Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fast drawing 

Link via Lucianne.

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War crime in Iraq and the hunt for the guilty 

The current issue (sub. req.) of Foreign Affairs, on newsstands today, has an article by Colin H. Kahl, assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. Professor Kahl addresses the question of American respect for the immunity of noncombatants in Iraq:

And yet, despite some dark spots on its record, the U.S. military has done a better job of respecting noncombatant immunity in Iraq than is commonly believed. Over the past year, I have conducted dozens of interviews with commanders, judge advocates, and others who have served in Iraq; investigated operational "lessons learned" during a recent trip to Baghdad; observed the predeployment training of forces; and extensively reviewed unclassified Pentagon documents, official and unofficial histories, troops' memoirs and blogs, and human rights reports. I have found not only that U.S. compliance with noncombatant immunity in Iraq is relatively high by historical standards but also that it has been improving since the beginning of the war.

I'll write more about Professor Kahl's illuminating article later, but in the meantime consider questions he neither asks nor answers: Who "commonly believes" that the U.S. doesn't respect noncombatant immunity, and why do they harbor that apparently incorrect belief?

Submit your list of suspects in the comments. Leave no stone unturned in your hunt for the guilty. Be sure to include your theory for why Professor Kahl's article has received no publicity in the mainstream media but any pre-election eruption in The Lancet to the contrary is front page news.

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The mask slips 

Who says that the leadership of the Democratic Party has contempt for the military?

Their 2004 nominee for president of the United States, that's who.

In a way, I feel sorry for John Kerry. How difficult would it be to go through life knowing that at any moment a genuine thought could slip out and destroy all you've worked for?

MORE: This story is all over the internets -- John Kerry must be scorched at Al Gore for inventing the damned things -- but even Kerry's fellow Senators are piling on. Glenn Reynolds: "It's a meltdown."

MORE, LATER, WHILE COVERING TRICK-OR-TREAT DUTY: So, I'm sitting in the living room waiting for the doorbell to ring, Guiness at the ready, finishing up Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, when I hear a howl of outrage from Mrs. TigerHawk upstairs, who has apparently just turned on MSNBC: "Kerry! What an @sshole!. [Insert extended rant.]" No, it will sadden you to hear that she does not read this blog every day -- just as well, in that marriage already has many burdens -- so she was just seeing the clip for the first time. Duplicate that reaction 10,000,000 times around the country this evening, and Karl Rove's job just got easier.

On the very remote chance that you haven't seen the video, judge the erstwhile leader of the Democratic Party for yourself:

It is, frankly, deplorable that a sitting United States Senator would say this to a room full of students -- potential recruits for the military -- in a time of war. If it weren't so utterly and obviously idiotic, one would be tempted to conclude that he was trying to discourage young people from volunteering.

Linkage: Glenn has a new KerrySlur round-up, chock full o' outrage, and proposes contributing to Project Valour IT as a constructive response. Good man, right idea. I gave $200 to the Marines this morning.

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Project Valour IT 

Yesterday, occasional co-blogger Cassandra cross-posted here about Project Valour IT, a project of United States Marines and their families to raise money to buy voice-activated laptop computers for severely wounded soldiers. I can't think of a more appropriate charitable contribution for a blogger -- or supportive readers of blogs -- to make this holiday season. Go here for more information and a link to donate.

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Prince Turki al-Faisal on American "standing" 

Greg Djerejian quotes Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, as having said "It is no secret that U.S. standing in the Middle East is at an all-time low," which Mr. Djerejian believes is "quite a statement" coming from a sitting Saudi ambassador. Prince Turki -- who, by the way, graduated from the same boarding school as your blogger -- remarked on U.S. standing while standing in front of an Arab-American political group. In the same speech, he faulted President Bush, the first president of the United States to call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the first head of state of any country to insist on fair and contested elections among Palestinians, as not having done enough for the Palestinian Arabs. He also denounced the idea that Iraq should divide into sections, which he predicted would result in "ethnic cleansing on a massive scale," and said that the United States should stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government wants it to.

So, as low as American standing in the Middle East may be, the quite candid Prince Turki al-Faisal apparently believes that it will go lower still if the United States were to adopt a policy in Iraq of either partition or withdrawal, the two alternatives that are most popular among Democrats who do not want to "stay the course." This last bit at least spares us the spectacle of Democratic attack ads or talking points featuring a Saudi Prince opining about the low "standing" of the United States in the Middle East. After all, if he were an authority on that question we might also think that Prince Turki is a credible critic of our policy in Iraq (I actually do, but then I'm not campaigning for either partition or withdrawal).

Be that as it may, Greg Djerejian obviously thinks that our low standing in the Middle East is a problem, and perhaps it is. I would feel worse about it, however, if I thought there had been a single moment since the fall of the Soviet Union when "standing" in the Arab Middle East actually did the United States any good. In fact, our standing in the region was low enough even ten years ago that sheer contempt for the United States was sufficient to rally a multinational force from across the Arab and Muslim world to support a declaration of war against our country (in 1996) and successful attacks against American targets in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. Somebody needs to explain how the fall of our "standing" from "contempt" to "loathing" hurts our interests, because I honestly don't see how it has.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

The demographic imperative 

Hell hath frozen over: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agrees with Mark Steyn.

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Lose weight with TigerHawk 

So, on Saturday night while dressing to go out for the evening I stepped on the bathroom scale. I am ashamed to report that I weighed in at 211 ghastly pounds, and that was before I slammed down a very nice dinner. And before the very fattening "holiday season," which, calorically speaking, now seems to extend from Halloween to Super Bowl Sunday.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised. In the last three years or so I have gained about 20 pounds, and my waist has gone from 33 inches to 36. And that’s using the “belt under” configuration.

Point is, TigerHawk has become TigerLoad.

Whatever the reason for this weight gain – and it has something to do with eating too much and exercising too little – it is time to draw a line in the fat. Since losing weight is easier said than done, however, I am going to keep the pressure on myself by periodically posting my weight, with the goal of getting down to 190 pounds by the end of March. That’s roughly a pound a week for five months.

If you, too, want to lose weight until TigerLoad becomes TigerHawk again, feel free to weigh in, as it were, in the comments whenever I post an update. Or not. For all I know, you’re all thin.

Of course, you need to use the same scale at the beginning of the period and the end to measure the ultimate weight loss consistently. Since I travel a great deal, I will probably post interim weights using hotel scales, but the gold standard will be the Tanita digital scale in my bathroom, and I will report on that basis as often as possible.

Naturally, if – Allah forfend -- I don’t hit the target I expect you all to mock me. Avoidance of that, after all, is my greatest motivation.

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Calling The Few, The Loud, The Marines! 

TigerHawk has kindly given me permission to cross-post this here at his site.

I would humbly like to enlist your support in this worthy cause. It is most desperately needed to combat the foul perfidy of a Numerically Superior and Wily Enemy who are already engaged in the most despicable strategems to defeat an doughty but disadvantaged opponent. It's true, we're already falling behind, but with your help the Davids of this world can still defeat the gross, grasping Goliaths of the Universe. Join with us! We are the team to beat! The Few! The Loud! The Marine Corps!


Marines, lovers of Marines, and those who wish they could be Marines (IOW, the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard), listen up! It's time to do what the Marine Corps does best: shake, rattle, roll and make some noise:

From October 30th until November 10th (a day rich with significance for many reasons, not the least of which is that on that day in 1775 the United States Marine Corps was founded by the Continental Congress) we here at VC will carry the battle colors for the Project Valour IT Marine Corps fundraising team, which for the cool kids on the block is the ONLY team you want to be on. Do NOT be fooled by snake oil salesmen who seduce you with sleazy slogans like "An Army of Fun"... or "Sailor's Wife...it's the toughest job in the Navy", or "My friends used to wonder/Why I joined the Air Force..." :D

All you need to know about why you want to be on the Marine team is here: this is what America is fighting for. We're just better-looking, durnitall!

What is Project Valour IT all about, you might ask?

It's simple: grateful Americans, providing laptops with voice-activated software for severely wounded troops. The story behind this project is a moving one:

Project Valour-IT began when Captain Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss was wounded by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq in June 2005.

