Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Trees and glaciers
The seemingly lefty LiveScience reports that Canadian glaciers have retreated to the point that they have exposed the stumps of trees that have not seen the light of day in 7,000 years:
Melting glaciers in Western Canada are revealing tree stumps up to 7,000 years old where the region's rivers of ice have retreated to a historic minimum, a geologist said today.
Johannes Koch of The College of Wooster in Ohio found the fresh-looking, intact tree stumps beside retreating glaciers in Garibaldi Provincial Park, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Radiocarbon dating of the wood from the stumps revealed the wood was far from fresh—some of it dated back to within a few thousand years of the end of the last ice age.
"The stumps were in very good condition sometimes with bark preserved," said Koch, who conducted the work as part of his doctoral thesis at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Koch will present his results on Oct. 31 at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver.
The pristine condition of the wood, he said, can best be explained by the stumps having spent all of the last seven millennia under tens to hundreds of meters of ice. All stumps were still rooted to their original soil and location.
This bit of evidence is held to prove that humans are behind rapid climate change:
"It seems like an unprecedented change in a short amount of time," Koch said. "From this work and many other studies looking at forcings of the climate system, one has to turn away from natural ones alone to explain this dramatic change of the past 150 years."
Wait a minute. I think he's trying to inch a slow one by us. These are fresh stumps in "very good condition" with bark and such. Does that not imply that advancing glaciers overwhelmed them in a period of even more rapid advance 7,000 years ago? What caused that?
Will somebody please explain why the revelation of these stumps is not evidence that the climate can change very quickly without the influence of humans?
Zionest Death Booty!
The Israelis unleash their secret weapon for soothing Palestinian rage.
We could learn something from this.
I thought this was interesting:
This is my favorite thing about Giuliani: his potential to bring out the social liberal in the Republican Party.
By the same token, my favorite thing about Hillary Clinton is her potential to bring hawkishness to the Democratic Party.
If this is right and the 2 frontrunners become the nominees, the 2 parties will become more alike and more to my taste. I'm finding that very odd.
It will take a lot to make the Democrats more to my taste -- they need to stop using business as a whipping boy, for starters -- but nevertheless I generally agree with this observation. The sooner openly gay American soldiers with loving husbands at home start killing jihadis, the better.
The best comedy album I've heard in years
If you enjoy really harsh comedy that makes you laugh until you cry -- and I do -- you really have to listen to Greg Giraldo's Good Day to Cross a River. It is absolutely not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoy great comedy and your harshness tolerance has no upper limit you do not want to miss it.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Live-blogging the Democratic debate
I've missed most of the seven quadrillion presidential debates, but it has been months since I was home in time and aware enough to watch the Democrats debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I'll be live-blogging at this post until I can't take it any more. Each post has a numbered paragraph. [UPDATE midstream: Apparently I'm "stolidly" liveblogging. That's me, a rock in parlous times like these.]
1. Brian Williams asks Obama to specify how Hillary has "sounded or voted like a Republican." Obama: "This is the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is I'm Rocky in this situation." Titters. A poorly delivered canned line to cater to the Philadelphia audience. Obama did not answer well, mostly pointing to flip-flops rather than backing up his "smear" that Hillary is a Republican in disguise. Hillary counters with the obvious point that she was the only real target of the Republican candidates at the last debate. She won the point.
2. Russert asks John Edwards to explain his accusation that Hillary Clinton has engaged in "double-talk" on Iran. Edwards says that Bush has been lying, so that requires us to scrutinize the credibility of all candidates! Edwards attacks her for flip-flopping, particularly on foreign policy matters, and manages to defend the Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolutionary Guard all in one response! Seriously? Hillary responds with a long list of the women and children she has "fought for" (the most tiresome metaphor in American politics, by the way). Somehow morphs the response into a full-throated defense of Social Security, which apparently is threatened by "no-bid contracts from Halliburton."
3. Russert asks Clinton why she voted for resolution that recommended the structuring of our forces in Iraq to deal with Iran. Her response is very strong, for a Democrat, and stands in stark contrast to the bleating from Edwards and Obama: "I am not in favor of this rush for war but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian revolutionary guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound... and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy, and I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy."
4. I still wish Joe Biden were electable. He is the only leading Democrat who is genuinely interesting to listen to, and who says new and creative things about foreign policy. "Actions have consequences, big nations can't bluff." I hate to think he is right that big nations can't bluff, but it certainly looks that way from here.
5. Brian Williams asks Obama what his "red line" is with regard to Iran -- what would cause him to attack Iran? Obama focuses on Bush's hawkish comments, says it is a continuation of his rejection of diplomacy. Calls for "also talking to our enemies." We need to offer Iran "carrots," such as normalized diplomatic relations or membership in the World Trade Organization. Me: Absurd, insofar as both of those reforms would weaken the Islamic Republic's hold on its people, so are unlikely to be interesting to the mullahs. Does Obama know that? Scary if he does not.
6. Same question to Clinton: Repeats the line about sanctions being a central feature of diplomacy. "The Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the commercial activities of Iran. Having those economic sanctions hanging over their heads gives our negotiators one of those sticks that we need to try to make progress to deal with a very complicated situation." Dodges the red-line question too, but Hillary remains the only Democrat to hammer on the Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Republic -- nobody else even reveals that they understand the issue. Edwards in his rebuttal can only complain about the Bush administration, and argue that Hillary is catering to it.
This gets me to my basic point about Hillary -- if the war on Islamic extremism is your big issue, she is running away the "least-bad" Democrat.
7. A half hour in, and we have not heard from Kucinich. That's going to chap the lefties.
8. Here he goes: "We have a number of enablers, who happen to be Democrats, who have said that 'all options are on the table.' When you say that, you are licensing President Bush." Kucinich jumps the shark: "Even planning for the war against Iran is illegal." Seriously?
9. Russert to Hillary: "Would you pledge to the American people that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?" Hillary: "I intend to do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb." Russert: "But you won't pledge." Hillary: "I am pledging I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb." Russert: "But they may."
She did say "everything I can" to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Edwards will "take all the responsible steps that can be taken" to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Hillary lawyered that one better than Edwards.
10. Obama riffs about the politics of fear, and that we have to start acting like the strongest country in the world. Biden offers a much more nuanced answer than either Hillary or the manifest doves. "Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate but the situation they find themselves in the world..." Biden focuses on the risk of Pakistan, which because of its arsenal he believes poses a much more serious threat if uncontained. There is much to that, but it will not surface with any nuance in the debate because Pakistan does not drive the interest of voters or the press the way Iran does.
11. Richardson has made much of his international experience, and has studiously avoided attacking
his potential running mate Hillary. Kucinich urges the media to show "restraint" in its discussion of Iran. Kucinich proposes urging Iran to give up nuclear power, "the most expensive form of power there is." Goddamn, what about the catastrophic threat of climate change.
Sorry to disappoint, but I am burning out on this and -- more importantly -- there is a clarion call around these parts to watch the episode of "House" we recorded earlier this evening. Add your own insights in the comments, including observations about the back half of the debate.
I carpet-bombed the O'Quiz this week, scoring a monster 8 out of 10 against the prevailing average of 4.12. I own you guys!
If you take it yourselves, though, you will notice that regular TigerHawk readers have a one-question gimme this week. But still.
I caught a field hockey game this afternoon. That's the TigerHawk Tween making a big move:
I've noticed something about field hockey -- just when there is a real chance at some action, the ref blows the damn whistle. Let 'em play, ref!
On the other side of it, since parents do not know the rules they don't complain about bad calls. New Jersey parents having something of a reputation for, er, anger management issues, ignorance actually is bliss.
