July 30, 2006

Rant of the Week

Here is a long rant that's part nostalgia, but mostly an assault on both limousine liberals and country-club conservatives. I particuarly like this bit:
They usually explain them in terms such as those of Michael Medford, who cherry picks Will and Ariel Durant's pop history books for gems like: "Concentration of wealth is a natural result of concentration of ability and special attributes [one immediately thinks of George Bush and Paris Hilton] … The rate of concentration varies with the degree of economic freedom, democracy and liberty …"
But then there's this quote, supposedly from Goethe:
Legislators and revolutionaries who promise equality and liberty at the same time are either psychopaths or mountebanks.
In considering class, we must also remember regression toward the mean. Downward mobility is real.

July 29, 2006

Chuck's A Liability

Apparently the Dems recognize the horrid New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as a potential liability. Novak reports:
Republican senators, in seeking renewed debate on judicial confirmations before the November elections, want to spotlight Sen. Charles Schumer of New York on national television.

Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was one of the most aggressive Judiciary Committee members questioning Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito. During those hearings, Schumer expressed to colleagues frustration with his inability to target the conservative nominees.

In the belief that Schumer's performance hurt the Democratic cause, GOP senators want a high-profile nomination fight. During Tuesday's debate leading to Senate confirmation of Jerome Holmes as a circuit judge, Schumer voted no but uncharacteristically did not speak.
He's an egotistical ideologue with a New York accent, perceived, as Randy Newman might put it, as a "smart-ass New York Jew."

Most Americans don't find that accent endearing, unless associated with comedy or war movies. Usually the working-class kid from Brooklyn gets killed heroically in the first reel. And although stereotypes can have an unpleasant negative side, like most, this stereotype does partake of some truth, albeit partial and subject to misuse. And in Chuck's case, the shoe fits like a glass slipper.

So, uncharacteristically, Schumer shut up, which is sufficient to make it a red-letter day.

The Idiot Protection Program

A Muslim forces his way into the Seattle Jewish Federation and shoots six women, killing one, because he's "angry at Israel." And we hear this:
The authorities said they did not believe the suspect was acting as part of a terrorist group, the New York Times reported.

``We believe at this point that it's just a lone individual acting out some kind of antagonism toward this particular organization,'' said David Gomez, the FBI agent who heads the counterterrorism unit in the agency's Seattle office.The authorities said they did not believe the suspect was acting as part of a terrorist group, the New York Times reported.

``We believe at this point that it's just a lone individual acting out some kind of antagonism toward this particular organization,'' said David Gomez, the FBI agent who heads the counterterrorism unit in the agency's Seattle office.
Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahome City, was just a sick puppy, acting alone.

Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to kill Pope John Paul II, was just a mental case, acting alone.

Get a clue.

Take your own security seriously. Buy a gun. Or three.

Because we are being "protected" by idiots.

July 23, 2006

Fourteen Theses on Israel/Palestine

I've been reluctant to dive into the various controversies between Israel and the Palestinians, and their supporters and sympathizers in the United States. Most of the discussion on both sides has seemed to me so hysterical and accusatory that I'd rather sit it out. Chomsky, Dershowitz, Mearsheimer & Walt, Pat Buchanan, Abe Foxman, Edward Said, Ahmadinejad--they all make me tired. Every one of them.

A lawyer I once knew said the whole thing left her cold, because "They all think they have God's telephone number."” An incisive remark, I thought at the time.

However . . . it'’s somehow fascinating, if only because it seems to generate far more press than Darfur, or AIDS in Africa, or Burma, or anywhere else that human disasters occur.

It seemed to me, however, that before commenting on the day-to-day events I ought to sort out what my basic assumptions were about the dispute. When I originally drafted this post, the crisis was limited to Gaza. Since I first drafted it, a war has broken out. Time, it seems, to post these as some kind of starting point, even if I end up revising them later.
  1. 19th Century Zionism was an important, but minority movement among the Jews. Essentially, it was a form of secular nationalism. Until Lenin and Stalin came along, the dominant political trend among European Jews was ethnic socialism (the Bund), but not separatism.

  2. Jewish nationalism is no better and no worse than any other. It was complicated not only by the interpenetration of peoples, the bane of post-World War II "self-determination,"” but by the fact that Jews were in no significant territory a majority.

  3. The Nazi slaughter in Europe, in which much of Europe collaborated, changed things. Although the Palestinian Arabs had little to do with the slaughter, except for cheerleading by the Grant Mufti of Jerusalem, for a variety of reasons Palestine became the destination of choice for many of the survivors. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is right, and a piece of Germany should have been ethnically cleansed and given to the survivors, but it didn'’t happen.

  4. It's hard to find within Judaism or Christianity any religious basis for a return of the Jews to Palestine, before the Messiah comes. The Bible stories are symbolically important to the formation of modern Israel, but the claimed religious basis for Zionism is a weak one.