During his deployment he kept a blog. Captivating writing, insightful stories of his experiences, and his self-deprecating humor won him many loyal readers. After he was wounded, his wife continued his blog, keeping his readers informed of his condition.

As he began to recover, CPT Ziegenfuss wanted to return to writing his blog, but serious hand injuries hampered his typing. When a loyal and generous reader gave him a copy of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred software, other readers began to realize how important such software could be to CPT Ziegenfuss' fellow wounded soldiers and started cast about for a way to get it to them.

A fellow who writes under the pseudonym FbL contacted Captain Ziegenfuss and the two realized they shared a vision of creating libraries of laptops with voice-controlled software that could be brought to the bedsides of wounded soldiers whose injuries prevented them from operating a standard computer. FbL contacted Soldiers' Angels, who offered to help develop the project, and Project Valour-IT was born.

In sharing their thoughts, CPT Ziegenfuss and FbL found that memories of their respective fathers were a motivating factor in their work with the project. Both continue their association with this project in memory of the great men in their lives whose fine examples taught them lasting lessons of courage and generosity.

Fathers have a lasting impact on us. Mothers teach, nurture, and sustain us, but fathers are our first bridge to the outside world. They are the ones who challenge us, who take the training wheels off and show us how fast we can go, and what the rules of the road are. They don't let us rest on our laurels - they constantly prod us out of our comfort zone. They inspire us to reach deep down inside and find things we never knew we had in us: to compete with others instead of folding, to try just a bit harder, not to give up when the going gets tough. They encourage us when our confidence is flagging.

Like Capt. Ziegenfuss' father and Fbl's, my father in law served in Vietnam. And like them, he was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the brown water Navy. And he was taken from us too young. We will never know whether that was what caused his death, and it does not matter. He would be the last one to want to blame the nation he served; that would be a betrayal of everything he lived for. He could so easily not have come back at all. But this year's Project Valour IT drive will wind up just before the anniversary of his passing.

And so the first of my donations to Project Valour IT was made in his memory. I miss him still, though it has been over fifteen years. He was a lovely man, and I hope he will forgive me for not supporting the Navy team. But his son is a Marine and that must be my first loyalty now. Over the next ten or so days I'll be giving you lots of reasons to support the Marine team, or more importantly, to support Project Valour IT.

If you're a blogger, you can sign up and join a team here. You will get button code so your readers can make a donation (see below) that will be credited to your team.

I am also making a blogroll for Marine team members, and will send you the code upon request (e- me if you want to display it! Some people have enough blogrolls on their sites so I don't want to burden those folks who don't want it, but this is another way to raise your 'status' in the ecosystem if you aspire to Flappy Mammary status or higher).

If you wish to donate, you can use the button below or the one in my sidebar, or send a check (with MARINES in all caps on it!) to:

Soldiers' Angels
1150 N Loop 1604 W, Suite 108-493
San Antonio, TX 78248

Other ways to promote:

* Blog and email your friends about Valour-IT and the competition
* Tell your friends, family and neighbors about Valour-IT
* Challenge your co-workers or employer to match donations
* Consider involving clubs, churches, or charitable organizations you are involved with. Maybe your church would designate all or part of a Sunday collection. How about Scouts?
* Post flyers around your neighborhood
* If you have any contacts in the media (local or national newspapers, radio, TV, PLEASE spread the word! Point them to the Project Valour IT site, not VC, though!

And remember, though in the next few weeks we'll be having a lot of good-natured interservice rivalry fun in the interests of raising some money in a good cause, at the end of the day what really matters is not which team you support, but that you find it in your hearts to
support a worthwhile cause. Because our wounded vets have given more in the service of our country than most of us will ever be able to repay.

Project Valour IT offers a way for us to tell them we have not forgotten their sacrifices, and that is truly priceless. In many, many ways what we are trying to do is reconnect them to the world; remind them that they are NOT alone. That they still have something to contribute, that they are still a vital part of this nation, and that even though they may have lost parts of themselves that they can never recover, though they may temporarily be feeling hopeless, helpless, even alone, they aren't.

Someone remembers. Someone still cares. And when they get out of the hospital, America will find a way for them to rejoin the community and be useful again. For a wounded vet facing traumatic and painful injuries, that knowledge alone is beyond price.

Please dig deep. You cannot know the value of the hope your small contributions can bring to those who have already given so much on our behalf.

Thank you.

With love and gratitude,


Please visit the VC signup post to make a donation or sign up. I cannot make the code work on blogger.

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"Call of Duty" 

The United States Army has produced a sort of propaganda masterpiece -- an inspiring 12-minute video that at once brings home the harshness and misery of war and the extraordinary contribution that American soldiers -- the "boots on the ground" -- make every day. It reminds us why for the first time since the American Revolution we have been able to fight an extended war without resorting to a draft. People who claim that the Army is "broken" or "stretched" surely miss the point -- there are now hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who have known combat. That alone makes them massively more powerful than they were in 2001, when very few of them had ever been in genuine jeopardy. Yes, we are "stretched" in the sense that having committed to two wars we could not easily fight a third, but that's far from the whole story. Soldier-for-soldier, I doubt the American military has ever been this experienced. "Call of Duty" shows us why this must be true.

CWCID: Instapundit, Edward McNamara (via email) and others.

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Ajax, Mokum, and making the "tomahawk chop" seem politically correct 

As reported on the sidebar, I am working my way through Ian Buruma's new book, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance. It is an exploration of the rise of Islam in the Netherlands against that country's tradition of tolerance and residual national guilt for the liquidation of Dutch Jewry during the German occupation. In the middle there is a curious description of soccer in Amsterdam, known to Jews before the war as "Mokum," meaning "the City" in Yiddish, for its singular religious freedom.

A Saturday afternoon, sometime in the early 1990s. My friend Hans had got us two tickets for the Ajax-Feyenoord game at the old Olympic Stadium in Ambsterdam. This was always an event fraught with mob emotion, even violence. Amsterdam versus Rotterdam; the capital against "the peasants"; the city of arts and culture against the city of honest toilers; Mokum, the erstwhile Jewish city, against the Dutch salt of the earth. These are the cliches in which urban rivalries trade.

Soccer partisanship is often rooted in ethnicity. Many European capitals -- Berlin, Budapest, London, Vienna -- had clubs that were once associated with a Jewish following, and these legacies die hard, even when there is no more factual basis for them. Ajax had had a fair number of Jewish members before the war, but most of them were killed. There were a few Jewish Ajax players after the war, but not enough to make a difference. Nonetheless, just as postwar Amsterdam still had several Jewish mayors, Ajax still had Jewish owners, at least some of the time. The phantom of Mokum still haunts the city, and has been given a strange new lease on life in the soccer stadium.

After Provo and the first critical discussions of the Holocaust, to be Jewish in some Dutch circles became rather chic. At least until the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel was widely admired. And Israelis still warmed their hearts with the myth of the gallant Dutch who stood up for the Jews in their darkest hour, of the doughty Amsterdam workers who, uniquely in occupied Europe, went on strike in protest against the Jewish deportations. The strike had indeed taken place, in February 1941. It was inspiring, even though it did no good. At a time, decades later, when people would rather not think about the past at all, it could still produce a spark of pride.

This spark went into the mystique of the great Ajax teams of the 1970s. Something in the freedom of their play, the swagger of their "total football," was attributed to the urban myth of Mokum. The fans from rival cities sensed this and began to refer to Ajax as "the Jews," or rather "the rotton Jews," "the cancer Jews," "the filthy Jews." This had little or nothing to do with ancestry, or with the war. Every supporter of the "Jew club" had to be a "Jew." Things began to escalate from there. The more supporters from Rotterdam, Utrecht, or The Hague cried "Jew!" the more the myth of Mokum, and by extension Israel, was evoked. By the 1980s, Ajax fans turned up in their stadium wrapped in Stars of David and the Israeli flag.