The return of Sharon Jones
I'm not as plugged into the current music scene as I have sometimes been, but have heard enough to form the opinion that some of the best stuff being recorded lately is coming out of the deep funk sub-culture championed first by Soul Fire and Desco records, and now by their (sort of) offspring Daptone Records in New York. And for the past few years the best of the best has been Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
I've written about Sharon Jones before, first here after listening to their incredible second album "Naturally," and then here and here after being blown away by live performances here in C'Ville.
So I was thrilled when their third release, 100 Days 100 Nights, arrived on my desk yesterday, and it did not disappoint.
There's not much more I can say about this great artist and this unbelieveable backing band. In my opinion, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are simply the best act going right now, bar none. Get with the program and check them out.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Climate change tradeoffs
Well, climate change won't be all bad:
During the Holocene climatic optimum, hardwood forests grew to the edge of the Arctic ocean, and Norwegian women wore string miniskirts. Downside: The American midwest was near-desert. That probably outweighs Norwegian women in string miniskirts, however appealing that may be.
Only probably, though.
MORE: This year has had the mildest hurricane season in thirty years. Of course, there are no portentious headlines or news magazine cover stories asking whether this is evidence that climate change is a crock, even though climate change was -- to activists and activist scientists, at least -- the putative cause of the tough hurricane season two years ago. If the news media were even remotely honest, it would cross-examine the people who claimed that Katrina was caused by global warming and ask them to explain this year's calm in the same context. They should start with Nobel Laureate Al Gore, who said this to the Sierra Club in September 2005:
Now, the scientific community is warning us that the average hurricane will continue to get stronger because of global warming. A scientist at MIT has published a study well before this tragedy showing that since the 1970s, hurricanes in both the Atlantic and the Pacific have increased in duration, and in intensity, by about 50 %. The newscasters told us after Hurricane Katrina went over the southern tip of Florida that there was a particular danger for the Gulf Coast of the hurricanes becoming much stronger because it was passing over unusually warm waters in the gulf. The waters in the gulf have been unusually warm. The oceans generally have been getting warmer. And the pattern is exactly consistent with what scientists have predicted for twenty years. Two thousand scientists, in a hundred countries, engaged in the most elaborate, well organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have produced long-since a consensus that we will face a string of terrible catastrophes unless we act to prepare ourselves and deal with the underlying causes of global warming. [applause] It is important to learn the lessons of what happens when scientific evidence and clear authoritative warnings are ignored in order to induce our leaders not to do it again and not to ignore the scientists again and not to leave us unprotected in the face of those threats that are facing us right now. [applause]
The point, of course, is not that global warming is a myth. I myself attend the church of anthropogenic climate change, if only on red-letter Sundays. Rather, it is that the proclivity of the activists and journalists who are pushing this story to inflate the threat beyond all credibility is actually damaging the case for an effective response among people who for reasons of temperament or self-interest would rather defeat those policies.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
EVEN MORE: A reader emailed to recommend Newt Gringrich's just-released book on the environment, A Contract With The Earth (published by Johns Hopkins University Press, by the way). It purports to describe a program for responding to environmental challenges, including climate change, without destroying the global economy. Sounds like a must-read, frankly, for those of us who believe that humanity's wealth is the surest defense for the environment. Buy it below!
The mullahs have a blogger on their enemies list
Jim Hoff, who is Gateway Pundit, has sufficiently irritated the conservatives in Tehran that an Iranian blogger sympatheteic to them has denounced Hoff: "Ruh Roh. The mullahs are on to me!"
Kudos of a sort for Jim, who has become the go-to guy for links on breaking badness in that part of the world, but "ruh-roh" indeed. I'm not sure I'd be as relaxed about this sort of notoriety as he seems to be.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
What can you draw with a single stroke of a pen?
Forcing businesses to denounce themselves
Europe is proposing to to hijack the advertising of automobile manufacturers:
The European Parliament proposed last Wednesday that car advertisements in the European Union carry tobacco-style labels, warning of the environmental impact they cause. Under the plan, 20 percent of the space or time of any auto ad would have to be set aside for information on a car's fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, cited as a contributor to global climate change.
The next time you worry that the United States Congress is full of morons, console yourself with the knowledge that the Europeans have it much worse.
The analogy to the regulation of tobacco advertising is imperfect to the point of being asinine. The purpose of the tobacco warnings is, in principle, to ensure that consumers do not assume risks that they are not intending to assume. Sure, the advocates of those rules obviously hope they lead to less smoking, but the structure of the warnings and the regulation -- at least in the United States -- is to make sure that the advertising's appealing imagery does not blind consumers of the product to its dangers.
The automobile case, at least as it relates to the impact of carbon dioxide, is entirely different. No individual consumer assumes a risk in connection with the carbon dioxide emitted from his automobile. The European Parliament is not interested in protecting the target of the advertisement -- the consumer -- from assuming a risk unknown to him. Its purpose is to hijack the advertising of automobile manufacturers to make public service announcements. But why does it want to hijack automobile advertising?
While it is often difficult to divine the intent of legislatures, certain of the European Parliament's objectives are self-evident. Proponents of these regulations obviously want to make it impossible for automobile manufacturers to express a different opinion about the impact of carbon dioxide on the global climate than that dictated by the government. If BMW and Toyota are required to make certain statements in every advertisement they publish, then they cannot credibly express a different opinion in other settings. Also, supporters of the law almost certainly hope that statements about the impact of automobiles on the climate will be more credible coming from an automobile manufacturer than a bureaucrat. After all, a statement against theoretical self-interest has public relations value even if it is obvious to everybody that it was compelled. Why else do jihadis try to torture Western hostages into taping confessions for propaganda purposes?
Finally, European regulators do not want to attack the automobile industry directly. Politicians the world over understand that automobiles are popular. It is politically dangerous, even in Europe, to argue against the car culture. This law, were it adopted, would allow European politicians to appease environmentalists without themselves criticizing voters who drive cars. They would have the makers of cars denounce their own products instead.
This, then, is the danger of the law. If it is useful and acceptable to force automobile manufacturers to give over a piece of every ad to inveigh against carbon dioxide, why not require airlines to discuss the risk of intercontinental disease transmission, food processors to call for strict enforcement of our borders, Microsoft to promote sports and fresh air as healthier entertainment than surfing the Web, retailers to campaign against credit card debt, pharmaceutical manufacturers to speak out against the enforcement of patents in poor countries, and aircraft manufacturers to campaign against private jets?
Oh, wait, that last idea would never get any support from Al Gore...
A bunch of Iraqi soldiers gave some money to victims of the fires in San Diego. It strikes me as a heartwarming gesture from people who do not have a lot to give.
Lefty blog post of the day
Just when you want to believe that today's lefties are not the parlor pinks they appear to be, one of them outs himself as a Communist sympathizer:
Get this: not content with screwing up the Middle East, Bush now wants to dictate to the Cuban people that they must dump the Castro brothers, or else we will keep ignoring them to score points with Cuban Americans.
Yes, you read it right: The dictatorship of George W. Bush is all that stands between the Cuban people and self-determination, and his purpose is to win Florida in 2008.
Even the Castro brothers should be offended by this "reasoning."
CWCID: Sharp Knife.
Do not buy a Dodge Durango
I am not a whiny consumer. As an executive of a manufacturing company, I have enormous sympathy for the people who design and make things. However, we have never had as terrible a vehicle as our 2004 Dodge Durango. I am fairly sure that we will not buy another Chrysler product ever again, or at least until the memory and pain of this travesty has faded.
Now, we do not use the Durango very much. Mrs. TH uses it primarily to pull a horse trailer a couple of times a week, perhaps 30 weeks a year, and we use it for long car trips when we have both dogs and lots of luggage. We drive it less than 10,000 miles per year. Still, it has been one expensive mess after another.
