagan, writing for the Washington Post Bookworld writes of P,F&F:
...when a brilliant, lucid historian such as Michael B. Oren does bring the past back to life for us, revealing both what has changed and what has stayed the same, it is a shaft of light in a dark sky.

Today, the conventional view is that George W. Bush took the United States on a radical departure when he declared a policy to transform the Middle East and that, as soon as he leaves office, U.S. policy will return to an alleged tradition of realism, rooted in the hard-headed pursuit of tangible national interests. This is both bad history and bad prophecy, as Oren shows...
Packed with the fruits of incredibly thorough research, P,F&F is filled with stories that imbue historical figures with depth and subtlety and shines light on their complex motivations. Oren is not without his personal views on the subject (who is?) but the book is thankfully lacking the breathless editorial edge that pervades so much of what passes for scholarship in the social sciences these days. Even when one agrees with it, the style can get old.

Blog-screed writing can be cathartic--and fun to read on the screen--however it can leave one with a too-much-cotton-candy undernourished feeling when bound, published, sold and read at one sitting. As such, P,F&F may be one of those rare books capable of bridging the infamous blue-red book-buying gap on Amazon. (A more recent and equally fascinating example is here.) Now that the kitchen is painted (same color as the blog background--go figure) and the attention-slashing drug dosage is stepping down, I hope to plow through the rest of this one this weekend.

05 July, 2007

Do No Harm vs. Kill the Infidels

Here's what's been emerging the last few days in Britain:

A group of 45 Muslim doctors threatened to use car bombs and rocket grenades in terrorist attacks in the United States during discussions on an extremist internet chat site... Investigators have found no link between the Tsouli chat room and the group of doctors and medics currently in custody over attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. However, sources said it was "definitely spooky" that the use of doctors for terrorist purposes was being discussed in jihadi terrorist circles up to three years ago.
Here's an excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath in its classical form:
...for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art... I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief...
And here is an excerpt from Sahih Muslim hadith book #41 (aka, The Book Pertaining to the Turmoil and Portents of the Last Hour - Kitab Al-Fitan wa Ashrat As-Sa`ah), chapter 16, verse 6985 (widely accepted and quoted by Islamic scholars both of and outside the faith):
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.
See any conflicts here? When other passages in the Koran and Hadith urge believers to lie in the interest of jihad, it's no wonder that the Hippocratic Oath takes second seat. Alas, I wish such a passage were out of context. Unfortunately it's not--not by a long shot.

How many are aware for example, that the Pakistani parliament (supposedly our ally) voted unanimously back in June so as to promote violent reprisals against Britain for knighting Salman Rushdie--and that a Pakistani cabinet minister specifically encouraged suicide bombings?

Anyone familiar with the writings of Robert Spencer, Melanie Phillips, Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes or the late Oriana Fallaci (a rather varied lot in background, tone and approach!) already knows that the bit of Islamic 'wisdom' I quoted above is but one of many evergreen and universally applicable admonitions to murder under the 'religion of peace'.

Quote all of the shockingly violent Old Testament Bible passages you'd like (especially if it encourages you to read the whole thing!) They are just that: stories from history--not requirements of all believers in the present. There is a massive distinction.

Lest this start to sound overly partisan or paranoid, it doesn't help that moderate Muslim voices are being actively muffled. Those harshly critical of Islamo-extremism (such as this doctor) are relegated to the talk-show sidelines while in a similar if more pernicious vein, films you've already paid for with your tax dollars featuring moderate Muslims speaking firsthand about their frustrations with extremists are spiked by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sadly, if this keeps up, the spectre of nationalized health care may not be the only reason to start questioning your doctor's motives.

03 July, 2007

That's Rich

I've been trying to hold back: staying away from the keyboard and mouse lest I cover them with paint from a sleepless, chemically induced fugue of productive activity redecorating our kitchen from dawn to dusk. Now however, with the She Snake weighing in on the Scooter Libby pardon, I absolutely cannot keep silent. The phrase 'bald-faced cynical hypocrisy' doesn't even begin to cover this one. (Forgive me Father, for the string of expletives I thought and almost wrote.)

