August 30, 2006

A Challenge to John McCain

Mark Tapscott lays it on the line:
With a 3-3 vote featuring Democrat commissioners supporting the silencing of political speech against congressional incumbents and Republican commissioners in favoring of allowing it, the Federal Elections Commission has now made it official - As required by the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, there can be no paid political broadcast ads criticizing incumbent Members of Congress for the two months prior to the Nov. 7 election.

* * * *.

I say it again - if the Republican Party nominates Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, for president in 2008 without his official apology for and repudiation of McCain-Feingold, plus introduction of legislation to repeal that monstrous outrage against the First Amendment, no conservative, libertarian or honest liberal can support him for the White House.

There is NO room for compromise on this issue. Either you believe in the First Amendment right to freedom of speech or you don't.
I might not go that far, but the whole Campaign Finance Reform thing is pretty misguided.

It (and especially the Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo) has led to a series of unancipated and adverse consequences; self-financed millionaire candidates (Perot, Bloomberg, Corzine), "soft" money, the massive paper-pushing burden on campaigns, the 527s.

I respect John McCain in many ways--he's articulate, without a lateral /s/, thoughtful, made great sacrifices for the country, is sound on fiscal and security matters--but his position on CFR troubles me greatly.

We should repeal all these laws and replace them with a reporting requirement with prompt posting on the Internet.

August 27, 2006

Theodicy and the Skeptic

As those who follow this blog must know, one of my favorite bloggers is a Seattle urologist, who goes by the name of Dr. Bob, and calls his blog The Doctor Is In. Dr. Bob thinks deeply and obviously polishes carefully everything he posts.

Dr. Bob is also a convinced Christian. Those who follow this blog probably also know that I am a skeptic, but a “fellow traveler” of Christianity. That is, I skeptical not only about theology and organized religion as it has often appeared in history, but about a life lived and a society run without convictions that date from way back and are encoded in ritual, in song, and in scripture. It seems to me that if we manage at all it is because we are relying upon the moral capital of forbears who were believers.

Aside from my upbringing my skepticism is founded on three issues. First, applying Occam’s razor, insofar as we have information about the origins and development of the universe, life on earth, or our species, naming a Creator or Intelligent Designer doesn’t increase the explanatory power of any of our theories. If there is such a Designer, He is outside the scientific world of negatable hypotheses.

Second, wherever human knowledge has increased, the traditional scriptural descriptions and explanations of events have been falsified. Thus, scriptural explanations of astronomy, evolution and prehistory have turned out to be inaccurate. Who can believe in the terracentric universe, surmounted by a firmament; a flood in which all species were preserved in a single vessel; or a human family tracing its eponymous ancestors to the extended family of the descendants of Noah?

Third, there is the question of theodicy, or divine justice. As Edward FitzGerald put it in his paraphrase of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with Predestination round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?
In short, there is the difficulty of reconciling the claimed infinite power, infinite justice, and infinite mercy of God.

The most extended Biblical treatment of this question is in the Book of Job. Job, caused to suffer by God on a dare from Satan, ultimately does question God, who in one of the richest poems in the Bible points out to Job that he’s a whole lot smaller than God, and also a lot less wise. The poem, which goes on for quite a while, starts this way in Job 38:
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
These passages are great poetry, and if one comes to the issue with a conviction of the existence, power and majesty of God, as did Job, go along way to persuade one that to cavil is beside the point. Today, as St. Paul says, we see through a glass, darkly, but one day, face to face.

If, however, you don’t come to the issue with these convictions, the poetry, although moving in a literary way, does not convince.

Dr. Bob has come up with one of the best-written and thoughtful treatments of this issue that I have seen. Here's an excerpt:
Judaism and Christianity both imply that some such evil may be consequential, the result of punishment or predictable consequences for the malfeasance of man. A more robust theology is less accusatory and thereby more coarsely granular — maintaining that such evil has entered the world because of the fall of man. Under such design our divine divorce has corrupted not only behavior, but our very natures, and all of creation. Yet such theology is of little comfort to those who are the objects of such seemingly random evil; we demand to know of God, “Why?” — and in particular, “Why me?” Yet there is no answer forthcoming, and we are left assuming a God either powerless to stop such evil or unwilling to do so.

Yet the problem of a good God, an omnipotent God, and an evil world of His creation is not entirely insoluble. Much lies in our projection of human frailty onto the nature of the Divine, and the impreciseness of our definitions of good and omnipotent. When we say God is good, we tend to mean that God is “nice” — that he would never do anything to cause us pain or suffering. Yet even in our limited experience, we must acknowledge that pain and suffering, while not inherently good, may be a means to goodness. We choose to have surgery or chemotherapy, though painful and debilitating, that our cancer may be cured. The halls of Alcoholics Anonymous are filled with men and women who, having faced both personal and relational destruction, have used their former liabilities as a gateway to a new, more fulfilling life — one which could not have taken place apart from their harrowing journey through alcoholism. To a misbehaving child, the discipline of a loving father is not perceived as good, but such correction is essential for the development of personal integrity, social integration, and responsibility. Our inability to discern the potential for good in pain and suffering does not by necessity deny its presence; there are many who, when asked, will point to painful, difficult, and unbearable times in life which have brought about profound, often unexpected good in their lives, unforeseeable in the midst of their dark days. There surely is much suffering which defies our capacity to understand, even through we strive with every fiber of our being to find the goodness therein. But the fact that such inexplicable suffering exists, and that answers are often lacking, does not preclude the possibility that God is good, or that such suffering may ultimately lead to something greater and more noble than the pain endured.
Dr. Bob goes on to criticize two tendencies in Christian thinking--the belief that suffering is a punishment for sin, and the belief that if only we have have enough faith and affirmation, prosperity and fulfillment will inevitably be ours.

In the end, of course, Dr. Bob is back to Job.
Christianity has some answers, but it does not fully answer the question:

Our lives have both purpose and a proper time: we live for that purpose, and we die when that purpose is fulfilled. That those who are left behind cannot grasp that purpose — and appropriately suffer profound pain and loss at this separation — does not negate that purpose nor impede its culmination.