With only 8,000 miles on it, the differential fell apart. We were not off-road, nor had the vehicle ever gone off-road. We were not towing any load at the time. Mrs. TH was driving down Terhune Road in Princeton. Clunk. Busted differential. And it took the Dodge dealer two weeks and two attempts to fix it properly.
Then, about two years ago, the electrical system began going screwy. Various things stopped working, and eventually the entire dashboard went dark. After four separate trips to the dealer we replaced the entire dashboard and electrical system in the front of the car at a cost of several thousand dollars. No, Dodge does not stand behind an electrical system in 22 month-old vehicle -- if something happens to it, you pay.
Well, that has happened again. We began to have problems starting the car, and the battery would not hold a charge. We replaced the battery last weekend. No matter. The truck has now gone completely dark again.
There is no way that we are paying again to fix the electrical system in this car, because we have no confidence that there is not a fundamental design problem. We have decided we are done with this Durango, and we are done with Dodge. This is a shame, because we have always owned at least one American car and liked our first Durango, a 2000 model year that we bought with 9,000 miles on it. We will buy something else, and trade this worthless hunk of metal and plastic for whatever we can get for it. I just hope that none of my fine readers are silly enough to buy it.
MORE: A reader emails:
Sadly, I have reached basically the same conclusion. There was no bigger fan of Chrysler products than me. But once you go Japanese, it is very difficult to go back.
The conclusion I have reached is that when you buy "American" now (and all cars are American in one way or the other at this point), all you are really doing is supporting the UAW. And having spent more than my share of time with the UAW, there is nothing I would rather not do.
There's a lot of truth in that.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The truth sometimes hurts
Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, no friend of the Bush administration, wadded up a pile of European sanctimony and rammed it down the throats of visiting Dutch politicians:
“Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”
Ouch, and indeed.
Europeans love to complain that Americans do not respect history, that we believe and act as though every day is a chance to start over. True enough, which is why it rankles so much when Europeans do not remember their history.
Don Surber predicts that Lantos will apologize. Fine, as long as he does not take it back.
The Edwards campaign pitches another fat one over the plate
The fetching Carla Babb deconstructs the semiotics underlying the location of the Edwards campaign HQ, and advances her career prospects all in one video:
Also, don't miss (the smitten) Tom Maguire's very entertaining post on the subject (it's always after noon somewhere, Tom!) which strikes me as a blogging archtype; it is precisely the sort of leveraging of words and linkage that really did not exist even a decade ago.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds (who, if you think about it, also did not really exist even a decade ago).
The denouement of William Shatner
William Shatner is in a twist because he has not been invited to appear in the next "Star Trek" movie. Shatner is resolute in his irritation notwithstanding James T. Kirk's death in "Generations," perhaps because resurrection is one of Star Trek's stock plot elements.
I think that Shatner, who is 76 and has had a damn fine career in show business, should let it go. His outstanding character on "Boston Legal," Denny Crane, did something for Shatner that T.J. Hooker never did -- it rescued him from being Captain Kirk to the public. That's a blessing, not a curse.
And then there's this: I have always loved Star Trek, including "original Trek," and I do not want to see it sullied by that pervert Denny Crane. Much as I love both characters, Shatner the actor does not sufficiently suspend disbelief to separate the two in the public's mind. I suspect "Trek"'s new producers understand that.
The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.
If you eat frequently at Applebee's, as I do, you definitely see a lot of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures. So maybe he's right.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Colbert, campaign finance law, and the First Amendment
If Fred Thompson's candidacy did not raise serious questions about the intersection of the First Amendment and the "media exception" to campaign finance law, Stephen Colbert's candidacy, hilarious as it may be, ought to. And what if Bill O'Reilly were to run for president?
Crying wolf on the environment
The United Nations has issued a report that says that humanity is stressing the world's environment to the breaking point:
The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.
Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, the UN Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.
The problem, of course, is that we have all heard this many times before. I read both The Population Bomb and the Club of Rome Report on the Limits of Growth back in junior high school (does that really surprise you?). Both were received wisdom in the day, assigned in schools and highly influential in shaping media coverage, and both were -- thankfully -- almost completely wrong. One of the reasons why today's environmentalists have such a tough time getting traction with Americans of a certain age is that we all remember the global economic and environmental catastrophe that was supposed to engulf us around 1990.
On the other hand, the boy who cried wolf eventually told the truth.
MORE: The Times of London headlines the story "'Humanity's very survival' is at risk, says UN". This is idiotic. Humanity is the most adaptable species on the planet as evidenced by its ability to survive on all continents, underneath the seas and even off the planet entirely. Rapid climate change will cause the early demise of some humans, and it almost certainly will kill off countless species of plants and animals which will damage us economically and hurt us spiritually. But it does not threaten "humanity's very survival," and to say so undermines the credibility of the entire undertaking.
Annals of law: When a ménage à trois is not sex
On the full revelation of the facts, most Americans thought that Bill Clinton stretched legal argument to the breaking point when he parsed the definition of "is" and denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky. Turns out Clinton wasn't even trying very hard. In Wisconsin, at least, participating in a ménage à trois with a client is not necessarily a violation of the prohibition against having sex with a client. The lawyer said that he did not have sex with that client, and the court said he was right!
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
We need our own proxies
Stratfor (free sign-up) published a sit-rep this morning that suggests that Iran is continuing to escalate the proxy war:
Iran has commissioned Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official for foreign operations, to organize cells of Shiite operatives in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to operate against U.S. and pro-U.S. Arabs in the event of war against Iran, a Stratfor source in Lebanon said Oct. 25. Trainees from the Persian Gulf region reportedly have arrived in Lebanon and are conducting drills in the Bekaa Valley.
Sort of makes you wonder why the West no longer has any capacity to organize "cells of operatives" to fight our end of a proxy war. We used to think it was important to have proxy capabilities, back when we knew that direct war with the Soviet Union was too dangerous to be credible. Now, direct military action is too unpopular with the chattering classes to be credible. Is it not time to relearn how to fight war in the shadows?
Morality in counterinsurgency: Coercing the desperate
Humans rights NGOs have their panties in knots over the Israelis pressuring sick Palestinians to rat on the militants in their midst:
Human rights groups charge that Hiyya's case is one of nearly a dozen they've documented in which Israelis allegedly have tried to recruit ailing Palestinians as informers in the low-intensity war with the militant Islamic group Hamas .
Since Hamas won control of Gaza in a mid-June military rout of its rival, the secular group Fatah , Israel has worked to isolate the coastal strip and its 1.5 million residents. About the only people allowed out of Gaza these days are Palestinians who need emergency medical care.
Now, the rights groups charge, Israel is trying to turn them into collaborators.
"To prey on the most vulnerable is not only unlawful, it's also despicable,"
said Fred Abrahams , a researcher at Human Rights Watch who documented some of the Gaza cases. "It's a slow tightening of the noose, and people are dying."
I'm going to climb way out on a moral limb here and say that Fred Abrahams is wrong, at least about the morality of the matter. Coercion such as this is the stock and trade of any effective counterinsurgency, whether or not "international law" as interpreted by a left-wing NGO permits it.
Palestinian "militants" -- guerrillas, really -- are waging a war against Israel from behind an involuntary human shield of Palestinian noncombatants. The noncombatant Palestinians cannot inform on the guerrillas within their midst, because the insurgency will punish them, usually with death. Without information, the Israelis must choose between absorbing militant attacks without retaliation -- an unacceptable result for any state -- or killing the noncombatants that unwillingly provide camouflage and cover for the insurgency.
In order to avoid either of these terrible results -- non-retaliation or massive civilian casualties on account of retaliation -- the Israelis need intelligence. They are only going to get this intelligence from Palestinians who decide they are more afraid of the Israelis than they are of the militants. Because Islamic militants are so unbelievably brutal (as they have demonstrated time and again), it is understandable that there are very few Palestinians who are more afraid of the Israelis than they are of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other extremists of their ilk.