  5. The creation of Israel was by settlement (mostly technically legal), conquest and exchange of populations. It was not particularly just, but no worse than many other national stories. These concepts may violate the scruples of the politically correct, but there are many recent precedents, such as the exchange of Greeks in Turkey for Muslims in Greece in the '‘20s, the expulsion of the Germans from Western Poland and the Sudetenland, the exodus of Muslims from Indian and Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan in the 1940'’s, the partition of Cyprus between Greeks and Turks, and the fracturing of the former Yugoslavia. Such events have accompanied the creation of nations in the last century often enough to set a pattern; certainly the institution of a general rule that all such exchanges must be undone would wreak untold havoc. Moreover, without a strong, reactive military, the Israelis would be very dead.

  6. In this regard, what amounts to the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands to Israel after 1948 falls into the pattern. As long as the return of the heirs of the ancient Jewish community of Iraq to Baghdad, Samarra and Falluja is a non-starter, a mass return of Palestinians to Israel is equally implausible.

  7. The claim in pro-Israel propaganda that Israel is the one democracy in the Middle East is both exaggerated and largely beside the point. Even if Israel were run autocratically by some colonel, it has established its existence by right of conquest and population exchange, and there is now a distinct population that has a home there.

  8. With the exception of Jordan, the Arab régimes have used the Palestinians to divert attention from their many other problems, while refusing to do the right thing and admit the Palestinians to citizenship and allow them to live normal lives.

  9. The US gives more money and support to Israel than our national interests warrant. Among the reasons are the political influence of pro-Israel forces, largely but not entirely Jewish, in the US, mostly exercised legally.

  10. The Palestinian leadership has shown itself to be stupid, venal, and devious. The Israeli leadership has generally been fairly clever and effectively cynical, especially on the settlement issue, although the case can be made that the post-1967 settlement policy has caused more problems than it has solved. The branches of each society most hostile to compromise have regularly managed to help each other out. Suicide bombing elected Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon'’s Temple Mount pilgrimage gave Arafat an excuse to start the intifada.

  11. The conventional wisdom about demography is wrong. There are fewer Palestinians than people think, and Palestine is undergoing the demographic transition. The Palestinian population is not about to overwhelm the Jewish.

  12. If all Israel were moved to Brighton Beach, extremist Islam would not be dissuaded. The Palestine question is an excuse, not an explanation, for the existence and activity of Al Qaeda and its kindred movements.

  13. It may be that the Israelis are unpleasant as a rule, and the French diplomat who unkindly called it a "shitty little country" may be right. Palestinian terrorism and propaganda are disgusting. None of this matters. Neither people should be murdered, terrorized, or driven from their homes.

  14. It may also be the case that there is no good solution. No one'’s come up with one in 58 years. The Muslim world can look to the history of the Crusades to support an expectation that sooner or later the infidels will depart or become dhimmis.

July 21, 2006

True Grit

Every once and a while there's a sports story that provides a model of character as opposed to pure ego.

Everyone counted Floyd Landis out of the Tour de France, after he outran his team and ran out of gas on a climb, falling to 11th in the overall standings. Yesterday, with renewed help from the team, Landis showed extreme courage and determination. He outran everyone over an 80-mile stretch, and may take the Tour if he can win the time trial tomorrow.

The Gray Lady reports:
Paul Sherwen, a former professional cyclist who is now a race commentator for OLN, which is televising the Tour in the United States, said that he could not recall a performance like that of Landis.

“I’ve been on the Tour for 28 years, and I’m racking my brain trying to think of something I can compare it to,” Sherwen said. “I think many people would also think of Claudio Chiappucci” — the Italian cyclist who became part of race lore largely thanks to long breakaways in the 1990 and 1992 editions of the race.

Sherwen particularly recalled Chiappucci’s performance in one long breakaway to the Italian town of Sestriere in 1992.

“But Chiappucci hadn’t lost 10 minutes the day before,” Sherwen said. “He hadn’t gone to the brink of exhaustion and he hadn’t seen himself lose the yellow jersey and go from first place to 11th.”

Now, Sherwen said, Landis’s rivals “have left the race to the time trial, and I think Landis will win the time trial.”
And the Chiraqistanis will just hate having another Yank win it after Lance's retirement. Lagniappe, that.

UPDATE: Landis came in third on the Saturday time trial, and gained enough time to recapture the lead and the probable victory in the Tour. The final leg is largely ceremonial.

Chocolate Cake

Here's a touching story about the unseen and lasting importance of a small act of kindness.

HT: the Anchoress.

July 17, 2006

The Dead

Vietnam Memorial
We are in Washington DC. Last night, it promising to swelter, we walked down the mall past the Washington Monument to the Vietnam War Memorial, which I had never seen, and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Vietnam Memorial has a simplicity and silence about it that was very moving. And tens of thousands of names of men, mostly young, killed in that war. Each had parents, a hometown, friends, imagination, dreams. Each was cut short, as were thousands of others among our allies and foes.