When Hans and I arrived at the Olympic Stadium, it was soon clear that a terrible mistake had been made. Hans was an Ajax supporter, but through some unfortunate error our tickets put us in the middle of the Feyenoord block. This meant that we had better keep our heads down. Things were already getting heated at the gates. Cops on horseback tried to keep the supporters in line with truncheons and sticks. Thousands of men, rowdy from drinking beer since the early morning, had to be pressed through one tiny gate. "Fucking Jews!" they shouted as they were being herded toward the stands.

"Fucking Jews!" they went again every time an Ajax player touched the ball, even if he was a black Surinamese. "Cancer Jew!" they shouted when the blond referee from the northern province of Friesland whistled for a Feyenoord foul. And then I heard it for the first time, a sinister hissing sound from hundreds, maybe thousands, of beer-flecked mouths. I didn't know what it meant, until Hans explained it. The sound got louder: the sound of escaping gas. In Budapest soccer stadiums, players of a side owned by a Jewish businessman were greeted by rival supporters shouting: "The trains to Auschwitz are ready!" In the Olympic Stadium of Amsterdam, the fans were a touch more inventive.

There is more, from a somewhat different angle, in an interesting 2003 post at Peaktalk.

The question is, what does it mean? The Ajax fans and their Star of David strike me as not too far removed from the supporters of the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, or Washington Redskins. The people who defend these team names from the politically correct who would abolish them argue that they are respectful. Well, Ajax fans who waive the flag of Israel are also being respectful, insofar as they honor an ancient identity. There is, however, at least one big difference: No fans of teams that play against the Braves, Indians or Redskins -- not even fans of the Dallas Cowboys -- have concocted a cheer about the massacre at Wounded Knee.

UPDATE: Pieter Dorsman of Peaktalk has just posted a review of Buruma's book that is also well worth reading.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Unintended consequences 

What is the connection between North Korea's test of a nuclear weapon and condom sales? Answer.

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Are you a boss-hater? 

I am a boss. It would be foolish of me to believe that there aren't some employees in my company who have contempt for decisions I have made or the work that I do. Naturally I think they are wrong and I hope they are relatively few in number, but I am not in so much denial that I believe that such people do not exist. Given enough employees, eventually somebody is going to think that I'm a fool and wonder how it is that they are working for me.

I have never been a boss-hater and that has worked to my advantage. I have never had one that I hated or had contempt for, even when I thought they were wrong about a particular policy or even grand strategy. I can say this even though, as another company's general counsel, I once worked with the board of directors to structure the resignation of my boss, the CEO. To this day I regret that it cost me his friendship.

I can honestly say that I have learned important things from every boss that I have ever had. I think all employees would be better off if they, too, worked to learn from their boss's successes and, yes, failures, instead of closing their mind because they feel contempt.

All of this is by way of introduction to a Business Week column (sub. req.) written by Jack Welch last spring, which I stumbled upon while thumbing through an old pile of magazines. A reader asked,

My wife and I regularly see incompetence, tolerance for stupid decision-making, and outright unprofessionalism at the companies where we work. Why is it so hard to find a manager you can respect, follow, and learn something from?

This is what Jack Welch had to say:
It's not hard. But it does require a certain mindset, one you may have difficulty finding in yourself. If so, you're not alone. Every week we receive several e-mails that sound like yours. The wording and details are different, but the underlying question is always the same: Why am I the only person at my company who gets it?

We realize there are days when it can feel as if everyone around you is inept. Companies, after all, are composed of people, and people screw up, reward mediocrity, play politics, and otherwise commit myriad organizational sins. But the "everyone's dumb but me" attitude is dangerous. Not only is it a career-killer, but it's also simply not a realistic perspective on business. How do you explain the thriving, creative financial-services industry? Or the envelope-pushing genius of the life-sciences field? Or the incredible list of new businesses that have sprung from the Internet? Too many companies perform well every day -- returning billions in profits by inventing, making, selling, and distributing millions of products and services -- for every manager out there to be a total nincompoop.

That's why we suggest that you reflect on your own gloomy view of the working world. To be direct, we are wondering if you might be a boss-hater.

Very few people would ever identify themselves as boss-haters. They usually see themselves as noble victims, speaking truth to power. Forget that line. Boss-haters are a breed. It doesn't matter where they work -- big corporations, family companies, partnerships, nonprofits, newspapers, or government agencies. Boss-haters enter into any authority relationship with barely repressed cynicism and ingrained negativity toward "the system." And even though their reasons may be varied, from upbringing to personality to political bent, boss-haters are unified in their inability to see the value in any person above them in a hierarchy.

The boss-haters in any organization tend to find each other, and once in numbers, they usually become quite outspoken. Boss-haters also tend to be on the high-IQ side. That's unfortunate, really. Because instead of using their intelligence to improve the way work is done, boss-haters focus, laser-like, on all of the organization's flaws and the sheer, incomprehensible idiocy of the higher-ups.

Of course, because of their intelligence, some boss-haters do get ahead -- briefly. More often, the organization feels their vibe, and bosses respond in kind, with distancing or worse.

Now, maybe you're not a boss-hater. But the sweeping nature of your question suggests no shortage of contempt for those at the top. Perhaps, then, you should give yourself a test. Think of a boss you've encountered who didn't have a problem. If you can't, the problem may be something you can fix just by opening up your mind.

Unlike Mr. Welch, I do not have boundless faith in the power of self-improvement. Perhaps, if you are a boss-hater, you can't change. So what are you going to do? Continue to make yourself and those around you miserable? Or, alternatively, you could find a way to earn a living without having a boss. Of course, if you are successful at that you may need to hire somebody to help, and then you will have become what you have always hated. A boss.

Hire wisely, grasshopper.

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Rick Santorum's war on poverty 

One of the problems with the current climate of extreme partisanship is that there is enormous pressure -- or at least a great tendency -- to draw candidates in charicature. Some candidates are more prone to that than others, and perhaps the leading example is Pennsylvania's Senator Rick Santorum. It is easy to think of him as a rigid social conservative -- I did, until I started paying attention about a year ago -- but he is much more than that. For example, Rick Santorum may well be more concerned with eradicating domestic and global poverty than any other sitting Senator. See what David Brooks had to say in his column this morning:

Every poll suggests that Rick Santorum will lose his race to return to the U.S. Senate. That's probably good news in Pennsylvania's bobo suburbs, where folks regard Santorum as an ideological misfit and a social blight. But it's certainly bad for poor people around the world.

For there has been at least one constant in Washington over the past 12 years: almost every time a serious piece of antipoverty legislation surface in Congress, Rick Santorum is there playing a leadership role.

In the mid-1990s, he was a floor manager for welfare reform, the most successful piece of domestic legislation of the past 10 years. He then helped found the Renewal Alliance to help charitable groups with funding and parents with flextime legislation.

More recently, he has pushed through a stream of legislation to help the underprivileged, often with Democratic partners. With Dick Durbin and Joe Biden, Santorum has sponsored a series of laws to fight global AIDS and offer third world debt relief. With Chuck Schumer and Harold Ford, he's pushed to offer savings accounts to children from low-income families. With John Kerry, he's proposed homeownership tax credits. With Chris Dodd, he backed legislation authorizing $860 million for autism research. With Joe Lieberman he pushed legislation to reward savings by low-income families.

In addition, he's issued a torrent of proposals, many of which have become law: efforts to fight tuberculosis; to provide assistance to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries; to provide housing for people with AIDS; to increase funding for Social Services Block Grants and organizations like Healthy Start and the Children's Aid Society; to finance community health centers; to combat genocide in Sudan.

I could fill this column, if not this entire page, with a list of ideas, proposals and laws Santorum has poured out over the past dozen years. It's hard to think of another politician who has been so active and so productive on these issues.

Like many people who admire his output, I disagree with Santorum on key matters like immigration, abortion, gay marriage. I'm often put off by his unnecessarily slashing style and his culture war rhetoric.

But government is ultimately not about the theater or the light shows of public controversy, it's about legislation and results. And the substance of Santorum's work is impressive. Bono, who has worked closely with him over the years, got it right: "I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette's disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."

