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December 31, 2003

Johan Norberg Interview

More good stuff gleaned from my browsing at aldaily.com; this Reason Online interview with Johan Norberg, the young Swedish pro-globalization author/activist. In this excerpt, he talks about environmentalist opposition to globalization:

I think that there are two basic reasons that lead environmentalists to oppose globalization and the industrial development that goes along with it. The first is a real concern about the environment. Many environmentalists care about green forests, clean air, clean water, and so on. What they don’t appreciate is that attitude is itself a result of industrial development. In our countries, people didn’t care about these things 100 years ago. Preferences shift when you can feed your children and give them an education. That’s when you begin to care about these sorts of things. Environmentalists in this camp merely project a contemporary sense of these issues onto developing countries that are at the place where the West was a century ago. It’s an intellectually honest mistake, one that new information and data can change. So can talking with people in developing countries.

But there’s another motivation at work among some environmentalists. I don’t think this viewpoint represents the majority, but it often includes the intellectual leaders of environmental groups. These are people who are bothered not by environmental degradation per se. Rather, they reject the modern project altogether. They are skeptical of the lifestyles and societies that we have created. They think we are alienated from nature compared to the past and that it is wrong to see nature as a tool that human beings can use for their own convenience and benefit. It’s a fundamentally aesthetic understanding of the world that is reminiscent of early 19th century German romanticism. It paints a very distorted view of the pre-industrial world as a utopia. In reality, that world was a place in which starvation was the rule and not the exception.

Read it all.

Politics And The Hague Tribunal

Other than an awareness that Slobodan Milosevic is currently on trial in The Hague for war crimes, I must admit to having failed to stay on top of the political situation in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, and of the prosecutions at The Hague. There is a terrific essay in the current New York Review of Books that examines, among other things, how the Hague Tribunal itself is affecting political events in those countries. (via Arts & Letters Daily)

War criminals are protected by their countrymen. Politicians that cooperate with the Tribunal are assassinated or defeated. Parties on all sides distrust the Tribunal, and think that they are being prosecuted disproportionately. The prosecutor is accused of being manipulated by political considerations. Elections are influenced by lists of upcoming indictments. And all this promises to go on until sometime in 2010, when the Tribunal plans to finish up prosecuting this mess. The author has interviewed many of the principals, including the chief Hague Tribunal prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, and his account makes for compelling reading. Check it out.

December 29, 2003

2003 - Best of Steyn

As you might imagine if you read Mark Steyn regularly, this is quite a long column. It consists of some of his predictions from 2003, along with a series of chronologically arranged excerpts from his 2003 prose. Outstanding! Here are a few of my favorites:

Why not ask an Iraqi what the disadvantages of stalemate are? As far as Saddam's subjects are concerned, the "peace" movement means peace for you and Tony Benn and Sheryl Crow and Susan Sarandon, and a prison for them… Marching for "peace" means marching for, oh, another 15 years of Saddamite torture and murder, followed by a couple more decades under the even more psychotic son, until the family runs out of victims to terrorise, gets bored and retires to the Riviera.
The Daily Telegraph, February 15th

If we have to have an incoherent, self-loathing “peace” movement, then women showing off their hooters in support of a culture that would stone them to death for showing off their ankles is about as good as it’s gonna get.
The Daily Telegraph, March 8th

The UN doesn't solve problems, it manages them in perpetuity: it turns them into Les Miserables; come back two decades later and it's still running.
The Spectator, April 5th

From the moment they met, Hillary knew he "had a vitality that seemed to shoot out of his pores", but not a lot shoots out in these pages… Monica's book came out first, and to be honest it captures Bill's oozing pores better than his wife's does. Monica's Bill is the Lounge-Lizard-In-Chief: "He undressed me with his eyes." Hillary's Bill is a clunky wonk: "While I was challenging discrimination practices, Bill was in Miami working to ensure McGovern's nomination." Monica says, "The irony is that I had the first orgasm of the relationship." Hill's account reads like she's still waiting.
The Sunday Telegraph, June 15th

This is a keeper.

Image of Freedom Tower

Here's an image of the proposed Freedom Tower complex, superimposed on a photograph of the Manhattan skyline.

(Thanks to Rodger at Curmudgeonly and Skeptical)

Honda Ad

Thanks to Grunt Doc, via The Lopsided Poopdeck, I once again have a link to this awesome Honda commercial , just when I thought it was gone forever. One of the commenters doubts that those tires could actually roll uphill on that incline, and I must admit I wondered about that myself. But it looks real. Tell me it's not trick photography. C'mon.

December 28, 2003

Bloggers On North Korea

Over at Harry's Place there are a couple of good posts on the situation in North Korea. It started out here , with a discussion of the NK regime, the ongoing famine that looks to get even worse this winter, and the limited foreign policy options available to the Western countries that oppose Kim's Stalinist prison-state. Make sure to get into the comments section as some big blogosphere names pop up.

December 27, 2003

Considering Kwanzaa

Richard J. Rosendall takes a thoughtful and candid look at this relatively new celebration in a Front Page Magazine article. In the course of explaining the origins of Kwanzaa and its founding principles, Rosendall seems to ask just what exactly is being "celebrated" here, and why:

My first impression of Kwanzaa was of an enrichment of holiday celebrations, an expression of pride in African heritage, and another aspect of diversity within the broader American community. Upon further examination, the philosophy and politics behind Kwanzaa are more troubling, precisely because Kwanzaa represents a turning away from the wider American community and a repudiation of the free markets that its own success exemplifies.

Inconsistencies abound in Kwanzaa thought. There is an emphasis on "unity", but the founder was a black separatist. It was an American creation, but e pluribus unum didn't find its way into the rhetoric. Apparently the importance of "community" applied only if everyone in the community had black skin. According to the "Path of Blackness," as summarized by Karenga, one is encouraged to "Think Black, Talk Black, Act Black, Create Black, Buy Black, Vote Black, and Live Black." Here's more from Rosendall:

The greatest incongruity about Kwanzaa is that it is based on Marxist values more than African ones. This is evident in the emphasis on collective work and cooperative economics, the subordination of the individual to the community, the utter silence on the subject of liberty.

Even if these values can be traced to African roots, there is nothing liberating in the embrace of doctrines that have succeeded nowhere in the world, certainly not in Africa.

But there's really nothing "African" about the origins of Kwanzaa, other than some borrowed Swahili words. For background on the founder of Kwanzaa, this Paul Mulshine article, reprinted a year ago at FPM, provides some details. Founder Ron Karenga explains the rich tradition on which the celebration was founded:

"People think it's African, but it's not," he said about his holiday in an interview quoted in the Washington Post. "I came up with Kwanzaa because black people in this country wouldn't celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that's when a lot of bloods would be partying."

Well of course!