We live in a time when our expectations of health, of prosperity, of a pain-free life are increasingly met in the physical realm, while we progressively become sickly, impoverished, and empty in the realm of the spirit. Despite our longer lives, we live in dread of death; despite our greater health, we obsess about our ills; despite our comfortable lives, we ache from an aimlessness and purposelessness which eats at our souls and deadens our spirits. Though we have at our command the means to kill our pain–to a degree never before seen in the history of the world–yet we have bargained away our peace in pursuit of our pleasure. The problem of pain has never been an easy one; in our day, it has not been solved, but rather worsened, by our delusions of perpetual comfort and expectations of a trouble-free life. Until we come to terms with suffering, we will not have comfort; until we embrace our pain, we will never have peace.
Eastern Orthodoxy rejects a purely intellectual approach to these matters, which some of its thinkers regard as the core Western heresy, that infects both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We are not simply to reason about the goodness of God and the meaning of suffering, we are to live sacramentally. "Theology" is thus not merely a set of categories and arguments, but an experience of theosis, the gradual healing of our selves, wounded by sin, and a gradual approach to God. Although he's not Eastern Orthodox, as far as I know, Dr. Bob is saying that we are not merely to reason our way to a solution, but to experience our way to it. The dead metaphor "comprehend" or "grasp" describes a physical seizure of an object, not a merely mental process.

When I say that I am a skeptic, it is not to say that I am a convinced unbeliever. I do not believe in unbelief.

It is, of course, fair to say that this skeptic has no better answer to the question of why we suffer. The existentialist could say no more than that in an empty universe it falls to us to create our own meanings. The best of these, of course, are echoes of the traditional ones that come from traditional religion, at least in the West, especially from Christianity.

It’s usual to wrap up a post with a wry aside, or a coda that gives the conclusion we want the reader to reach. The truth is, I don’t know the answers. I do know that Dr. Bob’s essay is well worth reading, worth printing out and reading more than once.

UPDATE: Completed sentence and added one to fourth from last paragraph.

Apostasy from Marxism

There's a guy with the implausible name of Louis Proyect who blogs as "The Unrepentant Marxist." I forget why I happened upon his blog, but he's in some ways an acute observer in spite of his claim still to adhere to that philosophy. So I read him.

Recently the UM posted about a Senegalese film, Xala. UM makes the film, which is about the downfall of one of the postcolonial new rich, seem quite interesting.

The review ends, though, with this postscript:
Once again I am reminded of the quote from Engels’s “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State” that I incorporated into my review of “Mandabi”:
The modern individual family is founded on the open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife, and modern society is a mass composed of these individual families as its molecules… Within the family, he [the husband] is the bourgeois, and the wife represents the proletariat.
This coda seemed to me a bit gratuitous, and I commented thus:
This post, including the quotation from Phoebe Koch, makes me want to see the film, and captures some of the ironies and complexities of life among the waBenzi of postcolonial Africa.

What puzzles me is the quotation from Engels at the end, which seems to me disconnected from everything that went before. In some times and places, no doubt, the wife pays more than the husband of the costs of what Marxist jargon rather coldly calls “social reproduction,” Engels’s metaphor (husband is to wife and bourgeoisie is to proletariat), however doesn’t seem to me correspond to the lives more subtly portrayed in the movie (as described in the review).

I won’t undertake the almost certainly futile and thankless task of trying to lure you into apostasy, but in this particular instance, if the coda fits the composition, I don’t get how.
Another commenter responded:
GOM, it’s really annoying for you to suggest that abandoning Marxism is “the next and final step” in political consciousness. Whether it is or isn’t there are enough substantive critiques in here of the heavy price many people pay for the sake of profits.

If your belief system finds that ‘collateral’ damage acceptable, fine. Some of us don’t. This is simply a question of one’s personal morals and how much they are willing to affect the lives of others in whatever way.

Tell me — seriously — if Afghanistan wouldn’t have been, in the long run, better off being run by a group that put the first man in space versus the acid-in-face-throwers. It was your side that made that decision for them.

I can’t help but think that you feel any Marxist revolutions that take place around the world are unjustified, as opposed to people voting with their lives.
I tried twice to respond in the comment thread, but the internet or the blog software ate my comment twice. I am therefore reduced to responding here.

First, annoyance is inevitable when basic political and philosophical differences emerge. I promise to avoid being snarky (repeat three times, hand on heart). Marxism, despite its many faults and errors, can be a serious system of thought, when it's not turned into slogans, and when offered seriously, merits a serious response. Read this guy, for example.

To respond, I invoke Marx's chestnut that "Capitalism is revolutionary." It is. And especially when it's new, the consequences aren't pretty. Some, or course, are positive, like vaccination, imported food in time of famine, and sewers. And even mature capitalism has many effects that are unpleasant or worse.

If we are looking at consequences, we can't flinch at looking at the consequences of self-proclaimed socialist revolutions: oceans of blood, bureaucracy, droughts, famines, and gulags. It's what happens when declassé intellectuals mobilize masses of people to change society according to a blueprint in someone's head, or from a book.

As for Afghanistan, which wasn't capitalist, even in the sense Bolívia, a provider of raw materials, has been. Just Google Pushtunwali. One could write an alternative history in which Brezhnev and Najibullah win. Would the 2006 chapter resemble Kyrgyzstan or Chechnya, Iraqi Kurdistan or Somalia?

No one knows, but we do know it wouldn't have been the rocket scientists, but the KGB that would have run the experiment.

As for Marxist revolutions, if there are any around, the question is not whether the anger and hope that drove them was "justified," but whether, in the middle and long run, they are wise.

I think not.

All Things Considered, I'd Rather Not Be In Philadelphia

Courtesy of Gateway Pundit comes this statistic, taken from the WaPo:
But one can also find something equivalent to combat conditions on home soil. The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.
That doesn't make things in Baghdad hunky-dory. But it provides some perspective.

For one thing, it's foolish to ignore the black crime issue.

For another, whatever Iraq is, it isn't a Vietnam or a Korea, whete the death rates and totals were far higher.

Numbers would be poweerful things, if only we understood them.

August 26, 2006

A Hot Dog In Its Beak

Before I moved there from New York, a young assistant professor told me Southern California was "a three-story-high plastic Donald Duck clutching a hot dog in its beak."

Here's Wretchard's take on a piece by Niall Ferguson on the wars of the 21st Century:
Yet those effete-looking internationalists probably grasp Niall Ferguson's point at a gut level: without an American gorilla under "internationalist" direction, The Next War of the Worlds may be in the offing. Yet to America, as the Ring was to Tom Bombadil, empire is too much of a burden. America's mystical faith that all countries desire freedom may partly be at bottom a wish that the world would leave it alone; leave it alone to watch a baseball game with a cup of weak beer in one hand and soggy hot dog in the other, neither knowing nor caring where Iraq or Kazakhstan was. And so it was until the airliners crashed into Manhattan in 2001. Who knows what it is now?
Still too much of a burden, is my guess.

August 25, 2006

Could It Be--Good News?

The MSM columnist David Ignatius is no Bushophile.