And so it is in every war. Even now, rockets and bombs are raining down, mostly indiscriminately, in Israel and Lebanon. A week ago, hundreds perished in the Mumbai trains.

Each of the dead is a world, a universe. I am no pacifist, but to each of those who advocate, or support, or direct the making of war, this message. Never forget the cost. Never forget the potential for folly, for error. And do not forget that wars, like other human efforts, seldom happen or end, as intended.

July 14, 2006

Light Blogging, But Don't Celebrate Too Soon

I'm going on a trip back East, so blogging will be light or nonexistent for 10 days.

Pop a cork if you must, but like Gen. MacArthur and the proverbial bad penny, we shall return.

July 13, 2006

The Herring Maven

During his visit to Germany, some German fisherman gave George W. Bush a barrel of herring as a present:
Greeting Merkel and city residents, Bush is full of charm. He says "good morning," mentions the gorgeous weather and thanks a local fisherman for the present he gave the president: a barrel of Bismarck herring.
Normally, I don't associate W. with Woody Allen, whose comedy Love and Death involves a herring merchant:
As if it wasn't bad luck enough, the second blow of fate is struck when the secret love of his heart and a frequent opponent in philosophical disputes, his beautiful cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton) decides to marry a foul smelling herring merchant Leonid Voscovec ("When something hurts herring, it hurts me") right before Boris' departure to the war.
However, I made an immediate association, notwithstanding the fact that even Mel Brooks's Yiddish-speaking Indian chief did not ride the range with herring in his saddlebags.

The connection to Israel's troubles in the Middle East is, presumably, coincidental.

The now closed Swedish restaurant Gustaf Anders, in Costa Mesa, Califonria, used to serve four kinds of herring. Tasty, if you like that sort of thing. And the herring was not only an important food fish, second only to cod, but was the subject of many jokes:
You've heard, perhaps, the one about the Jew who asks his friend a riddle: "What is green, hangs on the wall and whistles?"

The answer, as it turns out, is a herring. "But a herring isn't green," protests his friend.

"Nu, paint it green."

"But a herring doesn't hang on a wall."

"So, hang it on a wall."

"But a herring doesn't whistle!"

"I know," says the man. "I just put that in to make it hard."

Or the one about the herring that complains to a restaurant customer, "What's the matter, you don't eat no more at Ratner's?" Or Woody Allen's parody of chasidic tales, which turns on the question of whether a man's daughter most closely resembles a matjes or a Bismarck herring. Or any one of countless others — the point being that the herring, like the surly waiter or the arrogant beggar, has become, oddly enough, one of the defining motifs of Jewish humor.
If you are abundant, fatty, and easy to preserve, you have a place in history.

W.T. Sherman, Not "Kumbaya"

I’m not especially a fan of Israel. I think US aid to Israel has been excessive and the power of the pro-Israel lobby has been too great. Israelis are often brusque and unpleasant. Some of their policies have been cynical, nasty and manipulative.

However, Israel is a sovereign country, as a result of war and population exchange, like many others such as Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Poland, Cyprus. If a neighboring country allows an armed faction, represented in its government, to attack its soldiers and rocket its people, it’s going to defend itself.

Tit-for-tat hasn’t worked. Withdrawal--total in Lebanon--hasn’t worked. Its enemies preach not just resolution of certain grievances but its total destruction, and continue to attack. Its enemies’ world view is akin to that of those who attacked New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Moscow, and Mumbai.

Like it or not, this is not a “Kumbaya” moment. It’s a William Tecumseh Sherman moment.

The Gray Lady, the Feckless Heir, and the Harvard Harpy

Pinch the Goof
Jed Babbin retails gossip about the reasons for the death rattle at the New York Times. It seems that the politically deranged Pinch Sulzberger, not trusting the ideological bona fides of Bill Keller, has given a big share of power to one Jill Abramson, a Harvard harpy and buddy of the horrid MoDo:
Backed by Sulzberger, Abramson doesn't just come close. She and Dowd combined are a controlling force. Reporters from Baghdad to Washington are having their stories rewritten at the desk. The source close to the Times inner workings said, "The real story is what's going on inside the Times. If some responsible group set up a whistleblowers' hotline for Times reporters, they'd get some startling stories about what happens in the Times's newsroom."Sometimes what an editor keeps out of a newspaper is more important than what he puts in. But Keller can't control the Sulzberger-Abramson-Dowd troika. They control the paper, leaving him to explain why, in Michael Barone's words, the New York Times is at war with America.
Harpy on HorsebackMeanwhile circulation stagnates and the share price plummets.

And Babbin offers his parting shot: "The NYT shouldn't be tried for treason. Incest, maybe, but not treason."

July 12, 2006


Our heart and our solidarity goes out to the people of Mumbai.

It can happen here.

It did.

It will.

What are we doing about it? Not enough.