Karenga, a convicted violent felon, conceived Kwanzaa as an alternative of sorts to Christmas. I've read numerous accounts from religious blacks, especially this year, who are outraged at the suggestion that they should celebrate this separatist, Marxist concoction instead of say, the birth of Jesus Christ, as a way to somehow demonstrate unity, or pride in their heritage. Here are some of Karenga's words from the Rosendall article:

Karenga in 1977 described Kwanzaa as "an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people." The chief spook in question is the same Christian God that inspired a generation of African Americans to lead a non-violent revolution for civil rights. But Karenga, as we have seen, is not strong on non-violence. In fact, the red in the Kwanzaa flag stands for the Struggle - that is, the blood that must be shed in order for black people to be redeemed.

Now that the media, the greeting card industry, and the politicians have embraced Kwanzaa, they seem to have succeeded in sanitizing it somewhat of its separatist, socialist, and anti-American founding attributes. If it has morphed into something that can help blacks appreciate and celebrate their heritage, then it can serve some positive purpose.

Meanwhile, I shall consider it a cousin of Sweetest Day. A purely American invention, devoid of any true tradition, perpetuated in order to sell products to people who can make themselves feel better for having purchased or received them. It's Kwanzaa's greatest irony. Conceived as Marxism, Kwanzaa lives on as capitalism. What a great country.

December 26, 2003

Remembering Michael Kelly

I wish that Michael Kelly could have seen a liberated Iraq this Christmas. He was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2003, five days before the statue of Saddam fell. As 2003 winds down, it seemed appropriate to revisit one of my favorite Kelly columns at Christmastime. It's a light piece about his family, in which he wrestles with the old "white-lights vs. colored-lights" debate. For the record, I'm a "colored-lights" guy too.

I admired Kelly because he was a man of principle. As a Democrat and a Washington Post columnist, he made enemies in his own party during the 90's because he refused to ignore the corruption of the Clinton presidency. After 9/11, he was appalled at how many on the left made common cause with the America-haters, ignoring longstanding liberal principles simply to oppose George Bush. Here's an excerpt from his 1/22/03 column, "Marching With Stalinists" :

The left in America has for a long time now resembled not so much a political movement as a contest to see how many schismatics could dance on the head of a pin, a conversation that has gone from being national to factional to simply eccentric. At some point, progressive politics reached a state where freeing Mumia was considered critical and electing a Democratic president was considered optional.

Then came Sept. 11, and the left found itself plunged into a debate on a subject of fundamental importance. And this was a debate in which to be of the left was to be, by definition, involved: In al Qaeda and in the Taliban and in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, liberal civilization faced an enemy that represented nearly every evil that liberalism has ever stood against.

What was the left going to do? A pretty straightforward call, you might say. America has its flaws. But war involves choosing sides, and the American side -- which was, after all, the side of liberalism, of progressivism, of democracy, of freedom, of not chucking gays off rooftops and not stoning adulterers and not whipping women in the town square, and not gassing minority populations and not torturing advocates of free speech -- was surely preferable to the side of the "Islamofascists," to borrow a word from the essayist and former man of the left, Christopher Hitchens.

Which is the point: Hitchens is a former man of the left. In the left's debate, Hitchens insisted that progressives must not in their disdain for America allow themselves to effectively support the perpetuation of despotism, must not betray the left's own values. Others -- notably the political philosopher Michael Walzer, the independent essayist Andrew Sullivan, New Republic writer Jonathan Chait and New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum -- also made this argument with great force and clarity.

The debate is over. The left has hardened itself around the core value of a furious, permanent, reactionary opposition to the devil-state America, which stands as the paramount evil of the world and the paramount threat to the world, and whose aims must be thwarted even at the cost of supporting fascists and tyrants. Those who could not stomach this have left the left -- a few publicly, as did Hitchens and Rosenbaum, and many more, I am sure, in the privacy of their consciences.

Last weekend, the left held large antiwar marches in Washington, San Francisco and elsewhere. Major media coverage of these marches was highly respectful. This was "A Stirring in the Nation," in the words of an approving New York Times editorial, "impressive for the obvious mainstream roots of the marchers."

There is, increasingly, much that happens in the world that the Times feels its readers should be sheltered from knowing. The marches in Washington and San Francisco were chiefly sponsored, as was last October's antiwar march in Washington, by a group the Times chose to call in its only passing reference "the activist group International Answer."

International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is a front group for the communist Workers World Party. The Workers World Party is, literally, a Stalinist organization. It rose out of a split within the old Socialist Workers Party over the Soviet Union's 1956 invasion of Hungary -- the breakaway Workers World Party was all for the invasion. International ANSWER today unquestioningly supports any despotic regime that lays any claim to socialism, or simply to anti-Americanism. It supported the butchers of Beijing after the slaughter of Tiananmen Square. It supports Saddam Hussein and his Baathist torture-state. It supports the last official Stalinist state, North Korea, in the mass starvation of its citizens. It supported Slobodan Milosevic after the massacre at Srebrenica. It supports the mullahs of Iran, and the narco-gangsters of Colombia and the bus-bombers of Hamas.

This is whom the left now marches with. The left marches with the Stalinists. The left marches with those who would maintain in power the leading oppressors of humanity in the world. It marches with, stands with and cheers on people like the speaker at the Washington rally who declared that "the real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America." It marches with people like the former Black Panther Charles Baron, who said in Washington, "if you're looking for an axis of evil then look in the belly of this beast."

The Times' "mainstream" Americans marched last weekend with people who held signs comparing the president and vice president of their country to Hitler, and declaring, "The difference between Bush and Saddam is that Saddam was elected," and this one: "I want you to die for Israel. Israel sings Onward Christian Soldiers."

March on.

Actually, that's less an excerpt than the full text of the piece. I couldn't decide what to leave out.

At this time last year, I argued with family members and others until I was blue in the face that the case for Iraq's liberation by force was the moral choice, the best hope for 25 million people long denied freedom by years of diplomatic failure and treachery by Saddam. They took a principled antiwar, pacifist stance, but it was one that seemed to me to ignore the consequences to the Iraqi people of a failure to remove the Saddam regime.

Michael Kelly gave voice to what I was feeling. Here is a segment of his 2/19/03 column, "Immorality on the March":

The situation with Iraq may be considered in three primary contexts, and in each, the true moral case is for war.

The first context considers the people of Iraq. There are 24 million of them, and they have been living (those who have not been slaughtered or forced into exile) for decades under one of the cruelest and bloodiest tyrannies on earth. It must be assumed that, being human, they would prefer to be rescued from a hell where more than a million lives have been sacrificed to the dreams of a megalomaniac, where rape is a sanctioned instrument of state policy, and where the removal of the tongue is the prescribed punishment for uttering an offense against the Great Leader.

These people could be liberated from this horror -- relatively easily and quickly. There is every reason to think that a U.S. invasion would swiftly vanquish the few elite units that can be counted on to defend the detested Saddam Hussein; and that the victory would come at the cost of few -- likely hundreds, not thousands -- Iraqi and American lives. There is risk; and if things go terribly wrong it is a risk that could result in terrible suffering. But that is an equation that is present in any just war, and in this case any rational expectation has to consider the probable cost to humanity to be low and the probable benefit to be tremendous. To choose perpetuation of tyranny over rescue from tyranny, where rescue may be achieved, is immoral.

