December 30, 2006

New URL For My Law Blog

I have had a law blog associated with my firm's website since February 2006, but after an initial burst, didn't post to it much, partly because it was created in iWeb, Apple's proprietary website editing program.

It creates pretty websites and has a simple interface, but the code is kludgy and the blog format in particular has problems, such as creating weird URLs. After Blogger came out with its new version, I did the work to move the old blog posts over to a new format and URL, which is a lot easier to use and loads faster.

I know that other programs are fancier, but I'm used to Blogger and the results are acceptable. The revised site is here. The content isn't new yet, but I hope to post regular long posts on legal issues.

UPDATE: The link was broken. Now it's fixed. My face is red.

December 29, 2006

Prosecuting the Prosecutor

The North Carolina State Bar has bitten the bullet and is after prosecutor Michael Nifong, whose conduct in trying the Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape in the press, apparently for electoral advantage, has been a racially- and politically-motivated disgrace.

Now the Duke Trustees should look into the disgraceful conduct of Richard Brodhead, Duke's President, who joined the lynch mob attacking his own students, rather than taking a careful look at the facts.

Racial animus is apparently considered enlightened, when directed at crac . . ., I mean white folks.

UPDATE: A detailed, knowledgeable discussion of the State Bar charges here.

Vegetable Love

One of my favorite photographers, Rick Lee of West Virginia, displays his orderliness by shopping for groceries every Thursday night.

Rick then posts the most amazing (and sensual) photographs of vegetables. He's on Week 66 by now, and there's always something new.

As Andrew Marvell put it, "My vegetable love shall grow,/ Vaster than empires, and more slow . . . "

Check him out.

December 27, 2006

Apres Gaston, Oscar. Apres Oscar, Gaston.

Independence advocate Oscar Temaru was replaced by Gaston Tong Sang, the Mayor of Bora Bora, as President of French Polynesia.

M. Tong Sang is an "autonomiste" (pro-French) poliitician, and a colleague and supporter of Gaston Flosse, the former President, a buddy of Jacques Chirac.

The Assembly is full of tiny parties, whose coalitions fragment and re-form.

Recently, the cost of living has been going through the roof.

Polynesians' backs are curved from supporting all those fat Frenchmen.

What if They Gave a Photo Op and Nobody Came?

The ineffable John Kerry went to Iraq, called a press conference, and no one showed up, so it was cancelled.

Then he went to breakfast, and even though there were many Massacusetts soldiers there, not a single one sat with him. They must be too dumb to understand the Senator's witty table talk.

As they used to say at the Montessori school, "So sad."

HT: Michelle Malkin.

UPDATE: A commenter, below, says questions have been raised about the timing of the photo and hence whether it accurately shows soldiers' reactions to the Senator's notorious remarks. Michelle Malkin, from whom I borrowed the photo, has been asked similar questions, and responds here. I agree with her: if the photo turns out to be a fake, or a true photo used in a misleading way, I would owe the Senator an apology. According to Michelle's post, the matter remains uncertain.

Contrary to the commenter's implication, I would not want to state inaccurate facts about Sen. Kerry. Although I dislike his politics and his style, both of which are fair game in a public man, I neither need nor want to misstate facts about him.

FURTHER UPDATE: Michelle now rules that the debunker has been debunked.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Debunked, apparently.

The Old Taboos Are Dead. Long Live the New Taboos!


Harold Meyerson is a leftist columnist, I'd say a sort of Social Democrat, who writes for the L.A. Weekly and now has moved up to the Washington Post. I don't know Meyerson's religious affiliation, or even if he has one, but based on his tone and his politics, my guess is he's an secular ethnic Jew, although he might give a nod in the direction of Michael Lerner or Arthur Waskow, two left-wing soi-disant rabbis.

In the WaPo, Meyerson nevertheless writes about the current travails of the Episcopal Church, where a minority of traditionally Christian churches are struggling with the fact that their church has consecrated a practicing homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, and elected as its head a bishopess, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who endorses Robinson's consecration and the performance by Episcopal priests and priestesses of blessings on homosexual unions. The struggle of the traditionalists has led to some leaving the Anglican communion, others separating themselves from the American church and putting themselves under African bishops who follow a traditional Christianity.

Meyerson, referring to the old Falls Church in Fairfax, Virginia, a dissenting congregation that has voted to pull out of the Episcopal Church, has invented an inversion of the old canard of the International Jewish Conspiracy, the "Orthodox International":
The alliance of the Fairfax Phobics with Archbishop Restaurant Monitor [a Nigerian bishop, Peter Akinola, who allegedly advocated legislation to restrict gay restaurants] is just the latest chapter in the global revolt against modernity and equality and, more specifically, in the formation of the Orthodox International. The OI unites frequently fundamentalist believers of often opposed faiths in common fear and loathing of challenges to ancient tribal norms. It has featured such moving tableaus as the coming together in the spring of 2005 of Israel's chief rabbis, the deputy mufti of Jerusalem, and leaders of Catholic and Armenian churches, burying ancient enmities to jointly condemn a gay pride festival. The OI's founding father was none other than Pope John Paul II, who spent much time and energy endeavoring to reconcile various orthodox Christian religions and whose ecumenism prompted him to warn the Anglicans not to ordain gay priests.

John Paul also sought to build his church in nations of the developing world where traditional morality and bigotry, most especially on matters sexual, were in greater supply than in secular Europe and the increasingly egalitarian United States, and more in sync with the Catholic Church's inimitable backwardness. Now America's schismatic Episcopalians are following in his footsteps -- traditionalists of the two great Western hierarchical Christian churches searching the globe for sufficiently benighted bishops.

In recent years Anglican churches have experienced their greatest growth in the developing world, which could tilt the entire global Anglican Communion toward more traditionalist norms. Only 13 of the 38 national churches within the communion ordain women as priests; only three -- the United States, New Zealand and Canada -- ordain women as bishops.

The American church, by contrast, has largely paralleled the transformation of Rockefeller Republicans into liberal, Democratic secularists. The old joke of New York politicos was that Jews had the incomes of Episcopalians but voted like Puerto Ricans. Now it's the Episcopal prelates who are voting like Puerto Ricans, or, more precisely, like liberal Jews. Some traditionalists fear the church isn't really theistic anymore. The comforting middle ground of the church of yore -- affirming the equality of some, not discussing the equality of others -- has eroded as the demands of women and gays and lesbians could no longer be dismissed.
It is not enough for the Meyersons of the world to be free to believe or not to believe, or to consecrate the homosexual agenda as a litmus test for admission into their supposedly enlightened circles. What is new is that they feel free, in the most Establishment of journals, to denounce followers of traditional religious ideas that have been the norm for centuries.

One would think that Meyerson, having no horse in the Episcopal Derby, would feel a bit sheepish about adopting a tone of hostile sarcasm against dissenters in a church he obviously cares nothing about.

Apparently not.

December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, RIP

Gerald Ford has passed.

He was a fundamentally decent and sensible man.

We could use more like him these days.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

This icon is from St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, and is currently on display at the Getty Museum.

December 19, 2006

Linkmania

Pictures of the dawn of the universe, plus a few million years.