Consequently, this piece, containing a smidge of good news from Baghdad, gains credibility (Abizaid is the Arabic-speaking US general:
Abizaid and his commanders decided to focus on Baghdad, the eye of this hurricane of violence. They crafted a new plan called "Operation Forward Together" in which U.S. troops, backed by Iraqi forces, would wrest back control of the city's most violent areas. This new battle of Baghdad began on Aug. 7, led by Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, a bristly, rough-hewn Oklahoman who commands the 4th Infantry Division and has been dubbed "the Thurmanator." He was Abizaid's guide yesterday into two of the three neighborhoods that have been cleared so far: Amiriyah in northwest Baghdad and Doura in the southern part of the city.

As we entered Amiriyah in the late afternoon of a 115-degree August day, the streets were almost deserted. When the cleanup began, the area was cordoned off and then searched house to house by U.S. and Iraqi troops. People live behind their gates; through the metal fences, you can see well-tended gardens, despite the trash in the alleys. Surprisingly, perhaps, there was little resistance. People were fed up. In the two weeks since the crackdown began, there has been a 44 percent decline in violent attacks compared with the previous month and an 83 percent drop in murders.
A long way to go.

But--a flicker at the end of the tunnel? Inshallah.

August 22, 2006

A Different Take on Andy Young

I'm an admirer of Steve Sailer, although I'm far from agreeing with him much of the time. In addition to movie reviews, interesting analysis of politics and demography, and occasional screeds against neo-Wilsonianism in foreign policy, Sailer writes about race both in its genetic and evolutionary aspect and in its social and political aspects. The insidious fog of political correctness has made discussion of such topics the ultimate taboo.

Although nowadays, Lady Chatterly's Lover is less shocking than Tales of Uncle Remus, human evolution has continued right down to the present and there are important at least partly inherited differences between human breeding groups not just in skin, noses, and hair, but in digestive abilities, susceptibility to disease, specialized athletic ability, and yes, Virginia, IQ. Sailer has the guts to write about these matters and thus earns the enmity of those for whom any mention of such matters is heresy.

Sailer has a very interesting post on the vigorously anti-immigration VDare site wherein he says that Andy Young's recent excursus on immigrant retailers in black neighborhoods was "right," if impolitic. I, on the other hand, called Young a "fool" in this recent post.

Seemingly, Sailer and I can't both be right.

And yet . . . we agree about many of the facts. Here's Sailer:
Needless to say, the fact that mom-and-pop stores in black neighborhoods are seldom owned by blacks has more to do with black entrepreneurial failings than with the moral failings of middle-man minority shopkeepers. And the stores' high prices and poor selection more reflect the risk of operating in crime-ridden neighborhoods and the inherent inefficiencies of small shops than any nefarious plot against blacks.

If blacks owned those stores, the bread would presumably be even staler and the prices even higher.
Here's me:
His equal-opportunty bigotry conceals an ignorance of economics. Where there is a higher risk of crime and many people don't have cars, stores must be smaller, and as a result charge higher prices, or they won't make a profit. Small stores also give credit informally, which "big box" stores don't. Ethnic groups with active extended family structures and a work ethic make more effective small merchants than those who lack both. Their children become Americanized and join the meritocracy, and the old retail enterprises either disappear or get passed on to the next ethnic group.

And last time I looked, black folks were allowed to open businesses under the same terms as immigrants.
So where's the disagreement?

Sailer makes two points, which are also not wrong. First, the small merchants often sell liquor, and their demise, when it happens, may mean less liquor availability in the ghetto, which the ministers, at least, favor. Second, the big box stores, with their discipline and hierarchy, offer blacks more job opportunities than the familistic and distrustful ethnic merchants.

Sailer also notes, as did I, the ubiquity of the "middleman minority" phenomenon, of which Jewish, Korean and Middle Eastern retailers in the ghetto are an instance.

So, why does Sailer call Andy Young "right," while I call him a "fool"?

This paragraph is key, it seems to me:
That the advancement of African-Americans, who are our fellow citizens, would diminish immigrants' profits is just one of those uncomfortable truths that you aren't supposed to mention—even if you are a civil rights icon.
In other words, Young is right, says Sailer, to point to the conflict between the advancement, or at least the profits, of immigrants, and that of black folks.

There is such a conflict. I'm convinced, as is Sailer, that low-wage, low-skilled Mexican immigration is an unmitigated political and economic disaster for poor blacks. To Sailer, for whom the immigration issue is central, at least when he writes for, Young is right to point to the conflict, and being right on that issue is the main thing, because it's an argument against immigration.

To me on the other hand, where Young acts the fool is to place moral blame on immigrant merchants, who are just filling a somewhat unattractive economic niche, useful in its way to the communities they put their stores into, for this conflict. Some may cheat and some are rude, no doubt, and some are ignorant of the culture of their customers. But if their prices are higher than Wal Mart or Albertson's outside the ghetto, there are reasons grounded in economic reality. If blacks pay a risk premium to merchants because their community has a high crime rate, or they need or want the convenience of a small store on every corner, that's basic economics.

Noticing the tension and conflict is fine; urging that Wal-Mart be allowed to compete is fine, too. Fanning the flames of an ethnic conflict that already exists isn't. With Sailer, I'm prepared to accept the view that one of the remedies for the conflict is restricting immigration.

But I still think Young's economics is that of a fool, and his cheap demagoguery does him no honor.

UPDATE: Here's Thomas Sowell on Young's comment. He agrees that Young knows nothing about economics. Sowell doesn't comment on the immigration issue.

UPDATE II: John McWhorter, no race-card player he, opines that Young's remarks are no hanging offense, and people should stop being so damn sensitive, about Andy Young, George Allen, and Mitt Romney.

August 20, 2006

A Tall Drink of Water

The ever-surprising Steve Sailer blogs on the tallest famous people outside of basketball and came up with Leka of Albania, pretender to the Albania throne, son of the late King Zog, who is depicted above.
Zog was the target of no less than 600 blood feuds. Leka, in the Balkan tradition, goes about armed, and has fought off kidnappers from the door of his airplane.

Leka has also tried to take over Albania a couple of times, and lives in Tirana:
Back in 1967, Jerry, Stefan Possony, and then-Crown Prince in Exile Leka (or Laika) organized an invasion of Albania by exiles to overthrow Communist dictator Enver Hoxha. King Hussein of Jordan agreed to provide air cover to wipe out the small Albanian air force to allow the invaders to cross the channel from Corfu, where they were training in the King Constantine of Greece's palace. Jerry spent a lot of time in Jordan training their pilots on how to pull off a sneak attack and wipe out the Albanian planes on the ground. Then, in June 1967, the Israelis pulled off their own sneak attack and wiped out the Jordanian air force on the ground, so the liberation of Albania had to be called off.