The second context considers the security of America, and indeed of the world, and here too morality is on the side of war. The great lesson of Sept. 11, 2001, is not that terrorism must be stopped -- an impossible dream -- but that state-sanctioned terrorism must be stopped. The support of a state -- even a weak and poor state -- offers the otherwise vulnerable enemies of the established order the protection they need in their attempts to destroy that order -- through the terrorists' only weapon, murder. To tolerate the perpetuation of state-sanctioned terror, such as Hussein's regime exemplifies, is to invite the next Sept. 11, and the next, and the next. Again, immoral.

The third context concerns the idea of order itself. The United Nations is a mightily flawed construct, but it exists; and it exists on the side (more or less) of law and humanity. Directly and unavoidably arising from the crisis with Iraq, the United Nations today stands on the precipice of permanent irrelevancy. If Iraq is allowed to defy the law, the United Nations will never recover, and the oppressed and weak of the world will lose even the limited protection of the myth of collective security. Immoral.

To march against the war is not to give peace a chance. It is to give tyranny a chance. It is to give the Iraqi nuke a chance. It is to give the next terrorist mass murder a chance. It is to march for the furtherance of evil instead of the vanquishing of evil.

This cannot be the moral position.

Michael Kelly was right. We did the right thing. It's a shame he didn't live to see it. R.I.P.

N. Korea and Iran In With Qaddafi

The significance of Qaddafi's decision to open up Libya for WMD inspection by international teams as a result of negotiations with the Bush and Blair administrations has now taken on a whole new dimension. It has been revealed that Libya was cooperating with Iran and North Korea in development of nuclear weapons, and that both countries had "farmed out" significant portions of their nuclear programs to Libya as a way to help avoid detection by the IAEA. Here's an excerpt from an article in The Sunday Herald: (link via Parapundit)

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the decision to renounce all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Friday night, but while at first it was thought this only had implications for Libya it is now clear that his decision has scuppered a secret partnership between Libya, Iran and North Korea formed with the intention of developing an independent nuclear weapon.

New documents revealed yesterday show that the three were working on the nuclear weapons programme at a top-secret underground site near the Kufra Oasis of the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as some Iranian and Libyan nuclear scientists.

The news can only be good for the Americans and others concerned with the proliferation of nuclear weapons by rogue states. The opening up of Libya's facilities is a major setback for both Iran and North Korea. More from The Herald:

Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its program, is badly hit, having counted on fitting into place key parts of its WMD project made in Libya. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.

Steyn - "America Wins"

Mark Steyn, in the Jerusalem Post: (requires registration)

One can't help noticing that, despite innumerable warnings from these western defeatists about the folly of provoking the incendiary Arab street, the Arab street is now in the third year of its deep slumber. It may be that Osama is just very cunningly lying low, but, with each passing month, the reason he's lying low is more and more likely to be due to an inability to get up again.

Taliban gone, Saddam gone, Gaddafi retired, Osama "resting." "Message: America wins" is as accurate a summation of the last two years as any. Whether or not you think American victory is a good thing is another matter. But a smart anti-American ought to recognize that generally things are going America's way, and the only argument worth having is about the speed at which they're doing so.

Christmas Hiatus

Wizblog posting has obviously slowed to a crawl in the past few days as Christmas preparation and celebration have taken over the time and attention of the bloghost. The kids are both home for one of those precious extended holiday visits. Our eldest also had a birthday on 12/25, and a large family get-together is scheduled for tomorrow. We had a wonderful family Christmas Day yesterday. I've been feeling especially fortunate this year to be surrounded by such a close and loving family. My thoughts then turn to those who I know aren't so lucky. It can be a brutal time of year for people without that foundation. I hope that as you read this, you are still filled with the spirit of the season, and full of hope for peace in the New Year.

December 23, 2003

Hitchens on Qaddafi

Christopher Hitchens thinks that "disarming three rogue regimes in under one year isn't bad". The fact that Qaddafi and the Iranian mullahs are rethinking their weapons programs leads Hitchens to warn:

If riff-raff like this can be so convinced of our resolve, then we really must make sure that our resolve is as steely as they think it is.

And unlike certain British politicians , Hitchens doesn't think the timing of these moves is coincidental:

In the Middle East perhaps more than in any other region at present, people are acutely sensitive to which is the winning and which is the losing side. The mullahs have run Iran into the ground over two decades, and Qaddafi has been in power since I was an undergraduate. Their rule is condemned by actuarial calculations as well as by moral and political ones, and it's now quite possible to envisage a future without them. The tipping point in all this is, and has been, and will be seen to have been, the liberation of Iraq.

As Qaddafi reportedly told Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi:

"I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."

December 22, 2003

Saddam Foiled By His Wife?

I realize that's it's a tabloid, but this Sunday Times article reports that Saddam's second wife Samira was in touch with him by phone in the weeks before his capture, and the tracking of those calls by the Mossad contributed to his ultimate apprehension. Seems she wanted more money. Take it with a grain of salt. It's compelling reading even if it's unconfirmed reporting. (via Drudge)

And here's the account that it was a Kurdish military intelligence unit that tipped the U.S. military to Saddam's whereabouts.

December 20, 2003

Sanity On Halliburton

Byron York explains why Halliburton was supplying gasoline from Kuwait that was more expensive than the gasoline from Turkey. It's because their customer, the U.S. Army, asked them to. That is, as York says, "if anyone is interested".

December 19, 2003

French Corruption

There's a terrific article on the French culture of corruption in the January issue of Britain's Prospect Magazine . It drew me in because my own perception has been that for all we read about the monumental investigations going on in France, the massive findings of wrongdoing, and huge amounts of money going into all the wrong pockets, nothing much seems to come from all that ado. This piece goes a long way toward explaining why that is.

Writer Tim King tells at first of a systemic flaw that gives politicians too much control over the prosecutorial machinery:

The French magistrate is a legally trained "detective" with enormous power. He or she can summon anyone in the land, except the president, and keep a suspect in prison for months without trial. (It was revelations about the state of the French prisons experienced by members of the elite awaiting trial in the late 1990s that helped to tip public opinion against the magistrates.) The constitution demands that the examining magistrate be independent. But the person who gives the magistrate his cases, the prosecutor, is not independent. His career depends on maintaining a good relationship with his superiors in the ministry of justice. If he gets the feeling that the ministry would prefer a particular case not to come to court, he can split it into two or more components, allocating each to a separate magistrate, possibly in different parts of the country.

Then King details how Mitterand set up a public works program that had graft for the ruling political party and the local politicians built right in:

In 1971, when François Mitterrand created the Socialist party, there were no laws controlling the way political parties raised funds. His party was committed to modernising and rebuilding France - hospitals, police stations, town halls, schools. Each local authority would need expert help, so the party set up a building consultancy, Urba, to advise on the site, propose the architect and vet all tenders. For this service, Urba took around 3 per cent of the total cost. The money thus raised was split: 40 per cent for Urba's running costs, 30 per cent for the Socialist party and 30 per cent for the elected representative who had procured the contract.