The fifty most outrageous quotes of the year.

The origins of the pre-Christmas (Advent) fast, still the rule among the Orthodox, and a convert's reaction thereto (and to other stuff as well).

Georgian (not Atlanta, Tbilisi, in the Caucasus) folk music by the Rustavi Choir, now available on CD. Polyphony like you never heard.

What's Wrong With Fruitcake?


Captain Ed ruminates on the Christmas delicacy, and stirs up the usual swarm of fruitcake Philistines.

I happen to love the stuff, so it you receive one and look upon it as a giant hockey puck, send it this way.

Good ones at the Collin St. Bakery in Corsicana, Texas ("Gone to Corsicana, gonna pick a bale o' cotton), and at this monastery, so they say. I know the Corsicana ones are good, but of the monks' version, I only hear tell.

Boy Sopranos

Links to a Welsh tenor in a duet singing O Holy Night with his boy soprano self, and an English choirboy singing Panis Angelicus.

I have thought all the sordid, unkind thoughts that you have, and perhaps more, God forgive me. Suppress them. There is something divine in this music. Just listen.

HT: The incomparable Anchoress.

UPDATE: I embedded the YouTube link. Too cool.

Evolution


The folks at Demotivator have developed the world's greatest distraction.

December 15, 2006

Polynesia: Temaru Out Again


Independence advocate and President Oscar Temaru was ousted yet again in a narrow vote in the parliament.

There had been a series of incidents incited by former President Gaston Flosse's thugs, organized in the GIP (Polynesian Intervention Group), ostensibly a disaster-relief squad.

The cost of living is up.

There will be elections December 12th.

December 11, 2006

Comment Ban Poll--Gladwell vs. Sailer

Malcolm Gladwell, he of "blink" and "tipping point," is holding a plebescite on whether or not to ban Steve Sailer from the comment section of his blog.

Gladwell doesn't like Sailer's willingness to argue for empirical, and sometimes inherited, differences between what are defined as races.

"Racism" has become an emotionally charged term. It in fact has a number of different meanings. Sailer thinks there are more inherited statistical differences between races than is currently fasionable. Sailer's not rude, doesn't advocate depriving individuals of rights based on race, or politically economically discriminating against individuals based on their race, as does the President of the University of Michigan. I don't see the problem, but then I don't write popular science books with goofy titles, and so don't have a reputation in that field to defend.

Personally, I'd love to have the traffic Gladwell does, even if it included some trolls and critics. Eating my heart out.

Incidentally, Sailer doesn't allow comments on his own blog.

December 10, 2006

The Black Curley?


William Jefferson, the Louisiana Congressman, was reelected in spite of being under investigation for bribery. Although lately the quality of black elected officials has been particularly bad, and their dishonesty often fails to deter the electorate from reelecting them. Consider Marion Barry.

In earlier days, this phenomenon has not been confined to black elected officials. James Michael Curley, Mayor of Boston, was reelected as an alderman in Boston while in prison:
He is noted for having been elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1904 while in prison, having been convicted of fraud. Curley and an associate, Thomas Curley (no relation) took the civil service exams for postmen for two men in their district to help them get the jobs with the federal government. Though the incident gave him a dark reputation in respectable circles, it aided his image in working class or poor circles because they saw him as a man willing to stick his neck out to help a poor man.
This is not the only similarity between Irish and black Americans, but it will do for now.

Augusto Pinochet Buys the Farm

Chile's Augusto Pinochet is dead. Pinochet was the general who staged a US-backed coup that deposed elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

The ensuing few days were an ugly bloodbath, involving such atrocities as the cutting out of the tongue of the leftist folksinger Victor Jara, the torture and deaths of thousands and the exile of many more. Pinochet's secret police went so far as to carry out assassinations in the US. He's accused of absconding with lots of money from the public coffers as well.

Pinochet's régime instituted market reforms along the monetarist lines favored by the economists at the University of Chicago. Chile has since become a constitutional democracy, and its economy one of the strongest in Latin America, as the World Bank reports in "REGIONAL FACT SHEET FROM THE WORLD DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS 2006--Latin America and the Caribbean." Social indicators seem strong in comparative terms as well.

One should not deny the brutality of his régime. However, if it is true that the middle-run results have been positive, we are faced with the old breaking-eggs-to-make-an-omelet question. Leftists have made this excuse for régimes they like whose innovations they call historically necessary. Was Pinochet's brutality necessary for reforms that led to positive results? If so, how does one weigh one against the other?

UPDATE: Marc Cooper, who worked for Pinochet's predecessor, the ill-fated Allende, points out that Chile has one of the most unequal income distributions in Latin America. This is confirmed by Wikipedia:
Inequality and poverty continue to be the region's main challenges; according to the most recent report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) Latin America is the most unequal region in the world[9]. Moreover, according to the World Bank, nearly 25% of the population lives on less than 2 USD a day. The countries with the highest inequality in the region (as measured with the Gini index in the UN Development Report[10]) in 2006 were Bolivia (60.1) Colombia (58.6), Paraguay (57.8) and Chile (57.1), while the countries with the lowest inequality in the region were Nicaragua (43.1), Ecuador (43.7), Venezuela (44.1) and Uruguay (44.9).
The economy, being export-driven, apparently grows without the larger domestic market that a more equal income distribution might create.

I further venture to suggest that a victory by the forces surrounding Allende would, in the long run, have been worse.

New Template

Well, I used the new Beta Blogger software. This changed the look of the blog, for the better on the whole, but it made the Haloscan comments disappear, at least temporarily, and made some of the photos that were embedded in tables disappear, at least on my Mac iBook using Foxfire.

If you notice any other problems, let me know.

I may go back and edit some posts (not for content), to correct for these effects.

On the whole, I think it looks better . . .

Recent Natural Selection in Humans

A Nicholas Wade piece in the New York Times reports that two mutations for lactose tolerance in human adults arose in East Africa as recently as 3,000 years ago. The ability of adults to digest milk conferred a tremendous adaptive advantage among cattle herders. The mutations prevent the gene from being switched off after weaning. A different mutation with similar effects is found in northwest Europe, where a cattle-based agricultural economy also became dominant.

Aside from its intrinsic interest, this development raises the question--what other selective pressures, other than cattle domestication, have given rise to genetic changes in human populations? Are the tribes and regions that abound in excellent distance runners subject to selective pressures? In societies that reward scholars and test-takers, such as some Jewish groups and the Chinese Empire, does skill at book-learnin' confer a selective advantage? Did the Middle Passage, from Africa to American slavery, confer selective advantages on certain traits? If evolutionary change can be this rapid, lactose tolerance is unlikely to be an anomalous exception.

To consider seriously these important questions, we will have to give up our prudishness about inherited differences between populations.

December 6, 2006

Frightening--Separated at Birth?




Stéphane Dion

Jimmy Carter


For those warm-blooded souls who are ignorant of things Frostbackish, Stéphane Dion is the new leader of the Canadian Liberal Party. His resemblance to the ill-stared Georgian is not purely physical.

Poor fellow.