Rick Santorum pays more attention to the problem of poverty than Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, John Edwards, Harry Reid, or Hillary Rodham Clinton, and if he is defeated Democrats who care about the poor will find that their hand has been weakened, not strengthened. Brooks adds,
The bottom line is this: If serious antipoverty work is going to be done, it's going to emerge from a coalition of liberals and religious conservatives. Without Santorum, that's less likely to happen. If senators are going to be honestly appraised, it's going to require commentators who can look beyond the theater of public controversy and at least pretend to care about actual legislation. Santorum has never gotten a fair shake from the media.

Presumably the response of a partisan Democrat would be that Republicans generally do not care about poverty, however praiseworthy Senator Santorum's work in the area might be, and that Democratic control of the Senate will do more for the poor than any one Republican senator possibly can. Perhaps, but Brooks' last point -- that religious conservatives will make an important contribution to the war on poverty if only Democrats let them -- leads to a more sweeping observation: it was not inevitable that passionate Christians became Republicans. They share many objectives with liberals, particularly regarding poverty and the environment. Indeed, the first modern evangelical president was Jimmy Carter. But religious traditionals were driven from the Democratic party by the activists of the left, who in their zeal to transform the United States into a European-style "social democratic" state made abortion and gay rights and other cultural issues virtual requirements for influence within the party.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Argentina indicts Iran 

Argentinian prosecutors say they have established a chain of command from the very top of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Hezbollah operatives for the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994. That attack killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Proportionate to population, an attack in the United States would need to kill more than 600 people and wound more than 1600 to have a similar impact.

Assuming the Argentinians have done good work, several implications spring to mind (offer your own in the comments). First, we should not mince words: By any measure of law, Iran has made war on Argentina. By dint of Hezbollah, Iran is able to project power across the continents and hit Buenos Aires. Argentina has no corresponding ability to strike back. What lessons will it draw from this?

Second, let us do away with this idea that Iran should not be held accountable for the actions of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the means by which Iran can project power far beyond the range of its missiles.

Third, in the eyes of the Iranian government, opposition to Israel is the same thing as the desire to kill Jews. There is no distinction between the official Iranian anti-Zionism and a desire to kill all Jews everywhere, no matter how much Ahmadinejad might try to dress it up. The Buenos Aires attack took place under an allegedly "reformist" president who was siezed of none of messianic fantasies of the current character.

Fourth, Michael Totten writes that "[t]he international movement to turn the screws on the Party of God is only gaining momentum." Let's hope so.

Fifth, this indictment fosters the political division in Latin America, doesn't it? It is an embarrassment for Hugo Chavez, who has been sucking up to the Ahmadinejad government at every opportunity. One is almost forced to speculate whether Argentina was not at least a little motivated by a desire to cut Chavez down to size. Unfortunately, I'm too ignorant of Argentinian procedure and politics to know whether that speculation is viable.

Thanks to Fausta for the Totten link.

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Blame the law department 

Without knowing any actual facts, I can virtually guarantee that this is an example of a corporate law department with an inadequate understanding of its own business. It is not merely a bad decision. It is a sign that the in-house lawyers do not entirely grasp the creation of value in their own industry. That's always a prescription for disaster.

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A blow for the West 

If Mark Steyn is right, the Miss Europe pageant won't look like this much longer. Let's hope he's wrong.

This year's winner was Miss France, Alexandra Rosenfeld. Regular readers know that I have appreciated Miss Rosenfeld since July, when she surfaced in the Miss Universe pageant. 'Bout time she won something bigger than "Miss Languedoc."

Miss Europe slideshow here.

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Memo to New Jersey voters: The Democrats will gun for pharma 

If you live in northern New Jersey, you know that the profitability of the pharmaceutical industry is the single most important driver of employment and income in your economy. Whether you are an executive at Merck in Whitehouse Station or a secretary at J&J in New Brunswick, you know this to be true. You also know that your industry invests in the drugs that save our lives or just make them worth living because the sales of those drugs can generate a rate of return that justifies the huge risk. You probably know that this has become ever more difficult for American pharmaceutical companies, because most foreign markets are monopsonies or otherwise regulate the prices you can charge, knowing that the marginal pill costs pennies to produce, even if the first pill cost a billion dollars. Faced with no choice, most pharmaceuticals will sell into small markets, such as Canada, at far lower prices than would have justified the investment to develop the drug in the first place.

With that in mind, remember that if the Democrats win control of the Congress they will do everything they can to reduce the rate of return($) on pharmaceutical research and development:

California Rep. Henry Waxman, the vocal corporate critic slated to run a powerful committee if Democrats win the House, said he would aggressively expand oversight of many large industries -- with a focus on drug prices, oil-company profits and Halliburton Co.'s contracting work in Iraq....

Of particular concern, Mr. Waxman said, would be rooting out what he called "profiteering." His aides define the term broadly enough that it encompasses Iraq contracting, the massive growth in homeland security expenditures, pharmaceutical prices and soaring oil-industry profits.

In this country, at least pending the return of the Democrats to control of Congress, the government stays out of the pricing of pharmaceuticals even when it acts as a buyer. The result is that new drugs that are still "on patent" are expensive, profits on those drugs can be large, and the pharmaceutical companies are therefore willing to make big bets on the development of new drugs so that they can do it all over again. A lot of that invested money ends up in New Jersey.

Yes, this post is making a parochial political point. Yes, I obviously believe that it is very unwise to regulate drug prices without reference to the benefits to New Jersey, but that is a longer discussion that I do not have the energy for this morning.

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Friday, October 27, 2006


GatewayPundit examines the Democrats' anti-war presidential campaign of 1864, and concludes that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Of course, the Donks also waged an anti-war campaign in 1900, this time opposing our war in the Philippines. That election was particularly instructive, because the Filipino insurgency timed its attacks to influence the outcome in the United States, hoping to deliver a victory to the Democratic candidate, Christian fundamentalist creationist William Jennings Bryan.*

All of this reminds me of a smart point recently made to me by a professor of military history. She observed that virtually all American wars become deeply unpopular as they are being fought, the sole exception being World War II. The unpopularity of the current war in Iraq is not therefore anamolous or necessarily a symptom of Vietnam-syndrome run amok in the chattering classes. Nor is the unpopularity of the counterinsurgency in Iraq in and of itself evidence that it is not worth fighting, or that history will regard it as an error.

*I kill me.

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France endorses the "separation fence" 

Since I have spent most of the week giving voice to despondency over the Islamization of Europe, here is some Friday afternoon good news: France's Foreign Minister has endorsed the existence of the separation fence that the Israelis have erected against Palestinian terror attacks, even if not its precise route:

The barrier, which separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel, has garnered much criticism for creating a ghetto-style situation for the Palestinians and for allegedly appropriating Palestinian land on the Israeli side.

But although the French government has been critical of it since the start of its construction four years ago, Douste-Blazy has now reversed the feeling.

“I have significantly evolved on the matter of the separation fence” said Douste-Blazy on French Jewish television TFJ on Thursday. “Although the wall was a moral and ethical problem for me, when I realised terror attacks were reduced by 80 percent in the areas where the wall was erected, I understood I didn’t have the right to think that way.”

Douste-Blazy is the first high ranking French official to openly state his support for the security fence.

Armed Liberal snarks "Concern about a 'Paris Intifada' does evolve one's thinking, doesn't it?" Perhaps, although the French government usually does not respond to pressure from the "youths" by vocalizing support for Israeli anti-terrorism tactics.

In fact, France seems to have irritated Hamas, just when it has put several thousand of its soldiers into the gun sights of Hamas' ally Hezbollah:
Hamas vigorously criticised the French FM after his statement:

“It is the Palestinian nation which is suffering from the separation fence, not the French nation,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “Our nation is paying a high price for the separation and he [Douste-Blazy] must understand that the wall is the symbol of racial segregation and isolation.”

The perturbations of French diplomatic positions are not inherently interesting, but they may be a means of measuring the degree to which the French polity retains the ability to resist the Muslim political agenda. France is on the brink of a presidential election campaign, so it is -- possibly -- meaningful that its foreign minister thought it a propitious time to shift in favor of Israel on a core issue for the Islamic world.