The Israelis have, however, a few things that some Palestinians want or need so much that they are willing to risk punishment by the insurgency. Israel's ability to deliver life-saving top-shelf medical care occasionally puts it in the position to coerce as effectively as Hamas, even if the coercion is expressed as an offer to rescue rather than a threat to kill. The Israelis are not saying -- as the Palestinian insurgents do -- "cooperate or we will kill you." They are, however, saying "if you want us to save your life you need to cooperate with us." It is the difference between threatening to drown a man who does not do what you want, and refusing to rescue an already drowning man unless he does what you want. Is it hardball? Absolutely. But no form of war forces more personal moral decisions about individuals than counterinsurgency. Indeed, given the choices available to the Israelis, hardball in the gathering of intelligence is the most humane course of action among brutal alternatives.
For more on coercion and intelligence in counterinsurgency, you might take a look at this post of mine from last summer.
As always, confirming or dissenting comments are more than welcome.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Where have all jihadis gone?
Long time passing. Where have all jihadis gone? Long time ago.
Perhaps a new stanza for Pete Seeger?
Not holding my breath.
The cry of an Iraqi journalist: What the New York Times does not say
The New York Times has given over one of its unsigned editorial spaces to the text of a very moving speech by Sahar Issa, one of six Iraqi journalists who won an award for "courage in journalism" from the International Women’s Media Foundation. Ms. Issa makes it clear how very dangerous it has been to cover news in Iraq for much of the last 4 1/2 years.
Unfortunately, it is not at all obvious what the editors are implying. If they regarded Ms. Issa's speech as news, they could have published the transcript of it as such. Instead, they quoted her without elaboration in a left-side unsigned editorial, so they must have intended for her speech to stand in for some opinion of their own. But what opinion? The Times does not say who it considers responsible for the brutalization of journalists in Iraq. If one were uncharitable and read the editorial in the context of all their other recent editorials about Iraq, one might leap to the conclusion that the editors blame the United States. But we are not mind-readers here, so maybe not. Perhaps the Times means to say that Iraqis love persecuting journalists as a sort of national sport. That does not seem like a typical NYT opinion, but, after all, journalists were brutalized in Iraq long before the United States took the country in hand.
In that regard, neither Ms. Issa nor the editors tell us whether the practice of journalism in post-Ba'athist Iraq, for all its risks, is more or less dangerous than under Saddam. Any discussion of that question would inquire into whether putative journalists actually practiced journalism in Saddam's Iraq. If actual journalism -- as opposed to flacking for totalitarians -- requires the unflinching reporting of facts unflattering to those in power, I respectfully suggest that it simply did not exist before April 2003. The editors of the New York Times know this, since they published Eason Jordan's famous admission more than four years ago:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard -- awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.
For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.
Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways. Obviously, other news organizations were in the same bind we were when it came to reporting on their own workers.
We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails).
Yes, journalism in Iraq is dangerous. We knew that, and I join those who admire the journalists and bloggers -- both Western and Iraqi -- who have incurred these great risks to tell us what is happening there. But at least there is journalism in Iraq, which is itself a fundamental change from the days of Saddam Hussein. Does the New York Times believe otherwise? If they do not, why did they publish Ms. Issa's speech as an editorial?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Huckabee on the fly
Mike Huckabee may be a great speaker, but apparently he could stand to brush up on his founding father lore.
Sigh. If the Republican candidates do not understand our history, who will?
CWCID: Lawyers, Guns, and Money.
Turning a profit on the Holy Koran
An 800 year-old copy of the Holy Koran has sold for more than two million dollars at auction. Now, I had always understood that "desecration" of the Koran outraged Muslims because they venerate physical copies of their scripture as inherently holy, not merely a book that transcribes holy words (as Christians regard their Bible). It delights and surprises me, therefore, to learn that it is not disrespectful to collect and trade the Koran for fun and profit.
Otherwise, Christie's auction house would have a lot to worry about.
The California fires
The fires in southern California are inflicting lots of economic damage -- factories and other businesses in the region have been shut for two days -- and, I'm sure, personal losses. Dangerous and destructive as they are, though, fires make for some cool photographs:
Product names of historical interest
It is not every day that you see a household tool named after the foundational document of Anglo-American law.
Fair and balanced book reviews at the New York Times
Regular readers know that I love bashing on the New York Times as much as any conservative. Its editorial page editors in particular skulk in the borderlands of intellectual dishonesty (see, e.g., the first sentence in this morning's first unsigned editorial: "The news out of Iraq just keeps getting worse."). However, fairness -- which flows through my veins right along with the milk of human kindness -- compels me to admit that the editor who assigns book reviews does a reasonably creditable job of locating reviewers who hammer on lefties, often in very uncharitable language.
On Sunday, for example, David Kennedy carpet-bombed the new book of uber-lefty Times columnist Paul Krugman. Kennedy describes Krugman's view of the economic and social implications of purported income inequality in the United States, which Krugman blames not on exogenous factors but the Republican party. Kennedy's reply is almost painful to read:
For this dismal state of affairs the Democratic Party is held to be blameless. Never mind the Democrats’ embrace of inherently divisive identity politics, or Democratic condescension toward the ungrammatical yokels who consider their spiritual and moral commitments no less important than the minimum wage or the Endangered Species Act, nor even the Democrats’ vulnerable post-Vietnam record on national security. As Krugman sees it, the modern Republican Party has been taken over by radicals. “There hasn’t been any corresponding radicalization of the Democratic Party, so the right-wing takeover of the G.O.P. is the underlying cause of today’s bitter partisanship.” No two to tango for him. The ascendancy of modern conservatism is “an almost embarrassingly simple story,” he says, and race is the key. “Much of the whole phenomenon can be summed up in just five words: Southern whites started voting Republican. ... End of story.”
A fuller and more nuanced story might at least gesture toward the role that environmental and natural-resource issues have played in making red-state country out of the interior West, not to mention the unsettling effects of the “value issues” on voters well beyond Dixie. And as for national security — well, as Krugman sees things, it was not Democratic bungling in the Iranian hostage crisis or humiliation in Somalia or feeble responses to the first bombing attack on the World Trade Center or the assault on the U.S.S. Cole, but the runaway popularity of the Rambo films (I’m not making this up) that hoodwinked the public into believing that the party of Carter and Clinton (not to mention McGovern and Kucinich) might not be the most steadfast guardian of the Republic’s safety.
Ouch, to coin a phrase. And Kennedy missed a few things, such as the impact of the Clinton administration's misguided regulation of executive compensation on, er, executive compensation.
Unfortunately for Susan Faludi, Kennedy's treatment of Krugman at the behest of the Times simply pales in comparison to Michiko Kakutani's scorn-dripping review of Faludi's new feminist screed, The Terror Dream. First sentence: "This, sadly, is the sort of tendentious, self-important, sloppily reasoned book that gives feminism a bad name."
"Sadly," "tendentious," and "self-important" are pretty much the bad book review trifecta, and to score them in the first sentence is truly amazing.
The upshot of this fair-and-balanced book reviewing is -- probably -- that the Times hurts the prospects for bad lefty books more than bad righty books. Why? Because it reviews more lefty books than righty books by some margin, and if the Grey Lady trashes the latest from conservative publisher Regnery it probably helps sales at least as much as it hurts. Not so for Susan Faludi, who would have been better off if Fox News had said such things about her book.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Fun with Mountain Dew
You have to figure that this opens up a huge new untapped market for Mountain Dew.
CWCID: Good, er, Stuff. (safe page, NSFW site)
Confused about the credit crunch?