Nanny Bloomberg

New York City is moving towards telling restaurants what kind of fat to use in their cooking. I kid ye not:
The New York City Board of Health voted yesterday to adopt the nation’s first major municipal ban on the use of all but tiny amounts of artificial trans fats in restaurant cooking, a move that would radically transform the way food is prepared in thousands of restaurants, from McDonald’s to fashionable bistros to Chinese take-outs.

Some experts said the measure, which is widely opposed by the restaurant industry, would be a model for other cities. Chicago is considering a similar prohibition that would affect restaurants with more than $20 million in annual sales.

“New York City has set a national standard,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, who predicted that other communities would follow suit.

Does that mean a bunch of vegetarians in high places could ban red meat?

If they're worried about public health, why not ban sex outside of marriage, to prevent STDs and children growing up in one-parent households? Oh, that's right--sexual freedom is sacred to liberals, but other kinds are optional.

Mayor Bloomberg is a power-crazed freak. If it weren't for Michael Richards, I'd suggest a public hanging.

UPDATE: The learned Judge Posner applies "Chicago school" economic analysis, comes out tentatively in favor of the ban. Yours truly responds with mockery, intended to be respectful, even though I don't practice before Federal courts in the Windy City:

There is medical evidence that we would have less heart disease if we followed the the Ornish diet.

Should the Nanny State therefore ban bacon, cheese, and ice cream? If your analysis is correct, there would be no reason why not.

And why not follow Mao's example and compel the whole nation to exercise at specified times? Or Woody Allen's, and compel everyone to change their underwear daily, and to make sure they do so, to wear it on the outside of their clothes?

Oh, and ban alcohol? (Whoops, been there, done that.)

There is a moral and cultural value, however, in people not surrendering their autonomy and responsibility to a bureaucracy.


December 2, 2006

Swear Me In, And Bring Oreos

If Keith Ellison takes the oath of office on a Qur'an, will the first Rastaman Congressman take his oath while holding a spliff?

December 1, 2006

Not the Wolf You Thought You Owned

Steve Sailer linked to a fascinating post on the origins of the domestic dog by a U.K. "tetrapod zoologist," Darren Naish, who actually looks bipedal to me.

The conventional wisdom is that the dog is descended from some form of wolf, probably an Asian one. Naish points out that wolf behavior is not really compatible with any plausible story of domestication. Wolves are too big too live on camp scraps, too given to fighting over food, too driven to chase prey when early humans probably hunted by stealth, and have the wrong pack structure (only the top wolf pair breeds).

It's more likely, concludes Naish, that there was some form of canid, perhaps similar to the Qatar dog (above) and New Guinea Singing Dog (right) portrayed here, from which the domestic version emerged. Feral and pariah dogs tend to look like these fellows.

Think Indian pariah dogs, Basenji hounds, and Canaan dogs, "third world dogs" in general.

If domestic dogs aren’t wolves, what are they?

All of this begs the question: if domestic dogs aren’t wolves, what are they? The answer seems to be that Canis familiaris is a distinct species with its own independent history. Prior to domestication, it presumably existed as a relatively small, generalized canid that voluntarily adopted the commensal pariah niche still occupied by many dog populations today. This is supported by the morphological and molecular distinctiveness of domestic dogs, by the anatomy and behaviour of primitive domestic dog breeds, and by the archaeological and fossil record.

If this is true then the truly wild ancestors of modern domestic dogs are extinct. True, there are wild pariah-type dogs in various places around the world (there are wild populations of New Guinea singing dogs and dingos, for example), but they’ve been introduced by people. However, the lack of the original wild form in a species that has become domesticated or at least semi-domesticated is not unprecedented nor unusual: Dromedaries Camelus dromedarius, for example, only exist in the wild today in feral form, and are otherwise entirely domesticated, and the wild ancestors of modern domestic horses and cattle are entirely extinct. In fact the eradication of the wild ancestors of a domestic form is thought by some to one of the key historical events that occurs during the domestication process (Dobney & Larson 2006).
I love this stuff. Enough John McCain already. As Ferlighetti says of the dog who "trots freely in the street":
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
Read the whole thing: first Naish, and then Ferlinghetti.

November 27, 2006

The Biggest Story of Our Time: Breeders, Heretics, Libertines, and Ethnic Cleansers

So many of our present woes are due to thinking that we know things. To our four Jills in the jeep, let's add one Jim, apparently back at the steering wheel in the current war: James Baker, renowned foreign policy "realist" and the man Beltway wags are currently referring to as "the acting secretary of state." The "realists" think that "containment" and "stability" are wise strategies. In fact, they're the absence of strategy. The fertility rate in the Gaza Strip is one of the highest on Earth. If you measure the births of the Muslim world against the dearth of Bishop Kate's Episcopalians, you have the perfect snapshot of why there is no "stability": With every passing month, there are more Muslims and fewer Episcopalians, and the Muslims export their manpower to Europe and other depopulating outposts of the West. It's the intersection of demography and Islamism that makes time a luxury we can't afford.
Mark Steyn the inimitable once again writes on the demographic decline of Europe and the influx and high birth rates of Muslims, justly hand-wringing at the apparent trend. Although there is a fundamental weakness in any demographic argument that simply takes todays' figures and projects them in a straight line into the future, Steyn is far from alone in his concern, joined by Pat Buchanan, Tony Blankley, and Melanie Phillips, for starters.

Steyn relates this trend, among other things, to a brief interview in the New York Times, given by the incoming Episcopal Bishopess, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Schori boasts of the demograpic decline of her denomination:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

The Shakers, who practiced celibacy, and the Skoptsy, who castrated themselves, went the Bishopess one better, and are long gone.

Steyn relates the demographic trend to sexual indulgence cut loose from the family and reproduction, quoting from the actress Scarlett Johansson:
In a bit of light Bush-bashing the other day, she attacked the president for his opposition to "sex education." If he had his way, she said, "every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions." Whereas Scarlett is so "socially aware" (as she puts it) she gets tested for HIV twice a year.

Well, yes. If "sex education" is about knowing which concrete condom is less likely to disintegrate during the livelier forms of penetrative intercourse, then getting an AIDS test every few months may well be a sign that you're a PhD (Doctor of Phenomenal Horniness. But, if "sex education" means an understanding of sexuality as anything other than an act of transient self-expression, then Scarlett is talking through that famously cute butt.

Although no doubt there lingers in the Bishopess's ethical teaching some lingering notion of sexual restraint, her "stewardship" and Scarlett's "social awareness" lead to the same result, demographic decline of the practitioners.

If Steyn is pessimistic, the military commentator Ralph Peters is apocalyptic. He thinks Europe's current quasi-pacifism is a blip on a bloody screen, and the next terrorist bombing or three will uncork the bottle and release a genie of ethnic cleansing:

WE don't need to gloss over the many Muslim acts of barbarism down the centuries to recognize that the Europeans are just better at the extermination process. From the massacre of all Muslims and Jews (and quite a few Eastern Christians) when the Crusaders reached Jerusalem in 1099 to the massacre of all the Jews in Buda (not yet attached to Pest across the Danube) when the "liberating" Habsburg armies retook the citadel at the end of the 17th century, Europeans have just been better organized for genocide.