Decades later, Jerry met the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, who had been in charge of the Israeli Air Force in 1967. Jerry explained how Weizman had wrecked his invasion of Albania. Weizman exclaimed to the effect that You were that foreigner who was training the Jordanians how to pull of a sneak attack? We thought you were a Russian training the Jordanians to attack us!
His son, also named Leka, among other things, appears to be a tall drink of water as well.

August 19, 2006

So Sad

Lileks on Gnat's first day of school.

No more mornings together.

We raise them to leave us. They're on loan.

So sad, as they used to say at the Montessori school. So sad, but stuff happens. So sad, but you'll get over it.



Here's a story about the ACLU in Louisiana complaining about a Katrina memorial on private land because it will have a cross on it.

St. Bernard Parish President Henry “Junior” Rodriguez’s . . . response to the ACLU?
“They can kiss my ass.”
Link here. Apparently they don't have enough to do down there.

Source: here.


We live 20-odd miles from the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.

Sometimes they practice their artillery. Today is one of those days.

It's annoying but not disturbing, because I know they aren't aiming at us. It's loud enough, though, to make imagining what it's like to be in a war zone: scary.




August 18, 2006

Once a Fool, Always a Fool

Andy Young put his foot in it by claiming that first Jews, then Koreans, and now Arab small merchants are exploiting black folks in their neighborhoods. Hired as a spokesman for Wal-Mart, he had to quit.

The minority-controlled UCLA Law School student government invited this fool as the commencement speaker back in the stone age when I graduated.

His equal-opportunty bigotry conceals an ignorance of economics. Where there is a higher risk of crime and many people don't have cars, stores must be smaller, and as a result charge higher prices, or they won't make a profit. Small stores also give credit informally, which "big box" stores don't. Ethnic groups with active extended family structures and a work ethic make more effective small merchants than those who lack both. Their children become Americanized and join the meritocracy, and the old retail enterprises either disappear or get passed on to the next ethnic group.

And last time I looked, black folks were allowed to open businesses under the same terms as immigrants.

I remember years ago in DC, after the MLK assassination riots had burned out the small retailers, a black cab driver (one of the last non-Africans to drive a cab in that city, perhaps) told me how stupid it has been to burn out "the Jew stores."

All over the world there are mercantile minorities--Lebanese in West Africa and the West Indies, Chinese in Polynesia and Indonesia, Jews all over the place a generation or two ago, East Indians in East Africa--who always fill a necessary function and also become the objects of resentment. Thomas Sowell has it nailed.

Andy Young, on the other hand, is an idiot, who has been pimping off the legacy of the very dead civil rights movement for years.

Sandy Cinema

In a comment on Marc Cooper's blog, Randy Paul touts a new Brazilian film, House of Sand.

This film takes place in the strange lençois maranhenses or "Maranhão Sheets," an area of sand dunes sometimes interspersed with fresh water ponds, in Northeast Brazil. A Teutonically thorough scientific account of this type of dune is here. Which reminds me of an old joke--if you google "sand dunes" and "anti-semitism" you get no less than 11,600 hits!

I haven't seen the film, but I suspect it leaves an impression.

It immediately brought to mind Teshigahara's strange and haunting Woman In The Dunes (1964), which is full of sand, creepiness, and allegory. I saw that film about 40 years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

Then, of course, there's the epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

And not in the same category of greatness, but worth seeing just to look at Candace Bergen, The Wind and The Lion (1975). And there's the documentary Rivers of Sand, and The Sheik with Rudolf Valentino, which also had a sequel--you guessed it, Son of the Sheik.

We've come from the arty and allegorical by now, to the world of popular orientalism. Back, in fact, to the Douanier Rousseau. I'm not going on to jungles, except to recall Viscount Montgomery's retro-naive assessment of Chairman Mao--"the sort of man I'd go in the jungle with."

August 15, 2006

Macaca Man

Here you can see Viriginia Sen. George Allen calling a campaign operative of his opponent a "macaca." I believe she is of East Indian descent.

No one is quite cetain what a "macaca" is, but the conventional wisdom is that it's not meant to be flattering.

In Portuguese, a "macaco" is a monkey, and "macaca" is a female monkey. The term is used in a racially pejorative way: a "macaca de auditório," for example, is a woman, most probably dark-skinned, who jumps up and down and screams in the audience of a TV variety show. I doubt Sen. Allen knows Portuguese, but that's the best explanation I can come up with for what he meant.

I don't know much about Sen. Allen, but what I've seen doesn't impress me. You don't need to be an intellectual to be President; in fact, it may hurt, but you need to be astute enough to keep your foot out of your mouth when it comes to matters racial. India's coming up in the world, and is a potential partner in various enterprises, if not an ally. Sticking a finger in its eye not only isnt nice, it ain't smart.

August 14, 2006


A Reuters article about allegations of fauxtography!

Faiths of Our Fathers

Ben Witherington, a Christian believer and Bible scholar, here summarizes a book by one David L. Holmes that delves into the religious beliefs and practice of the Founding Fathers.

The upshot is that although some important figures were orthodox Christians, the big dogs were not, although they weren't atheists, either:
What emerges from Holmes careful research is that George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were all strongly influenced by Deistic thought (Jefferson and Adams in particular objecting to the idea of the Trinity, and in general the concept of divine revelation, preferring instead the idea that nature and reason revealed the character of God). In addition there was the syncretistic influence of Free Masonry with its pan-religious approach (involving a bit of Judaism, a bit of Christianity, a bit of Egyptian religion and more) which seems to have had a marked impact especially on Washington.