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Wall analogies 

Yesterday, President Bush signed the recently-passed legislation to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence along a portion of our southern border with Mexico. Understandably, this has not made the Mexicans happy. In reading the eruptions of Mexican politicians, though, it is not clear where reasoned argument turns into political pandering. President-elect Felipe Calderon had this to say:

The president-elect, Felipe Calderon - who takes over from Mr Fox in December - was even more blunt. "The decision made by Congress and the US government is deplorable," he said.

"Humanity committed a grave error by constructing the Berlin wall, and I am sure that today the United States is committing a grave error in constructing a wall along our northern border."

Whether or not the decision of the United States to build this fence is deplorable -- my own view is that it is both right for us to build it and appropriate for Mexico to be outraged by it -- Mr. Calderon's quoted reason is -- how to say? -- idiotic. The people who built the Berlin wall -- not "humanity," but a Communist police state at the behest of the Soviet Union -- did so to keep their own people in. Our purpose in building the wall along the southern border is to keep other people out. There is an obvious difference, even though the motivation in both cases is political preservation.

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Camille Paglia on the Fauxley scandal 

Salon interviewed Camille Paglia, and her take on the manufactured Mark Foley sexual harrassment scandal is spot on:

Foley is obviously a moral degenerate, and the Republican House leadership has come across as pathetically bumbling and ineffectual. But the idea that this is some sort of major scandal in the history of American politics is ludicrous. This was a story that needed to be told for, you know, like two days.

Mark Foley was never on the radar of anyone outside the small circle of news junkies. So his fall and banishment from Washington were nothing but a drip in the torrential flood of current geopolitical problems. The way the Democratic leadership was in clear collusion with the major media to push this story in the month before the midterm election seems to me to have been a big fat gift to Ann Coulter and the other conservative commentators who say the mainstream media are simply the lapdogs of the Democrats. Every time I turned on the news it was "Foley, Foley, Foley!" -- and in suspiciously similar language and repetitive talking points.

After three or four days of it, as soon as I heard Foley's name, I turned the sound off or switched channels. It was gargantuan overkill, and I felt the Democrats were shooting themselves in the foot. I was especially repulsed by the manipulative use of a gay issue for political purposes by my own party. I think it was not only poor judgment but positively evil. Whatever short-term political gain there is, it can only have a negative impact on gay men. When a moralistic, buttoned-up Republican like Foley is revealed to have a secret, seamy gay life, it simply casts all gay men under a shadow and makes people distrust them. Why don't the Democratic strategists see this? These tactics are extremely foolish. Gay men through history have always been more vulnerable to public hysteria than are lesbians, who -- unless they're out there parading around in all-leather bull-dyke drag -- simply fit more easily into the cultural landscape than do gay men, who generally lead a more adventurous, pickup-oriented sex life.

Not only has the public image of gay men been tarnished by the over-promotion of the Foley scandal, but they have actually been put into physical danger. It's already starting with news items about teenage boys using online sites to lure gay men on dates to attack and rob them. What in the world are the Democrats thinking? We saw the beginning of this in that grotesque moment in the last presidential debates when John Kerry came out with that clearly prefab line identifying Mary Cheney as a lesbian. Since when does the Democratic Party use any gay issue in this coldblooded way as a token on the chessboard? You'd expect this stuff from right-wing ideologues, not progressives.

Agreed, but a small nit: It was John Edwards who brought up Mary Cheney's status as a lesbian in his debate with Mary's father. John Kerry had previously raised the issue, which had provoked outrage from the Vice President. John Edwards therefore thought he could bait the Veep into getting mad on national television. Kerry probed, Edwards slipped in the shiv. It backfired, though, and Edwards revealed himself as the trial lawyer he was born to be. Either way, there seems to be more actual gay-baiting from the Democratic candidates than Republican, probably because the press gives Democrats a magical invulnerability shield on the matter.

In any case, the whole interview is classic Paglia, and certainly no campaign ad for the Republicans.

CWCID: Jonah Goldberg.

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Book review: America Alone 

America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It
Mark Steyn
2006 Regnery Publishing, Inc.
224 pages.

Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone, is not surprisingly the American answer (though Steyn is originally Canadian) to British journalist Melanie Phillips' Londonistan. Phillips warned Americans in particular that Great Britain's status as the beacon of the West was being subverted by creeping Islamization, and that soon she would no longer be a reliable ally.

The effect on America if its principal ally continues down this perilous road will be profound. The consequences for the West, for which Britain remains a cultural beacon, would be incalculable. That is why this book is a warning -- to America, to Britain and to all who care for freedom.

Mark Steyn acknowledges the warning from the western shore of the Atlantic, and extends the analysis to the former great powers of continental Europe. Both authors discuss culture, demographics, politics -- particularly of the left -- and geopolitics. Phillips relentlessly sounds the alarm against the collapse of British cultural confidence and resurgent "multiculti leftism," which she believes has destroyed the will of the British to stand up for their own future. While Steyn also discusses cultural confidence (see this post from yesterday), he focuses on the interplay between the social democratic welfare state, the collapsing fertility of the leading modernized countries, and "civilizational exhaustion." Each of these feeds the other, according to Steyn, and the result is that rich countries of Western Europe, plus Japan, will soon be unable to defend themselves no matter how much they might wish to do it.

In the book he starts with demography, "because everything else does." Whether or not that is true, let's set the table as the author proposes:
If your school has two hundred guys and you're playing a school with two thousand pupils, it doesn't mean your baseball team is definitely going to lose, but it certainly gives the other fellows a big starting advantage. Likewise, if you want to launch a revolution, it's not very likely if you've only got seven revolutionaries. And they're all over eighty. But if you've got two million and seven revolutionaries and their all under thirty, you're in business.

I wonder how many pontificators on the "Middle East peace process" ever run this number: the median age in the Gaza Strip is 15.8 years.

Once you know that, all the rest is details. If you were a "moderate Palestinian" leader, would you want to try to persuade a nation -- or pseudo-nation -- of unemployed poorly educated teenage boys raised in a UN-supervised European-funded death cult to see sense? Any analysis of the "Palestinian problem" that doesn't take into account the most important determinant on the ground is a waste of time.

Likewise, the salient feature of Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia is that they're running out of babies. What's happening in the developed world is one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history. Most of us have seen a gazillion heartwarming ethnic comedies -- My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its ilk -- in which some uptight WASPy type starts dating a gal from a vast, loving, fecund Mediterranean family, so abundantly endowed with sisters and cousins and uncles that you can barely get in the room. It is, in fact, the inversion of the truth. Greece has a fertility rate hovering just below 1.3 births per couple, which is what demographers call the point of "lowest low" fertility from which no human society has ever recovered. And Greece's fertility is the healthiest in Mediterranean Europe: Italy has a fertility rate of 1.2, Spain, 1.1. Insofar as any citizens of the developed world have "big" families these days, it's the Anglo democracies: America's fertility rate is 2.1, New Zealand's a little below. Hollywood should be making My Big Fat Uptight Protestant Wedding, in which some sad Greek only child marries into a big heartwarming New Zealand family where the spouse actually has a sibling.

As I say, this isn't a projection -- it's happening now. There's no need to extrapolate, and if you do it gets a little freaky, but, just for fun, here goes: by 2050, 60 percent of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles. The big Italian family, with papa pouring the vino and mama spooning out the pasta down an endless table of grandparents and nieces and nephews, will be gone, no more, dead as the dinosaurs. As Noel Coward once remarked in another context, "Funiculi, funicula, funic yourself." By mid-century, Italians will have no choice in the matter.

The second leg in the Steynian triad is the social democratic welfare state: it both fosters the demographic decline of the rich countries and is done in by it. The social-welfare state demotivates its beneficiaries, taking away an important reason to have children -- so that they will take care of you late in life. That leads to catastrophically low birthrates, which in turn destroys the economic base necessary to sustain the welfare state in the future. Even worse, by "annexing all the responsibilities of adulthood" the state "severs its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the surival instinct... These programs ... corrode the citizen's sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree. Big government is a national security threat: it increases your vulnerability to threats like Islamism, and make it less likely you'll be able to summon the will to rebuff it."

