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 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."

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.