Urba was conceived as a way of siphoning public money into party coffers and private pockets. The system worked well, and grew rapidly as the demands of the party increased and elected representatives became greedier. Sixteen regional offices were set up, plus various lesser companies and fronts to conceal their activities from the taxman and the police.

Ten years later, François Mitterrand was elected president, the left had a majority in parliament and thousands of town halls had Socialist mayors. Urba flourished. If Mitterrand is remembered for his grandiose building projects, they weren't merely for the greater glory of France. Although Urba was discreet, its illegal practices were suspected by some. A couple of investigations were started, only to be blocked by the ministry of justice before much could be revealed.

On the question of whether or not corruption has "distinctive roots" in France, King finds the French to be different from British and other Western societies in two respects:

The first is the attitude to money. The British have a fairly clear view (which has been called Protestant) that money is a tool. There is nothing wrong with it in itself, but there is good money, earned by hard work, and bad money gained through greed or dishonesty. At the root of the French attitude is the Catholic view that money is tainted by sin. Yet money is necessary and since corruption is only an abuse of something already sinful, it doesn't matter too much...

The second basic difference concerns the French attitude towards politicians. In France, politics is about strength and l'art de paraître. The French don't condemn their leaders' immoral actions if they are for the common good. At one of his trials former minister Bernard Tapie admitted he had committed perjury. "But I lied in good faith," he added. "Better the dishonest minister than the stupid one," says barrister Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, who is defending François Mitterrand's son in an arms trafficking case. The French do not share the notion that a politician should, personally, set a good example.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Incidentally, speaking of things French, what got me surfing around at Prospect was an Arts & Letters Daily link to this profile of Albert Camus, which is also very good.

December 18, 2003

Lomborg Cleared

From the Financial Times site, FT.com:

Bjorn Lomborg, the author of a controversial book attacking the environment movement, was cleared yesterday of "scientific dishonesty" by the Danish science ministry.

The ministry overturned a ruling in January by the Danish committee on scientific dishonesty (DCSD), part of the Danish Research Agency, that Mr Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice".

Mr Lomborg hailed yesterday's decision as "brilliant". It provided confirmation that freedom of speech extended to the environmental debate, he said.

Other Wizblog posts on Lomborg and his book can be found here, and here.

December 17, 2003

But Seriously Folks...

Mark Steyn talks about the recent track record of "the international order":

For months the naysayers have demanded the Americans turn over more power to the Iraqis. Okay, let's start by turning Saddam over to the Iraqis. Whoa, not so fast. The same folks who insisted there was no evidence Saddam was a threat to any countries other than his own and the invasion was an unwarranted interference in Iraqi internal affairs are now saying that Saddam can't be left to the Iraqi people, he has to be turned over to an international tribunal.

You can forget about that. The one consistent feature of the post-9/11 era is the comprehensive failure of the international order. The French use their Security Council veto to protect Saddam. The EU subsidises Palestinian terrorism. The International Atomic Energy Agency provides cover for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN summit on racism is an orgy of racism.

All these institutions do is enable nickel'n'dime thugs to punch above their weights.

Steyn is the man. Read it all.

December 16, 2003

Back In The Hole!

Couldn't we arrange for Saddam to be allowed to return to his recent residence of choice as he awaits trial, and perhaps even after trial, if the Iraqi people decide that the death penalty is too harsh (or too merciful) for him? I think the idea could catch on. While we're deciding what to do, back in the hole! Then comes the trial, then back in the hole! Till death do us part.....you get the idea.

Tough Going

Also at The Weekly Standard, is this excellent essay by Reuel Marc Gerecht, titled "A Difficult Marriage". In it he makes clear how very complicated the political landscape is in today's Iraq, how tenuous the current "stability" really is, and how very diificult it is going to be to maintain that stability through the establishment of a functional democracy. Gerecht says that "when planning for success, it's always a good idea to imagine failure." He goes on to describe what an Iraqi dictatorship would look like. Assuming an eventual victory for the Shiite majority, Gerecht says that such a victory could "fracture" Iraq, and that it "could well be ugly."

Not as ugly, however, as the consequences for the U.S.:

The failure of the democratic experiment in Iraq would, however, have much worse consequences for the United States. George Bush has staked his presidency on Iraq. Indeed, the United States' standing in the Middle East and in the world depends on the transformation of American power into an Iraqi democracy....

Failure in Iraq would surely produce a new bout of timidity in America's foreign policy elite. One can already see in Washington and New York, among both Republicans and Democrats, a strong desire to return to a pre-9/11 world, where the fear of terrorism and rogue states did not define America's international relations and roil transatlantic ties. The French and the Germans, and perhaps the Brits, too (with the possible exception of Prime Minister Tony Blair), desperately want the Americans to act less "Promethean," to let democracy spread to the Arabs in the fullness of time, to treat terrorism, as the Clinton administration did, as a police problem, and to view again the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation as the fulcrum of the Middle East. It's easy to imagine Peace-Now Democrats and Wall Street-realist Republicans, chastened by Iraq, galloping backwards in time.

This piece is long, but is about as descriptive and detailed an account of the factions and influences bearing on the political future of Iraq that I have seen. Well worth checking out.

December 15, 2003

Nice Beard

Larry Miller doesn't have a lot of hair, and so I guess he respects those who can grow it in volume. I usually like Miller's humor, and this column is no exception. Here's a taste:

Most important aspect of Hussein's capture: Could you grow a beard like that in seven months? I don't think I could. I mean, you've got to hand it to him: A full head of black hair, and he looks like Aristotle in a week. Don't get me wrong, the guy's up there (or down there) with the worst humans in history, and a few minutes after dying I think he's going to be having conversations like, "So you're saying the poker goes in another inch every year? Wow, and I thought the 'no virgins' thing was bad news." But he sure can grow some hair.

Then there are the problems that a captured Saddam poses for Howard Dean:

Now that we have the living version of that toppled statue, Mr. Dean (Why does everyone keep calling him "Doctor" even if he is one?) is going to sooner or later have to answer three questions.

One, since you were against the war from the start, is it better for Planet Earth that Hussein is out, and we have him? Two, if it is, how would you have accomplished that end if you were president? Wishing real hard? And three, do you buy all those shirts with the sleeves already rolled up, or do you have to do it yourself?

December 14, 2003

Reaction To Saddam's Capture

It hasn't taken long for the pundits to react to the capture of Saddam Hussein. Here are a few of the better pieces I've seen browsing the Net this afternoon.

Amir Taheri talks about what we might expect going forward.

Peggy Noonan is back to her regular column with some thoughts on Saddam. We've missed you, Peggy.

Jed Babbin weighs in at NRO.

And there are dozens of links to bloggers and other news and opinion pieces on the Saddam story at The Command Post, and also at Winds of Change. Of course, Instapundit is all over it as well.

December 13, 2003

Hitchens Interview

Fans of Christopher Hitchens will enjoy this interview he does with Jamie Glazov of Front Page Magazine. He talks about his break with the left, which became "news" after 9/11/01, but was in motion years earlier, when conservatives put principle over politics in backing Clinton in his belated support for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo against Milosovic in 1998. Later on he was impressed with the clarity shown by conservatives on the issue of Iraq, and in dealing with the Trent Lott fiasco:

The neo-cons also took the view, quite early on, that coexistence with Saddam Hussein was impossible as well as undesirable. They were dead right about that. They had furthermore been thinking about the menace of jihadism when most people were half-asleep.