Making common cause
It seems to me that if Hillary Clinton and Matt Drudge can work together because it is in their mutual interest, a fortiori Iran's Shiite mullahs can work with al Qaeda's Sunni jihadis. We don't even have to reach for the Hitler-Stalin example.
Just saying, is all.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The endless punishment of "sex crimes"
Almost ten years ago, a girl of barely seventeen bestowed -- and I use the term advisedly -- a blow job on a boy of almost sixteen, a crime I only wish had been inflicted on me at that age. She is now on a registry of sex offenders, and more or less cannot go to school, get a job, go to church, or find a place to live without violating laws that describe vast radii around schools, churches, parks, hockey rinks and playgrounds prohibited to such people.
There are more than 14,000 people on Georgia's registry, only 38 of which are classified as "predators" -- people who by dint of a mental abnormality or uncontrollable impulse are particularly likely to commit more such offenses (many others are, presumably, hideous people who nonetheless are not "predators"). Our obsession with criminalizing sex is destroying the lives of people who committed -- at worst -- a youthful indiscretion. As the article makes clear, the law now ruins the life of a 17 year-old who snaps a picture of his girlfriend's breasts with his cell phone. Is it really in our interests to destroy such people? How endlessly ought we punish crimes that happen to be connected to sexuality?
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
The New York Times demagogues 9/11
Even when I agree with the editors of the New York Times I deplore their reasoning. In an editorial on the poor progress of the "Doha round" of trade negotiations, they and I agree, for example, that rich countries (principally the United States, Europe and Japan) need to kill off domestic agricultural subsidies because of the devestating impact they have on literally billions of poor people around the world (not to mention their many other deleterious effects). But then I read this:
There were good reasons to dedicate this round of trade talks to promoting development, including the self-interest of the rich. In 1999, protesters stormed a trade meeting in Seattle, vowing to stop the march of globalization. And the terrorist attacks in 2001 were a potent reminder that there is no possibility of insulating this country from the rest of the world. If the big countries fail to deliver a package that provides real benefits to the poorest nations, the so-called development round will be exposed as a mere tactical ploy.
May I respectfully suggest that this is tomfoolery on stilts. There are many roots of Islamist rage, but too little trade and engagement with the West is hardly one of them. Quite to the contrary, there is every reason to believe that increasing the wealth of the world's Muslim poor -- and trade is the main way that will happen no matter how you slice it -- will increase the power of the Islamists. That is, in fact, one of the strategic conundrums that makes it so difficult to contain Islamic radicalism.
And besides, can you imagine the rage from the left -- led by the editors of the New York Times -- if the Bush administration invoked September 11 as a reason to do away with a social program?
Do these guys have even a shred of self-awareness?
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Nitwit watch: "Zero tolerance" once again violates First Amendment
The brainless dolts who administer the schools in New Jersey's Dennis Township have suspended a second-grader for drawing a stick-figure holding a gun.
A second-grader's drawing of a stick figure shooting a gun earned him a one-day school suspension.
Kyle Walker, 7, was suspended last week for violating Dennis Township Primary School's zero-tolerance policy on guns, the boy's mother, Shirley McDevitt, told The Press of Atlantic City.
I have a question. Setting aside that the officials of Dennis Township have humiliated themselves, how is it conceivable that the First Amendment permits a government official to discipline a student for a drawing?
Political monoculture in Iowa City
Power Line writes about the decision of the University of Iowa's department of history to reject Mark Moyar's application without so much as an interview. A university's hiring decision would not normally get much attention even from conservative blogs, but Moyar is both extremely qualified -- Moyar has degrees from Harvard and Cambridge and is the author of the outstanding revisionist history of Vietnam, Triumph Forsaken -- and obviously not a typical academic liberal. Meanwhile, every single one of Iowa's professors of history are (supposedly) Democrats.
Moyar appealed the summary rejection of his application to the University's Office of Equal and Opportunity and Diversity, but -- not surprisingly -- learned that actual diversity of attitude is not part of Iowa's compliance program.
This is one of those times that I desperately wish my father were still alive. He was chairman of the University of Iowa's History Department in the early eighties, and he was (by then) a fairly committed Republican. Moreover, he wrote thoughtfully on the importance of ideolgical diversity on campus more than thirty years ago. Nevertheless, he was a strong supporter of faculty prerogatives in hiring, ultimately rejecting the idea that universities should have anything akin to affirmative action for political conservatives. If he were still alive I would be fascinated to know what he thought of the Moyar case and its implications for academic freedom. I am quite certain, though, that he would have loved Triumph Forsaken.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Hillary as hedge
At dinner the other night a conservative friend wanted to know when I would "start to attack Hillary Clinton." Well, certainly not until she has actually sewn up the Democratic nomination, and even then it will depend on which of the less than entirely inspiring Republicans ends up on top and how I feel about him at the time. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a partisan for Republicans. I just tend to vote for Republicans. While I agree with Democrats on many issues, I agree with Republicans on the issues that I care the most about. So, for example, I believe that abortion should be lawful (although not to the extent of current law, but that's a detail), I support gay marriage, and I think we need national policies to promote the conservation of energy produced by fossil fuels. However, in my hierarchy of concerns all of these considerations (except perhaps the last) rank very low. I care far more about a forward and nationalistic foreign policy, light regulation of business, free trade, and low capital gains taxes, and I favor the usual Republican position on all of those subjects.
Against that backdrop, I have with some reluctance come around to the point of view that Hillary is the "least bad" Democrat. Yes, her election coincident with a large Democratic majority in the United States Senate will be terrible for business and that will undoubtedly cost us all a lot of money. While some may protest that her husband's economic record would be evidence to the contrary, I believe that Hillary's preferred policies are substantially to the left of Bill's, and in any case Bill had to deal with a Republican Congress for most of his term.
However, I hold out some hope that Hillary Clinton would develop a foreign policy closer to my preferences than any other Democrat. I am not alone in this view. Not only do the angry doves of the far left obviously agree (as any reader of left-wing blogs knows), but so does Reason Magazine's Radley Balko:
Cato Institute President Ed Crane recently wrote a piece for the Financial Times pointing out that when you strip away the partisan coating, Mrs. Clinton's grandiose, big-government vision is really no different than that envisioned by the neoconservatives so loathed by the left. Clinton, remember, not only voted for the Iraq war, she still hasn't conceded she was wrong to do so, and has made no promise to end it any time soon.
In fact, the L.A. Times reported last week that Clinton has refused to commit even to pulling U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013, which, if elected, would be the end of her first term. TV journalist Ted Koppel recently told NPR that Clinton has admitted the U.S. would still have troops in Iraq at the end of her second term.
The 1990s, remember, weren't exactly a decade of peace. Bill Clinton ordered more U.S. military interventions than any other post-WWII administration, and there's no reason to think any of them were over Hillary's protestations. She supported the U.S. military campaigns in Haiti, Kosovo, and Bosnia. She once boasted that as the tension in Kosovo mounted, she called her husband from her trip to Africa and, "I urged him to bomb."
Hillary Clinton voted for both the Patriot Act and its reauthorization. She voted for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. She voted to loosen restrictions limiting the federal government's ability to wiretap cell phones.
It goes deeper than that. Hillary, I believe, will be far more keen to demonstrate that the first woman president cannot be pushed around than to prove that women somehow govern differently or more "humanely" than men.
The idea that Hillary may be the least-bad Democrat for Republicans who care most about foreign policy has widespread currency on the right, even if it is painful to acknowledge. A few months ago I ran a straw-poll on this blog asking the question, "If you knew for a fact that a Democrat will win the general election for president in 2008, which leading Democrat would you prefer?" Seventy-four percent of respondants chose Hillary against the alternatives of Edwards and Obama, although most commenters admitted that they cringed in anguish even as they checked her box.