"This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."
Here's her husband's February 18, 2001 op ed in the NYTimes defending the absolute right of presidential pardon. International fugitive, felon, tax evader and campaign contributor Marc Rich isn't the half of it. Here's a list of the 479 other pardons he granted. The word 'fraud' appears 87 times in the list. Other crimes are even bigger doozies.

And W gets crap for pardoning someone found guilty of a 'crime' three levels removed from the original politically-initiated Bush-hating attempt at entrapment? Gimme a break.

Anyone who votes for her based on plumbing (and the latest political calculus I've heard says they are myriad) absolutely deserves what they get in return.

Snakes bite. Like scorpions, it's just in their nature. They don't care who goes down with them.

UPDATE: Dennis Prager is discussing this now (12:45PM). Another distinction is that Bush did not pardon Libby for his crime. He commuted his sentence. If there were no difference, then, one must ask, why did Clinton not simply commute sentences?

02 July, 2007

Three Persons in Three Chords: Jesus at the Wall of Sound

Check out this informative and entertaining tour de force post by Patrick O'Hannigan over at Paragraph Farmer on the origins, missteps and positive returns of so-called Christian Rock.

...the power ballad was pioneered by Boston's "More Than a Feeling" in 1976 and the virtuoso-piano-overtaken-by-everything-else that Styx wove into "Come Sail Away" a year later... when the power ballad crawled off to die, it found a final resting place in so-called "Christian Rock."
...
Some insist that the genre is a tool of Satan, and I do not agree... Mine is a faith in a triune God... Father, Son, and Spirit being the original "power trio."
...
Power ballad and praise band mediocrity is sometimes justified on the grounds that people need to be met "where they are" with lyrics to which they can relate. This attitude is arrogant on two counts, in that praise band directors have abrogated to themselves an outreach task that properly belongs to the Holy Spirit, while also assuming that straightforward hymnody... is somehow less intelligible than what you hear in pop music.
Extra points to Patrick for referencing both the first band I ever saw in concert (Styx, Boston Garden, c. 1977) and the word 'hymnody' in the same post--and having it all make sense.

As far as 'Christian rock' goes, one of my favorite bands (Creed) cagily eschews the label. They can claim Christian origins and their album titles (e.g., 'Human Clay', 'My Own Prison') make strong if oblique reference to Christian themes, while their song titles and lyrics are chock-a-block full of biblically evocative images, e.g., 'My Sacrifice':

Hello my friend, we meet again
It's been awhile, where should we begin?
Feels like forever
Within my heart are memories
Of perfect love that you gave to me
Oh, I remember

When you are with me, I'm free
I'm careless, I believe
Above all the others we'll fly
This brings tears to my eyes
My sacrifice

It's well known that the label ('Christian Rock') can be a death knell for bands wishing to reach a 'mainstream' audience on the one hand and desiring to preserve their artistic options on the other. Too narrow a label can mean you're re-hashing the same old forms and reaching only the already-faithful. The Wikipedia entry for Creed categorizes them as 'Alternative', 'Hard Rock' and 'Post-Grunge'. Well yes, and...

Brr! Global 'Warming' In Proper Focus

This morning my teeth are chattering, not from the meds but because it's 49 degrees as I write this. In July.

I'll admit to the temptation, as I sit here in full sweat-suit and fleece, to jump on the Al Gore/Nancy Pelosi "can you zoom in tight on this melting glacier?" school of anecdotal climate analysis and claim that my blue typing fingers are a good reason to disbelieve the hoopla over global warming. They're not. To be effective and credible, our side needs to avoid those kinds of tactics. Saturday's Chicago Sun Times offers a great challenge to the hoopla approach:

If Gore really means what he writes, he has an opportunity to make a difference by leading by example on the issue of global warming...

Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.
The piece goes on to list several factual errors that, if more widely known, would severely blunt the effectiveness of a certain Hollywood movie that many say slam-dunks their argument.

Back to my freezing fingers.