And then I have to say that I was rather struck by the way that the Weekly Standard and its associated voices took the decision to get rid of Trent Lott earlier this year, thus removing an embarrassment as well as a disgrace from the political scene. And their arguments were on points of principle, not “perception.” I liked their ruthlessness here, and their seriousness, at a time when much of the liberal Left is not even seriously wrong, but frivolously wrong, and babbles without any sense of responsibility.

In Part Two he takes Israel apart, sounding like his late friend Edward Said, in discussing the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This guy's brain operates at a level way above my feeble mind. I'm always awed by his intellect, especially when I find a part of my "worldview" under attack. It's humbling, but somehow invigorating to have my assumptions challenged and my biases confronted by someone whose knowledge and reasoning I've come to respect.

Will Just Wondering

George Will has a few questions for the Democratic presidential candidates. Read them all, but here's one:

In the last nine presidential elections (1968-2000), the 11 states of the Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma, have awarded 1,385 electoral votes. Democratic candidates have won just 270 (20 percent) of them. Which Deanisms -- the war is bad, same-sex civil unions are good, Americans are undertaxed -- will be most helpful to Democrats down there?


More disingenuousness from the media on George Bush's environmental policies. Gregg Easterbrook explains. (link via The Corner)

Well Said, Taranto

From James Taranto - BOTW 12/11

Protecting Porn but Not Politics

In the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme court yesterday upheld key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance "reform" law. National Review blogress Kathryn Lopez notes this passage from Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, which sums matters up nicely:

Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming, would smile with favor upon a law that cut to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.

This wonderfully encapsulates the perversity at the heart of contemporary American liberalism: "Free speech," in this view, protects everything except actual political speech. And of course we're all familiar with variants of this argument, such as: Criticizing anti-American speech is censorship, while censoring conservative speech is mere criticism. Or: It's un-American to criticize people who side with America's enemies; indeed, as "dissenters," they are the true patriots. It's mind-boggling that this sort of nonsense gets taken seriously.

December 12, 2003

Battle of Baghdad

This is like no story you have yet read about the war in Iraq. "The Thunder Run", from the L.A. Times, is the account of embedded reporter David Zucchino, and chronicles the first decisive thrust into Baghdad in early April, 2003. It makes for riveting reading, and it sure as hell isn't describing a "cakewalk". (login using laexaminer / laexaminer) (Link via Winds of Change) Here's an excerpt:

As the convoy raced through the ambush, an RPG rocketed into a personnel carrier. Staff Sgt. Robert Stever, who had just fired more than 1,000 rounds from his .50-caliber machine gun, was blown back into the vehicle, killed instantly. Shrapnel tore into Chief Warrant Officer Angel Acevedo and Pfc. Jarred Metz, wounding both.

Metz was knocked from the driver's perch. His legs were numb and blood was seeping through his uniform. He dragged himself back into position and kept the vehicle moving. Acevedo was bleeding, too. Screaming instructions to Metz, he directed the vehicle back into the speeding column with Stever's body slumped inside.

Riddled with shrapnel, the convoy limped into the interchange at Curly—and directly into the firefight. Bailey was trying to move his convoy out of harm's way when something slammed into a fuel tanker. The vehicle exploded. Hunks of the tanker flew off, forming super-heated projectiles that tore into other vehicles. Three ammunition trucks and a second fuel tanker exploded. Ammunition started to cook off. Rounds screamed in all directions, ripping off chunks of concrete and slicing through vehicles. The trucks were engulfed in orange fireballs.

December 11, 2003

Selective Coverage

Massive demonstrations in Baghdad for democracy and against terrorism. What do you mean you hadn't heard? Instapundit has it.

From another of Glenn's posts, here's a link to some news video from the demonstrations. The only question is; Why didn't the whole world see this on the evening news?

UPDATE 12/13: Sorry, link to video no longer has Iraq demonstration video playing.

German Judge Frees 9/11 Suspect

From Friday's Washington Post, news that an alleged accomplice to the 9/11 plotters has been freed by a judge, pending the completion of his trial, on the basis of a report from German federal police. The report:

had provided information, apparently taken from the interrogation of a top al Qaeda planner in U.S. custody, that the defendant had no advance knowledge of the plot.

I have no idea how strong the case is against one Abdelghani Mzoudi, but to release him because a top Al Qaeda operative reportedly said he wasn't involved smacks more of politics and anti-American spite than it does of credulousness. The unnamed witness is widely known to be Ramzi Binalshibh, the supposed 9/11 mastermind. So now the word of a mass murderer is taken by a German court to be sufficient reason to release an alleged co-conspirator. You don't think Binalshibh would lie to try to protect one of his accomplices, do you? Is the German judge's logic really that "Binalshibh says he didn't do it, so I guess he didn't do it."?

And the Germans wonder why a lot of Americans don't think they have any business making money from the reconstruction of Iraq.

Oh by the way, here's the best part. It's America's fault, and he is owed an apology.

"I think the Germans will have to offer him a major apology and that he will be able to stay here," said the attorney, Josef Graessle-Muenscher, ......The Americans should consider what they have caused. Statements they kept secret led to a guilty verdict."

Imagine the nerve of those Americans. They didn't broadcast the transcripts of the interrogation of the key planner of the 9/11 attacks so as to assist the legal defense team of an alleged accomplice. As you might imagine, not all the Germans involved are pleased with the decision:

The court's decision infuriated prosecutors. Lead prosecutor Walter Hemberger also said that the unidentified witness could only be Binalshibh and that any evidence from him was probably an attempt to protect others. The federal police's fax did note that the witness had provided contradictory information in the past and that those who went to al Qaeda training camps were taught how to behave if arrested and interrogated.

Really? Sounds like they actually have a sort of organized conspiracy thing going on here. Whadduya think?

On the other hand, here's evidence that not all of Germany is asleep at the wheel in the War on Terror.

Not A Good Move

Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan of The Weekly Standard slam the Pentagon's decision to exclude certain countries from bidding on Iraq reconstruction contracts, and call for its reversal:

A deviously smart American administration would have quietly distributed contracts for rebuilding Iraq as it saw fit, without any announced policy of discrimination. At the end of the day, it would be clear that opponents of American policy didn't fare too well in the bidding process. Message delivered, but with a certain subtlety.

A truly wise American administration would have opened the bidding to all comers, regardless of their opposition to the war -- as a way of buying those countries into the Iraq effort, building a little goodwill for the future, and demonstrating to the world a little magnanimity.

But instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing. The announcement of a policy of discriminating against French, German, and Russian firms has made credible European charges of vindictive pettiness and general disregard for the opinion of even fellow liberal democracies. More important, it has made former Secretary of State James Baker's very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible. This is to say nothing of other areas where we need to work with these governments.