Nobody said that it wouldn't be painful.
Friday, October 19, 2007
"Sex on a Saturday Night"
At Princeton, as at many American campuses, there is only one minority group safe to ridicule.
Lame excuse of the day
The vending machine in our office has been out of Diet Coke for a week. Since I enjoy drinking several Diet Cokes per day even when I'm not in budget meetings from dawn 'till dusk, I finally snapped this morning and got one of our top people working on the problem. Here's what I get back: "Found out our supplier has had a shortage of Diet Coke."
There's a shortage of Diet Coke? I'm calling bullshit.
Diplomacy's heavy price
A certain segment of the British public is apparently up in arms because the British ambassador to the United States spent $10,000 throwing a surprise birthday party for Condoleezza Rice. Huh? There were 111 guests, which means that Ambassador Manning delivered a formal party in Washington for about $90 per head. If he served anything more expensive than pigs-in-a-blanket (not that there's anything better than pigs-in-a-blanket, mind you) he got a great deal for the British taxpayers. Have you planned a wedding lately? Any party of quality -- requiring, at a minimum, an open bar and imported cheese -- costs at least that much. Indeed, as an American patriot I expect foreign diplomats to spend substantially more than that sucking up to our most important officials. If it were anybody other than the Brits (or maybe the Aussies) I'd consider a $90 per head party to be a slap to the national face.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
On wiretapping, telecoms, and the FISA court
For those of you who cannot keep the machinations straight, Andy McCarthy's piece on the reported compromise between the Bush administration and the Senate Democrats over warrantless wiretapping is a great place to start. This bit, while obvious, is lost on (or at least discounted by) the ACLU and other organizations who are trying to run down the telecoms that have cooperated with the NSA.
It is not enough to say we can compel the telecoms to cooperate — that they can be (and are) required by law to assist the government by setting up wiretaps and the like. The simple fact is: The telecoms know the technology better than anyone else. If we are going to keep a step ahead of the people trying to kill us, the intelligence community needs the top experts in the tent helping us — help you can’t expect to get if you create a climate where they have to fear they will be sued for providing it.
The only explanation for the left's behavior on this question is that it simply does not believe that al Qaeda and other transnational jihadis represent a significant threat to Americans.
So, a United States Marine and an Iraqi terrorist confront each other on the road...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Between ursa major and ursa minor
He heard a commotion in a nearby cornfield and hoped it was a buck scraping, but instead he saw four black bears ambling his way. Schultz figured they would stay near the cornfield, but they congregated under the elm tree where he was sitting.Fortunately, events unfolded in such a way that the man can tell the tale.
Schultz yelled and motioned at the animals to shoo them away, but their response was just the opposite. The smallest cub got so scared he scurried up the tree. Making matters worse, the cub went right past Schultz to a branch overhead, then started crying for his mama. That put Schultz between the frightened cub and its alarmed mother, the last place he wanted to be.
A short note on Ann Coulter's motivations
Somebody with a wicked sense of humor apparently hacked Ann Coulter's web site. Instead of taking it down or posting something inherently offensive -- the usual hacker move -- he (or she) put up a false "open letter to my readers" in which "Ann" admitted that her entire career had been a practical joke. Like her or not, you have to admire the wit.
The idea behind the prank reinforces the fairly widespread belief -- on both left and right -- that Ann says what she says for some fundamentally disingenuous reason, such as to sell more books.
I do not really know Ann now, but I knew her pretty well back at Michigan Law School. In the first week or two of my third year we threw a party at our house and Ann -- who had just arrived in Ann Arbor as a first year -- materialized as the date of one of my classmates. Mrs. TH and I ended up talking conservative politics with her at some length, and over the course of the 1985-86 academic year became pretty good friends. We would study in the Michigan Union and end up laughing (or ranting) about something hideous we had read in the New York Times (plus ça change...).
The thing is, she has not changed. Apart from being a tad more polished, the Ann you see on television is essentially identical in mannerism, turn of phrase, and bomb-throwing rhetoric to the Ann we shot the breeze with more than 20 years ago. Long before she had a book to sell or even envisioned a career as a pundit, she took great pleasure in phrasing her opinions in the starkest possible terms, especially if she could make her friends laugh guiltily or offend people who offended her. Ann's public life is just an extension of actual personality -- she has a sharp sense of humor, takes endless pleasure in irritating people to the left of her, and does not much care (or seem to care) what such people think of her.
So when people say that Ann says what she says to sell books, I do not think that is right. Mrs. TH and I agree that her public personality today conforms so well to her private personality back in the day that we are all seeing the real Ann. She does what she does because it gives her great pleasure. She is the rare celebrity, I think, who has found a way to have a public life that is not really in conflict with her private life.
Draw whatever conclusions you will.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I admit, I didn't see this coming:
There's no sign of a family reunion planned, but U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama are distant cousins.
So says the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, who said she discovered that her husband of 43 years is eighth cousins with the senator from Illinois....
The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France.
It is sort of a goof, in the sense that there are probably tens or hundreds of thousands of people descended from Mareen Devall.
Why is Congress condemning the Turks?
The other night Bill Maher mocked Democrats (Youtube video) for having condemned Turkey for the Armenian genocide of 1915, saying "that's exactly why the voters gave control to the Democrats, to send a stern message to the Ottoman Empire."
Thomas Sowell and no doubt many others know the real reason why Congressional Democrats have chosen just this moment out of many in the last 92 years to denounce Turkey:
If Congress has gone nearly a century without passing a resolution accusing the Turks of genocide, why now, in the midst of the Iraq war?
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this resolution is just the latest in a series of Congressional efforts to sabotage the conduct of that war.
Read the whole thing, and dwell on the cynicism of the Congressional leadership, which is choosing to humiliate an ally now after having not done so for the fifty years following World War II when Turkey was essential to containment of and victory over the Soviet Union.
An overt vote to cut off the funding for American soldiers in Iraq is the only thing that would hurt Democrats more than the development of conditions in Iraq that might, through the eyes of even some voters, appear as victory.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is less popular than George Bush
I do not think much of polls that show that the Congress, as an institution, has lower approval ratings than George W. Bush, because it is a silly comparison. People usually dislike Congress but approve of their own Congressman, and in any case do not vote for the institution of the Congress but rather for an individual.
That said, it appears that Nevada senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid personally and specifically has a lower approval rating among Nevada voters than George W. Bush. That is astonishing, but a reflection, I think, of how terribly unattractive and uninspiring Reid has been since Democrats won control of the Congress last year. He is on television a lot more, including (I would imagine) in Nevada. All that exposure cannot work to his advantage.
On the ratification of treaties
I did not know this, or if I did, I'd forgotten it:
It is a common misconception that the senate ratifies treaties. The senate does not ratify a treaty. Under the constitution, the senate's function is to consent to a treaty (or decline to do so). It is the president who ratifies. That is, if the senate consents to a treaty by the required two-thirds vote, that act does not operate to make the treaty the law of the land. The president still has to ratify.
Tiger picture of the day
The new O'Quiz is up, and I scored a virtually unprecedented (for me) 8 out of 10, crushing the prevailing average score of 5.30. Regular readers will recognize that at least one of the questions is something of a gimme for TigerHawk fans, but still. Luck? Skill? You be the judge.
As usual, post your scores, flattering or otherwise, in the comments.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
News you can use
There is a time in every man's life when it would be useful to know the country in the world with the most promiscuous women (as measured by the average number of admitted sexual partners).
Suffice it to say that this news should boost the appeal of New Zealand as a venue for spring break.
Iowa picture of the day
Iowa snapped an eight game losing streak in Big Ten conference play, beating Illinois 10-6. We Hawkeye fans are much relieved. This picture, from the Des Moines Register, pretty much says it all:
Even with layers of fact-checkers and editors, it is impossible to tell one neocon from another.