Sandalistas and Three Propositions

SandalismoMarc Cooper is a committed lefty, but doesn't just mouth conventional poppycock.

Today he has a post on the death of one Herty Lewites, apparently a dissident Sandinista who was running for President of Nicaragua against the corrupt right and Sandinista Daniel Ortega, who Cooper says has degenerated into a Nicaraguan version of the old Mexican PRI--that is, a corrupt politician who gives lip-service to left populism.

I know nothing about Lewites beyond what Marc says, but the whole thing put me in mind of the "sandalistas," the leftist and hippy pilgrims from the US and Europe who flocked to Nicaragua to see and help the revolution. This moved me to a comment, which I thought I'd recycle here, in slightly altered form:
Ah, the sandalistas–people who relish their perceived moral superiority to their own country and keep searching for the foreign model that never fails to disappoint.

I remember a lefty–now a Democratic elected official in California–who used to prattle about how wonderful Hoxha’s Albania, of all places, was.

The starry-eyed revolutionary intellectuals of the sort who have now deserted the corrupt Sr. Ortega always end up disillusioned (if they are lucky), coopted, or shot by their own movement.

The reasons are many, but I offer three.
  1. Socialism does not work. Never has, never will.

  2. Politicizing the economy is a recipe for corruption: “absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”.

  3. “The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21) Human beings suffer from an innate illness that leads them to egotism, violence, and corruption. This will infect every human enterprise. Try to remake society all at once according to some blueprint and you remove whatever checks have evolved, and you give free rein to these tendencies, unchecked by law, tradition, or evolved institutions.
PS. This last tendency is not unique to the left. For every Ortega there is an Abramoff. For every Beria there is a Himmler. Our founders were wise to fear both unfettered autocracy and unfettered democracy.
James Madison--be like him.

Adulterers for President?

This post observes that three of the GOP front-runners have sexual skeletons in their closet: McCain, Giuliani, and Gingrich, and wonders how (a) the evangelical part of the GOP base and (b) the Dems, recalling the Clinton impeachment, will react.

It's a fair question. To a degree, I adhere to the view that in evaluating politicians as politicians, as with artists as artists, we should separate different spheres of their lives. Picasso may not have been nice to his women, but he did some amazing paintings. Hamilton was a player, but he set the Treasury on strong foundations. Martin Luther King was, too, but he still gave a great speech.

Dennis Prager, essayist and talk show host, advocates the "separate spheres" idea. Private sexual conduct isn't a criterion on which to evaluate a politican. If we really insisted on purity, of course, we might have no one to vote for.

It's a little different, though, when they lie under oath, as Clinton did. And it gets worse when their conduct gives the lie to the political program a politician preaches. If, as Gingrich did, he prates about a family values while, although married, he's having it away with an aide, he's perhaps more of a hypocrite than average. As my father said of Eisenhower aide Sherman Adams, who had to resign because a Boston cloak-and-suitnik named Bernie Goldfine gave him a vicuña coat, "The worse kind of thief is a pious thief."

We probably won't get to the point, though, that France did, when both wife and mistress showed up at François Mitterand's funeral. As Henry Higgins said, "The French don't care what they do, actually, so long as they pronounce it properly."

One thing I'll say. I'm not about to cast the first stone.

July 9, 2006

The Whale Tries to Smear Lance

Lance ArmstrongThe moribund Los Angeles Times used a document dump, perhaps from a disgruntled losing litigant, to smear Lance Armstrong.

A non-story from a blancmange of a paper. Analysis here:
But why a paper would want to give this story this treatment is beyond me. Does it sell papers? Perhaps, for a day.

But if you admire Armstrong --and tens of millions of Americans do-- the disgust at the paper for trading in discredited and already aired allegations --on the front page and at such length-- has to be significant.

Proposition: Big MSM has really lost its way, concluding that anything "secret" is in fact wrongfully hidden from public view, and that its function is to act as a conveyer belt to the front page for whatever a party or person doesn't want revealed.

Thus any celebrity with a lawsuit, or any government agency with a classified document, become targets for the "reporters" who are really just glorified Xerox machines.

The only secrets we never get to see are those concerning newspapers.

How many subscriptions have been lost at the Los Angeles Times since June 23 in response to the terrorist-assisting story on the Swift program?

And how many will be lost because of this gutter journalism concerning Armstrong?
It turns the stomach.

Before the Dawn

That's the title of Before the Dawn, a popular but well-researched synthesis of modern research on human origins and prehistory.

It's fascinating to see how much more we know about this stuff than 40 years ago when I first studied it. The most strikingly new information comes from advances in genetics, the analysis of chromosomes and DNA. The notion that Darwinian evolution is mere speculation is knocked into a cocked hat. (What is a cocked hat, anyway?*)

Of greater contemporary interest is the significant evidence that human evolution continues, even over relatively short periods, and that racial differences--accumulated statistically significant genetic diferences in separately breeding populations--are not imaginary, as some politically correct academics would have us believe.