Anti-Semitism On The March

Two good companion pieces on anti-Semitism have appeared online in recent days. This NewYorkMetro.com article posits a disturbing "new reality":

For the past eighteen months or so, members of the Jewish community—intellectuals, activists, heads of various organizations, and laypeople—have been struggling desperately to find an effective strategy to address the new reality.....It is once again acceptable in polite society, particularly among people with left-of-center political views, to freely express anti-Jewish feelings. What only two or three years ago would have been considered hateful, naked bigotry is now a legitimate political position.

And Anne Bayefsky, in this WSJ Op-Ed piece details the diplomatic contortions and shameless hypocrisies that the United Nations has engaged in to avoid condemning anti-Semitism. That this diseased body poses as a legitimate forum to resolve international disputes of any kind is a sad joke. Read both. It's all good.

Freedom's Best Friend

Robert Bartley, 1937-2003

I had enjoyed reading Bob Bartley's column and his WSJ editorial page for several years before I came to understand what a major force he had been in the early days of the conservative movement in this country. Reading Peggy Noonan's remembrances of him tells me that this was in part because he wasn't a self-promoter. The Journal's editorial page echoes those observations in this eulogy today.

UPDATE 12/12: WSJ colleagues continue to pay their respects. A tribute from Daniel Henninger.

And another from Irving Kristol.

Browns Revolving Door

Couch is in, Holcomb is out. Seven times this season alone, Butch Davis has changed his mind as to who his starting quarterback is. I think this ESPN.com article put it nicely:

"The Browns haven't had a quarterback controversy this season. The revolving door has been a fiasco.."

Davis has demonstrated to the fans and to both quarterbacks that he really doesn't have confidence in either one of them to be "the guy". He has written the textbook on how not to handle a situation like this. But let's deal with where we are, since we all know where we've been.

Couch is the man of the moment, even though it's mostly because Holcomb has manifestly fumbled his golden opportunity. ("Intercepted his opportunity" just didn't work there.) As recently as a week ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Couch would be packing his bags after the 2003 season. You don't pay a backup QB $8 million a year, and Davis had long since signaled that Couch was not the favored candidate to be the long-term answer at QB.

But a couple of funny things have happened since Holcomb was declared the starter, and immediately began to unravel. With the monkey off his back, Couch seems to be playing with more confidence, and Davis, while loathe to ever admit he has been wrong about anything, now admits that he's just looking for someone...anyone, to play with some consistency. He'd settle for two weeks in a row at this point.

Now that it looks like Couch will finish out the season as the starter, the front office is singing a little different tune about his future here. For his part, Couch says he wants to be here, and would consider restructuring his contract in order to help make that happen.

I admit to having been caught up in the Holcomb hysteria, fed by the performance in the playoff game against Pittsburgh last year. The team just seemed to be crisper, and responded better to Holcomb at the helm. Suffice to say, I don't see that difference anymore. I doubt that anything of substance has changed in terms of Davis' opinion of Couch as the future of the team at QB. He's simply trying to play the cards he has been dealt. The team will look to sign a veteran in the offseason, and will probably draft a QB in '04 or '05. With a couple of new cards in his hand, lets hope Davis is a smarter player next time around.

More Cleveland Sports Notes:

How tough is Phil Dawson? The Browns kicker broke his arm making a tackle in the first quarter Monday night, but finished the game, kicking off three times and kicking a couple extra points. That got his teammates' attention.

Jacobs Field will feature a new scoreboard this coming season. The existing scoreboard is subdivided into three small screens, which are surrounded by banner advertising displays large and small. The new scoreboard will have one display screen, measuring 36 ft by 149 ft.

The Indians picked up a left-handed reliever yesterday, acquiring Cliff Bartosh on waivers from Detroit. Does it say something about your pitching staff when you are picking up guys who are waived by the worst team in baseball? Just asking.

Note: This entry has been cross-posted at Sportsblog. Check us out.

December 10, 2003

Norquist's Islamist Connections

Front Page Magazine carries this Frank Gaffney article about conservative Grover Norquist's ties to Islamist groups. It is introduced by David Horowitz, who calls it "the most disturbing that we at frontpagemag.com have ever published". Well it is disturbing, and it's worth reading in full.

You can chase that article with this post at Winds of Change, that documents and links to a number of articles that made up the build-up to this confrontation. It's absolutely nuts for the Bush administration to cater to these Islamist groups, which they apparently feel they must do for political reasons, when those same groups walk out of their White House photo-ops and proceed to denounce the administration left and right, and then continue their vocal and financial support for radical Islamist and terrorist causes. As Gaffney suggests, it's time for principled conservatives to isolate Norquist and hold up his activities for public scrutiny and debate, even if he is supposed to be on "our side".

December 8, 2003

Environmentalism As Religion

One of the more interesting online essays I have read in months is this transcript of a recent speech by author Michael Crichton. It is about the modern religion of environmentalism, in which faith and politics have taken over for facts and science, respectively. Here he states his premise:

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

I think Crichton is on the money with this. For the believer, the cause is moral and just and thus its proponents are virtuous. If a program can be even vaguely termed "environmental" it is inherently "good", if not an urgent priority needed to avert a "crisis", lest some predicted disastrous event occur. To oppose any such program, regardless of the rationale, is to be "anti-environment", a politically incorrect condition if there ever was one. More from Crichton on "facts":

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

And if faith has substituted for facts, so has politics replaced science:

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There's a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren't true. It isn't that these "facts" are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all---what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

This trend began with the DDT campaign, and it persists to this day. At this moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. In the wake of Carol Browner, it is probably better to shut it down and start over. What we need is a new organization much closer to the FDA. We need an organization that will be ruthless about acquiring verifiable results, that will fund identical research projects to more than one group, and that will make everybody in this field get honest fast.

Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost.

I have blogged before on the DDT ban issue, and it's a great example of how politics and bureaucratic inertia combine to pervert good intentions, and in that case, kill literally millions of people.

I have generally been sympathetic with the arguments of people who have identified environmentalism as the next (last?) great hope of the statists, a pretext for government to control and co-opt private business, socialism having ended on history's ashheap, and the welfare state having reached its practical limits as a club with which to bash free enterprise over the head.

I do believe that parts of the modern environmental movement have been hijacked, in part by the enemies of capitalism, and by others less ideological like France and Germany, who think their interests are served by hurting America economically, the Kyoto agreement being a recent example of that tack.

For the former, capitalism is by definition the enemy of the environment, (despite convincing evidence that the free market democracies are the best at practicing sound environmental law and public policy, and have the best track record of environmental action and improvement in air and water pollution levels, for example.) For the latter, environmental programs seem to be a front for the effort to rein in the U.S. economic juggernaut, as a way to level the playing field so that Western Europe has a prayer of staying in the game.

So there I go talking politics in an area that Crichton says needs to be de-politicized. He's right about the need to rely on solid science for making good public policy, and we can't do that amid the doomsday rhetoric of the "true believers". That's why we need more voices like that of Bjorn Lomborg. Because he's an environmentalist who is moved by facts, not faith. For a wonderful review of his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, click here.