It's the difference between the messy Turkish execution of the Armenian genocide and the industrial efficiency of the Holocaust. Hey, when you love your work, you get good at it.

Far from enjoying the prospect of taking over Europe by having babies, Europe's Muslims are living on borrowed time. When a third of French voters have demonstrated their willingness to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front - a party that makes the Ku Klux Klan seem like Human Rights Watch - all predictions of Europe going gently into that good night are surreal.

I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe's Muslims.

Peters, in short, does not do a linear extrapolation. His history does not proceed in straight lines, but rather crooked ones. Whether Peters's particular scenario turns out to be accurate or not, he's almost certainly right that it's not simply a matter of Muslim breeders and ex-Christian libertines and semi-Christian environmentalists doing their respective things. As human beings are involved, there will be horror in the mix. Unwilling to do the practical now, such as limiting immigration and abandoning a feckless multiculturalism, Europe will be faced with bloodier events and starker choices in the future.

Peters points out that we may fare better. We are blessed with a better class of immigrant, an acquired skill at assimilating outsiders, and I will add, for the moment (outside of San Francisco and the Episcopal Church) less reluctance to breed.

Whatever the outcome, it is this story, not our ill-managed foray into Iraq, however important it is, and whatever its outcome, that is the story of our time. And in the next chapters, it will not be the Schoris or the Johanssens who will inherit whatever future there is.

November 26, 2006

Sunk Costs


Professor Steven Bainbridge, of my law alma mater, has no less than three blogs. I attempted that, but gave up one and don't regularly post on t'other. Bainbridge is a smart law prof of the "law and economics" variety.

Sometimes economists who hew too strictly to their paradigm end up with strange results, but in discussing Iraq, Bainbridge makes an important point, using the concept of "sunk costs."

If you decide to open an upscale restaurant, sign a lease and make the tenant improvements, and then discover it's next to a sewage plant and the neighborhood is full of gang-bangers, it makes no sense to stay there because of all the money you've invested. It's gone. You have to choose between the future costs of staying and continuing to pour in money, opening a new restaurant somewhere else with new money, or becoming an encyclopedia salesman. Your past rent payments and improvement costs are "sunk costs" and you ain't never gonna get them back. They're like last week's lottery ticket.

Bainbridge, without saying much about what we should do, points out that the costs to date in lives, treasure and reputation of the Iraq war must be analyzed the same way. The costs to date are sunk. The question is, what do we do going forward? I've looked at some of the costs of withdrawal, which anyone who advocates that position must consider. There are, of course, costs of staying, too, some predictible and some not. Bainbridge is right, though, that any analysis of our future costs most necessarily regard what's been done up to now as sunk costs.

(I don't mean to day, by the way, that the loss of credibility likely to result from withdrawal is to be ignored--that's a cost attendant upon future action. The same would be true off the effect on our credit if we abandoned our ill-fated restaurant, and then defaulted on the loans we took out to build it--that's a cost for future action, too).

November 22, 2006

Dumbest Op-Ed of the Year

Erin Aubry Kaplan wrote a column in the Whale today. Basically, she says Michael Richards got a bye for his racist tirade, while the now-cancelled publication of O.J.Simpson's book and broadcast of a TV interview was a major crisis.
[T]he reality is that there is far more tolerance for a white person's unseemly behavior than for similar behavior of somebody who isn't white, especially if the unseemliness involves race. Richards' "racist rant" has been described as a terrible but isolated incident. O.J., meanwhile, is condemned for his character.

Richards, like O.J., is a celebrity who achieved cult-hero status. Like O.J., he projects and reflects his followers' deepest held beliefs about things they don't even know they believe until — in a split second — something brings it to the surface and forces a crisis.

O.J. was and is a crisis on every level, including a public relations crisis. Richards, meanwhile, is so far simply a public relations challenge. This says more about equality — and the rules of decorum — than we like to imagine.
Silly me. I thought cutting off two people's heads is worse than screaming offensive invective from the stage.

Apparently, I was wrong. Next time I feel like screaming at someone I'll reach for my machete instead.

Good News From Anbar Province?

Bill Roggio says so:
The Anbar tribes' turn against al-Qaeda has developed significantly since the end of the Anbar Campaign late last year, which swept al-Qaeda and the insurgency from the major towns and cities west of Ramadi. Over the past year, the majority of the tribes have denounced al-Qaeda and formed alliances with the Iraqi government and U.S. forces operating in the region. Numerous 'foreign fighters' have been killed or captured by the tribes. The tribes are working to restore order, and are providing recruits for the police and Army, despite horrific suicide attacks on recruiting centers. These attacks have not deterred the recruiting, but in fact have motivated the tribes to fight al-Qaeda.
This is classic, of course. A minority or an out-of-power faction lining up with outsiders for protection, as the Lebanese Christians once did with France.

The sheer bloody-mindedness of the jihadis no doubt helped, too.

There are still the death squads in Baghdad and elsewhere, of course. But good news is still good. Just wish there were more of it.

Uncle Sam Doesn't Want You

The loudmouthed but interesting Charlie Rangel has revived his proposal to restore the draft. His concept, I think, is that a draft will make overseas intervention less politically palatable; and perhaps he partakes of what turned out to be a myth, the disproportionate participation of black in the services. Marc Cooper likes the idea, I think not so seriously and for the same reasons.

Aside from being a political non-starter, it's a bad idea.

Although I sympathize with the notion of shared sacrifice and a shared experience for youth that might impose some discipline and some commonality of culture, it’s a bad idea. Conscription is basically a form of slavery, justified only by an extraordinary national emergency that actually requires mass mobilization. Left and liberal libertarianism, of course, is largely limited to sexual matters (a notion worthy of a post of its own); perhaps that’s the reason for the tone-deafeness on the profoundly oppressive nature of conscription.

The old draft was for two years, when a few months’ training readied a soldier for service. Training for technologically complex warfare takes longer. Hence, the draft would be an inefficient way of getting more soliders/sailors/airmen.

Conscripton these days wouldn't universal service, unless we drafted most into street-sweeping and social work. Even if we increased the armed services by 500,000, only a small percentage of each age cohort would be conscripted. Whatever selective mechanism was chosen would be arbitrary.

It’s also a myth that the poor are serving in the military. The military uses both H.S. graduation, and tests that are basically IQ tests to select its troops. The poor are generally uneducated, perform too poorly on tests, and many have criminal records. You don't want semi-literate dropouts running million-dollar electronic equipment.

Where the draft proponents are right is that the rich and Ivy League types aren’t serving, duty and noblesse oblige being moribund concepts. The corruption of our élite universities being virtually limitless (matched only by the purveyors of mass culture), that’s hardly surprising. Try to conscript these folks and they will develop exotic diseases quicker than Dan Rather can say “Air National Guard.”

It's also an interesting thought experiment to draft men between 45 and 60, who are in better shape than they used to be. Old men used to send young men into war; what if we tried the opposite?

The Top 100 Americans

The Atlantic Magazine has a Thanksgiving list of the top 100 Americans.

Their list is surprisingly good. Too many politicians, though, and not enough folks from other fields (religion, culcha, and science).