Do these differences negate the common humanity of all people? No.

Are they significant? Yes.

  • The emergence of lactose tolerance, that allows adults to digest cow's milk, in the centers of cattle domestication.

  • The emergence of mutations for light skin, at least twice, among northern populations where exposure to sunlight reduces vitamin deficiencies.

  • The emergence of mutations that protect against malaria when one gene is present but cause disease when two are present, again at least twice.

  • The accumulation and persistence of mutations, among Ashkenazic Jews, who were confined to professions that required high intelligence, that are lethal when two genes are present, but in the one-gene form may contribute to high intelligence. This one's still a hypothesis, although the higher IQ of Ashkenazic populations is demonstrated.
Steve Sailer's blog put me on to the book. Sailer has the thick skin required to blog regularly about heredity, race, and intelligence. I often differ with Steve's politics (he's more isolationist and more anti-immigration than I, for example), but he comes up with fascinating stuff, not just on race, but on things like voting patterns (cheaper housing, leading to a higher proportion of married couples with children, is correlated with "red" voting patterns, for example).

The history of the last century or so gives us reason to be chary of simplistic translations into politics of scientific findings and speculations about race, or invocations of science or psuedo-science to justify political views some people already have. And to be doubly chary of any claimed policy implications of this line of inquiry.

There is, however, no doubt that evolution within the human family is still occurring and important inherited statistical differences between populations are real. It may be politically correct to deny it, but it's true. You'd certainly want your doctor to know.

*"Evolved from the bicorne, the black-coloured cocked hat is triangular in shape, with the brim at the left and right sides turned up and pinned together; the front and back ends are pointed; there is usually a cockade in the national colours at the right side. It is often trimmed in gold or silver."

Definition from Wikipedia. Also a picture.

A Sad Death and an Unpleasant Statistic

Columnist Leonard Pitts presents another unpleasant fact, in a poignant column about a sad death:
What should we make of the way 9-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins was playing with her doll last Saturday afternoon? Sherdavia was out in front of her home in Liberty Square, also known as the Pork 'n Beans housing project in inner-city Miami, digging in the dirt. Digging the doll a grave.

Then somebody shot at somebody else -- the who and why are mysteries -- and a bullet pierced the little girl's neck. Today, a week after she played at digging a grave for her doll, Sherdavia will be lowered into one herself.
Unutterably sad.

Pitts goes on to lament that this kind of event is not a big story in the press, and goes on:
In 2004, 14,121 Americans were murdered. Blacks, representing about 12 percent of the nation's population, were 47 percent of the nation's murder victims. Of the 6,632 blacks killed, better than one in four was 21 or younger. Violence is no stranger in certain places.

In those places, kids can tell you what it's like to pass by corpses on the way to school. In those places, the skyscrapers downtown might as well be on another planet. In those places, life is hard and money is tight. In those places, boys walk about with the mean swagger that comes of a gun in the pocket and a conscience on mute, mistaking themselves for men.

In those hard and cold places, death becomes a way of life, a lesson learned young. And then re-learned endlessly. Four days after Sherdavia died, a boy named Markese Wiggan was shot to death in Lauderhill. He was 14 years old.

And so it goes. This is not a black problem. It is, emphatically, an "American" problem. Unfortunately, it is not an American priority.
Pitt does not mention that most of these crimes are committed by other blacks. Of course it's an American problem. These are our fellow citizens.

It's also a black problem, because blacks are pulling the triggers.

I hear not even murmurs of leadership on this issue.

July 8, 2006

We Conjure Leonard Pinth-Garnell

People's Council BoBo Laguna Beach has installed a new public sculpture in front of its City Hall.

Known as "the People's Council," and costing 80 large, it's a subject of controversy.

We conjured the spirit of critic Leonard Pinth-Garnell, who gave the sculpture his nod of approval, and in the course of the séance, offered us these comments:
"Stunningly bad!"
"Monumentally ill-advised!"
"Couldn't be worse!"
"Exquisitely awful!"
"Astonishingly ill-chosen!"
My mother was a sculptor in stone, and there's a lot of work in the piece.

But, say no more, it's public art. Of course, we could have had the Britney piece. Lord, we are grateful for small favors.

The Tinfoil Wimple

In a Yahoo group I dabble in, someone reposted and praised this article about 9/11 by a Benedictine nun named Joan Chittister. I demurred and referred to an earlier post on this blog about oikophobia, which in turn led to a snark exchange I won't bother to repeat except that I was accused of spouting "talk radio drivel."

Sr. Chittister's piece reminds me just how odd the moonbat fringe of the American Catholic left. I am an admirer of the Anchoress, First Things, and this fine piece on Islam by the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. There is, however, a visible moonbat fringe among the faithful. Think Christic Institute. Think Berrigan Brothers. Think a trio of clowns from Nukewatch.