Which leads directly to the final leg, "civilizational exhaustion" or ennui. The West no longer cares to defend itself because it no longer has confidence in its own moral judgments. This manifests itself most directly in the squishy multiculturalism that so animates Melanie Phillips. Her example -- which is priceless if depressing -- is Prince Charles' idea that once he is King he will no longer be Defender of the Faith, but "defender of faith," as if "faith" in the abstract needs a defender. From what? Reason run amok? Steyn's corresponding point is that the Church of England is no longer worthy of defense, preoccupied as it is with issues that are actually very peripheral:
If ever there were a time for a strong voice in the heart of Christianity, this would be it. And yet most mainline Protestant churches are as wedded to the platitudes du jour as the laziest politician. These days, if it weren't for homosexuality, the "mainstream" Christian churches would get barely any press at all. In 2005, the big story in America was the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop; in Britain, the nomination of a celibate gay bishop; in Canada, New Westminster's decision to become the first diocese in the Anglican communion to perform same-sex ceremonies. In Nigeria, where on any Sunday the Anglicans in the pews outnumber those in America, Britain and Canada combined, the archbishop is understandably miffed that the only news he gets from head office revolves around various permutations of gayness. Getting a reputation as a cult for upscale Western sodomites and a few attendant fetishists doesn't help when half your country's in the grip of sharia and the local Islamoheavies are just itching to torch your churches.

Whatever one's views of homosexuality, it would seem in the greater scheme of things to be marginal, and thus the preoccupation with minority sexuality is best understood as an example of mainstream Protestantism's retreat to the periphery....

Anything to say on non-gay issues? Well, the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, declared during the Afghan campaign that the United States Air Force pilot and the suicide bomber are morally equivalent -- both "can only see from a distance: the sort of distance from which you can't see a face, meet the eyes of someone, hear who they are, imagine who and what they love. All violence works with that sort of distance."

That doesn't even work as glib lefty equivalence. The distinguishing feature of the suicide bomber is that he doesn't see at a distance. He looks into your face, meets your eyes -- and he still blows you up, because even face to face he can't imagine who you are or what you love. He can't see anything about you, other than that you're the Other. So, like the Beslan schoolhouse slaughterers and Daniel Pearl's decapitators, he looks into the eyes -- and then he kills. The United States Air Force pilot is running on GPS technology -- that blip's a mosque, that one's a nursery -- and from hundreds of miles and thousands of feet he can still see the common humanity more clearly. And, most perplexing of all, he can see more clearly than the archbishop of Canterbury, insulated by the distance of his own assumptions.

It is not entirely clear from the book whether Steyn detects cause and effect among the triad of demography, the social democratic welfare state, and civilizational exhaustion, or a relationship of a different sort. Does socialism cause demographic decline, which causes civilizational ennui, or is demographic decline a function of affluence, which leads to socialism (we need somebody to take care of us), which leads to exhaustion? Or, perhaps, leftism's moral equivalence leads to socialism, which in turn promotes demographic collapse. He points to many interrelationships that would reinforce any of these theories, but the book is a bit vague on the matter of chickens and eggs.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to put that question to him on Thursday afternoon's conference call. Steyn recognized that each of the three factors to some degree causes the others, but thought that the strongest relationship was demographic decline first -- it being the most verifiable fact -- followed by the nanny state, followed by civilizational exhaustion. I'm not entirely sure I agree -- I think that the welfare state and its appurtenances leads to demographic decline -- but Steyn's basic case, that there is a strong interaction between these three factors that is weakening the rich democracies, perhaps irredeemably, is very persuasive to me.

There is another question, and that is whether Europe is lost to Islam. After having read Phillips and Steyn over the last couple of months, it is hard to conclude otherwise. How will Europe reverse this decline? There are two possibilities, neither of which Steyn broached in the book, but both of which came up on today's conference call. First, Europeans might react to cultural pressure by breeding more. Perhaps today's small number of European children will give birth to many more children. Perhaps. Second, Europeans might turn violent. Ralph Peters suggested precisely that in his equally creative book, New Glory, recommended on this blog last year.
Yet Europe is likely to be good for a number of surprises - surprising not least to Europeans themselves. With our short historical memory (one American quality Germans welcome), we thoughtlessly accept that, since much of Europe appears to be pacifist now, so it shall remain. But no continent has exported as much misery and slaughter as Europe has done, and the chances are better than fair that Europe is only catching its breath after the calamities it inflicted upon itself in the last century.

We last saw widespread pacifism in Europe just before 1914 and again during the half-time break in that great European civil war that lasted until 1945 (or 1991 east of the Elbe).

Europe's current round of playing pacifist dress up was enabled by America's protection during the Cold War. We allowed our European wards to get away with a minimum number of chores. The United States did (and still does) the dirty work, seconded by our direct ancestor, Britain. Even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization merely obscured how little was asked of Europe. For almost a century the work of freedom and global security has been handled by the great Anglolateral alliance born of a struggle against the tyranny of continental European philosophies hatched on the Rhine and Danube. Our struggle continues today, against fanaticism and terror.

It is unlikely that Europe's present pacifism will last... Europe will rediscover its genius, reforming itself if necessary. There will be plenty of bitterness and recriminations along the way, but Europe will accept the need to change because change will be forced upon it. The trouble with European genius, of course, is that it has a dark side. If its racist populations feel sufficiently threatened by the Muslim millions within their divided societies and by terror exported from the Islamic heartlands, Europe may respond with a cruelty unimaginable to us today. After all, Europe is the continent that mastered ethnic cleansing and genocide after a thousand years of pactice. We Americans may find ourselves in the unexpected
position of confronting the Europe of tomorrow as we try to restrain its barbarities toward Muslims.

So what to do about this? Steyn sets forth the options at the end of the book in particularly stark terms:
There are three possible resolutions to the present struggle:
1. Submit to Islam
2. Destroy Islam
3. Reform Islam

Because most of us don't take number one as a serious possibility, we're equally unserious about being forced to choose between two and three. But submission to Islam is very possible, and to many it will still seem ridiculous even as it happens; like John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, we'll be spluttering that we can't believe we're losing to these idiots. But we can lose (as I've always believed) and (as I've come to believe) we might lose more easily than even the gloomiest of us thought.

By "we might lose," I mean "the good guys" -- and I define that term expansively. There are plenty of good guys in Australia and Poland and Iraq and even Pakistan. And I'm a little unnerved at the number of readers who seem to think that the rest of the world can go hang but America will endure as a lonely candle of liberty in the new Dark Ages. Think that one through: a totalitarian China, a crumbling Russia, an insane Middle East, a disease-ridden Africa, a civil war-torn Eurabia -- and a country that can't even enforce its borders against two relatively benign states will somehow be able to hold the entire planet at bay? Dream on, "realists."

As for option two, it doesn't bear thinking about. Even if you regard Islam as essentially incompatible with free societies, the slaughter required to end it as a force in the world would change America beyond recognition. That doesn't mean that, a few years down the line, if some kooks with nukes obliterate, say, Marseilles or Lyon that the French wouldn't give it a go in some fairly spectacular way. But they're unlikely to accomplish much by it, any more than the Russians have by their scorched-earth strategy in Chechnya.

That leaves option three: Reform Islam -- which is not ours to do. Ultimately, only Muslims can reform Islam. All the free world can do is create conditions that increase the likelihood of Muslim reform, or at any rate do not actively impede it.

Steyn offers a number of suggestions, most of which will be familiar to those of you who have read and absorbed my realist case for the democratization strategy.

Finally, all of this goes down with the famous Steyn wit. On who should care about Islamization:
When the mullahs take over, I'll grow my beard a little fuller, get a couple of extra wives, and keep my head down. It's the feminists and gays who'll have a tougher time.

On feminists and Islamization:
In their bizarre prioritization of "a woman's right to choose," feminists have helped ensure that European women will end their days in a culture that doesn't accord women the right to choose anything. Non-Muslim females in heavily Muslim neighborhoods in France now wear headscarves while out on the streets. Yes, yes, I know Islam is very varied, and Riyadh has a vibrant gay scene, and the Khartoum Feminist Publishing Collective now has so many members they've rented lavish new offices above the clitorectomy clinic. I don't pretend to have all the answers, except when I'm being interviewed live on TV. But that's better than pretending that there aren't even any questions.