It's tempting to equate local, momentary weather phenomena with climate because that's where most people feel it. But, let's get one thing straight: climate is not felt in the moment or even a string of human-perceived moments, but measured scientifically over a wide area and a long period of time. To say otherwise is to change the meaning of the word climate from it's original (a long-term average and a generalization) to something entirely subjective--and subject to political mud-wrestling. Science doesn't work that way.

We can speak of a desert climate or savanna or Mediterranean or marine or Arctic or any number of other broadly descriptive types, but drive across the country and you'll find the boundaries mushy and indistinct between areas that had seemed so crisp on a map. Central Nebraska is a case in point as I discovered traveling East to West across the state last summer. One can stand in a particular, sandy spot on a hot July day, look around and conclude one thing, only to drive over the next hill, find a grove of trees, get caught in a summer thundershower and conclude something else entirely if one is going only by personal perception in the moment.

So too over time. Winters in my youth here near Boston seemed colder and snowier and longer than they are now. But I can think of exceptions--both then and now--as well as reasons why my memory may be selective. (E.g., "cool! a snow day! let's build a fort!" morphed into "awh crap, I need to get up early to shovel the car out to get to work". Same climate. Different spin.

Which is all prelude to making the point that any discussion of global climate change needs to be three things: 1) comprehensive, 2) scientific and 3) historically focused.

The first issue (comprehensiveness) is something the media (or rather, most media consumers) are terrible at doing--and that includes blogs. Pictures and sound bytes can't possibly take in the larger patterns in a vast ocean of evidence that, when viewed up close, can seem to point in any direction one wants it to. The battle for truth then becomes one of who has the bully pulpit--who can grab hold of the camera or microphone the longest and loudest. Only lots of reading from many sources--and lots of pointed questions--can cure the temptation to zoom in close and call the case closed.

The second point shouldn't bear repeating but it does: science is repeatable. Computer models aren't science. Politics isn't science. Loud emotional appeals to join the 'reasonable' set (i.e., declare nonexistent consensus, end the debate and swallow Gore's version wholesale) are also not science. They are the worst kind of demagoguery... emotionalism and fashion posing as pure reason. Gore's appeal is a subtle one--more like appealing to those who want to dress up as Mr. Spock and attend conventions and feel good about themselves than to Spock-like reason itself.

Finally, we've talked here before about history. Most global warming discussion instead focuses on wild predictions that can't be verified in a lifetime. Climate history focuses instead on how climate has changed, what mankind has survived in the past, and what impact (often positive) warming trends have had on mankind globally and locally. It's a discussion the Gorethodox don't want to have because it takes the power of the model, the anecdote and the sound byte out of their hands.

01 July, 2007

What Happened to Our Regular Blogger?

Those not already convinced that I'm prone to choppy manic rants may change their mind these next few weeks as some posts start to channel Hunter S. Thompson. In addition to my Espresso Jones, I've been told to embark on a two-week course of prescription oral steroids (Prednisone).

Background: a really nasty case of poison ivy contracted running in the woods two weeks ago conspired with my, um, rash decision to eat fresh cherries several days in a row--a delicious in-season fruit to which I knew I was allergic. They were really good. They were there. I was hungry. They didn't kill me immediately. I was stupid.

I've never even so much as thought about thinking about contemplating imagining trying crystal meth, but its effects can't be much different from what I'm experiencing already: minimal need for sleep; manic energy; ravenous appetite; shorter temper than usual and an ability to concentrate that closely mimics ADHD. I've learned my lesson. I think. Mrs. Maru is relieved and mildly amused, looking forward to my channeling this Tasmanian Devil style mania into productive tasks like cleaning and painting.

The doc could only shake his head when he looked at me. You what? You knew you were allergic and you ate them anyway? Look at yourself. Hello! We had a rapport thing going. He was right. I'll spare everyone the rest of the details.

Suffice it to say that as of Friday, I was ready to crawl out of my skin while simultaneously falling asleep mid-sentence on the couch at 7PM on a maximum dose of Benadryl. It wasn't even making a dent. Not pretty. The meds have other possible risks and side effects I'd rather not contemplate, but at least I don't look like the cherries anymore.

Thanks for listening. Back to our regular programming...