Talk amongst yourselves.

Hat Tip: TigerHawk.

November 20, 2006

Ugly and Enduring: The Price of Withdrawal

The hounds are baying behind our Iraq adventure.

First, a confession. This blogger, with some hesitancy, supported the war, along with Tom Friedman, Charles Krauthammer, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Thus I cannot claim prescience about the present state of affairs. I was gloomier about Afghanistan, conscious as I was of British and Soviet routs in that distant, rocky land.

Pat Buchanan was one of those who opposed the project from the start, and not merely because he imagined it to be a fantasy of Pentagon Likudniks. Buchanan knows more history than most of our soi-disant pundits, and is almost always interesting even if he has retreated to skirmish on the political fringe.

It's of interest, then, to note that even as lefties and paleos clamor for prompt withdrawal, Buchanan pauses and considers the possible price, now that we've gotten into the Mesopotamian mud:

While our leaders never thought through the probable result of invading an Arab nation that had not attacked us, we had best think through the probable results of a pullout in 2007.

We are being told that by giving the Iraqis a deadline, after which we start to withdraw, we will stiffen their spines to take up greater responsibility for their own country. But there is as great or greater a likelihood that a U.S. pullout will break their morale and spirit, that the Iraqi government and army, seeing Americans heading for the exit ramp, will collapse before an energized enemy, and Shias, Sunnis and Kurds will scramble for security and survival among their own.

Arabs are not ignorant of history. They know that when we pulled out of South Vietnam, a Democratic Congress cut off aid to the Saigon regime, and every Cambodian and Vietnamese who had cast his lot with us wound up dead, in a “re-education camp” or among the boat people in the South China Sea whose wives and children were routinely assaulted by Thai pirates.

In that first year of “peace” in Southeast Asia, 20 times as many Cambodians perished as all the Americans who died in 10 years of war.

In Iraq, a collapse of the government and army in the face of an American pullout, followed by a civil-sectarian war, the break-up of the country and a strategic debacle for the United States—emboldening our enemies and imperiling our remaining friends in the Arab world—is a real possibility.

And this:
Democrats are probably reading the country right. Americans will not send added troops to Iraq, as McCain urges. They want out of this war and are willing to take the consequences.

But those consequences are going to be ugly and enduring. That is what happens to nations that commit historic blunders.
Unlike quite a few of the left-wing opponents of the war, who are genuine oikophobes and in their heart of hearts desire this country's defeat, Buchanan is what used to be called an "isolationist," but he is a patriot. He is not so besotted with the evils of Bush that he wishes to see his country defeated, even if the adventure was, in his view, misguided from the stat.

So what are the likely consequences of a withdrawal, dolled-up with escalation and diplomacy, or not?
  • A slaughter or exodus of those who allied themselves with us.

  • Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in this country.

  • Still greater reluctance of anyone with half a brain to rely on our promises.

  • One, two many Hugo Chavezes.

  • A multi-faction civil war in Iraq, with ethnic cleansing and slaughter as the country fragments.

  • Intervention, covert or overt, by neighboring states, notably Turkey, which fears a free Kurdistan, and Iran, to help (and to control) the Iraqi Shi'i.

  • Strengthening of the jihadis, who may gain some bases in Sunni Iraq and will in any case claim victory.

  • Internal division, as the blame game begins between the GOP, whose President started the war, and the Dems, who began to oppose it, and the GOP will seek to blame for undermining it.

  • Demoralization of our military.
There are other, more remote possibilities, like a Shi'a revolution all around the Gulf, a regional war between Shi'i and Sunni, some kind of involvement of the "Zionist entity."

What seems certain is, the consequences of withdrawal will not be pretty. I would find those who advocate it more persuasive, if, like Pat Buchanan, they owned up to the risks and likely consequences of the course they advocate, rather than simply piling on a beleaguered Administration, which, like it or not, is the only one we've got.

Sitting On Bayonets?


A gambit being bruited about the Pentagon these days, if the Gray Lady is accurate, is increasing the number of our troops in Iraq by another 20,000 men. What it is proposed to do with them is less clear. Some say increase the number of trainers of Iraqi forces, others devote them to policing insecure areas such as Baghdad.

It is Talleyrand, Napoleon's foreign minister, credited as he is with many an aphorism, who is supposed to have said, "You can do anything with bayonets, except sit on them." Another way of putting it is that armies are good at breaking things, but not at conserving or repairing them.

The problem in Iraq is that the sects and factions are killing one another, partly out of sheer orneriness and partly to position themselves for our departure, and there is no one, even a thug like Saddam, enough above the fray to prevent it. Like Yugoslavia, Iraq is an artificial creation, having its origin in the post-Versailles era, held together by a forceful dictatorship. Once the dictator, Tito in Yugoslavia, Saddam in Iraq, is gone, centrifugal forces grow, and there is nothing to hold the country together.

Were there a nest of rebels to uproot, more troops would have a mission. Just policing Baghdad more effectively will achieve little. The notion that GIs can effectively police an ancient megalopolis inhabited by Arabs is pie in the sky.

Perhaps if we trebled our army and sent half a millon troops to Iraq with orders to break things without hesitation, something could be achieved. Alas, I fear that although like awkward children we can be quite destructive, we are incompetent colonialists (visit Manila if you doubt it), and even tripling our force would prove itself futile. The lawyers, our press, and our consciences will not let us do what would be needed to prevail. If the French could not let General Massu prevail in Algiers, so much less will we do what would be needed to crush the opposition.

In Pontecorvo's film, The Battle of Algiers, there is a press conference. A reporter questions Colonel Matthieu (the Massu character) about the use of torture against FLN members. The colonel responds: "I’ll ask you a question myself: Should France stay in Algeria? If the answer is still yes, you’ll have to accept all the necessary consequences." Will we accept the "necessary consequences" of staying in Iraq?

If not, and in the absence of a clear military objective and a strategy for achieving it, sending in more GIs seems beside the point. On the other hand, there are military officers, no doubt, both braver and smarter than I am.

November 19, 2006

The Ministry of Silly Garb

Here's a gaggle of world leaders at the Asian Economic Summit.

Far be it from me to dis Vietnamese garb, which this must be, but they do look silly, especially the Chilean President.

November 17, 2006

November 16, 2006

Premature 2008 Handicapping


I wrote a comment for Daniel Larison's blog, but the server won't tell me whether it posted or not, so I've woven it into this-here post.

Larison wrote that none of the leading GOP candidates is worth a damn, and none is likely to win, but Tommy Thompson's hour has come and gone, so someone else was likely to emerge from the woodwork. None of this is a surprise. Daniel's a Young Fogy, albeit a smart one, and knows how to write, as do most of his commenters, unlike the maniacs who comment on Marc Cooper's blog.

Larison is a graduate student specializing in the Byzantines. His affectation of British spelling--"favourite"--is his way of boasting how really reactionary he is. Why he doesn't use ligatures--"Greenfleeves"--I'll never know.

The people of São Paulo, Brazil, once elected a rhinoceros, Cacareco (pictured above), as their mayor, although they didn't swear him in.