On "grievances", as opposed to religion, as a root cause:
One day they'll even be on the beach at St. Tropez, and if you and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right about there being no religio-ethnic-cultural component to their "grievances."

On politically correct, European political discourse:
Across half a century, Continental politics evolved to the point where almost any issue worth talking about was ruled beyond the bounds of polite society. Austria was the classic example: year in, year out, whether you voted for the center-left party or the center-right party, you wound up with the same center-left/center-right coalition presiding over what was in essence a two-party one-party state. In France, M. Chirac isn't really "center-right" so much as ever so slightly left-of-right-of-left-of-center -- and even that distinction only applies when he's standing next to his former prime minister, the right-of-left-of-right-of-left-of center Lionel Jospin. Though supposedly from opposite ends of the political spectrum, in the 2002 presidential election they wound up running against each other on identical platforms, both passionately committed to high taxes, high unemployment, and high crime.

On paranoia in the Muslim world:
For example, I hadn't really followed Sudanese current events closely since, oh, General Kitchener's victory at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, but in 2003 a story from that benighted land happened to catch my eye. In the fall of that year mass hysteria apparently swept the capital city, Khartoum, after reports that foreigners were shaking hands with Sudanese men and causing their penises to disappear. One victim, a fabric merchant, told his story to the London Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi: a man from West Africa came into the shop and "shook the store owner's hand powerfully until the owner felt his penis melt into his body."

I know the feeling. The same thing happened to me after shaking hands with Senator Clinton.

The vanishing penis story, which goes on at some length from there, is all by itself worth the price of the book.

Don't be a fool. Read America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It. And hope that Mark Steyn is just wrong.

MORE: See Michelle Malkin interview Mark (part 1 and part 2).

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A conference call with Mark Steyn 

This afternoon I participated along with various other bloggers in a conference call with Mark Steyn, whose new book -- America Alone -- I have been rather relentlessly touting on this blog. The sponsor of the call, OneJerusalem, recorded it for your listening pleasure. If you do listen to it, please reassure me that my question for Mr. Steyn might have been even less coherent. If you don't listen to it, at least read John Hawkins' bullet points.

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Podcast recommendations 

I've taken to listening to podcasts on long drives and airplane rides, when shopping for groceries, and on walks in the woods, which are really my moments to be oblivious. In the last few days I have heard three that I think our readers might particularly enjoy.

First, John Lindner of The Baltimore Sun interviewed Richard Fernandez -- aka "Wretchard" and proprietor of The Belmont Club -- on the subject of blogging. Apart from the sharp observations that we have come to take for granted from Richard, he also has kind words for me, which are much appreciated.

Second, Richard and Austin Bay interviewed Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Wright's fast-paced book is not the last that will be written on its subject -- there are still many unanswered questions, and in any case the story will be finally written by the victors -- but it is, unlike most journalism, a genuine first draft of history.

Finally, Glenn and Helen interviewed gun expert Dave Kopel. As has been true for perhaps twenty years, there is no more thoughtful proponent of gun rights. I guarantee you will learn something, including the enormous progress that has been made in defense of gun rights since the high water mark of the abolition movement in 1993.

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Gay marriage in New Jersey 

Glenn Reynolds has a round-up of links or commentary on the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision yesterday to require the state legislature to legalize gay marriage or adopt a Vermontish solution that results in gays having equal protection of the law. The marital rights of gays is not an issue that tremendously animates me -- I once wrote a post with the title "Gay marriage: My one and only post", a promise it took me 13 months to break -- but when it surfaces I make two points. First, I support lawful marriage for gays for any number of reasons. Second, I think it will lead to no end of folly if it comes into being by the decisions of courts rather than under laws passed by legislatures that are not otherwise under threat of court order. One would have thought that the history of the abortion wars in this country would have taught judges at least that much, but apparently their own zeal for the legislator's job is more powerful than the obvious lesson of history.

What sort of troubles will come from this? Well, it seems that there are several obvious consequences. The appointment or election of judges -- now at the state level as well as the federal -- will become a function of their position on the gay marriage question, rather than their competence to perform the other overwhelmingly more important aspects of their job. The political parties will use it as a wedge issue, which will set back the cause of marriage for gays for a generation, just as Roe made it impossible to have an intelligent or honest discussion about abortion. True, gay couples in certain jurisdictions will have achieved an immediate legal victory, but the gay rights movement will have been spared the hard work of persuading a majority of their fellow citizens that legalizing gay marriage is the right thing to do. Other gays will pay the price for this, because -- also as we learned from the abortion wars -- it is far easier to incite passions when democracy has been denied than when it has spoken.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New book: Murder In Amsterdam 

I have just begun Ian Buruma's book, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, the fourth or fifth book I have read in the last year (and the third since I read Londonistan in August) that examines the Islamization of Europe. Here are the open paragraphs:

It was the coolness of his manner, the composure of a person who knew precisely what he was doing, that struck those who say Mohammed Bouyeri, a twenty-six-year-old Moroccan-Dutchman in a gray raincoat and prayer hat, blast the filmmaker Theo van Gogh off his bicycle on a dreary morning in Amsterdam. He shot him calmly in the stomach, and after the victim had staggered to the other wide of the street, shot him several more times, pulled out a curved machete, and cut his throat -- 'as thou slashing a tire," according to one witness.

Leaving the machete planted firmly in Van Gogh's chest, he then pulled a smaller knife from a bag, scribbled something on a piece of paper, folded the letter neatly, and pinned it to the body with thi second knife.

Van Gogh, a short fat man with blond curls, was dressed in his usual T-shirt and suspenders. Most people in Holland who watch TV or read the papers would have been familiar with this ubiquitous figure, known less for his films than for his provocative statements on radio and television, in newspaper and Internet columns, and in various courts of law, about everything from the alleged exploitation of the Holocaust by Jewish celebrities to the dangerous presence of a Muslim "fifth column" operating in Dutch society. He lay on his back, his hands stretched above his head, two knives sticking out from his chest, slaughtered like a sacrificial animal. Bouyeri gave the corpse a few hard kicks and walked away, without hurry, easy as could be, as though he had done northing more dramatic than fillet a fish.

Still calm, he made no serious attempt to escape. While he reloaded his gun, a woman who happened by screamed: "You can't do that!" "Yes, I can," Bouyeri replied, before strolling into a nearby park with several patrol cars rushing to the scene, "and now you know what you people can expect in the future." A shootout began. One bullet struck a policeman in his bulletproof vest. Another hit a passer-by in the leg. But then Bouyeri caught a police bullet in his own leg and was arrested. This was not part of the plan. Bouyeri had wanted to die as a martyr to his faith. We know this from statements he made later, and from the letter on Van Gogh's chest.

Later, after having been convicted of this crime, Bouyeri explained himself:
Mohammed Bouyeri also turned to Van Gogh's mother, Anneke, in court and told her: "I don't feel your pain."

"I can't feel for you because I think you're a nonbeliever," he said.

Bouyeri, 27, faces life imprisonment in the Nov. 2 killing of Van Gogh, who was found shot and stabbed. He has not mounted a defense.

"I did it out of conviction," Bouyeri said. "If I ever get free, I would do it again."

I imagine I will learn a lot about the Bouyeri case from Ian Buruma's new book, but I already know this: the criminal justice system, which depends on deterrance as its foundation, will not deter the jihadis and it will rarely interdict them.

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Max Boot:

Mercenaries used to dominate warfare. The "Hessians" who served Britain in our War for Independence (many were actually from other German states) became notorious among the colonists, but foreigners formed a major part of every army in the world until the French Revolution. Their outlook was pithily expressed by a 17th-century soldier who said: "We serve our master honestly, it is no matter what master we serve."

And they did provide good service. It was thanks largely to "free lances" (the origin of that now common term) that absolute monarchs managed to consolidate their power in Europe and carve out vast overseas empires. Private entities like the Dutch and English East India Companies even marshaled their own armies and navies to defend their domains.