Iran's Israeli hostages
Presumably, few readers of this blog will be surprised to learn that two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah last year have somehow -- say it ain't so -- ended up in Iranian custody.
Apparently the quantum of gullible people who believe that Hezbollah was not acting as Iran's proxy is finally so small that Iran is now willing to negotiate with Germany over their release.
Of course, nobody -- not even the usual apologists for Iran -- is demanding that the Islamic Republic simply release these Israeli prisoners because it is the lawful and moral thing to do. That would be asking a bit too much from a government that has since its founding regarded the taking of hostages as diplomacy by other means.
Better luck next year
The pantheon of valiant people who might have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year -- had only they had captured the imagination of five particular Norwegian parliamentarians -- is a global catalog of courage against tyranny and violence.
In Olso Friday, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to the Burmese monks whose defiance against, and brutalization at the hands of, the country's military junta in recent weeks captured the attention of the Free World.
The prize was also not awarded to Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and other Zimbabwe opposition leaders who were arrested and in some cases beaten by police earlier this year while protesting peacefully against dictator Robert Mugabe.
Or to Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest in Vietnam arrested this year and sentenced to eight years in prison for helping the pro-democracy group Block 8406.
Or to Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, co-founders of the League of Demanders of Women's Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia, who are waging a modest struggle with grand ambitions to secure basic rights for women in that Muslim country.
Or to Colombian President Àlvaro Uribe, who has fought tirelessly to end the violence wrought by left-wing terrorists and drug lords in his country.
Or to Garry Kasparov and the several hundred Russians who were arrested in April, and are continually harassed, for resisting President Vladimir Putin's slide toward authoritarian rule.
Or to the people of Iraq, who bravely work to rebuild and reunite their country amid constant threats to themselves and their families from terrorists who deliberately target civilians.
Or to Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili who, despite the efforts of the Kremlin to undermine their young states, stayed true to the spirit of the peaceful "color" revolutions they led in Ukraine and Georgia and showed that democracy can put down deep roots in Russia's backyard.
Or to Britain's Tony Blair, Ireland's Bertie Ahern and the voters of Northern Ireland, who in March were able to set aside decades of hatred to establish joint Catholic-Protestant rule in Northern Ireland.
Or to thousands of Chinese bloggers who run the risk of arrest by trying to bring uncensored information to their countrymen.
Or to scholar and activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, jailed presidential candidate Ayman Nour and other democracy campaigners in Egypt.
Or, posthumously, to lawmakers Walid Eido, Pierre Gemayel, Antoine Ghanem, Rafik Hariri, George Hawi and Gibran Tueni; journalist Samir Kassir; and other Lebanese citizens who've been assassinated since 2005 for their efforts to free their country from Syrian control.
Or to the Reverend Phillip Buck; Pastor Chun Ki Won and his organization, Durihana; Tim Peters and his Helping Hands Korea; and Liberty in North Korea, who help North Korean refugees escape to safety in free nations.
What a bunch of losers.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Big blue bird
I surprised a great blue heron on the banks of Lake Carnegie this morning, about one hour ago.
Maureen Dowd's column is hilarious this morning...
...because Stephen Colbert wrote it. This bit is especially good (although, no doubt, some of you will have other favorite parts):
I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:
Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.
There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.
So why I am writing Miss Dowd’s column today? Simple. Because I believe the 2008 election, unlike all previous elections, is important. And a lot of Americans feel confused about the current crop of presidential candidates.
For instance, Hillary Clinton. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be scared of her so Democrats will think they should nominate her when she’s actually easy to beat, or if I’m supposed to be scared of her because she’s legitimately scary.
Or Rudy Giuliani. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to support him because he’s the one who can beat Hillary if she gets nominated, or if I’m supposed to support him because he’s legitimately scary.
I certainly agree with all of that.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The curse of the Nobel Peace Prize
I admit, I hadn't thought of the Gorebel Prize in quite this way:
Now that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore joins an elite club, one that includes presidents, activists and holy men. It is also a club that is, by some accounts, cursed. Past winners have fallen into ill repute, been assassinated — and simply faded from public view.
The Nobel Peace Prize was named after a man who made his fortune by inventing dynamite — one of the many contradictions of a prize, arguably the world's most coveted, that was first awarded in 1901.
Mikhail Gorbachev won the prize in 1990, just before the collapse of the country that he was trying to reform. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan got the prize in 2001. Shortly afterward, the Iraq "oil-for-food" scandal erupted and Annan's reputation was tarnished, some say irrevocably. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi was the laureate in 1991, and has barely been out of house arrest since.
South Koran leader Kim Dae-Jung won in 2000 for his efforts to hasten reconciliation with North Korea. Those efforts have since faltered. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was awarded the prize in 1978 (along with Menachem Begin). The next year, he was assassinated. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was also assassinated a year after being awarded the prize.
Even Mother Teresa, who won in 1979, has seen her saintly reputation take a hit lately. A recent book published private letters that revealed a woman who suffered long periods of religious doubt and spiritual emptiness.
And if Gore thinks winning the prize might bolster his political fortunes, he might stop to consider the case of David Trimble. The Northern Ireland leader was awarded the prize (along with John Hume) in 1998. His political career has since nose-dived. He lost a 2005 bid for re-election to the British Parliament and has been largely overshadowed by a rival politician, Ian Paisley.
"There seems to be some kind of curse on the Peace Prize, or at least on many of its recipients," concludes British commentator Martin Walker.
Well, Norway's massive per capita wealth does come from exporting oil. Maybe it's all a nefarious oil industry plot!
A lefty look at the foundation of success in business
I actually looked at the title banner of the lefty blog Lawyers, Guns and Money and realized why it is a lefty blog:
The founder of that blog is unlikely to succeed in business (were he ever to try), because he has absolutely no clue in the world how important family, friends, and religion (or community, the secular version) are.
I have known a lot of enormously successful businessmen and women in my life, and I have not met one who even hinted that they believed that "family, religion, and friendship" stood in the way of success in business. In fact, most successful people would say the opposite (allowing for a little wiggle room on religion, which is probably optional). At least in real life. In the entertainment industry's conception of business success you often see this sort of idiocy -- bad guy businessmen are a staple of prime time television -- but then the entertainment industry is famously left wing.
All righties have something that they most deplore about the political left (and, I suppose, vice versa). For me it is the left's pervasive view that people in business are less likely to consider the moral implications of the decisions they make, less likely to care about their community, and less likely to help people. Yes, in my years as a corporate lawyer and then public company executive I have encountered a few dirtbags -- you find that in any line of work -- but the vast majority of people I know think deeply about the rights and wrongs of the tough decisions they have to make literally every day.
The American way of war
At least, according to Erwin Rommel.
Political diversity in the academy: A letter from my father's archives
Glenn Reynolds links to Greg Mankiw, who is writing about the remarkable lack of diversity of political ideology in America's universities. Professor Mankiw quotes Larry Summers on the point, and asks a question:
If right-wingers are underrepresented in universities relative to the population and discriminated against by the left-wing majority, as Larry suggests, should there be affirmative action for right-leaning academics? It seems that, on principle, those on the left (who favor affirmative action to promote diversity and correct past injustice) should endorse such a university policy, and those on the right (who more often oppose affirmative action) would be against.
As it happens, the weekend just past I uncovered a letter on that very subject from my father to the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Back in 1975 the "Concerned Alumni of Princeton" (the same organization that briefly became famous during Justice Alito's confirmation hearings last year) was -- you guessed it -- raising a stink about left-wing professors. My father's letter of October 21, 1975 both answers Professor Mankiw's question and argues that the primary beneficiaries of the "left-wing majority" may be, actually, politically conservative students. Even though there is much less radicalism on American campuses than in 1975, it is amazing how little has changed in 32 years, and how well many of these observations hold up (bold emphasis added).