"None of the above" won't get the GOP nod this year, and the age of the "dark horse" and the "smoke-filled room" are, alas, gone. The baton will thus likely pass to one of the trio of leaders. McCain and Giuliani have been out collecting IOU's, and Romney's been gallivanting, too.

They all have handicaps. McCain is old news, and has the carcasses of McCain-Feingold, judges, and amnesty rotting around his neck. He does, however, have longevity, something that counts with the GOP (remember Dole?). Giuliani is a New Yorker with whiffs of sexual scandal and Big City liberalism about him on guns and gays, but the secret of randy Presidents is out, McCain's also divorced, and to many voters, Romney might as well be a polygamist. Giuliani's a better speaker than the others, which will be refreshing after W's lateral /s/. Romney's personable and is a governor, which historically has helped, but the phrase "Mormon from Massachusetts" just isn't accompanied by "Hail to the Chief" in my unimaginative brain.

I do remember prosecutor Giuliani perp-walking stockbrokers for the TV cameras, which I thought was a cheap trick, but he had his moment. 9/11 could have been a Katrina, but it wasn't.

As for the rest of the pack, Thompson's old news, Tancredo's a one-trick pony, no one even on the Left Coast has heard of Duncan Hunter, and one ex-Governor of Arkansas was too many.

Obviously, then, what we need is a native-born rhinoceros over 35.

Now that conveniences have exceeded all bounds...

…they have become inconveniences. Machines have multiplied, distractions have also multiplied, and man has been made into a machine. Machines and iron order men around, which is why their hearts have become as hard as steel.

Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos

To Hell In a Handbasket

Unfortunately for conservatives, the one candidate who espouses those First Principles is the one who famously betrayed them four years ago. McCain thought big government worked just fine when he sponsored the BCRA (McCain-Feingold), which curtailed political speech and protected incumbents from attack ads in the guise of taking money out of politics. A conservative would never trade free political speech for a top-down solution to any ill, let alone political advertisements. Never. Anyone who does simply cannot be trusted to implement limited-government solutions to any problem, ever.

Outside of Newt Gingrich, even the second-tier candidates offer nothing but the same kind of big-government Republicanism that has characterized the George Bush terms in office. Gingrich could make a comeback, but he has some unfortunate personal issues that will handicap him, and given what happened in the late Clinton years, there are questions about his tenacity on these First Principles as well. We have no Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater on the horizon, at least not yet, and the GOP is moving away from that direct at light speed in the new Congressional leadership races -- at least so far.

It may be time to take Mark Tapscott's advice, offered over the summer, and look outside the GOP for alternate methods of pursuing conservativism. All we find there is a nest of those who want to manipulate federal power as an engine for their own agendas, instead of reducing its reach and its intrusiveness. We have at least a year to see whether we can be more effective outside the party -- because the Republicans seem intent on proving that we have no place inside it any more. -- Cap'n Ed
Maybe we should pick up our marbles and go home.

"How much money we talking about?"

Jack Murtha: the gift that keeps on giving--for the GOP:

The sting involved undercover FBI agents posing as representatives of wealthy Arab sheiks willing to pay to obtain asylum in the United States. During the meeting in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, the agent offered Murtha $50,000 cash, and he refused it, stating “I'm not interested...at this point.” In 1980 a Washington Post report by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative columnist Jack Anderson revealed a transcript of recordings never released to the public. Anderson described Murtha's interaction with undercover FBI agents as "perhaps the saddest scene on the secret Abscam videotapes. ... He refused to take the money, but his reason was hardly noble."

"I want to deal with you guys awhile before I make any transactions at all, period," Murtha said. "After we've done some business, well, then I might change my mind. ... I'm going to tell you this. If anybody can do it – I'm not B.S.-ing you fellows – I can get it done my way. There's no question about it."

Murtha bragged that he could get things done in Congress and tried to explain his hesitation about taking money for favors.

"All at once, some dumb [expletive deleted] would go start talking eight years from now about this whole thing and say [expletive deleted], this happened," Murtha says, according to the transcript. "Then in order to get immunity so he doesn't go to jail, he starts talking and fingering people. So the [S.O.B.] falls apart."

The FBI officer then suggests: "You give us the banks where you want the money deposited."

"All right," said Murtha. "How much money we talking about?"

"Well, you tell me," says the FBI operative.

"Well, let me find out what is a reasonable figure that will get their attention," explains Murtha, "because there are a couple of banks that have really done me some favors in the past, and I'd like to put some money in."

After the video cuts off, Murtha continues: "…You know, we do business together for a while. Maybe I'll be interested and maybe I won't. ... Right now, I'm not interested in those other things. Now, I won't say that some day, you know, I, if you made an offer, it may be I would change my mind some day."

--Wikipedia
You can't make some stuff up.

Making W Seem Articulate

Jack Murtha.

Saw Rich Little the other night on Letterman. If Jack becomes majority leader, what an opportunity for impressionists!

November 15, 2006

He's Ba-a-a-a-a-ck

The Senate GOP has elected Trent Lott as its No. 2 guy.

Forget Strom Thurmond. Mistah Thurmond, he dead. But if Ted Stevens of Alaska, he of the Bridge to Nowhere, is the King of Earmarks, Trent Lott is the Duke.

The Ship of State is become the Ship of Fools.

UPDATE: Eleanor ("I think you're swell-anor") Clift, of all people, says Lott is a skilled operative at vote-gathering, which trumped his Kerryism in praise of Strom Thurmond, and, no doubt, his porkery. She even seems to admire his comeback:
If you were to ask a hundred people in Washington who is the least likely to learn from a bad experience, it would be Trent Lott. It took him days to issue a grudging apology for his remarks at the Thurmond birthday party, and as the debacle dragged on, Lott still looked like he didn’t get what happened. But he was forced into soul-searching, and at the end of the process, instead of sulking or working to undermine his successor, he buckled down, did his best to remain relevant and waited for an opportunity. If Lott can come back after four years in the wilderness, maybe his party can, too.
If Congress is going to wallow in porkfat, why not let the Dems do it. Historically, they're the experts.

My Nanny, My Whore

Already tainted -- if not indicted-- in the notorious 1980's ABSCAM bribery scandal, Murtha spent a good part of the 1990's undermining the House Ethics Committee. For the last handful of years, Murtha has used his ranking position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to funnel juicy military contracts to at least 10 clients of his lobbyist brother, Kit Murtha. Sorry, but this stinks to high heaven.
-- Marc Cooper

Well, he turned against the war, in a truly stupid fashion, but he's a veteran and so has "moral authority." Just ask Mrs. Huffington. He's also a buddy of Nancy Pelosi.

Fact is, corruption (both illegal and barely legal) is a bipartisan activity. There's a structural reason. As Willie Sutton supposedly put it, referring to banks, "That's where the money is."

The money's there because we ask the gummint to do everything. If you have a nanny state, nanny'll turn into a whore soon enough, and legislators and lawyers will create problems to sell solutions.

The beginning of political wisdom is pessimism about human nature.

Mock Trial

I took my 15-year old and three of her teammates to the courthouse for a round of mock-trial competition.