In closing, I'm going to quote from my own blog post of 7/27/03, because this is about as well as I can express it:

Absent the apocalyptic rhetoric, environmentalism can become what it should be. A serious topic for scientific study, a matter for vigorous public policy debate, and concerted government and private sector action. The environmental lobby can become what it should be. One among many "interest groups" in our society, educating citizens, recommending options, and advocating for environmental issues as significant priorities to be addressed by a society and a government with finite resources, and other important priorities.

Crichton has helped to explained why the environmentally "religious" don't want that to happen.

December 7, 2003

A Real War

Victor Davis Hanson. Required reading.

Remember the worry about "getting the message out"? We all know the tiresome refrain: If the Arab world just knew about all the billions of dollars we give; all the Muslims we saved from the Balkans to Kuwait; all the censure we incurred to ease Orthodox Russians' treatment of Muslims in Chechnya, to stop Orthodox Serbian massacres of Albanians, or to discourage Chinese attacks on their own Muslim tribes; then surely millions of the ill-informed would reverse their opinion of us.

Sorry, the truth is just the opposite. The Arab street knows full well that we give billions to Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians — and are probably baffled that we don't cut it out. They also know we have just as frequently fought Christians on their behalf as Muslims; they know — if their voting feet tell them anything — that no place is more tolerant of their religion or more open to immigration than the United States. Yes, Islamists all know that opening a mosque in Detroit is one thing, and opening a church in Saudi Arabia is quite another. Hitler wasn't interested in Wilson's 14 Points or how nicely Germans lived in the U.S. — he cared only that we "cowboys" would not or could not stop what he was up to.

No, the message, much less getting it out, is not the problem. It is rather the nature of America — our freewheeling, outspoken, prosperous, liberty-loving citizens extend equality to women, homosexuals, minorities, and almost anyone who comes to our shores, and thereby create desire and with it shame for that desire. Indeed, it is worse still than that: Precisely because we worry publicly that we are insensitive, our enemies scoff privately that we in fact are too sensitive — what we think is liberality and magnanimity they see as license and decadence. If we don't have confidence in who we are, why should they?

Adler on Bush Enviro Policy

It is an article of faith for the anti-Bush crowd that his administration's record on environmental issues is horrendous, but their criticisms are often short on specifics. In this detailed piece by Jonathan Adler, some of the distortions and outright misstatements by critics of the Bush environmental record are set straight. It's not a whitewash though, as Adler is critical of certain aspects of Bush's policy. But it may come in handy as a reference document between now and November, 2004.

UPDATE 12/18: RFK Jr. responds to Adler's critique of his article, and Adler gets in the last word.

Excavating The Mass Graves

An article from The Guardian. No further comment is necessary. (via Instapundit)

December 6, 2003

"New Credibility Questions"

It could have been Scrappleface, but it was The Washington Post. Demonstrating the absurd lengths to which the press will go to criticize George Bush or to manufacture a scandal, the Post dedicated 900 or so words to a story about the turkey that appeared in photographs of the President's visit to the troops in Baghdad. It seems the pictured turkey was not the one actually consumed by the troops, apparently proving once again the duplicity of this administration. According to the Post, this media manipulation "opened new credibility questions". As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up.

People who were actually there were able to see something other than a "photo-op", and were able to react with something other than cynicism. An email sent by a captain in the intelligence corps who attended the dinner provides an angle on the story that somehow didn't come through in much of the press reporting of the event. Here's an excerpt:

"Then, from behind the camouflage netting, the President of the United States came around. The mess hall actually erupted with hollering. Troops bounded to their feet with shocked smiles and just began cheering with all their hearts. The building actually shook. It was just unreal. I was absolutely stunned. Not only for the obvious, but also because I was only two tables away from the podium. There he stood, less than thirty feet away from me!

The cheering went on and on and on. Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them were crying. There was not a dry eye at my table. When he stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running down his cheeks. It was the most surreal moment I've had in years. . . . Here was this man, our President, came all the way around the world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the most dangerous airport in the world, where a plane was shot out of the sky not six days before. Just to spend two hours with his troops. Only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hours flying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it."

This Weekly Standard article contains the full text of the email, along with a couple of suggestions for the Post investigative reporting team to work on when they've wrapped up the Turkeygate story:

(1) White House sources tell us that the president's remarks to the troops may secretly have been drafted not by the president himself, but by a paid team of speechwriters.

(2) When the president appears on formal occasions like the State of the Union, it only looks like he's reciting his speech from memory. In fact, using something called a TelePrompTer that he can see but we can't, he's reading his lines.

(3) Finally, and this may require an internal probe at the Post, we hear that members of the White House press corps have been known to write out in advance those impromptu-sounding questions they ask the president at his televised news conferences--just so they will look more commanding and professional when they're on camera.

December 5, 2003

An Exception to Every Rule?

I hate football pregame shows and I especially hate halftime "extravaganzas". And of all such useless fluff, I hate Super Bowl pregame and halftime shows the most. I mean, I wouldn't watch a Super Bowl halftime show if they had beautiful models dressed only in lingerie playing a game of tackle football.......Say what?

(link via who else?...Dave Barry Blog)

Bush Derangement Syndrome

Charles Krauthammer, the columnist who used to be a psychiatrist, has identified a new syndrome...BDS:

Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush. Now, I cannot testify to Howard Dean's sanity before this campaign, but five terms as governor by a man with no visible tics and no history of involuntary confinement is pretty good evidence of a normal mental status. When he avers, however, that "the most interesting" theory as to why the president is "suppressing" the Sept. 11 report is that Bush knew about Sept. 11 in advance, it's time to check on thorazine supplies. When Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) first broached this idea before the 2002 primary election, it was considered so nutty it helped make her former representative McKinney. Today the Democratic presidential front-runner professes agnosticism as to whether the president of the United States was tipped off about 9/11 by the Saudis, and it goes unnoticed. The virus is spreading.

Read it all. The Barbra jab alone is worth the click.

Doing Cleveland Proud

At least the "Creatures of the Forest" are planning to vote for Dennis Kucinich, (which I suppose gives a whole new meaning to the term "butterfly ballot".)

It has not been a good week for us proud Clevelanders. First we hear that some of the racist letters threatening black athletes were found to bear Cleveland postmarks.

Now the local Congressman, who apparently never tires of being a laughingstock, is bragging about the "endorsement" of one Grandfather Twilight. The man makes parody unnecessary.

(DK link via The Corner)

The Fence

Israel's security fence, still under construction, is politically controversial and it represents an inconvenience for some Palestinians. But since the current intifada began 39 months ago, suicide attacks by Palestinian terrorists have occurred on an average of one every ten days, and have killed 477 people and injured 3239. The fence has already saved Israeli lives. It's neither a perfect solution nor a long-term one, but if it helps keep innocent Israelis from being blown up, it's justifiable in the short term. Here's a good UPI article on the topic. (link via Chicago Boyz)

December 4, 2003

Sad Days For Chicken Little

I liked this cartoon from Rodger Schultz' irreverent blog, Curmudgeonly and Skeptical.