Holmes carefully documents how these founding fathers avoided getting confirmed in the 'state' church of Virginia (which was the Episcopal Church, unlike in most of New England where Congregationalism was the state church), and did not take the Lord's Supper in these churches by design. In this way they showed their objection to 'priestcraft' and what they took to be the corruption of the originally pure faith of Jesus which was not Trinitarian and did not involve the worship of Jesus. This did not make these men either secular humanists or 'free thinkers' in the broad sense. Our country was certainly not founded by secular humanists. Not even Thomas Paine deserves that anachronistic label. It was however founded by people whose religious beliefs ranged from non-Christian Deism to more Christian Deism, to, in the case of people like Samuel Adams, John Jay and Patrick Henry, orthodox Christianity.
Witherington goes on to note that there's not much in the Bible, really, about "no taxation without representation," democracy, or the right to rebel against unjust authority. If anything, it's the opposite, and the details of our founding politics come much more from the Enlightenment than from Christianity.
Here are some questions for thought as a result of reading this book: 1) Is there anything in the Bible that suggests that democracy rather than rule by a king or a emperor, or perhaps a theocracy, is most favored by God? I don't think there is. There is of course plenty in the NT about freedom from sin and freedom to serve God, but that can transpire under various sorts of polities. There is also plenty in the Bible in general about justice, and respect of persons, loving neighbor and the like. But again all these practices can exist under varied forms of governments; 2) Is there anything in the Bible that supports modern notions about nation states, particularly about God blessing or especially favoring not ethnic groups (e.g. Jews) or religious groups (those in Christ), but certain nation states? I must admit I can't find it in there. As Paul says, Christians have and are part of a politeuma, a constituting government that is from above. This stands in contradistiction in Paul's mind to things like countries or humanly constructed empires (see Philippians). 3) Is there anything in the Bible that warrants an open rebellion against a legitimate governing authority simply because there was taxation without representation? This is just the opposite of what Romans 13 would seem to suggest. Paul tells Christians in Rome to pay taxes to the tyrant Nero! By comparison to Nero, King George of Hanover looked like good King George. And of course 'representation' in the colonial sense was very different from the plebs and the patricians in Rome during the Empire. 4) If you ask where the founding notions about freedom, democracy, pure reason, common sense, congresses, no taxation without representation, the electing of leaders come from in America, they seem to have as much or more to do with the spirit of the Enlightenment which was the Zeitgeist of that age (read John Locke who so impressed Wesley on certain points), than it has to do with the spirit or tenor or teachings of the Bible. This is of course a hard truth for patriotic, flag waving, freedom loving Americans to swallow, and I am one of them. But it does raise this question. Is it our Biblical absolutes or our cultural principles, however good, which have most shaped and continue to shape our nation and shaped its governing documents in the first place (e.g Declaration of Independence and Constitution and the Bill of Rights)?
An honest and thoughtful post from a believing Christian.

I'm venturing no answers today. I should be working.

Political Skeletons In the Closet

In a recent post, I discussed the Stalinist past of the late Dorothy Healey. Marc Cooper and I had an exchange in the comments.

The question is what weight do we give to the political pasts of public figures who have moved away from earlier positions, especially when those positions involved loyalty to or apologetics for murderous régimes of one kind or another.

Recently the German writer Gunther Grass revealed that he served in the Waffen SS. Tim Blair rhetorically asks how this revelation compares with the pro-Fidel Castro views of the writer Gabriel García Marquez.

There really are two separate questions here. The first is what weight we give to the early political views and activity of figures who have moved away from them, in evaluating the life's work of any public figure. The second question is how a public figure's political views, past or present, should affect our evaluation of their work in other fields, such as novels, music, and scientific research.

The answer to the first question is that although we can't ignore people's political pasts completely, a world with no room for youthful indiscretion or errors or judgment would be harsh indeed. When someone's views change in their fifties, of course, it's fair to ask, "What took you so long?"

The conventional answer to the second question is to judge the work, not its creator. As Paul Johnson demonstrates in his Intellectuals, good character is not widely distributed in the worlds of thought and the arts. Where the issue becomes most problematic is when despicable politics jumps the corral and invades other work, as indeed, totalist ideologies encourage it to do.

I don't know the work of García Marquez or Grass to comment on the connection between either's politics and their work. We can all think of work that displays great skill and creativity, but is flawed because its political message is distasteful.

August 13, 2006

What's the Matter With Connecticut?

I notice, looking back, that I've posted more than once (here, here, and here) on the Lamont-Lieberman primary, but mostly about Lamont. Lieberman's no dummy, and he cares enough about his country not to fall victim to Bush Derangment Syndrome, but I can't come up with warm fuzzies for him. He's a bit boring.

Michael Barone, who writes for U.S. News and World Report, and is one of the most knowledgeable writers on nuts and bolts of politics, observes the class divide in the returns:
Lamont carried most of the small towns in the state, and by wide margins in the kind of Litchfield County towns where most registered Democrats are New York-oriented writers and artists . . .
Apparently Lieberman carried the less affluent and artsy-fartsy districts, while Lamont won support among the wealthy and the symbolic workers. This pattern has emerged in many elections, at least since Reagan, although it perhaps began as early as Nixon's "silent majority."

I've been irritated for some time by the thesis of Thomas Frank (not the general, who's plural) in What's the Matter With Kansas?, that somehow ordinary Americans have been bamboozled by the rhetoric of social conservatism into voting against their "true" interests, which are economic. Shouldn't we presume that some of the people, some of the time, know where their interests lie? If a secular-globalist-mulitculti élite from Pinch Sulzberger to Disney to the Episcopal Church to the Ivy League, is creating an America you don't recognize that threatens in various ways to devour your children, marginal tax rates are secondary.

Perhaps those who voted for Lamont, and indeed the millionaires and symbolic workers who now provide the main support for the Democrats, are also voting their interests. Why vote for people who will disrupt your cocoon with crusades motivated by a patriotism you don't feel, globalist as your consciousness is and your investments are? Financial markets are global, and labor markets are getting that way. Europe is ever more so sophisticated and interesting than say, Missouri. Immigrants, legal or otherwise, care for your kids. The Democrats aren't going to take away your tax breaks, except at the margins, and they sure won't cut subsidies to your favorite corporations and projects. Why allow details like terrorism and the danger of defeat in the Middle East to spoil the party?

Meanwhile, guys like Bush and Lieberman, who believe in God and the flag, well, they are ever so vulgar and provincial, the heirs of Mencken's booboisie.

Lamont's problem is that his natural constituency is not a majority of the whole electorate, even in Connecticut, and his followers' disconnects have a way of becoming public, whether it's putting Joe in blackface or spewing snobbish disdain ("where the forces of slime meet the forces of evil") for the electors of Waterbury all over the media.

Although Joe may eke it out, his kind of Democrat has no future in that party.

August 12, 2006

Haiku for Galilee

Old Ben Gurion
Shudders in his grave. Gimpel
The Fool is Premier.

The Arch of Titus.
Kofi Annan smooths his pants.
Jews bear candlesticks.

The Drancy grandsons
Are packing their bags. Black-turbaned
Imams smile like wolves.

August 11, 2006

Michael Yon's Sobering View of Iraq

MIchael Yon is a fine blogger who has embedded with troops in Iraq and shown us aspects of our troops' heroism and effectiveness.

When he says, as he does here, that we are in danger of losing the war, I take it seriously. When Ian Masters harps on the war being lost, I was skeptical. When Michael Yon says we are in danger of losing, it's worthy of notice.

Iraq was an artificial creation of Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell, joining the Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Basra and Baghdad in a single artificial nation-state. One reason for Saddam's brutality, aside from his character, was that Iraq wasn't really a nation, and in fact was less a nation than Yugoslavia, and he thought only extreme brutality could keep it together.

What's the answer? More troops and sticking it out? I doubt our democracy can sustain that burden. Partition? It would still threaten a bloody civil war, with a real danger of Turkish intervention in Kurdistan. The Turks always coveted Mosul, and fear Kurdish independence because of their own Kurdish minoirty problem.