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal on line or in hard copy, read the whole thing. Otherwise, live for the day when you can accuse a "freelance" journalist of being "just another mercenary," and come back later for a more detailed discussion of Boot's recommendation that we send a force of mercenaries to police Darfur.

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CNN Snipervision 

There has been some excellent commentary and discussion of CNN's controversial decision to run enemy propaganda films depicting islamist insurgents targetting and shooting American military personnel. I read some of Michelle Malkin's commentary, for instance, and agree that the films are repugnant stuff.

However, I would also note that it makes me want to kill Islamist insurgents in Iraq even more (yes, Virginia, this is possible). And I would bet a dollar that there are many (most?) Americans who are similarly motivated to burn down bloody Baghdad already. In fact, my thinking is evolving in a downright William Tecumseh Sherman-ish type fashion. It certainly does not in the least make me feel less warlike. On the contrary, it makes me much more bloodthirsty. As Sherman said, "war is cruelty." And imposing cruelty upon some of these murderous sharia-bats seems like a good call to me.

This thought process led me to a conclusion which I think points up something of a double standard, or similar problem. There are those pundits who have condemned the media for suppressing video of 9/11 for instance, because that film is perceived to motivate warlike emotion. If so, it strikes me that condemning CNN for running Enemy Snipervision seems a modest departure, ahem, from that line of thinking. And this from people who I respect and admire. These are the same folks who said that CNN didn't run enough film of Haifa getting missiled in comparion with video of Lebanon getting bombed.

Look, I understand the impetus to condemn CNN -- running enemy propaganda films which show them killing us, and don't show us killing them, seems to be out of balance with reality, and paint the losers as winners. It is aggravating at a minimum, personally hurtful to the victims and crass. On the other hand, I think an unintended effect from the anti-victory crowd at CNN is to really piss Americans off (just like watching film of planes flying into buildings) and motivate us to support killing the enemy much more aggressively than we are today. Personally, if I was a General Sherman type, I would flatten Sadr City -- or something similar to what we did to Fallujah after the last November election related delay. And I would repeat that whenever these militias decided they wanted to stick their heads up.

Last point: if the Iraqi government -- freely elected -- is dumb enough to let these militias operate, then we should pull back from Baghdad and let the gangs kill each other. When the Iraqi military goes in to suppress the activity, a couple of our guys go with them. But let's not just walk around getting shot at. If we're in there, let's smash heads already.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

America Alone: An excerpt on cultural confidence 

Earlier this evening I finished Mark Steyn's excellent book, America Alone, which I hope to review in some detail within the next couple of days. Before I hit the hay after a long day, however, I wanted to share the opening paragraphs of the last chapter, which address one of Steyn's core themes, the collapse of Western cultural confidence:

This book isn't an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will. In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" -- the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

India today is better off without suttee. If you don't agree with that, if you think that's just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don't think you really do believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis. After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched tribal dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It's a quintessential piece of progressive humbug. But if you think you genuinely believe that suttee is just an exampleof the rich, vibrant tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 30, 48 percent of the people around you really believed in it too. Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.

The rest of us -- the ones who think you can make judgments about competing cultures on liberty, religious freedom, the rule of law -- need to recover the cultural cool that General Napier demonstrated.

Read the whole thing.

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The collective mentality of the Arab Middle East 

I've been traveling and otherwise heavily occupied for the last few days, and now have to drive through beautiful foliage from York, Pennsylvania back to Princeton. Before I hit the road, though, I leave you with Victor Davis Hanson's list of things he believes we have learned, or learned more deeply, about the warped lens through which Arab Muslims of the Middle East regard the West.

It is difficult in history to find any civilization that asks as much of others as does the contemporary Middle East—and yet so little of itself. If I were to sum up the collective mentality of the current Arab Middle East—predicated almost entirely on the patriarchal sense of lost “honor” and the rational calculation to murder appeasing liberals and appease murdering authoritarians— it would run something like the following:

(1) We will pump oil at $3 and must sell it over $50 — and still blame you for stealing our natural treasure.

(2) We will damn your culture and politics, but expect our own to immigrate in the thousands to your shores; upon arrival any attempt to integrate Muslim immigrants into Western pluralistic society will be seen as Islamaphobic

(3) Send us your material goods, whether machine tools, I-pods, or antibiotics. We desperately want them, but will neither make the necessary changes in our own statist, authoritarian, religiously intolerant, tribal, and patriarchal culture to allow us to produce them ourselves, nor will show any appreciation for the genius of others who can do what we cannot.

(4) We ostensibly wish you to stop the killing of Muslims by ourselves and others—Milosevic murdering Kosovars, Saddam destroying Kuwaitis, Kurds, and Shiites, Russians killing Afghans and Chechnyans — but should you concretely attempt to do so, we will immediately consider your intervention far worse than the mayhem caused by others or ourselves.

(5) Any indigenous failure in the Arab Middle East will eventually be blamed on the United States or Israel.

(6) Your own sense of multiculturalism must serve as an apology for our own violent pathologies, that can only be seen as different from, never worse than, your own culture.

(7) We must at all times talk of anti-Americanism and why we want you out of the Middle East; you must never become anti-Arab or anti-Muslim, much less close your borders to our immigrants and students.

(8) We will tolerate and often defend those who burn churches, ethnically cleanse Jews from our cities, behead priests, kill nuns, and shoot infidels as the necessary, if sometimes regrettable, efforts of our more zealous to defend Islam. But if any free spirit in the West satirizes Islam, we will immediately demand that Western governments condemn such blasphemy — or else!

(9) Material aid—billions to Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, or the Palestinians — is our entitlement. Any attempt to curtail it is seen as an assault on the Arab nation.

(10) We are deathly afraid of nuclear Russia, China, and India who have little tolerance for either Islamism or terrorism, and so will ignore their felonies, while killing you for your misdemeanors.

If you have to have a geopolitical adversary, we should be grateful that we have been blessed with such an obviously incoherent and incompetent one. It ought to be a huge advantage. Unfortunately, huge numbers of Westerners -- especially those schooled in our universities in the last thirty years and now populating the chattering classes -- are determined to cede that advantage. How? By declaring that it would be immoral to use the vast array of cultural, social, economic, political and military tools at our disposal for geopolitical gain against the Arab Muslims of the Middle East.

Flip off the safeties and comment at will.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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The case for a gas tax 

If the Democrats win control of the Congress, they have committed to raise our taxes. Or at least my taxes. Generally, I'd prefer that we cut non-defense spending and hack into entitlements, but if I didn't get that from the GOP there is no reason to expect it after the Democrats return to real power for the first time in this millenium.

There is, however, one tax that we should increase, and that is the gasoline tax. Greg Mankiw made the case as succinctly as it can be made a few days ago. Put it up gradually -- Mankiw proposes a dime a year for a decade -- and it will not hurt the economy nearly as much as it will help.

But for the fact that Democrats made high gasoline prices a political issue until they were no longer high, their usual constituencies should be very happy. The environmentalist, anti-development, anti-oil industry, anti-car culture crowd would be ecstatic, as would their many loyalists who just want the government to take a larger share of GDP. There is an added bonus, though. It is an opportunity for the Democrats to look tougher on national security than Republicans, right out of the box. Why? Because it is inevitable that the Saudis, Iranians, Venezuelans, and Sudanese will also pay part of that tax:

A basic principle of tax analysis--taught in most freshman economics courses--is that the burden of a tax is shared by consumer and producer. In this case, as a higher gas tax discouraged oil consumption, the price of oil would fall in world markets. As a result, the price of gas to consumers would rise by less than the increase in the tax. Some of the tax would in effect be paid by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Read the whole thing, and also consider this: If the United States finally signalled world oil markets that it was willing to tax itself significantly to cut its petroleum consumption, would that let some of the air out of the price in and of itself? If that is possible, it might be that the foreign oil producers would pay for all of the first couple of increases.

In all likelihood, we will learn in 2007 whether the Democrats are as bereft of ideas as the Republicans. They could prove their political courage, legislative creativity, and seriousness on national security matters by enacting a significant and escalating federal gasoline tax and daring George W. Bush to cast a veto in defense of big oil and the House of Saud. Do you think they will?

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