Sowell On Busybodies

Thomas Sowell, a guy who always talks plainly and makes sense, has a terrific series this week in his Townhall column called "The High Cost of Busybodies". In Part One, the aforementioned busybodies make laws to prevent people from paying for organ donations:

With more than 80,000 people on waiting lists for various organs, and many dying while waiting, why prevent such transactions? One reason is that third parties would be offended.

You know the words and the music: How terrible that the rich can buy other people's body parts -- and that the poor are so desperate as to sell.

If you think that you have a right to forbid other people from making such voluntary transactions, then you are saying that your delicate sensibilities are more important than the poverty or even the deaths of other people.

In Part Two the busybodies make laws to "preserve farmland", but their motives have more to do with their own self-interest:

The real reason for preventing farmland from being sold to those who might build housing on it is that the people who live in that housing might not be as upscale as those already living nearby. Developers -- heaven forbid -- might build apartments or townhouses in a community where people live in single-family homes.

In other words, developers might build some of that "affordable housing" that some people talk so much about and do so much to prevent.

Read them all, including Part Three, on the crisis of a lack of "affordable housing", which strangely enough occurs mostly where busybodies are concentrated in great numbers.

December 3, 2003

LeBron To Appear On MNF

From the Akron Beacon Journal, comes this report, apparently designed to test yet again the theory that there's no such thing as "too much LeBron" on national TV:

According to an ABC spokesman, LeBron James will spend some time in the booth with Al Michaels and John Madden during the Monday Night Football telecast next week, when the Browns host the Rams. It's planned to tie in to ABC's upcoming NBA coverage, in which Michaels will do the play-by-play on some games. The Cavaliers will be on ABC on Feb. 22, when James plays his first game in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

James said Tuesday that he was looking forward to the appearance Monday, but that the final details are still being ironed out. James is a huge fan of Madden's signature NFL football video game.

How nice for them both. I'll be at the game, so I'll miss this nonsense. I just hope the Browns show up.

How The Saudis Buy The State Dept.

Joel Mowbray has done as much as anyone to expose the all too cozy relationship between the Saudi royal family and the U.S. State Dept.. His book Dangerous Diplomacy breaks new gound on that topic. In this Townhall article, he looks at another embarrassing example of the kid glove treatment given even to known terrorists, who happen to be in the company of our "friend" Crown Prince Abdullah. I guess it's because of that Saudi-sponsored "supplemental retirement plan":

Though it cannot be said that U.S. diplomats do favors for the Saudis in the hopes of lucrative payoffs later on, the Saudis reward those officials who were kind to them while working for the State Department. Scads of former State Department officials now either work directly for the Saudis or for organizations that take Saudi petrodollars.

The Saudis think it is money well spent. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador the United States, once said, “If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.”

Kudos To Kristol and Rosett

Claudia Rosett in today's Opinionjournal.com:

Taiwan, home to the first Chinese democracy, has entered a stretch in which the National Security Council is preparing to outdo even the usually pro-Beijing State Department by savaging Taipei during Mr. Wen's visit next week. Taiwan has been considering a referendum next year on independence. This is objectionable to Beijing's regime, which in its entire 54-year history has never allowed a genuine national election, or referendum, on anything whatever. Word in Washington is that the NSC, eager to placate China, is now considering a shift from stated U.S. policy in which we "do not support" independence for Taiwan to a stance in which we "oppose" independence, and would condition arms sales to Taipei on the democratic government there not provoking Beijing.

These may sound like minor nuances; but in the delicate realm of diplomatic ambiguities that have allowed Taiwan's democracy to flourish, such changes would be a savage blow to Taiwan's democrats, and a sop not only to Beijing, but to dictators everywhere. The absurd hope in Washington seems to be that Beijing might reward a U.S. betrayal of Taiwan by yanking its support from North Korea and becoming a regime of slightly more tractable despots--at least for a few minutes. Don't hold your breath. The real result of offering up Taiwan to please China would be to encourage aggression against the U.S. and its allies, not just from Beijing, but from dictators worldwide who would doubtless take note.

Bill Kristol agrees that a change in our Taiwan policy would make a confrontation more, not less likely. I'm all in favor of good relations with China as a way to encourage a transition to democracy on the mainland, but not if it means caving in to the demands of dictators, to the peril of Taiwan's freedom and democracy.

December 2, 2003

French Declinism

A great piece by Christopher Caldwell on the decline of France. The virulent anti-Americanism serves only to divert attention from real homegrown problems, political and economic. For starters, the move to shorten the work week hasn't worked:

The short week was meant to spread limited jobs around; it wound up doing the opposite, serving as what Baverez calls a "weapon of mass destruction for industrial production and employment." Today France has the highest youth unemployment in Europe, at 26 percent; only 37 percent of its over-55 population works, a world low. Its employment rate of 58 percent is at the bottom of the developed world. (The figure is 62 percent in the European Union and 75 percent in the United States.) And this grim employment picture is worsened--some would even say caused--by a political inequity. Over the past decade, public-sector employees have been able to enrich themselves in ways that private-sector ones cannot. Government employees can retire after 37.5 years on the job, versus 40 for private workers; they get 75 percent of their salary as a pension, versus 62 percent in the private sector; and the salary in this calculation is based on the best-paid six months for government workers, versus an average of their last 25 years for workers in private industry. So the latter wind up subsidizing the former.

France's decline on the foreign-policy stage has the same root cause, Baverez thinks: a desperate, retrograde clutching at institutions that no longer serve their original purpose. Nostalgic for the bipolar confrontation of the Cold War--not just because it was stable but also because it provided a context in which France could leverage its international power--France is stuck in the 1960s. It has shown "reserve" towards the new democracies of Eastern Europe, from its early opposition to German reunification to President Chirac's condemnation of America's East European allies last spring as "not very well brought up." (Must have been that Communist education.)

And a new "hard left" is forming that resembles its U.S. counterpart in that it doesn't make much sense:

While the country and its leaders have been spinning theories about globalization and American hegemony, a fresh problem has arisen--the resurrection of a hard left. In mid-November, the second annual European Social Forum was held in three Communist-controlled suburbs around Paris. With 55 plenary sessions and 250 seminars, the Forum gathered the losers of postmodernity under the banner of opposition to global capitalism.

With its roots in the World Social Forums held annually in Porto Alegre, Brazil, this European social movement has taken strong root in France, Spain, and Italy. Its motto--"Another world is possible"--promises a Marxist utopia with no program for getting there. Unlike Soviet communism, it offers little mystery and enigma--it's a nullity wrapped in a zero concealed in a nothing. In a certain light, it appears thoroughly ridiculous. Its adherents will tell you with a straight face that they seek a "Third Way" between Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush. When you sign up for a press pass to the ESF, you're asked to check, under "gender," either "Homme," "Femme," or "Autre." What's more, as with many such movements, you cannot study it up close without risking death by boredom. Even Bernard Cassen, spokesman for one of the organizing groups, tells reporters: "From one forum to the next, we're always kind of repeating the same thing, and we never arrive at anything concrete. We can't go on this way." According to Cassen, the "main weakness" of the Forums is that they leave the working classes cold.

Yes, but they're "anti-war".