The greatest danger is that on a command from Iran, or spontaneously, the Shi'a would block our resupply from the south and attempt to envelop our troops. We could extricate them, perhaps through Jordan, but it would be our Dienbienphu.

I thought, on balance, the war was worth the gamble. It might still be, but it's been mismanaged from the moment Baghdad fell. We need statesmen. We have pygmies.

UPDATE: Added Dienbienphu link and reference to reason for Saddam's brutality.

August 10, 2006

Green Helmet Man at Work

Video here.

When I was a kid, we had "sick jokes" about "a box of dead babies" and such. These are adults.

August 9, 2006

Details of History

Marc Cooper mourns for Dorothy Healey, a long-time California communist, who died at 91. Apparently she was a friend of his. I have sympathy for anyone mourning a friend, but also some questions.

She left the party in 1968, meaning her loyalty survived the purges, the Stalin-Hitler pact, and the suppression of the Hungarian revolution, to name a few things. And she didn't leave the left, or the cause of socialism, just the Communist Party.

If Dorothy Healey had been a Nazi sympathizer, who left her party but not the fascist milieu in 1968, would we cut her as much slack as Marc Cooper does?

As Jean Marie Le Pen might put it, just a "detail of history"?

The Curtain Falls On a Horror Show

We won't have Cynthia McKinney to kick around any more.

It shows the down side of the Voting Rights Act/GOP strategy of gerrymandering "majority minority" districts. In a mixed district, such at this one apparently is, racial extremism is discouraged by the need to win votes among more than one group.

McKinney went down in characteristic fashion, touting African-Americans' inability to operate voting machines.

Dr. Bob's Loss

Ein Chinesisch HundHis chow, Lucy.

As usual, Bob writes beautifully.

Rest in peace.

UPDATE: Inadvertently omitted link to Dr. Bob's piece here.

August 8, 2006

Socialist Millionaires

Now that Ned Lamont has nosed out Joe Lieberman for the Democrats’ Senatorial nomination in Connecticut, a bit of musing is in order about the not-so-rare phenomenon of the socialist, or at least left-leaning, millionaire.

Although mechanical economic determinism would have the rich unanimous in favor of soaking the poor, or at most pacifying them with bread and circuses, it ain't always so. Perhaps someone will write “What’s the Matter With Exeter?” the flip side of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” to explain Ned Lamont, a graduate of that institution like his great uncle Corliss Lamont, a “humanist” and for a time, pro-Stalinist millionaire, noted for his book collections, his involvement with the ACLU and kindred causes, and his rambling full-page ads in the New York Times of another era.

These Lamonts are not alone. Stewart Mott, whose shekels descend from GM, is a millionaire lefty, and there are many others, like the British MP Anthony Wedgwood-Benn, latterly “Tony Benn,” who renounced his peerage to fight for left Labor in the House of Commons, Bill Ayers, leader of the Weathermen and heir to a Commonwealth Edison fortune, and Abby Rockefeller, radical feminist.

It would seem that these “traitors to their class” are less often the gatherers of the family fortune than those whose must cope with inheriting it. The turn to socialism or communism replaces the turn to religious renunciation that might have been a solution in a less secular age. It embodies expiation of guilt for the frequently seamy process by which one’s parents or forbears earned their fortune, rebellion against parental expectations, and an ideology that allows one to preserve, in a new wrapping, the sense of belonging to a superior élite, whether through identification with historical inevitability or a knowing sense of what “social justice” is.

This is not to say that these folks don’t believe in their causes, or that their reasons for taking the stance they do are merely a reflection of their background and psychodynamics.

There’s a lot more to this question than I’ve time for right now. Something worth contemplating while resting on a parlor pink beanbag chair.

UPDATE: Added a clause after "although" and corrected a typo ("off" for "of"). I still need that copy editor.

Arizonans, Lock Up Your Sheep!

Here's why. WARNING: parental discretion advised.

What about a "right of privacy" defense?

The Suicide of a Class

A bit of googling reveals that Connecticut senatorial candidate Ned Lamont, the one-trick anti-Iraq pony, is the grand-nephew of Corliss Lamont, a monied Stalinist and later semi-ex-Stalinist who used to pay for full-page ads in the New York Times about one rosy cause or another.

Phillips Exeter and leftism seem to run in the family, which traces its money back to the House of Morgan.

History assignment for someone: Why did the Eastern upper bourgeoisie commit collective suicide over three or four generations?

Assignment two: How did Colonial Puritanism mutate into Transcendentalism and Unitarianism, and Southern New England become Irish, Italian and Catholic, leaving the Lowells, Cabots and Saltonstalls to comic verse ("The Lowells speak only to Cabots,/And the Cabots speak only to God?"), poetry and madness?

Steve Sailer might lay it all on immigration, but I think there's more to it than that.

Strange New Respect Department

Caroline Glick is a right-wing Zionist. I've never had much truck with her type.

I generally, although not always, find Israelis rather unpleasant and its defenders sanctimonious, and can't ignore the fact that Israel's foundation and growth have been at the expense of another people, so "why can't we all get along?" Let's have a two-state solution, soft-pedal the US-Israeli alliance, which is something of an albatross, and move on to more important things.

(Granted that--an almost equal number of Jews were driven from Arab countries to Israel--and moments of Israeli conciliation have generally been met with Arab intransigeance, as after the 1967 war the Arab League resolutely refused negotiation and recognition, even in exchange for Israeli withdrawal, setting the stage for the growth of settlements.)

Moreover, the Zionist right is aggressively Jewish. Not my style.

In spite of all that, Israel exists by right of conquest and population exchange typical of nationalism in the last century. One need not be especially fond of a country to recognize it as a nation as much as any other and therefore to reject attempts to wipe it out.

So I'm forced to concede that Glick in this column, seems to me to have a point. As I have pointed out, the Olmert cabinet has been wallowing in illusions--about the effectiveness of air power alone; about the ability of the Lebanese army, the UN, and international force to protect Israeli sovereignty; about Israel-hatred among the Arabs being capable of moderation by Israeli behavior. In a tiny country beset by implacable enemies, such illusions can be fatal.

Moreover, however mistaken the US joining itself to Israel at the hip may have been, it has happened, for however long any alliance lasts. Islamic clerical fascism's appetites are not limited to Israel. Europe is next, and the US after that, in their maximum program. Like it or not, Israel is the miner's canary.

If Glick is right, the best the present régime can do is muddle through, if it's lucky, while we await the rise of men who are more clear-eyed and implacable.

Nach Lamont, Uns?