Here are my comments, slightly revised from the Yahoo group post:

Since the whole Chittester article is posted, I’ll summarize what I think the article says, and quote portions. Fair enough, I think, because you can check the text to see if I’ve distorted anything she says.

1. Airport Searches.
“We are a country held hostage by fear.”
It's difficult to go through an airport these days [and in foreign
airports there are fewer or less intrusive searches].
COMMENT: Airport security isn’t always well-managed, but we haven’t
had a hijacking since 9/11. Is she saying we should not have airport
security? That it should be managed better? If the latter, I agree.

2. Our Post 9/11 Policies Were Mistaken.
“There's nothing esoteric here. Read the front page of any newspaper and the direction is clear.”
A. What we should have done:
“[W]orking with moderate governments and the world community . . . of courting public opinion and international support, . . . trying to understand the U.S. image around the world and working to change it, . . . asking why gleeful children danced in the streets when the Twin Towers fell, . . . doing something positive to correct it . . “
COMMENT: (1) Fundamentally, she’s arguing that 9/11 was our fault, we provoked the attack, and we should appease our attackers, or at least their sympathizers.

(2) The US has achieved a fair amount of cooperation on anti-terrorism activity, even from places like France whose governments repeatedly bad-mouth the US.

(3) There is no “world community.” There is the UN, which is a corrupt cartel of tyrants, not a community. There are countries, and each is different.

(4) Our society, at least the policy-conscious part of it, has spent a lot of energy trying to understand Islam and Islamic radicalism--go to any bookstore.

(5) The notion that we are responsible for the attacks on us is only true to a very limited extent. People who want to restore the Caliphate and restore Andalusia to Muslim rule (Bin Laden), or evoke the return of the 12th Imam (Ahmadinejad), are not just upset because of one or another US policy. If we did everything they asked, they’d take it as a sign of weakness and keep on with their program. If we resist, the use our resistance to justify jihad.

B. What we did:
“We did the frontier thing and began to kill people ourselves. As in "That'll show ' em who's boss."
COMMENT: Well, yes. Afghanistan harbored the people who killed more Americans than at Pearl Harbor, and destroyed an important part of our largest city. They wouldn’t give them up. Act of war. A military response was appropriate.

Reasonable minds can differ about the wisdom of the Iraq War. We did, however, take out some really bad people, and we are fighting some really bad people. The author’s purpose is not to provide an answer. I don’t think those who think as she does have any good ones.

3. A. The U.S. has provoked terrorism and nuclear arms ambitions of Iran, Korea, and Pakistan.
“By defining the attack on the Twin Towers as the declaration ofglobal war, it has made global war a reality . . .”.

“By launching high technology weapons against countries whose armies are under equipped and whose borders are porous, we have even managed to reinstitute a nuclear arms race. Iran, Korea, and Pakistan have all joined the new race out of fear of what might happen to them . . . in the future.”
COMMENT: The modern war of Islam against the West has been going on for a while--at least since the Iranian embassy event. The difference is that after 9/11, for the first time, we began to fight back.

Iranian, Korean and Pakistani nuclear programs and ambitions preceded 2001. Pakistan was responding to India, not the US. North Korea is the last, horrendous avatar of Stalinism and has its own regional agenda
B. Iran, Korea and Pakistan are not evil and do not need regime change
“ . . . our unilateral decree that they are evil and in need of regime change.”
COMMENT: I submit that Iran and North Korea can accurately be described as evil. They are not an “axis,” as Bush suggested. Régime change in each is desirable. Pakistan is complex, but a person who believes in state redistribution of wealth, such as the author, not to speak of religious freedom, might well have issues with Pakistan, too.

What (if anything) the US should do to achieve such change is an open question. It may be that watchful waiting is the best policy.

4. The US is a Torture State.
“So we fight in the dark everywhere, claiming thousands of innocent lives and few "terrorists." We do it against those who claim no flag, no government, no terms of peace, and we may never know if we have managed to defeat them or not.

“While old ladies and small children go on forever removing their jackets and shoes and cell phones in U.S. airport security lines, the United States has been exposed as a torture state.

“The government refuses to submit its military behavior to an International War Crimes Tribunal and so, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, admits that its behaviors are in question.”
COMMENT: Yes, this is a twilight, ambiguous struggle. So be it.

The US as “torture state” is an overheated exaggeration. Torture states do not try their soldiers for misconduct, allow their courts to instruct the executive on the limitations of its prerogative, or pass bills outlawing torture. Have prisoners been mistreated? Yes. Is some of the executive complacent about this? Yes. Is that a legitimate concern. Yes. But “torture state” is overheated rhetoric.

There are good reasons not to trust an International War Crimes Tribunal, and some good reasons to do so. Personally, I think the author’s crush on international institutions and the “world community” is misguided and a symptom, precisely, of oikophobia.