Using a set of facts, high-schoolers play all the roles in a real criminal trial, from prosecutor to bailiff. They argue constitutional law, give opening and closing statements, testify, and examine witnesses. These kids work as hard on this as high school athletes, and they do almost as well as, and sometimes better than, folks with bar cards.

My daughter played the accused, and got kudos from all sides. It's the only forum in which I'd like to see her as a defendant. The con law argument was done by an exchange student from Lisbon. Extraordinary that a person here for three months, from a country with a very different legal system, could make a good constitutional law argument in English.

These are bright, motivated, poised kids. If all high-schoolers were like these, I'd be a teacher in a Mexican minute.

Oh--and, she didn't do it.

November 10, 2006

Sacificing to the Great Satan

The people of Michigan resisted the efforts of their entire establishment to derail an anti-affirmative action initiative similar to California's Proposition 209. The new law will undergo a massive legal assault in the courts, even now.

The President of the University of Michigan is a shameless hussy named Mary Sue Coleman. Coleman doesn't even nod in the direction of disguising her unwillingness to accept the will of the people and her determination to disobey the law. She's obviously anxious to sacrifice another generation at the altar of Diversity:

If November 7th was the day that Proposal 2 passed, then November 8th is the day that we pledge to remain unified in our fight for diversity. Together, we must continue to make this world-class university one that reflects the richness of the world.

I am standing here today to tell you that I will not allow this university to go down the path of mediocrity. That is not Michigan. Diversity makes us strong, and it is too critical to our mission, too critical to our excellence, and too critical to our future to simply abandon.

This applies to our state as much as our university. Michigan’s public universities and our public bodies must be more determined than ever to provide opportunities for women and minorities, who make up the majority of our citizenry.

* * * *

I will not stand by while the very heart and soul of this great university is threatened. We are Michigan and we are diversity.

I am joined on these steps by the executive officers and deans of our university. We are united on this. You have my word as president that we will fight for what we believe in, and that is holding open the doors of this university to all people.

In short, obeisance to the Great Satan of Diversity trumps the will of the people and the law. Whether through subterfuge or complaisant unelected judges, the UM diversocrats are determined to carry out their program.

November 9, 2006

Defeat Becomes Him

George Allen was classier in defeat than in his campaign:
In conceding to Democrat Jim Webb, Allen said a recount would only increase the acrimony that has recently characterized the political landscape.

"I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation which would, in my judgment, not … alter the results," he said. "I see no good purpose being served by continuously and needlessly expending money and causing any more personal animosity."

Noting that the results were close, Allen urged supporters to stay strong. "Sometimes winds, political or otherwise, can blow the leaves off branches and even break limbs," he said. "But a deep-rooted tree will stand, stay standing. It'll regrow in the next season."

Within hours, Webb responded, saying that he and Allen plan to have lunch next week to ensure a smooth transition.
Sen. Webb should be very interesting.

Cornmeal Mystery Solved: Hear No Weevil

After several weeks, the mysterious disapperance of cornmeal from Southern California supermarket shells has been explained at long last:

Thousands of boxes of Albers grits and yellow and white corn meal have been voluntarily recalled from chains that carry its brand, including Stater Bros.and Safeway-owned grocers, company spokeswoman Roz O'Hearn said. Safeway is the parent company of Vons.

Albers, owned by food giant Nestle, is a well-recognized brand, with its orange and blue corn meal packaging found in many pantries during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Orange County grocers are part of a voluntary recall in eight states, O'Hearn said.

The manufacturer has yet to restock shelves since initiating the recall on Sept. 28. Going into the busy holiday season, "we're hoping to be back on shelves shortly," O'Hearn said.

What's amazing is that the media were so slow on the uptake. I posted about this on October 7. It may even have been an email from me that may have tipped of the Orange County Register.

And btw, it's "Albers Cornmeal," not "Albert's Cornmeal." Now the search engines will discover both here.

November 8, 2006

Time to Put Up or . . .

The Dems can no longer rely upon the stupidity and fecklessness of the GOP to make them look good. They have to come up with some kind of agenda. Don't hold your breath, proverbial or otherwise.

Pelosi made some bipartisan noises, but there are conflicting pressures in her party. I think we're going to have a lot of noisy hearings. Waxman's should be interesting and Conyers's, appalling.

We'll also have some innocuous feel-good measures, like a small minimum wage increase. Nice for the high-school kids at Mickey D's. Ethics rules will tighten, but corruption will find its own level. As long as the gummint is as big as it is and can pass out goodies, money will talk.

On substance, not much will get done. The new crop of Dems seems relatively centrist, while the leadership is hard liberal. The Senate will be one block, whoever controls it, the veto (yes, George, you'll have to use it) another. The country is center-right. The House will be center-left, with lots of anti-Bush noise.

The Republic will likely survive. It should be blogger fodder, anyway.

The Blame Game

Well, the results are in. I predict that Webb ultimately defeats the unworthy George Allen. Don't know nuthin' about Montana, though.

Although Iraq was a factor, the GOP lost more than the Democrats won. Here are some reasons:

1. Iraq, of course. Whether starting the war was right or wrong, the perception is that the Administration has lost its way.

2. Corruption, which stems from the GOP becoming the party of government (and K Street, where the lobbyists live).

3. Immigration.

4. Spending, especially earmarks.

5. All over timidity and fecklessness. Not even an attempt at entitlement reform. Weakness on judges. Obvious neglect as in the Foley case.

6. Game playing (the Schiavo case is an example).

November 7, 2006

Nagourney Hedges His Bets

Adam Nagourney is the Gray Lady's political reporter. He always seems to see things in the best light for the Dems.

This morning, he hedges his bets, asking what happens if the Dems don't take over the House and Senate, and suggesting gains would constitute a kind of victory, in spite of the disappointment among the donkeys.

For a combination of reasons — increasingly bullish prognostications by independent handicappers, galloping optimism by Democratic leaders and bloggers, and polls that promise a Democratic blowout — expectations for the party have soared into the stratosphere. Democrats are widely expected to take the House, and by a significant margin, and perhaps the Senate as well, while capturing a majority of governorships and legislatures.

These expectations may well be overheated. Polls over the weekend suggested that the contest was tightening, and some prognosticators on Monday were scaling back their predictions, if ever so slightly. (Charlie Cook, the analyst who is one of Washington’s chief setters of expectations, said in an e-mail message on Monday that he was dropping the words “possibly more” from his House prediction of “20-35, possibly more.”)

Perhaps he does see something. There's been a tightening in the polls.

I still think we'll see a Speaker Pelosi, but a narrrow GOP hold in the Senate.

Start plucking them crows. Somebody's gonna be barbecuing 'em.

November 5, 2006

All Things Are Permissible

This is a picture of the late Joey Masella. Joey is driving his cart in the Patriot's Day Parade, an annual event in Laguna Beach, California. Joey was born with a severe skin disease, epidermolysis bullosa. In spite of his disease, Joey was a good friend to many of his classmates and was the first student to be honored by the Thurston Middle School yearbook, which usually is dedicated to a teacher. He was an inspiration to many, and brought light into the lives of many.