There's an idea floating around that a victory by Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senatorial primary will symbolize the victory of the wooly left among the Democrats, and as a result of their unpopularity, aid the Republicans. Here's David Limbaugh, quoting Cokie Roberts, of all people:
Newsbusters blog noted that on ABC's "This Week," former co-host Cokie Roberts stunned George Stephanopoulos with her observation that if Ned Lamont defeats Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut, it will be "a disaster for the Democratic Party."

Roberts said, "pushing the party to the left is pushing the party to the position from which it traditionally loses." If other Democratic senators read a Lieberman defeat as a prescription to "play to your base," you will "get just a total chaos."

What Cokie seems to recognize is something E.J. Dionne has yet to grasp: No matter how tough things get for conservatives, Democrats are inescapably hostage to their militant base and otherwise ill-equipped to lead the world against the global Islamofascist jihad -- facts not lost on most voters.
Perhaps. Perhaps not.

What worries me is that in a two-party system, the opposition party wins sometime. George McGovern lost big time, but Jimmy Carter won, and his Iran débacle is the origin of many of our woes today.

The capture of the Democrats by the RDSC (Running Dogs of Shiite Clericalism) and the LIMOs (Lackeys of Islamic Medieval Obscurantism) would not be good for the country in the long run. An opposition of Copperheads: bad.

For aficionados of socialist arcana, "Nach Lamont, Uns" means "After, Lamont, Us" and refers to the Stalinist slogan in the run-up to the Nazi takeover in Germany--"After Hitler, Us." The idea was that Hitler would make such a mess of things that he would cleart the way for a Communist takeover. He did, in East Germany, but it took 12 years and a war of total destruction. Its a "the worse, the better" idea, and it's often wrong.

August 6, 2006

Worse Than a Crime, a Mistake

Marc Cooper touts a piece published at the website of Ha'aretz (the Land), an Israeli paper, written by one Daniel Levy, apparently a lefty involved with both Oslo and the recent private Geneva initiative.

Levy wants Israel to break with US policy, which he sees dominated by "neoconservatives" and the Christian right:
It is admittedly difficult for Israel to have a regional strategy that is out-of-step with the U.S. administration-of-the-day. However, the neocon approach is not unchallenged, and Israel should not be providing its ticket back to the ascendancy. A U.S. return to proactive diplomacy, realism and multilateralism, with sustained and hard engagement that delivers concrete progress, would best serve its own, Israeli and regional interests. Israel should encourage this. Israel may even have to lead, for instance, in rethinking policy on Hamas or Syria, and should certainly work intensely with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in encouraging his efforts to reach a Palestinian national understanding as a basis for stable governance, security quiet and future peace negotiations. A policy that comes with a Jerusalem kosher stamp of approval might be viewed as less of an abomination in Washington.

Beyond that, Israel and its friends in the United States should seriously reconsider their alliances not only with the neocons, but also with the Christian Right. The largest "pro-Israel" lobby day during this crisis was mobilized by Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United For Israel, a believer in Armageddon with all its implications for a rather particular end to the Jewish story. This is just asking to become the mother of all dumb, self-defeating and morally abhorrent alliances.

Internationalist Republicans, Democrats and mainstream Israelis must construct an alternative narrative to the neocon nightmare, identifying shared interests in a policy that reestablishes American leadership, respect and credibility in the region by facilitating security and stability, pursuing conflict resolution and promoting the conditions for more open societies (as opposed to narrow election-worship).
My reaction is that the Levy piece seems a hash of wishful thinking and clichés, the sad residue left after Israel’s early social democracy has undergone several half-lives of decay.

Although it's true that successive Israeli governments have been doing their best to undermine the Palestinian interlocutor, but it's doubtful that since Oslo there ever was one to begin with who had both the power and the inclination to carry out a settlement.

Israel’s recent policy is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake. To sacrifice so much in lives and treasure (on both sides) and reputation without changing the equation, is truly terrible. Mobilizing only 5% of the army, relying upon air power against guerrillas out of fear of casualities, speaking loudly and carrying a twig, and then signing on to an international force, shows astonishing ineptitude.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
The region, I fear, will for a time be “bound in shallows and in miseries.” And then the millenialist Ahmadinejad, who unlike John Hagee, is armed, gets the Bomb . . .

Israel/Lebanon: What Won't Work

Reading the news and watching the pictures, however biased both are, I can clarify (as others have done) that some things pointed out as solutions, aren't.

  1. Bombing Isn't A Substitute For Infantry.

    Leaders of democracies don't like casualties. Along comes the Air Force and promises that its toys will "shock and awe" the enemy, or their precision is so extraordinary that putting mothers' sons in harms' way will be minimized. It doesn't work. If you want to win, you have to send in the grunts, and some of them will die.

    Air Force guys may tell you different, but they're wrong.

  2. Cease-Fires Don't Solve Disputes.

    As soon as the bullets and rockets started flying, the Usual Suspects began howling for a cease-fire. Then Unusual Suspects like Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad joined in. 57 years of cease-fires only set the stage for the next war. This one will be no different. The Day After, the same enemies remain, the dispute is unresolved, and all are calculating when the next battle will start.

  3. An International Force Is Worse Than Nothing.

    At the Cartel of Tyrants, sooner or later someone suggests an internaitonal force. Now they prattle of it once again, only this time the fool Olmert seems to be going along. If the IDF, which has the motivation of rockets raining on its families' homes, cannot disarm Hezbollah, can we expect a force led by Chiraquistanis to do so? If Egyptian forces, can't keep Hamas, far weaker than Hizubllah, from rearming on the Gaza frontier, why should we expect them to do any better in Lebanon, which is futher from home? Turkey could intimidate Syrian when the question was one of Kurdish rebels attacking Turkey from Syrian soil, but why should they keep Hizbullah from attacking Turkey from Lebanese soil.

    In 1967, the UN force in the Sinai melted away. The UN watched and did nothing to stop killing in Rwanda and Bosnia. US and French troops were driven from Lebanon by terrorist bombs. Those who learn nothing from the past are bound to repeat it.

  4. Land for Peace Without a Political Deal Will Fail.

    I have been one of those who held out hope for Oslo, and even for Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. In l'esprit de l'escalier, I repent. The deal between Israel and Egypt, where the Sinai was returned in exchange for a peace, however cold, has worked, because the political will on both sides was there, and those signing for Egypt had the will and the ability to keep their promises (everyone knew the promise of a Palestinian settlement was a fig leaf). The threat to destroy the Aswan Dam, and with it Egypt as we know it, was also a powerful incentive for peace.

    On the other hand, Arafat lacked the will, and probably the ability, to create a stable state that would control violence originating from its territory. The Israelis were almost as disingenuous about their continued settlement activity. By the time Israel renounced occupation (in Lebanon) and settlement (in Gaza) and meant it, there was no one on the other side to control the rocket men.