Princeton has changed a good deal since my undergraduate days two decades ago, but one thing, apparently, will never change: the endless debate, in the pages of PAW and elsewhere, between "right wing" alumni and "left wing" faculty. This debate often raises the question of whether the students are relatively mature, with independent, inquiring minds, or whether they are relatively immature and subject to intellectual influences that may be pernicious.
At present the cudgels of conservatism are being wielded by the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and if the CAP contains some of the long-familiar apostles of the Right, it also contains some Princetonians of real distinction whom nobody can dismiss as crackpots. Unfortunately, the CAP does not seem to have improved the intellectual level of the debate as much as one would hope, while the attacks on the CAP are becoming so inept as to be embarrassing....
...In light of all of this, I should like to make a few observations of my own:(1) It is neither surprising nor alarming that the faculty and student body at Princeton should be more "left wing" than their counterparts at small denominational schools, colleges from rural states, and large state universities that have traditionally conservative medical and professional schools. I would expect Princeton to be less "radical" than institutions with a predominently urban clientele, but I'm not sure that anybody has bothered to find this out.
(2) Students in any period are less mature and independent as thinkers than they believe they are, but they are more mature and intellectually independent than the typical alumnus of their parents' generation believes. The test of intellectual maturity in a given individual is whether he/she treats controversial problems in a detached, rational manner, or whether he/she approaches them in the emotional spirit of a moral crusade. A student of the latter type is likely to be less mature and more prone to accept uncritically the teachings that confirm his/her prejudices.
(3) University professors, of whatever persuasion, have a vital stake in the free exchange of all views, however eccentric, but are often a good deal less tolerant of opposing views than they ought to be. We professors must constantly ask ourselves this question: How much would we risk to defend the academic freedom of a colleague whose ideas we detest? What the First Amendment really guarantees is free speech for those we disagree with.
(4) The best faculties are always the most heterogeneous ones, but this very diversity can make a good faculty look foolish in a crisis that demands a quick decision. Faculty meetings can produce long debates that become tedious for the professors themselves and downright intolerable to non-academics, but the absence of a quick consensus is usually a sign of a healthy intellectual climate.
(5) A liberal education is most valuable when it compels students and faculty alike to challenge and scrutinize their own assumptions. For this reason, a "left-wing" faculty (insofar as it was so) was a positive asset in the days when it had to interact with a student body that largely came from staunch Republican backgrounds. I suspect that the Princeton students today who are getting the best education are the minority who are conservative. Now that students and faculty may both be classified as predominently "left of center" (and why try to pretend that this isn't true?), there is some cause for concern. The danger is not that students are being brainwashed or converted, but quite the opposite, that they may share so many of their professors' opinions that their assumptions are being reinforced rather than challenged. If the CAP would only express its "concern" in these terms, it would raise a valid point, and the University would be ill-advised not to confront the question forthrightly.
Can, or should, the university, in recruiting a diverse body of faculty and students, extend the principle of diversity to socio-political philosophy? Should not a really strong economics department, for isntance, make sure that it contains at least one Marxist economist and at least one conservative capitalist economist? One is strongly tempted to answer the second question affirmatively, but the answer to the first question must be resoundingly negative. Notwithstanding the desirability of having the most diverse and heterogeneous faculty possible, any attempt to hire faculty on the basis of political beliefs would be so fraught with dangers as to be unacceptable. Not only would it probably produce less, rather than more, diversity in the long run, but it would undercut the crucial principle of academic freedom on which the survival of any university depends -- that hiring and retention of faculty must be based on professional attainments and on no other criterion....
While I agree with my father that universities ought never to hire faculty on the basis of political beliefs, it is not at all obvious that most academics today honestly would have agreed with him. Where most employers conceal their political views when they are recruiting new employees -- I know that I do -- I am not so sure that professors do. Indeed, today's faculty do not seem to believe it is important to conceal their political views while they are teaching, a conflation of politics and professional practice which is wholly out of sync with the norms that prevail elsewhere in American society. My father was old school, at least in the sense that he believed that the honest teaching of history required him to conceal his political opinions. He once told me that the highest compliment he had ever received from a student came from a smart radical activist in the seventies who told him at the end of the semester that he had no idea what my father's political opinions were. How many professors today even aspire to appear objective? I suspect very few. And if professors do not generally aspire to apparent political objectivity in their teaching, why should they do it in recruitment, hiring, or promotion?
More than political diversity, our professors need to rediscover intellectual maturity in the sense described by my father and the value of attempting to appear to be objective.
Friday, October 12, 2007
A brief comment about Grey's Anatomy
I used to like Grey's Anatomy, but I am really getting tired of the absurd, improbable, and infantile George and Izzie thing. The series would improve immeasurably if they killed off both characters by violent and shocking means. Mrs. TH feels the same way: "The last place I'd want to be sick is Seattle Grace."
Who is waging religious war?
A group of Muslim scholars has inadvertantly revealed the vast gulf between their own religion and modern Christianity:
Prominent Muslim scholars are warning that the "survival of the world" is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace with each other.
In an unprecedented open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam, the Muslims plead with Christian leaders "to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Pope Benedict are believed to have been sent copies of the document which calls for greater understanding between the two faiths.
The letter also spells out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran.
The Muslim scholars state: "As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes."
The reaction of thoughtful Christians to this letter has got to be "????".
Let's be honest. Many Muslims, including the authors of this letter, regard themselves as engaged in a religious or confessional war. Muslims have, in effect, chosen to declare themselves in military alliance with all Muslims everywhere, regardless of nationality. That is the only way to explain the popularity of the idea that Muslims the world over are somehow justified in taking up arms because of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian Arabs, or the billeting of American troops in Saudi Arabia, or even the invasion of Iraq.
If a non-Muslim power -- say, Israel, the United States, or India -- "oppresses" or kills Palestinians, Iraqis, or Kashmiris, Muslim leaders usually say they regard it as an attack on all Muslims, and Muslim public opinion follows. In addition, more than a few of those Muslims believe that it is their bounden duty to come to the defense of even foreign Muslims who have been attacked. On this point, Osama bin Laden and leftist Western "experts" agree -- the jihadis, who come from all over the Muslim world, started attacking Western targets not because we attacked their countries, but because we had (supposedly) oppressed their co-religionists.
The reverse, however, is not true. I know many actual practicing Christians, and I do not know one who believes that the wars we have fought in the last six years have anything to do with the fact that Muslims have attacked or threatened Christians qua Christians. Western Christians do not any longer go to war in solidarity with foreign Christians -- the very idea is absurd, even in George W. Bush's America. For the United States and the West, the current wars have nothing to do with the defense of Christendom (nobody even uses that word anymore). They are about defense of country.
So, when you hear a Western leftist echo the position of these Muslim scholars -- that Christianity is somehow waging a war against Islam -- ask yourself this: On which side do people spring to the defense of their co-religionists, and on which side do they rise in defense of country? Which side defines the struggle in religious terms, and which defines it in national terms?
These Muslim scholars worry about religious war and call for peace. Bully for them. But the only reason there is even a risk of a religious war is that Muslims teach the asinine and dangerous idea that their religion requires Muslims to defend other Muslims who are "oppressed" or attacked, wherever they they may be in the world. This is the mother of all entangling alliances, and religious war -- which these scholars claim to oppose -- is its natural and virtually inevitable consequence. It is both hypocritical and idiotic that they call on Christians -- who do not any longer build military alliances along confessional lines -- to end religious war when they themselves have not denounced Islamic leaders who declare that Muslims should owe a duty of defense to Muslims everywhere.