5. 9/11 Was Done by 19 Independent Fanatics.
“And all of this on account of 19 politically independent, unauthorized fanatics.”

Fanatics, yes. Inspired by an ideology, and directed by a network, sheltered by a state actor (Taliban Afghanistan). The political movement in question has neither disappeared nor been defeated.

6. We Are Fighting the Wrong People and Haven’t Prevailed Yet.
“They provoked from us an all-out irrational response against the wrong people . . . “

“Meanwhile -- has anybody noticed -- Osama bin Laden is still free somewhere and sending us tapes? The Taliban have returned to Afghanistan. Millions of civilians have either left Iraq, are internal refugees in their own country or have been killed there in order to protect them.”
COMMENT:This struggle is a long, twilight struggle. True, we haven’t won yet, but that doesn’t make the struggle unworthy. The article, however, is not a tactical or strategic critique, which, if thought out, would be welcome.

Rather, it implies we should not be fighting at all. I disagree, as do most Americans.

7. We Are Losing the Constitution.
“And here, in the United States, paranoia grips the land. The
Constitution is being shredded one line at a time.”
COMMENT: As in every war, there is a tension between civil liberties and what is thought to be military necessity. But the Constitution shredded? Blatant hyperbole.

8. War Spending Has Prevented the Enactment of More Welfare State
Policies, Which Are Good Things.
“We are facing a decade-long moratorium on social issues . . . universal medical insurance, day care services, subsidized housing or welfare programs, and the army is where the young go to get an education.”
COMMENT: This is not the place to debate these welfare state issues. Social spending, especially education spending is actually up, although much is wasted due to the teachers’ unions and the educationists. There has been no decline, post 9/11, in any of this.

And in fact, the country, wisely, has not voted for high-tax, redistributionist social reforms. Many of these proposals are in fact dangerous to the economy, to liberty, and to good morals. Read Theodore Dalrymple, for example.

9. We Should Have Responded Differently, But I’m Not Saying How.
“From where I stand, it isn't that 9/11 did not demand a response. It's that the response we made has the smell of inanity.”
COMMENT: I know the purpose of the article was not to propose alternative policies, although these are implied (make concessions to the Islamist program, bend the knee to one or another supranational organization, enact massive social welfare programs, take no military action even against those who harbored the organizations that attacked us).

Was our response perfect? No, far from it. Would the opposition have done better? I doubt it. Is there more we can do. Yes.

GENERAL COMMENT: In its hyperbolic language about every flaw in US conduct, its unwillingness to present an analysis of Islamist terrorism other than to say generally US policy provoked it, in its alarmism (for instance, about the shredded and presumably about to be stir-fried Constitution), and in its deference to supranational institutions, Sr. Chittister's article is an example of oikophobia.

July 6, 2006

Rebecca West's Advice to Girls

From Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941).:
Remember, when the nuns tell you to beware of the deceptions of men who make love to you, that the mind of man is on the whole less tortuous when he is love-making than at any other time. It is when he speaks of governments and armies that he utters strange and dangerous nonsense to please the bats at the back of his soul. This is all to our disadvantage, for in love-making you might meet him with lies of equal force, but there are few repartees that the female governed can make to the male governors.
Here West is referring to courtship rather than to the physical act of love. Never believe anything a man says when he is horizontal.

July 5, 2006

Health Care Proposals

Dr. Bob, a Seattle urologist with a fine blog, has a few suggestions for improving the health care mess.

His whole series is thoughtful, grounded in experience and compassion, and worth reading.

July 4, 2006

Trust the American Street

Says Hitch, and stop worrying about the %$#@#* polls.

The Nation's loss is our gain.


Xenophobia is a well-known term, from the Greek xenos meaning "foreign" and phobia meaning "fear" or "aversion." It is unfashionable and regarded as politically incorrect, and is one of the accusations hurled at, say, those who want to limit immigration.

The English philosopher and writer Roger Scruton has given a speech in which he provides a new definition for the opposite of "xenophobia"--oikophobia. Oikos means "house" or "household" in Greek, and hence is one of the roots of the word "economics"--the law of households.

"Oikophobia" is sometimes used, apparently, as the opposite of "agoraphobia," the latter being a fear of the agora or market, and thus crowds or open places. "Oikophobia" in this sense is fear of being at home.

Scruton means something quite different. It is systematic hostility to one's home, country, or tradition. It has long been common in this country, and in South America, among those, especially the élite and the wealthy, who used to look to Europe and especially to France, for all things classy and cultural.

Oikophobia has evolved, in the West, into a disdain, nay, hatred, of all things American in America, British in England, and so on. Consider the lefty singer Billy Bragg's Take Down the Union Jack:
Take down the Union Jack
It clashes with the sunset
And put it in the attic
With the Emperor’s old clothes

When did it fall apart ?
Sometime in the 80’s
When the good and the great
Gave way to the greedy and the mean
It's a constant search for cultural novelty and a rejection of the ways and traditions of one's own country.