    There still isn't. See the previous proposition.

Updates: Floyd Landis, Lebanon, Crackers

War, Lies and Digital Photography

From time to time I comment on Marc Cooper's blog. Cooper was once an interpreter for Chilean Socialist President Salvador Allende, did newscasts on KPFK (the LA-area Pacifica station), and later did radio for The Nation, a venerable left-wing magazine. I don't agree with Cooper, but he's smarter and more of a critical thinker than most of the lefty bloggers out there.

Cooper posted here and here on the blogosphere controversy over the Israeli bombing in Qana, Lebanon, which I alluded to in this post.

Cooper took the view that expressed suspicions in the right and pro-Israel side of the blogosphere that there was something suspect about the Qana story were the right-wing equivalent of the left-tinfoil theories about 9/11 having been staged:
Or maybe none of this really happened as it appears. Perhaps the Hezbollah took a page from the playbook of the Great 9/11 Conspiracy. Just as the Bush adminisitration faked the planes flying into the Towers (by using USAF craft), did the sinister Hezbollah lease a couple of F-16's, paint them up as Israeli Air Force jets, and then turn them againt half of Lebanon? You knever know. Especially if facts no longer have any meaning.
I'm not going to try to unravel the truth about Qana. The best summing-up I know about appeared on the Volokh Consipiracy, by David Bernstein, although the story continues to develop.

Meanwhile, though, a Reuters photo of parts of Beirut burning turns out to be covered with photoshopped smoke. Apparently the unadorned photo wasn't dramatic, or outrage-producing enough. So much for the wisdom and professionalism of MSM editors. Reuters is this year's CBS News, I suppose.

The use of propaganda, especially about outrages, trumped up or not, is nothing new in wars. What's more to the point is that the vaunted "objectivity" of MSM is belied by its evident vulnerability to hoaxes and staged events, especially those that decrease its cognitive dissonance but depicting the world as it already believes it to exist.

I think a degree of candor and rationalism in reporting and commentary is a good thing, but unbiased reporting is rare. That's why I detailed my presuppositions on the Israel-Palestine issue, before commenting on recent events.

"Say it Ain't So, Floyd!"

I don't know whether my face should be red, but in this post I gloated about Floyd Landis's comeback in the Tour de France. It was a "sod the Frogs" moment.

Two tests have now come back that are strong evidence that Landis took synthetic testosterone just before his comeback. Apparently the test protocol includes testing for isotopes such that body-produced testosterone can be distinguished from the synthetic variety. I don't want to rush to judgment, but it looks bad for Floyd.

I'm not a Puritan when it comes to the use of performance-enhancing chemicals in sports; perhaps the rules are too strict. But they are the rules, and a number of Landis's rivals were excluded from the Tour at the start because of doping of one sort or another.

One of the virtues of sport is its relative objectivity. If you win, it's because you're faster, or stronger, or more skilled. Sport has been a vehicle by which athletes born in poverty, obscurity and oppression have been able to triumph simply because they were better. If the rules say "no drugs," then no one should use them. It's a shame for the sport.

Saltines and Racism

Some commenters have accused me of racism because, among other things, I've criticized MSM for omitting the race of perpetrators of crime, and ignoring the enormous variations in crime and incarceration rates between blacks and whites. Some facts are taboo.

Meanwhile, a prominent California legislator, Democrat Don Perata, called opponents of driver's licences for illegal aliens "crackers" the other day. An opponent of Joe Lieberman posted a picture of him in blackface. But Mitt Romney is pilloried for an innocent use of the term "tar baby."

What was the cliché about whose ox is gored?

August 3, 2006

Fair Dinkum

I'm told the Wall St. Journal reports:
"Foster's beer has decided to stop advertising on television in the U.S. and spend its entire American ad budget on Internet ads instead."
I use a Mac. My computer prefers Pernod.

The old media are in trouble.

August 2, 2006


The media are abuzz with accounts of the fallout from the drunken words of Mel Gibson, possibly also said during an attack of mania (he's bipolar). These words are more than just an expression of dislike of Jews, but a reprise of a theme of political anti-Semitism, namely that it's the Jews who are responsible for war.

Unpleasant stuff, to be sure, and probably reflective of some real obsessions of Gibson's, as Christopher Hitchens, militantly anti-religious as he is, gleefully points out. Nevertheless, let's hold off the tarring and feathering for a minute or so.

Lately, some have shown a strange penchant for being more concerned with words than with actions. Witness the silly foofaraw about Mitt Romney's use of the term "tar baby," to refer, via one of the Uncle Remus stories, to a situation which, once touched makes escape impossible, or the exile of sports commentators who have ruminated unlearnedly, and not necessarily unkindly, on the uneven ethnic distribution of various forms of athletic talent.

And remember, Gibson's words became public only accidentally, because of the arrest incident. In spite of the hysteria of the annoying Abe Foxman, and the disdain of some critics, Gibson's film on the crucifixion made Mel rich, but led to no pogroms. Pace annoying Abe, that wasn't really the point.

Like Dennis Prager, I'm more concerned about what people do, such as shooting up the Jewish Federation in Seattle, than what they say, or even what their private sentiments are, especially when they have never made intentional public statements in the same vein. The classic example is Nixon, who spouted anti-Jewish sentiment in his office, ugly to be sure, but although he never got more than a tiny fraction of Jewish votes, appointed the first Jewish Secretary of State and rearmed Israel during the 1973 war. There are many others, including Harry Truman and H. L. Mencken.

Now some want to make Gibson kneel in the snow, like Henry IV. He apologized. He's a sinner, like all of us, and acknowledes it. Forgiveness is mandatory, as is continued wariness. One need not like him, or his movies, but let's move on. There are bigger problems.

On another note, if he's really bipolar ("He has made it known that from an early age he suffered from being manic depressive, but through his strong faith and appropriate medicines he has been able to overcome these shortcomings to attain the heights of stardom" as stated here) I doubt conventional rehab will help. Lithium might.

UPDATE: Added "bipolar" quote and link.

Children Are Easy

Writes Gerard.

August 1, 2006

The Case of the Ubiquitous Rescue Worker

This guy keeps popping up in the grisly photos from Qana, as EU Referendum documents. WARNING: the photos are graphic and disturbing,

These martyr photos are being staged, to wave the bloody shirt. Martyrdom and suffering being Shi'a cultural themes, and picures of victims having poltical resonance, it's hardly surprising.

The whole story of Qana is not yet known. Some say Hizbullah staged the whole thing, putting disabled children in the building, and deliberately firing rockets from there to draw Israeli fire.

For the dead, the wounded, and their mourners, of course, who's to blame is secondary. War, my friends, is Hell.

HT: Roger L. Simon.