If a proposal by the British Royal College of Gynaecology and Obstetrics were in effect when Joey was born, his light never would have shone:
The proposal by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is a reaction to the number of such children surviving because of medical advances. The college is arguing that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.
Source: Times Online.

The language associated with the proposal is scary. Another report refers to "widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns." It's ironic that although one of the arguments of the proponents is that there should be more openness in the discussion of these issues, killing is described not as killing but as "widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns."

Moreover, the "slippery slope" argument of the pro-lifers is conirmed by this:
The college’s submission was also welcomed by John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University. “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he said.
To this, a pro-lifer would no doubt say, "Precisely," but reach an opposite conclusion.

My dismay at this proposed study goes hand-in-hand with a recognition of the terrible suffering that parents and children experience when genetic diseases appear. I question, however, whether this practice is moral at all, and even if it might be in a certain case, whether once permitted it could be confined to "extremely controlled circumstances," as one doctor suggested. Pessimistic as I am both about human nature in general and the state of Western society in particular, I think the slope is very slippery indeed.

The recent debate about killing newborns gained impetus from the Groningen Protocol, a Dutch document that allows the killing of newborns. At the same time, the Europeans react in horror to the execution of murderers, and seem powerless to resist the rise of Muslim extremism among immigrant communities in their own countries. Many of the best Dutch people are emigrating, because they see a black future their own country. If Melanie Phillips is to be believed, the same danger is very real in Britain.

The decline of Christianity in Europe and the rise of a secularist culture has multiple consequences, among them an opening to baby-killing and an inability to resist the encroachment of a hostile religion. We Americans should not crow. We suffer from some of the same ailments. We are further up the same slope, which is getting slicker and seemingly steeper all the time.

Supposedly Dostoyevsky said, through the mouth of a character [Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Random House, 1950), I, 2, 5; II, 5, 5; IV, II, 6–8 (pp. 79, 313, 760).] "If God does not exist, all things are permissible." Looking at the state of our culture, Dostoyevsky seems prescient.

If we end up having a society in which a Joey could not live even his short, blessed life, because some doctor decided it would be convenient to kill him, we will be the poorer for it.

November 4, 2006

Red Tail

They opened a nature center near my home today. Folks from a raptor rescue center had their charges on display. This (taken with a cell phone camera) is a red-tailed hawk, taken from an unlicensed falconer, but too late to learn to hunt.

Hunting being foreclosed to him, he went into show business instead.

Handsome fellow.

November 2, 2006

Free Ahmed Qusai Al-Taayie

That's the name of the American soldier (Iraqi-born) now being held captive in Sadr City, after Prime Minister Maliki importuned our command to take down the checkpoints surrounding the area, and our military agreed.

Say what you will about the Israelis, but they take it seriously when one of their soldiers is held captive.

Rail all you want about foot-in-mouth John Kerry, this is a matter of honor (if it isn't, what is?).

We aren't protecting Iraqis against one another, and apparently we've waffled on protecting our own. I have a cousin who may soon be there. If he's captured, will we abandon him?

If the elected Prime Minister is a shill for Muqtada As-Sadr, what exactly have we achieved in the end, and what do we expect to achieve? Meanwhile, Maliki parlays glumly with whom? Ahmadinejad.

HT: Eunomia.

Kids These Days

Gabriel Gottfried, age 5 1/2, photographed a California condor in Topanga Canyon. Last sighting: 1898.

Kids are a lot like adults. They're just smaller and less experienced.

Kudos, Gabriel.

Story in the LA Whale.

November 1, 2006

Narcissistic Me


Mother and daughter were indulging in raillery this a.m. at the expense of Yrs. Truly.

In the car, on the way to school, I semi-facetiously asked daughter, 15, whether she enjoyed mocking me. "You're very narcissistic," she replied. "Maybe that's where Sissy gets it."

How can she even question whether it's about me? I'm nonplussed.

Abandoning a Soldier?

Sullivan wonders whether we've abandoned an American soldier at the behest of Muqtada As-Sadr, via Premier Maliki.

Ignominious if true, unless the Iraqis get him back quickly.

Foort In Mouth?

LaShawn Barber is a Christian conservative of African-American persuasion. She thinks Kerry just flubbed a line, but compounded his error by refusing to say so:
And, perhaps worst of all, he won’t apologize to the troops for giving the impression that he thinks they’re stupid, and he won’t humble himself and tell critics exactly what he was supposed to say! It’s not enough to go on the defensive and call Republicans “hacks…willing to lie.” Correct the record! According to a “Kerry aide,” he was supposed to say this:

“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.”

That’s a clear reference to Bush, who Kerry implies is dumb. But it came out like this:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

I’m trying to figure out why Kerry has not released his prepared speech to the press. It would clear up this whole mess (I contacted his office yesterday and requested a copy - still waiting). Instead, Republicans and conservatives have jumped all over this. As a conservative, I’m embarrassed that my “brethren” are willing to use our troops to score points for the mid-term elections. It was a botched joke, for crying out loud. Let it go!
I'd give the guy the benefit of the doubt, too, if he'd just say "I goofed. Sorry 'bout that."

LaShawn's right. If he owned up to a flub and apologized he should be forgiven. Harder to do with folks one doesn't like.

Unfortunately, the man is self-absorbed and not very swift. He also wants to be President of the United States. Forgiving a flub and supporting a pompous bozo are two very different things.

Acculturation Exhibit One

A Vietnamese-American fellow named Tan Nguyen took on the thankless task of challenging the dimwitted Representative Loretta Sanchez (you remember, she bead Bob Dornan a few years back). Some of his supporters sent out a letter designed to suppress the vote of naturalized Hispanics, stealing the letterhead among other things. Even the local GOP recoiled in horror--exaggerated horror, IMHO, although the mailing was sleazy.

Tan wouldn't bow out or back down. This video shows a vocally gifted Vietnamese lady in a short red dress and fishnets, belting out a parodic "Stand By Our Tan." Bless her heart.

This tribute to "diversity" is worth the price of admission. Tammy's probably looking down, smiling.

Back to the Drawing Board

Ralph Peters, a supporter of the war, now suggests that we forget about the Iraqi police, who are irredeemably corrupt and criminal, and concentrate on the Army. Then, says he, we can have a military coup, because Arabs aren't capable of democracy.
It's time to abandon the cops. Let the anti-American elements in the Maliki government have them. Don't continue to strengthen our enemies. Concentrate on developing and expanding the army.

Why? Here's where the truth gets still uglier. As dearly as we believe in democracy, Iraq's Arabs are proving that they're incapable of the political, social and moral maturity necessary to run an elected government.

Casting ballots alone doesn't make a democracy. The government has to function. And to protect all of its citizens.

In the coming months, we may find that the only hope of restoring order is a military government. It sounds repellent, but a U.S.-backed coup may be the only alternative to endless anarchy.

Arabs still can't govern themselves democratically. That's the appalling lesson of our Iraqi experiment. A military regime might be capable of establishing order and protecting the common people.
Who knew? People who dragged the corpse of the king around Baghdad while the Prime Minister, Nuri As-Said, fled dressed as a woman, couldn't be redeemed by voting?

Maybe our social engineering is about as good as French engineering.