Scruton's whole speech on the subject is worth a read, but here's an excerpt:
When Sartre and Foucault draw their picture of the ‘bourgeois’ mentality, the mentality of the Other in his Otherness, they are describing the ordinary decent Frenchman, and expressing their contempt for his national culture. A chronic form of oikophobia has spread through the American universities, in the guise of political correctness, and loudly surfaced in the aftermath of September 11th, to pour scorn on the culture that allegedly provoked the attacks, and to side by implication with the terrorists. And oikophobia can be everywhere read in the attacks levelled against the Vlaams Belang [the Flemish independence party in Belgium].

The domination of our national Parliaments and the EU machinery by oikophobes is partly responsible for the acceptance of subsidised immigration, and for the attacks on customs and institutions associated with traditional and native forms of life. The oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community. The oikophobe is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism.
We find it in the jurisprudence of our Supreme Court, where Justices Ginsburg and Breyer have seen fit to use foreign law to interpret our own Constitution, and in the fetishization of that cartel of tyrants, the United Nations, seen not as a rather corrupt and inefficient forum with a few decent programs and a few practical uses, but as a kind of collective Messiah.

The great poet Kenneth Rexroth, who was a kind of eco-anarchist, coined the term "Crow-Jimism." "Jim Crow," of course, was a name given to the system of legal racial segregation in the American South. "Crow-Jimisim" was the tendency, among the left and the literati, to worship uncritically everything thought to be Negro (the PC term, back then). Usually folks afflicted by this ailment had an unreal and romanticized notion of the Negro. This, too, is a kind of oikophobic pathology.

Oikophobia in part is the product of that ancient snobbism that looked to Paris and London for everything classy. It is in part a transformation of criticism of one or another policy of the government into a disdain for the whole society. And it is in part an expression of the big-city intellectual's sense of superiority to the rubes.

It's one reason for the contempt for George W. Bush as a person, that predates both 9/11 and the Iraq war. Bush seemed too American, too down home. Anyone like that must be an idiot, a Babbit, a zombie transfixed by the Elmer Gantrys of the world, part of the "booboisie," as Mencken put it. Better the cookie-pushing Adlai Stevenson than the flat-speaking Dwight Eisenhower. Better the incomprehensible self-indulgence of the nouvelle vague French and Italian cinéastes than Ford or Huston. Even the Dixie Chicks don't just disagree with the Iraq war, they're ashamed to be American.

Oikophobia is a disaster. If you want to change this country, and we all do, in one way or another, you can't despise it, but should learn to love it, to own it as part of oneself. Understand the national idea and the national tradition--there's much in it to love. If you want change, don't dream the dreams of Sartre and Foucault and Howard Pinter. Dream the "patriot's dream."
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

And read "The Man Without a Country."

UPDATE: This piece on "transnationalism" makes a similar case in more detail. It's worth a read.

Words For the Fourth From Not-Always-Silent Cal

Signers of the DeclarationIn honor of the Fourth, PowerLine quotes from a speech by Lincoln in the famous debates by Douglas.

They also quote from the underappreciated Calvin Coolidge's speech on the occasion of Independence Day.

Here's a sample:
On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general.
A wise man, old Cal.

For some patriotic songs, go here and here. For more on Silent Cal, try this.

And be sure to eat some solid food.

UPDATE: Here's the Concord Hymn, by Longfellow:

Sung at the Completion of the
Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

July 3, 2006

Lying Sack

Patterico provides a summary of work by various bloggers, fisking Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times's "it's not a betrayal of secrets because everyone knew about it" revisionism.

Patterico, a prosecutor, has this advice for Mr. Lichtblau:
Hint for Mr. Lichtblau: when they get you under oath, you’ll be much better off if the lies are less obvious than this.
If Mr. L. is wise, that word should be sufficient.

July 2, 2006

Playing Descartes You Were Dealt

An insomniac Googling dredged up the following:
René Descartes is sitting in a café not far from the the intersection of Faith and Culture.

He’s just finished a cup of his favorite Surabaya Johnny Half-Caf Arabica-Cappucino Blend.

The waiter asks him if he’d like another.

Descartes says, “I think not.”

And he disappears...
HT: On Coffee.

July 1, 2006

Yadda yadda

NY Times editor Bill Keller and LA Times editor Dean Baquet have published a joint defense of their publication of secret national security information. It's cliché-ridden and shallow. I'll spare you the tedium--you can go read it yourself if you like, but here's the coda:
We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices — to publish or not to publish. But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence. It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.
In short, we're wiser than the professionals our elected leaders have chosen.

If you commit a crime, though, like publishing classified information, the government plus a jury of your peers may get to second-guess you. And in a free country we get to fisk both Timeses, and with talk radio and the blogosphere we have the media to do it.

How about a special prosecutor here? Seems a lot more important than Valerie Plame and her creepy husband.